It’s breakfast. I’m eating gator bites and drinking Bud Light. I’m clad in a “RealTree” camo hoodie. “Swamp Buggies”, which look like big-wheeled home-made rockets, snarl, growl and shred through a muddy race track, tossing up viscous rooster tails of water, while the drivers wave to the Swamp Buggy Queen as they pass the grandstand. Like all “race tracks” this one has its challenges. Drivers get bogged down in the “sippy hole”, a deep water obstacle, or caught in a blinding plume of water if they get too far behind another driver. It’s a fast, loud, and furious excuse for adults to play in mud puddles.
Welcome to the south Florida. At least part of it. I’m shouting distance from million dollar homes and the snooty galleries, and overpriced restaurants of 5th Avenue in Naples. No one at the Swamp Buggy races would be caught dead in a salmon-colored polo golf shirt or Gucci loafers. Glancing out over the parking lot, I don’t see a single exotic sports car. Pickup trucks are the sexy ride of choice.
Here, exotic means pink flames, and race cars come with names like Fatal Attraction, First Amendment, Son of a Ditch and Grampa’s Bad Dream. The aroma of pulled-pork BBQ mingles with the smells and sounds of big, mean engines. Country music and classic rock emanate from the speakers in a celebration of this particular version of Americana. And, the crowd revels in the spectacle of speed in the swamp.
In a world that rapidly slips into a derivative reflection of a media-driven version of itself more and more every day, the Swamp Buggy races stand in defiance. Here, a strong sense of self-identity rides on the water. It’s absent of elitism. The winner was a woman without a single sticker devoted to a sponsor on her racer, just the fun swagger of her slogan: “Fear This.” These racers figure it out, come together to race for the pure fun and camaraderie of it, and suck some genuine moments out of life.