Chasing Cars: Houston/Talladega (and the Deep South/Texas)
Popped over last year for the Aarons 499 at Talladega and you kindly helped plan my trip. Well, I had a great time and I'm planning to return this year :)
I was based in Atlanta last time so got to see a little of what life was about 'that side' of Talladega. This time I'm thinking of combining the trip with a visit to the Grand Prix Of Houston the previous weekend.
I'll be travelling out on my own for Houston and then travelling up to Talladega to meet up with four of my friends who'll be flying in later on and making their way directly to Talladega. At this time I'm not 100% sure where I'll be going after the race at Talladega, perhaps heading down to Florida with them, perhaps down to Florida on my own to visit another friend who lives in Sarasota, perhaps south to New Orleans?
So, at this stage I'm asking for any input on the first part of the trip so that I can start making plans for that!
What is Houston like as a city? How far is it from the airport? Are there and hidden gems of hotels/motels as decent prices whilst this event it on? What should I see/do on the drive from Houston up to Talladega (presumably via Birmingham)? How long can I expect the drive to take? What is the motel situation like along that route - can I expect to roll up on spec and get a room?
Just any thoughts in general really!
Thanks in advance, guys!!
Just looking at the MLB schedule and I notice that the Texas Rangers are playing the Seattle Mariners on 22 and 23 April. It seems silly to pass that opportunity up, so will probably add that to the itinerary too,
So we're looking something like this:
Fri 20/4 Arrive in Houston (pm) and make way to hotel
Sat 21/4 Look around city. ALMS race 5pm
Sun 22/4 Champcar race
Mon 23/4 Drive to Arlington, Rangers v Mariners 7.05pm
Sat 28/4 Talladega: Aarons 312 Nascar Busch Series race
Sun 29/4 Talladega: Aarons 499 Nascar Nextel Cup race
Mon 30/4 TBC!!
So any thoughts on the rest? TY! :)
Okay, flights booked now :) Flying out on Friday 20th April, as above, returning home on Weds 2nd May. Have booked myself a conertible Mustang for the durations so that should be cool... let's hope the weather's good!
I'm pretty sure there'll be no change in the above itinerary. Booked Talladega tickets last night and going to book my Houston tickets later this afternoon. Unfortunately I can't book the baseball tickets until March 2nd though... do you guys reckon there'll be plenty to go round? I don't know how popular it is in that area. I suspect it'll be okay?
I'm thinking on Tues 24th I could go have a look at Dallas; what are your thoughts on that? What's the must see/do things there? Has anyone been to Dealey Plaza and seen the JFK museum? Is it worth doing?
After that I'm really open to suggestions. I'll be taking my tent and it'll be quite nice to get out into the fresh air at that point, I guess.
Finally, the drive back to Houston from Talladega. I've not really thought too much about this leg just yet, but it might be nice to head south along the coast and perhaps stop in New Orleans. Any suggestions?
Last edited by UKCraig; 02-03-2007 at 02:50 AM.
Here is a field report from my last time there. It is a little creepy -- but worth it. If the Record Grill is still open it is fun -- a recent new member calls Dallas home and has some more suggestions. Also the Water Gardens are memorable. Texas stadium is a good tour.
Originally Posted by Craig Antill
Hey Mark, thanks for the tips, especially the Record Grill,will be sure to check that out! I've been having a great time reading through the forum for places to go, love it!
Have now booked race tickets and hotels for both weekends. Ridiculously expensive, but that's what I get for booking so late for race weekend, my fault!
Anyway, plan now looks (a very rough) something like this:
Fri 20/4 Arrive in Houston (pm), collect car and check-in to hotel. Collect tickets for race and look around. Overnight Holiday Inn Kirby Drive, Houston.
Sat 21/4 Look around city in the morning, visit Minute Maid Park and then return to circuit for the ALMS race at 5pm. Overnight Holiday Inn Kirby Drive, Houston.
Sun 22/4 Champcar race. Overnight Holiday Inn Kirby Drive, Houston.
Mon 23/4 Leave city and drive to Arlington. Set up camp at Cedar Hill State Park and then drive to Ameriquest Field to watch Rangers vs Mariners at 7.05pm. Return to Cedar Hill for the night.
Tues 24/4 Visit Texas Motor Speedway for tour and then explore downtown Dallas. Have lunch at Record Grill and then visit Dealey Plaza and finally take in the view from Reunion Tower. Find motel or campground locally.
Weds 25/4 Head north to Premium Outlet Center and then on to Crater Of Diamonds State Park. Visit Hot Springs National Park and take the opportunity to go on a hike in the mountains. Continue onwards towards Memphis and find motel or campground in Little Rock area.
Thurs 26/4 Drive past Little Rock Central High School before driving to Memphis and visiting the National Civil Rights Museum and Sun Studios. Find hotel in/near Beale Street.
Fri 27/4 Visit Graceland and then head south to Tupelo and visit Elvis' Birthplace. Find local campground.
Sat 28/4 Drive to Talladega, stopping off in Birmingham. Collect tickets and watch Aarons 312 Nascar Busch Series race. Have overnight lodgings booked but, depending on availablility, try to camp at the circuit. If camping is unavailable then head to the Holiday Inn in Cedartown via the Talladega Forest Scenic Drive
Sun 29/4 Back to Talladega for the Aarons 499 Nascar Nextel Cup race. Visit infield before race and then meet up with Simon, Tabby, Jo and Adie for a beer. After the race, head south to Montgomery and find overnight accomodation.
Mon 30/4 Get up early and visit the Civil Right Memorial Center before getting back in the car and driving down to New Orleans via the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Explore the French Quarter and the Garden District on foot. Overnight in the city.
Tues 1/5 Finish exploring New Orleans and then continue west, visiting Baton Rouge and Lafeyette. Find motel or campground somewhere in the region of 100 miles or so outside of Houston.
Weds 2/5 Finish driving back to Houston, visiting Galveston before returning car to airport.
Thurs 3/5 Get home. Bah.
Any thoughts or suggestions of places along the route which I should see/do? It'd be nice to get out of the car and visit the odd state park along the route, take the chance stretch the legs. So any tips? Thanks again!
Last edited by UKCraig; 02-23-2007 at 12:03 PM.
I'm going to the Champ Car Race too!!!
I went last year when they finally resurected the old Texaco Grand Prix for the first time and had a blast. We just had the $25 general admission tickets and wound up hanging out in the food court all day. But, the food court was at the Astrodome Turn, so we got to see some good action.
We stayed at the Motel 6 right off of Kirby Drive, so you should be ok on that.
What route are you taking from Dallas to Memphis. I live in Shreveport, so I can give you a good idea about things to do if I have a better idea about your route.
Between New Orleans and Houston I recommend stopping in Lafayette and exploring, also your going to pass close to the tobasco plant in Avery Island (about 25 minutes outside of Lafayette). If you're into plantation homes Laura and Oak Alley are off the Gramercy exit of I-10 not far from New Orleans. Shadows on the Teche is in New Iberia, LA and not far from Lafayette and Avery Island.
I still haven't decided who I'm going to cheer far in Champ this year since AJ Allmendinger defected to Nascar. But the Penske Porches and the Corvettes are definitely something to see and hear (in the case of the corvettes) in the ALMS.
Great to hear from someone who's been! Where will you be sitting this year? Although I've done many, many race meetings before, this'll be my first street race. Can't wait! I'm really looking forward to seeing the Vettes racing down there. I'm lucky enough to be a regular at the Le Mans 24hrs in France and one of the highlights is waking in the night to hear that the Vettes are still rumbling round. Fantastic sounding cars.
Like you, I'm really not sure who to cheer for though, there's no way I can cheer for Bourdais after what he did to Martin Short at Le Mans and I don't like either of the Brits, either. I guess it'll have to be Paul Tracy, based purely on his ability to create carnage and his dislike of Bourdais :)
The Dallas to Memphis route looks obvious on a map I-30 to I-40, with stops at Crater of Diamonds and Hot Springs as above, but I am very much open to suggestions! A nice state park where I could camp after I leave the Outlet Center at Allen, north of Dallas, would be very much appreciated.
I guess I should point out that this will be my first solo road trip in the US and, although I am a professional driver in the UK, I don't know how I'll be coping with the miles over there. So, if things are starting to get a bit tiring I might even cut Memphis out altogether and head straight from Dallas to Birmingham. I suspect I'll be absolutely fine, but it's nice to have that option there, should I wish to do that. Having said that, I do actually have a 'spare' day in the schedule right now, so maybe I could just slow down and do a few less miles each day. On that aspect, do you think the daily mileage is sensible? I guess now's the time to make changes if needed?
I will Google Lafayette shortly, I have to confess to having not heard of it previously, but will definately look it up. Also in that area, has anyone spent time at/in Galveston? I hear there are miles of beaches there?
Sorry to Post Back so Late
I'm with you on Paul Tracy - but I may also have to cheer for Graham Rahal and Buddy Rice based solely on the fact that they're the only two Americans in the field this year. I saw Graham race at the Indy Pro League race before the US Grand Prix this year and wasn't all that impressed. Of course it could be that I saw Marco Andretti in that same race the year before and he lapped everyone in the field.
I think we're going to go general admission again this year and just hang out around the Food Court. Hopefully it will be under a tent again and cool. Also, we had fun there last year because towards the end of the Champ car race the vendors started dumping out all of their ice and almost flooded the track. We just want to see if they've taken precautions this year. :)
Ok - Dallas to Memphis - I can't add a whole lot there. I was just curious because sometimes people want to see East Texas, West Louisiana, and the Shreveport area just because. That part I could really help with.
I'm probably not the most sensible about driving distances. They look good to me, but I've been known to drive some outlandish distances just to get to my next destination.
Galveston - that I can definitely help with. There are some nice beaches in Galveston, but in my opinion the best are on High Island which is just a ferry ride across the Bay from Galveston. I was there two springs ago and the ferry was free then. I recommend checking out the "Strand" area. Any local can give you directions and Galveston is easy to navigate because all the streets are labled A,B,C, etc or 1,2,3. Galveston is also only about an hour away from Houston if you take the toll expressway.
On a funny side note - my Aunt lives in Galveston yet couldn't give us any directions around the island or to a Knitting Store in Houston so she just let us follow her. Unfortunately it never entered her mind that she had the tags on her car for the tolls, but that we had to stop and pay. So between every toll booth we spent the time playing "Rubens Barichello" and passing every car on the Expressway at completely illegal speeds just to keep up with her.
Last edited by lhuff; 02-09-2007 at 11:29 AM.
Reason: Left out info
Thanks, Laura, for all your feedback. I can't believe there's only two Americans in Champcar this year, it's ridiculous, let's hope that common sense prevails soon and Champcar and IRL can find a way to patch up their differences. Can you imagine a field of 30+ cars running on a mixture of road courses, street courses, ovals and super speedways? It'll be like the old days again! But common sense and motorsport? Hmmm... I'll keep dreaming then!
I have updated my itinerary (in post #5) and it all seems to flow a lot nicer now. I wish I had an extra day at the end of the trip because that's going to be a bit of a rush (especially if the race is rained off on the Sunday and bumped to the Monday like it was last year!!) but there we are!!
I loved your story about trying to keep up with your Aunt, very amusing :) I am reassured that Galveston is so close to Houston and will hopefully spend the last afternoon chilling on a beach there before heading to the airport.
Bearing in mind that I only have a matter of hours in New Orleans, what would people suggest would be the 'must see' attractions there?
Thanks once again!
With just a few hours I would stick to exploring the French Quarter on foot and possibly taking the streetcar line down St. Charles and into the Garden district. N.O. is a great city to walk in, but not a great one to drive in. I managed to live there for 3.5 years without a car, so I always recommend going on foot.
In the French Quarter - you got to see the Cafe Du Monde, St. Louis Cathedral, the House of Blues, etc. They're all fairly close together.
I really need to get back down there. I haven't seen it since before the hurricaine, and from listening to our politicians you would think that the whole city was inhabited by thugs and it was about to sink into the Mississippi. Typical Louisiana politics. I think this is something that I'll need to go and judge for myself, though.