Dispatch, Barbados: Putting the pedal to the metal


Sandals Resorts International quietly unveiled its first resort in Barbados in January, following a multimillion-dollar transformation of the former Couples Barbados. Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers was there last weekend to take a peek and check out what there is to do in the surrounding area. Her second dispatch follows; read her first dispatch here.

ST. PHILIP, Barbados --- "Drivers, start your engines."

The race director at Bushy Park race course waved a flag, and off I went on the first of my 12 laps around a quarter-mile track with one straightaway and several tight curves, bordered by red and white rubber bumpers to protect me if I went off course.

I did, once. There was no reverse gear in the Birel kart (a fancy name for a flashy go-kart, powered by a Honda engine and capable of speeds up to 50 mph). When I braked too tightly, hit the barrier and swung around facing the wrong direction, the pit crew boss leaped the protective barrier, spun me around and set me straight again.

I was sitting one inch off the ground in my powerful little kart and I was high with excitement, trying hard to remember the instructions in the 10-minute safety video I'd seen before I lowered myself into the low-slung chassis.

"Exit to the left when you get out. The engine is on the right, and it will be very hot to the touch. Pump your brake, don't slam it. Never use accelerator and brake at the same time. Keep your hands on the wheel on the 10 and 2 position. Watch the flags. Face forward. Never turn around."

After watching the safety video and signing a raft of liability waivers, I suited up with a neck brace, a balaclava (piece of white cloth that goes under the helmet) and the very heavy helmet.

My fastest time for one lap was 45.969 seconds, certainly not a track record by any means, but my personal best.

My friendly competitor from another trade magazine did one-up me, slightly, posting a best time that was three-tenths of a second faster than mine. No problem: There was no agony in that defeat for me, I had the time of my life.

Who knew that on a Caribbean island I've been to many times before that I'd discover a new experience, far from sun and sand?

Bushy Park is open to the public on days when races are not scheduled. Anyone can do what I did, $35 for 10 minutes.

"We've got other driving experiences for more professional or experienced drivers," said Zoe Manning, business development manager.

"We can do groups. Agents can book us, and we pay 20% commission."

What's not to like?

As I eased out of my go-kart, remembering to exit left, I felt the thrill of victory and imagined the roar of the crowd from the viewing stands.

Later I celebrated with a cold Banks beer and chalked up another perfect day in the Caribbean.

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