When my husband and I moved from Asheville, NC to Tallahassee nearly 15 years ago, we had no idea what the future might hold. We did not have jobs, we had left friends and family behind and there was a mix of anxiety and anticipation.
On our 2nd day in our new home, we realized that we had to gather some cash together to carry us over until we could find work. We headed out with a phone book, a map and a bag full of my jewelry looking for pawn shops. For some reason, we left the first two stores without pawning anything. We just didn't feel right about them.
The next stop we made was a small pawn shop very close to our home. The owner noticed that my husband was wearing a NASCAR cap and asked if he was a race fan. He took us into the garage next door where he was building a Goody's Dash car for his son. We both traveled with the team for the next several years and had an opportunity to get up close and personal with the sport.
It soon became clear that racing was not a popular sport in Tallahassee since the town is focused on Seminoles football. Over the next few years, we did what we could to get others interested in racing. We invited new friends over on Sunday's to watch the race with us. We took pride in showing our room full of collectables while sharing stories of the history of the sport.
Imagine my surprise when it was announced that my favorite driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had bought out two auto dealerships in Tallahassee. I actually learned about it when a recruiter from NC called me about working for one of the dealerships. I was so excited, not that the job worked out but that I might someday get to see Dale Jr. He would most certainly come to check on his businesses periodically.
A few weeks ago, TV ads started running stating that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be in Tallahassee signing autographs for anyone who purchased a new vehicle at one of his dealerships during the month of February. Of course, I couldn't purchase a new car but I started planning ways that I could work it out to meet my driver.
I went to the website and sent an information request. This is meant for those interested in purchasing a new car but you have to be creative sometimes. When I was contacted, I told them that I wasn't in the market for a new car, I just wanted to come see Dale Jr. When I didn't get a response, I basically forgot about it and went on with life.
Tuesday at work was a typical day, except that it was spring break and everyone else had taken the week off so I was alone and very busy. Around 10:30AM my phone rang. I answered and it was a salesperson from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet. He asked if I still wanted to meet Dale Jr. and could I get there before noon to get a wristband. I hung up the phone, called my husband, told him to bring the Dale Jr. poster that had been left in the seat next to us at Daytona last month, sent out an email to everyone to tell them that the office would be locked for a couple of hours and ran out the door.
We arrived just before noon and the line was forming. It was a cold and windy day in North Florida and we both have problems walking and standing so we pulled as close to the front of the dealership as possible and waited for the line to go down. A photographer came and asked us to move to another area so they could take some promo shots. I told him that we had trouble walking and standing and just wanted to wait for our chance to see Dale Jr.
He left and came back shortly asking that we follow him. He took us directly to the front of the line. I kept apologizing to those in line and thanking them for allowing us to go ahead. Then there he was, smiling at me. I got my autograph and ran around the table to get my picture taken with him.
As I left, I realized that I should have told him that I was a reporter for Examiner.com and that I write articles about NASCAR. When I looked at the other photos that I had taken, I noticed Kelley Earnhardt sitting next to Dale Jr. I have always admired her as one of the most powerful women in the sport. I would have loved to have done an interview. Yet, in that moment, I was a fan and nothing more.