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Last Sunday, I found myself sitting in a lawn chair at Putnam Park, writing thank-you notes, a pastime that has become a near full-time job as the wedding approaches and showers are thrown. We had headed to the Indiana race course that Friday so the fiancé could have his second foray into the world of car racing. As he zoomed around the track and his best friend, Sean, timed him, I lounged in the May sun.

The boys returned giddy like girls, with Sean now gearing up for his go-around. I briefly basked in the beam on the fiancé’s face before devoutly returning to my notes.

Then, Sean turned to me.

“Wanna come with?”

I stopped writing.

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah,” he said. “In my class, I’m allowed to take a passenger.”

The fiancé was looking at me, smiling and waiting to see what I would say.

My first inclination was to yell out a big, fat “no,” admitting fear of death by fiery crash. But then I got that same old feeling I used to get as a kid when jumping off cliffs into the lake. I’d peer down into the water, thinking of all the horrific stories I’d heard about people jumping badly, tripping first and hitting every rocky ledge and gnarly tree on the way down. I’d be just about ready to turn back and climb down, when I’d quickly count to three and throw myself into the air.

It always felt terribly gratifying to be brave. Maybe, at age 32, it would again.

So, the fiancé popped a helmet on my head, I strapped on my seat belt and Sean and I headed to the track, where the rest of the cars had already lined up.

I was feeling pretty good, until the guy in charge held up three fingers.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“Three minutes to race time,” Sean said.

My stomach apparently didn’t hear him. Instead, it took off right then and there, swirling around and around in my chest, sometimes bouncing as high as my throat, where it would hang, caught.

“Listen,” Sean said, as the guy held up two fingers. “I’ll go as slow as you want. Just think of this as a roller coaster ride. It’s not any more complicated than that.”

My stomach had now started tightening and squeezing, like someone was pinching a stress ball. I didn’t tell Sean I’d never been on a roller coaster before. I also didn’t tell him I can’t even handle the swings at the fair.

One finger left. I looked at the door and briefly considered making a run for it.

But, no. I needed to just relax and be the kind of laid-back girl I’ve always wanted to be.

“Whewwww,” I breathed into my helmet.

“It’s cool,” I whispered like I was a “Dazed and Confused” actress.

And then, suddenly and all at once, we were off. We started with the straight-away and the car flung forward. We got beside a red Corvette and roared right beside it, letting the tires warm up.

“The first round is slow,” Sean yelled, while we went through a tight turn at 60 mph. “We’ll warm up and then we’ll take off.”

I held onto the door’s handrail tightly, shocked by how much I was getting thrown around. Turn left and I flattened against the door. Right and I was struggling not to get in Sean’s way.

Then, we came to a turn so much in the shape of a hair pin Sean had to brake almost completely before racing through the gears again to get to speed.

Suddenly, I found myself laughing. Giggling, really. It turns out, speeding through a race track is absolutely exhilarating.

“You ready to go fast?” Sean said like a carnie.

“Yesssss!” I screamed.

We made our way to the straight-away and that bloody car took OFF. The wheels felt like they weren’t touching the ground anymore and we had started to lift airplane-style. I held on and got ready for the turns, holding onto the handrail like a lifeline. Then, it was right, left, right, left, pinching, braking, speeding, squeezing between cars, passing, flying, around and around and around.

It was amazing.

Until, all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

It happened on turn No. 3, when I discovered we were going so fast I felt like I was sitting sideways. That’s when my stomach finally turned on its back and, like an upside-down beetle, started trying to flop over again.

I was immediately and seriously nauseous, with motion sickness sinking in in ever-increasing waves.

“Sean, I’m sick,” I croaked, and he slowed down immediately, letting all the cars he’d worked so hard to pass whip by.

He pitted and let me out before rejoining the madness.

I was green for the rest of the day. But we’d gone 1.8 miles in 89 seconds.

It was worth it.

Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at tkaprowy@sentinel-echo.com.

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