Thursday, June 30, 2022

Why Finding Kansas


It's odd to start a blog with a picture but in this instance in is right to do so. Also, there's a saying that a picture is worth a 1,000 words and perhaps this is true and in this photo what do you see? Small town America? Signs of winter? Fields that will be harvested? Those might be what do come to mind but for myself, well, right there in that picture is the birth of Kansas.

Before I go further this blog post should not be confused with the literal history of Kansas. However, with my definition of it, that field is where it all began almost a full decade ago and I haven't been back since until Monday when I drove through Carrollton.

Carrollton? Kansas? What? This place, Carrollton, isn't in Kansas at all but actually, oh, about 60 miles from the Kansas border. Also, you're wondering what a random field has to be with anything, right? This field wasn't a field at all a decade ago but rather a kart track and a difficult one as well and in April of 2006 the 2nd round of the Central States Super Series took place there. I was the race director and flagman of the series and, well, when we arrived in Carrollton I was hoping to have just a bit more confidence in my directing abilities than what I showed a month prior outside Quincy, Illinois. This wasn't to say it was awful, but when a driver's meeting goes 25 minutes and consists mainly of "ums" and "uhs" there is certainly room for improvement.

I was 23 when this race weekend happened and that's young for one to be race directing. I had been writing off and on for over a year but there wasn't something that tied it all together. Then, this weekend happened, and my life would never be the same.

With that bit more confidence I was a bit more social in my duties. During practice I worked the pits where I also had access to the flags and between sessions I conversed with many of the drivers and families. There were two drivers that each time they'd come up we'd talk about racing history, karting, and unless you enjoyed motorsports I can all but assure you that you'd have been hideously bored. Myself though, this was awesome! 

The following day, race day came, and there was a possibility of some rain and one family wanted me to cut laps to assure a dry race but in the sport of karting racing in the rain is a part of the beast so I made no change in the day's schedule and I actually got protested! Since I was the one to review protests the protest, naturally, was denied but I couldn't believe that shy, quiet, and as meek as I was I was able to handle the previous day's conversations and now a tense situation with ease. This was not normal for me. What was going on?

When the race day came to an end and the final checkered flag flew it was as if a switch flipped. I was unaware of it at the time or the mechanics behind it, but those two drivers from the day before tried to continue the conversation but I was having none of it. Gone was the confident race director and replaced was my seemingly normal self. I did everything I could to escape that conversation situation and one of the drivers, and I'm sure he wasn't trying to be mean, looked at me and said, "are you sure you're that same guy we were talking to yesterday?" Those words pierced me to my core as I wanted to be that same person, but I couldn't and I didn't know why.

The drive home that night with Greg, and Gary was one of deep reflection and then it was interrupted with a bang as we got a flat tire in Kingdom City. We were at the Petro station off of I-70 there at the Fulton exit and while the two of them were trying to find a replacement tire I started piecing together the process of events; what happened during the weekend? Why was I able to be so... normal and then not be? It was as if I had visited this perfect place and then it vanished. But what changed? What made the difference? And how could I explain it? 

When we finally got back on the road it was now almost midnight and it would be 1:45AM when I would walk into home but my day was not over because I had to write about this as I knew I was on to something. The chapter title that came to mind was "Situational Handicap" and that title remains the chapter title but the concept within is the important matter and that was Carrollton. Yes, it was originally going to be the concept of "Finding Carrollton" as on our race schedule to not confuse those that had no idea where that town was we called in Kansas City on the schedule. I quickly realize that Carrollton was obscure, and also a pain to type, so I went with Kansas City, That sounded awkward so I dropped the "City" and gazed upon my computer monitor and what had become THE concept of the book and as I printed out the chapter for my dad to read the following day I knew I had a title of a book and a chapter that tied everything together. 

I don't know if I'd ever have recognized the concept of Kansas without that race weekend and as I took that picture tears came to my face because what was once a kart track is no more and nary a trace is there to ever show that it was. For those that drive up US Highway 65 it's just a barren plot of land on the outskirts of a town, but I know that time, and any time in the future I drive past there, it will be emotional because that's where this all began.

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