POSTCARDS FROM FLORIDA
There's more to like than speed in Daytona Beach
You don't need to be a NASCAR star such as Jeff Gordon to get a look at the track at Daytona International Speedway. (Reuters / February 19, 2011)
That's obviously the case Sunday, when the flag drops on the Daytona 500.
Daytona International Speedway on race day was on assignment for the newspaper to cover the infield sideshow in the mid-1990s.
For a glimpse of the historic oval without the hassles of race day, there are track tours available.
Options include an hourlong "all access" tour that includes the Drivers Meeting Room, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garages, Gatorade Victory Lane and the press box ($22 adults, $17 ages 6-12); and a 30-minute tour that visits the infield, the NASCAR Nationwide Series garages and Pit Road ($15 adults, $10 ages 6-12).
Visit daytonainternationalspeedway.com for details.
Despite Daytona's famous racing reputation, I'm a fan of the quieter charms of the venerable beachside town and nearby towns, stops that don't involve roaring stock cars, tacky T-shirt shops or beach driving.
Being a music guy, a favorite pastime is taking a leisurely Saturday morning drive to Atlantic Sounds (138 W. International Speedway Blvd.; myspace.com/atlanticsoundsrecords), a funky, old-school and totally awesome record store that will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2012.
Owner Mike Toole is on a first-name basis with regular customers, and there's no telling what gem might be hiding in the bins. The place specializes in vinyl, but the surprises aren't limited to vintage technology. I recently spotted a DVD of the Bob Dylan documentary "No Direction Home" for a deep discount.
"People like asking somebody for something they are looking for," Toole explained to me once. "If I like the same music, then we're sharing something that's a great love.''
Atlantic Sounds looks like an attic stuffed with family treasures, a description that also would apply to the antiques shops around the corner on South Beach Street.
Hungry? Check out the chocolates at Angell & Phelps (angellandphelps.com) or steer the car toward Down the Hatch (down-the-hatch-seafood.com), a seafood restaurant with a view and its own quiet vibe in nearby Ponce Inlet.