Free trips keep the peace (and quiet) for Grand Prix neighbors
Long Beach circuit. The Breakers is adjacent to the Yellow ticket entry gate
LONG BEACH — While some residents look forward to the sights and sounds of Grand Prix weekend, others just can't wait to take a bus out of town.
"I can't stand the noise," said senior Leanora Weber, whose room in The Breakers assisted living home overlooks the race track. "When those cars are zooming, I can't hear myself think."
For years, the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach has offered a solution for residents in many of the city's historic buildings along Ocean Boulevard. Each year on the Saturday and Sunday of Grand Prix weekend, residents of The Breakers, The Blackstone, Cooper Arms, International Towers, Long Beach Towers, Sovereign Apartments and Villa Riviera get a free, daylong bus trip courtesy of the Grand Prix.
The outings include trips to Solvang, San Juan Capistrano, the Carlsbad Premium Outlets, the Los Angeles Zoo, the Getty Museum, Palm Springs and the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula. They also get $10 for lunch.
For those looking to escape the noise and crowds, it's a pretty good deal, said International Towers resident Ida Rossi, 77. "The noise really bothers some of the seniors, so they send us off for the day," she said.
The bus trips started in the 1970s as a way to appease angry residents who lived along the original race track on Ocean Boulevard. While the track has since moved to Shoreline Drive, the offer still stands for the seven buildings on Ocean built before the inaugural race in 1975.
The group, about 70 to 90 people each year, is mostly senior citizens and a few families with children eager to visit the zoo. But the trips can get a little lively every now and then, regulars said.
Cheryl Downs, a building manager for the Cooper Arms, said one trip to Palm Springs was particularly memorable. "We had a woman that lived here, a unique person," Downs said. "She ended up getting intoxicated. She got lost and the bus (accidentally) left without her."
Downs said organizers had to pay for the woman to take a taxicab back from Palm Springs around 2 a.m. "They haven't gone to Palm Springs since," she said. "It's kind of a bummer."
Rossi says she enjoys the Grand Prix, but after two decades of attending the event, she looks forward to getting out of town. The senior says she prefers to attend the event on Fridays, when general admission is free with a coupon.
"You know us seniors," she said, with a chuckle. "God forbid we should miss something that's free."
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