Wednesday, May 29, 2019

FROM THE ARCHIVES--HRPT 2013 - Arlington (Dallas), TX to Concord (Charlotte), NC (1452 miles)

Power Tour Adventures: Part I: Pre-Power Tour (May 26-May 29)

Part of the fun of going on the Power Tour is just getting to the starting off point. After all, the TSA looks at you funny if you try and check a 67 Acadian as luggage or try to carry it on the plane, plus the baggage fees are outrageous.

Day 1 (Orlando to Pensacola)

We left Orlando early Sunday morning and headed for our first stopover, Pensacola. We made Tallahassee in time to meet our friends Will and Amy for Lunch. They live about an hour outside of Tallahassee and, likely due to fuel cost, decided to leave their Lincoln Continental convertible at home.

After lunch, we decided to backtrack and check out the Tallahassee Automotive Museum. The place was amazing. Not only did they have some amazing cars (from the early days of motoring, the 30s, 40s, 50s and of course muscle cars and even a TUCKER), but they also had collections of well...
everything. There were over 70 vintage outboard motors, die cast cars, motorcycles, BATMOBILES (they have the largest collection), golf clubs, knives (including the world's smallest pocket knife), pianos and on and on.

Once we had our fill of sights at the museum, we went on to our destination for the night- Pensacola.
Once there, we headed out to Pensacola beach and had some great drinks and outstanding seafood on the outside patio of the Grand Marlin.

Day 2-3 (New Orleans)

Tara had never been to New Orleans, so we decided to spend 2 nights in the Big Easy. the weather couldn't have been better. We crammed as much as we could into the brief stay. First we took a scenic drive along the Mississippi River and toured Oak Alley Plantation. We had our first sampling of Cajun Cuisine at their onsite restaurant- the Gumbo was great. Once the tour was done, we headed on to Ashton's, our Bed and Breakfast just outside the French Quarter.

After checking in to the B & B, we walked down to Frenchmen Street and had dinner and beverages at Snug Harbor, a Jazz bistro. Then it was on to the French Quarter. We found a great bar called the Old Opera House with a Blues/Rock Cover band and even got a sampling of some Zydeco music before calling it a night (or morning based on the clock).

Early the next morning we had breakfast (stuffed french toast with praline topping). After stuffing our faces, we walked the Garden District, toured an old cemetery, shopped the boutiques of Magazine Street and rode the St. Charles Street Car line from end to end, and all before lunch. We then had Jambalaya, Muffalettas (traditional New Orleans sandwich) and Hurricanes at an outdoor cafe in the French Market. We also stuffed our faces with Beignets and cafe au lait at the world-famous Cafe Du Monde. We also toured the oldest building in New Orleans, a convent- to our surprise, there was a pair of old Pontiac droptops in the parking lot- the Le Mans was sold by a dealer named "Bishop-Criste"- so maybe it's not so odd to see it at a Church. Since the Big Easy is also a gambling town, we spent some time at Harrah's before calling it a day. The next morning, after adjusting our seatbelts to account for our widened waistlines, we made the trek to Arlington, TX. We just checked into the hotel.

Tomorrow, we are planning on touring Cowboy Stadium and hitting Six Flags Over Texas on Friday.

May 30th: Part I Pre-Power Tour Continued- Tooling around Arlington/Dallas

Today was the start of our exploration of the Dallas/Arlington area. But, before we did anything, we had to get a few hundred miles worth of bugs, dust, dirt and grime off the Acadian. Fortunately, our friends, Jake, Brenda, Lori, Tim, Fred and Kym had already arranged for a mobile detailer to come to the hotel first thing this morning and thoroughly wash the cars.

Once the Acadian was clean, we headed into the arts district of Downtown Dallas and met one of my client contacts for lunch at a new restaruant called "Lark on the Park." The walls of the restaurant are covered in chalkboards that have large murals drawn on them by local artists. Every three months, the boards are wiped down and a new batch of artists comes in and creates a completely new set of drawings. There was a really cool picture of a classic roadster ripping down a windy road. In addition to the semi-permanent art, the food was excellent. Everything was fresh and they offered a basil lime cooler, which really hit the spot.

After lunch we decided to add a bit of culture to the trip and took in the wide range of works at the Nasher Sculpture Center. There were works by Rodin, Gaugin, among others. Our particular favorites were a giant typewriter eraser and a scupture made of small bars of aluminum that were welded together and formed a figure in a cloud of metal.

Our final stop was Cowboy Stadium. It is truly a marvel of engineering. Without belaboring the trivia, the jumbotron screen is nearly 12,000 square feet- enough area to park 48 cars. The VIP tour was excellent. We got to see one of the skyboxes, Jerry Jones' viewing "perch", the Cowboys' locker room and the Cheerleaders' locker room, PLUS we got to walk on the field. The scale of the place is unfathomable.

Unfortunately, the Tour claimed its first minor casualty. Apparently, some lady cut between Tim and Fred and accelerated into the back of Fred's '96 Impala. Fortunately, no one was hurt, the car is driveable, and the damage "doesn't look that bad." Tour On!!! Besides, dents add character.

May 31: Pre-Power Tour- Final

Today was the last day before the Power Tour officially starts. Tara and I took the trolley from our hotel right to Six Flags' doorstep. We certainly made the most of our time at the park. We got there as soon as it opened and didn't leave until they made us. Tara was a trooper and rode a few coasters that were outside her comfort zone, including one called Pandemonium which looked like a mild coaster until we realized that the upper part of the car is on a "lazy susan" and rotated independently of the rest of the ride. I rode everything that was open.

The coolest two rides were the Titan (the tallest coaster in TX) and Mr. Freeze's Reverse Blast (I posted some pictures, but you have to youtube it to get the full effect!!!). It's a mag-induction coaster which shoots you BACKWARDS from 0- to Really fast in 4 sec. It then goes straight into what can best be described as a 90-degree vertical hairpin, then around a bend and up a vertical track until it loses momentum and does the entire thing again- this time forward. I rode the front. We also rode the antique cars that were part of the park since the 60s. It was really a lot of fun.

After leaving the park, we met the rest of our group for dinner at the Trail Dust Steakhouse. It's walking distance from the hotel and the desk clerk gushed over it. It was decent, but the company we were with made it great.

After dinner, Tara and I took the opportunity to walk through the nearby hotels' parking lots. On the eve of the Tour, with cars rolling in all day, the lots all look like car shows. In just a few spaces we saw a 72 Cuda with a 512 CI six pack, a '68 GTX, beautiful custom 66 Nova, and two gorgeous LS powered cars- a 40ish Willys owned by Canadians we met back in 2011 and and a sweet black/red 67 Camaro. We even got a chance to catch up and swap Power Tour stories with people we saw on the 2011 Tour. The best tales that come with Power Tour are usually of catastrophic failures (trust me on this one) but coupled with amazing local people who come to the rescue and go above and beyond!!

Tomorrow we head to UT Arlington to kick off the show!!

June 1: Power Tour Day 1- Arlington, TX (University of Texas at Arlington)

We spent the morning getting the cars ready for the first day of Power Tour. For Tara, that meant wiping down the car with dry wash and a bit of underhood cleaning. For Tim it meant swapping the radio in the Monte Carlo before helping Jake tackle a header gasket and pesky exhaust leak. Jared got a quick wash from Benny, the mobile detailer. I'm not sure about the "shortcut" they must have taken to get here in time, he had more hay in his grille than a stable. Once everything was squared away, we made the short trip to the UT Arlington Campus. Registration was a breeze and once the 2013 Long Hauler stickers were in place, we went on to be part of the spectacle that is the Hot Rod Power Tour.

There were over 1,500 cars coming and going throughout the day. Tara got a great spot by a grassy area with a big tree for shade. Fortunately, before it got too hot out, we got a small rain shower that brought the temperature back to bearable. After clocking in at the timeclocks, Jared, Jerry and I walked the manufacturer's midway and collected all the excellent "freebie" stuff for long haulers: hats, tote bags, posters, t-shirts and enough coozies to insulate a 12 pack.

One of the most fun things about the tour is seeing the variety of cars. There is definitely something for everyone. From the third Hang 10 Dart I have ever seen to a diesel powered Chevelle SS (rumored to have over 500 hp and 1,000 lbs of Torque). There were Camaros that were restored back to factory condition as well as some that had modifications to every aspect of the car (check out the picture of the blue Camaro and the close up of his "inset" door handles). People really go all out to bring some unique cars. We even saw 2 Pintos, and both a Gremlin X and a Pacer X.

Despite it being his first Power Tour, Jared jumped right into the mix and seized the opportunity to have his Challenger Dyno'd. He managed a respectable 334 rwhp (not bad considering he was running 87 octane at the time).

After spending a few hours talking with tons of car crazy people including a few familiar faces from home: Rick and Lisa with their green Dart Sport and Larry with the black 396 Nova, plus a few others, we headed back to the hotel, but the day was far from over.

We did a quick shower and clothes change and were back on the road to the Coyote Drive In theater in Ft. Worth for a special showing of "American Grafitti." Much to my surprise, the theater was not some old relic from the 60s, but a completely new facility with 3 screens, a pretty gourmet snack bar, and even a few food trucks. We pulled up right alongside the resto of our group. The weather was perfect, and it was a sight to see all of the classic and performance cars watching one of the most iconic hot rod movies.


Tomorrow, we hit the road for the first leg of the Tour: Arlington to Texarkana.

June 2: First Leg- Arlington, TX to Texarkana, AR (231.2 mi.)

We hit the road early this morning. The weather was amazing. It was in the mid-70s for the duration of our run. I know it seems that I am harping on the weather a lot, but that's mainly because I expected to be roasting the entire trip, but so far, it's been great.

Today's route consisted of about 30 miles of highway driving and the rest on rural 2 and 4 lane roads through a number of small Texas towns. Texans are extreme and the speed limits on most of these roads was 70. We caught up with the 512 Six Pack 'Cuda and '68 Coronet we saw in Arlington and followed them for a few miles. Eventually, tired of the "you know what Mopar stands for..." from Lori over the radio, we passed them and continued along. We then ended up alongside a Mustang Gasser named WarHorse. Tara and I had no choice but to lay the hammer down. The Acadian's tires didn't spin once and I jumped out in front of him by a pretty good length (Really... I have proof look at the picture from our rear window).

Our group of five cars eventually picked up a few others as we went and managed to grow to a pretty good size caravan. We even had a 70 Trans Am stick with us after he lost the rest of his group.

We drove through some scenic towns with narrow streets and storefronts that looked straight out of American Graffiti. After a few hours, we decided to start planning for a lunch stop. However, cell service was spotty at best, so Lori's restaurant App was out of commission and the GPS didn't see far enough ahead to be helpful. We ultimately decided to turn into the nearest place we saw with parking for everyone. At 70 mph, this is easier said than done. At the command of "Turn, Turn, Turn, I snapped the Acadian up the driveway of Tommy's Bar B Q, a family run place just outside of Linden. Tommy was there at the door to greet us. He explained that food is served "like the high school cafeteria- take your plate and tray and order." However, the food had nothing in common with the stuff served by the lunch lady. The brisket and greens were amazing.

After filling our bellies, we filled the gas tanks and made our way to our destination- Four States Fairgrounds. Lori managed to get us some primo spots along the front row and right next to a shaded porch. I clocked us in and Tara and I walked the whole showfield. Pictures do not do justice to the insane amount of cars and people at the venues. There were thousands of cars entering in a steady stream throughout the day. We ran into the 70 Trans Am guy and he showed us pictures of the how the car looked when he got it (it was a planter). Other highlights included a Lingenfelter LS powered Nova, Vipers, a truck with twin blowers and, the holy grail of Mopar performance, a real R code 1971 4 speed Hemi 'Cuda.

Jared, Jerry, Tara and I left the show around 6:00, checked into the hotel and then met our friends Don, Dwight, Carol for dinner. The first two places we planned to go were highly recommended on Yelp and were both closed on Sunday. We ended up with Plan "C"- Carino's Italian. It's a chain, but not one we have in Florida, so we figured it fell within the no chain rule. It was very disappointing. Olive Garden is more authentic. On top of that, it took over two hours to get served and it looked like they put Ketchup on the spaghetti.

The night got better once we returned to the hotel. The night was cool and clear and between our hotel and the one right next to it, there were over 100 show cars to see and people to talk to while enjoying the night air. Tara spent most of the time answering questions about the Acadian.

Tomorrow we head to Little Rock, AR.

June 3: Second Leg: Texarkana, AR to Little Rock, AR (178.6 miles)

Today's run was one of the most fun ones we have done in two and a half Power Tours. The morning weather was 67 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. The run was mostly two and four lane rural roads through the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. The route primarily consisted of twisting, turning winding roads up and down the hills. FUN!!! Tara took a great picture of the row of cars that comprised our small group reflected in the passenger side mirror as we climbed.

The route took us through Hot Springs, AR. Lori decided to call the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce and find out what sights were worth seeing. Initially, the Chamber had a difficult time because they were not familiar with the road numbers Lori was giving them for our route. Once she hung up with Hot Springs, SD, she called the right Hot Springs' Chamber and was told of the Hot Springs mountain observatory tower just off the main Power Tour route. The road up to the tower was super fun. It was a short climb, but it was full of sharp hairpin turns, wider banked turns and several blind curves with elevation changes. All along a densely wooded mountain. I certainly took full advantage of the performance front suspension Don installed after the 2011 Power Tour. Jared came over the radio and said it was one of the most fun roads he had driven (I may have to suggest that he detour from the Chattanooga to Charlotte route and drive the Tail of the Dragon). Once at the top of the mountain, we took in the great view of the valley below and mountains in the distance. Then we all agreed to take another lap. This time Jared installed his GoPro and got some good footage as we whipped up the mountain again.

Second lap completed; it was time to get back on the route. We left Hot Springs and started looking for a lunch stop. We came across "Molly O'Brien's" and the parking lot was full of locals and a few Power Tour Cars. We knew it would be worth the stop. As one would expect from a place named "Molly O'Brien's" the specialty of the house was pizza and ribs. They had a $6.99 pizza, soup and salad buffet that was excellent!! We sat on the patio and piled empty plate on empty plate as we watched Power Tour car after Power Tour car roar down the road. Even after seeing thousands of cars at each venue and driving alongside these guys for hours, it's still impressive to see and hear classic muscle cars, hot rods, ZR1 Vettes and assorted other cars roar by.

After lunch, we headed to the State Fair Grounds to clock in, pick up some more daily freebie stuff and check out the cars. Again, Lori worked her magic and got us a great spot up front and near a shade tree. I clocked in and then showed off the car to the Comp Cams guys and scored one of the limited parking passes for their Beale Street night cruise. Having accomplished the required stuff, Jared, Jerry and I walked the entire show field and drooled over some of the local cars that had not been on the previous leg. Among my favorites were a 1970 440 six pack Limelight 'Cuda, a Buick Wildcat convertible with cheetah print seat inserts (I saw this car at night in Arlington, but today it had the top down in full sun). There were also four white Trans Ams, one of each generation...sort of-look closely at the pictures of the '69).

We left the venue around 4:00. Even then, cars were streaming in. Our hotel which was perfectly located right along the riverfront in downtown Little Rock. The hotel had an underground garage with some fairly tight and angled spaces, but I found a perfect one right against an equipment room so could back straight in with the regular car in the next space angled away from us.

We met everyone for happy hour in the concierge lounge. We heard a rumor about a car show at River Front Park and the hotel shuttle dropped us off, but there was nothing going on. Jared and Jerry went for Pizza. Tara and I, having had more than our fair share of pizza for lunch, decided to walk back to the hotel since it was another perfect weather night. We didn't get very far. We stopped at the Marriott and talked cars with Brian, the owner of the Orange 512 six pack 'Cuda we have seen so many times. I finally got to see the motor:600+ rwhp on 87 octane and it has AC. He and his buddy with the '68 Coronet convertible are from NC and shared some moonshine as we swapped Power Tour stories.

Tomorrow we leave even earlier than normal and head to Memphis.

June 4: Third Leg, Little Rock, AR to Memphis, TN (201 miles)

We decided to leave the hotel early and get breakfast at a small breakfast place in Cabot, just outside Little Rock. Since it was Jerry's birthday, Lori called ahead, and the restaurant made him a short stack of birthday pancakes complete with candle.

Today's route is the traditional Power Tour route that includes lots of cornfields. We passed a crop duster in action and the entire line of cars slowed down to 35 in order to watch this guy drop to ten feet off the ground, hit his sprayer, climb a second before hitting the tree line, and then whip around
in a tight banking turn for another pass. A few miles down the road, we passed three of the crop dusters on the ground by their hangar. We decided to get gas and then turn around for a photo opportunity. Apparently, the 50 cars that were running in that particular area all decided to swarm on this particular Citgo and it was an instant car show. In the blink of an eye, the station was out of supreme and mid-grade, and was getting low on the cheap stuff too. They even called their supplier in an effort to reroute a tanker.

After getting gas, Tara and I split off from our group to go get some pictures with the cropdusters. I think they may be my favorites of the ones taken so far. We followed the Hot Rod route. This one required a lot of navigating by Tara because most of the roads were not on the map. It wasn't until after we successfully navigated the route backed to a marked road that we and realized Hot Rod sent us 40 miles out of the way only to double back. Regardless, we found the racetrack, got parked, clocked in and watched a few races. While the run on the route was breezy, it was hot at the drag strip, mostly due to the fact that the venue was on asphalt and there were no shade trees.

After about an hour at the track in the heat, we had our fill and decided to head to the hotel, freshen up and meet back up with the rest of our group (Jake, Brenda, Jared and Jerry went to Graceland).

Our friend Scott Shanks met up with us, sans his highly modified and awesome '70 Challenger convertible. It'll be fun to run with him again, even if he's in his brand-new Charger.
For the evening activities, Comp Cams set up a cruise night on Beale Street and gave out 100 passes for vehicles to park on Beale, our group accounted for four of them. Not only did we get premier parking, we were given a police escort from the drag strip to Beale. It took a little longer than planned, but it was a cool experience. It's not often you get to run red lights with impunity.

Once we got to downtown Memphis, we got the car parked, found Lori and the rest of our group and headed to "Charles Vergo's Rendezvous", a world-famous Memphis BBQ place. It's tucked away in an alley, but you can't miss the smell of the smoke. They accepted our reservation of 16, which we later expanded to 19 by adding the guy with the 512 'Cuda and some of his buddies. They really appreciated the invite since they were planning on BBQ and would have missed the BEST!!

After gorging ourselves on some of the best barbecue ever, Tara and I spent the rest of the night walking Beale street, having a few drinks and talking to tons of people, many of whom we had met on previous Power Tours. Another Orlando cruiser, Don Bonser, managed to work his way onto Beale with his Holden Ute. He was instantly mobbed. In fact, when security told us the party was over and we had to leave the street, it took him over 20 minutes to get into his car due to all the people asking him about it. He even met a couple from Australia who happened to be in Memphis and own a Ute of their own back home.

Tomorrow, it's on to Birmingham and the midpoint of the Power Tour.

June 5: Memphis, TN to Birmingham, AL (296.4 miles)

After a fairly late night on Beale St., we got up early and hit the road for Birmingham. Lori and Tim, along with Jake and Brenda, took the direct route because Tim was scheduled to be in the Comp Cams engine builders' challenge. Tara, Jared/Jake, Scott and I drove the Power Tour's suggested route. It was another beautiful morning (66 degrees and sunny). The route took us along some more hilly roads through small towns in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. At one point, we ended up stuck behind a truck hauling a large piece of equipment and going 30 mph. While it slowed us down, it also stacked up the power tour cars behind us into a solid line of show cars. Eventually, he pulled off the road and we were back up to speed. Along the route, we passed many locals who blew the day off of work to watch and wave at the cars as they passed.

We took a minor detour to check out the Pickwick Dam on the Tennessee River. It was built in 1935 and has a working hydroelectric power plant. We got some pretty good dam pictures before a healthy rain shower hit. We got back on the route and eventually out of the rain. Tara found a cool steakhouse (right next to the stockyard, so you know the beef is fresh) and we had lunch.

After lunch, we came across a car enthusiast's playground-- an antique car junk yard. When we pulled up, only a few other people had stopped, but by the time we left, there were almost as may show cars along the road as there were relics in the yard. The owner was an 81-year-old guy who had been collecting for a while.

The cars were sorted by make and were all pretty solid looking bodies. I was particularly taken with a 58 Chevy Yeoman wagon. The patina on the car was awesome and I had visions of how it would look with a LS9 under the hood. I took a closer look in the back only to find a factory under dash A/C unit for a 66-67 Nova. Initially, the only way the guy would sell the unit was if we bought the whole car. It was pretty tempting, given that I was already considering how cool it would be to own the wagon. The only problem is that we had no way to get it home. [If anyone happens to be planning to pass near Moulton, AL with a truck and trailer in the near future, let me know.] After a little work and some tweaking by Scott, the guy decided to sell Tara her prize and we were on our way.

By then, the rain we had outrun caught up to us with a vengeance. We ran the last 40 or so miles in pouring rain- the weather feature of our walkie talkies even warned of potential for flash floods. To our amazement, despite the heavy downpour, the venue itself was clear and stayed that way. Best yet, the cloud cover kept the heat down. We got to see Tim and his partner take second place in the engine building competition. Jared tried to enter his car in the autocross event but missed the entry deadline by five minutes.

As always there were some amazing cars, including some local ones that we had not seen before. There was a modern Challenger with a supercharged 426 stroker motor that was over 700 rwhp and 800 lb ft of torque. It also had custom paint that was top notch, if not a bit over the top. Tara ran into Hollywood Howard, a Sanford car guy from way back. Having recently had his prior Monte Carlo totaled, he found and built another just to run the HRPT. We even caught a quick glimpse of a "Mac's Stage 3" Camaro with Wisconsin plates that was built by our friend Scott McElroy at Horsepower Ranch in Geneva. I'll have to try and get more pictures of it if I see it again.

We left the venue and hit the hotel for happy hour and Taco night. The rain hit for the rest of the night, so we decided to stay in and hang out in the hotel. Once happy hour ended, Lori brought the porta-bar down and the party kept going. Jared showed us a few of the pictures he got with his real camera and Lori showed off the Hot Rod video (youtube) from Texarkana which included snippets of the Acadian and Lori's Monte Carlo.

Tomorrow is going to be another early day as we are heading to Chattanooga and Tara wants to make a few side trips along the way.

June 6: Fifth leg- Birmingham, AL to Chattanooga, TN (194.3 miles)

Before departing, we took an opportunity to wipe last night's rain off the cars. We also discovered that the Acadian still has a water leak somewhere near the firewall. Oh well, it will dry out.

Amazingly, the foul weather we encountered yesterday was nowhere to be seen. We had another uneventful cruise through the mountains of Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. It was another great road full of ups, downs, and twists. Tara found a small BBQ place called Thatcher's just past the Georgia state line. The food was quick and delicious. Then, it was back on the road to finish our run. 

Tara, Jared, Jerry and I split from the rest of our group and toured Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain. It was also worthwhile to give the brakes a chance to cool- When we pulled into the parking lot, you could smell the brakes after heading down the twisting and winding mountain roads.
Ruby Falls was pretty neat. We took an elevator 400 feet down into the mountain and then walked another 700 or so feet down to the falls. Inside the cavern, it was 60 degrees. Along the way, there were a number of unique rock formations.

After our tour, we were back on the route and arrived at the venue, Chattanooga State College with enough time to get clocked in, collect our freebies and spend a few hours talking with more long haulers and a few locals who were out for the day.

We headed out of the venue and straight to Coker Tire and Honest Charley's Garage where they had an open house. The roads were closed, but we were able to sneak down an alley into the main area. Tara then jumped out and found an incredible parking spot directly in front of Honest Charley's. We got to tour the Coker museum and shop and see them unveil a new hot rod they built. There were some good food trucks and we grabbed a bite to eat.

We got to talking with Honest Charley's new upholstery guy Greg and he gave Tara, Scot and me a private tour after they had closed the doors. We even got a chance to pose for a picture with Corky (the MAN of Coker) and the other Greg who runs Honest Charley's. It was excellent. As we were leaving, we ran into a guy with a 1958 Chevy Yeoman Wagon!!! I told him about the one we found, and he said it was a steal...maybe I need to make a trip back out to Alabama.

Tomorrow is our last and longest driving leg of the Tour, so we are leaving extra early. Now that we are back in the Eastern time zone, it's even earlier!

June 7: Final Leg- Chattanooga, TN to Charlotte, NC (352.4 miles)

This was the longest route and one of the most beautiful. To our surprise, we woke to a bit of fog, but clear skies. We hit the road at 6:15 a.m. After some brief highway time, we took a scenic road through the mountains and along the Ocoee River. We stopped along a small waterfall for some quick photos and then hit the road in search of breakfast. We ended up stopping at Waffle King, which locals said was one of their chief hangouts. The food was good, but nothing special.

Once back on the road, we had a few more miles of winding road on the Great Smoky Mountain Parkway. Instead of the tight twisties, this road had sweeping S- curves down the mountain that were real fun at 55 mph. Unfortunately, after that, we had 150 plus miles of nothing but straight highway to our destination. We ran into some light rain, but it was not bad.

Roush-Yates held an open house and served as an official Power Tour lunch stop. The place was a madhouse and, although we fought traffic to get there, we all decided to get back on the road rather than wait forever for a hot dog.

Tara masterfully navigated our way out of the cluster and out to our destination- ZMax dragway. This is by far the nicest and largest dragstrip I have ever seen. We got parked quickly (we got a spot right next to a gorgeous 67 Nova. Lots of people enjoyed the opportunity to do the side by side compare and contrast. Jerry and I went to get clocked in and pick up our freebies, while Tara got the road grime off the car and Jared went to get his Challenger Tech'd so that he could take a few runs down the quarter mile. Unfortunately, our weather luck didn't hold out. We had about 10 minutes of torrential downpour which put an end to the day's racing before Jared could get down the track. This was also one of the first venues in three years where we could get an aerial view of the cars. Even from the top of the grandstands, I couldn't get more than 1/2 of the cars into the frame. The number and types of cars on the trip is truly mind-blowing.

Since this was the end of the week, there were some big giveaways. One guy won round trip transportation for his car to and from the Power Tour from Pilot Transportation. Also, throughout the week Comp Cams gave out 25 "Golden Tickets" to people who showed off their Comp Cams spirit. From these 25, Comp selected one winner to receive a $10,000 Comp Cams shopping spree. Lori got a ticket for her Sandwich Board and Mickey gloves and Don Hess, another member of our band, won one for his panel wagon- Don won!!!! Maybe, he'll cut Lori in on the prize since she booked his travel.

After the giveaways, everyone met at the grandstands to watch 74 volunteers line both sides of the drag strip in order to brake the world record for a simultaneous burnout. The previous record was held by Australians at 69 cars. At the sound of a horn, all 74 cars, including Don Bonser, lit their tires and kept em smoking for 30 seconds!!! It's probably a little salt in the Aussies' wounds to know that one of the record breakers was a Holden Ute.

Jerry, Jared, Tara, and I capped the night and the week off with dinner at the Speedway Club at Lowes Motor Speedway across the street from the drag strip. The Speedway Club is an exclusive restaurant on the club level of the Speedway. It is ordinarily only open to Members (NASCAR and other racing bigwigs). However, for tonight, Power Tour participants could enjoy fine dining with the most spectacular view in Charlotte. The food was top notch and was a perfect way to finish our week.

Tomorrow is the Long Hauler Ceremony and then we make the trek back home to Orlando.

June 8: The End- Long Hauler's Ceremony and Ride Home

It's hard to believe that two weeks have come and gone already. Today marked the end of the Power Tour. We had breakfast and then it was back to the dragstrip for the Long Hauler's Ceremony. It was a bit drizzly out, but the parking lot was packed with cars. We'll have to wait for Hot Rod's final count, but there looked to be close to 2,000 cars in the parking lot.

The Long Hauler's Ceremony essentially consists of a farewell from Hot Rod's editor, presentation of some GM performance gift certificates to contest winners- it is an online contest, but 6 out of the 8 winners were Long Haulers. We also took a group photo in the grandstands before heading out to get our Long Hauler Certificates and gifts (metal Long Hauler signs).

Tara and I said our goodbyes to old and new friends but decided to hang around a bit longer and watch cars navigate the world's coolest traffic jam.

Ultimately, we hit the road around 11. Hot Rod took a picture everyone's car in front of the Power Tour bus as they left and will post it on the website. We also snapped a few quick pictures of the Acadian in front of the dragstrip entrance. Once the photos were done, it was time to make the drive home.

The return trip was uneventful except that the A/C belt started to slip, so I had to tighten it down. Eight and a half hours and three fuel stops later, we pulled in to Tara's house. This was the first full long haul for the Acadian and, except for a windshield leak and the A/C belt slipping a little, the car performed excellently.

Overall, we drove 3,178.4 miles, and traveled through 10 states. We saw some amazing scenery, drove on some awesome roads, saw thousands of show cars and met tons of great people.  After three Long Hauls, Tara and I have learned there are a few Power Tour Constants- it will rain, you will drive past corn fields, dragstrips are always near an airport and have no shade and regardless of what happens you end up with some great stories.

We must give a big thank you to Lori our unofficial Power Tour travel agent. Her hotel booking skills are without rival and her travel booklets are great.

Hot Rod has not yet announced the full Tour, but it starts in Charlotte, NC and ends in Wisconsin. We are already counting down the days until next year!!

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