Our Corvette 50th Anniversary Celebration Adventure

June, 2003

    On June 24, 2003 we left home at about 8:30 AM to start our journey via a Corvette Caravan to Bowling Green, KY.  The main kickoff point closest to our house was Ferman Chevrolet on Route 60, Tampa.  We arrived there early to help if needed in any set up.  Ferman sponsors our local club, and was nice enough to jump on board and be a kickoff point for the caravan.  For those of you not in the Corvette world, this was the 50th birthday of the Corvette.  The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY was planning a huge event, and Chevrolet also had an event being held in Nashville, TN.  Since these two destinations were only about 60 minutes apart, this was turning into an enormous event for Corvette enthusiasts. 

    Upon our arrival at Ferman, radio stations were in the process of setting up.  When I say "stations" I mean like six or seven:

    Just on our short trip there, listening to the local DJ was getting us excited.  He was excited just to be a small part of it.  Within a short period of time cars started arriving, and Einstein Bagels had plenty of coffee and of course bagels for the early arrivals.  Ferman had soda and an overabundant supply of water.  The empty parking lot was filling up rather quickly:

    Television stations started to show up with their cameras.  Excitement was definitely building, as not only participants were getting to know each other, but there were many locals stopping in to see so many Corvettes in one place.  Ferman did an outstanding job in kicking off the Tampa section.  Chick-fil-A arrived with antennae cows, and little chicken sandwiches, they even brought along the cow.  Many pictures were taken of him (or her):

    Tadpole’s came with some vegetables and wings.  Ferman was definitely not sending us off with empty bellies.  They even had two huge birthday cakes.  Everyone had to be excited.  Of course the cars were to die for.  Many different years and colors were represented and this looked like a Corvette show without the trophies.

    Each participant received a caravan book and a Ferman’s/Tampa Bay Vettes pin.  The southwest Florida caravan arrived, these being cars that started out in Naples, Fort Myers, & Sarasota; our journey to the NCM had begun.  Police escorts were provided so that we could make an easy transition onto the highway:

    It’s not easy when there are about 200 cars trying to travel together.  What a wonderful ribbon of colors we made.  Our hats go off to Ferman for starting our trip off on four great wheels!

    We then traversed Route 75 until we reached Lake City:

    This was only about a three-hour drive, but here the East Coast Caravan would join up with us, and then a bar-b-que was scheduled at Bruce Glueck’s.  Since we arrived a bit early we were able to watch about another 150 cars descend upon Lake City.  The caravan Grand Marshal for the East Coast was Andy Pilgrim, the C5R racecar driver.  Chevrolet had provided him with a 50th Anniversary Edition Red Convertible to lead the parade.  How very appropriate that he should have the “Birthday Car.”

    All had some time to freshen up and head on out for Bruce and Becky's home “Gator Island”, where the bar-b-que was to be.  What a great place to have it.  Bruce and Becky definitely went all out for this:

    Police were there to direct traffic and believe it or not they even had enough parking for all to park -- all 400 Corvettes.  Maybe more.  As you can tell by the name the theme of their home is "Gators".  There were many fake ones around the property greeting all.  They had a lovely small lake with a fountain and a few pedal boats and canoes (which people were free to use).  A DJ was on hand spinning tunes, plenty of beverages, including beer, and Sonny’s bar-b-que for all.

    Along with all this was a huge raffle to raise money for the NCM; there were many prizes.  Of course our celebrity Andy was available to sign autographs and just chat with the crowd.  Even some members from our Tampa Bay Vette club were lucky enough to win:

    Hey Tommy, how about that computer rear-view mirror?

    Bruce Glueck himself even drew three names and gave each $50.00 spending money for the trip.  What a guy!

    Wednesday morning had us up early and staging at a local mall.  Here a local car club, (not a corvette club) had a tent set up with coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts MMM MMM GOOD! They also handed out goodie bags.  The staging seemed to go very smoothly -- after Buzz jumped in and started to line up the participants.  We were lucky enough to be close to the front.  Several of the big blocks were out front, that way when they had to stop for fuel, by the time they filled up, they would still be able to catch another part of the caravan.  About four and a half hours later we arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway:

    The Georgia caravan also had this well organized, as there were police at the exit ramp and on almost every corner to direct us to the track.  We were about eight cars from the front, with Andy was in the lead.  Well, it was hot out and I guess one of the officers decided to sit in his car until we arrived.  So Andy and the first seven Corvettes missed the turn putting Jackie and me in the lead.  It was an awesome site behind us as we careened over the small hills on narrow roads to Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Did I forget to tell you that that was where we were headed?  One of the options of the caravan was to be able to do parade laps or if you wished, you could also do hot laps (for a fee).  Another one of the highlights of the journey to Bowling Green provided by the co-captains of the Georgia Caravan:

    Here was a track with almost nothing but Corvettes all around it.  Remember that we have now joined up with the Georgia Caravan. I'm not sure how many they numbered, but there sure were a lot of Vettes around.  First on our agenda was to empty our bodily fluid tanks, and find out the ground rules.  We had only wanted to do parade laps, so we found the line for that:

    ..and within the hour our horses were running.  This was no ordinary parade lap.  Yes, we were allowed up on the banks and I would say that the average speed was around 80MPH with some going a bit higher.  They let us do five laps.  Very fast and very well organized.  Although the navigator stated the wall looked pretty close at times:

    After our turn we stayed around to watch some others do their laps.  There was also a road course set up if one chose to do that.  The bonus there was that, if you wanted, you could have Andy Pilgrim drive you in your car for some or all of the laps!  From what Andy said later he must have done 150 laps.  I'm sure many had big smiles on their faces when they finished with their ride with Andy.  Although we didn’t do it this time, we both have been taken for a few laps by Andy at Sebring and its something neither of us will ever forget.  We opted to leave the track about 2PM to head to our most beloved bed and breakfast in Atlanta also known as The Cone residence.  This is the home of very dear friends who seem to put us up a lot as we travel through Atlanta.  It was very refreshing to be able to sit down and relax after a hot day at the track.  Gael and Chaz once again put on a wonderful dinner and we were able to enjoy it along with other caravan participants, Bob and Vicky Hardt.  Only a small amount of alcohol was consumed as we all knew we had an early start in the morning for the last leg of the trip.

    The plan was that the caravans would meet at a parking lot and then take off in sections of about 50 cars each.  Unfortunately the Florida caravan decided to change the rules and leave early.  We decided to stick to the original plan as much work and planning had gone into this.  So we arrived at an out-of-business K-Mart parking lot at about 8AM.  Again the police presence was fantastic.  We staged and in no time were off:

    There was a scheduled pit stop at the midway point, and we took advantage of it.  Then the three of us just sorta broke away from the group and took some back roads into Bowling Green.  We even stopped to have a “Kodak Moment” along the way in front of a local motel that actually has a garage for each room:

    The NCM was already converged upon by hundreds of 'Vettes.  Caravans had been arriving for the past two days and (remember) some were still due in on Friday.  As we walked out in front of the museum we were greeted with a site for all to see and most likely one that we probably will never see again:

    At this point Jackie and I took off our fun hats and put on our volunteer hats.  Being a board member of the museum, I felt it was my duty to help out whenever and wherever they needed.  I am fortunate enough to have Jackie feel the same way.  They moved me around, while they had her go to the museum store (where she usually could be found). 

    As a board member, Jackie and I were invited to several functions that evening.  One was a reunion of the Historic Motorama group.  It was a very nice cocktail party held at the University Plaza.  Here, unbeknownst to me, they presented a plaque and check to the museum library and asked me (representing the museum) to accept it.  It’s certainly great for the NCM to have such wonderful supporters:

    Next stop was at the Wendell and Jan Strode's Homestead for a reception with the International Caravan Participants.  I'm not sure how many international participants there were, but we did meet many from Australia, UK, Canada and Austria.  I'm sure there were many others but those are the ones we remember.  We even helped some Australian chaps route their trip down to Florida.  Good thing Jackie always has her trusty maps in the car.  She just gave them away.  Great talking to you guys and hope you had a great and safe trip.  Unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating this night as the rain came down in buckets the sky was being lit up frequently by bolts of lightning; the party was moved into the barn.  Good thing there was one!  Everyone just had a great sociable time.  The main consensus was to let it just rain itself out tonight so the festivities could begin tomorrow on a nice note.  And that’s just what happened.

    Friday morning had us driving down to Nashville with the Martins and the Bunces to help man the NCM tent at the Chevrolet event.  This was held at Titans Stadium.  Parking was available for caravan participants. Of course many people were staying in Nashville so there were many shuttle buses from local hotels.  There were many different vendors and booths set up outside the stadium.  The three couples took turns at the booth so that we could also see what was happening around us.  We were very lucky to have some of the C5 Fighter Squadron there to help out.  A very capable bunch they are.  So it made it easier on all.  Chevrolet brought many different types of prototypes and had a wonderful Heritage tent.  Everything was spread out and that seemed to really help the movement of the crowds.  Of course we saw many old friends from GM and the Corvette community.  Friday night there was a concert on a stage in the river by The Temptations, but we chose to head back to Bowling Green:

    Saturday we were again up and over to the NCM early.  Jackie went off to the store, not to shop, but to dig in and volunteer.  This time they set her up at a table outside the store taking orders.  She was chained to that table for the duration of the weekend, which made it easy for me to find her.  Me, I was off to many different areas to do my usual job of talking.  The amount of people coming and going was incredible.  Both of us have volunteered at many events here, but there has never been anything like this.  This was a wonderful thing for the NCM.  They were bursting at the seams.  Guess that is one of the reasons for the building fund campaign:

    All seemed to take it in stride.  The weather was hot but beautiful; people were able to wander and look at cars or shop at the many vendors.  Many people took advantage of the road tours.  After a long day we decided not to head to Nashville for the ZZ Top concert but just to get a bite to eat and rest for another busy day Sunday.

    Sunday brought many more enthusiasts from Nashville to the museum.  So saying that it was busy was an understatement.  Jackie says she only saw me once or twice during the day.  She says the great thing about her position was that she did get to see many old acquaintances.  If we were outside just wondering around we probably would never have crossed paths.  Most of our friends know they can usually find her at the store and then she persuades them to part with some of their cash on items they just can’t find at their local corner store.  She really does have fun with this volunteer stuff.  Although at the end of the day on Sunday, with the massive amount of people that passed through the NCM, she was tired.  But she will do it again tomorrow if asked, as will I.

    This day also brought Dennis Gage from the Speed Channel's My Classic Car to the NCM. He's going to end his show driving off in our good friends Chaz and Gael Cone’s 53CE:

    The show should air in January.  Sunday night the museum had a function in the amphitheater.  The attendance was fantastic.  Hot dogs, apple pie, and baseball.  The Mike Yager, Chairman of the NCM Board unveiled the plans for the addition to the museum and passed around the bucket for donations.  Along with the bucket, a few of the caravans donated monies to the cause.  The winning ticket for the gold raffle car was drawn at 10PM and was held by Anthony Yarnell of Cumming, Georgia.  Of course we didn’t win (we can’t buy tickets) but no one we sold tickets to won either.  Darn!

    Monday was wrap-up day and again the people came in droves.  The night before the museum had collected $85,000 for the addition and Bob Patrella generously agreed to double the amount.  Thank You, Bob!

    It was also time for the drawing for the Dale Earnhardt ZO6p; we couldn’t win that one, either.  Dale Edwards from Grand Blanc Michigan won, his initials are “D.E.” how ironic is that?  We were just hoping that maybe somebody that we sold a ticket to would win.  Well, maybe next time.  All who remained were given a commemorative “50th” glass and had the pleasure of seeing the “Birthday Cake”:

    As the crowds started to thin we decided to pack the car and head toward Atlanta.  Oh, yes, there was time to shop in between volunteering.  One must keep up-to-date on the Corvette wardrobe -- and I did buy another car at Jackie’s insistence:

    Hopefully everyone that attended had a great time.  I know that we did.  Now it’s off to our Atlanta B & B, where we were greeted with open arms and alcohol.  Oh, yes; we definitely needed it now.  The rains had held off for the weekend but less than a hour after leaving Bowling Green the skies opened up.  The rains were torrential.  We had to stop for gas someplace outside of Chattanooga, TN and met up with cars that were in the great race.  These were vintage automobiles going from coast-to-coast.  We were very happy that we were nice and cozy in our ZO6, which has real windows and powerful driving lights.  The rain was so heavy that you could hardly see the lights in front of you from a regular car or truck, so you could just barely see the old cars.  Our hats are off to those people:

    Some were open top roadsters and even though they did have slickers and goggles how much could they help? This guy would not even get out of the car:

    Hope all made it safe and sound when they arrive in Daytona for the Pepsi 400.  Unfortunately they had to put up with the remains of tropical storm Bill.  Like I said we were lucky enough to have such a wonderful place for the night in Atlanta.  Although the ride home on Tuesday was just as treacherous, as the rain continued until we were well into Florida.  The memories will remain forever.

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