Wide Awake: Need for Speed
Trying out someone else’s dream

I really don’t consider myself sexist. But when you’re sitting in front of a row of exotic cars – think Lamborghini and Ferrari – and the men around you are beyond elated as we get two-ton helmets put on our heads, it’s hard not to think the Mars/Venus concept is correct. It’s hard to not think, What’s with these guys?

I was invited on a Dream Drive at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville. I would take an hour-long class and then drive a supercar around the racetrack–a real-live, sharp-curves-and-all racetrack.

Years ago I promised myself that whenever I was offered a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I would say yes. No matter how nervous I was (like when I swam with sharks), how much I thought I might get sick (like when I flew a small plane) or how terrifying I thought the experience might be (like when I rode in a blimp), I had to go. You can’t go through life missing out on things because you’re scared.

So I soon found myself learning how to increase speed on a racetrack, possibly up to 150 mph, and then brake properly. The instructor actually said the features on the car I would drive provide greater potential for danger. I wrote down those five words and wondered what I was doing there.

My drive began in an Audi R8, which apparently is a very cool, very fast car. I drove with an instructor next to me for about 15 minutes – five times around the track. My instructor Kenny told me when to start braking and when we were approaching the straightaway so I could increase my speed. I commented to him that driving with me must feel like he’s going to Sunday brunch.

Despite my natural inclination to not drive fast, I was determined to hit a top speed. I was becoming comfortable with the drive after each lap, so one time – and one time only – on that pretty short straight-away, I pushed the gas pedal and didn’t stop. I kept pushing it down. We hit just over 100 a few seconds before the straightaway ended, and Kenny told me to hit the brake. It took my breath away. Kenny was still on a drive to brunch.

As I was getting out of the car, Kenny suggested I take a Thrill Ride to see what it’s really like to go fast. So I did. This time I rode in a canary-yellow Lamborghini with a professional driver, who quickly and easily took us to 150 mph. In my first drive, Joe and I spoke to each other pretty much the whole ride. This time, I couldn’t hear anything, even with an earpiece and mic in my helmet. The sound from the car was deafening. And more than once, the force of the car on the turn pushed me against the car door, and I couldn’t pull myself back until we cleared the turn. I have never experienced anything like that before, so I was happy for the experience, but I was also a little unnerved by the power of the car. I struggled against the force of the car to turn my head to the driver to let him know we could end the ride. He said we had two more laps to go. I replied the ride had been great, but it needed to end.

I had lived out someone else’s dream, which was interesting and thrilling and a little terrifying all at the same time. I was most happy for the men there who clearly had an experience they had dreamt of their whole lives. For me, I’m happy to stick to the speed limit. But I do appreciate the chance to try something new, even if – or should I say, especially when – it takes my breath away.

If you’d like to watch dashboard video of my dream ride, click here. You can actually see me pushed up against the door during the Thrill Ride – and my inability to get back. You’ll also find info on how you can take your own dream ride experience.

June 2013
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