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  Field Notes From
ZipUSA: 29550

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From Author

Lynne Warren

ZipUSA: 29550 On Assignment

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From Photographer

Maria Stenzel

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Brian Strauss (top) and Maria Stenzel


ZipUSA: 29550 On Assignment Author ZipUSA: 29550 On Assignment Author
ZipUSA: 29550

Field Notes From Author
Lynne Warren

Best Worst Quirkiest
    I started each morning sitting in the sun at the Culinary Company, right in downtown Hartsville on Carolina Avenue. Susan Goode, the owner, and all of her staff were so welcoming. It was a great place to shake off the sleepies.
    You can also get some classic Southern cooking—fried country ham, grits, red-eye gravy, mmmm—from the nice folks just down the street at Carolina Lunch, which happens to be open only for breakfast. I did eat there one day, but I was from the start a fan of the homemade banana-walnut pancakes at Culinary Company. So good. They'd pour me limitless amounts of serious coffee and never seemed to mind how long I sat going over interview notes, reading the Hartsville Messenger, and planning my work for the day. It became my home away from home.

    Drag racing is loud. Very, very loud. Hundreds of cars operating at thousands of horsepower make for an intensely noisy environment. Drag racing fans love the roar of the engines, the screaming of the tires; that's part of the appeal of the sport. But it really troubled me to see how many people at the track—including kids—were wandering around without any hearing protection at all. The Darlington International Dragway staff and the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) folks, who were there to help run the race, wore earmuffs or plugs. (I wore muffs with plugs underneath, and I was still flinching from the assault on my ears.) The NHRA website recommends that spectators use hearing protection, but it's not required.
    Noise levels during an event, even at a fairly modest facility like Darlington, are high enough to cause significant short-term hearing loss in just one day at the track. People who go to a lot of races and don't protect their ears are doing cumulative, potentially permanent, damage to their hearing. Especially for the sake of the children involved, it's an issue that I'd like to see motor sports organizations—and fans—take much more seriously than they seem to now.

    After a week I'd had about all I could take of the noise and the crowds and the pavement at the track, so I headed west toward the tiny town of McBee. It's the gateway to the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge. Forty-five thousand acres (18,200 hectares) of longleaf pine trees, wiregrass, woodpeckers, wetlands, and silence. Blessed silence. Several of the nice folks photographer Maria Stenzel and I met in Hartsville had invited us to come to church with them on Sunday, but on that particular morning what I really needed was some solitude. A couple of hours in nature's own cathedral—listening only to the sounds of the wind and the bugs and the birds—refreshed my spirit in a way no man-made experience possibly could.


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