Travel is the only thing that costs money, yet makes you richer. I don’t remember where I first heard that phrase — or words to that effect; I’m paraphrasing — but it has stuck with me ever since.
From personal experience, I have to agree. When I was 14, I had the chance to travel to Spain for a month during the summer, and that trip affected me in many ways that I know of, and probably in many ways I am not aware of. As an adult, anyplace I have traveled to has changed me for the better.
One of America’s most gifted and famous writers, Mark Twain, traveled extensively at a time when travel took a lot more time. One of my favorite books was Twain’s “Roughing it in the Sandwich Islands,” about his days in Hawaii, which is even better if you read it while you’re sitting on a beach in Hawaii. Twain lived in the Midwest, California, Hawaii and Connecticut before moving to Europe for cheaper living. He eventually returned to Connecticut where he died in 1910 at age 74.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts,” Twain wrote. “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
There were no automobiles to speak of in Twain’s time, and that means there was no automobile racing, but I’m inclined to include racing with travel, in that it costs money, yet makes you richer.
For me, the appeal of racing started with a love of cars, the allure of speed and surge of adrenaline that comes with it. It’s like nothing else, and you have never lived more fully than when behind the wheel of a racecar.
Stick with it long enough and things change. Racing becomes just as much about the people as it about the cars, and it makes it that much better. I’ve met people at the track who I never would have met otherwise, marvelous human beings I’m glad to know. I’ve met other people at the track who, for whatever reason, stopped coming and the feeling I get can only be described as missing them.
I think if Twain had lived during the era of the automobile and automobile racing, he would have been writing about that instead of some amphibian from Calaveras County.
A friend of mine, whom I met at the track, said something to me the other day, something along the lines of, “Half the reason I race is to have better stories to tell.” As someone who has made a living for the past 20 years telling stories, I couldn’t agree more. It was just odd coming from him, because he’s an engineer, not a profession normally associated with storytelling.
But therein lie the riches of the racing life. We get to tell better stories, at least to people who will sit still long enough to listen. Oftentimes, those listeners are the same people we know from the track who end up hearing our stories. People outside racing often don’t care, don’t get it, or both, but it doesn’t matter.
Despite the expense of racing — which is not insignificant — I remain convinced the sport we all enjoy so much makes us richer. Whether it’s the wealth of friends we accumulate, the experiences that form our worldview or the tapestry of tales we have to tell, racing burrows much deeper into us than the simple love of cars or speed. Racing isn’t what we do. It’s who we are.