Have you ever wondered what it would be like to Caravan 780 miles with 1,000 Corvettes? Well, Team VETTE did just that, and we had a blast! We traveled through three states-without incident-with a great group of Corvette people and made many new friends during our adventure. The experience reaffirmed our belief that Corvette owners of all generations enjoy having fun with their Corvettes. Every car was gleaming, and the owners' smiles were a wonderful site to behold. Our arm got tired from waving, but the smile never left our face!
The National Corvette Museum hosted the first Corvette Caravan during their 1994 Grand Opening. Corvettes from all over the country swarmed to the newly opened museum, and the Corvette Caravan was born. This year marks the 50th anniversary of our favorite sports car, and Bowling Green, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee, celebrated this milestone with a four-day birthday party. Starting the celebration was a national caravan that ended at the party site; what a great way to gain national attention to this significant automotive milestone!
National Corvette Museum Marketing Director Bobbie Jo Lee invited Team VETTE to shadow one of these caravans. We gladly accepted her invitation and joined the National Corvette Caravan Florida Chapter lead by Andy Pilgrim. Andy is one of the factory C5-R drivers who had just completed the 24 Hours of LeMans race in France. He was certainly an excellent choice to lead a pack of Corvettes! Sue Barton Morrison was the Florida Caravan Captain and was a gracious host to Team VETTE during our trip. Her team ran the event in a very professional manner. Each caravan member was provided with a complete driver's handbook, car stickers, name tags, hotel reservation information, and a Nashville parking permit.
Day 1 started with groups leaving from seven Florida locations: Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Sarasota, Gainesville, Jacksonville, and Winter Haven. Our destination was Bruce Glueck Chevrolet in Jasper, Florida. Bruce's dealership sells a lot of Corvettes, so it was fitting that he volunteered to be our host at his spacious home outside Jasper. The turnout was huge! Corvettes were parked in every vacant spot on his property. Free BBQ and liquid refreshments were provided to many hundreds of Corvette owners, as well as great rock 'n' roll music. Thanks Bruce! Our caravan spent the night in Lake City, Florida.
Day 2 started at 6:30 a.m. with Andy Pilgrim leading a large pack of Corvettes to the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The owners in Andy's group had made reservations to take hot laps around the speedway. For $100, they were allowed to lap the high-banked speedway five times. Each participant had to attend a mandatory driver's meeting and their cars had to pass a tech inspection. Qualified driving instructors accompanied each car during their hot laps and helmets were required. The remaining caravan members left at 7:30 a.m. and headed to the speedway at a more leisurely pace. Most people had family radios, and the caravan captains set the pace and passed on traffic advisories. We were scheduled to take parade laps around the track at 2:00 p.m. We arrived with time to spare, so everyone got a chance to do a parade lap. The track was packed with Corvettes, and our group really filled the house. The NASCAR garages were reserved for hot lap participants. We wandered over to the pits and watched street Corvettes of all ages blast around the track at well over 100 mph! Speed GT driver Reese Cox was the head driving instructor for the event and spent a busy day keeping everyone safe. Reese has raced a very competitive MTI Corvette in the past and now owns MTI Racing in Marietta, Georgia. Reese was kind enough to drive our Corvette at speed around the track while we took some photos. It was a pleasure to watch a pro push our Corvette around this demanding course at triple-digit speeds. Andy Pilgrim supervised a large group that raced around a small road course in the middle of the track. It was a safe and exciting day for everyone involved. The Caravan donated all of the entry fees to the National Corvette Museum. The group headed to Kennesaw, Georgia, to spend the night.
Day 3 started with the Florida Caravan meeting the Georgia group in Acworth, Georgia, at 8:00 a.m. For safety's sake, we were flagged off in controlled groups of about 50 cars. This made travel easier and safer. We usually traveled in the high-speed lane, and our group arrived at the National Corvette Museum around 11:30 a.m. The site was breathtaking! Corvettes were parked everywhere-they stretched as far as the eye could see. Over 8,000 Corvettes participated in the Caravan, and everyone seemed to be in the Museum parking lot. It was an experience that Team VETTE will not soon forget. We would like to thank Andy Pilgrim, the Florida Caravan staff, and the National Corvette Museum for their hospitality. And, by the way, the wave is not dead!