fourpaws and I headed to Go-Kart Racer in Burlingame around noon. It's a warehouse building next to the freeway with (apparently) the longest indoor kart track in the U.S. inside. Most days, including today, that long track is actually split into two tracks, and fourpaws and spent two 10-minute sessions on Monza. You sign in, suit up (you wear overalls for safety and to protect your street clothes), watch a saftey video, then you're careening around corners you wouldn't think possible at the speed you're going. What a rush! I'm beginning to think I need a new car.
The Monza track has more curves and tight turns than the other track (Yokohama), but that was okay, taking turns is more fun than just driving straight but fast. The karts have two pedals, brake and throttle, but they're on separate feet, so it's possible to brake and gas at the same time. I did this several times, mostly by mistake, but there's supposed to be a kill switch if you do. I never had trouble, though.
When you check in you're given a "headsock" that you wear between your helmet (shared by all the racers) and your head. By the end of the day the helmets get pretty damp and a touch smelly, so no one needed to be strongarmed into wearing the headsock. When putting the helmets on you need to take your glasses off, as the padding in the helmet would knock them off your face. You put them back on by poking them through the facehole. Handly, my new glasses have straight arms, not bent at the ends as normal, so this was a lot easier than it would have been a week ago.
The top speed on the karts is apparently 35 mph, and I probably got it going up to that point several times. On the ground it feels *really* fast, though. On Monza there's no place to accelerate to that speed, though; you're always going into a curve. The tires on the karts are entirely bald and are intended to slide on the ground when needed (for instance, the drive axle on the karts has no differential, so at least one tire would slide on every turn).
During the first practice run I faired okay but was frequently passed by other drivers (the track marshalls wave a passing flag at you when you should pull over and let a faster driver overtake you). The second pratice I had a different kart with much slicker tires, and I was much more aggressive with the throttle. Several times I skidded the car. It makes the turn but you lose a lot of momentum. I am proud that I knew what to do to staighten the car back out (namely, turn the wheels in the opposite direction, so they're always facing the direction you want to go).
When we first got to the racing building the cars out front were trucks and older classic cars, and the clientelle inside were guys in the 40s. When we left the cars were smaller and imported, and the clientelle were in their early 20s and looked like frat boys. Heh.
Tessa wanted to race more but they were booked until the evening, so we headed off to Fort Funston at the end of John Daly Blvd to see the beach and maybe some hang gliders. The gliders were there but all on the ground, waiting for better wind conditions. We took a walk along the top of the beach cliff, then back along the water. It'd been ages since I walked on a beach with bare feet -- I left real footprints! We saw scores of people also out for a stroll, and we seemed to be the only ones without a dog. We saw one couple with two dogs, both of which decided to scale the cliff from the beach up about 100' to the trail above. The guy headed after the dog to entice it back down. Climbing is so much easier than descending. We didn't stick around to see the outcome. We nearly were caught as the tide came in, because the beach narrows at a manmade structure at one point. Again, handy to be barefoot -- I just waded through a lull in the waves.
Continuing with the plans for more kart racing, spongiform called during dinner and we arranged to meet back at Go-Kart Racer in the evening. By now, the cars are a little higher end (a Porsche, a BMW, a few others). We sign up for a Grand Prix -- practice and a race -- on Yokohoma. Although there's many other people around, they're all in reservation groups and driving separately from us. In our practice round we have just five people. I can tell I'm not as wired and pumped about driving as I was earlier in the day, probably mostly because it's already been an exciting day! (I mean, just how many experiences do you need to pack in to one day? "Five," apparently.) I feel a bit sloppy on the course but it's still a lot of fun. Yokohama has a straight stretch and fewer tight turns, so it's faster than Monza. I take my due practice and try working out where to slow up for a turn and where to accelerate through. During practice sessions they keep track of everyones' best lap times, and I had the second-fastest time until the last lap. Ah, curses!
For the race itself it was just Doug, Tessa, and me. It starts with a 10-lap qualifier, which puts us in position in the grid. For only three of us that wasn't really necessary, but it was good warming up. Tessa came out ahead, I second, and Doug third. The actual race is 15-20 minutes of driving, whomever covers the most ground wins. For the entire race we actually kept that same ordering, to my and Doug's chagrin. To my credit I stayed pretty close to Tessa much of the time, and was within a few feet of her rear bumper for many minutes. Passing on the course is tricky because the coures is narrow (wide enough for two karts with some wiggle room but not much) and driving the curves well takes your kart back and forth across the track. It was a challenge I tried a couple of times but couldn't quite make. Oh, well, next time. The karting place offers driving courses, I'd like to take them to learn some of these finer points. (I mean, passing isn't just about driving faster -- both karts top out at the same time. It's much more about being strategic, waiting for the right parts of the course where's there's room, and being tactical, possibly capitalizing on mistakes.)
Doug also kept me on my toes -- when I wasn't pushing Tessa, I could feel Doug's kart's bumper closing in on my behind. We all drove really well (we're all winners!), and I had an absolute blast. That was probably the best session of the four I had during the day. It'll be hard to drive my TL again, I'll want to mash down on the accelerator and have someone on the side of the road wave the "let the faster driver pass" flag to all those people in front of me.
How best to top of an evening, nay, a whole day, such as this? Cold Stone ice cream. White chocolate, chocolate chips, and cherry pie filling make for a refreshing yet interesting combination of flavors.