Thursday, August 23, 2012

Race Weekend in Michigan

I will never forget the stories about how my family became involved with the Top O' Michigan Outboard Marathon races. My dad had been at one of the town bars on a summer weekend. He called home to tell my mom he met some out of town boat racers, and they needed a place to stay. He told her it was just a few guys and they would camp in our yard. However, my mom told a story of waking up to at least 10 different vehicles, possibly a Winnebago, various tents, boat trailers, and feet sticking out of car windows while people slept. I still get a kick out of that story.

Some of my most fond memories are from the boat races over the years. I was only about 5 or 6 years old when we began hosting boat racers in our yard on Burt Lake each summer. Our yard provided the racers with plenty of room to camp, and they could easily test drive their boats from our yard too. Excitement and energy filled the air during each race weekend. It was always something I looked forward to each summer growing up in a small northern Michigan town. Getting the chance to know people from all over the country was thrilling to me. Racers from many different states, Bermuda, and even Ecuador have all camped in our yard. I will never forget hearing one racer yell out my dad's name in his Boston accent for the first time. Race weekend for me was like a little escape from the small town where I grew up, and the races overtook our little part of the world each summer. Over the years, we grew close to many racers and their families. I remember noticing them all get older with each race year. It always made me sad when a racer wouldn't come back the following year, because I had grown to expect seeing them each summer. They retired to their families and lives in whatever part of the country, or world, they came from each year. The people competing in the boat race have changed with time, but the spirit around the race and the memories have not.

Today my 50-something year old father actually takes part in the race. After all those years of helping, volunteering, and spectating, I suppose he couldn't resist any longer. I mean 50 years old is the perfect time to take up an incredibly challenging and physically exhausting activity, right? What better way to take up something new than to jump in with both feet and a smile on your face. I'd like to think I will be that youthful and energetic at that age. Dad, thanks for showing me that you could follow new dreams at any age.

To top off the accomplishment of taking up racing at an older age, my father also built the very boat he races in. You see, my father worked in construction for enough years to give him the skills necessary to become a boat builder. I never thought my dad would be one of those racers that I so admired as a young girl, but he is now in the ranks of many of the racers we grew to know over the years. In one of the only years I ever missed the race, my father actually won the race in his class. He became a champion of a race in which he helped others for so many years. Talk about coming full circle. I wish I could have been there, but I did get to watch him take second place this year. That was pretty sweet too. I'm glad to make new memories watching my father race. I could not be more proud.

{ my dad's boat }

preparing for one of two big race days }

I love how this man is wearing a wood working hat... and he's looking at my dad's creation }

my dad and part of his race crew }

racing through the Indian River }

one of the many boats in the race that my dad built }

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