2018 Sacramento Mile
Cal Expo Fairgrounds, 05/19/18
Some experiences we can’t resist. Others we postpone because life always gets in the way. Attending an American Flat Track race has been on our friend Fuego’s list since he was a child, when it was the only motorcycle racing he could watch on tv.*
This year he was going with or without us; no more excuses. Alright, we’re in- forget about our grown-up responsibilities.
Exactly 100 miles from our house, the Sacramento Mile at Cal Expo is a day’s commitment, considering Bay Area traffic and the late-night drive home. We arrived in the parking lot around 3:30PM and took some time to assemble our gear while we snacked and sipped some beers from our coolers. We were a bit concerned that it wasn’t allowed, but I saw several people finishing their drinks right in front of the entrance.
Tickets were available to purchase online for $25 each, plus a fee of $4.75 each, but they were only $25 at the gate. A quick wander through the venue showed us that there are only a handful of concessions stands and booths to look through, namely the race sponsors Harley Davidson, Cycle Gear and 805 beer. There were several food stands available selling tacos, corn dogs, burgers, chicken strips and coffee. Beer and beverage stands were abundant, selling tall boys of Coors and 805 as well as pints for $12 each.
The general admission lawn, located after the final turn of the track was in full sun and plentifully available around 5PM. More experienced fans began showing up with chairs and blankets right around 6PM, ready to settle in for a night of racing.
I was a bit surprised by the number of families that showed up with kids, Grandmas and Grandpas. Given the informal lawn seating and smaller venue, it was easy to set up a comfy area to relax while the kids play. It really was refreshing to see the kids running a bit wild, not simply sitting with cellphones in their hands. I even watched a vendor patiently assisting two little ones while they placed their own dinner orders.
The weather turned absolutely cold after nightfall- cold enough to inspire me to buy a $50 souvenir hoodie. When we return, we’ll come with extra blankets, beanies and warm jackets. The walk to the parking lot is short enough to pack supplies without being a nuisance. I only wish they’d allow us to bring in thermoses (or any outside food), because that coffee line was terrible.
Sometime around 6:30 they allowed fans access to the inside of the track where the paddock is set up. It wasn’t open for long, and we were all too busy stuffing our faces to make our way over.
The racing was fun, dirty and fast. It’s incredible to watch them reach speeds of over 140 MPH with such a short straight, barely slowing into the turn. Unfortunately, I’d chosen a vantage point coming out of the oval, and we weren’t clearly able to see the riders pitch their bikes. Even at ground level, we could see the entire track and all of the riders narrowly passing each other.
Racing in the dark under the lights, the riders are only 15 feet away from us, giving viewers the sensation that any error with a bike would have it catapulting directly toward us. It’s a genuinely raw and up-close racing experience. And the dirty part- it’s the drying soil getting kicked-up right into your face.
It’s that kind of intimate track-side viewing experience; the kind we never would have had if we’d stayed at home.
*Given Fuego’s vast knowledge and charming childhood racing stories, it would be wonderful to have him as a contributor to this website. I will not give up.