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26th NCRS Winter Meet
Old Town
Kissimmee, FL
January 22-25, 2004

This year's Florida event was our most successful yet.
The American Cancer Society is getting 
as of this posting, and the final figures are not in yet.

Thanks to Ed Augustine and the NCRS Florida Chapter
for providing the venue for this effort, and to NCRS National
for its $1000 matching donation.

On my last outing in November, the water pump decided to retire at 156,000 miles, decorating the engine compartment with DexCool. I got in touch with my buddy Bill Nichols at GM Powertrain for a replacement. He's the guy who got the ball rolling to replace the transmission back in August. He came through again, and on 1/13/04 (sponsor) Strong Chevrolet installed, not just a new water pump, but a C6 water pump - a 2005 part! A very different design, but physically interchangeable. Powertrain  justified this as a means of getting a lot of miles on the new design in a short time. Glad to help out!

The old and the new.

Monday, January 19

The start.

My original plan had been to leave Sunday. That would have allowed me to spend a night with my wife's parents, sister & bro-in-law in Ft. Myers, FL, as I did last year. However, a series of fast-moving storms along the route convinced me to delay the start by a day to avoid the snow. It worked out ok for travel, but prevented the visit this year.

Tuesday, January 20
After an easy trip and overnight with my parents in Phila., it was on to Savannah, GA.

Wednesday, January 21

Heavy frost in Savannah! 

Arrival at Old Town: Yes, in the wash booth!

Thursday, January 22

First day setup in the vendor field; still pretty quiet.
There we are, just above center, back against the fence.
View from my room.

Friday, Jan 23

The vendor field has really filled up.

Jerry Burton (tan shirt),
Editorial Director of Corvette Quarterly Magazine
and author of "Zora Arkus Duntov - The Legend Behind Corvette",
stopped by for a visit.

Race Rock Cafe, site of the 
National Corvette Museum members' dinner. 

Saturday, January 24

One of the judging areas.

Our booth saw plenty of traffic as we distributed cancer information and raised money for the American Cancer Society. We were selling 50/50 tickets, bullet holes and Corvette 50th Anniversary pins.  Richard Fleming was a tremendous help, as always, and he donated the 1960 Corvette print seen leaning against the table. This was auctioned off at the Awards Banquet (see below). Sponsor Marshall Fancher (Corvette Dreams; arms folded, left photo) was also there for support.

This was as bad as the weather got
the entire time we were at Old Town!

Saturday night Awards Banquet

Event chairman Ed Augustine also served as MC.

During the course of the evening, we drew the ticket for our 50/50, which had a pot of $1285, so the winner would get $642.50. Walt Kopala from Corona, CA, came up to the podium with his winning ticket. He took the mike and told us that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer a  year ago, and was very much enjoying life now, with half a lung.
He announced that he was donating his winnings back, so that the entire pot of $1285 was going to the American Cancer Society! 

Many ticket purchasers had told me in the past that if they won,
they would donate it back, but this time it really happened!

Wait, the story gets even better:

Richard Fleming donated this print (entitled "American Thunder: Le Mans 1960") for a live auction, with all proceeds to go to the American Cancer Society. The print shows the 1960 Corvette #3, owned by Briggs Cunningham and driven by John Fitch and Bob Grossman, at night in the rain at Le Mans. It placed 1st in Class and 8th overall, establishing Corvette as a world class sports car. The print was autographed by the artist and John Fitch.

As most people present at the banquet knew, #3 is now owned by Chip Miller, who is undergoing treatment for a rare disease, amyloidosis. I read some of that information from his website. We then proceeded with the auction.

The high bidder was Ron Ramsey of Melbourne, FL, with a bid of $500. Ron came up and took the mike. He announced that because he had been inspired to quit smoking by 50/50 winner Walt Kopala's battle with lung cancer the previous year, he was giving the print to Walt!

Was this cool or what!

Thanks to 3 very generous people, Richard Fleming, Walt Kopala and Ron Ramsey, the American Cancer Society will be getting $1785.00. Added to that is the $372 that I collected at my table for bullet hole & pin sales and donations, raising the total to $2157. This donation by NCRS Florida Chapter to ACS qualifies for a Matching Gift of $1000 from the NCRS National Organization. So now we have $3157.00 for the American Cancer Society.

There will be even more: Ed Augustine had set up the event so that 25% of the vendor fees and 25% of the concessions receipts would be split between the National Corvette Museum and the American Cancer Society.


Sunday, Jan 25

This was a laid back day enjoying the Classic Corvettes of Orlando show,
also on the grounds of Old Town.

Jerry Burton, Noland Adams and Dave McLellan
sign books or anything else presented to them.
Glenda McLellan looks on.

Time to head home: Sunday, 4:32 pm.
The trip home proved to be anything but routine!

Monday, January 26

The start from Savannah.

The forecasts were ominous: a monster snow/ice storm was moving northeast through the Carolinas and Virginia. After studying the weather maps and hearing that I-95 was already closed in parts of VA, I decided to stick with my original western route: I-95 to I-26, I-77, I-81, I-84, I-90, I-495 and back to I-95 near the NH border.

Conditions deteriorated rapidly. Within 100 miles, the rain started. It was immediately seen icing the trees. Soon, trees were falling onto the road (I-26) and cars & trucks were in the ditches! By the time I reached Orangeburg, SC, I decided it was foolish to continue, so I took an exit to find a room for the night. No power! They hadn't had power all day! I then started to backtrack. Traffic wasn't moving any better southbound as I tried exit after exit. It wasn't until I turned south on I-95 again that I found a Holiday Inn with power in St. George, SC. This was barely 90 miles from where I had started the day in Savannah. I was supposed to end this day in Scranton, PA!

Tuesday, January 27

Mercifully, the power stayed on overnight, but in the morning
we had no phone, and therefore no internet.

There was little traffic on the road, other than utility crews... and wreckers.
The Carolinas were pretty much shut down. Obviously they were unequipped
to deal with these conditions.

In Virginia I caught up to the storm, which was all snow there.
Do I need tell you that late model Corvettes really suck in the snow?

Once again I gave up, seeking refuge in Strasburg, VA, at the only lodging 
establishment in town: the Hotel Strasburg. Seen here in a photo from their
website, it was classic Victorian, and very pleasant, if pricier than my
usual stops. I was supposed to be HOME by now!

Wednesday, January 28

In the morning the sun was shining brightly.
I was supposed to be back at work today. Maybe I'll actually get home!

Maybe not...

About an hour after entering Pennsylvania, just above Harrisburg - a near disaster!

Although it was clear, the surface was sloppy from the snow. An 18 wheeler decided that he wanted the left lane more than I needed it! I was near the front of his trailer as he started coming over. I'm simultaneously on the horn, flashing my lights and braking as I try to avoid him, and the deep, plowed snow drift in the left shoulder. To get into that stuff would have really thrown me for a loop. I almost made it clear, but the trailer's left rear tire just kissed my right front fender, pushing me slightly left so that I just clipped a chunk of drift in the shoulder before I cleared the trailer and could return to the road surface.


Needless to say, I was livid! I immediately got on the cell phone to the PA State Police, and had them on the phone for 15 or 20 miles as I followed the truck, flashing my lights, trying to get him to pull over. He ignored me, but eventually pulled off at an exit and into a truck stop. Coincidentally, there also happened to be a State Police barracks at that exit.

When he finally parked, I pulled right across in front of him, and the first (!) trooper arrived moments later. I told him what had happened, and showed him the rubber burn on the fender lip. The truck driver was immediately belligerent, denying everything. This guy was a real classic: no teeth, severe Dunlop's Disease (gut hanging down over his belt). At one point he snarled at me "where are you from?" When I told him "Maine", he shot back "I hope you f*****g freeze to death!" He was so out of control that the trooper told him to get back in his truck, get his papers together, and don't get out again until told to. Then he called for backup. At one point we had 4 cruisers there, as this guy continued to rant. He had such an attitude that the troopers were trying to figure some excuse to lock him up!

The last cruiser to arrive was the shift supervisor, who took over the job and released the others. He finished the accident report, and we discussed a court appearance. While I would love to confront this bozo in court, I told the supervisor that I really couldn't justify the cost of coming all the way back down to PA for court. He understood fully, but was not going to let the truck driver (from FL) know that! He'll have to appear. Of course, after 20 miles of sloppy roads, there was no trace of contact on the trailer's tire. Paperwork done, the supervisor sent me on my way, and started in on writing up the trucker for whatever he could. All that took about an hour and a half. I can't say enough for those PA troopers. They were great, very professional and very helpful.

By the time I got to eastern NY on I-84, I caught up to the storm once again!
Finding a Hartford radio station, I learned that Connecticut was pretty
much shut down. Time for yet another unscheduled overnight stop. 

Thursday, January 29

The Microtel in Bethel, CT was a good choice. I had stayed there in the past, but they
had a new feature that was much appreciated: free DSL internet service in the rooms!

I made it... only 2 days late! 3392 miles, and under all the dirt (!)...

 ...relatively minor damage.

(The trucker's insurance quickly paid me a little over $1000, which went
 right in the bank. With a little rubbing, there was barely a trace!)

In hindsight, I guess I should have visited with the in-laws in
Ft. Myers for a day or 2 after the event, before starting for home!

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