Boy, we crammed so much adventure into this weekend that I can hardly believe it all happened in the span of four days. It seems like forever ago that my wife and I drove out to embarrass ourselves in front of “Weird Al” Yankovic! (Editor’s note: wife did nothing embarrassing) We’ve been in hot tubs and saunas, gone down waterslides and interstates, been to barbecues and baseball games, and we even walked for charity! But because this was Labor Day weekend we still had one day left after doing all of that, so we loaded the children into the backseat and drove off to Saratoga to watch the horses race!
My mother and her husband go to the track every year for their anniversary and we’ve been threatening to join them for years. This time we actually did it. And wouldn’t you know, we accidentally showed up on kids day! This was both a blessing and curse. On the one hand, the kids loved the giant bouncy cliff that they leapt from. On the other hand, that’s all they wanted to do all day. It was all we could do to drag them away from all of that latex jumpoffery so that we could introduce them to the wholesome world of legalized gambling.
Talk about a trip back in time! Lots of men in fedoras sat virtually everywhere, smoking, drinking, and reading newspapers. It was like nobody there had heard that women now have the right to vote! But I digress. We found Toy Grammy at the gates and she led us in to our seats in the grandstand ($10 extra per person, but I would pay pretty much any amount of money to avoid direct sunlight). From there we got to look at the list of horses competing in the upcoming race, and then got to put money on the ones with the silliest names. I think that is how it is supposed to work.
Each of the four of us got a dollar for each race, and then we would go to the booth, say the number of the horse we liked, and then we would throw our money into the incinerator where it was destroyed forever. Well, okay, I don’t know what they do with the money, but I never saw any of it again so I feel okay speculating. Also it should be pointed out that they will not accept money from a six-year-old, no matter how vigorously he thrusts it at them, or how loud he is shouting. In fact, if you want to get rid of someone working at the booth, send a six-year-old at them with a dollar bill and watch them scramble. It is hilarious. If the money even brushes up against them, the government appears out of nowhere and drags them away, so they have to be careful.
Once the bets were placed, we were free to return to our seats to watch the horses violently refuse to enter the starting gate. Some of them simply ran away; others went so far as to attempt to fling their jockeys off into the stands. One horse rolled down onto the ground, preferring injury and a nice recovery period to running the race. It kind of took some of the sheen off of the day when we realized that the horses don’t actually seem to like being raced. We figured it was all besties and Seabiscuit behind the scenes, but it turns out that the jockeys and owners care way more about winning races than the horses do. Huh.
So the horses would race, and our horses would be in front, and then at the last second all of our horses would stop running to gaze at an especially lovely blade of grass, allowing all of the favorite horses to come from behind, where they had been conserving their energy, and win money for all of the noodleheads who did not choose horses based on their goofy names. Then we would go back to the booth, hand them more of our money for burning, and come back to watch again.
I don’t want to give you the impression that I did not win anything at the track. I totally won one of the races. I made $5.80, which meant that at the end of the day, I came home with $2 in my pocket, instead of zero. Never mind that we spent a small fortune on parking, admission, seats, food, drinks, and bets. The point was, I totally won money because the guy whose helmet I liked (because it was green, obviously) was the come-from-behind winner that one time. And it can happen to you too! Winning money is super easy if you are lucky!
The biggest problem we had at the race track was that the time between races ranged from 30-60 minutes. These were, as my children repeatedly mentioned, the most boring minutes in the world in the history of recorded time. I think they liked watching the horses race, but the horses raced about two percent of the time. The other 98% was spent sitting in our seats listening to the children complain that they were not getting to race a single horse the whole day. It was very unfair. How could we bring them to a place full of people racing horses and not let them race one. Worst. Parents. Ever. Although I am glad to have this information now, because it means I can forget about ever trying to bring them to the Super Bowl. The last thing I want to be doing is pulling Edward off of the field as he tries to tackle someone in the name of fairness.
Overall it was a good adventure. The kids got to see a slice of Americana that they would not have otherwise experienced, and we parents got to watch our children fling themselves off of a huge inflatable ledge, which really gets the blood pumping I can tell you. We drove home exhausted after such a busy weekend, but when you are living in the year of adventure like we are, you have to expect a little fatigue. Onward!