Ride & Drive
of the 2008 Corvettes
Bar Harbor, ME
May 16-21, 2007
This adventure started at the National Corvette Museum's Labor Day Celebration in 2006. Author and Corvette Quarterly Editor Jerry Burton stopped by my display in the lobby and asked if I would be willing to help him set up the next annual Ride & Drive. That is the feature article in the Fall issue that introduces the next year's Corvettes. They do this in a different, scenic part of the country every year, and for the 2008 models he wanted to do it in Maine: Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island were my immediate first choice! Always open to any excuse to cruise my favorite part of the country in a Corvette, I instantly agreed to help.
During the next couple of months I made trips to the area, taking pictures and videos (camcorder strapped to the dash) specifically to show Jerry the scenery and roads we might utilize. I also connected him with Marian Burns at the Mira Monte Inn B&B that I suggested using as the base of operations for the duration of the activities rather than traveling to a different location each night as was SOP for these events. I would be riding along as "scout and interpreter of the Maine dialect".
Formal notices were sent to all the participants in February. Attendees would be Tom Wallace (Corvette Vehicle Line Executive), Tadge Juechter (Corvette Chief Engineer), Gary Claudio (Corvette Brand Manager), Harlan Charles (Corvette Product Manager), Jack Matukas (representing the NCM) and Jerry Britner (winner of the NCM auction for the 8th seat). Jerry Burton, Todd Kraemer (CQ Art Director), the photographer Evan Klein & his assistant Matt Grayson from CA and myself completed the group of 11.
Jerry and I met with Gary Claudio at the Bash in April to fine tune the schedule and itinerary, coming up with additional points of interest in the process.
Wednesday, May 16
6:42 am launch to meet photog Evan Klein & Matt at Mira Monte for breakfast.
They had arrived the night before and wanted to spend the day advance scouting for photo sites.
First stop was the Acadia National Park HQ for the necessary commercial photography
permit and vehicle passes. I couldn't resist this shot in the park office!
We spent the day scouting the park in the rain in the rented minivan, assisted by my GPS equipped laptop map program.
When we returned to Mira Monte, we found four 2008 Corvettes gracing the front lot, and shortly afterwards Jerry and Todd arrived by shuttle from Bangor Int'l Airport.
After getting them settled and enjoying the Inn's wine & cheese, we went to Galyn's to start what was to become a flawless dinner tradition of closing every place where we ate dinner! This is, l-r, Jerry, Evan, Todd & Matt.
Thursday, May 17
The front of Mira Monte before we embarked on what would be an 11 hour day of shooting!
This is an indication of the extent of sacrifice I made to help with this event. I actually left my
beloved Corvettes Conquer Cancer C6 at the inn and drove this... for 2 days!
Yeah, that's a 2008 fully loaded Z06, VIN #11. It had 126 miles showing when we started.
It was an odious task, but I toughed it out. (You can tell it was my ride - look at all the crap
on the front floor, and the trunk was loaded with cleaning supplies.)
The elaborate setup and precise staging at each stop was a real education for me. First, at
each location throughout the event we had to do a quick detailing of all the cars. Even
though it wasn't raining, there were puddles and runoff across the road. While setting up,
we all had FRS radios, and Evan directed us into position using them. This could have been a
very tedious process, but Evan was fun and informative to work with and kept us relaxed. I also
made good use of the radios to call attention to points of interest and local trivia as we traveled.
(The Silver is Vin #7)
Here Evan & Matt attach a rig under the Z06 which mounts a camera
shooting back at the car while driving.
For the next setup, Evan & Matt mounted this suction cup tripod on the
Atomic Orange coupe (VIN #4) to shoot forward over the top & hood
while driving. You can see it in my mirror as we get ready to roll.
Here are a couple of moving shots of my own.
Then it got really interesting. Here you can see Evan getting secured in a harness
in the open back of the van. Notice the pad over the center of the bumper.
While in the One Way section of the Park Loop Rd, he directed us into a formation that typically was like this: van riding the center line; first Vette (yeah, and I was the first one in that position) in the right lane, but close to the line, 1/2 length back from the van's bumper; second Vette in the left lane at about my door and also close to the center line, and a third on the center line at the back, ALL spaced 1/2 length apart front to back. We drove in this tight formation for several miles of spectacular winding road along the rocky coast at 35-40 mph as Evan shot both still & video while hanging out the back of the van, from standing to lying down hanging over the bumper with the camera 6" off the road surface... all the while directing us for fine-tune position and occasional position shifts via radio! And Matt, driving the van, would alert us to obstacles & traffic necessitating lane shifts. Whew! Kind of a very tiny sense of what the Blue Angels deal with!
We concluded the day on the pier (with the Harbormaster's permission)
at the Bar Harbor waterfront, wrapping up at about 8:00.
Friday, May 18
Before we hit the road, Evan got some shots from inside Mira Monte, here from the parlor,
of the Z06 out front, again directing position via radio.
Today was another scouting day. We headed south on US 1 the 90-some miles to the
Owls Head Transportation Museum in, yes, Owls Head, ME. Yes, in the rain.
The Museum was not even part of the original plan, but it ended up being one of the highlights of the event. Since I had planned to bring the group down the coast to visit a couple of lighthouses in the area, I thought it would be a nice point of interest to visit. I called Charlie Chiarchiaro, the Director, to let him know we would be visiting on Sunday May 20. He wasn't there at the time but when I told Ben Cook, who took the call, what the event was and who would be there, he immediately asked if we would be interested in doing any driving activities while we were there.
What? Did he say "DRIVING ACTIVITIES"?
Now, why would a bunch of the people responsible for designing, producing, selling and enjoying Corvettes want to do any DRIVING ACTIVITIES, safely OFF the public highways, with 4 of next year's models?
Did we hit the jackpot or what?
Ben Cook then described to me what they could do for us. The Museum is attached to the Knox County Airport and has LOTS of secure space. We would be there before their season begins, so we could have total access to everything except the main parking lot. They would set up an autocross course for us on the apron in front of the Museum, and he turned me over to Cathy Hardy, their Events Director, who said they would also be able to provide a lobster roll lunch for us!
When our scouting group arrived, Cathy met us and gave us a personally guided tour of the amazing facility. 95+% of all the cars, trucks & planes on display are driven or flown regularly at their events. The autocross course was already set up, so of course we had to try it out. In the rain. We left looking forward to a great day on Sunday.
On the way back to Bar Harbor we stopped briefly to scout Camden, and got
some local flavor shots. In the rain. At left, Evan & Todd analyze the setup.
Then it got worse...
And some more local color farther North on Route 1... In the rain.
Thinking this was the end of my sentence in the Z06, I documented the odometer.
That is 248 miles for the 2 days. A miserable job, but somebody had to do it.
By the way, the seriously tweaked clutch and shift on the '08 are fantastic! The throttle/clutch/shift
is so slick and light that you could really enjoy a daily commute in city traffic in this car!
When we got back to Mira Monte, the distinguished guests from Detroit, Bowling Green
and Houston had arrived. Here Jerry Burton opens up some goodies to show Tadge Juechter,
Tom Wallace, Harlan Charles and Todd. The second shot adds Jack Matukas and the back
of Jerry Britner's head. Unfortunately, Gary Claudio had to cancel at the last minute when
his mother went into the hospital.
We kept our dinner record intact by closing the Bar Harbor Inn that night.
Saturday, May 19
This was the first day of travel and shooting with the guests. I was back in my own car to
lead the way, starting overland North & East to Schoodic Point, on the opposite side of
Frenchman Bay from Mt Desert Island but still part of Acadia National Park.
That's Mt Desert Island in the distance in the first shot,but Cadillac Mt. is still hidden by the low overcast.
Native spectator to the shoot...
Jerry Burton interviews Tom Wallace.
"Can I see your permits please...
Spotting an open lobster pound on the way back to Mt. Desert Island, we made a screeching U-turn back to Ruth & Wimpie's for lunch. Great food, great service, great auto memorabilia everywhere. Everybody was having so much fun we couldn't get them away and had to abbreviate the afternoon's itinerary!
Back on MDI, we stopped to allow Evan to get harnessed up for another rolling shoot.
This time I could get shots of the action from my position at the back. I couldn't do this
while actually in the shoot because the drivers could be visible in the photos. In the
middle shot you can see Evan standing in the back of the van.
3rd shot is the kind of scenery we were passing.
The last stop on the loop was a special visit to the Seal Cove Auto Museum in, well,
Seal Cove. It doesn't open until June 1, but they were kind enough to have someone
there to open it for us. A spectacular collection with of a lot of brass and some
very unusual cars, including the only 2 Chandlers known to exist.
On the return to Bar Harbor, it looked like Cadillac Mountain was finally in the clear, so I took the group on a rather "spirited" run to the top. (At 1620 ft. above seal level, Cadillac is where the rising sun first strikes the continental US.) We could see 360 degrees, but as we walked the path around the summit we could see the fog rolling in below, and by the time we got back to the parking lot not 20 minutes later, the ceiling had already begun to obscure the cars.
Another maybe even more "spirited" drive back down followed. We actually
had to wait a couple minutes at the foot for the van to catch up!
Back at Mira Monte, everybody was still having way too much fun!
Innkeeper Marian Burns' daughter, Linda, asked me if she could get a ride in one
of the new Vettes. I asked Todd, and he said 'Why don't you do it?" So I did.
One guess which car I chose! I got the chance for another "spirited" ride
to the top of Cadillac and back, this time in the Z06. Linda screamed a lot...
Once again, despite the forecast of 100% probability of rain, we escaped it completely!
For dinner, we maintained our record by closing Galyn's.
Sunday, May 20
Gas on the way and lobster roll lunch at Owls Head Transportation Museum. Director Charlie (black vest) explains the museum's history and mission. Lady next to Charlie is Stacey Glynn, GM Area Sales Manager.
Then, while the guests toured the museum, us grunts got to clean up the cars again.
More serious this time, because it rained for the early part of the drive down.
We also had to clean a LOT of cone scuffs off the sides at the conclusion!
The course produced some surprises for me. I expected Tom Wallace
and Jerry Britner to be fast - both are racers.
But Jerry Burton was also quick, and Tadge was like a man possessed!
He was driving with Stacey riding shotgun in the following video clip.
Some members of the press were on hand. The local NBC-TV reporter, Don Carrigan,
was there and a segment aired both on the Bangor and the Portland stations. The footage aired
was very tame and the anchor hadn't a clue! (Sorry, the link is no longer active) Don's wife, Donna,
was also there, and she ended up driving the Orange coupe, with Jerry Burton hanging on,
through some pretty hot laps! Her reaction is part of the yellow convertible clip above.
Much of it is off camera - turn up the sound!
The Bangor Daily News also had an article in Monday's paper, with a teaser thumbnail
on the top of the front page. Full of inaccuracies, and the on-line photo is of
Matt cleaning a wheel, not autocross course action!
Side note: All the non-Z06 '08s had the optional "dual mode" exhaust which really sounds
off when it opens... and it opened a lot! At one point, as the action was getting more intense,
Homeland Security actually called over from the airport, inquiring what all the noise was about!
Stacey backs VIN #15 into the hangar for a
photo with Ziggy Forman's gorgeous '54.
Evan & Matt attaching the tripod for some
driving shots through the autocross.
The drive back to BaHaBa, crossing the new bridge over the Penobscot River.
Once again, we made it through with no rain when it really counted!
Final shoot in front of Mira Monte.
Closing dinner at Havana. Jerry asks embarrassing questions... and records the answers.
Food and service were superb!
We out did ourselves this time: Not only did we close the restaurant about 10:00, but we convinced them to reopen the bar! Matt got everybody's attention to proclaim that while he had been involved with dozens of shoots, this one was by far the most fun! Amen to that! He had saved his bib from Ruth & Wimpie's and he got everybody, including our waitress and hostess, to sign it. It was nearly midnight by the time we called it quits.
Monday, May 21
Oh-dark-thirty: There might have been some red eyes as the Detroit contingent
had to catch a 6:15 shuttle bus to make an 8:30 flight out of Bangor.
Finally a decent shot of Jerry Britner, in an animated discussion with Tadge, at 5:51 am.
6:13 am the bus leaves for Bangor.
I stayed long enough to help ensure that the Vettes got on the transporter OK.
The local police also helped... by finding an alternate spot nearby to put the big rig
that didn't block the main road in and out of town during rush hour!
Evan & Matt autographed my fuel rail covers before heading the rental van back to Bangor.
One last pass by the waterfront on the way out of town.
More views of that unique new bridge...
Final stats at home before switching to the company car and heading to work in Augusta.
This was definitely the most continuously fun event I have ever had the pleasure of participating in!
Thank you, Jerry, for getting me involved, and to Evan, Matt, Todd, Tom, Tadge, Harlan, Jack, Jerry Britner and Marian for contributing to the experience. And Gary, we really missed you!
p.s. Jerry interviewed me and Evan got some photos for a side bar about Corvettes Conquer Cancer in the R&D article!
Click here for a downloadable pdf file of the article.
Here's an article Jerry Britner wrote for the National Corvette Museum's
magazine, America's Sports Car:
Here are a couple of montage pages and a video that Evan put together for us: