We are finally home after an almost two-week trip from Maine to Florida on my last visit to all of the cities before the Great Race this summer. Director of Competition John Classen will be making one final run (his third in all) at the end of May.
Our trip started in Maine with still frozen lakes and cold temperatures and ended in Florida with bright sun and warm weather. It promises to be one of the best routes ever on the Great Race in terms of scenery, and the stops are going to be packed full of people with wonderful welcomes for the race participants.
The last post ended with us heading to Clinton, N.C., where the locals promise the best barbecue you have ever had. The area is best known for raising pigs, so this barbecue will not be beef. That night, we toured the venue on Water Street in downtown Wilmington with Great Racer Buddy Green and a local committee that is planning a huge event. The host hotels are in the venue, which runs several blocks along the Cape Fear River. Just across the river is the permanent home for the USS North Carolina battleship.
After rallying for two straight days in the great state of North Carolina, the racers will head to South Carolina and Myrtle Beach. The venue there is Broadway at the Beach, a unique outdoor mall that will see as many as 30,000 on a typical summer day. The stop planners there are expecting a giant turnout to see the cars.
The end of the seventh day of the race will be at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, S.C., which is home to the USS Yorktown. The aircraft carrier helped win World War II and has been on display in Charleston Harbor since 1975. Several special events are planned for the racers that night, including dinner on the hanger deck of the ship overlooking Charleston. Longtime racer Dennis Barfield met us and a large committee on the ship, and he was able to share stories of his time as a crewman on the Yorktown in the early 1960s.
The final two days of the 2014 Great Race will be Championship Run, and all competitors will have to keep all of their scores from both of these days. Regardless of the scores, the racers will enjoy the two days, starting with the wonderful Southern greeting they will get in Savannah, Ga. Lunch will be on the banks of the Savannah River downtown with the cars parked on the Cobblestone streets of River Street.
The finish that day into Jacksonville at the Jacksonville Landing on the St. Johns River (the site of the start of the Great Race in 2004), will feature all race cars participating in the Historic Springfield Area Cruise In down Main Street on the way to the venue. As the race cars pass through Springfield, they will see and hear thousands of cars and spectators lining the street. The Jacksonville Landing is preparing great food and live entertainment as well.
On the final day, the racers will rally in the horse country of Marion County, Florida, on the way to National Parts Depot in Ocala for the final lunch stop. Rick and Jim Schmidt will be opening up their collection of nearly 200 automobiles to the racers and provide lunch. Racers will get extra time to enjoy this stop as the scores are calculated before the drive to The Villages for the Grand Finish.
And what a finish it will be at Lake Sumter Landing. The Villages is going all out to welcome everyone, and a crowd of more than 10,000 is expected. The racers will find out why The Villages is called Floridas Friendliest City. The folks in The Villages host car shows on a regular basis, including one recently called the 13th Anniversary Cruise In. Click this link to get to The Villages internet site where you can then click the arrow to see video from that show: