Monthly Archives: July 2021

July 2021: NASCAR Daydreamin’

As mentioned in the previous post, we had a great time at our first (and maybe only) RV excursion to the NASCAR races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That we had such a great time, though, was due in large part to the wonderful people we met there, most of whom were “KYD Insiders.” Here’s the deal…

Several years ago, Robert recommended a YouTube channel, “Keep Your Daydream.” That channel chronicles the adventures of a couple, Marc and Tricia Leach, who decided to go full-time in a small’ish travel trailer and travel around the U.S. with their three teenage children (and a very large Golden Retriever). Try to picture a Ford F-250 (a mid-size pickup) with three teenagers and a large dog in the back seat, pulling a trailer, with everything needed for a life on the road either in the minimal storage space in the trailer itself, or crammed in the bed of the truck. And “everything needed for a life on the road” means clothing, linens, food, supplies, household items, tools, outdoor cooking appliances and equipment, school materials for the little darlings, computer and camera equipment, trailer accessories, etc. etc. etc. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking “that’s impossible,” even though I watched them do it. In any event, over the course of the past six years, they would publish a weekly update on where they’ve been, what they’ve learned, and tips for anyone considering the same course, along with a stream of thoughts on anything related (or sometimes even unrelated) to RV living. Besides the YouTube channel, they also maintained a website (, a blog, a podcast, a FaceBook page, an e-mail distribution list, several Instagram accounts, and probably more media that I’m not thinking of. After a hiatus of a couple years, prompted in part by the need to watch anything during the COVID shutdown, we binge-watched all six seasons of the YouTube videos.

At first during their life on the road, Marc continued to work remotely at his consulting business, but eventually the KeepYourDaydream enterprises were generating sufficient revenue to support the family. And, as these things go, there developed a community of “followers,” which in turn led to a subset of followers who contribute a small amount every month (or every video) and who are known as “KYD Insiders.” That’s where we come in.

The NASCAR event that we attended was also a meetup for KYD Insiders. We decided to join the meetup, even though we weren’t sure what to expect. The KYD media seem mostly geared towards brand-new RVers and/or RVers traveling (full-time or not) with children, and neither category includes us. On the other hand, though, one of the things we like about Marc and Trish’s broadcasts that both of them are completely charming people, whose philosophies about life, including how to deal with a surplus of children in the back seat, were irresistibly engaging. What the heck, we thought, let’s meet them in person and see what happens.

All told, there were about 40-50 KYD Insider families at the Speedway. As expected, nearly all of them had purchased their first RV within the past year, and most of them had children that they traveled with. And all of them were friendly, well-educated, funny, and generally the kind of people we love spending time with. As Wendy put it, “these are our peeps.” So we spent hours sitting around talking, sharing adventures at the racetrack, drinking, eating, drinking, watching the races, and drinking.

A few of the KYD Insiders sitting around after the Saturday race, along with Marc and Trish. This is actually up in the “high rent” camping area, but the KYD Insiders are so accommodating that we had no problem finding a pass or some other way to finagle ourselves in.

There’s a philosophy that is palpable in the KYD media: there’s no such thing as a “perfect” RV, and if you wait until everything if exactly right, you’ll never go. As they put it, “start small and start now.” And, there’s no such thing as a perfect trip. If you insist that every trip be free from the dips and bumps that go along with traveling, you’ll quit RVing as soon as you start. Both views seemed to be their philosophy applied to just about every aspect of day-to-day living: things are never “perfect” so don’t wait until they are and don’t get all lathered up when things go wrong. That view maybe has more opportunities for application in an RV (vehicles that are notoriously trouble-prone), but it’s a darn appealing view across the board.

That philosophy, then, gets adopted (or appealed to those who already held to the same view) by those who felt themselves gravitating towards the KYD media, which means all of the Insiders had the same easy-going, life-relishing, people-loving attitude as the Leaches. As one of our newly-minted friends put it, unhappy people tend to get annoyed by happy people, which means that the kind of harrumphing grumps one has to deal in everyday life will self-exclude from a group like KYD Insiders, leaving only the better sort of people in the remainder.

And Marc and Trish are just as charming in person as they are on YouTube. Even though they are sort of “celebrities” in a sense, at least among the Insiders group, the Leaches are unassuming, engaging, and good natured with everyone they meet, and they take time to meet everyone.

We may or may not go to another NASCAR event someday, but Wendy and I are both committed to the idea that we definitely will do another KYD Insider event.

July 2021: NASCAR Newbies

Add one more notch to the stock of our RV adventures: NASCAR. Yup, four days at Atlanta Motor Speedway for a 400-mile NASCAR cup event, along with a boatload of other activities. It’ll actually take me a couple posts to get the full story out, so this is installment number one. First, some background.

At one point, NASCAR was the most popular spectator sport in the U.S., with event viewership numbers consistently over 10 million, eclipsing MLB, NFL, and NBA in the number of viewers per weekly event. And the same was true for in-person attendance. NASCAR’s major venues were all routinely sold out, with tracks such as Bristol (capacity 160,000!), sold out for 55 events in a row!

But beginning in the early 2000s, things started to level off, and then precipitously decline. By 2015, ratings were down in nearly all the races, and in more than half they were the lowest they’d been since the 1990s. And viewership and attendance continue to decline. By 2021, ratings were often sinking to new lows across all events.

Our experience confirms the analysis. In chatting with track workers, we were repeatedly told that both the camping areas and track attendance were only a fraction of what they were a couple decades ago.

The grandstands for the Sunday 400-mile NASCAR Cup event were at, maybe, 25 percent of capacity.

There are lots of reasons offered for the decline. All major sports are seeing declines in viewership (except for soccer, which, as everyone knows, is not actually a sport, at least for real Americans). NASCAR’s ever-changing rules and championship rankings have put off many fans. The NASCAR in-person experience, which used to be something like a midway with souvenir haulers, has been taken over by corporate retail operations. But mostly it’s that various cultural changes are making high-power stock car racing just less appealing, especially to young people.

Having said all that, though, our experience at NASCAR was completely wonderful. Much (most) of that was due to the link-up with the Keep Your Daydream crew (more on that in the next post), but even the NASCAR experience itself was enjoyable beyond anything we expected. This may be one-time been-there/done-that experience, but for an event in that category, we have no complaints.

Just to be clear, though, even though this is an RV blog, bringing the motorhome to Atlanta Motor Speedway is not “camping” by any sane definition. It’s more like tailgating in a parking lot for four days.

OK, so this isn’t exactly “camping.” Who cares? The people were wonderful, the NASCAR experience was fascinating, and our site here is right below turn one. Other sites, which we would have paid the exorbitant charge for were we to do it over, were right on the side of the track.

The weekend began with a charity run around the track in Nana’s little Ford Edge. For a $50 donation, we were allowed to take the car onto the track’s 1.54-mile quad-oval with 24-degree banked turns. There was a souped-up Camaro pace car leading us, which kept speeds to a “respectable” range, although most cars were nowhere near keeping up with even that modest pace. I mostly did keep up with the pace car, having fallen back by only a couple hundred yards by the end of the 4.5-mile “race.” My top speed was somewhere around 95 on the straightaways, which was about as fast as our little car seemed happy about, and slowed to 80-85 in the turns, which is where the car felt a little squirrely and I was too chicken (I know I’m mixing taxonomic groups) to push it. Only afterwards, after watching a race, did I learn I was my driving strategy was backwards. I was driving low in the straights and going up in the corners–it should have been the opposite. Darn. I’m sure I would have given the pace car a run for this money and set the Ford Edge track record had I known the proper driving technique.

Then the NASCAR races started. Saturday was the first race, the Infinity-Series 250-mile race. The Infinity series, we learned, is supposed to be the “minor league” for NASCAR, featuring up-and-coming drivers who aspire to the big-league “NASCAR Cup” series. The cars are built to different specs that make them slightly slower, but for some weird reason, NASCAR lets the big-time drivers join the race where, at least here, the big names (Kyle Busch in this case) often win. The race was unbelievably exciting, even though it fueled the animosity NASCAR fans direct at Busch. Bush and his teammate, Daniel Hemric, had been neck and neck for most of the race. With just 7 laps to go, Busch “bumped” Hemric, who was leading at the time, sending Hemric into the wall and giving Busch the win. Both drivers say the “bump” was accidental, and Busch apologized over the team radio after the contact, then again after capturing the checkered flag — going so far as to call the victory “somber.” “People would say I did it on purpose, but what do I need to do it on purpose for,” Busch said in a post-race interview. “Kid’s going for his first win. I’m going for 102. I’ve been there, done that. I don’t need it. It would certainly help him a hell of a lot more than it’s going to help me and give the perception that now I have on that.” Accident or not, we heard a few comments like, “Figures. Busch would bump his own mother.”

We had been told about, but failed to appreciate, what to expect when 40 high-performance cars, all sans mufflers, fire up and drive around the track at top speeds around 180-190 mph. The sound levels are just short of 120 decibels at the track. To put that in perspective, anything over 85 decibels is harmful, a chain saw operates at 105 decibels, and pain begins at 125 decibels. So, standing trackside and temporarily removing my ear plugs caused tears to start welling up in my eyes and my fillings to pop out. But more than “hearing” the sound, one “feels” it. The sound levels are so high that the air throbs and one’s bones vibrate as the cars go by. Combine that with cars going so fast that they are just a blur, the the physical experience is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced short of the Oshkosh fighter-jet fly-bys.

It’s hard to describe the sound, or even more the feel, of these cars going by. The sound is so intense it actually resonates in your bones.

But Sunday was the big momma race, the Quaker State 400. And once again the race had an exciting finish, and once again it involved Kyle Busch. Only this time, he didn’t bump anyone, and the race to the finish was against his older brother, Kurt. And Kurt won. What was amazing about this race, though, was that the cars were faster, and the noise louder, and the competition more fierce, than what we had seen the previous day. In part, that’s because the drivers are mostly a step up from the Xfinity series drivers, and at this point in the season the stakes are greater. But there’s also the difference in the cars. The cars, offered by Toyota, Ford, and Chevrolet, are supposedly look-alikes to their street-legal cousins. Maybe, or maybe not. In any event, even the “low” horsepower engines run at Atlanta Motor Speedway (550 HP), sitting in a 3200-pound car, provide enough juice to go airborne (which cars will do about 205 mph). NASCAR keeps mandating a variety of measures to try to keep speeds down to reasonably safe levels, including the mandatory use of restrictor plates (metal plates in the fuel system to restrict airflow to the engines) (now changed to a tapered spacer), mandatory front and rear spoilers to increase drag, mandatory front-end intakes, and so on, but even with these car-slowing requirements, speeds on the straightaways are still up around 200 mph. In fact, lap times were often less than 30 seconds, meaning the average speed around the entire track was north of 180 mph.

Bottom line: Perhaps the best indicator of how this trip worked out is this: Wendy had to leave half-way through the main race to get home because our stupid dog was being delivered from doggie day care. What did she do when she got home? Turn on the TV to watch the end of the race. Seriously? Wendy? NASCAR? That can only mean that our first (and maybe only) NASCAR experience was a total blast. While I doubt we’ll ever be full-blown NASCAR devotees, if there were some other reason to take ACE to a track, with some NASCAR races added for good measure, we’re in.

June 2021: Shenandoah Gypsies

One of our favorite kinds of trips is one where we do an RV meetup with family, and if meeting up with family is great, meeting up with family at a national park is even greater. This time it was linking up with Cliff, Ansley, and Margot in Shenandoah National Park. And Shenandoah was a special treat for both families. I had always thought of Shenandoah as mostly a road: a ridgetop highway (Skyline Drive), with the national park being a small ribbon of forest sloping down on either side. Actually, no. The park is over 200,000 acres in size, which means the border on either side of the roadway is MILES wide. And there are over 500 miles of hiking trails, 90 perennial streams, and dozens of waterfalls. So, because we arrived a day ahead of Cliff and the girls, we did our usual thing: went to the visitor center, explained the constituency of our family group, and asked for the best way to spend a few days. Armed with the list the rangers provided, we spent a long weekend of hiking, listening to ranger talks, and hanging around the Big Meadows campground, which involved a considerable amount of dodging wandering cervidae.

As Cliff pointed out, these deer apparently don’t see a lot of hunting pressure. Ha ha. I told one of the rangers that I’d be happy to bring my bow on the next trip and solve the Park’s “deer problem,” but he didn’t seem very interested.

We all agreed that the trip was one of the best ever: wonderful campground, beautiful scenery, great ranger talks, fun hikes, lots of activities, and pretty much all we could want.

Including one weirdness: the park is being overrun by gypsy moth caterpillars. Really. Billions of the little wooly buggers. Like many such problems, this one has its roots in human miscalculation. It seems that some Frenchman (it figures), namely one Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, decided in 1869 that he would interbreed the gypsy moth caterpillar with silk worms and, I don’t know, make more French women’s panties or something. In any event, the caterpillars escaped, started to spread, and within 10 years had devastated a huge fraction of the northeast’s hardwood forest. Little by little they’ve been spreading ever since, reaching the Shenandoah National Park in the 1990s. And they are wiping out the park’s population of native oak trees.

It turns out it is possible to eradicate the gypsy moths (as was successfully done in the Pacific Northwest). Unfortunately, though, as one of rangers put it, getting the Park Service to launch a program to kill animals (even invasive ones) requires a long (like, L-O-N-G) approval process. It can be done, though. A little further south in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the hemlock trees are being devastated by the wooly adelgid. There, though, the Park Service has launched an extermination program involving not only chemical controls but even “predatory beetles.” So far, those results are encouraging. Whether the Park Service can jump through its bureaucratic hoops before the Shenandoah oak trees are gone remains to be seen.

We’ve decided that because Shenandoah National Park is only a half-day drive from Cliff’s location, it’ll be a great spot for periodic get-togethers. We’ll be back soon.