The Midwest has long been known as a hotbed of street rodding. The folks there build good-looking cars, and then get in and drive the wheels off of them. Rod runs in the Midwest are super-sized and are some of the most well attended and long running in the nation. There is a reason the National Street Rod Association holds their Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. The states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan make up one of the largest concentrations of street rodders in the nation. Two of the most famous and longest-running street rod events in the Midwest are the Shades of the Past run in Pigeon Forge and the NSRA Nationals North in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Held a week and 650 miles apart, it was the perfect opportunity for the Road Tour to visit the Heartland.

The Shades of the Past run in Pigeon Forge is a staple for rodders in the Midwest. It has a reputation for high-quality cars in a very unique setting. It was the perfect place to start out on Road Tour #5. Shades is a Friday and Saturday event, so we gathered at the Music Road Inn on Sunday morning to begin our journey north to Kalamazoo. The Smoky Mountain area around Pigeon Forge is spectacular and is the perfect spot for a Sunday cruise.

Our first stop was Floyd Garrett's Muscle Car Museum in nearby Sevierville, Tennessee. The wide range of musclecars on display gives visitors a good overview of one of the most popular segments of the automotive hobby. After a short drive south past Gatlinburg, we visited the Wheels Through Time All-American Transportation Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, which contains an unbelievable collection of American-made motorcycles covering the last 100 years. From Maggie Valley, it was a short drive to I-40 and then on to Lokar Performance Products in Knoxville, Tennessee. Lokar was not only our host for that evening's dinner, but is also the major sponsor of Tour #5. Debbie and Skip Walls at Lokar have been longtime supporters of the Road Tour program, and Lokar products are the only products that have been on every Road Tour car since the beginning of the tour in 1996. It was only fitting that Debbie (who owns the 1992 Road Tour '33 coupe) would join us on Tour #5 in what is now known at the Blue Skunk.

Monday morning, we rolled out of Knoxville and headed north on I-75. Our destination for the evening was Cincinnati, Ohio. Stops on Monday included the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, SoffSeal in Harrison, Ohio, and then on to Dynamat, just north of Cincinnati, for dinner. The local Cincinnati hot rod crowd turned out in force at Dynamat, and owner Scott Whittaker was a gracious host for the evening.

As we left Cincinnati Tuesday morning, we experienced the downside of September in Ohio: It is known to rain, and sometimes very hard. Not to be deterred, and with many more stops ahead, we saddled up and traveled northward through the storm. Things eased up just north of Columbus, but it was a very wet morning. We had lunch at Gear Star Transmissions in Akron on Tuesday. The Gear Star transmission in this year's Chevy coupe has performed flawlessly all season. Owner Zack Farah was ready for us, with a great lunch served as we walked in the door.