California Speedway: The Five


I’ve driven by the Iowa Speedway, just outside Newton, Iowa, a number of times. Always thought it would be cool to take my Outback on it and drive around real fast; that is, if I was the only one on the track. Never have done it, though, and probably never will.

However, I HAVE driven on the California Speedway! Just last week, as a matter of fact. The official name of the Speedway is Interstate 5; known to the locals as “The Five.”

My first drivers license was a California license, way back in 1972. I had driven our car from West Virginia to Iowa, to Colorado, and on to California WITHOUT a license. (that was before I was a law abiding citizen, and I was only 17 – not old enough to get one without driver’s education. And when you don’t stay in school long enough… well, you get the idea.)

Anyway, back to the Speedway Story.

I really didn’t know if California drivers were rude or courteous; it all happened so fast! I mean, there are speed limit signs posted every 5 miles or so, but it doesn’t matter. No one pays any attention to them. I think they’re going too fast to focus on something as small as a sign.

My wife and I rented a car so we could drive from San Clemente, where our kids are, up to Hanford, which is around 300 miles away, to visit friends. Early in the morning, probably about 8:15 or so, we started out.

Now, mind you, ALL traffic in sunny, Southern California is fast! No one gets behind the wheel just to dawdle along. I didn’t see one Sunday driver during our 9 day visit! Everyone is in a hurry, it seems, to get to the next traffic jam.

Alright, we headed to “The Five”, and the first thing I saw was a traffic signal on the entrance ramp. Two lanes on the ramp, narrowing to one before blasting onto the Speedway. The signal reminded me of the signals used at the drag races up in Humboldt, Iowa.

Okay. We stopped briefly, then a couple seconds later, were given the green light. As I began to merge, just as safely and boldly as I could, I was immediately cognizant of one fact: I am not prepared for this!

Oh sure, our car’s license plate said “California”, but my driving was saying something entirely different. It was saying, “Rookie Racer!”

Phyllis simply bowed her head and closed her eyes.

I am still not sure what the speed limit is.

Anyway, I finally merged onto the Speedway and noticed “The Lane” our son Jeremy had told me about. You know what lane I’m referring to? It’s called the Car Pool Lane. Cars with 2 or more riders are allowed to drive in that particular lane. It’s kind of like getting to drive on the inside lane at the track; or getting pole position at the beginning of the race. I bobbed and weaved, shucked and jived my way over to The Lane and all seemed well. 75-80 mile an hour! Wooieee!

Phyllis still had her head down and eyes shut.

I figured we’d be out of town in no time, driving The Lane like we were.

However, even The Lane has its moments. From 75-80 miles an hour down to 15 in just a matter of a few yards! I was certain my brakes were on fire! By the time we got stopped, or at least slowed down enough to flow with the traffic, I think my whole life passed before my eyes!

As we crawled along, enjoying the moments of actually being able to focus on things around us, all of a sudden I heard a motor of some sort. I looked into all of my mirrors; nothing. I turned my head to the left; nothing. To the right; WHAT IS THIS?!?!

A motorcyclist was driving his bike BETWEEN the cars that were crawling along.

This Iowa boy STILL can’t believe anyone would be that stupid! Sorry, but stupid seems like the appropriate word.

Well, the traffic started moving again, and we flowed along with it, sometimes 75, other times 25. We safely arrived in Hanford and had a wonderful visit with friends. We even took a drive to Yosemite National Park. Now THAT is really something to see.

After a few days, it was “get back on The Speedway!” Zoom-zoom-zoom!

What an experience!

We arrived back in Iowa today. As I’ve been thinking about our wonderful trip, I’ve had some time to contemplate on Californians and their driving, racing, habits; especially on “The Five”. It appears to me, Californians are people who really like to get all they can out of life. I mean, they love their recreational times, as they visit the beaches, the parks, the professional sports arenas, and their favorite restaurants (and there is a plethora of great places to dine). They love their Farmer’s Markets, and all the fresh, healthy produce that is grown locally. Many of them belong to fitness spas, bicycle clubs, or hike one of the many trails available in the area.

My contemplation has me asking myself, “why?” Why do people who want to squeeze every last drop out of life, seem to think so little of it when they pull out onto the California Speedway? Would it be asking too much to ask people to please, slow down, and live to see another race?

I realize people may get the idea I am throwing all California drivers into the same, stereotypical group. But actually, I’m not. No, I don’t need to lump them all together.

Just once, put on your helmet and take a drive on the Speedway. See for yourself; Californians lump themselves together.

It’s called a traffic jam.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19 ESV)

And maybe, while we’re all trying to get the most out of life, we could all slow down long enough to get to know the Author of life! Jesus Christ, The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

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