I just experienced a Mini-Twenty-First Century Odyssey covering about one week.
After another revision on the book cover for Searching for Cool, Praying for Heat, I headed south to Road Atlanta—which is not in Atlanta—for the big vintage road race called “The Mitty,” sanctioned by HSR, Historic Sports-car Racing.

The track is wonderful for both spectators and for the drivers. Just short of two and a half miles, it goes up and down hills, has lots of tricky curves and two thunderous straights.  Click here to view the actual race course!  I could go and see all the corners from both inside the track and outside. There are tunnels and bridges for spectators to move about, lots of places to park and quite a few people camp there.

There are very good facilities and mini-busses that constantly circulate to take people to other vantage points. Think of a small LeMans-type road course.

Mitty-Lola-T-70-whiteThe first of two highlights for me: A group of about seven 1970s European Formula One cars in their original livery.

  • Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell
  • Graham Hill’s Lotus
  • Mario Andretti’s Indianapolis winning car, and others of equal importance.  And these 40+ year old cars were out on the track blazing around at amazing speeds.
  • That was a time when Cosworth-Ford V8 engines dominated almost every race.

Mitty-Lola-T-70    Mitty - Mustang - Jon Michael Riley

The other was the Can-Am cars, also dating from the 1970s and 80s. Best looking of them all is the Lola T-70s, and then the McLarens M-8s and the Ford GT-40s. These powerful V8 cars are a hoot to watch, 750+ HP engines screaming uphill, out of turn one. This was a thrill to see cars that were, at one time, the very leading edge of racing engineering.

After a longish drive, I found myself on the halcyon Gulf Coast community of Watercolor and Seaside. The beach sand is as white as it can be and to my astonishment, the water looked like the Bahamas, Tortola or the Virgin Islands. I wasn’t expecting this because of all the media attention to the Deep Water Horizon/BP oil disaster of several years ago. The whole place was lovely and pristine and I enjoyed it immensely, thanks to my very good Nashville friends, Kathy & Kevin Millen and their seaside condominium.

First Saturday Art Crawl Downtown Nashville - Jon Michael Riley

On my way home, I got to experience a Saturday night Art Crawl in downtown Nashville. The galleries were packed with people of every age, as well as the sidewalks crowded with gallery goers and street musicians of a very high caliber. One string quartet played Latino music that was entrancing. Another duo was a vibraharp player accompanied by an electric bass. Reminded me of Milt Jackson of the Modern Jazz Quartet. The weather cooperated perfectly. Clearly, Nashville is way more than country music!

Returning home is fraught with emotion. I see the mountains of Western North Carolina in the distance and I immediately become teary. This is where Catherine and I moved to from New York twenty-four years ago, a place where we were married and then the place where she died. At least she was “home” when it was time for her to leave her MS-riddled body.

I go outside and admire the amazing—and now huge—pink and lavender rhododendrons, the late azaleas still shining their colors, and all the rest that Catherine planted and I am overwhelmed. It is like she is still here, these colorful living spirit-like things, freely giving of life and joy and reminding me of just how fortunate I was to have spent my life with her. I have given myself permission to cry at times like this. It is now part of my journey.

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