Returning To Brice Road
Minnesota To Columbus:The "Schlepping The Editor" Tour!
From the January, 2001 issue of Mopar Muscle
Photography by Dustin Dwyer
I'll be honest, I like to think of myself as a "the glass is half full" kinda guy, but when the call came three days before I was supposed to fly into the Twin Cities to lead that leg of the tour, I had a real hard time seeing it as anything but empty.
This year we relied on friends and aftermarket companies to get us from points A to B. Unfortunately, three days before I was to pick up my borrowed wheels in Minnesota, the car got stranded in California and there was no way to get it up north.
And actually, I'm glad. The solution to my transportation dilemma was bumming rides with different participants on the tour all the way from Minnesota to Columbus. I rode in a pair of hard-topped E-Bodies, a closed 340 Dart, and three drop-tops: a Belvedere, a Coronet 500 and a Canadian 'Cuda. I'd say I had the most enviable ride of the staff!
Departing from MAS Racing in St. Paul, Minnesota, we headed for John Balow's Muscle Car Restorations and Brats Shop in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, for lunch, and then went on to Naperville, Illinois, to finish the first day. The following morning we left from Koller Dodge and headed East to The Paddock's Knightstown, Indiana, store where we were supposed to meet Chuck James and the Kansas City contingent for lunch, and then travel on to Brice. Unfortunately, our group got split right out of Naperville, and the lead vehicles drove about 15 miles per hour under the speed limit for an hour or so, hoping the stragglers would catch us. As a result, we rolled into Knightstown 15 minutes after the K.C. tour left. The kicker was when the stragglers rolled in twenty minutes after us-they'd decided not to deal with waiting in traffic and took a "quicker" route that took them through every small-town stop light between Naperville and Knightstown.
Editor Schleppers: (from left...
Editor Schleppers: (from left to right) Bob Eberhahn, Mark Walsh, Rick Walsh and Rick's '69 Coronet 500; Canadians Sid Gagne and Allan Oger and Allan's '71 Cuda; Peter Meyer and his '71 383 'Cuda; Russ Carlson and Diana Rhodes with Russ's '73 Challenger. Top: Canadian Terry Plester and his '70 Dart logged over 1300 miles before hauling me and my gear from MAS in Minnesota to Muscle Car Restorations. Inset: Steve Landon and his younger brother in Steve's '66 Belvedere. They helped get me to Naperville.
While riding in the cars was cool (the biggest thrill for me was when Rick Walsh asked if I'd like to drive his Coronet the last 60 miles into Columbus), the best part was riding with the participants, getting to know them, and bench racing for two days.
The upshot is that unless my '61 Plymouth station wagon is able to make the journey from Florida to Columbus under its own power next year, I'm planning on thumbing it again. It's definitely not the destination-it's the journey. Thanks to all who schlepped me and my gear from Minnesota to Columbus! -Brad Ocock
It's always great to meet up with old friends and make new ones. This year our caravan started out from Weld Wheel Industries in Kansas City, Missouri, where we were met by Gregory Smith, Director of Marketing, and given a tour of the facilities. After our drivers meeting, I was accompanied by Tom Eddy of The Paddock as we led the group out of downtown Kansas City behind the wheel of Borla's Fire Rescue 4x4 Dakota. Heading east on I-70, we were aiming for our first night's stop: the HoJo in Effingham, Illinois. If we only knew what was in store for us that day! I've never seen so much road construction in my life! It's amazing that our caravan stayed together with all the merging we had to do. At one point after St. Louis, it took us about an hour to get through one construction zone where two major Interstates merged down to a single lane. Despite all of this, we made it through, arriving in Effingham around 6 p.m. Hungry and tired of dealing with traffic, Tom and I met up with Ed and Ruth West and enjoyed an excellent dinner at Niemerg's Family Restaurant. If you're ever in Effingham, this is the place to eat.
After getting a good night's rest, we were once again on our way, aiming to be at The Paddock in Knightstown, Indiana, by noon, where we were going to meet up with Brad and the Minnesota tour. Making excellent time, we pulled into The Paddock at noon. After a group photo in front of the building, we headed back to the food tent where we indulged in some good barbecue.
Don and Sue Kettinger wowed...
Don and Sue Kettinger wowed me with their 72,000-mile survivor Charger. They fired it up, drove it on the cruise and had a good time with it. You've got to respect that!
MAS Racing in St. Paul, Minnesota,...
MAS Racing in St. Paul, Minnesota, provided us with coffee, donuts, pop, fresh fruit and other essentials to get us on our way. At 9 a.m., a decent crowd departed for Columbus.
Kansas City MO to Columbus:...
Kansas City MO to Columbus: Road Destruction in the MidwestFrom lathe turning and welding to polishing the wheels, we were amazed to see how much work is still being done by hand at Weld!
They come from the Nort'....
They come from the Nort'. Koller Dodge in Naperville rolled out the carpet for us on Thursday morning. Viking ad sales goddess Susan Clark and Koller's Keith Johnson share a Finnish ancestry, and draped this Finnish flag over the Prowler in a proud display of Finn/Mopar heritage.
John Balow also hosted the...
John Balow also hosted the caravan the first day, giving tours of his facility. Balow's Muscle Car Restorations is one of the premier rebuilders of Detroit's finest. The Midwestern bratwurst lunch was a highlight of the trip.
Brad's tour hadn't arrived yet by 1:30, so we rolled out of The Paddock and hit the road once more, this time traveling Route 40 to avoid the construction along Interstate 70, which proved to be a much nicer drive through small-town America. We eventually had to get back on Interstate 70, though, which was actually fairly easy until we arrived in Columbus, where we met up with more delays trying to get onto Brice Road
Despite the long waits in traffic that seemed to dominate our tour, if you were to ask me what the most memorable time was, I would have to say it was the folks who were along on the cruise. They all made it a very enjoyable trip me. Thanks to you all. -Chuck James
When my faithful companion and Mopar Muscle Advertising Team Leader John Nichols agreed to join me on the Return To Brice Road tour from Memphis to Columbus, I think we both initially thought we'd be living in the lap of luxury. Perhaps our trip to Memphis would start on Beale Street...a little barbecue, a little blues...wait, make that a lot of barbecue.
Well, we did that, but only after sampling Rick Bottom's '64 Dodge 880 Custom station wagon. Sure, it had the ultra-cool lo-profile treads, polished American Racing Wheels' Torq-Thrusts and a booming sound system. With its down-in-the-weeds stance and the downright stylin' cheetah-trimmed interior, we knew we would be the double-take that every car enthusiast desires.
Once we finally got to the...
Once we finally got to the Paddock in Knightstown on day two, there was a great lunch waiting for us. After lunch, it was on to Brice.
But What About The A/C?
The ride itself was downright comfortable with a case of Zephyrhills water and iced-down towels draped around our necks courtesy of our tour host Competition Cams. Despite over 100-degree temperatures and heat advisories all the way across Tennessee and into Bowling Green.
However, even more impressive was that none of our fellow travelers had A/C in their Mopars either.
Upon arriving in Bowling Green, temperatures dropped to a downright delightful 89 degrees. On Thursday morning, Holley's Bill Tichenor took us on a tour of the Holley facility. At 10:15, we promptly put our Mopars in gear and headed north toward Cincinnati, anticipating a midday rendezvous with the folks on the Atlanta tour. Unfortunately, they were running about one hour behind us. Despite a couple of minor problems with caravan participant vehicles, we continued north to Columbus, meeting up with the Atlanta tour approximately 60 miles from our destination-Brice Road.
When we pulled into the lot on Brice, the caravan participants waited patiently. With over 150 cars in the tour and over 300 cars in the lot, the Return To Brice Road caravan achieved what we had hoped-making the event more than just being there, it was about getting there as well. Next time, however, I'll opt for making the Memphis caravan an evening tour if we have to travel without A/C! -Jerry Pitt
For me, it was the third time around on a Mopar Muscle Nats Caravan, this time originating at Year One's facility in Atlanta and running with the crew from Year One and the participants on the two-day cruise up to Columbus. Actually, my odyssey began at home in Southern California several days before. Borla offered their 2000 Dakota Fire Rescue vehicle; the only problem was getting it from Borla's plant in So-Cal to Kansas City, Missouri, the cruise starting point. "Wanna drive Borla's 4x4 truck to K.C?" Jerry asked. Having never wheeled through that much of the country, I said "Yeah." Once in K.C., the Borla truck was deposited at Weld Industries for the Kansas City Caravan in the morning, and I caught a flight to Atlanta for the Year One Caravan.
Kansas City MO To Columbus...
Kansas City MO To Columbus
In Belleville, Illinois, we picked up a few more cars for the caravan
Ruth West knows the way to...
Ruth West knows the way to our hearts-it's with her home made cookies!
The Paddock's Tom Eddy brags...
The Paddock's Tom Eddy brags to Becky Beavers about the size of his biceps after manhandling Borla's full-time 4x4 Fire Rescue Dakota.
The Paddock put on a great...
The Paddock put on a great lunch for us in Knightstown. Hey Tom, aren't employees supposed to start at the back of the line?
We posed a portion of our...
We posed a portion of our participants on Thursday morning at Holley Performance Products. At Holley, Bill Tichenor took us on a tour of the facility where we had the opportunity to see where the wide scope of Holley brands are produced, including Weiand, Holley, B&M Superchargers, Lunati, Earls, Flowtech and more.
Rick Bottom's '64 Dodge 880...
Rick Bottom's '64 Dodge 880 wagon was made for Memphis' famous Beale Street. With a down-in-the-weeds stance, Rick's cruiser was nearly perfect for the ride from Memphis to Columbus. The only blues John Nichols and Jerry Pitt were singing was the tune "5-60 Air Conditioning," but they said they'd do it all again. Thanks Rick!
Greg Songer of Fort Worth,...
Greg Songer of Fort Worth, Texas, decided he needed a mid-summer break from the Texas heat, so he joined us in Memphis at Competition Cams with his '70 Road Runner 440+6.
Wednesday was the kickoff for the Year One Caravan. Last year, I had taken the run from Memphis, which hooks up with the Atlanta caravan near Cincinnati, so I had a taste of the way Year One does things. Pat Staton and the crew at Year One have a lock on making this event work, and the Year One caravan only gets bigger and better, since lessons from the previous runs are incorporated into making the next year's event work even more smoothly. For me, once I grabbed my first cup of coffee at the Year One welcome marquee, it was cruise control all the way to Columbus. The word must be out with Mopar fans in the region, as the turnout was great, with nearly twenty cars. From checking-in the cars and running the drivers meetings to providing breakfast and staging the cars for the cruise, everything was so well scienced-out, I had nothing to do but enjoy the scene and shoot photos.
Our Year One-organized police escort led us out of Atlanta and towards our first destination, Mopar Performance shop and engine builders Hensley Racing in Knoxville, Tennessee. There we browsed the Mopar goods in the front showroom and were treated to a tour of Hensley's well-equipped, Mopar-only machine shop.
After our overnight stop, our next destination was Floyd Garret's Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville Tennessee. Floyd was on hand to greet the Caravaners and granted free admission into the display area of the finest collections of American muscle to be found anywhere. Definitely worth the stop.
From Floyd's, the cruise participants (now swelling in ranks with even more cars), lined up for the advance on Columbus. At Garrett's, we hooked up with long time Mopar Muscle contributor and new staffer Geoff Stunkard. Geoff is an ace lensman, having cut his teeth on the life of a drag racing photographer. With Geoff on board for the rest of the journey, I was just about out of a job with Pat Staton running the cruise and Geoff taking over with photographic duties. Nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the rest of the ride. -Steve Dulcich
Memphis To Columbus David...
Memphis To Columbus
David Connelly of Waldo, Arkansas, won our prize for shortest distance between fuel stops. At about 140 miles, the 440-powered '76 Dart began needing a fuel stop. He always carried a spare five gallons, just in case.
It was only fitting that the leg of the tour I was on would start at Floyd Garrett's Muscle Car Museum. As many of you might guess from my stories, my roots are deeply in the kingdom of nitromethane, where there's nothing but Hemi engines. Due to the hectic nature of drag racing, the Mopar Nationals had usually fallen on weekends when I was busy with quicker pursuits, so this would be my first time to Brice Road.
By mid-morning, we were underway with Tom O'Toole's StarCoach-built PT Cruiser at the lead as the caravan headed toward I-40 and then I-75. Now on the move, it was time to run some film through the cameras. With Steve Dulcich in the shotgun seat, Pat Staton from Year One more than willingly took our borrowed Toyo Tires Dakota quad-cab up into the...er, upper limits of the speedometer...while I leaned out the rear window and began hitting the motor drive. The problem was that the caravan, moving from 65 mph on up, had spread out over 4 or 5 miles, so Pat had his work cut out as we made our way to the front of the line, not to mention my backseat-driving yells to slow down or speed up. Actually, the back seat of the truck was comfortable enough, but with most of my upper body hanging out the window and a death grip on the Nikon, I had little time to enjoy it (or the truck's custom DVD movie system).
Pre-scheduled fuel stops came every 150 miles or so, and we had only one incident where a car had problems; luckily, another caravan member, whose normally-trailered car was on the road this day, was able to pick up the wavering beast and catch us by the next gas stop.
From the start at Year One,...
From the start at Year One, the Atlanta caravan drew a large crowd and plenty of Mopar machinery. The Year One crew provided food and drink, along with an area where participants could get to know each other and talk Mopars before hitting the highway.
Year One generated these cool...
Year One generated these cool window decals for the participants, and they were in great demand!
We were greeted inside Comp...
We were greeted inside Comp Cams by Ethel Pigram and Wayne Williams, who took our group of caravan members on a tour. In the dyno lab, Chad Roberson introduced us to Comp's Spintron lab, which tests valvetrain dynamics at high rpm.
John Walker and Brent Hasselhof...
John Walker and Brent Hasselhof joined us in Bowling Green at Holley with John's '98 Dakota R/T. Special thanks to John for allowing us to use the bed of his truck as a photo perch.
Atlanta/Sevierville To Columbus:...
Atlanta/Sevierville To Columbus:
Staged and ready for the two day cruise, Year One's Pat Staton arranged for a police escort out of Atlanta
First stop: Mopar specialists...
First stop: Mopar specialists Hensley Racing in Knoxville, Tennessee. Participants checked out the Mopar Performance showroom up front and toured the machine shop out back.
Tom O'Toole of StarCoach helped...
Tom O'Toole of StarCoach helped lead the caravan in his custom PT Cruiser.
As the sun got lower in the west, we met up with the Memphis crew for the last leg into Columbus. Now almost 40 cars strong, we hit the city limits running like a freight train, watching for potential "welcome committee" officers who might not be so pleased about our rate of travel. As it was, nobody got tagged, and within the hour, we were on Brice Road for the big get together in the sunset.
All in all, the "Return to Brice Road" was a blast. It had been some time since my own days of "outlawing" on Philadelphia's Front Street, and cruising Brice during the weekend brought back a lot of old memories and made new ones. -Geoff Stunkard
Of course there was a New Jersey leg. There were 18 cars in it, for heaven's sake! We evenhave a picture of them all in front of the Summit truck on our second day. The participants had set up an impromptu photo session amid cries of, "Hey, the photographer wants to get a picture set up over here. Put your car in the line!"
The photographer was Dustin The Intern, who had been happily snapping pictures for three days, since it took us that long to make our way up the coast from Florida to New Jersey, and then he took more when we met our caravan at Just Suspension in Fairfield. And when we got started, we had a blast dropping our Holley Dodge Durango to the back of the caravan, then blowing past the others and taking pictures of the cars and drivers with the gorgeous Interstate 80 scenery as a backdrop. But alas, without going into great detail, Dustin the Intern experienced camera problems. And Debbie The Managing Editor was having too good a time socializing and trying to figure out just where the heck we were to learn about the cars that were driven. Rookies! We'll have to send them again next year to see if they're capable of learning from their mistakes.
New Jersey To Columbus: The...
New Jersey To Columbus:
The drivers meeting before we headed out on the backroads into Columbus. Our tour guide was giving us an idea of what the curves are like. Nah, not really.
Hearing horror stories of massive construction delays on our regular route, Lou, a local who joined us at Summit, knew a great route on the back roads. He led the caravan into Columbus, then we never saw him again, even as we waited for the other caravans to show up on Brice Road. And we desperately wanted to get a snapshot of his Mopar-logo'd tennis shoes.
Despite having rookie leaders, the caravan went off without a hitch, and we had great fun with all the participants and hope they had as much fun as we did. We had several families with kids ranging from four to fifteen, a group from Sweden and Norway, and three unidentified stragglers that joined up on the backroads. Never saw them again, either. We made great friends that we hope to see again next year, and we wish there was enough room to tell all the stories. We have to embarrass the teenage girls in the caravan who had a crush on Dustin The Intern, though. We won't mention any names, but you know who you are. -Debbie Fanatia
The shortest trip of Mopar Muscle's Return to Brice Road caravans doesn't necessarily mean that the fun and excitement is equally abbreviated. Besides, there's a bit of honor in parading from the birthplace of our favorite musclecars to the biggest event in the country celebrating the same.
This year the Detroit City brigade was fortunate to have the newly-opened Walter P. Chrysler Museum serve as the departure point for the Michigan leg of the caravans. Although administrative miscommunications threw our schedule off by a couple of hours, the attending crew took the advantage to hold an impromptu car show right in the museum parking lot. Given the 30-plus vehicles present, this little get together gave everyone time to get acquainted and mentally prepared for the dash to Columbus.
Our caravan was the first...
Our caravan was the first to arrive at Brice Road. Notice the sign we immediately surrounded. Notice the disappointment of the guys when they realized they were a day late.
Detroit To Columbus: The...
Detroit To Columbus:
The Walter P. Chrysler Museum, located at DaimlerChrysler World Headquarters, was our departure point from Motor City. Lots of cool cars, memorabilia, and "living displays" help visitors follow the legacy.
The Return To Brice Road 3.0...
The Return To Brice Road 3.0 participants at the end of the day. You're what this was all about. Thanks for the memories-we can't wait for next year!
Fortunately, there were no...
Fortunately, there were no major mishaps along the way, although Dennis Day's Dakota did require a minor parking-lot tweak halfway to Columbus.
This is Dad Jr. His dad is...
This is Dad Jr. His dad is John, but we called him Dad the whole trip, so his kid became Dad Jr. The kid knew more about cars than anyone on the tour, and kept everyone well-entertained. Notice the grin. That's because he's touching the Holley Dodge Durango. He thinks he's getting away with it.
If you haven't been to the museum yet, you really should check it out. The numerous cars (vintage through late-models) and informational displays are not only interesting in themselves, but they trace the history of the corporation from its early days, through the madness of the 1960s and '70s, up to the present. Vintage film clips available at audio-visual stations throughout the museum help bring Chrysler's noble past to life. All Mopar fans worth their Pentastar should aim their sights on this facility, located within the DaimlerChrysler World Headquarters, any time they're in the Detroit area.
Our trip south to Columbus proved fairly uneventful, which for a comfortable caravan cruise is exactly the way we like it. Easy-going traffic, a casual lunch break (wherein we swamped a one-register McDonald's), and a half-mile long line of vintage and late-model Mopars rolling confidently down the highway was the stuff this cruise was made of. -Rob Reaser