Long Haul photo and Tail of the Dragon
We did it! Rett and I made it all seven days and all seven cities, from Arlington to Texarcana, to Little Rock and Memphis, Birmingham Chatanooga then finally Charlotte. The route took us through upscale new homes to the entire cities destroyed by economic times. We met the best people and started new relationships. The adventure and humanity of a road trip across America greatly broadens one’s perspective on life. There’s a vast universe outside our simple daily lives. The experience can’t be taught, it must be completed on an individual level. This morning we celebrate.
As you know, we let ’66 GT-H Charlie sleep on the pull out couch because we had the two room suite. There’s a good chance that two people, one owning a 1966 GT-H and one a ’06 GT-H, from opposite coast accidently meet up and end up sharing a room. Add that to the list of “done that”.
All the Long Haulers patiently entered Charlott’s Zmax drag strip parking lot returning to the location of Day 7’s show. Only the Long Hauler’s where allowed. Those who clocked in each day in each City for the last seven days were allowed to enter. Around 9am the estimated 2000 participants gathered in the grandstands for the prestigious picture and announcements. Our primary MC for the Tour, Clarence, lead the show with announcements and introductions.
Prior to entering the stands Rett and I stopped by the Hot Rod Power Tour RV for our annual picture with the Friday Flyer and meet up with Michelle, a Hot Rod Magazine manager, for some goodies she owed me for assisting with iPad connectivity on Day 1. Michelle hooked me up with two Hot Rod shirts and a unattainable Rod Rod staff sticker. Doesn’t sound like much but these types of things are like gold to the participants. Michelle also received her “20 years of service” certificate during the show.
After the picture we lined up to receive the coveted Long Haul reward. This year it’s a metal sign forever documenting the Tour’s route. The sign will be a perfect addition to my new garage.
With the ground still wet but no major storm looming we said our good byes, took pictures, gave hugs and high-fives. Engines slowly started as we single-filed out of Zmax to head 2000 different ways across America. Some friends will be home in an hour, or in our case, 2600 miles and 3 plus days home to California.
Instead of taking the shortest route home we headed back up to the Great Smoke Mountains. The drive is beautiful and overwhelming. Prior to reaching the T.O.D (see below) we made a random stop at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center), a hot spot for all levels of kayaking and river rafters. The place was packed and bustling with enthusiasts. We watched the 100s of adventurist come down the white water river; oars fluttering, water splashing, screams and many smiles. We felt their fun but needed to get on our way to start our own quest.
Rett pointed the Mustang West and drove. With one side trip, a bucket list item which only a few experience – The Tail of the Dragon. Nestled in the North Eastern portion of the Great Smokey Mountains near Blue Ridge Parkway is a road cutting from hwy 19 in a North Carolina mountain valley to hwy 75 in Tennessee. The “Tail of the Dragon” is an 11 mile two lane narrow road containing 318 turns. Also known as hwy 129, this road is infamous to performance cars, motorcyclist and any brave souls braving the obstacle. Only a small portion of us ever place a check mark next to this bucket list entry. We did it. We did it. I took plenty of pictures and purchased a few signs for the garage which will forever be my badge of honor.
I found out why their called the Smokey Mountains. Do you know? They’re actually “smoky”. It’s not that you’re so high up that you’re in a cloud. There’s actually “smoke” emanating from the trees and streams. It’s a blue vapor which you can see in some of my pictures. It’s caused by the 85 inches of annual rain, water falls, trees and streams which classify this portion of the Appellations as a rain forest. The water evaporates quickly and creates a constant fog like pockets. Interesting. Right?
We continued north on 129 until we hit 411 and then cut over to the 75. I honked and waved to my God parents as we drove by Mount Juliet (just outside Nashville). I have seen Nancy and Ernie Hughes in at least 20 years but stay in contact via Facebook. We continued over and around lakes and rivers finally ending up in at exit 183 in Attalla Alabama at the very crappy Days Inn. This place was by far in the worse condition and scariest area of all the hotels I’ve EVER stayed. The positives? The bed was comfy and free breakfast not half bad. Everything else, and I mean everything, was so horrible we had to laugh at our misfortune. To eat dinner we had two choices; 1 – a sweaty window mini Waffle House or the buffet at Attalla’s newest establishment, a gentlemen’s club, named Stiffies. We passed and went up to exit 181 where we, at Terry Foose’s request, ate a Cracker Barrel. I had the meat loaf and Rett a New York steak. Not bad, not bad. Verged on cafeteria food but my fried okra was perfect, mashed potatoes just right and the meat loaf one notch below Tracy’s. Neat place with antiques and local décor. But please remember, this is Alabama. What you see on TV and in the movies is true. We had a blast people watching.
Back to the hotel we quickly got our questionable door open, made sure both it and the adjoining room door were securely shut and locked, imaging ourselves somewhere nice, nearly anywhere but here. The mustang was on her own.
PUBLIC SERVICE NOTICE:
ATTALLA ALABAMA – avoid exit 181 at all cost. Drive to the next exit if ever in the area.
Good night, here the bed bugs did bite. If we die before we wake I prey to lord my soul to take. Living on the edge….
We've looked forward to today and it didn't disappoint. We got on the road and headed to Memphis. Another entire day of no rain and perfect weather over hills and valleys winding thru small cities with family and friends waiting in the lawn chairs for the 2000 cars to pass.
We had skipped the drivers meeting knowing Memphis had a lot to offer. If you attend the meeting your stuck leaving around 8:30am otherwise you can leave on you own schedule. We left around 7:15, joined up with the prescribed Hot Rod route and arrived to the Memphis Motor Speedway around noon. Just about the time we collected our last magnet Big Joe announced line up for the drag strip. Rett and I high tailed it to the GT-H and found our way thru the maze to the staging lanes. Rett got tech’d and signed a few release forms. The fairly low standards allowed me to ride along. After 4 passes the other Tourers had caught on and the line was too long and no longer worth the wait. We put the Mustang back in her parking spot and visited with various acquaintances. Rett heard from Bucky around 2:00pm so we hung out on top of the strip suites watching the runs and long procession of Tour entrants still entering the venue. Two note worthy items. There was a steady stream of cars entering the show from at least the time we arrived (noon) to 4pm. I’m not that great at estimating but I’d say there are about 3000 cars a day. Second, it’s not that often when you see ANY random cars paired up against each other on the drag strip and consider this; each of these racers are at minimum driving their car 1500 miles for the tour and each taking the risk of breaking something each time the race. Pretty ballsy (is that a word?).
Texarkana to Little Rock, AR
Hot Rod Power Tour
Monday June 3, 2013
The day began with our 3rd driver’s meeting where Hot Rod gave away $100 and a few other items. The meeting was short and sweet. No changes in the turn-by-turn directions and we got on the road. Today was another beautiful route. It sounds so redundant to keep writing it, but it was just awesome. The tall green trees on the winding roads to simple towns with less than 1000 people provided constant scenery. A major site was driving through Hot Springs Arkansas. This town has many similarities to Canyon Lake with large homes along the lake and a resort style. Hot Springs was built around the natural hot springs for vacationers. The town winds through and over a lake alongside a fairly decent size steep mountain. At the bottom of the mountain were a row of 1920 style Victorian decorative bath houses each more upscale (in the 20s) than the other.
Pulling in our final destination for the day, the Arkansas State Fairgrounds, traffic was congested. Rett took the opportunity and pulled into a side lot to gather our thoughts. The 100s of cars behind us kept going straight. We parked and starting walking. Within 100 steps we were dead nuts in the middle of everything. We noticed the walk way to get in was large enough for the Mustang. Rett ran back and grabbed the car and brought is thru the pedestrian gate and parked on the main concourse of the event. Again, LUCK. I’m certain the cars behind us took another 30 minutes to get a spot and probably parked in Timbucktwo (literally).
We clocked-in, grabbed our magnets and vendor swag including our free shirts from Factory 5 for the assistance at Hooters last night. While at the Factory 5 booth I took the opportunity to sit and continue my dream of owning a Cobra Daytona. Factory 5 will sell you a rolling chassis for around $20,000. “Everything starts with a dream”. We walked the outskirts of the venue and realized just how “country” Arkansas is.
Done for the day we searched for our hotel to find a large group of the bangshift.com forum guys were at the same Holiday Inn Express. Our bar supplies were running low so we headed to Kroger to find the liquor rules of AR don’t allow supermarkets to sell the hard stuff. My iPhone GPS pointed to the closest liquor store which we entered and quickly left. How do I put this? Sorry Little Rock but you have some bad areas. We headed to the Liquor Warehouse (which looked promising online) but also proved to be serving the VERY distressed and low income part of the City. We both found what we were looking for and set out to find some food. We headed down to the river front certain we’d find the typical riverwalk type area but had no luck. We circled the capitol building and decided to head back to the hotel. Needless to say, we survived an area of town two guys like us shouldn’t be in after the sun goes down.
Turns out our hotel was well appointed and had one of the higher rated restaurants in the area. It also turns out they weren’t expecting 100s of patrons this night. We, having plenty of patients, put our name in and waited. We ended being seated within 30 minutes because others gave up and left. The food was great and we went to bed happy finishing another memorable day.
Day 2 of the 2013 Official Hot Rod Power Tour
We attended the driver’s meeting which gives us a little pre-show and, this year, give-a-ways. Hot Rod is encouraging attendees to attend the daily meetings so the pack of cars leave around the same time. This year they’re inticing us with money and free-bees.
Single file in and single file out in a very orderly fasion thanks to Derick. There’s always a little traffic as the caravan of a 1000 or so classic and rods leave the venue and begin the turn by turn directions. Today’s route was awesome. I’ll say it again, who ever is responsible for the routes this year deserves a prize.
I got some great shots as the line of cars rolled up and down the thick foret hills.
We arrived in Texarkana at the Four States Fair after the 231 mile criss cross through Texas. The fairgrounds are on the boarder of TX and AR.
Rett again took the initiative and made a new path throught the grass and parked under some old growth oaks near the Lucus dyno challenge and steps to all the vendors. I’m not sure how Rett pulls this off but it seems like all the other poor souls are forced to park in Egypt (BFE).
We collected our magnets (I’ll show you the completed puzzle at the end of the tour), “clocked in” and kicked back Arkansas style under the trees. We passed the time listening to the country accents. All the ladies sound like Paula Dean an the men like Larry the Cable Guy. It’s one of those times when you wish you would have taken more pictures and each picture came with a voice recording.
We’ve been blessed in so many ways. After what has happened just a few miles away over the past few weeks in Oklahoma, Texas, Maserii and Arkanasas we are talking about attending church. Rett and I agreed that if the weather was always like this in Arkansas EVERYONE would live here. But it’s not, we’re just two VERY lucky people.
Speaking of luck, we found our hotel a little early this day. I’ll set the scene. This is a very rural area of AR going through a minor economic revitalization. Our hotel had been open less than a month and still smelled new. As we waited in line things seemed to be a little chaotic with Lefty the one armed hotel handy man who had no tools. Thank god he had two legs because he was a one man show running from area to area with duct tape and bubble gum fixing problems. Lefty was lost in this state of the art brand new hotel. It doesn’t end there, I’m getting to the lucky part of the story. It was our turn at the registration desk and our hostess was the GM who was obviously flustered. She asked told us “we overbooked and can offer to pay for room at the Regency Suites”. When she said FREE she meant FREE. She handed Rett a purchase ordered for a prepaid room and we drove a half mile. The Regency was also new and perfectly suitable. It was our largest room with a couch, large frig and micro, big bathroom and all the normal amenities. Free… I still can’t believe it.
The night didn’t end here.
We needed to eat since we both had only had three Medifast meals each and at 110 calories each our tanks were on empty. We remembered seeing a Hooters (which seemed out of place for the area) and headed over. As expected the parking lot was full of chrome and shiney paint which made the WAIT over an hour. I saw Cornel Mustang (our new friend George from Arlington Mustang Club) at the Bar. I grabbed to stools from other tables and we pried our way up to the sticky counter. The sole bartender Linda was herself. She had the Hooters outfit on but was experiencing her busiest night EVER with appeared to be the fault of the Hot Rod Power Tour. Rett and I were in no hurry and new it would be the perfect long patient night. We met some local guys, shared more story with Co Mustang and also met the Director of Operations who tried to get Linda’s attention for 10 minutes. I stepped in (now that Linda knew us) and got Nate some attention. As a reward Nate told us to stop by the Factory Five booth an get free t-shirts (see, I told you we are two lucky dudes). After a bunch off various types of wings (bone in, boneless, shrimp), plenty of libations, we headed back to the FREE hotel.
Derrick, someone we know well but don’t know at all, is the lead parking technician. Always frazzled and harassed by the over 3500 daily entrants. Derrick is a trooper leading the procession of smart ass hot rodders keeping us parking in a perfect line, or at least as straight as you can get considering the smoldering heat, pending storms and excitement. Here’s to you Derrick.
As the clock struck nine we unparked as quickly and precisely as we parked moving over to the main lot for the a DAY 1 of the Hot Rod Power Tour. In my humble opinion, this was the busiest day ever for a Power Tour stop. The combination of “the first day” and the extra-large City of Dallas Forth Wrth Arlington contributed to the record setting attendance.
Being the first to visit the vendors on the first day of the tour provided some added benefits for swag and information. If you weren’t aware, vendors create this puzzle type magnet collection requiring you to visit specific vendors for each of seven days concluding with the puzzle making a picture. It’s cool and something to do. The magnets are in addition to the mammoth amounts of swag including posters, hats, stickers, pens, samples and more. Lastly and the most anticipated are the daily participant shirts. Despite the $21 price tag these shirts sell fast. Here’s how it works. Each day there’s a new shirt and a new color. You must be a credential carrying registrant to purchase the participant shirts. Of have course they hats, mugs, sweatshirts, shot glasses and a crap ton more to select from. All over priced but the motto is “you only live once”.
Around 4:30 we set up chairs by the main stage to listen to the stage show and sponsors advertise their products. On this day I won the 75th Anniversary Edelebrock book by answering a question about which car Vic was driving on the tour (it’s the red ’32). Vic had me up on stage so he could sign the book.
Then the down poor happened. Umbrellas went up, ponchos went on. Lockley is wasn’t anything close to the forecasters prediction but more like a typical 3pm Hawaii shower ending quickly just to cool down the blacktop and continue on with the show.
Rett and headed back for showers. Now remember, we’re in the South. A Californian can’t and wont get use to this outrageous humidity, at least not in 7 days, so at least two showers a day are required. From there we headed back to the Red Neck Heaven for a quick bite. “Two for dinner” I said to the hostess (still dressed for bikini week) and she added me to a list two pages long. “for get it, we’re in a hurry”. It was out fault for not realizing with 3500 hot rodders in town that scantily clothed waitresses wouldn’t draw crowds willing to wait 2 hours.
We headed straight to the Coyote Drive Inn which turned out to be awesome, awesome, awesome. The place is a gold mine selling out every weekend since it opened. With three screen the main attraction is the food court and entertainment area. They had a full fast food concession stand like any movie theater but also a few food trucks (tonight was a Mexican truck and a grilled cheese truck). There was a hip live band, “big ass” fans, very clean tables and restrooms. Painless Performance had set up a special event for us Tourers by showing American Graffiti. It was too good of a time to keep writing about but in a nut shell – seeing all the classics and muscle cars pointed toward the screen, everyone sitting out in their lawn chairs with popcorn and a drink was an experience I wont soon forget.
BY the time we called in our wake up call for 6am it was 12:30…. Past my bed time. Good night.
Our first free breakfast was nothing to write home about, so I’m not sure why including it except for the fact the di have the famous and peculiar TEXAS shaped waffles. Yes, we were in Texas so it made since.
Our nice slow morning didn’t require an alarm clock or schedule but we were on the road by 7:30 headed to the Dallas area. Just 90 miles in the 500 trip there was a major trip which detoured us off the freeway and on to 20 business in Pecos. Pecos is a nice little town highly touched twice by economic recessions. Once in the early 90s when the mine was shut down, recovered as the 2nd fastest growing small city in the USA followed by the recent bubble-burst in 2007. Anyway, back on the real interstate 20 we next stopped in Midland home of Laura and George Bush and my friend Manny Sias. I lost George’s number but still had Manny’s. Manny was working so we grabbed some gas and shoved on but not after visiting another world famous destination – “The Odessa Meteor Crater”. If you’re ever in the area, don’t waste your time. It’s a hole filled in with dirt. You’ve got to believe there was a meteor strike but there’s no apparent proof. The most exciting thing was the BEWARE OF SNAKES signs warning you of the many snakes along the 12” gravel pathway. We walked quickly.
The next noteworthy element of the trip was the GT-H reaching 50,000 miles at 11:10 CST . Also important is to realize Retts how now put 21,000 Power Tour Miles on the Shelby.
We pulled in to Dallas (actually adjacent city Arlington) around 3:30pm. After checking in to our bachelor pad we headed to Cowboy stadium and chose the VIP tour. The place is amazing and worth a visit. If you’re a football fan (which neither of us are) – don’t miss it.
Headed toward dinner we bumped in to a few of the other Bang Shifters (you know who you are) who joined us at Red Neck Heaven. Seriously, we didn’t know it was this type of place…. And what I mean by that…just Google it. I had wings which I found out when the order arrived, you don’t go for the food, you go for the “atmosphere”.
Before calling it a “night” the ‘Stang got her first bath risking invoking a rain shower, which would be Rett’s fault.
We’re here about 1 mile from Cowboy stadium and a view of Six Flags over Arlington anxious to grab our Power Tour credentials at 9am tomorrow. Also on deck is a private car show for the local veterins.
Stay tuned friends.