Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day Two of the Great Race: Blue Ridge Parkway and Some Autographs

Day Two of the Great Race:  In the video above, Jeremy Clarkson describes where I spent most of my morning driving.  Stop watching at 40 seconds through.  After that, he gets everything wrong.

We started the race out in Maggie Valley, NC and went straight for the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The car was a little finicky, I wasn't careful when I warmed it up and I accidentally flooded the engine and it died on us a few times in the morning before we started the timed portion of the rally.  Since all old cars have a little bit of an attitude and some soul, the car was a little "mad" at me for a few hours.  But after it saw that I was treating it nicely, it returned the favor.

The Blue Ridge Parkway was breathtaking and very difficult to drive as a rally stage.  With all the steep inclines and sharp curves, it was difficult winding our way back up the Appalachians.  However, the car did just fine and we tried our best to keep on pace.  The first stage of the morning was difficult but by the time we reached the second checkpoint, Dad and I were warmed up and ready to go.  We finally started to hit our times evenly and even at slow speeds, I was really enjoying the roads.  We didn't see much of the cars in front of or behind us so we figured we were doing ok.  I became impatient when Dad and I looked ahead in the directions and noticed a section of directions where we were off the clock and in transit to our lunch stop.  However, I kept my foot off the loud pedal and kept us going on pace for the rest of the stage before we saw our next checkpoint.  When I passed the checkpoint and heard the woman at the checkpoint yell "MARK!", (meaning that we could click off our watch since we were officially done with that stage), I decided to let the car stretch it's legs a little.

This is the start of where Jeremy Clarkson was wrong about the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Clearly he did not drive above 35 mph.  I did.

Before I realized what had happened, I found myself testing the limits of the car's tires in the corners and it's freshly restored engine on the straightaways.  Even though this car was built for highways, I was really enjoying it in the twisties.  Soon enough, I caught the car in front of me, #47 Larry Tribble and Larry Phillips' 1966 Ford Galaxie Convertible.  I slowed up and gave them some space, being sure not to pressure a fellow Great Racer.  However, he hit the gas and I took the bait and let a classic Ford vs Chevrolet battle of sorts begin.  I figured I'd have him in no time.  Sure, he had a monstrous 7 liter 427 whereas I only had a small block 327, but I figured that his barge of a car would simply crawl through the corners.  I couldn't do corners well either, but I assumed I was bound to have the faster top speed.  Larry kept throwing the car into the corners faster than I could keep up.  Sometimes I'd catch him but then he'd step on the loud pedal and he became quite difficult do keep up with.

We stopped for gas, since we were just about running on fumes and pulled into the Old Cranks Motorcar Museum for lunch.  Larry came up to me right after we got out of our cars and spent a few minutes talking about how much fun we had over the last 50 or so minutes.  It was truly a blast.

We had a huge thunderstorm to deal with on our first leg of rallying after lunch.  Dad and I started 15 seconds late due to traffic blocking our exit.  With all the winding roads, and the directions sending the cars in a circle to confuse everyone, we lost even more time.  The number #50 Chevrolet Bel Air seemed to be constantly in my rear view mirror indicating that I was probably running around a minute late.  I was determined to get it right the next stage, and despite some complex roads, a few very narrow bridges, and a dog almost running into our car, I felt very good about our last leg.  We ended up catching the Galaxie again but I felt confident in my driving so I did not slow up.

Soon enough, we found ourselves at our dinner location; the Salem Civic Center in Salem, VA and the place was packed! It was by far the biggest crowd yet.  We had a tough time working the car around all the spectators trying to take pictures of the car and talk to us.  Some would even run directly in front of the car to stop and take a picture.  Driving in that parking lot might have been more stressful than driving in the actually rally itself.  However, we got our spot just fine.  Two small kids immediately ran up to Dad just as he got out of the car.  One of them said "Since y'all are gonna be on TV, can I get y'alls autograph?".  Dad and I laughed and he obliged.  I turned around and there were three kids standing outside my door asking for my autograph as well!  I made some small chit-chat with the kids as I signed their autographs and a few others.  After dinner, signing more autographs, and talking to more people about the car, we headed back to the hotel for a good night's rest.

Here are some assorted pictures from the day.

The newly customized rally dashboard in the Corvette.

Our car and the E-type of Edward and Richard Overmeyer.

A Ford pickup and the Galaxie that we chased on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The car at our lunch stop in Galax, VA.

The car takes a break while we get dinner in Salem, VA.  There must have been over 200 people there to look at the car.  We had to fight our way through dozens of people taking pictures just to park the car.

The Jag and the Corvette together once more.  Dad wants to organize a 5am drag race reminiscent of the song "Dead Man's Curve" by Jan and Dean.  Hopefully with a less tragic ending though.

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