Thursday, May 30, 2019

FROM THE ARCHIVES--HRPT 2014 - Concord (Charlotte), NC to Wisconsin Dells, WI (1563 miles)

June 6 - Orlando, FL to Charlotte (Concord), NC-- 541 miles

Finally, after a year of waiting and counting down days, it was time to leave for the 2014 Hot Rod Power Tour. Tara and I (in the Acadian) my parents (driving my Challenger) met up with our friends Ken and Kathy Lockwood and their '36 Ford Cabriolet at 6:00 a.m. at the Longwood I-4 rest area to begin the trek to Concord, NC.

The trip up was uneventful. We managed to miss a small rain shower that passed over Savannah and we had great weather the entire drive. It was cool enough in the morning that we didn't even need the A/C until South Carolina.

Sticking with our Power Tour Guru, Lori's rules (Rule #1: No chain restaurants), we made our lunch stop at Duke's BBQ in Orangeburg, SC. It was featured on the show "the best thing I ever ate." Contrary to its name, it was not really a barbecue place, but rather a low key southern cooking buffet. They had pitchers of sweet tea on the tables and the fried chicken was excellent!!

We arrived in Concord around 4. Amazingly, except for a '64 Malibu convertible that passed us in GA, we did not see any other Power Tour cars until we left the highway.

Once we were checked into the hotel, we threw some water on our faces, changed clothes and met up with the rest of our Florida crew to take advantage of the hotel's complimentary happy hour.
We had a few drinks, did some catching up, and then took the Hotel's shuttle vans over to Charlotte Motor Speedway where our 20 person group had a reservation for dinner at the Speedway Club. The Speedway Club is an exclusive restaurant with a spectacular view of the entire race track. The food was as good as the view.

After stuffing our faces (All You Can Eat prime rib and crab legs was the special), we shuttled back to the hotel and spent an hour or so checking out the cars in the hotel parking lot and meeting many new people who were taking advantage of the cool evening. Among the highlights in our parking lot was a 55 Chevy gasser (appropriately named BlaspHEMI due to its non-GM powerplant), our friend Fred's custom 56 Chevy, a gorgeous '57 Nomad, several Chevelle and GTO convertibles. There was even a '59 Convertible with a Kennedy/Johnson bumper sticker.

Saturday June 7th, the Tour officially begins at the ZMax Dragway.

Power Tour Day 1: Concord NC- 0 miles

Today officially started the Power Tour. Tara, Ken, Kathy, Jerry and Lisa got an early start wiping down and shining up the cars in the cool morning weather. We left the hotel and immediately knew we were on the Power Tour when we were in a mile long turn lane full of Hot Rods, classics, muscle and performance cars waiting to get into the ZMax Dragway.

Picking up our credentials and registration packets required a bit of creative parking because the registration lot was just a bit smaller than the number of cars that needed to register. Getting in and out was a real-life version of "Parking Mania."

Once we were registered, we got parked and started getting the full Power Tour experience. First things first, we got our credentials punched at the time clocks and walked the sponsors' midway and picked up all our free swag. Kathy was in slight shock as she quickly became loaded down with T-shirts, hats, coozies, bottles of Mothers Quick Detailer spray, and, of course, MSD's daily Power Tour magnets.

It's hard to explain the sensory overload that comes with seeking show cars in every direction as far as you can see. None of us could avoid drooling over a custom '69 white/blue Camaro with a LSA motor and the brightest white interior I have ever seen. Even the carpet was white. Tara, being Tara, took the time to check out every box Nova at the venue. They ranged from a virtually stock '66 that reminded her of her little 6 cylinder, to the supercharged black '67 we parked next to last year in Charlotte.

It never ceases to amaze me that with the hundreds, if not thousands of cars on the Power Tour, we usually manage to quickly run into friends from Florida-- Hollywood Howard and his green Monte Carlo, Richard and Lisa Spain in their Dart Sport, just to name a few. My aunt, uncle and cousin also made the trip over from Greensboro and were in awe of the experience.

Even though there was a good breeze, it was hot. So, after a few hours, some of us went to the hotel to relax poolside or in the A/C and others of us rolled down to Quaker Steak and Lube to quench our thirst and grab a quick snack before happy hour and our BBQ dinner at Jim 'n Nick's.

Dinner was great and we all over-ate. After dinner we spent a few hours tailgating in the hotel parking lot and enjoying the "mini" car show in the parking lot. Tara met 2 guys with a kinda original/kinda protouring '67 Nova on their first tour. They are going to run with us tomorrow.

Power Tour Day 2: Concord, NC to Knoxville, TN (233.3 miles)

Our morning started a bit early. 12:30 a.m. to be exact. That's when Tara's phone rang with someone wanting to buy our Acadian for Sale. Apparently, Tim and Lori put a "for sale" sign on the Acadian as a little payback for Tara writing "Mopar or No Car" on Tim and Lori's Bowtie Barn mirror last Christmas. Too funny.

Once the sun came up, we rounded up our caravan and hit the road for Knoxville. On the way out of Concord, the NC State troopers set up a speed trap and got a few of the heavier footed drivers.
Once we were out of Concord, the route was another of my favorite types of Power Tour Routes- two-lane winding and twisting mountain roads. I kept hot on the heels of a 2014 Stingray and even closed the distance with him on a couple tight turns. I was about to pat myself on the back for my great driving, until I realized a pickup truck was slowing the Vette down. Check out the snapshot of part of the route with the rest of the pictures in the albums section.

As usual, every town we went through had people sitting on the side of the road waving and taking pictures of as the Power Tour cars rumbled by. Some even held cardboard signs asking for burnouts. From the marks on the pavement, more than a few people answered the request.

Tara had us all pull over at the Flowering Bridge in Lake Lure, NC which was very scenic. It was made more scenic with the V8 powered monster cars rumbling down the road behind it.
Next, we drove up to the entrance of Chimney Rock State Park, but passed on visiting the place
because the elevator was out of order, plus we were all getting pretty hungry. Tara hit up the Yelp app on the phone and found a place called "The Local Joint" it was a restaurant featuring fresh local food. It was also attached to a gas station. The food was excellent and we were able to fill the tanks as well as our bellies.

On the way out, Jake's truck backfired and managed to ignite his air filter and carburetor when he restarted it. Tim got the flames out and using a well known mechanics' trick- "hit it with a wrench" he managed to dislodge some debris that was causing the carb to spit fuel. Then it was back on the road.

We had heard there was bad construction on I-40, so Tara found a detour that saved us at least an hour of sitting in dead stopped traffic. We made it to the venue around 4:00 and snagged some parking in a grassy area with shade trees.

Turns out, we were some of the earlier arrivals. People kept pouring into the venue through at least 5:30 and the line to punch in at the time clocks was one of the longest I have seen in 4 years of Power Touring. The GM Motor Medics were working hard fixing cars. One Chevelle had their transmission completely out of the car

Checking into the hotel was a bit of a process, there is a very small drive way and a very large number of cars trying to use it. Part and parcel of traveling with hundreds of cars. We found a neat restaurant in downtown Knoxville for dinner.

Afterward, we took advantage of the cool weather and Lori's portable bar and had some drinks on the hotel patio before calling it a night.

Tomorrow we are off to Charleston, WV and it's going to be an early morning because the route is one of the longest of the Tour (301 miles).

Power Tour Day 3: Knoxville, TN to Charleston, WV (301.3 miles)

We hit the road early this morning since this was one of the longest legs. It also was probably one of the most fun routes we have run in 4 years of Power Tour. Where the route from Charlotte was full of tight twisting roads with hairpin curves and switchbacks, today's route was full of sweeping banked curves with breathtaking views. If it hadn't been for the greenery on the rock sides of the road, I could have imagined we were in a Roadrunner cartoon. It also felt like the road was reserved for Power Tour cars because we made up 80% of the vehicles.

We grabbed lunch at Dairy Cheer in Pikeville, KY. It was a fast food burger place that had been there since at least the '60's and was most definitely not a chain. I am willing to bet that with our cars plus one of the nicest Mavericks I have ever seen and a few other Power Tour cars, the parking lot looked the same as it did in the late 60's/early 70's.

Post-lunch, we hit the route again and caught up to some interesting vehicles (a 6 cylinder '73 Javelin, a Chevelle convertible pulling an old camper trailer, and many others). I would also wager that no oad work was completed, nor were any kittens rescued from trees today because all of the road crews and a few fire trucks were stopped along the route watching the Tour roll by.

We finally reached Charleston. Due to a navigational dispute, Tim, Lori and Jake ended up with prime parking in front of the Edelbrock trailer while I, Jerry & Lisa, and Ken (not of Ken & Kathy) ended up sitting for an hour in traffic. Tara took the opportunity to jump out of the car and spend time checking out a flower garden at one of the older homes in the area. She had time to meet the owner, plant a tree, watch it grow and pick the fruit before I was finally able to get parked. Fortunately, the weather was perfect (in the 70's and breezy, so I was comfortable idling away.

Words do not begin to describe the show scene. The show venue was along Kanawha Avenue on the river. It covered 4 miles and there were 4 rows of cars parallel parked down the divided roadway. It was like a 4 mile Downtown Longwood Cruise. This was one of the first times that the cars were all lined up along one road. I tried to estimate the number of cars and, best guess was over 2,500 (I'll show you the math). Among the cars at the show was a Boss 302, a gorgeous black/red '69 Firebird Convertible, Hemi 'Cudas, and a 1937 Chevrolet Coupe Pickup (check out the picture).

The tour was not without some casualties, this time, our friends from the Tampa Area, Rich and Lisa and their Dart Sport, were sidelined for a few hours before finally getting to town at 6:45. Glad they made it safely. Tour ON!!

While I walked the miles to get our credentials punched in and collect our freebies, Tara took time talking with everyone about the Acadian and our experiences so far.

We pulled into the hotel and lucked into premium up front parking for both the Acadian and my Challenger. We had some drinks at the complimentary happy hour and then took the hotel shuttle to the Bluegrass Kitchen. They focus on fresh local ingredients and the food was great. Even Don Bonser, a vegetarian had an overwhelming number of options from which to choose. At dinner, a local woman asked if we were part of the Car people, we said yes and she excitedly told us that she got stuck in traffic 3 times and enjoyed every minute of it because of the great cars to look at all around her.

Even as I type this, our lullabye music is the sound of 8 cylinder muscle cars announcing their presence throughout the streets of downtown Charleston.

Tomorrow, we head to Norwalk, Ohio.

Power Tour Day 4: Charleston, WV to Norwalk, OH (blog missing)

Welcome to Ohio

 Power Tour Day 5: Norwalk, OH to Crown Point, IN (325.4 miles- sort of)

We skipped running the Hot Rod recommended route today so that we could go to the Dusenberg Museum in Auburn, IN. Also, the Hot Rod Route went WAAAY into Michigan only to double back to Indiana. Accordingly, we made our own route. We hit some rain along the way which completely undid the cleaning I gave the Challenger before leaving town.

We got to the Dusenberg Museum a little after 9 am, but it wasn't due to open until 10. Fortunately, the National Automobile and Truck Museum of the U.S. was right next door (in the Auburn factory buildings). They had 190 or so cars and trucks on display. They featured some really unique vehicles: the FIRST '70 Hemi 'Cuda, a prototype rotary engine '65 Mustang, and the Essex Cobra race car.

After whetting our appetites in the NATMUS, we headed into the Auburn Cord Dusenberg Museum. The Museum is in the old ACD Showroom and executive offices (opened in 1930). It was breathtaking. Not only were the cars works of art, but the columns, ceiling and floor were tasteful, but reflected the opulence of the brands on display. My mom was in 7th heaven!!!
We also snagged a great photo opportunity at an old Sinclair station and then grabbed a bite to eat before leaving Auburn.

On the way to Crown Point, we were on a 2 lane road for most of the trip. When the road went to 4 lanes, a Chevy diesel truck pulled up alongside us and asked us to pull over. It turns out he was a Chevy II builder and was out getting gas when we passed by in the Acadian. He and his buddy followed us for 25 miles before they were able to get us to stop. He told us it was the first Acadian he had ever seen and would have followed us all the way to Crown Point if that was what it took to see the car.

The Tour stop at Crown Point was the Lake County Fairgrounds. It was one of the prettiest venues we have been to yet. Instead of a parking lot, field, or downtown streets, the venue was grass and hilly with shade trees everywhere. Though the place was packed with cars everywhere, we were able to find 2 spaces right next to each other for the cars.

As with every stop, the number and type of cars is beyond belief and there are always new cars at each stop. Today, we met a guy with a 1966 Nova that was fairly stock appearing until you took a close look at the motor. He had disguised a built fuel injected LT1 as a mild looking small block car). In addition to the nova, there was a satin black '64 Continental with black wheels and black badging that made it look extra sinister.

Once it was time to leave the venue, we headed to the hotel and parked in a special area the adjacent hotel set aside for Power Tour vehicles, it was a car show in itself and people were out and about. There was a Chicago style pizza place across the street, so the plan was to grab a pizza and eat it in the parking lot. Unfortunately, nature threw a wrench in that plan as it got really cold and drizzly. It was in the low-mid 60's. So, we had the pizza at the hotel and decided to make it an early night.

Tomorrow, we head to Bettendorf, IA. While we are leaving early, we gained an hour by driving into the central time zone.

Power Tour Day 6: Crown Point, IN to Bettendorf, IA (251.8 miles)

All roads lead to Bettendorf. Today we all left the hotel and took various routes to the Isle Casino in Bettendorf, IA. Using some on the fly navigation by Tara, she, Don Bonser (2004 Ute) and I, took a modified version of the Hot Rod Recommended Route- we took a surface road to avoid the Chicago highways that are parking lots. Our route then took us on Illinois Route 2 which wound alongside the Rock River and was a really scenic and fun road. All along the way, there were people parked alongside the road waving as we passed by. There was even a Superbird parked on a corner. Tara also continued her new favorite game of texting pictures of every Plum Crazy purple Challenger we see to Jim Landi and seeing if his head explodes. There may have been one or two duplicates, but there are bunch of on tour.

My parents took a route recommended by the Mo-Power Tour and ran with a number of other Mopars. Their route was completely different and included a lunch stop at Magnum Restorations. I got reports of a gorgeous black '68 Charger with a 528 Ray Barton Hemi, many modern Challengers and a blue '69 GTX.

Lori & Tim, Ken & Kathy, and another Ken and his family went straight out I-80 and made a stop at the American Pickers HQ on their way. I heard it was a blast.

Tara also managed to avoid a miles long bottleneck going into the Isle. We shot down a side street, through a gated warehouse lot and ended up on a dirt road that took us right up to the show stop. It is impossible to describe the scene at a Hot Rod show stop and it was magnified today. There are eight different parking lot areas and all of them are FILLED to bursting with show cars. It would be impossible to see them all. Among the highlights for me today were a black Boss 429, a '70 Cuda with a 572 Hemi and a pair of Pintos (one of them had a truly '70s orange plaid interior. Tara even found another Nova with headreasts (they are super rare).
We are staying at the Casino and it's probably going to be a late night of Blackjack for me and my dad. Don Bonser played for a bit and did well. Even Tara is got in the action and played penny slots with Kathy. Tara won $19.30, so breakfast tomorrow is on her.

Tomorrow, we make the final driving leg to Wisconsin Dells.

Power Tour Day 7: Bettendorf, IA to Wisconsin Dells, WI (203.3)

Our friend from previous long hauls, Scott Shanks, caught up with last night at the hotel. He opted not to do the long haul this year, something about the transmission in his SRT 6.1 powered '70 Challenger eating an input bearing and a first grandchild being born 11 days ago. I guess one of those is a valid excuse.

For the final driving leg of the Power Tour, we all (Tara and I, Ken and Kathy, Tim and Lori, Scott, and my parents) all started on the Hot Rod route together. The weather was perfect for driving. It started at 51 degrees w/ a high of 72 and there wasn't a cloud in sight. We cruised up and down the rolling Iowa and Wisconsin countrysides.

The first part of the route took us down a rural highway that, with the exception of a semi or two, looked like it was reserved for Power Tour vehicles. We then went through Maquoketa, IA and the people went all out. They lined the sides of main street and "Welcome Power Tour" and "Lite 'em up!" signs were prominently posted. Despite Tara shaking her head at the ridiculousness of the attempt, I tried to get the tires to spin on the Acadian, to no avail. My dad, however, had no trouble satisfying the crowd by breaking the Challenger's tires loose for the crowd.
 After nearly a week of driving through dust and rain and not having a good opportunity to wipe down the Challenger, it was in need of cleaning and was beyond a wipe down with quick detailer spray (Mothers gives out full size bottles at the beginning of the Tour). Accordingly, we made a brief stop at a car wash gas station to wash the Challenger and top off the Acadian's fuel. Then it was back on the route.

A few minutes on the road and we passed a new Camaro on the side of the road after it hit a deer (there wasn't anything else around to have caused the damage to the car.

The rest of the route was uneventful. The people of Dodgeville were also out to watch the Power Tour roll by. We were behind RK Motors' (a Charlotte, NC dealer of high end classic/muscle cars) '67 GT500 with a 528 motor and 6 speed. They treated many stop signs as an invitation to create a little tire smoke.

When we reached the Dells, we couldn't help but make the comparison to I-Drive. The main street is lined with amusement parks, water parks, and other roadside attractions. There was even a giant Trojan Horse.

Traffic going to the Chula Vista resort (our hotel and the final tour stop) was starting to back up significantly. We heard people were stuck for over an hour. Tara deftly used the iPhone's map and traffic display to find a back entrance to the venue. Thanks to a tip from Ken & Kathy, we were able to get great parking spots right near the Edelbrock display trailer.

The resort is really impressive. The "rooms" were bigger than some houses. They were two-room suites with full kitchen, living room, electric fireplace and even a jacuzzi in the living room. The hotel has an on-site water park and other amenities (we plan to take advantage of those tomorrow if it warms up).

As the day wound down, we met everyone for dinner and drinks at the margarita bar at the hotel. They were overwhelmed and when our initial waiter got in the weeds, Scott threw another waiter $20 to take care of us. The second waiter threw $10 of it to the cook and got our food bumped to the front of the line. We spent the last official Power Tour night eating fajitas and putting away margaritas and tropical drinks.

Tomorrow is the "Long Hauler ceremony" which marks the end of the tour. The week has flown by. But, we still have to get home and are basically doing our own two car Power Tour with stops in Champaign, IL, Nashville, TN, Cherokee, NC and Atlanta. I plan to post a recap of the return trip by June 23rd.

Hot Rod Power Tour: Recap/The Return Trip (Wisconsin Dells, WI to Orlando, FL)

We decided to stay in Wisconsin Dells after the Long Hauler Ceremony in order to experience the Dells. We first hit the indoor water park, but the weather was too nice to be inside. Instead, Tara, Don Bonser and I decided to take a boat tour down the Wisconsin River. Again we had great weather and the trip was very relaxing. It was nice to be able to sit back and let someone else do the driving and navigating. We also did one of the super-touristy attractions- "WizardQuest" which was kind of an interactive scavenger hunt. It was tacky, but fun. We then had dinner at Tara's new favorite restaurant, High Rock Cafe.

We left the Dells and headed for our next destination- Bowling Green, KY. After a week of driving in packs of muscle cars, hot rods, and modern performance vehicles, it was weird being the only two Power Tour cars on the road. When we arrived in Bowling Green, we took a tour of the Corvette assembly plant. The efficiency and technology involved in a modern assembly line is truly amazing. After watching a number of 2014 Sting Ray's ripping up and down the roads and hugging the curves, and then seeing them being built, I think I know what my next car will be. Once the tour ended, we grabbed a quick lunch and then we went to the National Corvette Museum. The Museum itself is impressive. Some of the most important Corvettes were on display. And, of course, we were able to see the sinkhole and the 8 cars that it swallowed (they are now being called the "Great 8"). For now, the cars are being displayed in the condition they were in when pulled out of the hole, but the Museum and GM have committed to restoring all eight. Considering how mangled some of the cars were, I can't imagine the amount of work this will take, if it is even possible.

From Bowling Green, we made our way to Cherokee, NC and stayed at the Harrah's Cherokee Casino. The hotel was beautiful and we had a great view of the Smokies from our window. We freshened up, grabbed dinner and then hit the tables for some more blackjack. Even Tara got into the game for a little bit. We did some more sightseeing in NC before heading to Atlanta for dinner with family friends. Finally, it was time to drive home. Both cars got home safely and without incident. All told, we drove 4,288 miles and passed through 14 different states (many twice).

Now it's time to kick back and count down until it's time to leave for next year's Power Tour.

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