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108 Years of Tradition....Our Trip to the Indianapolis 500

As a child growing up in Fort Worth Texas during the 1960's and 70's everyone knew the name Johnny Rutherford and his exploits during the month of May at the fabled Brickyard. As a three time winner of the Indianapolis 500, Lone Star JR as he was fondly known was a legend in the world of horsepower, even if it wasn't the horsepower Fort Worth was famous for. Always falling on Memorial Day weekend, the Indy 500 has always held those that gave their lives for America in the highest honor. I always remember the pomp and circumstance surrounding the race and was keenly aware of circumstances surrounding those honored at this event. It hasn't changed and the honor and gratitude extended out by the organizers of this magnificent event and it's fans is truly humbling.

The planning for our trip started in the fall of 2023 with the normal discussion of does it sound fun, doable, and something we both wanted to experience. Some of my husbands fondest memories involved the years spent watching the iconic race with his father from the earliest of ages. Although he's not 100% sure, he believes he has watched the race every year since his first in 1971 as a 7 year old boy. Although never participating in racing himself, enjoying Saturday nights at the dirt tracks from an early age never wained and as a family we continued that tradition, although not as regularly as in the early days. Experiencing the spectacle that is the Indianapolis 500 seemed like a normal fit, so off we went on another great American road trip.

Outings as a mobility challenged individual always involve planning, and that is much of what this blog is about. With that being said, multi day road trips obviously require quite a bit of research. Things to ponder include hotels, restaurants, and the all important family friendly bathrooms. For those that are able to handle their bathroom needs with just the need for ADA stalls, one of the great places to target are the rest stops along the major interstate highways. For the majority of the disabled community these rest stops provide a great choice for needs. Now for those that need additional help such as making transfers, this provides an additional challenge if you are not traveling with someone of the same gender as yourself. While many entertainment venues provide family bathrooms, the research we did for this trip identified the interstate rest stops as nil when it came to having a family restroom. For those needing a bit more help along these long road trips, venture on over to McDonalds or other fast food establishments or many of the newer gas stations/convenience stores such as Toot N Totum along the way.

As to the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the most part they have done a really fine job of making the over 100 year old facility user friendly for those requiring more than two feet to carry them. Much of the parking for large events takes place in grass lots, so some thought has to go into the logistics of how you plan on entering the facility, but for the most part the terrain was level with grass and gravel being the biggest obstacle. We had tickets in turn three of the massive venue so decided that parking in a residential neighborhood butting up against the grandstands of that Northeast corner of the raceway was the way to go. With parking provided through the raceway being limited and in our case completely sold out, it was off to social media for answers. There are numerous places to get the information you need for a well planned day at the track, and I found Facebook to be invaluable. After a bit of research, we set out on the Saturday before the race and drove over to the neighborhood we intended to target for our parking. We were more than fortunate to find one of the nicest people we've ever met standing outside in his yard exactly where we targeted and for $20 and a handshake, agreed that he would save a place for us in his yard. This couldn't have worked out better if we drew it up on paper.

Knowing that we had our logistics in order and knowing rain was in the forecast for race day, we decided some drinks and snacks would be in order so a cooler was secured and a trip to a grocery store set us up for whatever the next day may offer. It was now time for a good meal so off we went to Ricks Cafe Boatyard not far from the track. Ricks is a beautiful restaurant sitting on the shores of Eagle Creek Reservoir and is wonderfully designed with the disabled in mind. Whether you choose indoor or outdoor seating on their beautiful covered patio, they have done a wonderful job of allowing for easy ingress/egress. Unusually wide isles with large mobility ramps and ample room between tables makes this restaurant a must visit when visiting the Indianapolis area.

Race Day

Anytime you tackle something as large and crowded as The Indy 500 patience is not optional. We've done many large events in the past, but with 345 thousand people congregating in one inner city location, this event is just different. We planned our arrival for 7 am and with our hotel only 5 miles from the track, we decided a 5:45 am departure was appropriate. I mean could we really need more time than that to drive 5 miles? The answer was a resounding yes! We got to within 4 tenths of a mile of our neighborhood parking when gridlock ensued. We were 4 cars from the last traffic light leading into the speedway when all things came to a screeching halt. From that point, it took us over an hour to crawl the final 4 tenths of a mile to our smiling friend welcoming us with open arms into our parking space for the day. Once in place, we were set for the day. Not only was our parking less than 1/4 mile from the entrance to the stadium, there were food trucks and portable bathrooms provided (for a cost) just across the street from us. With rain expected right at green flag time, we decided to stay in the car and wait it out. This proved to be the right decision as the event decided to evacuate the stands 1 1/2 hours prior to the start of the race due to severe thunderstorms approaching the area. This is just some of the research you do when you are not as mobile as others, and it certainly makes for a more pleasant experience. The weather came and snarled and shook the ground, but moved out fairly quickly leading to a perfect day for an unbelievable race/experience. Once the weather cleared, we loaded up the cooler (yes you can bring food and drinks in) and headed towards our seats. Now bathrooms are not always a given if you are disabled. Knowing this, again research goes into how you handle something as basic as going to the bathroom. The bathrooms at the Brickyard are ADA friendly, but what you will not find are family restrooms. Since I'm unable to make my own transfers, this can be a game changer as to whether an event is even an option. With that being said, don't be afraid to get outside of the box with your planning. My husband always thoroughly researches every aspect of our escapades and his solution to my needs.....first aid centers. Yes, you can find private bathrooms if you dig deep enough. After entering the gates of the track, our first stop was the first aid center where the folks working there were more than happy to accommodate my needs. Now comfortable and happy, it was up a wide easy ramp to our seats right up against the fence by the track. What a cool experience!

The race was incredible. The people were better, and the Brickyard was very doable for those wanting to experience a truly magnificent event. Please reach out in the comments if we can answer any questions related to this bucket list memory.


Dawn and Nick

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