Indianapolis 500 Camping Trip

For Christmas 2018 I got an awesome gift, tickets to the Indianapolis 500!  This is a bucket list event for every race and car fan out there and my wonderful wife has fulfilled that bucket!  If you know her at all, that is what she does, takes stuff off your bucket list!

This left us in a bit of a quandary on how we were actually going to pull this off.  I need to say that my original gift consisted of a camping spot in the “Coke” lot and tickets to the race.  After doing some research, and have two young girls with us, we decided that the “Coke” lot may not be a great idea. 

Another quandary, but nothing we can’t handle.  Of course, we also like to bring our friends with us so that added some more planning to this trip.  A couple of more tickets and a new campsite (actually two campsites) later and we were going to Indy!

This is how we ended up planning the trip.  We rented a van for the 9 of us that were going.  4 adults and 5 kids, 2 of those “kids” being older teenagers so it’s not as bad as you would think!  Plus all of the kids are super well behaved and just awesome so we really never have to worry about behavioral issues.  I had just started a new job so did not want to take any time off of work for this trip, so the plan was to drive out Friday night and get there sometime in the early morning.  We were tent camping so we needed to pack all our camping gear, a list which can be located in this post, and get everything into the rental van.

The rental van was quite awesome, the entire crew was able to get into the van and travel together.  It was a great idea, and a hell of a lot of fun, but it cost quite a bit of money.  If you were interested in doing this on the cheap, I would not rent the van.  If you just want to spend as much time with your friends as possible, rent the van!

Back to the plan, the plan was to drive out there Friday night into Saturday, the “boys” would rest when we got there after setting up the tents, and the “girls” would go find something to do after presumably sleeping on the way out.  After resting, we would hit up the nearest Wal-Mart for some food and supplies and enjoy camping all day Saturday, watching the race on Sunday, and leaving Monday morning.  I seemed like a solid plan, but this is what actually happened, it was close….

Leaving work early on that Friday was going just as planned, but when I went to go start my truck, it was dead.  I spent about 2 hours trying to get it running, you can read about it here.  So, that was the start of this trip.  So now we are running 2 hours late but that’s no big deal because it’s a 10 hour ride from our friend’s house to Indianapolis.  We finally arrive at our friend’s house around 6PM and they have a nice little meal waiting for us.  We all load up the van and get on the road about 7PM.

It’s roughly a 10 hour trip, so the math states we’ll get there around 5AM which ended up being true.  Unfortunately, you cannot arrive at the campsites in the morning till 7AM.  This gave us a couple of hours to kill, so we stopped at a local Wal-Mart and loaded up with supplies.  We got some food, and snacks, pretty much just the perishables that we would need while camping.  This worked out since we arrived at LotB at pretty much 7AM on the dot.

There is a little thing that I forgot to mention about the 2019 Indianapolis 500, the week before the race they got torrential rains in Indy, this made the grass camping lots a complete mud pit.  When we got there on Saturday morning, in our rear wheel drive passenger van, the guy giving spots was super nice and let me ride around with him to try and find a dry spot that we could get the van to, and that would have a half way dry area to pitch the tents.  I picked the best one that I could and off we went.

We put up the tents and setup the beds and I tried to get some sleep, this was next to impossible since the sun was up and it was already around 80 degrees outside.  With all the rain the previous week, it was like soup.  Hot and nasty, there would be no sleeping.  I rested as long as I could and then just gave up and got out of that extremely hot tent.  So far, this was not a good plan.

We are not big fans of just sitting around all day, so we decided to go and try to catch the parade in downtown Indianapolis.  We all loaded back up in the van and went to Indy.  We found some parking on the street and walked to where downtown was.  Downtown Indianapolis is quite nice; we walked a few blocks to get to where the action was and see the actual city.  We were a little late to the party as the parade was wrapping up and the streets were starting to clear but we made the best of it and did some sightseeing.

Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating and the rain once again began.  We were in downtown and pretty far away from our van so we took shelter in a local Starbucks.  All the kids got fancy drinks, as well as the adults, and we waited out the storm.  When the rains finally subsided, we took a walk around the city and just took it all in.  Indianapolis has a small downtown (we’re from NJ so NYC is the closest city and it’s 11 miles of downtown) so it is very walk able.  We may not have seen it all but we got the jist.

Oh yeah, the rain….

It rained again, of course we were not thinking about this while we were sightseeing, but the campground became a complete mud pit!  When we got back to the campground, with our 2 wheel drive passenger van, we had the task of trying to get it to the campsite.  We almost made it, but we eventually got it stuck in the mud about 10 feet from our site.  We tried to get it unstuck, but that was next to impossible with the ground being completely saturated from the previous week’s rain and the afternoon rain.  We looked for the campground guy to see what we should do about it and we were told to just leave it where it is.  So that’s what we did.

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Mud Pit!

That evening we tried to keep ourselves from getting too muddy while we cooked dinner and socialized with our friends.  The lot we were in was adjacent to the coke lot, but since the year before there was trouble in the coke lot, we think a lot of people opted for the lot we were in.  There was quite the party atmosphere and the partying went late into the night.  This is something to think about when you’re exhausted and have smaller children with you.  Not that the lot was bad or anything, it was just loud.  Again, not that big of a deal but if you actually want to sleep it is something to think about.  There is a curfew, and I think it was 1 or 2 in the morning, but it is not really enforced and you could hear people all night.  I was tired and slept through it anyway.

Race day! 

Sleeping on muddy ground, in a tent that you are trying to keep from getting too dirty, is not always the most comfortable.  We are used to camping, but the ground was soaked and we were all full of mud.  There are no showers so you are just filthy.  We did the best we could; we are pretty adaptable and laid back, so it really wasn’t bad.  Good friends help as well!

On our trip, rain was a constant threat but the race went on as planned.  We had infield tickets so made our way to the infield to find a spot to watch the race.  My recommendation is to go in as soon as possible and setup to get the best location possible.  You can bring a pretty large cooler into the speedway, so pack it with food and drinks for the day and go find your spot.  You can also bring chairs in, the folding kind, so don’t forget those.  Don’t forget to wear a hat, you will be out in the open sun all day, hopefully.

The 2019 Indianapolis 500 was spectacular, the race was awesome, we found a high spot (we went in late) and were at turn 3.  This just happened to be where the 2 accidents that year were and they happened right in front of us!  Those cars are so fast and as the final laps wound down, you could hear the tires fighting for grip as the two leaders fought for the win.  It was super exciting!  Even my little girls thought it was awesome!  It really was awesome, the sights, sounds, and feel of the cars rumbling around that track was a really great experience.

When the race was over, we slowly made our way out of the track.  We were in no rush to leave because the plan was to leave in the morning after the initial wave of everyone trying to get out.  So there was a very relaxed walk to our campsite and then just a relaxed evening with everyone trying to leave.  There was all the rushing to get out and cars and RV’s just getting stuck in the mud from the day before.  We just sat there and watched everyone leave, made some dinner and chilled. 

Sunday evening was much quieter than Saturday night.  It was drier and much more like camping.  We started a fire and relaxed after an awesome day at the track.  Sleeping was not an issue since there was no one left to make any noise.  All the partiers were gone and there was just a select few left at the site. 

In the morning, we loaded up the still stuck passenger van and recruited the campsite leaders to help get us out.  He came with a Kabota (Not a person!) to push us out of the mud.  As soon as I got it moving, I kept it moving until I was on solid ground.  We then got the whole crew loaded up and made our way home. 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

I would definitely do this again, but I would do it differently. 

If I had all the money in the world, or I just had enough to rent an RV, I would Flat out just rent an RV and drive out there with my friends.  Travelling with your friends is just an awesome adventure all the time.  It’s not the destination, it’s the journey!

Staying with the RV theme, I also would consider renting an RV closer to Indianapolis and just having to pay the nightly fee instead of the mileage.  Of course this would require your friends to travel separately, but if you’re going with just your family this is what I would do.

I would also not get the camping lots that we did, I would really want to be in one of the other lots, mostly because of the party atmosphere which with little kids I would be trying to avoid.  Plus, I really just want to chill, I’m not very rowdy.  If you are looking for that hard core party atmosphere, Lots 1A, 1B, and 1C are for you!

Here is a link to the camping map.

Plan at least 1 year in advance!  Know what you are going to do and get the items in order so that you know what you will need to reserve.  This is key to getting the camping spots that you want.  They sell out super fast and is part of the reason why we ended up where we did, there simply was nothing else.  As soon as the Indy 500 is over, start looking for next year’s camping spots.  They will be up for sale shortly and you will want to get one ASAP. 

Don’t pull the all-nighter to get there!  While it was fun and we have stories to tell, Saturday was an exhausting day and we were tired the rest of the trip, at least I was.  Camping opens up on Thursday so maybe take a Friday and a Monday off so you can drive all day Friday, get to the campsite, and leave Monday after everyone else leaves.  You will have to deal with some Memorial Day traffic but it will be ok.

Keep in mind that Lot 1B, where we were, was really not too bad.  The people were friendly (for the most part, our neighbors didn’t like that we had kids) it was just loud into the night.  I’m not saying that it won’t be just as loud at the other sites, but from my experience and other stories that I’ve heard, Lots 1A-C are the party lots.

The race itself was awesome, but I would try and get high up in the grandstands if I had to do it again.  Being in the infield was nice, and the cars were close and loud, but I’m a race fan and I found myself watching the big screen TV a lot.  If I was higher up in one of the grandstands, I think I would have seen a little more of the track and would have been able to follow it better.  Although, the last few laps were super exciting every time they came through turn 3!

SUPER SHORT RECOMMENDATIONS:

Avoid lots 1A-C

Arrive on Friday, don’t try to sleep in the morning. (This can be adjusted if you are getting an RV, AC would be a factor)

Seats in the grandstands.

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