Usually for Sonoma race weekend I pick up Misty at San Jose International Airport which is about an hour north from where I live- heading towards the track. This time she found an awesome rate flying into San Francisco International Airport though which is about an hour and forty minutes north of my place. Her flight was to land on Thursday at 8:30 am. I originally planned on leaving at 6:00 for the airport but Misty thought I was leaving way too early so I left at 6:30 just to give myself some extra time since I am not as familiar with SFO as I am with San Jose plus there would no doubt be morning commute traffic since it was a week day. Well to make a long story short- by the time Misty called me after she had landed I was only in Palo Alto by Stanford University. She had to wait another 20 minutes for me to actually get to the airport. But on the plus side I didn’t have to pay to park because by the time I got there she was waiting at the curb for me at the departures gate and I just pulled in and loaded her up and headed east towards the state capitol of Sacramento. Some of you might know that the hauler parade was actually in Sacramento but we missed it. How? Because were actually heading to Sacramento to go to the zoo! Misty and I love zoos. So we decided to add the Sacramento zoo to our list of visited zoos while traveling because they had both of our top two favorite animals. Misty loves lions and giraffes and I love giraffes and flamingos:
By the time we were done at the zoo we were sweltering and the hauler parade was over. We had seen some signs on the way to the zoo for Old Town Sacramento and decided heck why not give it a try…so off we went in search for it. But while searching it out we ended up accidentally driving right by the state capitol building. Well no so much of an accident as Misty was trying to navigate us towards Old Town and we were driving through the intersection and I saw the building and wanted a better look so I detoured us to where I figured it was (and let the record show that I was actually right and didn’t even get us lost- which my lack of a sense of direction tends to do).
After our quick detour we were back to Old Town Sacramento- which was really fun! There were lots of shops and restaurants and it was just a really fun place to walk around despite the fact it was so hot it felt like I was walking on the face of the sun! We even ended up having an early dinner there! It was fun. But we eventually headed back west towards Vacaville because that is where our hotel was this year. We usually stay in Benicia but the hotel we stayed at last time we were there in Benicia we got a room that smelled so bad that a whole bottle of Fabreeze and leaving the windows open all day (much to the chagrin of housekeeping for some reason they would close them so we finally left a note asking them to stay open) it still smelled bad. We complained to the hotel but they claimed it was the only room they had. So we haven’t been back since. The two best things about where we stayed in Vacaville is that we didn’t have to pay a daily toll to get to the track because we were already north of the bridge and there were tons of restaurants so we didn’t have to go searching for food. Also there was a nearby Target and Barnes and Noble so we were good.
On Friday we were up quite early, showered, grabbed a quick breakfast and headed off to the track to pick up our credentials and get busy at the track. I do love Sonoma Raceway. Misty and I looked online at the schedule about when things were happening and got confused about the east coast/west coast time difference so we ended up at the track in plenty of time.
Friday is my favorite day to peruse the garage at Race Sonoma. We walk up and down the garage area most of the day just taking pictures and watching while the teams work on getting the cars better all day long. Friday is also pressers day. Tony wasn’t doing any pressers but I did catch three pressers. First was AJ Allmendinger:
During the next presser, Jeff Gordon who is considered a hometown boy since Vallejo is just minutes away down the highway from Sonoma Raceway, was presented him with a giant personalized wine bottle (and yes if you were wondering it was empty- or I don’t think they could lift it).
Jeff talked about the significance of Sonoma raceway and a lot about growing up in Vallejo and his visit to the first race track he ever raced on as a kid. Someone asked him if he had any favorite 4th of July memories and he mentioned that most of the time he was racing but he did remember one time getting a hold of some fireworks and he started a tree on fire as a kid setting them off.
Next up was Dale Earnhardt Jr and most of the people asked Dale either about racing with Jeff Gordon, or his engagement to Amy Reimann/his trip with Amy to Germany. He even made the majority of the media center go “aww” a couple of times talking about he had been wanting to propose for a while but he wanted it to be really special.
Then it was back to the garage to watch the rest of practice and try to get some pictures of the elusive Mr. Stewart which proved to be harder than it sounds.
The only on-track activity for the cup cars on Saturday was qualifying so Misty and I decided to play tourist in the big city and head to San Francisco. We finally decided we wanted to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. We had walked on it before- about two years ago we walked what we thought was about halfway across it and back- turned out we walked about a third of the way that time. This time we walked all the way across and back. It’s not the easiest thing for me because I am really scared of heights and let me tell you that sucker is pretty high up. Let’s just say when we were on our way back to the side we parked on (the south side) from the north end of the bridge we saw a helicopter actually fly UNDER the bridge! Both times we have walked the bridge it has been windy so I would suggest wearing a hat or bringing a brush unless you want to spend the rest of the day looking like you spent a while in a wind tunnel (that is what I looked like anyway and of course I didn’t have a brush in my purse)!
We explored the Presidio of San Francisco a bit while there and ended up having “brunch” at a ridiculously overpriced Mexican food restaurant that had the most rude host ever. When he approached the host stand he said “What’s going on here?” and then when Misty asked for a table for two he snapped “Are you going to eat?” no we just wanted to sit in your restaurant at a table and do nothing?! After we were done there we drove around and found our way out of the city (no map) and started to head back towards our hotel but ended up in terrible traffic around Berkeley.
We finally got tired of being in stopped traffic and decided to pull off into Berkeley and find a place to have dinner so that hopefully by the time we were done we wouldn’t have to worry about the traffic. We took the closest offramp and unfortunately it went from slightly industrial to residential quickly. And then the residential started to look a bit sketchy. We kept driving and somehow ended up driving right into Oakland (which by the way is the exact opposite direction from where we wanted to be going- told you I have no sense of direction). We finally just ended up backtracking and getting back on the highway. The only reason I bring up this little detour- is because later I found out that it so happened that the over-the-wall crew for the 14 had landing in Oakland on Saturday and stopped to get something to eat and while they were eating their van got broken into and they made away with everything except the air wrenches (likely because they are too heavy to carry). Scary!
I have mentioned how much I love Sonoma Raceway and I really do but race day traffic can really be a bear because the highways that lead into the track- namely the 37 and the 121 are rural two-lane highways and back up both heading towards the track in the morning and leave the track after the race. Because of that we ended up getting up at 5:00am and rushing to get out of the hotel by 6:00am and on our way west to Sonoma. About half way into our drive I realize I FORGOT MY CAMERA! I was horrified. I mean I had my iPhone and all but I felt naked without my DLSR. Luckily Misty had her camera and was able to document the day for us in pictures.
While we were on the grid by Jeff Gordon’s car- fans were trying to get pictures of Jeff Gordon’s car on the grid from the pits- and I have to say that the crew of Boris Said was so accommodating to the fans seeking pictures and let fans into their pit area that they were setting up because Gordon’s car was set up on the grid by their pit stall. Some even took pictures with the fans. The next door Penske crew were not so accommodating to the fans. It was so crowded around Jeff Gordon’s car we decided to move down to Tony’s car to see if it was any less crowded and it was…until he arrived. And then it was hard to find him:
From my seat in the media center I could see Tony’s pit stall kinda- but only if I stood up and leaned my face up on the glass- which I didn’t do too often for fear of looking like a crazy person. I did however, see the end of that ill-fated pit stop. I am like why had not Tony passed my window yet so I sat up in time to see him stall coming out of the pits a little I guess as a result of two pit crew members hitting into each other- honestly I didn’t see that part.
Race winner was Kyle Busch and Misty got a couple of great ones of Kyle’s post race celebration:
As always we had a GREAT time in Sonoma. We always do. We left the track after Kyle was done with his winner presser and ended up getting directed going the opposite way than where we came so we drove 17 miles that way- stopped for a leisurely dinner in a little shopping center we have been to before and then decided instead of paying $11 in tolls to get back to our hotel (and have to drive through San Francisco) that we would just go back the way we came TOWARDS the track. That might have been a mistake because I kid you know we didn’t get back to our hotel until after 10:00pm. Where we basically dropped into bed and slept soundly dreaming of racecars.
The Savemart 350 photo album contains over 200 pictures from both myself and Misty and can be found on flickr.
After I do my Kentucky race post I will post a couple more favorite pictures from Sonoma raceway and a funny story involving me, Misty’s camera and Matt Kenseth on race morning…thanks for being so patient!
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