In a way, we all long for freedom. Freedom from some form of restriction, some sort of pressure, mandate or expectation that we believe is holding us back. The desire to break ourselves free from these restrictions, allowing ourselves to reach our true potential, or obtain a new level of self-awareness is ingrained in our culture. Tales of striving for greater freedom can be found peppered throughout our literature, movies and music. It is the underlying theme of the story of this nation, from overthrowing monarchy to westward expansion, ending slavery, and later the open road. One could even view the baby boomer obsession with large suburban homes and the millennial obsession with authenticity and acceptance of individual preferences as simply the most recent chapters of a freedom themed cultural progression.
Cars have always been symbolic of freedom. The mass production of automobiles in the early 20th Century made it possible for the average person to travel over large distances at the time of their own choosing. Those who purchased an automobile were no longer subject to train schedules when making trips both short and long.
“The Open Road” meant people now have the freedom to go when they want to go, where they want to go, and change their mind whenever they’d like.
At the High Plains Raceway, this freedom is celebrated, and, well cranked up a notch. Here, in a world where access to automobiles is now nearly universal, drivers free themselves of the few restrictions that remain. For most, this primarily refers to the speed limit. Here, for all practical purposes, there are no rules (in reality, there are a few for safety purposes, but they mainly revolve around how to conduct oneself in the event of an incident like a crash or a gasoline spill). There is just how fast one can take the turns that make up the race course.
The feeling of having one of these inhibiting restrictions lifted, whether permanent or temporary, is hard to describe. It’s joyous, almost in a jubilant manner. It’s reassuring, anxious, and exhilarating at the same time. I often equate it to a cyclist suddenly no longer having their brakes unnecessarily engaged while trying to pedal, or a runner no longer having 10 pound weights tied around their ankles. Everything just suddenly feels like it is moving faster, and flowing more smoothly.
But, there is some level of risk one takes by coming to a facility like this. Upon entry, every person, even guests who do not intend to drive a vehicle at all, must sign waivers, accepting the risks they take. This includes understanding that there are dangers, both to life and property. Crashes at high speeds can do damage to one’s life and limb in situations like these. And, some of the vehicles at this raceway are valued at upwards of half a million dollars, assets that could be permanently lost when accidents render the vehicles irreparable (I am told that standard automobile insurance does not apply while on race tracks like this).
For these reasons, many will probably choose never to take part in this activity. This is the case with many activities of this nature, from something as major as starting a new business to something as minor as stealing two sips of vodka from one’s parent’s liquor cabinet at the age of 15. Some of us dive into the activity without thinking. Some of us will shy away, and avoid the risk.
We all want freedom. But, we all also want security. Most of us also desire equality, justice, or some sense of “fairness”. Most of our sociological conflicts come about when these desires are pitted against one another. In this year’s presidential election, Americans have largely been denied a true discussion about what our priorities are, in this realm, and how they should be met. But, that does not mean that determining how to free ourselves from our limitations, and how to prioritize this desire with other desires is not part of our lives every day, manifesting in the decisions we make and interactions we have.