Tag Archives: Car Shows

Sunday July 1, 2012: Stage Nine

Words and photos by John R. Paul

Clichés have it that all good things must come to an end. The 2012 running of the Great Race is, of course, no exception and, as Saturday turned to Sunday, all those involved in the race found the final fleeting moments of the race passing them by like so many highway miles. For some, it had been a rough road riddled with breakdowns, missed turns and hot days spent baking in the sun. For others, while a struggle, it proved to be an extremely rewarding and satisfying experience. While I cannot and do not wish to speak for my compatriots in Team HVA, I would count myself firmly in the latter (though we admittedly did experience our fair share of the former with Miss Adventure). 

But before everything was to come to an end, a winner would need to be crowned and awards handed out for the victors of each class. Today’s finale found the racers making their way from Findlay, Ohio, through Ypsilanti, Michigan and finally onto the brick roads outside the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. Inside, hundreds of automobiles stood silent watch, mere relics of a near-forgotten age. Outside, the remaining Great Race vehicles stretched their legs, took in the fresh air, enjoyed the summer sun, and rolled their way through the final miles of the 2,300-plus route that was this year’s race around the Great Lakes. 

Going back and forth from a world in which they sit silent and lifeless to one in which these ancient machines still rule the road is akin to seeing majestic beasts in the zoo after having seen them in the wild, in their natural habitat. While it is certainly understandable why these vehicles must be preserved in a museum setting (and the Henry Ford has a phenomenal exhibit featuring scores and scores of great cars, trucks, buses, and just about everything else), there is just nothing like seeing them out on the open road doing what they do best.

On the lawn outside the Henry Ford, hundreds gathered to watch history come alive and the Great Racers cross the line, the culmination of a truly epic endurance event. All in attendance, including family and friends, were eager to show their admiration, waving flags and signs welcoming the racers to the finish. As the drivers made their way through the gathered masses, all possessed radiant smiles of elation, triumph and a bit of relief that the race had finally come to its conclusion. 

Those of us on Team HVA still in attendance (Casey, Katy and myself) joined the throngs welcoming the racers home, congratulating friends we have made along the way and sharing a knowing smile, silently acknowledging the mutual experiences, good and bad, of life on the road. 

Once all the racers had arrived and the overall trophy awarded, all cars still operational (and even several that weren’t, rolling with a bit of assistance from some of the other racers willing to provide a tow) within the race took a parade lap around Greenfield Village. Here racers were finally able to drive their cars and make turns without having to calculate for speed, time, acceleration or deceleration and simply enjoy their old cars in a historic setting. It seemed a fitting way in which to end the event, returning to the grounds on which what we have come to know as our automotive heritage began; a homecoming of sorts, both literally and figuratively.

The most important take away from all of this seems to be that there are people out there who genuinely care, people who are invested not only in their passion for the hobby, but also in one another. With the race coming to an end today, I must admit a slight twinge of sadness in the knowledge that I will not be spending any more time with those we have met along the road, though I certainly hope we can all remain in touch and perhaps participate in another Great Race some time in the not too distant future. There is a sense of something very special coming to an end, leaving us only with the memories of all we have experienced and the characters we have encountered along the way. 

While sad, I find a great deal of comfort knowing that these folks are out there and that it is almost certain our paths will once again cross. It is, after all, a small family (numbering, approximately, in the hundreds of thousands) in which everyone looks out and cares for one another. It is this sense of community and the open road itself I think I will miss the most.

I hope all who have read this have enjoyed at least portions here and there and were able to catch a glimpse of this seemingly secret world of car guys and gals. I have had a wonderful time and I hope I was able to convey it appropriately. I thank all those we have met along the way (especially Mike and Cindy with Reliable and Conrad in Bancroft, ON), all those who have followed along at home, and all those who share in the mutual passion that keeps this whole crazy show on the road.

Top Five Things We Learned Today:

  1. After a week on the road living out of a suitcase, your clothes start to carry an odor that would indicate you have been on the road for a week living out of a suitcase.
  2. Cars inside look sadder than those outside rolling down the road. Their grilles tend to look frownier.
  3. Left turns in an enormous truck and trailer combination displaying any sort of advertisement is great free promotion. Provided the oncoming traffic slows.
  4. Car shows on scalding hot bricks are pretty much just as bad as those on molten blacktop. Note to future car show planners: please secure a grassy, preferably shaded, location so as to ensure minimal water weight loss, heat stroke, and salty, sweat-stained clothes.
  5. Dorothy Gale was right: there really is no place like home.

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Saturday June 30, 2012: Stage Eight

 

Words and photos by John R. Paul

The arrival of the penultimate stage brought temporary relief from the previous day’s humidity, along with a welcome breeze. None of this was to last, of course, as the temperatures were soon approaching the upper thermometric reaches and testing the tolerance of both racers and spectators alike. Fortunately for the racers, the storms that had raged through the night before had missed the majority of the course and did not impact the day’s stage from a racing standpoint. Unfortunately for those in the city of Findlay, Ohio, the massive storms left a wake of destruction, causing numerous power outages in the midst of a major heat wave and damage to both trees and homes, all the result of extremely strong winds. 

Before the Great Race made its way to storm-damaged Findlay, it was off to sweltering Mansfield, Ohio, where racers found themselves arriving near the town carousel, its manic music blaring across the show field, creating a sense of surrealism that, when coupled with the oppressive heat, made one feel slightly delusional. This did nothing to keep the locals from turning out, however, all eagerly applauding each racer as they rolled up the hill on Main Street, passing the carousel, cruising under the inflatable banner, and into the molten parking lot.

As the racers entered the city of Mansfield, a lone Model T stood silent watch from the open door of a restoration shop, looking rather sad and forlorn, unable to join its automotive brothers and sisters as they sped along the road. Ancient buildings hovered nearby as well, most older than even the oldest vehicle in the race, a 1907 Renault. Surely were they able to convey any sort of memories they would recall having seen such vehicles long before in days gone by when Model As were commonplace and not the oddity they sometimes seem on todays roads; history observing history. 

While certainly our proximity to the Fourth of July is having an impact, every American city and town through which we have passed has been festooned with seas of the red, white and blue in all sizes, all displayed proudly and prominently for the racers; truly a patriotic lot, these car guys and gals, as well as all of those who have come out to pay tribute to both the racers and the cars on display. It is this sense of pride, community and patriotism that helps mark the automobile’s significance within American culture (and, after our trip north of the border, Canada as well) and gives us hope that, as this sense of pride is passed through the generations, the hobby will continue for years to come. With all of the younger people we have seen in attendance, there is certainly a youthful vitality coming along behind the current crop of car guys and gals to pick up and continue the traditions now passed from generation to generation. 

One such story involved Beth Gentry and the 1932 Ford she inherited following the passing of her father. Beth tearfully recounted the several Great Races in which she and her father had participated in this very car. To honor his memory, she and her nephew Jody Knowles are competing in this year’s edition (and doing quite well, I might add). She seemed to swell with pride at the thought of her father’s joy and satisfaction in her participation in the race and carrying on his legacy and passion for the hobby with the very car he loved so dearly. Certainly a very moving story indicative of the familial connectivity and generational ties present within the hobby.

Driving into Findlay, it was apparent they had not been spared from the storm as Mansfield had. The hotel at which we were staying had lost power and was scrambling to prepare rooms for the arriving racers. Others in town were not so lucky and were without power with temperatures reaching into the nineties outside. As we made our way into town, we noted side streets littered with downed trees, broken branches, and power lines snaking their way toward the ground. A massive clean up effort was already underway in an attempt to regain what had been lost in the storm. 

For the day’s finish, racers found themselves driving in the shadow of city hall, its massive façade and statuary staring down from on high, backlit by a halo of clouds, passively betraying the ferocity they had only recently unleashed. Alluding to the storm, Corky Coker commented on how all of this had been a reminder of who was truly in charge, while at the same time stating he hoped that the race could bring some temporary respite from the ravages of the storm and provide an ample distraction for at least an hour or two. 

While the main thoroughfare was lined with race vehicles, several blocks down from city hall side streets were populated by a number of local classics. It has been very enjoyable to see the sheer variety of cars and trucks that turn out each night in each new city. Certainly being able to see the race vehicles on a daily basis has been phenomenal, but, admittedly, it does tend to get a little old seeing the same cars over and over. Being provided with a chance to see a wider array of marques lined up in each town provides not only a change from the norm, but also presents a number of new and interesting visuals to take in. A change of scene never hurt anyone, as the saying goes. 

Before the proceedings came to a close, we captured several more This Car Matters videos featuring participants in this year’s Great Race. We hope to have these prepared and ready to go within the coming months. In the meantime, we do have several completed videos up and running on our YouTube page (we also have tons more Great Race photos on our Facebook page) for those interested in checking them out and seeing what it is we are looking to do while out on the road and hanging out with all these great car guys and gals. We were again reminded just how genuinely nice this community of individuals is. All have been extremely warm and friendly toward us and it seems we have come away with a multitude of new friends with whom we hope to keep in touch over the coming years. It is truly one big family with a singular shared passion in the automobile.

Top Five Things We Learned Today:

  1. Old carousels are loud. Old cars, however, are be louder (especially when gathered in great numbers).
  2. When you’re tired, do not state you require a kick in the pants because there may be some in the group far more literal minded and will proceed to provide the requested kick directly in the pants.
  3. Touching stories that cause those telling to tear up may also result in members of the film crew having to struggle to keep it together.
  4. Each of Casey’s ID photographs features him sporting a different type of facial hair. The kid is a master of disguise.
  5. While Emily may not always be the best with directions, if Tim Hortons (for John, Timmy Hohos for Katy) is used as a reference point she will be all over it.
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Friday June 29, 2012: Stage Seven

 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Car museums love creepy female mannequins.
  3. 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.
  4. Unlike the hotels in New York, those in Ohio set their thermostats to sub-Arctic.
  5. Asphalt loves the sun and hates the human body. With this in mind, car shows are held on asphalt because why again?

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Thursday June 28, 2012: Stage Six

 

Words and photos by John R. Paul

The morning of Stage Six dawned sunny and warm, with racers assembling early to prepare for their 8am start time and remarking how the endurance element of the race was slowly beginning to take its toll. For Team HVA, this morning’s departure proved a bittersweet parting as we were forced to bid adieu to our beloved Miss Adventure, leaving her behind in the Comfort Inn Suites parking lot to be collected by her owner within the coming weeks. Some of us got the sense she had been watching us through the windows while we slept, leaving a slightly unsettling feeling that perhaps we were dealing with a situation similar to that of Christine

Unlike previous drives, today’s proved rather dull and less than scenic as we found ourselves on the highway for the better part of the morning’s trek from Watertown to the lunch stop in Fairport, New York. Upon arrival, however, we were greeted by a veritable sea of people, all waving miniature American flags beneath a giant flag straddling the main thoroughfare, a brass band marching down the street, the gathered masses cheering and marveling at the assemblage of classic cars, trucks, scooters, and hot rods.

For sheer variety of cars, Fairport by far takes the cake, displaying everything from innumerable American muscle cars, classic post-war family cars, Corvettes of a variety of years, and the occasional European oddball (the Isetta that snuck onto the end of the long line of local cars, for instance, and instantly drew a crowd or the Citroën that was mistaken more than once for a Volkswagen). It seemed that every time we walked through the downtown show area there was something new that had slipped into the mix, hiding in plain sight and waiting to be marveled at by those assembled. 

Needless to say, the largest cheers and thrills came with the arrival of the racers who rolled into town following the trek from Watertown, past the enormous crowds, across the railroad tracks (provided they weren’t required to wait for one of the many trains that seemed to come along every ten minutes or so, essentially creating two separate car-strewn islands), up the slight incline leading under the giant American flag displayed proudly by the local fire department, over the rusted trestle bridge (where one car required a friendly push by some of the quick-to-oblige citizens of Fairport), and onto the finish point for the morning where a local group was performing ‘60s-style girl group pop.

Among those gathered was a rather precocious young man of about four or five who stopped me to talk about his grandfather’s “pink Chevy”, of which he was enormously proud for having just helped washed along with his grandfather’s GTO. In true car-guy-in-the-making fashion, he eagerly proceed to tell me all about the cars, how he had washed them, had gone to play golf and go fishing, and finally came down to the show to watch the racers come in. This chatty little guy clearly represents the future of the hobby and it was encouraging to see how genuinely enthusiastic he was about not only his grandfather’s cars, but also all of those around him. Not to mention his early ability to talk your ear off. 

As the crowds slowly began to disperse, we made our way back and out of town, off to the evening’s stop in Buffalo at the Pierce Arrow Museum. Along the way we passed our Michigan friends from the previous day, tooling down the highway in their 1914 Ford and garnering a number of looks from the modern machines speeding all around them. Not exactly a sight one would expect to see everyday.

Once in Buffalo, we all spread out to explore the cavernous Pierce Arrow Museum, marveling at the ancient vehicles on display. Along with the many cars on display, the museum holds a plethora of automobilia and other period-specific items and curios from days gone by, nearly all, like the Pierce Arrow itself, historically relevant to the city of Buffalo.

This was the first stop in an actual city, and thus a far cry from the grassy fields and rural settings to which we have been exposed over the last several days. Regardless of the concrete surroundings, the mood remained the same as that which we have experienced at each stop. The fact of the matter is people get genuinely excited about these cars and are eager to learn more while inspecting ever minor detail of these ancient road warriors. 

At dinner we spoke with a group of fellow racers who chided us for riding in an air conditioned car on a day when the mercury rose to uncomfortable levels while they were stuck inside their decidedly un-air conditioned classic. The mild temperatures of Northern Michigan and Canada clearly spoiled those of us on the race and, with a return to the Midwest looming large, the levels of comfort will surely be tested as the racers head into Pennsylvania and Ohio over the course of the next several days.

We were also clued into the greatness that is the Fireball Run, an event we will certainly have to give some strong consideration in the future as it sounds to be the source of prime material for entertaining reading as well as the experience of a lifetime. Stayed tuned to find out if that may happen! 

Following dinner we headed back out to the asphalt show field to continue capturing more This Car Matters stories and videos. Among those were John Hollansworth’s story of his Peerless speedster, the Green Dragon, which he has raced in a number of rallies over the years and, itself, holds a rather prestigious racing pedigree, specifically indoor track events at the turn of the last century. John’s story proved exceptionally interesting and should make for a captivating This Car Matters film (no sense spoiling the surprise here, you’ll just have to keep checking out our website as new films roll out each month).

Chad Nelson’s Model A also proved an interesting story in that it had been originally acquired to be run in the Great Race in the mid-1990s while he was in high school. He procured the vehicle in the middle of a field when it had a tree growing up through its center. Chainsaw in hand, they were able to free the car, bring it back to their shop and begin working on the vehicle. A number of years passed before they were finally able to run the car in the Great Race, but he is now doing so as part of the X Team Cup which incorporates young kids, allowing them to operate in the navigational role and get to experience time in and with the car, learning the ins and outs and, in the process, securing the future of the hobby.

As the sun set on the city of Buffalo, bathing the Pierce Arrow Museum in a golden hue as the last remaining racers made their way back to their respective hotels for some well-earned rest, Team HVA headed off to Niagara Falls because, well, when you’re that close, why not? Besides, I was the only one who had seen them previously and this is all just one big learning experience all around for Casey. 

Upon pulling into the parking lot, rolling up in our white Suburban and matching HVA uniforms, we were promptly asked what we do. When we explained, after having paid for parking, we were greeted with handshakes, car stories and our five bucks back. Continuing on, we were regaled with more stories by a wonderfully stereotypical New Yawk gal who proceeded to talk to us about the Playboy car we had seen at the Pierce Arrow Museum and serve as tour director to the falls.

Finally arriving at the falls, we all took in their majestic grandeur as the last of the day’s light began fading from the sky, traces pastel fingers across the horizon and giving way to the moon’s ascent, mist lazily rising from the falls and dampening our clothing. All in all a fantastic ending to yet another wonderfully memorable day. As with every day on this journey, we eagerly anticipate what tomorrow will hold.  

Top Six Things We Learned Today (Bonus Niagara Falls Edition):

  1. Per our dinner table compatriots, the only time a chicken standing in the road will fly is when hit by a car, specifically theirs. “Why did the chicken cross the road? To get hit by a Ford. “
  2. Five-year-old car guys will talk your ear off until their mother tells them it is probably enough and that the nice man with a camera has to get back to work.
  3. Open cockpit speedster sunburns look way worse that farmer tans; it gives the illusion of perma-goggles and gloves. Not a good look.
  4. Black shirts and khakis are a less-than-ideal clothing combination when faced with brutal sun, searing asphalt and blistering heat experienced all day on one’s feet.
  5. Katy’s good side is her left, Emily’s her right. Casey and I have no bad sides; we are good all around.
  6. If you go to Niagara Falls with a digital SLR around your neck, you’re going to be asked by everyone to take their photo in front of the falls. You’ve been warned.

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Monday June 25, 2012: Stage Three

 

words & photographs by John R. Paul

The morning of the third stage dawned dry but cloudy, the threat of potential rain looming not far off on the horizon. Winds whipped through the recently dried out Great Racers as they sped along the Canadian highway, out of Sudbury and toward the lunch stop in Parry Sound, Ontario. One could not help but feel the urge to blast Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road”, slowing panning out and away from each car as they barreled along down the highway. 

Falling into the number two start slot this morning, Team HVA made a quick line up change, shuffling out Katy and Casey for Tim in the navigator role. Miss Adventure obliged by starting up on the second attempt, though quickly presented us with foreshadowing of things to come as she once more failed to slide into gear and, along with that, repeated the previous day’s troubles with the clutch. The interior of the car was again filled with the sickly sweet stench of acrid burning rubber and other unpleasantries.

Regardless, we were able to steer her out onto the course and get her pointed in the proper direction with little more in the way of hesitation. As we proceeded out of Sudbury and into the heart of mining country, huge striated slabs of rugged rock formed a corridor along the highway down which we passed. Soon the earthen corridor gave way to crisscrossing rivers and lakes, each spanned by rusted out railroad trestles and dotted with innumerable rocky islands in the midst of lakes surely teeming with trout, walleye and a number of other fishes.

The ever-changing landscape and scenery helped stave off the boredom of the slowly rolling ribbon of highway laid out before us. Highway-induced monotony was quickly left behind as we found ourselves wending our way through the rural roads of Ontario. Here stop signs and rail crossings become your only points of reference and indication that civilization is, in reality, not that far off. Marshy landscapes littered the desolate road down which we travelled, our only onlooker a decidedly stunned looking grouse who stood dumbfounded as we barreled past. 

Soon we found ourselves back on the highway and encountering our first wrong turn. This was quickly remedied, however, and, with a quick, grinding U-turn, we were back on course and on our way into Parry Sound. Here we found ourselves the second team to have arrived at the lunch stop, albeit a little earlier than our scheduled time, our newly-minted Canadian friends in their red Jaguar the only other Great Racers in attendance.

Winds whipped across Georgian Bay, battering those who turned out to welcome the Great Racers as they arrived in Parry Sound. As in each stop thus far, all those who turned out were eager to catch a glimpse of the cars as they made their way through the hometown of hockey great Bobby Orr, under the towering train trestle, and into the parking lot of the Charles W. Stockey Centre. The first of several cars to arrive immediately following Miss Adventure was greeted by the sound of bagpipes and the cheers of those in attendance, coaxed on by the one and only Motormouth and Corky Coker.

A number of great local cars turned out to welcome the racers and comingle on nearly equal footing with the race vehicles themselves. The broad range of cars participating helps in establishing an immediate and easy rapport with those in attendance, each recalling fond memories of a similar car they or someone in their family may have once owned. Everyone feels immediately welcome and at home in what is truly an extended family of like-minded individuals, all coming together to celebrate a mutual love of and passion for the automobile. 

After a delicious lunch, we made our way back to the car and onto the final legs of the day. It only took a few moments to realize that we would not be seeing the finish line through Miss Adventure’s panoramic windshield as the clutch began to fail and the interior of the car once again filled with the now all-too-familiar odor. A left-hand turn up a hill just outside of Parry Sound sadly proved the end of our racing day, earning us yet another DNF.

While broken down, numerous friendly Canadians stopped to inquire as to whether we needed any help, offering assistance, parts and well-intentioned mechanical advice. Our request of a cross-country bicyclist for a tow was greeted with a smile, a laugh and a polite “no, but good luck, eh?” before he peddled off up the hill and out of sight.

We were soon greeted by the sweeper vehicle crew who remarked playfully that we needed to stop meeting this way. All in attendance concurred, including Miss Adventure who found herself once more on the back of the transport.

Once on our way, we were again winding our way through the rural Canadian countryside, a landscape now seemingly littered with classic cars of all shapes and sizes; some proudly displayed, others wearing a for sale sign, and still others little more than rusty hulks slowly succumbing to the soil. But for each rusted out remnant there were and are many more well maintained and well cared for cars and trucks dotting the landscape, numbering nearly as many as the lakes and rivers encountered earlier in the day. 

Upon arriving in Barrie, Ontario we were greeted by a veritable sea of onlookers and great old cars, all proudly displayed in an egalitarian manner amongst the race vehicles. Within moments the skies began to darken and, before anyone had a chance to react, they opened up and rain began pummeling the show field and all those in attendance. As before, the rain left and those in attendance were left undaunted by the drenching they had experienced and thrilled by the attention their town was receiving.

Everywhere we have gone we have found ourselves greeted by nothing but smiles, well wishes and genuine interest in this event, its participants and, perhaps most importantly, their cars. Near immediate connections are made across a multitude of divides as all come together to celebrated a shared love of the automobile. As mentioned previously, it truly is a remarkable community of people and one within which we should all be proud to consider ourselves counted. 

While Miss Adventure may be momentarily down for the count, thanks to the sense of community and the excitement and enthusiasm flowing therein, Team HVA is more committed than ever and truly in it for the long haul; rain or shine, car or no. After all, it’s the mutual love of the automobile that drives all of us, literally and figuratively, as we strive to complete the 2012 running of the Great Race.

Top Five Things We Learned Today:

  1. Just because a car starts up, doesn’t mean it will continue to run all day. Especially if it is an older model vehicle with a stubborn personality to match and equally stubborn name.
  2. There are a lot of lakes in Canada. Who took the time to name all of them? That must have taken years.
  3. “Eh” can be used in the form of a question, an exclamation or, in rare instances, a noun.
  4. It is not a good idea to have a breakdown following a lunch at which tea and coffee is served.
  5. Never say, “At least it’s not raining” as it will inevitably begin to rain. Without fail.
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Sunday June 24, 2012: Stage Two

 

words & photographs by John R. Paul

While skies had threatened later in the day yesterday, they were gracious enough to wait until the overnight hours to open up and begin the deluge. The early morning hours greeted the Great Racers and Team HVA with a rather wicked downpour. Spirits were not to be dampened, however, as even those in the numerous open cockpit speedsters put on a determined face and waterproof clothing to help try and keep out at least some of the rain during the morning’s International Bridge crossing into Canada. With this crossing, the Great Race officially moved through customs and into Canada (and for half of team HVA, as recounted yesterday, the second time in as many days).

With rain staining her windshield and making her lack of an operational wiper motor all the more pathetic, Miss Adventure decided she had put us through enough paces over the last few days and, graciously started right up and saw us off on what was to (hopefully) become our first completed stage of the 2012 Great Race. It also seems Miss Adventure has developed quite a reputation amongst our fellow Great Racers in that nearly everyone seemed to have been aware of her troubles and earnestly wanted to ensure we had remedied said problems accordingly and would be able to get her back into the race on the first raining stage.  With fingers crossed and our collective breath held, we nodded and smiled in the affirmative, regurgitating everything we had learned from Tony and Casey following last night’s repair session. 

As mentioned, she was gracious enough to start right up and see us off on our way. We packed a handful of string to attach to the lifeless wiper blades in case the rain became too much and visibility too poor, however with the help of Rain-X and the wind we were able to make our way through the downpour safely and without incident.

Upon having crossed into Canada we began the race in earnest, quickly picking up on the directions and provided landmarks, smoothly making our way along the course. About an hour into Canada it was decided we should stop at a classic looking roadside diner. After a quick breakfast and coffee break, a few waves to several passing fellow Great Racers, and a few photo ops, it was back to the course and with it, the rain. We counted ourselves very lucky in that we were in a fairly sound car and did not have to worry much about the elements raging all around us. With the exception of raindrops accumulating on the windshield and occasionally obstructing visibility, we were all quite comfortable and enjoying the fact we were actually able to participate in the event without incident for the first day in four days.

We were soon lulled into a sense of comfort and ease as the rain fell and the idyllic surroundings passed us by, growing all the more verdant and simultaneously rocky as we went. For Casey, this was the furthest north he had ever been, so each new site brought a sense of excitement. North of the Soo is truly an amazing landscape, perfect for cruising with its ups and downs, sprawling vistas and, today, fogged enveloped hills. The further we went, the more the earth exposed itself in the form of jagged rock outcroppings dotted with small evergreens somehow making their way towards the sky. 

From a driving standpoint, this was our first encounter with the metric system and the conversion required to calculate the distances and speed limits on the signs into miles. Due to the age of the Olds and the lack of a newer, aftermarket speedometer, we were left working only in miles and making the approximate calculations in our heads. Fortunately, the Great Race directions and instructions were all listed in miles and miles per hour so that, when following the directions accordingly, we didn’t need to concern ourselves too much with the conversion of kilometers into miles and vice versa.

After several hours we stopped with a number of our fellow Great Racers to fuel up, stretch the legs and take on some much needed caffeine; numerous late nights in a row, coupled with the race itself made for a rather tired Team HVA. Several Red Bulls helped to lift spirits and energy levels (effectively giving us wings, you might say), and we were again off in the rain, heading toward our designated lunch stop in Elliott Lake, Ontario.

Along the way we caught up to the Hagerty girls team in their 1962 International pickup, following them for some time along a gently rolling country road. It was here we came across a gorgeous, fog-enshrouded lake by which we stopped for a quick photo op and, while there, action shots of our fellow Great Racers coming up behind us. By this point the rain had more or less let up, however, with the pavement still wet, many of the racers were creating fairly large rooster tails in their wake. 

Just outside of Elliott Lake, the rain began once more, drenching those in the open cockpit speedsters who passed us, looking less than thrilled by the rain’s return. It was on a slight incline heading into Elliott Lake where we encountered our first issue of the day with the car in that it simply refused to shift gears and move forward. Unfortunately this minor setback caused a rather sizeable line-up of racers to form behind us, all of whom were trying to keep on schedule and make it to the lunch stop at their designated time. Fortunately, Casey was able to quickly spring into action, nearly vaulting the seat, hopping into the driver’s seat, kicking the car into gear, and peeling away from the hill and back onto more level ground.

Following this bit of racing excitement and the stench of the burned out clutch, we stopped for a refueling session. It was here we were met by an elderly gentleman who came over to marvel at Miss Adventure. He informed us his father had had a 1956 Olds very similar to ours and was pleased to see us out driving and enjoying it. Throughout the entirety of this race thus far, we have met a number of folks with similar stories, all of whom light up at the sight of all these great old cars and the memories they seem to elicit. This particular gentleman was no exception and walked away with a smile on his face. 

At the lunch stop in Elliott Lake, several local car owners came out to display their vehicles within the ranks of the Great Race cars. One particularly interesting and fairly rare vehicle was a yellow Hudson Metropolitan, complete with a miniature trailer in matching yellow. This proved a hit with a group of local youngsters who were making the rounds through all the other vehicles there on display. In nearly every stop we have seen kids out with their parents or grandparents, all wide-eyed and excited to be out and in the midst of these truly great machines; youthful interest, while perhaps not as large as it once was, is still very much alive and present in both the United States and Canada.

For the last leg of Stage Two, Team HVA, along with the finally-running-properly Miss Adventure, took out the stop watches and kept a watchful eye on the speedometer, fully immersing ourselves in the actual race within the Great Race. With the exception of one unfortunate wrong turn just outside of Sudbury, the team proved very much adept at being able to follow the directions, accelerate when needed, and watch for the appropriate landmarks. Sadly we ended up at the A&W in Sudbury and, prior to that, the final checkpoint, outside of our time allotment and ended the day with a “did not finish” designation, officially. 

This proved to be little more than a minor technicality, however, as the larger victory was the fact that Miss Adventure made it through a full day out on the open road, garnering waves and smiles along the way, and kind words from our fellow Great Racers. Even one of the gentlemen who had been unfortunate enough to get caught behind us at the ill-fated incline in Elliott Lake specifically sought us out to provide words of encouragement. It is this type of classy gesture and friendly word that makes this group of individuals truly something special and an honor to be around. Another great day out on the road with lots of great folks met along the way. Here’s to hoping for a drier tomorrow!

Top Five Things We Learned Today:

  1. Three miles is longer in Canada that in the United States, apparently. Perhaps there is some sort of strange metric conversion going on.
  2. A little rain will never get in the way of driving a very cool open cockpit speedster. Those folks are truly hardcore individuals.
  3. Not to be outdone, torrential downpours will not stop Canadian car guys and gals from coming out to check out some very cool cars.
  4. It is really hard to take photographs in a car travelling over bumpy gravel roads. I mean really hard.
  5. Canadians love Southern accents. Almost as much as everyone else loves Canadian accents.

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Friday June 22, 2012: One Day To Race Day

words & photographs by John R. Paul

After three days spent frantically trying to get the glorious (and aptly-named, it turns out) Miss Adventure up to speed, we were finally greeted with success. A quick consult with Casey revealed that, after tightening all of the necessary bolts and shoring up the oil leak that left us stranded just south of Traverse City late Wednesday night, the car developed an issue in the steering column. This appears to have been the result of the car still possessing all original components, some of which have obviously worn with age, leaving a great deal of play in the steering column and making shifting far more interesting and requiring more muscle than it would normally. The diagnosis: more elbow grease.

Thanks to the efforts of Casey and a myriad of others who lent a helping hand last night and this morning out at the Hagerty garage, our Olds Super 88 was able to get out on the road and, perhaps more importantly, registered, inspected, approved, and stickered for the Great Race. There’s no turning back now, folks, we’re in this one for the long haul.

But first let’s get to a bit of a recap of the day: The morning started out at the Holiday Inn here in Traverse City with Rally School. While this may sound like the name of an eighties metal band of little renown, it’s actually a course offering directions on how to read directions (and is not nearly as redundant as it sounds). It was here we were taught the ins and outs of the race, how to read and interpret the day’s directions and how to more or less successfully get from point A to B within a previously determined amount of time (or, as we learned today, each “leg” of the “stage”).

After the whirlwind, but quite helpful and informative, course it was back to Miss Adventure and the final stages of the planning process, wrapping up a number of last-minute details; checking, re-checking, and checking again each list and item contained therein to ensure smooth sailing in the days ahead. (Or, to be a bit more appropriate and in the spirit of things, smooth driving.) With minds racing at a million miles an hour and verbal skills struggling to catch up, all seemed to be going well; each integral cog (the players will be introduced shortly) fitting snuggly against the next, ensuring a well-oiled machine hitting the ground running.

Following a quick regrouping session, rental car pickup (that’s us in the big white Suburban) and, perhaps more importantly, ice cream fix, we headed back to Miss Adventure to get her washed up and ready for her close up. Inspection proved successful and, with the application of the fitting number 88, she officially became a participant in the Great Race.

Sadly we were unable to participate in today’s Trophy Run from Traverse City to Empire (but it sounded like a blast and was certainly the perfect day for it, weather-wise), however we were able to take an abbreviated tour of Leelanau county upon completion of the inspection and stickering session, during which we saw a number of other classic car owners out enjoying the ideal summer weather, cruising the back roads of Leelanau county.

This evening saw all the Great Racers gather in the parking lot of the Holiday Day, creating quite a spectacular scene with West Grand Traverse Bay as the backdrop. Everyone was all smiles and handshakes, clearly loving the weather, company and great cars. A few of the future car guys and gals got into the act as well, marveling at the size of the cars and a few even taking advantage of generous offers to try out the horn.

A quick, mandatory meeting for all Great Race participants hosted by Corky Coker brought all racers and support crew together for one last time before they all line up first thing tomorrow morning on Front Street in downtown Traverse City. The HVA will be in the number 25 slot and, with cars moving out starting at 10am, will see us bidding farewell to Traverse City around 10:25am (EST). If you’re in the area, be sure and come on down and check us out and cheer on all the Great Racers as they make their way northward across the bridge into St. Ignace and onto the final destination for the day of Sault Ste. Marie.

Before closing this out for the day I would like to take a moment to pull back the curtain and introduce the featured players with whom you will be traveling over the course of the next nine days: sitting literally in the driver’s seat and piloting Miss Adventure (a 1954 Olds Super 88) will be HVA Chief Counsel and Vice President Carmel Roberts; sitting immediately to her right and making sure we all stay on course will be Events Coordinator Katy Jackson; heading up the support crew and all things mechanical will be HVA Intern Casey Maxon; in the promotional vehicle will be Technical Commission Manager Tim Weadock and Member Services Coordinator Emily Noss; and lastly, your guide for all of this will be me, Government Relations and Media Specialist John Paul. The stories you’re about to read will be real. The names will not be changed to protect the innocent. It’s time to hit the road!

Top Five Things We Learned Today:

  1. A person can survive solely on bad coffee, Red Bull and ice cream.
  2. Sometimes you need to have directions on how to read directions.
  3. It’s amazing just how much you don’t realize you need until you need it.
  4. Sheer force of will can actually sometimes (although rarely) fix cars that refuse to run.
  5. If you name your car Miss Adventure, you’re just asking for it.

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