Sahlen’s Six Hours – Exploring Watkins Glen

JT banner off camber

Photo by Jennifer R. Thompson

After a successful trip at the Rolex 24 this year, I continued my foray into race photography at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen. There are so many great elements to Watkins Glen—elevation changes, high-speed turns, climbing esses, and the light blue guardrails that surround the whole track. With absolutely gorgeous weather for race weekend, Matt and I explored every part of the track, and here were the results.

We had a great vantage point for the start of the race—the original starter’s stand that was placed in its original location between Turns 1 and 2. This was the result—

JT race start

Photo by Jennifer R. Thompson

We made the trek inside of the boot. This one is from the downhill entering the boot, or the “chute.” And it just happens to be of two cars that have never raced the Glen before—

Future at WGI

Photo by Jennifer R. Thompson

Moving just a few hundred yards to our right, we caught the action in the laces—

88 PC laces WGI

Photo by Jennifer R. Thompson

JT Patron P1

Photo by Jennifer R. Thompson

Our last shooting location is one of my favorite turns on the track (and the one that challenged me the most when I drove it)—turn 9, a.k.a. the off-camber—

JT viper off camber-1

Photo by Jennifer R. Thompson

I may be getting hooked on this photography thing. When’s the next race?!?


Good Advice

jarWhen Matt and I got married (seven years ago today — woot!), my mom bought us a marriage advice jar. We put the jar out at my shower and the wedding. People could write their advice on a little sheet of paper and deposit it in the jar for our future reading. As with anything, the advice varied.

There were the tried-and-true pieces of advice—

  • “Never go to bed angry.”
  • “Communicate, communicate, communicate!”
  • “Always listen to each other.”
  • “Never forget what you love about each other.”
  • “Get mad and get over it.”

And a variation on the tried and true—

  • “Never go to bed angry—and alcohol helps!”

There was some practical advice—

  • “Always have a spare bedroom!”
  • “Don’t try the silent treatment. It only works twice!”

Good thing Matt and I have a sense of humor. Otherwise these wouldn’t work—

  • “Give and take. And most of all laugh!”
  • “You need to laugh every day — no matter what!!”

There was the contracting advice on sleep. One person said—

  • “Wake his butt up!”

While another person said—


And who exactly is right? You can’t go wrong with any of these—

  • “Always remember that you are always right!”
  • “Remember — your partner is always right.”
  • “Just tell him he’s right even though he’s wrong (which is most of the time!!).”

Um, I kind of wish I knew who gave us this advice—

  • “For a good time, call Dr. Phil.”

There was the anti-advice advice—

  • “The best advice is not to give advice. Love one another as well as you can!”

This is just good advice, marriage or not—


And there was the delusional advice—

  • “GO YANKEES! The season ain’t over yet!” (The funny thing is the Red Sox won the World Series that year.)

But the best advice I got turned up in my jar after my shower—

  •  “Marry Matt!”

Successful Garage Sale? You Be the Judge.

garage saleWe have a lot of stuff in our house, but that’s what happens when two pack rats marry each other. We are starting to hit max capacity, so that means one thing — garage sale.

I’m not so good at the whole garage sale thing — negotiating and dealing with customers are not my bag. But in addition to being a pack rat, Matt is also a natural-born salesman (So much so that he followed someone down the street to another garage sale to let her know about the floor matts we had for her car. And of course she bought them.). So he handles the selling and I handle the merchandising and security.

I’ve found there are two types of garage sale shoppers. First, there are the hunters. They are on the lookout for very specific items. For instance, this weekend’s hunters were searching for jewelry, perfumes, old cameras, video games, Zippo lighters, and gold (aren’t we all?).

And then there are browsers. Some browsers buy, but most don’t. And whether it’s real or imagined, it feels like the browsers are judging my stuff.

The browsers take several forms. There are the thorough browsers who inspect (and often touch) every item on display. There are the speedy browsers who practically jog up and down the driveway, quickly scanning everything along the way and hightailing it out of there because there are many more garage sales to hit. There are the friendly browsers who say hello and chat about the weather. Then there are the frosty browsers who don’t say a thing or make eye contact. Maybe it’s because they can’t look me in the eye when they’re dismissing my personal items.

But the browsers who made me feel the worst are the drive-by browsers. They slow roll by the house, taking a quick glance at the items in the driveway. If they don’t like what they see, they floor it and head on to the next sale down the street. Talk about a snap judgment. I know it’s not rational, but for a split second, it hurts my feelings.

But on Sunday morning, Matt and I were the ones making the snap judgment. A car pulled up across the street from our house. Two potential customers! But the two women stayed in the car. For almost a half hour. Bags were being passed back and forth. The two women never looked up from what they were doing. Matt and I started to think there was a drug deal going down on our quiet suburban street. But they eventually got out of the car and came across the street (turns out they were hunters for 60s toys). Our guess is they stopped to eat breakfast. They were breaking bread, notbreaking bad.

Not too long after that, we wound the garage sale down the weekend. While we were successful getting rid of some stuff and making some money in the process, I can wait a few years before we have our next one.

P.S. – On the Saturday of the garage sale, one of my former classmates posted on Facebook that it was 25 years to the day that we had graduated from high school. I can’t say I remember what I was thinking about on the day of my graduation. But if I had any thoughts about where I would be in 25 years, I’m sure it didn’t involve a garage sale.

Battle Royale: Heart v. Head

MB30_webAs sports fans, we are guided by both our heart and our head. We root for our favorite teams and players with all our hearts. Our teams can make our hearts race with excitement, and they can break them with disappointment. We use our heads to analyze stats, plays, trades, signings, and the standings.

Sometimes the heart wins over the head. Sometimes the head outwits the heart.

Sometimes the heart and the head just don’t get along.

My heart and my head were engaged in a battle royale yesterday afternoon as I watched Martin Brodeur play what could have been his last game in a New Jersey Devils uniform. Actually, it was probably more like mortal combat.

I’ve been a Devils fan since 1994, which mean Marty is the only goaltender I’ve ever known. He came to play every night (or practically every night), making jaw-dropping saves, handling pucks (and scoring a goal or two), and breaking NHL records along the way. My heart never wants him to go.

But my head knows that Marty is almost 42 years old and that he can’t play forever. The Devils traded last year for Corey Schneider, who this year proved he can be the goaltender of the present, and not just the goaltender of the future. Marty wants to be a starting goaltender, but my head keeps reminding me that won’t happen here.

My heart doesn’t want to see Marty in another uniform. My head knows there’s a possibility that’s going to happen.

So now we wait until free agency in July to find out where Marty will end up next year. And to see whether the heart or the head prevails.

After 20 years of being a fan, I finally got to meet Marty about a month ago at a season ticket holder event. As Marty signed our items I said, “I have to thank you for converting my husband from Boston into a Devils fan.”

Marty looked up from what he was doing, smiled, and said, “That’s kind of hard to do, huh?”

Here’s one thing my heart and my head can agree on — if anyone was going to convert Matt into a Devils fan, it’s Marty.

So thank you, Marty. Thank you for everything.

#TBT – Sun and Rain (at the Same Time)

wgi clouds

Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

Lately, our lives in the Northeast have been consumed by the weather — obscene amounts of snow, bone-chilling cold, the wicked cases of cabin fever. (I can’t really say any more because I did my one-time-only, no-holds-barred bitchfest about the weather earlier in the week.)

The crazy winter has me daydreaming about the summer. And this picture from last year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen made me realize just how crazy the weather can be in the summer as well. One minute the sun was out and the next minute it was pouring. Sometimes the sun was out and it was pouring at the same time. One afternoon we literally could see the downpour approaching. This photo that Matt took overlooking the esses at Watkins Glen pretty much summed up the weather for the weekend.

My Winter Meltdown

snow pile remedy

Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

I’ve tried to keep my complaining about the weather to a minimum this winter. I have refrained from posting pictures of my car’s thermometer (even though it read 2 degrees one morning). Yes, I’ve posted a few snow pictures, but in my defense I wasn’t complaining. Just reporting.

After waking up to another couple inches of snow this morning, I’ve reached my tipping point. I’m done. I can’t take it anymore. This is one-time-only, get-it-all-off-my-chest bitchfest about the weather. This my winter meltdown.

  • I may have antagonized Mother Nature (and, if I’m being honest, my Facebook friends and Twitter followers) by posting a picture from the beach in Florida while it was snowing like crazy in the Northeast. But it couldn’t have been just me. What did you guys do to tick her off?
  • Or maybe we can just blame this all on Roger Goddell, Commissioner of the National Football League. I could totally see him making a deal with Mother Nature. “So, do think you can hold off with the snow for the Super Bowl? You can make it snow all your want in February. Football is over by then, so I don’t really care.” Although I’m not really sure what she’d get in return.
  • For a while, it was like Groundhog Day around here because it felt like I cleaned off my car and shoveled the same part of the driveway every day. Oh wait. That’s because I did. (And speaking of cars, enough with the people not cleaning the roof of their car off and then driving around. I know it sucks that you have to clean it off every time it snows. But if I’m being a stickler, it’s against the law to drive around with snow on your roof. Trust me. I’m a lawyer.)


    Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

  • For years, if it got cold, the weather people would call it a “cold snap” or a “deep freeze.” Now all of a sudden “polar vortex” has become part of our vocabulary. Al Roker swears it’s been around for years. Either way, my guess is it’s here to stay. (And on a side note — Weather Channel, please stop trying to make naming winter storms a thing.)
  • At least here in northern New Jersey, we have run out of places to put snow. Sure, it was fun for about five minutes when I climbed on top of our snowbank in the front yard. But that was about it. The streets are narrower, and there are even fewer spots in the parking lots. Target lucked out and got my business last week because I couldn’t find a spot at Barnes & Noble (sorry!).
  • Driving has become a video game, trying to avoid all the potholes. And if you miss? Well, after your teeth rattle from hitting the bottom of the pothole, you just pray that you don’t have a flat tire.

I feel better now I’ve gotten this off my chest. Although it may be a bit premature, especially since they’re talking more snow this week and next week.

Go See Hockey. Now!

Liberty 2013 2

Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

The Olympic hockey tournaments probably didn’t turn out the way you hoped (unless you’re Canadian or a fan of Canada, in which case the turned out pretty much how you wanted). But if you usually don’t watch hockey and enjoyed watching it during the Olympics, do me a favor. Go see a hockey game live.

It doesn’t matter what type of hockey you see. Go see whatever is local — NHL, minor leagues, juniors, college. Whatever level you see, you won’t be disappointed.

Sure, watching hockey is fine. But there is nothing like watching it in person. Being in the arena means you can see the whole sheet of ice and watch as the play develops. Television never does the sounds of the games justice — the the thunderous crash as a player is checked into the boards, the thunk as the puck hits the goalie’s pads, the swoosh of the players’ skates, the sharp taps as the puck moves from stick to stick. And during the two intermissions? You get to watch the methodical movies of the Zambonis cleaning the ice.

There is drama in hockey arenas across the United States and Canada every night. OK, maybe it’s not Olympic drama. But it is compelling drama nonetheless. And it is an amazing feeling to be a part of it.

I saw my first live hockey game in 1994. After that I was hooked.

So head out to your local hockey arena for a game. Try it. You just might like it.

Racing Movie Project: Days of Thunder

Days of ThunderMovie: Days of Thunder

Year: 1990

Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Robert Duvall, Randy Quaid

Rating: ⚐⚐⚐ (out of 5)

My thoughts: On the eve of this year’s Daytona 500, the Racing Movie Project comes to an end with Days of Thunder. I purposely saved this movie for last. It had to be the one right before the Daytona 500 because this movie is unapologetically about nothing more than winning the Daytona 500. For me, one of the lines I always quote is, “You’ll build me a car, and I’ll win Daytona next year.” I believe that winning Daytona is important to every NASCAR driver, but I don’t sense the passion like Cole Trickle has.

I probably shouldn’t have watched Talladega Nights and Days of Thunder back to back. Because if Talladega Nights is a NASCAR comedy, Days of Thunder is a NASCAR unintentional comedy. Tom Cruise is so serious that it’s actually funny. (Or we’d also accept Top Gun on the track.) Also, I got John C. Reilly in back-to-back NASCAR movies. I totally forgot he was in this movie. (And a hat tip to Randy Quaid as not-Richard Childress.)

Days of Thunder also brought us one of the best NASCAR quotes — “Rubbin’ is racin’.” There certainly is a lot of rubbin’ in Days of Thunder. I don’t think there’s nearly as much these days. And a sign of how much things have changed in the 24 years (!) since Days of Thunder was made – no one would even blink at a NASCAR driver from California. In fact, there’s one who has won six NASCAR championships.

Racing Movie Project: Talladega Nights – The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talladega NightsMovie: Talladega Nights – The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Year: 2006

Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Gary Cole, Michael Clarke Duncan

Plot: Driver Ricky Bobby rises to fame with his best friend Cal, only to be challenged by French F1 driver Jean Girard.

Rating: ⚐⚐⚐ (out of 5)

My thoughts: Talladega Nights takes every NASCAR stereotype and turns them up to 11. Throw in Will Ferrell and company and hilarity ensues. There are so many lines that still live on from this movie. “If you’re not first, you’re last!” “Shake and bake!” “I wanna go fast!” And of course, baby Jesus.

Hard to believe this movie is eight years old. Seems like it just came out. But even in that eight-year period, a lot has changed. Many of the car sponsors no longer exist, and the Nextel Cup Series is long gone. NASCAR has been through multiple generations of cars, and the stands are not nearly as full as they used to be.  It made me realize that Talladega Nights was made at the height of NASCAR.

Talladega Nights was also made right around the time of the open wheel experiment, when open wheels drivers such as Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti made the move to the closed cockpits of NASCAR. As we’ve seen, open wheel drivers have been unable to make the transition. The one exception may be Tony Stewart. But isn’t Tony Stewart the exception to almost every rule?

Throughout the Racing Movie Project, I noticed that filmmakers need a device that demonstrates that our hero driver is going faster. Thus, the driver literally shifts into the next gear and goes faster. Sure, if you’re driving on a road course, that might work. But that’s not going to work on an oval, where the driver has the pedal to the metal pretty much the whole time. One of the biggest offenders of this “shift” device is Talladega Nights. Every time we see it now, Matt and I just chuckle.

Next week: With the Daytona 500 right around the corner, next week is the last week of the Racing Movie Project. In honor of NASCAR’s Super Bowl, we’ll be talking Days of Thunder.

Racing Movie Project: Cannonball Run

cannonball runMovie: Cannonball Run

Year: 1981

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Farrah Fawcett, Adrienne Barbeau

Plot: A crazy cast of characters compete in an illegal race across the country. Hilarity ensues.

Rating: ⚐⚐⚐ (out of 5)

My thoughts: This was the third movie in the Burt Reynolds trifecta in the Racing Movie Project. Cannonball Run is a movie from my childhood. I remember seeing it as a kid and not understanding half the jokes. But the cars and the slap stick cracked me up. Cannonball Run is another in the series of the racing movies from the early 1980s, but unlike the others, this is not a Lifetime movie.

It has been quite a few years since I’d seen this movie. A lot of it came flooding back to me. Because I had seen it so many times as a kid, I could recite many of the lines along with it. For all I remembered, I couldn’t believe I had forgotten Captain Chaos.

When I rewatched it last week, I realized how much has changed in the more than 30 years since it was made. It was the simple things like the menu screen on the DVD, which featured the movie poster and the “MAXIMUM SPEED 55″ sign. Also, there was a lot of drinking and driving in this movie. I mean, drinking while driving. To quote Matt, Cannonball Run “still plays pretty funny but it’s quite politically incorrect.” Yup. A lot has changed since 1981.

I laughed at Jackie Chan’s Subaru outfitted with the computer. Thirty years ago, there was no way we could imagine watching a movie in the car or having the car know exactly where we are. Those are all but standard features today. OK, maybe we don’t have the rockets, but it seems Jackie was a man before his time.

Cannonball Run featured some great 80s stars like Bert Convy and Jamie Farr. I know all I want to do here in the Racing Movie Project is remake some of these movies. But if you were going to remake Cannonball Run (or make a similar movie), which stars from today would cast in it?

Next week: We’re getting close to the finish. Only two movies to go. Next week is Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.