Words and photos by John R. Paul
Stage Seven: the miles are starting add up, as are the hours. Counting last Friday’s Trophy Run from Traverse City, Michigan to Empire the racers have now been out on the roads surrounding the Great Lakes for exactly one week. The time spent in and on the cars is beginning to show and, with the rising temperatures and increased level of competition, things are starting to heat up out on the open road, both literally and figuratively.
It was only fitting that, after a week or mild weather (as noted yesterday), the race would find us heading into the midst of a massive heat wave, stretching across most of the Midwest and much of the remainder of the Eastern part of the country. Those in open cockpit vehicles were seen taking on ice, a great deal of water and doing their best not to get fried to a proverbial crisp as they spent their day baking in the hot sun. Needless to say, they were all hoping for fewer stops and longer stretches proceeding at speed.
For racers in closed vehicles the conditions were not much better, due to an obvious lack of air conditioning. Many of these vehicles have begun shedding their hood sides in an attempt to create greater ventilation and avoid excessive over-heating. Some even went so far as to remove the hood completely, going for an au naturale look. Their drivers, however, retained their socially acceptable casual wear (no bathing suits or tank tops for this crowd).
In the HVA promotional vehicle we had no trouble with overheating or exposure to the elements. In fact, it even got a little chilly at some points and we had to turn down the air conditioning as none of us had packed for such frigid temperatures. All joking aside, however, we were not feeling too bad about not having to ride out this monster of a heat wave in our beloved Miss Adventure; there is only some much air that can flow through that car to try and cool things down before the sun starts baking everything within, creating the ultimate greenhouse effect and testing levels the levels of patience, tolerance and comfort with ones coworkers.
At the lunch stop in Franklin, Pennsylvania, several hundred citizens occupied the town square, around which the racers arrived, showed off a bit for those gathered, and finally parked in order to grab a brief lunch provided by local Rotarians. It was here we saw the family piloting the car that had been in an accident yesterday (on which I regretfully failed to report). They all seemed to be doing well and in relatively good spirits, all things considered; a welcome sight for all racers as our thoughts were certainly with them when we heard of the incident, hoping for the best for all those involved.
Speaking with some of the racers we have come to know over the past few days, we learned their course this morning was quite enjoyable: hilly, flowing and running along the banks of the Allegheny River for the majority of the day; a far cry from our dreadfully dull trip down the freeway for much of the morning.
We were, however, able to briefly experience some of the rolling rural beauty of this part of the country as we made our way out of Franklin and into Ohio, coursing our way through inland seas of corn, rolling valleys, rivers and streams lazily tracing their fingers through the landscape, and ribbons of road leading us ever onward and closer to home with each passing mile.
Finally crossing into Ohio after our brief stop in Pennsylvania, the race made its way to the Packard Museum in Warren. It was here that the Packard originated and, with flags flying and giant replicas of the famed Packard hood ornament present, the Great Racers were welcomed to Ohio. At the museum, all were treated to a number of early model Packards and other vehicles related to the automotive industry in Ohio; big behemoths in shapes and colors sadly no longer seen on today’s roads.
Outside, locals gathered to show off their cars to the assembled masses. Of particular interest to those of us on Team HVA was what appeared to be a completely unrestored 1923 Buick Sport Roadster, sporting copious amounts of rust, wear and character. We were unfortunately unable to track down its owner and capture the car’s story. However, left to our own devices, the clues afforded by the vehicle’s exterior made for a tantalizing tale (particularly striking details being the band-aid cross covering a crack in the car’s windshield and the desert water bag lashed to the grille)which we may perhaps one day tell.
Yet another was that of a 1953 Harley Davidson, purchased by a woman who, based on the bike’s décor, was perhaps more than mildly eccentric and a bit ahead of her time. According to the story taped to the bike’s windscreen, she had owned it since new and drove it all the way up until just a few weeks before she passed, sometime in her 80s. Definitely a woman we all would have loved to meet were she still with us.
As with the Buick, one can only imagine the stories that may have been told. For these reasons and more, we find it imperative that these stories are collected and shared for generations to come, ensuring nothing will be lost to history. Through our This Car Matters movement we hope to be able to succeed at doing so, retaining otherwise sure to be forgotten memories for posterity.
As the racers arrived and the crowds showed their perfectly Midwestern approval, the skies began to darken and the wind picked up in intensity. Soon those assembled began making hasty retreats as the storm clouds moved in. Day turned into night with great rumbles of thunder peeling across the sky. Flashes of lightning were soon accompanied by rain and, for all intents and purposes, the day’s proceedings effectively came to an end, far earlier than any of the preceding, as classic after classic vacated the parking lot and grassy areas surrounding the Packard Museum.
On the bright side, the wind and rain seemed to help cut the heat at least for the time being. The forecast for the coming days, however, would indicate this is but a temporary relief. With the finish line looming large in Dearborn, things are bound to get interesting.
Top Five Things We Learned Today:
- If the triple-digit distance one has to drive in a day is exceeded by the temperatures outside, it’s best to enjoy said drive in the comfort of an air conditioned car.
- Car museums love creepy female mannequins.
- Don’t fall asleep while riding in the car with your coworkers. They will take a photograph of you, one of which you will be no means be proud. No one looks good while sleeping.
- Unlike the hotels in New York, those in Ohio set their thermostats to sub-Arctic.
- Asphalt loves the sun and hates the human body. With this in mind, car shows are held on asphalt because why again?