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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Tony Vickio-Lap 15

Laying down the lines
Originally uploaded by Sally Ann.

Experiences of "The World Famous"
by: Tony Vickio

Painting at the Famous Race Tracks

Lap 15: We "become "Highwallers

It's 7:00am and having made the trip up the 5 story high banking, we all grab onto the fence and take a minute to catch our breath. That is one hell of a walk! We look around, getting used to the new environment.............working sideways!

"Let's find the center line of the logo and get this pattern pounced", I say. We layout the dimensions, it takes twice as long as usual, because everyone is getting used to walking on the 34 degree bank, turning, bumping into each other. You find yourself standing face to face with someone who you thought was you're friend, glaring at each other. You see, no one wants to let go of the catch fence to go around the other! We are all nestled up against the wall, afraid to let go! One week earlier, a worker at the track, slipped and fell down the banking, breaking a leg. We get the pattern ready to tape on the wall, when I holler, "Who’s got the tape?" Everybody looks at everybody else, no one's got the tape! "Oh s***!", I holler out! "Who was in charge of the tape!", I immediately scream! I figured if I put the blame on someone else first, I wouldn't have to go down, get it and do the "dreadful" walk back up! Steve, Larry and Brad look at each other, all blaming the other, while I secretly grin. Ahh! I love being the boss! Since Brad is the youngest, I say, "Brad, go down and get the tape". Brad, not saying a word, goes down the banking, sort of shuffling down sideways. For only the second or third time on the "high banks", he's going down pretty fast......actually, quite impressive! We all watched in awe. Like I said, it was quite impressive....... until he stepped on the lower lane white line! In a millisecond he was down! Good thing he was near the bottom! He jumps up, looks up at us and hollers, "I'm OK!" He grabs two rolls of tape and starts back up. After a few times of forgetting something, you make damn sure you bring everything up the first time! Also lesson for the day......Don't step on the lines!

We find out that the wall is even different up here. Being in a turn, there is a slight curve in the wall, making it necessary to tape the pattern down at much greater intervals. "Hey Orr!" I holler (why am I always hollering?). "Get that pounce bag ready"! Away he goes pouncing like a man possessed as we all watch. To look at us, we are hanging off the catch fence like ripe fruit, as Larry, once more disappears it a cloud of charcoal dust! "Man, can that guy pounce", Steve says. We roll the pattern up and we are ready to paint. Just then we hear a noise! A vehicle of some sort is coming around the outside of the track. At Talladega (and Daytona), just outside of the track and retaining wall, is a one lane road. It goes around the entire track. It is used for emergency vehicles to get access to any part of the track fast. That was not the reason for the road. The road was built for heavy Dozers! That's right, large Bull Dozers. When they were building the track, the banking was designed with such a high (steep) banking there was no way to run the heavy equipment around the corners. So, what they did was, on the road above the track, were huge dozers with specially built arms to which large cables were attached. These cables were attached to the heavy equipment, the asphalt trucks, pavers and rollers as they moved along, so did the dozers, holding them in place. It was a huge undertaking! There are photos in the Motorsports Hall of Fame showing the construction. It is awesome! Now, like I said, the road is used for emergency access. There is a special "High Bank" Rescue Team at Talladega. They are trained to do repelling over the wall if a car happens to crash on the High Banks and gets hung up in the catch fence and stays up on the banking. There are slots cut in the Catch Fence at intervals around the corners so the rescue team can get access to the track.

We all stand up, clutching the catch fence, and look through the fence to see a white van approaching (come to find out, the van was a "Tour Van" from the Motorsports Hall of Fame. It would come by every couple of hours.) As it gets closer, it slows down and stops. We hear doors opening and there are about six people that get out and walk towards the catch fence, about twenty feet from us. They come up to the fence and we can hear them talking. They see the banking and all you hear is Ohhh's and Ahhhh's, Oh my Gods and Holly s****! Then, one of them says............"Hey look over there!" They see us! They all run over and with fingers sticking through the fence they all talk to each other saying, "Oh my God, look at them! What are they doing? How did they get out there? How do they dare do that?” All they would have to do is ask us! We are only three feet from them! It became obvious to us that we were just like animals in a zoo! They were talking among themselves like we couldn't hear or understand them! It was really weird! Later that day we went back to the shop and made a sign..................."Please don't feed the Sign Painters". We would attach it where we were working, on the catch fence, facing towards the road. Now when the van stopped, the people would laugh and talk with us! This was a lot better!

Back to the painting! "Don't get a drop of paint on the track", Mike's command comes to mind. We go down to the truck to get our paint supplies. We use paint trays with the "pad painters", so I decided to put a small amount of paint in the trays and take the can up with us. If we did spill a tray, it would be a small amount and we could clean it before anyone would see us! Once back on top we found that finding a place to store the gallon of paint was a problem. I just thought we could put it on top of the wall. After we got back to the top, we found that the wall was angled too much (same as the track) and the catch fence was tight to wall, to put the gallon of paint. Back down with the gallon of paint. Every time we needed more paint in the trays, we had to go down and get it. Doing this all day takes a toll on you! One good thing that did come from doing this all day is a new way of walking up the banking. Now, we see the spot where the logo is to go, drive down the track 50 yards and park. We walk up the banking at an angle towards the logo. A longer walk, but much easier. It's the same way a mountain goat goes up a mountain. They don't climb straight up. We are now up to the intelligence of a goat! Up and down, up and down all day long. I can't feel my legs! Let's get back to the shop and do some more small signs for a change of pace. That night, we go Lowe's. The way the wall angles over you, on the banking, you have to kneel to paint. This meant Knee Pads. We are learning!

It's another day and back to the "high banks". We are more at ease going up and working on the "banks". The more time you spend up there, the more things become natural. It's a beautiful day, the sun is bright, a slight breeze is blowing over the wall, and it is quiet, not a sound except the music from the radio. It is on an "oldies" station from Anniston, AL, and the woman DJ is asking for requests. I get on the cell phone and call her. She is really interested in where we are from and what we are doing. In a little while, she comes back on the radio and says, "This song was requested by the boys from Watkins Glen, NY down here painting signs at the Talladega Speedway. Tony requested Hot Rod Lincoln, by Commander Cody". Hot Rod Lincoln is probably my favorite song! "Son, you're goin’ to drive me to drinkin' if you don't stop driven' that hot rod Lincoln". I stop painting, turn with my back to the wall, slide down into a sitting position and sing along to the song. I get goose bumps every time I hear the song! Ah! This is good! From my high vantage point, I look over to the Tri Oval grass and think of past jobs and how glad I am to be away from the pressure of grass painting. I notice someone walking on the grass. I wonder who it is. It's too far away to see who it is, but I can tell it is human. The painting is going good, so I will go down and get in our John Deere Gator and ride over and see who is there. It takes a while to get there, the Gator runs at about 20 mph, tops. I finally get there and I see a guy out on the grass with a tape, measuring and sticking flags in the ground. I get off the Gator and walk onto the grass. Another man is standing off to the side with another tape. I walk up to him to introduce myself. He is about 45, 5'-6", 220 lbs and has an intense look on his face. I don't want to bother him, so I stand back a little. How the heck is he laying this out? No patterns, no horizontal or vertical marks for a grid. I don't get it. He finally looks up and see's me and stops his work and walks over. We shake hands, introduce ourselves and start to swap stories. We talk for an hour. His name is Allen Jones, from Atlanta. I remember his name, because it's the same as a past Formula 1 Champion. I ask him what method of layout he is using; I have never seen it before. He smiles and I can see he is a little hesitant to tell me. He thinks for a second and says, "I'll show you an easy way I found to layout large logos". I listened and as I got more and more details, I smiled. I smiled and in a low voice said, "holly s***! That's awesome"! "Well, I’ve got to get back or the guys will kill me"! He asked, "What are you doing?" I turn and point over to Turn 2 where the guys are painting. They look like ants, they are so far away. "We are putting logos on the retaining walls", I say. "That don't look easy!” he says. "It's different", I say back. We shook hands, and with my newfound knowledge, jump on the gator and headed back to the guys. When I got back, I had bugs on my teeth from smiling so much while driving with no windshield! The guys said, "Where the hell have you been? You’ll do anything to get out of work!" I said, "You wouldn't believe what I just learned. I'll tell you about it later. Let's get this wall done". A couple of times, in future "tales", we use this new method. I will tell you then how it is done.

It's now Wednesday morning and we are standing on the front straight. Steve has his truck on the track (a Toyota with a cap on the back). He walks up to me and says, "Hey boss, can I take a lap in my truck?" I say, "Sure!" Away he goes! Could only get 100 mph on the high banks. He comes back and stops, gets out of the truck, all smiles. "Oh my God, that was a blast"! He says, "Thanks Boss for letting me do that, I didn't know if we could do that". I said, "you stupid s***head, how the hell do I know if it's OK, I'm just a sign painter". He looks at me with this, dumb" look on his face and starts to laugh. We all start laughing. We still laugh about today.

(Note from Sallyann: For those of you who don't know Steve Hughey, he’s pretty much a smartass and his sense of humor, renowned. He will do the darndest things to get a laugh, but whatever pranks or quips he comes up with, he always got a laugh from me, except on the day he decided to take Harriet and me on a “hot lap” around the track in his truck. I’d like to think that before we went on the lap from hell, he had promised me he wouldn’t “go fast” otherwise I can’t believe I would have gotten in the truck. You see, I don’t have the “thrill gene” in my DNA. Harriet has the thrill gene, that’s why she kept hollering “go faster, go faster,” and I kept screaming “if you don’t slow down, I’ll puke in your truck, Steve.” You see, Steve’s a neat freak and I was desperate to get his attention. I felt my life depended on it. Thrill seekers like Steve and Harriet get into the feeling of speed, you know, the wind blowing through their hair, or in Steve’s case, feeling the lift under his hat that hides his bald head and of course, the ultimate thrill seeker feeling of “defying death!” People like me think a lot about death when they are thrill seeking by accident. As we sped by the four turns on the Talladega track I envisioned four different ways to die; the classic “head-on” into the wall, then there’s the always favorite slam sideways into the wall, then the slingshot into the field where we hit something immovable and of course, the rollover, airborne thing I’ve seen so many times on TV. I didn’t allow myself to imagine the “burst into flames” scenario. Too gruesome. When we landed, that’s an appropriate verb to use because we were flying around the track, I didn’t kiss the ground. No. I kicked Steve’s bad knee and spit on him. Tony forgot to tell you all that.)

After the "hot lap", we get in our trucks and head for the next logo location. We park our vehicles about 50 yards from where the logo is going and "goat walk" up the banking. We've been working about an hour when way off in the distance I can hear a sound like a paint sprayer. I look towards the Tri oval and no one is there. Back to the painting I go, but the sound doesn't go away. I look around to my right and way down the track, coming towards us is two, no, more like three men with some kind of machine. They are walking, on the track, up towards the outside lane. They are getting closer. It is a spray machine! I knew that sound anywhere! The sound of and gas powered Paint Sprayer is burned into my brain from the "grass days"! What the hell are they doing? They finally are close enough to see them good. I can't believe what I'm seeing. "Holly s***", I say and everyone looks over to the direction of the three men. They are painting the white lines on the track! There are three lanes on the track, plus the line around the bottom. The track has two rows of "dash" lines on the track, what Brad stepped on. These guys have to walk three laps around this 2.6 mile track, spraying these lines. The banking is so steep; two of the guys are walking above the machine, holding on to ropes that are attached to the machine. The third man guided the wheeled paint machine and painted over the old lines. The machine is a 3 wheeled sprayer, but the unique thing is, the engine and pail of paint are angled to match the banking. This is weird looking! He stops when he gets to us and says, "What are you doing?" I say, "What are you doing?" He laughs and says, "Puttin' stripes down man". "Hell, you got a lotta' walkin to do", I say. He laughs, sticks his right hand up in the air, index finger pointing up, twirls it in a circular motion (must mean "go") and points then points it straight ahead! In one motion, they all take off at the exact same time! Oh my God! You had to see it to believe it! Watching them walk off, paint machine purring away, on the high banks was a sight! I never did think of how they painted the lines. A truck would not stay on the banks going that slow. We will meet the same guy while he's striping the grass, marking the reserved camping spots. You won't believe the paint rig he uses!

Except for a few small signs that my come to the sign shop, we are done. Time to enjoy the races! Tomorrow we visit the NASCAR Garage!

Lap 16: Race Time


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what's with the stripes on the track? What made that guy fall? I can't believe that they are slippery.

I imagine that your legs get quite sore after a day or more at that angle. I see that you or someone wears shorts. I lettered a gym floor once and the knee pads were murder on the skin on the back of my legs.

Couldn't you come up with some sort of angled platform that conforms approxametly to the track angle, to hold paint trays, pails etc? Possibly with a rough friction material (maybe pieces of tire tread) so it wouldn't slide down. Just a thought.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous The Famous said...

Believe me, on a 34 degree bank, any change in the surface is noticable. A lot of sand blows on the track. This mixed with a painted (smooth) surface is "deadly". The guy was part of a crew painting the wall white. He was going down the bank and hit a dtripe. Down he went....from the top!

I can,t wear knee pads for the same reasons you mention. I had an upholstery company make me a 12" x 24" padded mat I kneel on.

In later tales I tell of an invention to hold our materials.

11:28 AM  

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