Jun 27, 2013

Memphis or Bust...

Believe it or not!  This 1955 Ford firetruck is competing in the 2013 Great Race...
A few weeks ago, Jim Kahrs contacted me regarding the 2013 Great Race.  Jim is an old colleague from Oklahoma -- first as a student when I taught in the NROTC unit and later as a roommate -- and we have a common interest in cars and other distractions.  The first year I participated in the Great Race, Jim joined the crew in Kansas City and helped Margo with the support vehicle all the way to Boston.

I told Jim that I had actually considered going to Germantown on the 26th of June to watch the cars arrive there en route from Minneapolis to Mobile.  That was all it took.  Jim informed me that his bride, Sheila, was going to be out of town for a couple of days including the 25th and 26th.  It made perfect sense that he'd drive from Athens, Georgia on Wednesday, spend that evening with Mary Ann and me, and then he and I would drive from Fayetteville to Memphis and back in one day, just to see a bunch of old cars and old friends.
Crowds welcomed nearly 100 cars to Germantown
Jim drove over, arriving on Wednesday the 25th.  I met him at the shop of Dan and Deron Shady, where we examined the current state of progress on my 1932 Plymouth roadster hot rod.  After a nice tour of all the projects in the shop, we headed to Fayetteville.  Mary Ann and I and Jim enjoyed a relaxed dinner at Las Trojas Mexican Restaurant, returned to the house, and got a good night's rest.

On Thursday morning, Mary Ann fed us a nice breakfast and after we showered, we got on the road around 9:30 AM.  The shortest route to Memphis from our house is actually highway 72 from Huntsville through Decatur, Alabama to Corinth, Mississippi, and on to Collierville, Tennessee.  Our first stop in Memphis was directly across the street from the famed Peabody Hotel at a very established rib joint, the Rendezvous.  We descended the steps from street level to the subterranean dining room and were greeted by the most amazing aroma.  A delicious Memphis-style barbecue rib dinner ensued.

The local Cobra Club was well represented

Jim and I proceeded to Germantown (thank God for GPS) and got a good parking place close to the arrival location at Municipal Park.  The venue was perfect for a Great Race arrival, with a lovely shaded park adjacent to a wide boulevard for the arrival pageantry.  A Great Race stop is a mix of circus parade, carnival barking, high drama, and old cars.  A large inflated gate is set up under which the cars pass.  Music is blaring over some loudspeakers.  A professional sports announcer, Mr. Brian Goudge, of Ottawa, Canada (affectionately know to all as "Motormouth"), announces each arrival, along with some information about car, driver, and navigator.  Corky Coker of Coker Tires in Chattanooga is right by Brian's side offering an equally upbeat commentary.  The cars and drivers roll by among a cheering crowd.  Local sponsors are providing each team with gifts, including cold, wet towels to put around their overheated necks.  It all makes for terrific theater.



Each car welcomed some wet, cold towels
for the long-suffering crew
After the cars are welcomed, they proceed to the "parc ferm√©," literally, "closed park."  Each Great Race participant will keep their car on display for the public to enjoy for a couple of hours at each overnight city.  It is a wonderful opportunity to interact with the public and explain what the Great Race is all about.  This was the third time the rally had stopped in Germantown over the last ten years.  The crowd was enthusiastic, but I was told that it was smaller than in previous years.  I think the heat and threat of rain showers might also have affected the size of the crowd of spectators.

Jim and I admired the cars and chatted with participants for an hour or so before heading home.  We got dinner at a small steak house in Corinth, Mississippi, and were back in Fayetteville a little after midnight.  It was a fun experience and brought back many happy memories.

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