MAY 22: FINALE, everyone is home safe!

This trip has been a blast, now it’s time to finish the solo run back across the USA for home. I’m not sure yet how successful we were at raising money for our charities, I’ll scope that out in the next couple of days. However the $$ donations comes out, we sure spread the word about our charities & Factory Five Racing (FFR). Everybody we met seemed to love the Aardvark, so that opened many many conversations and hearts. I think we sold some FFR kits on the way, too. Seems like I got questions from all the car-crazy future car builders on my way back across the USA the last four days. LONG conversations in gas stations on how to build, how to contact FFR, how’s it drive, what engine to use, etc. I gave ’em all the info I had, Let’s see if it works! 

I followed Mike to his home in Phoenix for the first night, then hammered some awesome mountain roads up to and through Sonoma, Flagstaff, etc. then hit I-40 and headed EAST as fast as I could get away with. The Roadster ran flawlessly. I am still in shock that this custom-built crate engine sat in Gale Larson’s garage for seven years, and MY garage for another two years, before being unleashed on the road. Once I got the idle adjusted, it ran like a champ the whole way. Thank goodness! On the last leg of my trip home, i got to run on the beautifully scenic winding roads along the Ocoee, Nantahala, and Tuckaseegee Rivers in Tennessee and North Carolina. Droves of Motorcyclists also run these roads this time of year, so I had lots of fun company.

I ran “topless”, in the Ralph Button tradition, almost the entire trip. We had favorable weather (no rain & sunny), coming home the past few days. SPF 50 shirts & hat, and a balaclava, and sunblock meant I still have all my skin. Doing this trip top down completely changes the experience, I did a cross-USA trip  with an APE hardtop on my first FFR Roadster back in 2001 (The Stooges Tour – YIKES 23 years ago!), and it was lovely. This time, with nothing to obscure the view, and the unlimited skylines out west, plus no helmet in the way, it was even better. The mountains, mesas, buttes, and everything else out there seemed to almost be in your lap with no top obscuring the view.. I’ll do all future trips this way if I can get away with it! 

Mike and Mitch were in a Miata and an Audi TT convert. They also had charity stickers and QR codes all over their car bodies. Aardvark still got the most attention. So much that Cousin Mike said: “Hey, now we have another 3C’s for our trip. The Miata is the Cheap one, the Aardvark is the Cool one, and the Audi is the Comfortable one.” I called Karen Salvaggio while we were in the LA area, hoping to meet in-person one of my real FFR heroes.That didn’t work out, but we talked a LONG time and she gave us a great funny description of Mitch’s Audi TT. Says Karen: “Oh, he’s driving the Princess Car”. Mitch is stuck with that nickname for eternity now.

I don’t have many cool photos of the trip back from CA, as I was hammering out the miles solo and didn’t stop for photo opps. Now, back in North Carolina, Aardvark is dirty, bug covered, and needs a good bath and vacuuming. It only used 1 quart of oil in the 5700 miles, on a new engine, and I ran 80-90 mph as often as I could. No tickets for any of us, thank goodness.

Anyway, I am so indebted to Factory Five Racing friends Nicole Smith, Mad Dog David Lindsey, Dave Smith, Mark and Brendan Dougherty, Jeff Kleiner,  and so many folks in the FFR community who came out to meet us or helped with making our trip a success. Dave Smith’s observation (paraphrasing here) that these CARS bring us together with people we’d never otherwise meet, and it’s the PEOPLE and friendships that form that are the true product of FFR, is so true. The same goes for the new friends we worked with at our Charities, who helped us get the word out on Cystic Fibrosis, Team Boomer and Colorectal Cancer Alliance before and during the trip. I hope we get to actually meet them in person in the coming months.

This pic is kind of “fitting”, my baggy car cover used in Little Rock, Arkansas on the way home. I finally figured a way to keep it from blowing off the car in high winds: I bunched up the extra fabric on each side and tied them together by a rope under the car.

Nephew Terry Daum and wife Liz invited me to stay with them in Chattanooga, TN, my last night out, and treated me to dinner. I’ve missed them badly the past months; it was great catching up, even for just a few hours. THANKS!

Most important pic of all, Lynn was waiting at the garage when I pulled in! Getting to make the trip was fantastic; getting home to Lynn was best of all.

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