Loren and Elke-Margrit Offutt sit in their matching leather chairs, feet stretched out, maltipoo dogs covering their laps.
Outside their 43-foot recreational vehicle, single sections of white picket fence, unattached to each other, scatter along the 29 acres of gravel parking lot like a jumbo dot-to-dot puzzle yet to be connected, The Charlotte Observer reported.
Not long ago, nearly all of the 430 picnic tables at Tom Johnson Camping Center Racing Resort campground in Concord, N.C., were draped with red-checked tablecloths and overflowing with grilled burgers and hot dogs, macaroni salads and sweet tea.
Now all except a dozen sit empty.
The Offutts represent the steady flow of campers who trickle in off I-85 and find their way to the campground during nearby tracks’ quiet times, when the racing engines sit idle, the glaring lights are powered down, and the announcer’s quick-talking, excitable voice falls silent from the loudspeakers.
Some may find it surprising that many of the people who stop at the campground, which is surrounded by NASCAR, dirt and drag tracks, hold not a single thought of racing in their minds.
“There are a lot of people traveling through, us being so close to I-85,” said Tammy Weaver, who helps operate the year-round campground. “We have campers every day out of the week.”
The reasons people come during the offseason vary as much as the drivers who are on the pole each race.
There’s the lady who traveled in her RV to be close to her husband, recuperating from heart surgery at a nearby hospital. Each morning she leaves the campground to spend her day in his hospital room.
A few spaces down, a businessman stays. He’ll leave in a few days when his project in town is complete.
The Offutts came for yet another reason. “Right now, we’re waiting out the hurricane,” said Loren, who lives near Hubert, a small North Carolina coastal town near Camp Lejeune. “We’ve ridden out about four of them,” he said. “It’s not fun.”
They decided to stay away this time. Watching the damage in real time proves too distressing. “Our cars were floating,” said Elke-Margrit, of a past hurricane.
The Offutts began full-time RVing three months ago. Glimpses of their lives appear in the knickknacks around their motorhome. She is a retired school teacher, he is a retired Marine and avid boater. A painting of a lighthouse covered with faint student handprints, a gift from her school’s art teacher, hangs on a wall. A clock, shaped out of an old-fashioned deep-sea diving helmet, sits between their chairs. A chainsaw woodcarving of a pelican rests beside their dining table.
Elke-Margrit unrolls a carpet outside. She hangs lights from the awning to turn the space into a cozy, portable patio. They chat with any of the ever-changing neighbors who stop by for a visit.
“Everybody is really friendly,” she said. “It’s like a new family everywhere you go.”
They’ll stay just a few days before pushing off, leaving their lot ready to welcome its new tenants.
“This is a good overnight stop, even if they’re not a race fan,” said Weaver.
This is an artist’s drawing of the new Trackside Luxury Camping area under construction at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. The luxury RV lot will be located between turns 1 and 2 and overlook the 1.5-mile superspeedway. This camping lot will feature the largest motorhome spaces in all of NASCAR, according to a news release. Meanwhile, the speedway is adding 92 full hookup camping spots in Phase III of its expansion, which will bring the number of such sites to 403. Both projects are scheduled to be completed in time for May race week. The Tom Johnson Camping Center Racing Resort at Lowe’s Motor Speedway annually hosts nearly 20,000 customers.