Thursday, December 04, 2014


Now that I've (mostly) caught up on sleep, I can blog about our trip to the karting facility while visiting Jacksonville last weekend.

Your local children's arcades have always had go kart tracks, but the cars go slow, and all you have to do is mash the gas and never use the brake. Not quite a true test of driving skill. But recently, a few go-kart-specific establishments have opened up, marketing themselves as "go karts for adults", or just "karting". (Karting is a real thing with major world championships and everything, and is where many top NASCAR and Formula One drivers got their start.) Here, the cars go much faster, and you'll never actually reach the kart's top speed. And more importantly, you actually have to use the brakes, such that putting in a top lap takes significantly more skill. (And, it's also much more expensive than the go-karts at Frankie's Fun Park or Adventure Landing, but more on that later.)

We have one local karting facility called Rush Hour Karting. I've never been there, but while visiting Jacksonville for Thanksgiving, we went to a similar place called Autobahn Indoor Speedway, located in an old warehouse in an office park. All you have to do is show up, sign the waiver, pay up, wait 30-60 minutes (depending on how crowded it is), and then you get a 14-lap race, At ~23 seconds per lap, one race takes 5-6 minutes to complete. Wee! A few of my friends joined me, plus one guy named "Quagmire". (More on him later.)

Surely, given all my experience playing racing video games over the years, I would be able to do pretty well at this even though I have no prior karting experience right? Well, sure...I was able to beat all of my friends (also first-timers), both on track and in terms of fastest lap. (They returned the favor in Mario Kart afterwards.) Quagmire, on the other hand...he brought his own helmet, so I'm guessing he comes here a lot. He turned the fastest lap of the entire week during our race. (He also screwed us out of an extra lap, because the race ends as soon as the leader completes 14 laps, even though he was at least a full lap ahead of the rest of us. Why don't they do timed races instead?)

The hardest part for me was controlling the car under braking, applying just the right amount of brake without scrubbing too much speed off, yet enough speed to still make the corner, all while keeping the car on the optimal racing line. Steering is hard too - my arms were pretty tired after just 14 13 laps. I would love to do this more often and see if I could ever get as good as, say, Quagmire. (For the record, I think I could.)

Problem is...this is a pretty expensive hobby. Not counting the one-time $6 "license" fee, a single 5-6 minute race costs $20. Sure, you can get discounts the more times you race, but still, doing this often can get rather pricey. A lot of people think curling is expensive, but with curling, $20 gives you two hours of activity, not just 5-6 minutes. If you ask me, curling is a much better value than karting. Actually, auto racing in general is one of the more expensive hobbies one can have, to the point where if Marla ever tells me she wants to be the next Danica Patrick or whatever, my response will be, "Sorry, but auto racing is too expensive. Wouldn't you rather be the next Jennifer Jones or Debbie McCormick instead?"

That said, I would like to go to Rush Hour Karting sometime. Who wants to join me?

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