Yes, you read that title right, this is post will not be just about one adventure but TWO! I know, you can hardly contain your excitement.
But in fact, excitement is just one of the emotions we experienced during a weekend last January! It was while watching Hulu (you’re welcome for the free plug, Hulu) I saw an ad for a race at Daytona called The Rolex 24. This wasn’t a NASCAR event so I was a bit more intrigued, as I thought Daytona was strictly for NASCAR events. Goodness was I wrong, but more on that later. This event took place over the whole weekend, but more importantly there were practice rounds on Thursday, one of our days off! I quickly went to the website and found that not only were tickets fabulously cheap, but pit passes were also a bargain as well! Part one of our weekend was already planned out.
In my free time, I like to peruse local Florida events and the like, always looking for something to new to experience. I usually end up on hiking trails (no surprise) and I always kept reading about Ocala. I never gave it much thought, and yet again, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The more I dug, the more I realized the forest was teeming with trails, natural springs and wildlife to be explored. I found a couple trails, and informed LeeAnna we had a wonderful weekend of adventuring to be had!
That Wednesday morning, we loaded the car with snacks and water and set off for the Ocala National Forest. Thankfully this was January and it wasn’t the usual exhausting heat Florida usually gives off, but we packed plenty of water just in case. We followed our GPS coordinates to our first stop, Fort McCoy recreation area. Little did we know, but this site was teeming to with adventure!
We followed the trails around that took us to some cabins that were originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps., way back in the early 1920s. (Fun fact for a later post: we stayed in some cabins ourselves that were also built by the CCC!) We followed the trail until we came upon the most incredible springs we had ever seen! The water was the purest blue, and it was crystal clear, able to see every single speck and twig at the bottom. LeeAnna found this weird bubbling over the side of this bridge, and we found out that was the source of the spring itself! We were pretty mesmerized by it, and if I can figure out how to make the video into a gif, I’ll post it here.
We then consulted a guide map at the ranger station, as we noticed our GPS kept going in and out on our way here. We took a picture, as seen here, and followed that to our next destination, Lake Kerr Recreation Area! We were quite glad we took a picture of the map because our GPS did indeed lose signal. We found this random dirt road and took that for what felt like a half hour but was probably only ten minutes. We were the only souls out on the road, and it was delightful. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but the sun was dazzling, it was a cool 68 degrees, and it was just the perfect day. ANYWAY, we followed that old dirt road to the lake where we found a magnificent swimming pond and some more trails that took us to an area teeming with turtles, birds and all other adventurous beasts.
Our last stop was this boardwalk we found on our handy map. It was about a one mile hike to the point and back, filled with Spanish moss, underbrush and critters galore. We made it to the point and took in what sun was left of the day. It was a most excellent adventure, and it was just beginning!
I had only been to one other NASCAR track before Daytona, and oddly enough, it was for a cross country event. I underestimated the size of MIS (Michigan International Speedway), especially the infield. You cant really appreciate how large the whole place is until you’re on the infield. Daytona, obviously, is no exception. We parked on the outside, and after letting on that it was our first trip to Daytona, the lady selling tickets went over every single detail with us, something we were very thankful for. We took the tunnel into the infield, and were overwhelmed at vast the place was. VAST. The infield was incredible and the amount of seats we could see was staggering.
Because this was a practice round, the crowd was a bit more subdued, which worked in our favor as we felt we had the run of the place. Along with our admission, I purchased some pit passes, which let us walk the garage and pits before the practice round started. As we walked through, we could hear anything from German, French and I’m pretty sure some Scandinavia language as well. Couple that with the random firing of an engine or pneumatic drill, it was quite the immersive experience.
To be honest, we were very confused on what was going on most of the time. Because it was indeed a practice day, there were cars racing at random times, but once we checked the schedule we found the exact time of when the actual practice race was going to start. We grabbed a ride to the seating area that took us to the front of the speedway, and all I can say is VAST. Seriously, place is so big.
We made our way into the stands, which sadly, we could not go up to the very top. It made sense because there were barely 100 people in the stands to begin with, but all I wanted was to sit at the tippy top. Oh well. We found some seats right at the first corner right as the cars started to take off. And they were as loud as they were fast. I finally got as to why everybody wears headphones during NASCAR races. They ripped around the corners, anything from a GT 40, to a Ferrari to some sort of BWM--it was all very fast and exciting. After a couple hours, our ears said they had enough, and we ventured back to the car. It was an excellent day, capped off by an even better weekend!
Remember: Adventure is always out there!