August 24, 2015

My Two Cent$

A Road Less Travelled
by Mike Ruefer
Davenport, IA - I’m sitting here today and its late August. The summer of 2015 has flashed before my eyes and the racing season end is no more than a month away. The Midwest summer heat and sun quickly fades to flickering fall leaves and cooler weather in October. The September Song so beautifully sung is our last memory of another racing season to remember.

As I look into the mirror and see a grey haired old man, racing is still the one thing that makes me feel young. With each New Year I plan my races and the trips I might like to take. The early races in Arizona and Florida excite me and I love being there while Iowa is frozen and crippled in dreary overcast of darkened skies. These trips and races bring me back to life and get me ready to do what I do. Live!

For almost 20 years as I’ve mused and photographed Dirt Late Model events my normal schedule is 40 -50 nights of racing. That’s January through October. To me that really is not that many but it also means that besides work and a few month of off season, most of my summer has been traveling to dirt tracks. It’s been addictive and thrilling to see the races I’ve wanted to see. As a race fan it’s been the time of my life.

This year was to be no different. I had a great winter racing schedule and I was ready for business as usual. The only problem was Mother Nature and all the rain that plagued the weekends and special events like the Summer Nationals. I found myself at home more and something strange happened. I started liking being home and not at the race track so much. Almost to the point I was just hoping it would rain early some weekends and let me do something else.

The old man in the mirror became nothing like the young man from years before. That young guy would get mad, bitter and hard to be around if the race he was going to was rained out and cancelled. This old guy all of sudden started to enjoy the road less travelled. If Hank Snow had been everywhere man, maybe I’ve been everywhere enough that missing a race was just ok. I’m not getting any younger and the energy to energize this old bunny after a long week of work and to get back into the car to cover races is maybe burning the candle a little too bright.
With all this said I’m not saying I want to stay home all the time but just maybe it’s time to slow down. I noticed a few weekends ago at the Corn Belt Clash events that I really enjoyed being there, doing my job and being just a small part of the show. After weeks away from races, it was fun to see my guys’ race.  I have a busy job and racing is my hobby, something fun to go do. My personality flaw is that I tend to not relax at anything I take seriously. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to try my best to be the best and when you add in the addictive nature of racing; it becomes a drug you just cannot get enough of.

So just maybe this year and all the rain outs was a much needed intervention. A counselling from the lord almighty to start learning how to be something besides a weekend travelling freelance photographer. Like any addiction I know the withdrawal will have its setbacks. I’m not very confident that I can do this. The sights, sounds and smells are a sensory overload that fuel my race fan soul. It’s who I am but not all I am. For when the day comes that I truly retire I only hope that I added value to the races I’ve covered and helped in a very small way to make dirt late model racing better.

I would like to end this journey with a Bob Seger parody I wrote in 2005 after a WDRL race at I-80 Speedway. It has always been one of favorite pieces and the lyrics still hum in my head when I hear the song as I turn the page for a Road Less Travelled. Thank you rain.
East of Omaha
On a long and lonely highway east of Omaha
You can listen to the engines moaning out as one last call
You can think about the race and the photos you took the night before
And your thoughts will soon be wandering the way they always do
When you’re driving many hours and there’s nothing much to do
You don’t feel much like traveling; you just wish the trip was through
But here I am on the road again
Here I am out on the track
Here I go writing stories again
There I go, turn the page

Out there in the track lights, you’re a million miles away
Every ounce of energy, you try to give away
And the sweat pours from your body, like the photos that you take

Later in the evening, as you lie awake in bed
With echoes of the hot rods, ringing in your head
As you dip the days last Copenhagen, remembering what the announcer said

But here I am on the road again
Here I am out on the track
Here I go taking photos again
There I go, turn the page