By T.J. Buffenbarger
2020 was supposed to be the ultimate “stay at home season”. With the All Stars, BOSS, FAST, USAC, and ASCS Sprint Cars joining the local options close to home made that choice easy.
By March it was apparent that I would be staying home a lot more than I intended.
When the COVID-19 quarantine and social distancing began in March I never imagined I would go an entire season without stepping into a racetrack. After the cancellation of the 4-Crown Nationals this could be the first season since I was in diapers where I did not visit a track in person.
My decision to not attend a track in person is based on managed risk. Based on what I do for a living, family members of advanced age, and other factors I have not attended a race in person this year. This is not saying that is what you should do as well, but that is a decision I made for myself.
In making that decision it has forced myself and my family to be highly creative for entertainment. There are only so many good movies and Netflix shows you can watch and not get antsy. During the COVID situation this summer I am proud of some of the things my family came up for us to do.
Thinking outside the box for entertainment started early in the spring when the weather was far from idea finding empty, windy places to fly kites. My son and I rekindled my love for the video game “Age of Empires 2” which my wife will tell you I spent an inordinate amount of time playing with my skill level still hovering around terrible.
When it came time to take a summer vacation, we sought out a location in most northern point of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I did extensive research to find a cabin that was extraordinarily clean, ate our own food or dined outside, and took in some of Michigan’s best scenery outside far away from groups of people. For half of a week we explored waterfalls, beaches, and other natural wonders making sure to depart long before a weekend crowd rolled in. Even though we have been to the U.P. multiple times over the years this trip, nearly nine hours from home, may not have been on our radar had it not been for the quarantine.
We even found ways to socially distance at busier places. On a random Tuesday morning we ventured over to the east side of Michigan to Frankenmuth, Michigan so we could arrive right when Bronner’s Christmas Store opened. Below is an actual parking lot that would normally be hustling and bustling later in the day. After some outdoor dining we departed long before crowds converged.
Later that week my son and I watched the top of a bobber every morning trying some different fishing spots, something both of us had not made time to do for a couple of summers. Most of the fishing my son had done to that point was more “catching” than “fishing” in my parents pond. This time we chose some more challenging locations so he could develop proper expectations of fishing. By the end of the week I was already being asked when we would be doing that again.
To get my racing fix and help maintain the website I have become a pay-per-view racing junky often watching five or six events at the same time keeping up with action around the country. It is a dream come true being able to see races from Williams Grove to California and everywhere in between. Its amazing to be able to see so much racing right from the comfort of my living room where the biggest challenge is not letting the “couch monster” lure me to sleep late while watching.
If I was just being a race fan and had a choice between going to mediocre sprint car program or one where the pits are stuffed with 6-7 classes of cars or stay home and watch something like Port Royal on pay-per-view, I’d probably stay home until one of the touring series came through. Plus, the line is short at the bathroom and concession stand.
I miss telling the stories of race nights after going in person. To make it easier I have taken being “distant” as a challenge to work on my writing of racing stories and experiment with certain things on the website.
When I look back on 2020, I will remember the challenges we all faced. I am also going to remember amazing moments like seeing the All Star show at Red Dirt Raceway, Kyle Larson’s amazing summer, and an entire slew of great races. I am also going to remember some of the adventures my family took that may have been put off year after year if our hand was not forced.
With four months left in the year I plan continuing the trend of trying to not make COVID the only reason 2020 is a year to remember.