The Indianapolis 500, Le Mans, Grand Prix, Daytona, Skelterama. Skelterama? That's right, in Washington's backyard you can race with the best of them, from grade-schoolers to housewives.
Skelterama, in Bladensburg, is a go-cart track that offers adults and children the opportunity to drive go-carts flat out around the one-quarter mile of curves and straightaway. The only problem is that all the go-carts have governors that limit their four-horsepower engines to no more than 20 mph. That's fine for the customers of Skelterama because the twisty track is more a test of skill than of speed.
For 19 years Skelterama has been a familiar sight on Kenilworth Avenue. Designed by its owner, Gerald Droog, it attracts most of its drivers from the local area.
"But we get people from all over," says track manager Larry Roberts, "from Virginia, Silver Spring and even from Pennsylvania. We get our regulars from all over the state. Parents like it here because the go-carts are not that fast, and they're pretty safe."
Many parents bring their children to recreate the fun they themselves once had there as kids. "I must have been 10 or 11 years old the first time I came here," Tyran Brannum of Oxon Hill says, "and I've been coming here for years. Now I bring my daughter, Tuere. She's been coming now for about two years, and she's four years old."
The races are five laps long and cost $1.25. It's habit-forming: After racing once, it's hard not to want to do it again and again.
The frenzy of the pits, the smell of gasoline and the roar of the unmuffled engines add to the excitement. People are impatient as they wait their turns. Every face holds an anxious smile as eager eyes follow the drivers.
The rules are simple: no pushing, bumping or crowding. The dress code is pants or shorts; no dresses are allowed. The track is buffered with old painted white tires, to slow your cart and stall your motor if you go off. Then the pit crew races to help you back on track and restart your engine if necessary. Then it's catch-up time.
New this year are a small video-game room and a salesroom for new go- carts. Once the bug bites the kids, they will beg and cry for you to take one home. They're not cheap: With their fancy paint and all, they can cost close to $400 -- what some of us paid for our first real car.
Skelterama is open every day of the week, weather permitting, from noon to 10 weekdays, and until the last drivers depart on weekends. It's at 4300 Kenilworth Avenue in Bladensburg.