If you took some time to watch the 70th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring broadcast on Saturday, you surely came across a few aerial views of the track and all that was parked around it. Aside from the giant semi trailers and paddock tents, the other standout pattern was the hundreds of RVs and campsites organized in tight-knit rows around the entire track.
Sebring is the ultimate race enthusiast adventurer for its near sunrise to sunset track action. But I must warn you, this is not a trip to be planned last minute. Luckily, I’ve already gone through and experienced the difficult part of the planning, so I thought I’d share some of my sage advice on how you too, can prepare yourself for a weekend of sights, sounds and also, smells of RVing at Sebring. If you’ve never been, it is unlike something you’ll ever experience. If you have, it feels much like a tattoo — after a one-time experience, it’ll have you coming back for more.
This is the first post for the “Jalopnik Beginner’s Guide” series, where every Monday, myself, and other Jalopnik writers will take you through our own or other professional’s steps to navigate something you’re curious to tackle in our car culture. From establishing a wowing-exhibition at Sebring to wrenching projects, we’ll help you do it, or fail trying.
This particular trip to Sebring has been years in the making. Spots around the historical track are relatively hard to come by, enough so that you will likely end up on a waiting list rather than grabbing a guaranteed spot — although, there is an unreserved section at the track, open to first-come, first-serve arrivals. One group I spoke with, who’ve collectively been going to the track for over 40 years, and are responsible for the notorious La Bomba “taxi,” arrive three weeks prior to the start of the race to claim their spot. If you live closer to the track, or have a way to work while on the go, this can definitely be a consideration. The only setback is, if you don’t arrive early enough, you may not get a spot and find yourself SOL.
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You somehow achieved the near impossible and got yourself a reserved spot at the track. Congrats! Now… what to stay in. The most ideal home away from home for a track weekend is an RV — and race fans do not hold out on their setups. There had to be tens of millions of dollars worth of RVs parked around the track this past weekend… and a possibility of millions of dollars of fuel used to keep them cool and running while they were parked there.
If you don’t want to drop a few hundred grand on an RV, you can also rent, or put that dusty tent in your attic or basement to use again. The benefit of having an RV or camper is having self-contained bathrooms and showers at your disposal. However, there are at least five shower stations around the track. You just need to strategize your showering times, with your cleanest shower access in the early morning… especially after 6:30 when I found attendants would arrive to scare the shit out of you while you have been showering in silence, as well as get the stalls ready for the day.
An RV also provides more comfortable shelter if it gets a touch too warm outside, and an option to easily cook and store food. I have several food allergies, so track food is rarely an option when I attend these events. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have access to cook anything and not have to have the forethought to pack sustainable food in the cooler for the four days we were there.
If you want to rent an RV or camper, shop around. There are many sites catering to the rental-inclined, many of them allowing you to rent someone else’s that isn’t putting theirs to use that same weekend (and makes sense…how else will you make those crazy RV payments?). Outdoorsy and RVShare are a couple of ideas. For my Sebring trip, we rented from Cruise America, and you’ll have to stay tuned for an upcoming story on how that created a nightmare kickoff to our trip. I will let you know now to save that as a last resort.
Another idea is to get an old mode of public transportation… like a school bus, and convert it into your luxury getaway. But that’s another instructional blog for another day. Overlanding setups are also encouraged and welcome!
So you want to sleep trackside every night, and wake up to the roar of engines every morning? Outside of a living quarters, there are some must-haves to take with you outside of the obvious food, beverage and essentials:
- Chairs and a table – You’ll want to rest your feet, exhausted from wandering what feels like miles of campsites. The table is the device to showcase your various spreads, guaranteed to bring your camping neighbors over for chatting, hangs and potential debauchery.
- A grill or griddle is a nice addition as well, considering fires/fire pits are prohibited.
- Shower shoes – if you plan on taking a shower with the rest of the public, you’ll really want these. It’s your college dorm room showers all over again, and perhaps just as questionable at times.
- Patio rug – I saw several of these around the track, which can be used to seat yourself on a viewing mound, or just in your little camping oasis.
- Tent shelter or canopy – shade or cover is necessary for any and all weather conditions Florida will guarantee to throw at you.
- Several towels – If you’re not already planning on showering in your RV, this is absolutely a BYOT (Bring your own towel) experience.
Outside of the racing, walking around campsites makes for great entertainment. Site setups at Sebring were beyond anything I ever laid my eyes on at Rolex, and all made with comfort and amusement in mind. If you really want to step up your game, bring along your patio furniture, couches. Some sites had flatscreens outside where they would cast the race (rendering your internet access useless all weekend), or some even projected it on a sheet or their RV! Scaffolding was another necessary addition to sites, giving you a high-vantage view over the low fences, but you can get around this by getting an RV that has a deck to stand up on top.
The campsites that stand out the most, often have the most elaborate setups. This year, a campsite created their very own saloon, “Dodge City.” There was seating around the old western facade, a TV with the race broadcasting, a working fish tank, AND, a caged rooster. A few sites had their own bars they had built, and one site had a nightclub-level of liquors arranged for your enjoyment.
Don’t forget to bring lots of beer, so you can join a time-honored tradition of creating a pile of beer cans. Points if you take your beer cans and turn them into a work of art like this beer Christmas tree, or the “beeramid” Twitter user @boring_cars erected 10 years back:
May I just make one tiny suggestion to not attempt to jump or fall into your beer can pile like you would leaf piles, unless properly inebriated? I watched one man do that on my last night at the track. After laying there for a moment (and I was sure he had just passed out there), he got back up laughing. He seemed ok, but I still cringe imagining how much that could hurt, drunk or sober.
What do you want us to see tackle for our Beginner’s Guide? Email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or lchemello at Jalopnik dot com.