Some of you might recognize the opening sentence in the title, “It was a dark and stormy night,” which is an oft parodied literary cliché from the 1800’s. The cartoonist Charles Schulz made famous use of it by having Snoopy type it over and over again. In any event, after the last posting on Friday June 21, our beautiful Great Race evening did indeed turn into a “dark and stormy night.” As a severe thunderstorm hit, complete with lightning and hail, the rain fell in torrents in some areas of Minneapolis. We watched the parking lots fill up like bathtubs. Imagine five inches of rain pouring down on you. Flash flood warnings were issued and it was indeed difficult for many of the Great Race participants to navigate the streets back to the hotel, which had turned into mini rivers. We left our cars in the parking lot, but others drove their topless cars through the mini-monsoon. Some areas were worse than others, with downed trees and power lines. We heard that over a half-million homes were without power for most of the night. Our hotel had power and luckily the weather cleared for the morning start of the race. On Saturday June 22, the rain had stopped. We lined up for the start of the rally and the opening ceremonies. As car after car passed under the Great Race arc, the rally was officially started. The drive along the Mississippi is phenomenal, the landscape, the rock structures, the river creeping out. In some places you could see where the river flooded over the banks, and in the flood plains some corn crops were wiped out. We noticed there were some trucking companies that had to move trucks to higher ground, but not all of them made it. If you’ve ever driven along the Mississippi, you may have seen the enormous barges
that are used to transport everything from chemicals to concrete. The power those ships have to be able to navigate the ever changing river is hard to comprehend. Barge captains are on a rally of a truly different kind. We just have to deal with things we can see while they have to deal with currents, shifting sand bars and whatever else the river decides to bring up. It was sometimes hard to keep our eyes off the scenery, but we did make it to our first pit stop, EauClaire, Wisconsin. In EauClaire we were welcomed
by the townspeople and a special honor, a color guard ceremony by a veteran’s group. It’s always wonderful to experience these true Americana traditions as part of the Great Race experience. Mary was interviewed by a local TV station and newspaper and fans of all ages were out in full force. Dan and Brett began to experience their first taste of “Great Racer” fame as enthusiasts would ask them to sign their programs. They both concur that the people we meet are truly warm and welcoming. After lunch we headed for our overnight destination, LaCrosse, Wisconsin, another Great Race welcome and a great dinner. We also received our results for Stage 1 and learned that Mary and I in car #97 were in 41st place and Brett and Dan in car #17 were in 50th!
On Sunday June 23rd, it was raining again as we headed for Dubuque, Iowa for our lunch stop. This is where we were supposed to meet the first ride along winners, Daniel & Margie Flowers. Even though we were all a bit delayed getting to Dubuque because of the rain, we were still able to meet up with Dan and Margie and really enjoyed getting to know them.
They have a screen printing business specializing in promotional products called Creative Media Ink, located in Des Moines. Luckily they brought some sunny weather with them, and didn’t have to worry about getting soaking wet while sitting in the back seat, since the 1934 Phaeton doesn’t have any windows back there! They were real troupers and Mary and I were so glad they could participate. Upon our arrival in Davenport, we spent a long while talking about the promotional products industry and ways they can find more customers. They agreed that the hardest part of any business is not producing products, but finding customers. I referred them to some of my old blog posts, including the series, How to Sell More T-Shirts in 23 Days, which has a lot of ideas on ways to sell more. Joe K., who is out on the road with us taking videos and photos, had the chance to interview Dan and Margie. According to Joe, they said “it was a lot more fun than we expected it to be!” Dan and Brett agree with that as well, even though they had a few other small difficulties to deal with over the last two days, including a broken speedometer (a fellow racer gave them a tip on how to get it working again), getting stuck on the wrong side of the train tracks as a long freight train passed, a clutch that stopped working and stalling out while on a hill. But they overcame their obstacles and think they actually wound up with a better finish time than Mary and I this evening! They are in place #50 and we are now if 54th!
Congrats to them for a day well rallied. Dan is also taking many wonderful photos along the route. For more “as it happens” action along the route, make sure you follow our Facebook page, the Spirit of Stahls. You can also follow along on Twitter @thegreatrace or me @tedstahl If you’re in the area, come see us for lunch Monday in Peoria! Here are some more photos from the last 2 days.