As part of the exploding Not My Boys empire, we are casting our net far and wide in search of the best content for our demanding readership. And by far and wide I mean to Easley. And by demanding readership I mean Brandt, who won’t let me quit.
That’s right, this evening my family loaded up and headed west on Highway 123 (same direction as driving to Death Valley! passed by the old Diamonds all nude strip club, now a church!) to the Greenville-Pickens Speedway to see the Christmas light show. Now, if you are thinking to yourself, “Wow, Reid, I did not know that the Greenville-Pickens Speedway had a Christmas light show”, well, that makes two of us. Now, there are other holiday options, such as the Roper Mountain Holiday Lights in Greenville (put on by the Rotary Club helmed by the dynamic Stephanie), Tiny Town in Easley, and TNT in Mauldin, but do any of those boast the ability to drive the wrong direction on a racetrack?
First, a bit of history. Greenville-Pickens, or GPS as it is known to regulars, is the second oldest NASCAR sanctioned track. It hosts auto races on Saturday nights from March through September. The first season was way back in 1957. Some of the men at the beginning of NASCAR are former track champions, such as David Pearson of Spartanburg’s Drayton Mill community (3 time champion in NASCAR’s top series, then called Grand National) and Ralph Earnhardt (Dale’s dad) who won back to back in 1965-1966. Even in recent years today’s stars show up mid-week to work on the car set-ups before heading to short tracks like Martinsville.
The folks who own this land have obviously figured out that there is money to be made year round, not just on an August Saturday night to have a few icy Coors while watching late model racing. For instance, they host the Upper South Carolina State Fair. I have not been to the fair since high school, when one of the original Not My Boys Elliott and I (I am sure there were others there too but cannot remember exactly) went to the fair to see the Confederate Railroad concert in 1993. Now, Confederate Railroad in 1993 was a pretty BFD – they were one year into their double platinum self-titled debut album featuring fan favorites “Jesus and Mama”, “Queen of Memphis”, and my personal favorite the Jerry Jeff Walker cover “Trashy Women”. Drivin-N-Cryin also played that year as did Charlie Daniels, which is just a shameful reminder of how much better Greenville’s live music scene should be than it is, but I digress. They also had a fair ride called Gravitron that should have been called “guaranteed to make you puke.”
To the point of this post. GPS also hosts the Upstate Holiday Light Show, tag line “the upstate’s biggest, interactive, holiday light show”. I am not sure what the upstate’s second biggest interactive holiday light show is but I am guessing this is a one horse race. But they certainly know what they are doing as they have 11,717 likes on Facebook and Not My Boys presently have 200 (frankly I am stunned we have that many). There are some pretty great reviews on the GPS Facebook page if you are looking for further entertainment – I highly recommend reading the 56 reviews that are 1 star. Apparently this summer’s “monster jam” was not worth the money according to many patrons as it did not have enough tricks and the intermission was too long and the MC too yappy; a fella named Daniel Clayton is so disappointed he suggested the track would be better used if they “flood it and stock it with fish”. Infield officials need to “grow a personality” (hmm) and there is a lot of talk about track officials playing politics and favorites. There are several claims of false advertising. Pretty much exactly what Mark Zuckerberg had in mind for Facebook.
Do: There is only one option, which is to pay the $20 per car, turn off your headlights, and start driving. You tune your radio to 104.3 and the music is supposed to be synchronized with the lights in the infield and the front stretch stands. There is also a petting zoo (?) I guess because this is America and why not. Make a pit stop (get it???) and try to imagine a nativity scene. OK, that is not remotely doable, but I guess some of the animals that were present in the manger have descendants who are now in Pickens County, as there were cows, goats, and sheep to feed ($3/bag) and pet before realizing there is no soap in the bathroom and you still have half of your Zaxby’s chicken fingers to finish. Continue driving through the track parking area until you make a left turn onto the track to drive clockwise around it all while looking at the lights.
Maybe Don’t Do: The “ice” skating. Notice how I put “ice” in quotations as that will become important. This is what compelled me to write this post as I could not believe it when I saw it and hours later still cannot believe it. When you first pull in off 123, there is a sign announcing ice skating (??) in addition to the drive through light show and petting zoo. This piqued my interest as I knew there would not be a frozen pond and an ice rink seemed like a hard thing to maintain day in and day out with temperature spikes and the equipment needed (chiller, machine to repair the ice that I don't know the name of because I am from South Carolina, etc). But there is a small hut outside turn 1/turn 2 and what I would describe as a skating “area” (not a rink). The area has a sign that says “NO SHOES ON ICE RINK . . . STAY OFF ICE RINK!!!”. The hut has a sign that says “Ice Skating, $5.00/Person, Price Includes Skates”. Even the website has a page titled "Ice Skating" with a description that says "We have Ice Skating onsite for only $5! Have the whole family skate around the ice skating rink." Are you seeing a theme? None of these signs put “ice” in quotations. If you think $5 per person for unlimited ice skating (including skates) is cheap, then I agree – it’s half the price of Ice on Main in Greenville. There is one key difference though, which is that Ice on Main provides actual ice to skate on, while GPS provides – no joke – a piece of hard plastic on the ground that they call ice. It is not a piece of plastic with a sheet of ice on top, it is just a piece of plastic that people pay to put on skates and “skate” across. Again, there is no actual ice despite a half-dozen signs and a web page advertising ice skating. See the “ice” for yourself:
Honestly it has me wondering – are the laws of nature different in Pickens County such that when water freezes it turns to plastic? Do the people who are “skating” know it is not ice? There are plenty of things in life where people willingly choose to suspend belief – pro wrestling, family holiday gatherings come to mind – but before tonight I would not have put “pretending plastic is ice” into that group. When the grocery store sells imitation crab meat, they call it krab to let you know. I guess a sign saying "we have plastic skating!" just would not have the same effect.
Pro Tip: The lights are roughly synchronized to music which plays on a local FM station, which repeats about every 30 minutes. If it is important to you to stay on synchronization, then you should plan to be at the track area at the top and bottom of the hour when it re-starts. If you have the time you can park on the backstretch and watch out of the windshield so you are not driving the whole time. There is a Santa on the weekend nights.
I Don’t Believe I’d Told That: I don’t think the Hillary Clinton campaign spent a lot of time canvassing for votes here.