You just never know. Every year some pundit or another predicts the demise of Hawthorne. Every year it does open, you just enjoy and thank the Lord that a new racing Spring is Sprung.
The 2008 McChump ??/365 Racing Tour
Racin', Some. Other Foolishness, Lots.
22 Exciting Tracks! 21 Exotic States and Provinces! 28 Thrilling Storyettes!
Warning! The 2008 stories are mostly pictures, and not for the faint of bandwidth!
Brave little tomatoes set out on a cross country journey to the Promised Land, seeking fame and fortune at The Racetracks of Our Land along the way. What will be their fate? Where will they travel? What wonders will they see, if any? Will they survive? Will they find true love? Will they actually bear, you know, tomatoes?
Well, first and foremost, as long as you're driving from Hot Springs to Montana via Oklahoma City anyhow, you might as well stop by Blue Ribbon Downs and see how it's flourishing in its new incarnation as an Indian casino, even if it isn't running races. Look at that! It has a slightly new awning out front! Otherwise, it looks as tired and worn out as ever! Empty, empty parking lot, as well. I don't think slots are doing this track all that much good. Oh well. I didn't bother to go in. For what, stupid machines?
That was sure kind of disappointing last night in OK City, when I'd expected so, so much of the new dynamic revitalized slots track. But tomorrow's always another day, and now tomorrow was today, and I was backtracking a bit, back to Tulsa and beyond, to visit the mighty Will Rogers Downs, a newly minted slots track/Indian casino that I just KNEW would fulfill every expectation of The Gospel of Slot Racing. What fabulous changes would I find from the last time I was here, and it was but a poor, struggling non-slots track?
I knew Zia Park wasn't running this time of year, so this stop couldn't count as an official "new track visit", but I just had to stop by as long as I was in the neighborhood, what with Hobbs, NM, being on the way from Chicago to Montana and all, and find out just why it was so necessary for the State of New Mexico to add a horse racing track in some town I never heard of in my life before this track, out in the middle of nowhere on the border with west Texas. Well, duh, it wasn't the horse racing at all, was it, it was slots, and sucking money out of Texas cities with names like Midland, and Odessa. A racetrack built not so much for horse racing at all, but for slots, first and foremost. How did that fit in to The Gospel of Slots Racing, I wondered.
A break from slots racin' with some sightseeing. Carlsbad Caverns and Big Bend. Just pictures, and hey, a lot are cave pictures, so you know what that means.
Fleeing Sunland Park and Homeland Security's Wall bright and early, the McChump Tour departed Texas and set out for the (hopefully) less oppressive environs of Arizona. McChump #2 led the way in the mighty, mighty 'Bird, calling back at some point to warn me of a Border Patrol stop somewhere ahead on I-10 in the middle of New Mexico. The little tomatoes went to cover. Sort of. As I suspected, however, the Border Patrol was not truly interested in little tomatoes. Once they deduced I hauled no Mexicans, there was no further search, I was waved through with white man's impunity, and the little tomatoes continued their journey undisturbed, even though I only did a half a** job of hiding them. Bwa ha ha! Tomato smuggler!
On the way up to Vancouver from Seattle I decided to visit Mt. Baker. There's a road that goes way up it, up an up and up. After it got way way up there by the glacier and it's getting rougher. I'm thinking geez, this is way out in the middle of nowhere and if the car breaks down or something no one will find me for weeks. Just then a woman comes non-chalantly jogging by.
The Hastings outing was part one of the KG event for 2008, with a big dinner downtown at some very fancy restaurant (thanks Roxy!) and an outing at the track.
Pix only and mostly not of Hastings Park.
Sagebrush Downs at Kamloops was the primary destination of this KG outing, so we all drove on up there the day after Hastings. Got mostly black & white photos. I was planning to write a story to submit to The Racing Journal so figured they probably needed B&W. Never wrote that story. Astoundlingly.
We spent much of the day in or around the beer tent (for shade, honest), presented a blanket, schmoozed with the head honcho there, a friendly and helpful Italian guy who filled us in about the best restaurant in town. Vittorio's Italian, as it happened, which turned out to be a motel restaurant or something like that. However, undeterred, we had another KG dinner that could not be beat.
It was very thoughtful of the city fathers of Des Moines to put that racetrack casino there in Iowa, so I would always have a first or last stop between Chicago and Montana on the "middle" route. So I took advantage of it again.
Just pictures and not very many. The place seems to have gone snooty. "The Meadows". Oooooh. La-di-da. And I admit I am taken by their tasteful homage-du-Stonehenge signage.
Well, I was going to write a story here about a GOOD visit to a racino, where things were laid out right and people could flow back and forth between casino and racing floor and so on (even though it was mostly because they had put the casino buffet in the racing area, so diners HAD to flow. But oh well, that feeling wore off quickly, and I didn't. It was on the way to some other places. That's all.
Couple pix is all. Note giant racing crowd.
I was kind of looking forward to visiting Presque Isle Downs. They had made such a splash in their debut season and got such positive buzz at least with simulcast players. Well, buzz indeed, but more like bzzzzzzt! I was not impressed. Mainly because the casino pretty much kicked racing fans out front on the apron and left them there. This building is for casino players, schlub. Crappy crowded little tiny simulcast room. too. If there was something upstairs I did not visit. Thankfully it was a pleasant night so being forced to be out on the apron was not too heinous.
But one pleasant surprise: Katie! Katie from Hawthorne was there. Wow, I never realized how tall she was.
This track was brand new, built by a dedicated thoroughbred owner as the new hope for Michigan racing, after Ladbroke's had closed down Detroit Race Course. Not really as handy as Livonia, however, kinda out on the east side of the Detroit/Wayne County airport, in a sort of desolate area that had never heretofore been developed.
McChump #2 was still out there driving around in general, so we met up for a day at the track. It wasn't too bad, though bit crowded inside. Nice crowd on hand this day. We had fun. Maybe there IS some hope for Detroit area racing.
Live racing on snowy days is so much fun. Nothing like a brisk day on the apron.