After a lot of last minute directions and hints that we thought would be useful, all were off and running by 9:45 am. We, as rally masters, then left to go to the mystery location.
We were not driving 30 minutes when the first panic call arrived. "We are on Sidney St., is that right?" were the sounds in our ear, not expecting a call and not knowing all the streets in all the towns our information back was to go to the last clue you had right and then go forward. About 15 minutes later another call was received," What is a T?", oh dear; guess we must have not defined it well enough. As rally masters, we did try to give out as much information as we could. Guess we had a few snags. Well, about an hour later we arrived at the mystery location which we can now tell you was the Chateau Elan at the track at Sebring and proceeded to wait.
As we drove up, we could see the Tampa Bay Vettes banner at the front driveway:
Upon walking through the front door, we were greeted by the sight of our 1998 Indianapolis Pace Car:
.. and Corvette racing banner, along with a sign stating that the race track was closed for repairs.
Our guestimate as to the first arrival was off by about an hour or more.
During the whole setup process the only real bone of contention was the time to leave from Brandon, so there was much discussion of starting the cars off too late. In the meantime we had received several more phone calls, and by now we were starting to get a bit concerned. After some pacing and discussion, we decided that if by 2:30 no one showed up, we were just going to go to the bar and drink ourselves into oblivion. Sometimes being the rally master is just as stressful as being a participant. But at least we knew where we were (unlike the participants).
Well, finally the first car arrived and it was Rhonda and Beau Jensen:
We had decided to add a few extra clues, so no one could go to the end and figure out the destination, but we had told people to use the 100th clue as a rest stop and had instructed all to stretch and a good place to empty the bodily fluids. As luck would have it the first car drove in, swung around and started to leave the hotel and go on to the next clue, so Buzz had to try and run after them and tell them they were at the end. Their answer was "We didn't have to go and knew there were more clues." Then they told us that they had spotted other cars along the way, so we were now feeling better about the whole rally, but were still rather concerned about a few couples out there. Buzz decided that he should move the Z06 up by the sign
..and wait for the drivers to arrive. As the heat rose with the strong afternoon sun it was obvious that this was turning out to be more of a job than he anticipated. He had to chase more than one car down, and had to argue with a few who insisted the there were more clues. People started trickling in car by car. Most had smiles, and were still talking to each other. All had emergency envelopes, and no one had opened them.
At about 3PM Buzz called one of the teams, which we were concerned about and after finding out where they were, he decided to cut their trip short, so that they could join us for the surprise. All arrived by 3:30 PM and we took a deep breath and started to relax. After checking in, most of the drivers and navigators received goodie bags in their rooms (sorry about the hotel not delivering all properly) with instructions to meet in the lobby later for one more event. Of course the rally sheets with their 100 plus questions had to be "graded". We were up to the task.
At 4PM the drivers and navigators once again saddled up and were off to the Sebring track to do two laps. Think everyone was smiling now. We all, so we thought, proceeded to the track to do "Parade Laps." No one was told not to pass, so there was a lot of "jockeying for position" going on around the track. Buzz had to stay in the front or some of them would have passed the pace car. I went to our room which overlooked the track rather nicely and videoed.
Once the laps were over I came down to find a couple, who are rather new to the club, he had gone to the local car wash, and missed the laps. Boy did I feel for him. He took it like a real gentleman and even offered to do anything for me. Not being real shy I asked him if he would mind videoing the group coming back. I really do have some nerve. Hope I didn't hurt his feelings, but at the time that was really a great help, as I was still trying to grade the papers. Believe me the answers to some questions really had me giggling. One thing Buzz and I did find out about TBVers is that they all have a great sense of humor. Just by some of the notes on the papers it told me people were really having a great time whether they were lost or not. Love the answers that some just made up.
Well, all the drivers and navigators arrived back from the track with great big smiles. Now it was time to start partying and some went to the lounge while others went to relax before cocktails. We went up to continue grading. Yes, we were still smiling, someone had provided us with a drink also. Just diet coke, we wanted to grade correctly.
We managed to freshen up and arrive downstairs in the banquet room. It was really decorated well with Corvette Racing banners and other car stuff. Yes, now it was time to have some alcoholic libation. We were still waiting for the mystery guest to arrive. No one but us knew who it was. We were thrilled when Andy Pilgrim, captain of the C5R car #4 arrived:
We mingled for a while, and then Buzz went to the podium to announce the winners and introduce Andy, who gracefully agreed to sign autographs. The winning team was Rhonda and Beau Jensen who were our first arrivals, having driven the shortest distance and answered the most questions correctly. Second place went to Jim and Patti Keene with Judy and Jim Chevillot coming in a close third; gee, did their new Bowling Green coupe make the going easier for them?
Buzz was thinking that this Podium stuff is really great. Tom Crawford then stepped up the podium and as the CO-rally master of an earlier function along with Beau Jensen said a few words thanking us. Dinner was then served and upon completion people started mingling with Andy Pilgrim and he obliged by once again signing autographs, on trophies and shirts:
..and handouts that he so kindly brought with him. Many pictures of him and members were taken. He spoke a few words on the race team and then had to leave early as he had to go test a car at Homestead first thing on Monday. We cannot thank him enough for taking the time out of his busy schedule to join us for a few hours. Everyone enjoyed meeting and chatting with him. As a footnote it was great for us to watch Andy and the #4 car WIN at Le Circut Trois-Rivieres on the following weekend. I asked him if maybe our dinner was good luck.
We then had raffle items to be drawn. Thanks to Breathless Performance, Mid America Designs, Ecklers, Field's Framing, Car Wash on the Greens, Corvette Concepts and Andy Pilgrim who so kindly donated a signed cap, for all the donations they made. It helped to make this rally a success. After the raffle several people were able to take any left over frustration out on a race car pinñata, evidently Ed Merchut had a lot of frustration built up as he was bound and determined to break it open. Afterward many of us adjourned to the lounge area where more good stories were told, and some alcohol was consumed.
Sunday morning started with breakfast around nine while the Chateau's staff went out to pick the car of their choice. We again had first, second, and third place awards. First place went to Frank and Joanne Crawford who own a 1973 red roadster, this was great as they were the couple who had answered the most questions right, but they didn't have a speedometer or odometer, it took them 5 hours and 50 minutes to complete the rally and Joann had drawn arrows on the papers to let us know that they had to go back and forth to find the answers to the clues. They are real troopers as the only air conditioning they had was a bottle water mister. They were extremely happy. One of Franks comments was he was just glad to keep up with the big boys out on the track. I really don't think the grin came off his face from the time he returned from the track until the time he left on Monday. Second place went to Mike and Gillian Smith who only had roughly 500 miles on his brand new 2002 Electron Blue Roadster, he was a happy camper. Third place went to Jake and Teresa Delaney for their Yellow coupe which always looks beautiful.
One of the best stories we heard was from a couple (we wont mention their names) who were on their first rally, one of the clues asked for the call numbers of a local radio station, which they passed. Having missed the sign (they did not realize this), she proceeded to listen to all kinds of stations on the radio, gospel, Spanish, etc., to find the call numbers. Evidently he did not agree that this was the way to answer the clue and it sounded like they might have had a bit of discussion about that issue. Listening to them tell the story was precious. Everyone hearing it was about to roll on the floor. The best thing about this is that they are ready to do another rally. They had gotten off the beaten path and made an emergency phone call to us, but they finished the rally and were still in good spirits. Again this was our goal to have fun.
I am sure as the days go by, we will hear many more stories. We were so glad that so many members of Tampa Bay Vettes were able to go on the rally and were really glad to have Mike and Debbie Nostro, and Ed and Sandra Merchut from the Orlando Corvette Club join us. After breakfast, on Sunday we found many of our teams heading for home, hopefully with the smiles still on their faces and feeling a little better about themselves, their car and getting to know other members of the Corvette community better for having been together for the weekend. A few of us decided to stay and take advantage of the SPA services of the hotel, to relax away the stress of the rally. Speaking for the Rally Masters, we needed to relieve the tension from having to try and keep the whole thing running smoothly. The others who had stayed decided to go out to dinner and once again we fired up the Vettes and headed out. We ended up at a restaurant, Wild Turkey, whose outside decorations were camouflage nets and the biggest 4-wheel swamp buggy I have ever seen. However the food was great and the beer was cold and the company was superb.
We all headed off for home on Monday morning.
We would like to thank the Chateau Elan for providing a super setup for all the festivities, and the great service, food and everything else. Also, we would like to thank the track people at Sebring for allowing us to have the thrill of driving the circuit. I don't know how many realize that there are only a few Corvettes that have been able to drive this course. Most of all, we would like to thank ALL THE PARTICIPANTS for allowing us to have the opportunity to plan this weekend and hopefully give them something to remember. We know that we enjoyed the whole thing, from planning, driving the route over and over, to the culmination of handing out the last trophy. You all made this FUN for us!