Auto-X, Yes! Baby Goats, No!

Wisconsin Fairgrounds Frolics, day 1

I mentioned in an earlier post that staying at county fairgrounds can be lots of fun when there are events scheduled during a stay, the last time we had baby goats running around. Even though there were no cute goats our two-day stay delivered some most unexpected entertainment.

On the way to Wisconsin. I was thinking this looked a lot like the scene in the movie “Twister” where the tornado comes over this hill to wipe out everything.

The Fair Hill Campground is on the grounds of the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Chippewa Falls. The drive from Harvard Illinois to the fairgrounds was windy and stormy. Ben drove as long as he could, and after a fuel stop I took over the wheel. I am usually the navigator, but Ben took over navigation for the last leg. By this time the rain had slowed a bit, but we were both drained. It takes a lot of effort to keep a big vehicle on the road in high wind. Our contact person/go to guy at the fairgrounds was Joe. As we pulled into town Ben called Joe to get some in town directions. We knew the gate was between the YMCA and the elementary school, but once inside the entrance the inside road to the campground wasn’t apparent, and I roared right by it. This necessitated another call to Joe, and we maneuvered around the block past the town cemetery and back onto the fairgrounds. The next task was figuring out where to go without driving through the soggy field in front of the campground. Ben placed another call to our new best friend Joe, handed me the phone and Joe talked me through getting our rig parked. “I can see you on the security cameras, just keep going, and right turn NOW!” I turned the wheel (against my instincts) and lo and behold, there was a gravel road. I felt like I was in one of those movies where the pilot is flying blind and depending on the tower to talk them into a safe landing.  We set up camp on very squishy turf along with a few other RVs, and silently prayed we’d be able to get out two days later. For a nominal fee we got full hookups, a spacious campsite, lots of space for the dogs to explore and as a bonus about five inches of rain.

It continued to rain off and on for the rest of the day, but during a break in the weather, we noticed some activity near a large tent. One of the things Joe mentioned was that there would be a “car race” on the fairgrounds the next day. We figured it might be the race planners so we got the dogs and picked our way through the puddles to the tent. We met David, was in charge with the “car race,” which was actually an Auto Cross event—a timed race on a flat track (the blacktop roadway of the fairgrounds). The course was marked off with traffic cones for gates like a slalom course, to test the skill of the drivers in maneuvering and speed control. The race was sponsored by the Chippewa Valley Sports Car Club (CVSCC). Each car ran the course individually for several tries, using best time/performance as a final score. As in all things racing, the idea is to go for a fast, clean run with no penalties like a smushed cone or missing a gate altogether. David’s responsibility was to manage the logistics of the race and make sure the whole event ran smoothly. This Auto Cross (AutoX, for people who know the lingo) was open to any car and any driver—any age driver too, so if a minor wanted to race they could, as long as they could show they had permission to drive the vehicle and a parent or guardian was to be with them at check in. Something for all you parents with new drivers to consider—get your kid’s racing ya-yas out of their system before taking the family car out on some back country road.

Slalom gates. Cones point to the side where the uprights must be passed.

Sunday morning was race day. The weather was cloudy and gloomy with some drizzle here and there that dampened the race course—which ran directly in front of the campers and RVs. David and the other line judges arrived bright and early to walk the course and set up the gates. Each gate was marked by one upright cone punctuated by two cones tipped on their sides to indicate which side drivers were to pass the upright. We fairgrounds campers had a ring side seat at a short straightaway and two gates. We walked the dogs and had breakfast. By that time drivers started to arrive. They walked the course in groups, reviewing the course. At 10:30 the first cars started running the course.

Oops! Smushed cone under darkening skies.

It was a motley crew of drivers. The first groups were small cars, everything from Mini Coopers to aging Toyotas, with souped up engines and racing tires. One kid looked at our KIA Soul and asked if we were going to run. Ben laughed and said “No, I don’t have the right tires.” The kid told us that was too bad, since we had a  manual transmission our car would be perfect. Except for the tires and the standard issue KIA engine. Most of you readers may not know that Ben had a short career in drag racing some years ago, so I suspect he may still have some of that need for speed lurking inside. Still, there is a difference between stomping your foot on the gas and going straight as fast as you can and zig-zagging through a short course. Maybe the drag skills don’t transfer. We’ll never know, as that was probably Ben’s one and only invite to Auto Cross.

Some cars were festooned with sponsor decals and professional-looking numbers. Other cars used painter’s tape to create numbers.  There was a great deal of engine-revving and tire-squealing indeed, and many cones were smushed. Occasionally a car would come through at a rather sedate pace, which made me think perhaps we could have taken a run or two. It was a lot of fun to watch. As the day wore on larger cars were running the course, like BMWs and larger Subarus, even a Chevy or two. I had fun making pictures, but I am very sad that I missed getting a picture of the lone Gremlin that raced the track.

We had to leave the track in the afternoon for another excursion next door to the fairgrounds Outside the fairground gates, we could hear cars roaring around the track. By the time we returned, all was quiet. But this is not the only thing that was exciting about the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds…stay tuned for day 2 of our exciting stay!

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