If you’re from the Midwest, you’ve probably made the drive to Florida before. For the few hundred people driving in The Great Race, it’s been quite a different experience. Starting in Jackson, Florida, 149 cars traveled the backroads to Traverse City, Michigan. This isn’t just your average road trip, nor is it a race to see who can get to Traverse City the fastest, it’s all about accuracy.
I had no clue that The Great Race was so intensive until I did a little online research before the group made it to Shipshewana. In a nutshell, each car has a driver and a navigator, and are given turn by turn directions for their route. Not only does it tell the car where it should be going, but how fast they should be going on each road and turn. The goal of the driver is to follow those directions as accurately as possible to reach the destination in a specific time. You are then penalized for each second that you are early or late. The best part about the race, though, is being able to see America’s beautiful landscape off of the highways and out on the backroads. All while stopping at interesting, iconic places such as Hostetler’s Hudson Auto Museum in Shipshewana.
At 8:00 in the morning, spectators started filling the parking lot at the Hudson Museum in anticipation of The Great Race participants rolling into town. Many locals even brought their classic cars and lined them up for a little car show. By 9:30, the parking lot was packed and everyone turned to the driveway waiting on the first car to roll in. Only 15 minutes later, the first Great Race car had arrived with a warm welcome from all of the clapping and picture taking, you would’ve thought they just completed the race with the way they were being cheered on. The ’35 Packard (car #142) was directed to a parking spot where the majority of the crowd flocked to greet the team. The best greeting was provided by the Hudson Museum with their friendly volunteers, food to fuel them up until the next stop, and a chance to see the beautiful collection of Hudson cars.
It wasn’t long after that, car after car started driving in about a minute apart. There were always roughly 20 cars from the race there at any given time. Some were arriving, while others were making their way to the next destination, the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, MI. Meanwhile, this gave the crowd constant excitement because there were always new cars rolling in to gawk at.
There were drivers from not only all over the U.S., but the world as well. One group from Japan drew a crowd with their unique little Subaru and great personalities. And everyone had a story as to why they joined the race. Car #140, a 1953 Pontiac Chieftain, had a group of four cruising in it. As a Pontiac fan myself, I made sure to follow this car when they arrived. I then found out that the gentlemen from Tennessee were in the race as a part of a high school program. The Pontiac was donated to them two years ago to work on and prepare for the race. The lead instructor was driving, with three students as navigator/passengers. “We haven’t been lost yet…” claimed one of the students as he got out of the back seat. Others, such as Car #128, a 1972 Mercedes, has been wanting to be a part of the race, but had to wait until his car was finally old enough, and it just so happened that this year participants were allowed a 1972 car or older.
The Great Race is an awesome and unique event that anyone, especially a car nut like myself, should know about. If only I had a classic car myself to drive in the race (hmmm…). If you have the opportunity to be a part of the race in one of the coming years, check out greatrace.com on how you could join, and maybe I can live vicariously through you! Everyone should look for the route next year and maybe there will be a stop near you. It’s definitely worth seeing for yourself!
Also, check out the video link below for a little more background information on The Great Race from one of many people involved with the process.
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