Sunday, June 17, 2018

HRPT 2018- Drivin' it Home: June 16- Concord [Charlotte], NC to Orlando, FL (550 miles)

As far as return trips from Power Tours go, Charlotte to Orlando is a pretty easy one.  We slept in  a bit and joined our group for a final breakfast before everyone departed for home.  It always amazes me that there are 3,000 cars on the Tour, but on the way in and out, we only see a few cars.  This year was no different.  From Concord to Orlando, we saw maybe 5 other Power Tour cars. It's all interstate driving and not much to take pictures of along the way.

We went through three different slow downs and there was no road construction, accident, disabled vehicle or other justification for them.  As best I can tell, South Carolinians seem to enjoy slowing down and creating traffic jams for fun.  

Forget gas mileage, the Acadian gets about 2 hours driving per tank of gas.  This, coincidentally, is about how long one can go drinking Gatorade and water before needing a restroom break.

My dad still hadn't really gotten his barbecue fix, so Tara found Sweatman's BBQ in Holly Hill, SC.  It was only about 15 minutes out of the way and open only Friday and Saturday, so we figured it was now or never.  The place is an old farmhouse in the middle of a cornfield.  They started in 1959 and have been continuously doing barbecue since 1977.  They specialize in whole hog smoking and use a mustard based sauce.   Food was served buffet style and was pretty good.  We noticed that "smoke" is not as prominent a feature of Carolina barbecue as it is with Texas or Kansas styles.

Always face away from the corn in case so that you can run from the Children of the Corn if needed.

Yes, this is a restaurant

Don't look, but I think the pig is checking us out

It was hot out, so we ran the A/C most of the way home.  We went through some heavy rain as well.  When Tara pulled up the radar app on her phone, it seemed the only rain was over those few spots of highway, at least until we hit Florida where the rain was everywhere.

We pulled into my driveway around 7:15 p.m.   In 10 days we drove a total of a little more than 2,900 miles with detours and around town driving.  As usual, we have a small punch list of minor items to address with the Acadian and both it and the Corvette need a good detailing.   Overall, it was another successful long haul with no major incidents.  

Only 355 more days until we leave for the 2019 Tour.  They won't announce cities for quite a while, but we expect it will start in Charlotte.

Friday, June 15, 2018

HRPT 2018- Day 7: June 15- Raleigh, NC to Concord [Charlotte], NC (181.2 miles)

I can't believe how quickly the week has blown by. Today was our last day of the Power Tour.  Following our routine, we left the hotel at 7-ish and hit the route.  It was pretty simple: right turn out of the hotel, first right turn onto the highway on-ramp and follow the signs to 64 West.  Somehow, with those simple steps, we still managed to lose my parents and Ted and Lori in their newly repaired GTO.  Tara and our original Lori worked the cell phones and two-way radios to make sure that the lost lambs were pointed in the right direction. 

The route was another nice one.  There was very little interstate driving and we were primarily on two lane roads through farms and a smattering of small towns.  About 50 miles into the route, I was following a pack of Long Haulers and completely missed a sharp right turn.  Three of our group and about 25 other cars went down a straight road with no turn around option, except for some folks' driveway.   Lori and the rest of the group behind us made the turn and were out ahead.  As we backtracked to the turn about 15 more cars made the same error we did.

Petty's Garage hosted a welcome party with a hot dog lunch.  Unlike other similar stops on previous Tours, this one was worthwhile.  They had plenty of parking for the cars and there was a lot to look at.  The Petty Museum was open as were the shop, NASCAR memorabilia garage and the original garage and race car owned by Richard Petty's father.  We toured the place, but passed on the hot dogs.
Pit Stop
He seemed taller on TV

I didn't realize Richard Petty collected limited edition guns until we saw the museum which was packed with custom rifles, revolvers and shotguns with intricate engraving.  Of course, each one in the collection was #43 of however many were made.
They're all #43

It was funny to see that instead of a replica Superbird from Petty's racing career, they had a replica of "Mr. The King" from the Pixar movie Cars.  There was a also a replica of Mrs. The King", which was a 1969 Ford Station Wagon.  There was an explanation that Lynda Petty drove a 1969 wagon to the races and fed the racers out of the back.  She sold the car and Richard later bought it back and restored it.  When Pixar asked what kind of car she wanted to be in the movie, she said a 1969 Ford Wagon.

Mr and Mrs The King are tucked in the back
In addition to the museum, there was the Petty's Garage shop where they upgrade Mustangs, Challengers, Camaros and Chargers as well as do full restorations.  They have the ability to do just about everything in house and we got to walk through and around the whole place.  It was really impressive.
Where fast is made faster

NASCAR History

Not NASCAR History- Cole Trickle's Daytona 500 winning car

We were all able to regroup  at Petty's and then hit the road together again.  Those of us who didn't have hot dogs, or who do not consider hot dogs at 10:00 am to be lunch (Jake) stopped for lunch at the Famous Toastery in downtown Mooresville, NC.  We even snagged a parking spot right in front.  We took our time eating because none of us were in a big hurry to get to the venue because we knew it was going to be really hot out.  
Rockstar parking
After lunch, we passed the Dale Earnhart Museum (or something like it), but it was 2:15 and they closed at 2.  We got a good picture of the lobby though:

Our Venue was the ZMax Dragway across the street from Charlotte Motor Speedway.  It's a 4 lane NHRA race track with plenty of room for all of the cars.  What it lacks are trees or any real semblance of shade in the parking areas.
It's pretty much blacktop.  According to the guys in the tower, it was triple digits in the staging lanes of the track.  We left my mom in the shade of a Pilot Transport semi truck that was parked near the tunnel to the Vendor's midway while we went to punch in and get our last day's magnets and T-shirts.  It was a mob scene at the vendors.  The T-shirt place was out of a lot of sizes by mid-afternoon.   We talked with Clarence for a brief moment and then tried to get out of the heat.  My parents went to the hotel, but Tara, Scott and I stayed until it was time to pick up our Long Hauler Certificates and signs.  We realized that the Pilot Truck was actually shadier and cooler than anywhere else at the venue, Tara snuck the Acadian in behind it.  Scott was able to snag an open space right across from it.  Guerilla parking at its best. 

"Look, shade"
Better Shade and a primo parking space

Finally, it was time to pick up the Long Hauler sign and certificate.  The line was really long, so we decided to wait for a bit.  When we got in line, it was still pretty long, but moving.  It was moving until they ran out of signs and certificates.  They said they ordered 800 more than last year and still ran out.  This means that there were at least 3,100 Long Haulers that got signs and probably another 300 that didn't.  According to the Hot Rod guy who had the misfortune of making the announcement, this was a record crowd.  They took everyone's name and contact info and promised to ship us our signs.  
The last traffic jam

At some point, I started a tradition with Tara to take a picture with our signs and the car.  Since we didn't have our own, we borrowed some from a couple of people.  We then drove around to find the Hot Rod Power Tour bus to get our picture taken (they post it on the website in a week or so and it's a good picture and another tradition Tara and I have).
We made it

We had just enough time to get to the hotel, change our clothes and throw down a complimentary cocktail before taking the hotel shuttle to the Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway for dinner.  Lori's cousin Bob is a member and made reservations for our whole group and his wife Carol.  The food is really good and the view of the speedway is awesome.
Billed as the best view in Charlotte

Tomorrow we are sleeping in a bit and then heading back to Orlando.  It'll be weird not to see hundreds of show cars on the road, in every gas station and parking lot from here to there.  Here are some more pictures from today:

Hot Rod Milk Truck

Parking at Petty's

Rare color RoadRunner

1963 Nova Convertible

Thursday, June 14, 2018

HRPT 2018- Day 6: June 14- Darlington, SC to Raleigh, NC (186.4 miles)

We hit the road again around 7 am.  Today's route took us through farm country.  First it was a peach orchard in South Carolina and then the tobacco farms of North Carolina.  On the way, we passed through Cheraw, South Carolina- the hometown of Jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie.  They really rolled out the welcome mat and had the fire truck with a the flag hanging over the road, police directed traffic through the intersections and there were a bunch of spectators on the sides of the road waving as we all rolled through town.
Cheraw welcome wagon

Gas stop photo op

Continuing our NASCAR scenic tour, we passed by Rockingham Speedway.  Though it's no longer an active NASCAR venue, counting Charlotte Motor Speedway which we'll see tomorrow, we'll have been at 4 NASCAR tracks in 7 days.  We could detour to drive by Daytona and make it 5.
The "Rock"

We caught some traffic on the way to Pinehurst, North Carolina when we hit yet another repaving project where the road was reduced to a single lane for both directions.  On the side of the road was a group of cars doing some field repairs on a Camaro.  One of the guys recognized the Acadian from the Chattanooga stop on the 2013 Power Tour.  He was parked near us at the Coker Tire party in Downtown.  He's driving a 1970 Chevelle with flames painted on it.  In fact, it seems that the majority of cars on the Tour seem to be Chevelles and a majority of those seem to be 1970s.  Not that that is a bad thing.
"You three fix the car, we three will watch traffic."

Tara and I took a quick detour to grab a quick photo in front of the Carolina hotel Pinehurst Resort and Spa.  It was opened on New Year's day, 1901.  At the time it was the largest frame building in North Carolina.  Tara looked it up while we were in traffic.
Just dropped in for a picture

We caught up with our group at lunch at Mermaid Point in Lillington, NC.  It's a tiny seafood place on the Cape Fear River.  Instead of bread or rolls, they brought us some really tasty hush puppies.  They also had pimento cheese macaroni, which I am definitely going to try and recreate at home.

Finally, it was on to the venue PNC Arena at NC State in Raleigh.  For part of the way, we followed a Caterpillar Hot Rod- it had a semi truck chassis and Caterpillar diesel engine.  It was insane.  At one point, there was a bit of traffic, so Tara found a short cut that would have worked except we got caught behind 3 dump trucks.  We still ended up 4 cars in front of where were, so I guess it worked.
CAT Powered!

The PNC Arena was definitely the easiest venue to get into and there was zero traffic.  We, my parents, and Ken and Nancy circled the parking lot for a bit until we found 2 spots on a curb near some shade trees.  Ken took one and we took the other.  We were only there for a few minutes when the space right next to the Acadian opened up so we moved the Corvette right next to it.  The mulch and shade was a saving grace because the black asphalt was at least 10 degrees hotter and it was certainly humid out.  My dad and I braved the heat and walked to the stage to get punched in and collect our magnets.  Then it was back to the car.  We picked a different way back so that we could see more cars.  There were at least 4 separate lots full of cars and there's no way anyone could see them all.  Pictures, even aerials, don't really do it justice.
An Oasis in the blacktop desert

On the way back we passed 1970 Chevelle and 1969 Camaro side by side and both red with white stripes.  Both cars were pretty incredible.  The Chevelle had a 454 and the Camaro had a modern LS motor.  It wasn't until I got close to the Camaro that I noticed that the white stripes also had subtle pearl ghost flames in them.

A subtle touch

My dad wanted to find the Caterpillar Hot Rod. My mom said she saw it in the next parking lot over, so we headed out.  It was right where she said it'd be. Which is impressive, because I don't think she left her spot by the tree.   As crazy as it looked on the road, it's even crazier up close.  Despite all the modifications, the interior still looked original to the body.
Found it!!

Having accomplished our  mission, we headed back to the cars.  We passed two station wagons that we've seen just about every day with external "air conditioners":
Just add ice
The cars started thinning out around 4:30, so we headed to the hotel.  It's a Hampton Inn, but one of the nicest I've seen.  They renovated the rooms and lobby area.  It even has its own gas station out front.  Because it was hot and we wanted a shower, we decided to fill up the tank after dinner instead of before checking in.  That turned out to be a somewhat costly mistake.  The station mispriced the premium gas at $2.43 so that it was 50 cents cheaper than regular 87 octane.  Tim, Tim and Scott took full advantage, but by the time we found out after dinner, they had changed it to what it should have been: $3.42.  Given how many show cars are in our parking lot and how many run premium fuel, it could have been a fairly expensive mistake.

We did dinner in downtown Cary, North Carolina at a place called Pro's Epicurean Market.  The best way to describe it is Italian/French with sandwiches too.  The food was really good.  We got in just in time to get our orders placed before the North Carolina British Car Club took over the restaurant with their party of 30.  They weren't even part of the Power Tour, it was just their regular meeting or a social.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and cleaned up the cars a bit.  We had planned to hang out in the parking lot, but it was still pretty warm and humid, so no one was really out.  There was a gorgeous 1969 Camaro RS in our parking lot with beautiful black paint that was, as Tara puts it: "stunning."
Deep Black

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

HRPT 2018- Day 5: June 13- Hamption, GA to Darlington, SC (295.5 miles)

It was another early morning for everyone since today was our longest run of the Tour.  Again we had cool weather as we left the hotel and headed for Darlington Raceway.  Bryson wanted to ride in the Corvette. so my mom hitched a ride with Scott in the G8 which is probably the most comfortable car in our group.

The first third of the route took us on two lane roads through some small towns.  I defy anyone to drive through Butts County, GA and not snicker.  We passed through the center of two small towns.  We ended up behind a farm pickup truck hauling melons and I tried to get Tara to jump out and buy some while we were slowly passing through town.  We later saw the guy at a highway rest stop selling the melons.
Old Courthouses have some of the best architecture
I bet they have bumper stickers that say "I love Beautiful Butts"

We hit a pretty decent snarl when we were on a two lane road that was being repaved.  They had it down to a single lane and were flagging cars through a few at a time.  They also weren't getting much work done as most of the crew just watched the cars and even took photos.
Flashmob car show

Not much roadwork's gonna get done today

Needless to say, when there are a thousand cars on their way through, it's going to cause delays.  We got through after only a few minutes, but it was certain to be a major issue as the day passed on.   Indeed, we ended up parked across from an orange third generation Camaro that came over a rise at 70 mph to find traffic in front of him at a standstill.  He cut the wheel to avoid rear ending a Nova and instead went sideways into the rear of a late model pickup truck.
We made a gas stop just before we were supposed to get onto I-20 for a long highway stretch.  Lucky for us, we started talking to the guys parked next to us who told us that there was a really bad wreck involving a semi truck and I-20 was shut down right after were we were supposed to get on.  Tara found a detour that spit us out a few miles past the wreck.

When we saw the route directions, we were not looking forward to the highway leg.  Usually, we get pretty spread out on the Interstate and it just feels like any other day.  But this stretch of I-20 was only 2 lanes in each direction and it was full of Power Tour cars.

Our lunch stop was at the Little Pig Barbecue just east of Columbia, SC.  Lori called ahead and they had tables reserved for our group.  It was a buffet style service and the entire town must have been there.  They had 2 giant pork butts (the cut is actually the shoulder) at a station where you could basically do your own pulled pork.

We hit a bit more traffic on I-20 after lunch.  As we snail-crawled along, another group was on the same walkie talkie channel as our group.  After some cross-chatter, they realized that they were caught in traffic with Tim, Lori and Scott yesterday on the way out of Newnan.  We entertained ourselves by talking with them until we cleared the traffic.

At our next gas stop, there was a big family that had just stopped for gas and a snack on their way to wherever they were headed and a young boy and his dad excitedly ran up to the Corvette (the kid ran, the dad was close behind).  He excitedly explained that it was his favorite car.  The kid actually had a 1:18 scale diecast model of a 2014 white Corvette with red interior with him (I have the same one in my office).  Of course we pulled the car up so that he could sit in it and his family took a bunch of pictures.  It clearly made the kid's trip.  My dad also gunned the engine a few times for good measure.

He even opened the door of the model to match the picture
Traffic really began stacking up on the road into Darlington Raceway.  We tried to bypass the long line by going past the entrance, making a U-turn and coming back from the other direction.  It had worked well at Chattanooga and on other Power Tours.  This time, it was a total bust.  The line coming the other direction was even longer and it seemed that the officers directing traffic let way more right turning cars in than lefties.

We eventually got onto the property and went through the tunnel into the infield.  On the walls of the tunnel were murals of NASCAR history.  Darlington is the second oldest track still in use on the NASCAR circuit.  It held its first race in 1950.

This was also a venue where we had better parking than the Gold/Platinum VIP people.  We got a spot on some grass right near real bathrooms (no porta potties) and a short walk right to the main stage and punches.  It was fairly warm out, but not too bad.

We got clocked in, got our magnets and I then spent some time talking to Clarence, one of the MCs who spends the entire day on the stage riffing with the crowd, introducing sponsors, entertaining Long Haulers and generally having a good time.  I'm amazed about his ability to remember people.  He's been doing the Power Tour for far longer than we have, but he immediately recognized me and asked if we brought the Acadian again.  It's become one of his favorite bits of trivia ever since he saw the car in Muskegon in 2012.  I stuck around and played a game of "Clarence Says" to try and win a set of tires.  I ended up going out in 3rd place.  Lori made it to 2nd.
People stake out their spots early and just sit and hang out.

I briefly walked the showfield near where we were.  Without having to go very far, there were some amazing cars. I particularly liked this black and orange truck:

 We ran into the guy with the Gold 1970 Chevelle that we saw at the car wash the first day and was at our hotel last night.  Last night, he was McGyvering a cooler, some hose fittings and tubing to make a cooling system for his fuel.  Apparently, the high volume fuel pump which is intended for running wide open for short distances was struggling with cruising or sitting in traffic for hours.  It was pumping more fuel than the car needed.  It went back into the tank via the return line, but was heating up and causing the car to vapor lock.  To fix the problem, he made a coil from the tubing and connected his fuel lines to the coil and filled the cooler with 3 bags of ice.  As the fuel cycled, it went through the coil and was cooled by the ice.  Pretty ingenious if you ask me.  It's based off an old racer trick, but they used a coffee can.
Keeps fuel cool and also holds beer
In the "it's a small world" category, we've now seen 2 cars that were built/customized by Orlando area shops.  The first was the 1969 Camaro that we saw Friday before the Tour started that was done by Ultimate Auto.  Today, we saw the second- this big Chevy that was done by Street Metal Concepts in Sanford.

The "Factoryish" sticker is a dead giveaway.  Zip and his guys have done a lot of work on my Chevelle.

We had dinner at the Starfire Grill in Florence, SC, which was OK.  Our hotel is on a road with 6 or more other hotels and the parking lots are packed with show cars.  While Tara took advantage of the cool night air to wipe down the Acadian, my dad and I talked to 2 guys with a 1962 Studebaker wagon that had a sliding rear roof and a ladder step (I thought Ford invented that for the F150).  They build the wagon specifically for the Power Tour and it had a 383 stroker motor with a Tremec 6 speed transmission.
It's like a swim ladder on a boat.
We then all walked around to the other hotel lots to look at the show cars now that the heat of the day had passed.  Across the street we heard and saw the result of one guy doing a pretty good burnout.
440 Powered Humpback

Because Mom needs a 454

All in all, it was a really good day on the Power Tour.  Here are some other cool cars I saw today:

This is the understudy for my buddy Scott in Kansas who couldn't make the trip with his '70 Challenger convertible.

1969.5 Dodge 440 Six Pack Superbee
 It's hard to not post pics of all the great Mopars.  But, here are some GM cars I liked:
Nova Gasser with a nostalgic looking paint job.

Pontiac Safari