I don’t have a particularly long list of things on my bucket list, but there are certainly things I want to see or do at least once, so that I can say I’ve had the experience! So, ever since I moved to Virginia and realized that I was within close driving distance to Pimlico Racetrack, and since the Preakness Stakes always falls on the weekend right around my birthday, I have said countless times that I wanted to go to the Preakness for my birthday, and see one of the Triple Crown races in person! And so, this year was the year! The adventure was planned with my friend Maggie, who’s birthday is a day before mine, so together we decided to celebrate the aging process by heading to Baltimore.
Being horse-poor people, we purchased in advance the cheap general admission tickets, figuring we would at least be at the track and would get to see the race, though we didn’t buy any of the reserved assigned seating. Not sure of the parking situation, we left early to make sure we got in to the tracks parking lot before it filled up by noon. My trusty GPS “Simon” got us to the Pimlico racetrack area, at which point the traffic started gridlocking and we crawled along, looking out for the right signs, as we needed the #4 parking lot. (The cheap one for poor people at $45 for the day!) As we worked our way through, we noticed homeowners around the area standing on the curb with cardboard signs. “Parking $20” they said, and we saw cars parked on driveways and front yards. We figured it looked a little sketchy, and who would trust their car to be parked in some person’s backyard in a questionable part of downtown Baltimore? Best to find the tracks parking lot, we confirmed! Of course it was the furthest one away, and we crawled along, following the traffic around a turn. With the parking lot in sight, I crept forward trying to find a sign to indicate that this was indeed where I needed to turn in. Police officers were directing traffic, and as I pulled closer, he waved with his hands to motion me forward and past. I iandvertenly assumed he was sending me on to the next gate since the car ahead of me had gone the same way (I had not purchased parking in advance and didnt have any kind of ticket displayed) and followed on. We promptly knew something was amiss, however, when suddenly there was no traffic ahead of us and the car behind us promptly turned right into the lot. Slightly panicked, we realized we had just been steered clear of our parking destination and shuddered at the thought of driving around the block again, crawling through the traffic. With traffic still heavy, there was certainly no way to stop and decide what to do, so we proceeded forward, turned at a light, wondering now how we were going to get back to the #4 lot and now a little angered that the officer directing traffic had just waved us on when obviously we were waiting in traffic to get to the lot! We turned the corner and I saw one of the sketchy parking lot people standing with a sign, on a corner lot of grass that had 8 or 9 cars parked there. It didn’t look too bad, so we thought, what the heck, let’s go for it. I turned in to what I thought was the lot, but what actually happened to be the house before, and we then proceeded to follow the gentleman and his sign down the driveway and around the turn to the back of the brick house to an alley way type parking area behind the house where a couple broken down cars were parked. Oh dear. We couldn’t exactly turn around and say ‘no thanks!’ so we got out and gathered up our belongings, and tried not to look too nervous as we handed the man $20 and he told us to “lock it up good!”
Back out on the main road, we then had to figure out where to go to get to the racetrack entrance. We followed the heavy flow of foot traffic and made it back towards the parking lot entrance we should have turned in to. We walked across the huge parking lot and found a massive line of people, all waiting to get into the Infest party, where we were NOT headed. We by-passed the line and followed the perimeter of the track, figuring we’d find the grandstand at some point. A left turn after about a half mile of walking, another half mile of walking, and finally we found the grandstand entrance, at which point we realized we had just walked the entire perimeter of the racetrack, and if we’d just gone down the road where we had parked we would have ended up at this place much sooner! But we were there, and we passed through security and were free to go into the Pimlico Grandstand!
We had plenty of time to look around and explore, and of course the first thing we wanted to do was go outside and see the expanse of racetrack. However, the security at each door going outside quickly informed us that our cheap general admission tickets did NOT allow us to go outside. Um, really?? So, like prisoners, we were stuck inside the grandstand, looking at the track through tinted windows and watching races on the betting screens inside. Well, at least we were still there! After we’d walked around and explored everything, we found an area where security was lacking and we were able to sneak outside for a bit and worked our way up to the rail to watch a turf race. But the crowds were filling and we needed lunch and restrooms and so had to go back inside and lost our freedom of being outside!
Our plan of attack for the actual race was to find a spot along the windows, right by the saddling area and finish line. We could see the horses on the track and could see the rest of the race play out on the big jumbo tron outside. We couldn’t hear a word of the announcers, but we were there, and we anxiously waiting while the horses saddled out in the turf track and went past us in the post parade. The Derby winner Orb, was heavily favored to win, with hopes of taking the Triple Crown, but I had watched races all day and seen lots of front runners coming away to win, and was worried about Orb’s late closing style. The horses broke from the gate and ran past us for the first time with Oxbow (my Derby pick!) in the lead, and when they came around the second time Oxbow remained in the lead to win, with poor Orb never really coming through. A little disappointed, and tired from our big adventure, Maggie and I quickly skipped out of the grandstand to find our way back to our car in its sketchy little parking lot. We got back there to find the car considerably blocked in, however the gentleman there was positive we could maneuver my little Beetle in between cars by making a series of 50 point turns! I was very doubtful but started to give it a try, and when I was about to assure him that it was NOT going to work a few other people showed up to pull away, giving us a clear way out. Phew! In order to avoid the heavy traffic getting home, we made all of the turns away from the traffic, drove in no particular direction, and then relied on the GPS to get us back to the main highway, and we made it home in excellent time!
You certainly can’t say it wasn’t an adventure!