Photo of the Day: A Weekend at Virginia International Raceway

VIR race start
@GadlingTravel, Instagram

I’ve been “into cars” since I was a little kid — and recognized my motorsports passion during my time in college. It’s led to a weekend hobby of driving the pace car for the local region of the National Auto Sports Association and participating in driving schools to eventually go racing. This weekend, I was at Virginia International Raceway to do just that — and earned my Time Trials racing license as well.

VIR is located in Alton, Virginia (next to Danville), right on the Virginia/North Carolina state line. The drive to the track is beautiful, full of back roads. You’re surrounded by trees and fields. And the scenery at the track is pretty incredible, too.

Check out more photos from my weekend on Gadling’s Instagram feed.

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Rare View Of Empire State Building Endangered

I had only been talking to Brooklyn’s Richard Kessler for a minute or two before he began telling me about his personal passion project: protecting a rare view of the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Mirador.

The view of the iconic building from the edge of Prospect Park, a view many New Yorkers or travelers aren’t even aware of, is framed by the Grand Army Plaza arch. If you stand at the base of the black median lamppost which is on the road that leads into Prospect Park, face the Grand Army Plaza arch and look through it, you can see that the Empire State Building bisects the arch perfectly. Keep in mind that this view will be easier to see in colder months when the leaves have fallen. This serendipitous placement of the arch in relation to the Empire State Building provides a breathtaking image of New York City for those entering or exiting the park, or just passing by.

According to Kessler, plans are underway for the construction of a building that would obstruct this rare view. You can read and sign his petition here.Brooklyn residents have a long history of fighting to preserve increasingly rare views of Manhattan. The Brooklyn Paper has documented this kind of opposition in DUMBO and Greenwood Heights and these aren’t the only cases by any means. Without much in the way of scenic landscape, views of the famous skyline are coveted among New Yorkers.

[Photo Credit: Richard Kessler]

I Slept In The Conference Room At Comfort Inn O’Hare

My evening of July 9 was filled with the kind of mundane frustration that can come only from delayed travel. My husband and I were set to fly from New York City to Chicago and Chicago to Marquette, Michigan. Our flight out of New York kept getting pushed back and, despite receiving a seat on a plane leaving earlier than our original flight to Chicago, we still missed our connection in Chicago – the last flight to Marquette for the day. Since the delays were weather-related, we received a coupon for a hotel rather than a voucher. We found the shuttle and lugged our bags toward the long line at the Comfort Inn O’Hare. Once we had our key, we went to our room and opened the door only to find that we’d been placed in the hotel conference room.Just beyond the gigantic oval table and whiteboard was a normal hotel bed. My husband called the front desk to make sure there hadn’t been a mistake. They said we got the last room in the hotel because many passengers had been stranded in Chicago that evening and received airline coupons for the hotel. I wasn’t at all perturbed. Having to wait around all day for delayed and missed flights only to be put up in an airport hotel is boring. This, on the other hand, was new.

A follow-up call with the hotel manager revealed that this “Conference Room Suite” is always available for guests to rent and that under normal circumstances, it costs more, too. Although I didn’t see the room as a booking option on their website, business travelers occasionally choose this room over others. Distressed passengers typically stay in the room only if the hotel has been hit hard with delayed and canceled flights and has nowhere else to put guests.

Aside from the leaking ceiling and distance between the bed and television, I was happy to stay in the conference room. Not only did it give me a roof over my head for the night, but it gave me a good story, too. Have you ever been placed in an unusual hotel room?

[Photo Credit: Ben Britz]

Plane Veers Off Runway at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago

Stuck At The Airport: Edward Snowden Vs. ‘Hippies’

Grandma & Grandpa Woodstock

Last week Edward Snowden got some interesting company in the world of highly publicized airport strandings. Grandma and Grandpa Woodstock’s plight caught people’s attention, albeit in a much different way than Snowden. Here’s the breakdown:

Given name(s) Edward Joseph Snowden Unknown
Nicknames TheTrueHOOHA, Phish Grandma and Grandpa Woodstock
Reason for travels Running from the Feds A Rainbow Family gathering
Stuck at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport Salt Lake City Airport
Duration 28 days and counting (arrived in Moscow June 23) Several hours
Reason stuck in the airport Man without a country Woman without ID. “She forgot where she put it, probably 10 years ago,” said Grandpa Woodstock.
Message “This willingness by powerful states to act extra-legally represents a threat to all of us, and must not be allowed to succeed,” Snowden said. “All we have to do to have peace and love is learn how to love each other like brothers and sisters,” Grandpa Woodstock said.
Final destination To be determined Woodstock, New York

In other airport stranding news, a group of seven travelers has been stranded in Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s transit area for 14 days.

Should you ever find yourself living at an airport, don’t despair. Here are five reasons it might be kinda nice.

Six Flags Ride Still Closed Following Roller Coaster Death

Rosy Esparza was apparently concerned that she wasn’t properly fastened into her seat before her ride began on a Six Flags roller coaster Friday. That ride led to her tragic death when she fell out of her seat on the Texas Giant, which reaches a height of 153 feet. The Arlington, Texas Six Flags announced on Saturday that the ride will remain closed until the end of an investigation into the death, which they are conducting themselves.

This tragedy is now added to the list of other deadly roller coaster accidents in the United States, including:

  • 2011, Ride of Steel, Darien Lake, New York: Sgt. James Hackemer, 29, came back from the Gulf War as a double amputee. When asked employees of Darien Lake for a list of rides that would be safe for him, the Ride of Steel was included in that list. He bounced out of the restraints to his death toward the end of the ride.
  • 1930, Big Dipper, Krug Park, Nebraska: A loose bolt on this ride caused four cars to plummet to the ground, killing four people.
  • 2011, Python Pit, Go Bananas, Illinois: A three year old boy fell out of the little roller coaster to his death.
  • 2004, Ride of Steel, Six Flags, Massachusetts: After being ejected mid-ride, a 55-year-old man died after sustaining serious injuries.
  • 2002, Rainbow Ride, Six Flags, Colorado: After unfastening his seat belt, a man fell to his death.

Six Flags Death Doesn't Stop Thrill Seekers in Texas