A Tale of Two (Driving) Seasons

It was the highest of water, it was the lowest of water…. Okay, enough damage to Dickens. But as in the famous novel, the contrasts between events were stark and momentous.

Last year, our Longest Day Driving School was held in the shadow of impending doom. The Missouri River was rising at an unheard-of pace, setting new records for flood height and water flow. Our event barely managed to happen. Only a few days beforehand, we were meeting with the Corps of Engineers and FEMA to see if we should even hold the school. The weather while we were there was actually pleasant, but that weekend was the last one that MidAmerica Motorplex would operate for about three months. Just days after we wrapped up, the local roads went under water, and then the track property and finally the track itself also were covered by rising groundwater over the next few weeks.

In contrast, 2012’s event was after a very dry fall and a warm winter, which was followed by a dry spring as well. No damage occurred to the track at all from either flood or freezing. The MAM staff has been busy all spring on repairing the buildings, replanting the infield, and generally putting things back as good as they were a year earlier. Last October’s moonscape appearance when the track re-opened has been replaced by nice green grass – and soybean plants in the infield! (We’re still in Iowa, after all). Our crowd was royally roasted in 90-plus degree temps and high winds, but we avoided the predicted Sunday thunderstorms and all sessions except for the very last ones were completely dry.

The participants had a great experience, as our chapter consistently provides at Longest Day. Comments from one first-timer: “I had an absolute blast this past weekend at this event….my expectations were totally exceeded. [T]he quality of the instruction and the approachability of everyone in the group really made this a sport I could absolutely see myself getting into. I will definitely be back next year”.

As always, the event takes a lot of help from many people. Chief Instructor Scott Smed worked many late hours ahead of the event to find sufficient qualified instructors and to make the student assignments that are key to the effectiveness of the school. Jeff Daly helped with pre-event planning, Brian Smith and Dana Schrader provided the classroom instruction, Candy Gerber organized the Friday reception, and Rick and Kathy Talbot reprised their stellar work on the grid again this year. The Saturday night feast at the track prepared by Don and Stacy Van Lengen was a highlight as always. We also had a new face leading the Saturday night track walk/ride after dinner – Dana did the honors in showing nuances of the track contours that just aren’t visible when driving at speed. Several other members helped with pre-event or on-site grunt work. And last but definitely not least, our key sponsor BMW of Des Moines provided our event mementos plus additional support in several ways. When you’re in the store for either sales or parts/service, please express appreciation for all they do for our chapter.

We had concerns about the viability of this year’s event, as a competing driving school was held by four neighboring chapters together – on top of our perennial place in the schedule and only 150 miles away. But Iowa Chapter made yet another difficult event happen, and with great success. We had as many participants in our school as the other one did, with only our one chapter as the host. That’s a testimony to the strength of what we offer our students and instructors for a weekend experience – and participants came from eight states for LDDS!

It is a far, far better thing that we do, than we have ever done….

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