Bowling Green, KY - It was the morning of Wednesday, August 27th. Corvettes began filling the parking lot at the Florida Turnpike’s Okahumpka Service Plaza, coming in from the official NCM Florida Caravan’s opening day of activities in Sebring. Florida Caravan Captain, Carrie Sue DeLeon, was parked in the lead position and began distributing goody-bags and handbooks. Everyone milled about the parking lot reconnecting with old Corvette friends and caught their last snacks and bathroom breaks. Others arriving from many Central Florida origins, including twenty-one CCO Corvettes, found parking anywhere possible as an estimated two-hundred cars assembled for an official Florida Caravan launch just before 10:00 AM. Finally the word went out to “roll” and the journey began.
Months back, CCO made the decision to follow the caravan schedule through the first lunch stop in Lake City, then to leave Lake City early to jump ahead a bit, avoiding the inherent complexities of long automobile caravans. So it was - and after a CCO quick gather-up after lunch, it was on to Marietta, Georgia, for night one. After a harried evening rush-hour drive through Atlanta, we checked in and soon gathered for dinner at our first evening meal: the ever popular Marietta Diner. Anyone never having been to this classic New York style diner owes it to themselves to visit next time through Atlanta. Lot’s of atmosphere, good food, fast and friendly service - and the desserts are huge!
Up and at ’em on Thursday morning - CCO caravanned through the remainder of northwest Georgia, through mountainous Chattanooga, and on to Nashville Tennessee - where highway construction got the best of most of us… Finally, the Kentucky State line on I65 went past our right door and Bowling Green city limits appeared soon after.
As is always the case when CCO heads to Bowling Green, we break up into smaller groups or individual couples to enjoy exactly what our personal interests want to accomplish. After lunch and a hotel check-in, Sandi and I headed for the Museum. The Florida Caravan was the only caravan to arrive on Thursday and was just ahead of our arrival and event check-in at the Museum. Parking was at a premium - Corvettes were parked as far as the eye could see south on Corvette Drive past the Museum on every field, hill and valley in sight. It was a pretty amazing sight. After a long walk, we found ourselves in a very crowded National Corvette Museum building. Checked in, we soon were looking for some open space so we explored the vendor fair on the north grounds for quite a while. Then after visiting CCO’s Commemorative Bench and finding our own NCM Brick near the North Entrance we decided to head back to the hotel and rest up - hit the pool, and get some dinner with the gang at Doug’s Motor City Bar and Grill right across the street from the hotel - another good spot for wings and a cold beer!
Friday’s activities were many and varied. Some CCO folks had to rush up for early morning Assembly Plant tours, others - road trips, yet others - NCM Motorsports Park activities. Sandi and I did a plant tour, and then met up with a large group of 2004 Commemorative Edition Corvette owners for a pre-arranged photo-shoot. Through communication on Caravan Chat and The Corvette Forum, we managed to photograph a large gathering of eighteen CE Z06’s, five CE Coupes and three CE Convertibles who had attended the 20th Anniversary Celebration. It was an awesome sight - all those Z06’s with hoods up in an eighteen-car lineup!
More time at the Museum Friday afternoon was in order, with tours through the Museum - the main attraction being the sinkhole and those ‘Great Eight’ Corvettes - in varying states of dis-repair. Sad sight and tears for many… Seems the NCM announced during the weekend that only three of the eight cars would be restored - The ’07 ZR1 Blue Devil, the ’92 White One-Millionth, and the 1962 Black Roadster. Additionally it was announced that the hole would be filled in and the Dome floor completely restored.
Friday evening brought twenty of our group to the annual NCM Hall of Fame Banquet at the Sloan Center while the rest of us made our way to Big Montana’s Steakhouse for a group dinner. Both events were well-received and enjoyed by their respective participants. Later, many members gathered at the outdoor pool for a nightcap, a swim and socializing.
Saturday’s only CCO event was a trip back to Nashville for an afternoon classic old Nashville tradition - A river cruise on the General Jackson, a real Cumberland River paddle wheeler showboat featuring banquet style meals during a Country Music Concert. Many participants deciding to check out a day early, and head back south - doing the Showboat event on their way home. Others, including Sandi and I, made the ride down and back to Bowling Green. Rain was a nuisance that afternoon, but not a deal breaker. Turns out, hundreds more Corvette folks planned the same outing as the boat was loaded with Corvette fans. Our group made good use of the bars on decks and later most of our group were seated right at the stage for lunch. We enjoyed firsthand a really good performance of “Heart of Nashville” - highlighted by dueling guitars, a really good fiddle player and first rate vocals by local Nashville personalities doing what they do best. Later, back in Bowling Green, most of the rest of our group remaining in town forged the river of rain in downtown Bowling Green and got a good meal at another Bowling Green classic - Moriah’s, recently moved to a larger, brand new building adjacent to the WKU Campus.
Between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, our entire group had gone their separate ways - either back toward Florida or on to other vacation destinations prior to heading back home in the following days.
CCO owes our VP of Activities, John Bradham, a real debt of gratitude for all his efforts to organize an enjoyable four-day event. John worked for well over a year and a half on our route, lunch, fuel stops, accommodations and events. He secured accommodations for our stays first night on the road and three days in Bowling Green. He also coordinated CCO’s attendance at the NCM’s Hall of Fame Banquet on Friday evening and and the Saturday afternoon of river cruising, food and country music on the riverboat. Countless calls and emails to the hotel’s managers and reservation agents were necessary, emails to the membership, monthly meeting updates, etc., etc. John met the challenge. As both our Marietta and Bowling Green accommodations changed ownership and management during the eighteen months of planning, John effectively did everything twice, or more - just to be sure we all could enjoy our week to the max. Please join with me and the rest of CCO’s Board of Directors in thanking John and Barbara for their leadership. We wouldn’t have done the 20th any other way!
One last thought… Just to wet your appetites for good times, Mike is now working on the very preliminary planning for CCO’s very own 25th Anniversary Celebration. Yes, it’s still almost three years in the making - but good fun takes time to plan! Stay tuned.