Surprisingly, my first time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway wasn't to race a car. It wasn't even to test-drive an exotic car or to get behind the wheel of any car but my own Honda Civic.
In fact, it was to drive through the annual Las Vegas holiday attraction, Glittering Lights, whose proceeds benefit the local Boy Scouts who sell cocoa and kettle corn onsite.
In truth, this is what I really went to Vegas for on Thanksgiving Eve.
Vegas always seems pretty festive to me, with all of the glittering light bulbs on the Strip on Fremont Street, though many of the new-fangled LEDs don't twinkle the way that old-fashioned incandescent bulbs and neon tubing used to.
But on a day that had topped 80 degrees, it was a little difficult to get into a wintery spirit, despite the lit outlines of the Abominable Snowman and Old Man Winter.
But it was a great way to get into the Vegas spirit, with a red-clad Elvis shaking his hips like a bowl full of jelly...
...and plenty of advertisements from local businesses.
Among the Vegas-appropriate ghost town figures, flamingoes, and racing cars, the best part of the experience was driving though the light tunnels....
...which are practically custom-designed for a certain persistence of vision that transforms a thousand points of light into a stream of hyperspace stars.
You wouldn't get the same effect if you walked through these tunnels.
And you need to keep a certain distance from them as well, just as you would any fine work of pointillism. If you were to get too close to it, your proximity would distort the image.
So, this is an opportunity to drive slowly around the motorsports complex, crawling through at a speed that would never otherwise be allowed, in a car that most certainly would be considered subpar for any of the normally-occurring track activities there.
Before I started off on the course, I asked one of the workers about the speed limit. He said that I could probably get through the whole thing in 15 minutes, but that's not what I wanted to hear. "No," I clarified, "How slow can I go? Because I want to take my time."
"Oh, you can go as slow as you want," he said. "Don't worry about the car behind you."
So, that's exactly what I did, pulling over at one point to get a steadier shot with my camera and letting a few cars pass me. I don't understand why anyone would want to rush their way through something like this.
Then again, it doesn't do much good to linger for too long, because Glittering Lights wasn't meant to be enjoyed as a static display. But since it doesn't move, you have to move through it to get the full effect.
And when you do, you keep seeing those streaming colors long after you've moved past the exit and have flicked your headlight back on.
A First Time for Everything
Photo Essay: Cactus Lights
Photo Essay: Lighting Up the LA Zoo