Now that an incredibly busy season of racing has drawn to a close, I've taken a long-overdue deep breath.
As a non-NASCAR writer and reporter, I make my living following open-wheel racing (IndyCar and some of its lower-category training series) and sports cars (ALMS, Grand-Am, and a few other domestic and international series).
Compared to those poor bastards documenting NASCAR's 36-race tour, the road-racing beat is far less monotonous, and the lower number of total open-wheel and sports car events makes life somewhat easier. Still, It's a grind.
The tentpoles of my season were all A-list events. 2013 started off with the 24 Hours of Daytona, followed by the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The three biggest sports car races in the world, and the biggest open-wheel event in the galaxy. Most people would be happy to attend just one of those iconic races. Making all four each year borders on the divine.
Having a job without a permanent desk is a blessing I never lose sight of, but as those who work in the business can attest, even the coolest jobs come with built-in sacrifices. The incessant travel and never-ending news cycle exact a physical and mental toll on everyone in this traveling circus, but the heaviest price is often paid by our loved ones at home.
It's easy to sell your spouse on the big-ticket events like Le Mans and Indy; my wife understands that they're the proverbial Super Bowls for the series I cover, but the stress and negotiations involved with some of the routine events—a cross-country trip to cover an ALMS test at Sebring, for example—can lead to quiet dinners and limited eye until the is-a-stupid-test-really-that-important-to-take-you-away-from-me vibe subsides.
Basic elements of daily life—emptying the kitty-litter boxes, taking out the trash, fixing plumbing issues, and all the other marital responsibilities, not to mention the actual human interactions that led to said marriage—get put on hold.
To be more accurate, all of my responsibilities fall on my wife's shoulders when I'm gone, and no amount of Skype video or FaceTime on an iPhone can fix that imbalance.
She's tough, and strong, but at least in my case, there's plenty of guilt that comes with knowing she'll have to handle the household on her own.
Of the 43 weekends this year, I've been gone for 22. The sports car season started at the 24 Hours of Daytona on January 26, and ended with Petit Le Mans on October 19—the same night as the IndyCar season finale.
Excluding last weekend, and the three weekends before Daytona in January, it's actually 22 weekends for me across a span of 39. The toughest stretch came during a seven-week period that saw me gone for most of May in Brazil and at Indy, then early June at Detroit and Texas, followed by a one-day respite at home before catching a non-stop from SFO to Charles de Gaulle for a full week at Le Mans.
That one cost me dearly on my first free weekend home—a trip to Las Vegas at the Bellagio to pamper my wife on her birthday.
Beyond those 22 weekends spent on the road, 23 flights have been made. 32 total events, including races, tests and special events have been completed.
As a photographer, 2013 hasn't been my busiest year, but I took a look at all the shooting I've done and across two cameras, I've snapped 123,220 images. It would take far too long to count all the words I've written this year, but it easily exceeds the number of photos I've taken.
With the season now behind me, my wife and I had the annual, "Phew, it's finally over" conversation last Wednesday.
36 hours later, I received a call…one that resulted in a cross-country flight being booked to cover a test this week.
Turns out, "Phew, it's finally over" was spoken too soon.
I wonder how much a weekend of pampering my wife in Paris is going to cost me.