The road to Formula Drift
Some road trips begin with an idea, some thought, usually some planning too, and some road trips just happen. My trip to Formula Drift Seattle, was one of those “it just happened” road trips. At the last minute I decided to join up with some of my buddies and make the drive to Monroe Washington, which is just outside of Seattle where Formula Drift is held at Evergreen Speedway. We hit the road Friday morning leaving from Kelowna BC, and ventured off to the land of the free, MURICA! Where dreams are made, fast food is greasier, iced tea isn’t iced tea as I always forget, and Volkswagen Beatles terrorize Red Robin parking lots late at night. Not everyone will understand the Vdub reference, but those who were there, they know exactly what went down. But in all seriousness, it’s always a great time south of the border and good to see some familiar faces from different regions all together again.
Now personally I enjoy the slightly longer drive to Evergreen Speedway by crossing the border in Osoyoos and spending most of my time on the road stateside. I’m one for checking out these small towns along the way, small town America as everyone would call it. Each town has its own personality and different characteristics, seeing all the all the abandoned and aged buildings where time seems to have stood still for decades, run down classic cars just begging to be restored that are left to rot away in fields, incredible back roads that are a drivers best friend and lead you into the unknown, just all these neat places that have a unique feeling to them. I have no idea how to explain it, but there’s just something about them, something special.
A few of my favorite areas to stop at along the way, are Eagle Falls and a really great road to drive called Old Cascade Highway. The easiest way to describe Old Cascade Highway, it’s a drivers paradise. A single lane windy road found in Stevens Pass, covered by a luscious green thick tree canopy, and runs alongside the Tye River. It’s a road that you could spend hours on, driving from one end to the other and back again, over and over. But if you’re not one for having some fun on a nice narrow windy road that would bring joy to any driver, well there are many spots to pull over and explore the riverside along with hiking trails, it’s like walking through Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs.
For finding Eagle Falls, it’s probably easiest to use google maps to locate it. It’s located on the South Forks Skykomish River, which runs alongside the Stevens Pass Hwy. If you’re not careful you could drive right past the pullout on the highway, then you’ll miss out on a quite the beautiful spot. Now I’m not going to explain this little slice of heaven, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. But I highly suggest you take the time from your drive, stop, pull over and explore this great area.
Finally some Formula Drift action, this was my first time seeing Formula Drift live and in person. All I can say about the experience is, “WOW”. It’s really something else seeing the best of the business throwdown in person, for the first bit everything was overwhelming. Just the atmosphere, the action, sights and sounds, taking it all in at once, it was a sensory overload. Now I’ve spent time on the track at Evergreen Speedway before, but it’s a pretty cool experience being at a track in person that you have seen live online before. You think you have a grasp on the size of the track, speeds that the cars reach, and the sounds that come from these angry machines. But when you’re there in person, everything changes, what you thought you knew has completely changed, and it’s just a big eye opener. The speeds that drivers hit going through the 5/8ths bank on entry is just mind boggling, seeing two cars push 140km/h+ drifting side by side is simply mesmerizing.
Now I wasn’t apart of media for this event, but that didn’t stop me from bringing my camera and some gear to still shoot for fun. It was a different feeling being on the other side of the fence and not down on the track, this time I was a spectator, well a spectator with a really large camera lens (which I regret not using earlier on in the day). Although that didn’t mean I wasn’t having fun, I was having an absolute blast. I’m not one for being crammed in with crowds, so avoiding the stands is what I did, I stuck to the pits, checked out all the teams trailers and pit setups, just wandered around taking it all in while getting some shots. Being able to wander the pits at Formula Drift is in my opinion a pretty awesome experience, you’re able to get up close with the teams, see how everyone operates, talk with drivers, and obviously check out these tire slaying monsters. But while you’re caught up in all this action, you have to keep one thing in mind, that you’re in their space and the teams/drivers don’t stop for you. These teams are well oiled machines that are constantly on the go, cars and pit crews are continuously entering and exiting the pit area, it’s controlled chaos and it’s a beautiful thing to see. Just don’t get in their way, they don’t stop and neither do the cars.
All in all it was a great time just being able to explore the pits as freely as I did, see the cars up close, talking with drivers and team members, and experiencing the pit atmosphere. I enjoy the technical side of things, so I was like a kid in a candy store. As for the main event, I missed most of the top 32 because of my pit exploration, but once it was time for the top 16 and so on, there was some great action to watch. The drift battles were intense, everyone was on edge during the top 8, you could tell there was tension on the track, things got crazy and the people loved it.
One thing that I did learn about last minute road trips, especially going to Formula Drift, is to book a hotel room ahead of time, like waaaaay ahead of time, and also do it before the Microsoft conference in Seattle starts too. Because not being able to find a hotel room on a Friday night and for Saturday night too, it blows, it really blows. But on the plus side, you’ll save a ton of money on hotels, and you get to do some parking lot camping in your vehicles with your friends at Walmart. Lesson learnt, hotels booked solid in a 100 mile radius, usually means you’re not going to find anything for the weekend. But it made for some interesting nights of watching some parking lot shenanigans happen, add in a few factors like pouring rain, old pickups, poor attempts at drifting or burnouts and a handful of probably slightly intoxicated Americans, and you get quite the show to watch. My entire weekend was quite the experience, and even with the hotel situation, I probably wouldn’t have changed a thing. Memories were made, and those memories will be around for a lifetime. Not only is it about the journey, but it’s about the experiences that are made during that journey. Like I said, this was my first time to Formula Drift, but it’s surely not the last.