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The Best American Travel Writing 2011

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Best American Travel Writing 2011 - Plot & Excerpts

Measured in seating capacity, the comparison is if anything belittling: the Colosseum could accommodate 55,000 spectators; Bristol has room for three times that number. But unlike the streets of ancient Rome, the rural byways of Sullivan County, in northeastern Tennessee, offer nothing else close in terms of scale. Arriving at the track feels like moseying up to a favorite fishing spot and seeing at the dock the Queen Mary 2. For NASCAR diehards, the speedway is a national shrine, a destination whose very specialness inspires tautological koans that are uttered there reverently and yowled there drunkenly and stenciled there on many a T-shirt and cap: "Bristol is Bristol." "That's Bristol, baby." "It's Bristol, fuck it." On a Friday night in March, two days before a big Sprint Cup race, I wandered among several thousand NASCAR lovers on the grounds outside this colossus. The crowds had come to hear a free concert and watch their favorite drivers play Wii video games and to pose for photographs with people dressed as Tony the Tiger, or as Snap, Crackle, and a walking Ding Dong.

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