I don’t throw around the word “epic” too often, but it is absolutely appropriate for my experience with the Great Race. It’s not normal to drive 3,700 miles in a 13-day span, while taking more than 5,000 pictures of some the world’s finest collector cars ever to compete in a time, speed, endurance rally. For me, it was a two-week stretch of 18 hour work days, traveling from place to place in a mini van. For the people actually competing in the Great Race, it was a little more exciting because they were doing it in pre-1969 vehicles. Although it was an incredible amount of work, we survived and came out of it with about a million good stories.
The beautiful beach front by the Holiday Inn hotel in Traverse City, Michigan. Beautiful skies and ultra-clear water would be a regular thing by the end of our trip.
Before the actual race started, we had a warm-up rally that sent us to a small town called Empire. I’ve never see skies so crisp and blue…it was a wonderful day to be photographing cars.
So, let’s set this up: My wife went on this trip as a volunteer to sell souvenir merchandise, so that certainly helped us get through this long stretch without going insane. Also on the trip was a good portion of the Coker Tire Marketing Team. We had Jason White handling video production, Wallace Braud as our second videographer, and Aaron Wolfe and Michael Mattheiss as Production Assistants. The five of us handled all things media and we did a great deal of event planning in the months prior to the Great Race. We’d decided to attack Facebook with photos, videos and updates, so we tasked everyone with uploading stuff in all hours of the day (and night) to make sure we covered the event properly. In addition to that, we all had plenty of responsibilities, which kept us quite busy for the duration of the event.
After kicking off the event in Traverse City, we traveled to our lunch stop in Saint Ignace, Michigan. Yet another awesome waterfront town…
Then, we motored to Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan for the overnight stop. While the town wasn’t nearly as pristine as the others we had visited so far, it was literally on the border of the United States and Canada.
Early the next morning, we crossed the border into Canada. It went smoothly for everyone, but the weather didn’t make my job any easier….dreary days are always tough conditions for action photography.
For Christina and I, the event started on June 20th at 6am. We loaded up in a Coker Tire cargo van and headed north. It was my first time pulling a trailer…what better way to learn than an 815 mile trip to Traverse City, Michigan? So, after battling I-75 for about seven hours we had our first major problem. The van picked up a terrible vibration, the kind that leaves little doubt that something was wrong. So, about 100 miles south of Toledo, we pull off the highway to check it out. Sure enough, the belts in the rear tires had separated, so we found the nearest service center and had them replaced. Two hours later, we were back on the road with more than five hours of driving remaining on the day’s agenda.
I truly have no idea where this picture was taken, but I was standing on a one-lane wooden bridge on the most secluded back road I’ve ever seen. On this particular road, we drove for more than an hour without seeing a single house or vehicle.
After surviving the lonely wilderness, we finally made it back to civilization. The overnight stop in Sudbury, Ontario offered this great sunset with a smoke stack silhouetted in the foreground. I shot this out of the hotel window.
The next day, we stopped at this amazing lock, which is formally called a marine railroad. We climbed to the roof of the operation building and grabbed a few shots, while patiently awaiting for the massive machine to do its thing.
And here is this crazy thing in action. All of this incredibly heavy steel, along with the weight of a boat, is driven by a series of cables. It drives right across the road on its rails….crazy!
After arriving at the Days Inn in Traverse City at 10:30 that night, we slept a few hours and met the rest of the Great Race crew at the host hotel at 7am the next morning. After last year’s experience with the Great Race, I knew that a 12am-6am sleeping schedule would likely be the routine for the rest of our trip. Some days, it wasn’t quite so bad, but others (such as the final two days) were especially brutal because of a lack of sleep. Luckily, we handed off the van and trailer, as Christina drove a rental Impala and I rode with the video production crews for the duration of the race. A nine hour drive on day-13 of our trip brought us home to Tennessee once again.
Another stop in Canada, Barrie had a nice waterfront area, so that’s where we had our Day 3 overnight stop. Pretty nice place, but the hotel was not the greatest.
Day 4 sent us back into the wilderness, but the road wasn’t nearly as secluded as our one-lane bridge photo location. Of course, I had to snag a picture of the moose and deer crossing sign.
As a surprise to the racers, the route sent them into Quebec, so we followed them to get pictures of a few cars as they passed the sign. And then we left.
We have these in Tennessee but most of ’em say STOP. Crazy Canadians…
There are many stories to be told out of this great car guy adventure, but there’s no way I could fit them all in a singular post. With that in mind, I have separated my favorite pictures into three groups–Places, People and Things. This one is all about places that we visited during our journey, and I’ll follow it with the other two shortly. Look for lots of stories, lots of pictures and by the time it’s all over, you’ll have a strange desire to see what this race is all about.
Okay, one last picture from Canada and we’ll be heading back to my home turf. This is downtown Kingston, Ontario, which has a bunch of really cool buildings. Behind me is more water…at this point in the trip, the super blue water had lost its shimmer.
This picture won’t win any awards, but it certainly provides a good perspective of the hill I stood on to capture it. Taken at 200mm focal length (longest lens I had), the car is tiny, but some creative positioning made it an interesting shot.
After going through rural New York, we landed in Fairport for the lunch stop. They have a canal in the middle of town with an awesome lift bridge. EDIT: My wife informed me that it’s not just “a canal”…it’s the Eric Canal.
We didn’t get to spend much time in Mansfield, Ohio, but it’s a very cool town. Lots of great buildings, many of which were used in the filming of Shawshank Redemption…we passed by the prison but I failed to get a photo of it.
The Great Race ended at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, so rather than showing you a picture of the outside, here’s a shot of some neon goodness inside the museum. What an incredible place! Stay tuned for more pictures from our Great Race adventure!