My First Time at Bakersfield
By Bruce Wheeler
With the March Meet going on this weekend,
here's an excerpt from a message I sent the other day to an acquaintance
of mine who asked if I'd ever raced at Famoso. This relates to my very
first time there...
As to Bakersfield, no, I never raced there. The original WD (the
former Ed Pink "Old Master") was runner up one year. I did
attend the '67 March Meet as a spectator, though. Al (Friedman) and I were
having a late dinner at our favorite Italian joint in DC the Saturday
night of that race weekend. As we finished our meal I mused, "I
wonder what's going on at Bakersfield?" or something to that effect.
Al shrugged his shoulders, and said, in so many words, "I don't
know." To which I replied, "Let's go and find out!"
Less than two hours later, we were on a red-eye flight from DCA to LAX.
We got into LA at three-something West Coast time, rented a car, and drove
to Hollywood where we had a bite to eat at an all night coffee shop. We
then drove over the hill to Van Nuys, stopping by Pink's shop to see if
there was any all night thrashing going on. No one was there.
From there, we went straight to Bakersfield, arriving at the track at
the crack of dawn. It was freezing cold, and we hadn't brought any warm
clothing thinking that it wouldn't be as chilly as it was, even at night.
(I vividly recall a large group of Hell's Angels camped out by the main
spectator gate. That, to me, was quite an amazing sight in itself!)
Anyway, we had a great time hanging out with many different folks that
day, and when the races were over we headed back towards LA to catch a
return flight to DC. We got as far as Santa Clarita, and couldn't stay
awake any longer.
I parked the rental at a gas station, and we fell asleep. It was 8 a.m.
when we awoke, and by then, I was already two hours late for work back in
Maryland. I called my boss, and said that I wasn't going to make it in
that morning. He asked why not, and I replied that I was in California.
The silence was deafening! He couldn't believe what I was telling him as
we'd closed the speed shop together at 9 p.m. Saturday evening. (He
eventually forgave me...)
Ah, the good ol' days!