I'm now back in what I consider my home, a place about 10 miles north of Greer, South Carolina. There is no town here, but we call it Blue Ridge, since Blue Ridge High and Middle Schools are located nearby. I graduated from Blue Ridge High School in 1981. The building in which I attended school no longer exists, but the new middle school stands on the site. When I was in school, there was no middle school in the area.
The area in which I live is not considered the mountains, but neither is it considered the Piedmont area, which stretches from northern Alabama to Virginia. Where I live is the foothills. The Piedmont is south of here, where the land gradually gets a little flatter.
Foothills they are too, no doubt. I can see the Blue Ridge Mountains from here clearly. It's not steep, but it's hilly. Roads are generally winding up and down, left and right. I probably live on one of the few straight roads in the area, and it's a small two lane road about 2 and a half miles long. It's not flat, but the rises and valleys are gentle.
When I was a kid, we played football, basketball, and baseball. Our favorite sport on TV though was stock car racing, in the form of the Grand National Series, which later became the Winston Cup Series, which is now the Sprint Cup Series.
We watched drivers such as Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Isaac, Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, and many, many others that partook of the various tracks that abounded all around the nation in those days. The racing was door handle to door handle, and we were always on the edge of our seats, or had our hands dug into the rugs or carpet as we watched the races unfold. Often the race was at least a week old, but we didn't care. If it was on TV, it was new and exciting to kids like me.
I didn't grow up in a poor family, as many did around this area at the time. My dad was an engineer and made good money. He always provided us with everything we ever needed. My dad grew up in the 1930's though, and he was the 6th of 7 children. He WAS poor when he was a kid, and he taught my brothers and sister and me to pinch pennies from an early age. In between jobs, I've had the opportunity to hone those skills over the recent years.
In my family, Nascar was not a way of life. Getting up and going to school, and later going to work and making a living were the norms. I seemed to be the only child of a fairly normal family to become infected with Nascar fever.
A turning point in my life occurred in 1993, when Davey Allison died. I was driving to Atlanta, Ga every day, and for several days after I heard of Davey's crash at Talladega Speedway, I looked to the west, and thought I saw Davey in the clouds far off in the west of Atlanta. I never met Davey Allison, but felt like I knew him, even in those far off days before Twitter and Facebook.
Another turning point was on February 18, 2001. Dale Earnhardt died. I didn't mourn for a day. I mourned for probably a year. Maybe more. Maybe I still am mourning. Of course I am. To me and millions of other fans, Dale was the man who could never die. He did though. I never really met Dale Earnhardt either, but I was a fan of the man who could never be underestimated.
These days, I'm mostly a fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr. I'm also a fan of Kevin Harvick, and Kasey Kahne. I'm a fan of Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, and even Danica Patrick. I'm even a grudging fan of Kurt Busch. In the Nationwide series, I love what Casey Elliot is doing.
I've been lucky enough to attend several races, and even meet a few of my heroes, which is basically anyone who has ever driven at the highest level of stock car racing. For a boy from the hills of the Blue Ridge, it's an honor.