Seeking Out Some Good Advice

By Susan Phillips

Although I’m the lesser of the two Indy Car fans in our household, I’m the one that is already getting restless after less than three weeks into the Indy Car off-season. My husband is engrossed in following the undefeated Tennessee Vols and hasn’t been talking about racing much…to me anyway. He religiously listens to “Trackside” every week and I can hear him pounding the keyboard every few nights like he is trying to kill it, but we haven’t talked much about racing since the season ended at Sonoma.

Even though George and I both went to UT (it’s where we first met almost forty years ago), I don’t live and die on every game that Tennessee plays like he does. We go to a few Titans games every year, but we haven’t been to a game at UT in over ten years. It’s easier to sit at home and watch in HD, than it is to sit in an old stadium with no chair backs, armrests or cup-holders.

While he is all wrapped up in the UT season, I’m already looking ahead to next racing season. Strange isn’t it…the way roles reverse themselves?

This past season we went to our usual races, which were Barber and the three straight weekends in Indianapolis. But we both went to Road America in June, while George had a guy’s trip to Pocono with our good friend Paul Dalbey. I’d like to go to Pocono some year, but my lack of vacation time prevented it this year.

As George watches football, my mind is wandering about which tracks to visit next season. We are both in agreement that we want to go back to Road America next year, but maybe a quicker trip next time. In all honesty, I need your help. We will add Gateway to our schedule, but only because it is so close to Nashville. But I am seeking your advice.

This summer, we combined a racing trip to Road America with an actual vacation that I wanted to do. The first half of the trip belonged to George, the second half was my idea. Just as we crossed into Wisconsin, I was wondering if I had made a mistake.

We drove from Nashville all the way to Sheboygan, Wisconsin on only one stop…somewhere between Indianapolis and Chicago to get gas. Thank God I went to the bathroom then, because we never stopped again. George has this thing about getting from Point A to Point B in record time. Me? I like to meander and see the sights, but not my husband. He’s a man on a mission.

Shortly after crossing into Wisconsin, I spotted the Mars Cheese Castle. When I suggested we stop there, it was met with “Yeah…right”. Then as we approached Racine, I saw a billboard for the famous O&H Danish Kringle…the same Kringle I had paid $20 in shipping to have them shipped to Nashville. When I saw it, I begged for him to stop. His answer? “Nah. We can get those things anywhere in the state. I want to get through Milwaukee before rush hour”.

There it was. It was the confirmation that I had no voice on this trip. It was obvious to me that I had kidded myself that any part of this trip would be what I wanted to do. We had to stay on schedule. Bear in mind, there was nothing we had planned for that night but we still had to maintain our pace. As it was, we sat through rush hour traffic in Milwaukee anyway. We probably would have breezed through town a little later, had we stopped a couple more times along the way.

It was a silent and icy trip the rest of the way, but things eventually thawed out soon after we got there. Speaking of icy, the temperature in Wisconsin was about thirty degrees cooler than what we left behind in Nashville. Stepping out of the car into cool, cloudy and windy conditions sent us scrambling to get out the cold weather gear we packed but thought we would never really use.

By the day of the race on Sunday, the weather warmed up to about 80 degrees. It would never be that warm again for the rest of our trip.

Did I tell you how much we loved Road America? And it wasn’t just George. I loved it too. It was so unique in every way. The food, the beer, the scenery and the people made for an unbelievable weekend.

When we left Sheboygan on Monday, we headed north. George had one final request even though we were on “my time” for the trip. He wanted to go through Green Bay and see Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. I figured since we were going north anyway, it was on the way. I thought we’d drive by, snap a couple of pictures and be on our way. What I didn’t know was what a tourist destination Lambeau Field is. I figured it would be like the Titans stadium, a lot of steel beams with a few random banners on the side.

Contrary to my thinking, Lambeau Field was a work of art. I expected a run-down stadium in a blue collar neighborhood. Instead, it was a beautiful well-maintained structure in a nice, almost upscale neighborhood. We ended up staying there for an hour and a half.



From there we headed north. Way north. To the UP, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Neither of us had been there, but had always wanted to go. George kept looking for a moose, but we did see a bald eagle soaring very low, right over our highway. We drove across the UP and over the Mackinac Bridge, known to the locals as the Mighty Mac.


Years ago, I used to frequent the Glen Arbor area in Michigan near Traverse City. If you’ve never been to Glen Lake, it is some of the clearest and bluest water you will find away from the Caribbean. The cool July temperatures make it a popular vacation spot. I had been wanting to get back there and this was my chance. We checked into our hotel around 6:00. It was windy and the temperature was 56 with white caps out on the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay just added to the atmosphere.

I had remembered a point overlooking Lake Michigan where the sunset was gorgeous. George is not really one for sunsets, but he seemed willing to do what I wanted so we made the journey to the Robert Manning Lighthouse. While it was nice to complain about being cold in July, it was REALLY cold. But even George thought it was worth it. The view was breathtaking!




Overnight, it got down to 48 degrees. It was hard to complain knowing it was in the mid-to-upper 90’s back home, but when you aren’t used to it…48 feels like 18. But it warmed up quickly as the sun came up. We drove to Glen Arbor and it was just as pretty as I had remembered.




So why am I telling you all this? Why did I bore you with pictures from our summer vacation? I’m wanting your advice. There are some of you that have been to every track. While I enjoy going to race tracks, I would like a racing destination that we can turn into a vacation after the race is over (or before the race takes place).

We have tossed around the idea of going to Watkins Glen over Labor Day weekend next year, and then going up into Canada for a few days. Or should we go to Sonoma and take in San Francisco after the race is over? Phoenix is a possibility or even Long Beach. The problem with heading west is that George doesn’t like to fly. He’s not scared of flying, mind you. He’s just cheap and prefers to take his own car.

The race in Texas appeals to George, but I can’t get excited about visiting Texas in June. We’ve thought about Mid-Ohio, but neither of us want to camp. I also know better than to even suggest Belle Isle.

Then there’s always St. Petersburg, which always sounds appealing in March. We spent our honeymoon there but that was in June just south of Clearwater. How warm is it there in mid-March?

Pocono is a possibility, but it’s right after Gateway and just before Watkins Glen. I think we’d rather go to Watkins Glen.

So, I am throwing it out to the readers. Tell us something we haven’t thought of. Give us a reason to go to one place over the other. Also keep a modest budget in mind. We aren’t the richest people on earth and George can be rather thrifty (read: cheap). Well, he’s cheap on some things. He probably hasn’t mentioned here that he bought a drone a month ago. Talk about a waste of money! I’m embarrassed to say how much he spent on that toy. So we need to keep it a little on the low scale side, but my hotel points from work sure come in handy.

Give us your thoughts so that I can have a fun trip, too.

12 Responses to “Seeking Out Some Good Advice”

  1. Brian McKay in Florida Says:

    Saint Petersburg and Watkins Glen. Not yet awake enough to write advice or tips.

  2. Doug Gardner Says:

    Susan, Watkins Glen and the Finger Lakes region is wonderful. Lived there for 20 yrs. Similar to Wisconsin though in a lot of respects. But, the Lakes and Wineries and scenery are second to none. Lodging is not ideal in the immediate area. Watkins Glen is best enjoyed camping. I would Choose Phoenix or Sonoma for the associated areas around the track. Both of those would necessitate air travel and would eliminate George being in the point a to point b mode. I operate in that mode as well and it has made some of my trips with my wife icy as well, but I am adapting.

  3. Camping at Mid Ohio is pretty laid back. There are a couple hotels off the exit to stay at. Not much else to do around that area

  4. billytheskink Says:

    I can’t vouch for the weather in Texas in June, but my father and I enjoy the art museums in Fort Worth on race weekend every year. They’re free and air-conditioned.

    I would think Toronto would be an interesting city to visit, though perhaps a pricy one.

    The Sprint Car Hall Of Fame is just down the road from Iowa.

    This is not my area of expertise…

  5. Watkins Glen is beautiful and Watkins Glen International is historic. Plan ahead though. The Harbor Hotel starts booking up months before for the race weekend (and was totally booked when my wife and I tried to get a reservation a few weeks before). And it’s VERY pricey. I would suggest either camping (roughing it) or better, staying out in Horseheads at the Marriott Courtyard or Hilton Garden Inn. Some of the race teams stay there. I would drive there (only 12 hrs from Nashville) and explore the really neat towns around the Finger Lakes region. And if possible, definitely get up to Skaneateles, a gorgeous town 60 miles northwest of Watkins Glen. But you could easily spend a week right around Watkins Glen and never get bored.

    On the list for 2017 for me and my wife are: Road America (Indy and maybe IMSA), WGI, Sonoma. And maybe Mid-Ohio and maybe Pocono.

  6. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    I have little to offer but two things;
    1. thanks for writing this post, because I’ve been wondering the very same thing, and,
    2. Don’t bring your drone to Indy or any other sporting/racing facility, they mostly all have adopted “no drone fly zones”.

    PS I have some ideas about Pocono, but they have very little to do with sight-seeing. My ancillary race weekend trips mostly revolve around record store locations and bars with excellent food.

  7. Chris Lukens Says:

    Susan – I always enjoy your views on the Indycar scene. If you want something really different during the unbearably long off season, I suggest traveling 600 miles due west to the Chilli Bowl. Over 300 racers, over 5 nights, vying for 18 spots. Ever seen to a race that had a K main ? Quite a show.
    And there’s this –
    ps – I’ll be thinking of you and George December 11 when the Broncos play the Titans.

    • Thanks Chris. I have wanted to go to the Chili Bowl and spend the whole week there for ages. January is a hard time for me to be gone though. Will take a look at the link you posted.

  8. phoenix. race and vacation not bad drive to go to Sedona,AZ and Oak Creek Canyon and then the Grand Canyon . my daughter played college basketball 2 years ago in phoenix and we made that trip loved it and now considering going to race and visit area again. we did fly from Nashville to phoenix . if your driving hit I-40 and you have long drive.

  9. Hi Susan. As you know my home race is Long Beach and I wish I could offer you lodging, but we don’t have a guest room (a long story). I have a great time with all the types of racing offered and the exhibits. It can be crowded and it is not cheap. Would be willing to be your guide.

    I did just vote for Watkins Glen. Flew out to meet my friends in Syracuse and attend my first Glen race this year. What a beautiful area and the track is great! Infield parking was worth the $50 extra;so close to the action. We stayed in a hotel near the airport in Elmira, which turned out to be where some of the Penske team stayed. It was fun running into Rick Mears. Quite costly but had free continental breakfast. Wished I could have stayed longer to see more of the area. Was worth every penny.

  10. Thank you for those beautiful holiday pictures. The scenery and the colors look quite amazing.

    Also thank you for announcing that you and George are going to cover the Gateway race on the blog next year. This is a track from when I did not follow the sport so I’m rather curious to find out if it’s a good place for interesting races. Your coverage surely will shed more light on this than other media channels can.

    Living on another continent and never having been to an IndyCar race before, I’m sorry I cannot recommend you a track to combine your summer holidays with. Either way, I’d like to wish you a happy offseason and would like to see you return again as a guest on “One Take Only”.

  11. The only area I know anything about in that list is Sonoma, and I confess, I’d add nothing that isn’t obvious: Beautiful scenery, nice interesting restaurants, and the possibility of a fun wineries tour. But obvious doesn’t mean bad; the scenery *is* genuinely gorgeous to take in, the restaurants are indeed worth going to, and if someone’s never done it before, a winery “crawl” can be a blast. It’s worth visiting the area at some point.

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