The first leg of any Road Tour season is always an adventure. Now in its 14th year, it was time to head out and enjoy the eight week-long cruises on the nation's highways. This year's Road Tour vehicle is a definite departure from the roadsters and coupes of many of the previous years.

Pulling into Coker Tire headquarters Friday at noon, Road Tourians were already in town. The Road Tour features 75 percent repeat participants and the Coker Tire Tour was no different. It was good to see familiar faces and those rodders about to experience their first Road Tour.

Saturday started with rain but the skies cleared by noon, giving way to a gathering of spectators and hot rods. Next up was the silent auction and it went very well thanks to the generosity of companies who donated parts and accessories and also to the many folks who bid on the items. All the money raised, $2,500, was given to the Victory Junction Gang Camp on Saturday afternoon. The highest bid went was for a Chip Foose autographed Classic Automobilia 75th Anniversary '34 Classic Hot Rod. (We had arranged to deliver the funds to the Camp in person on Tuesday of the tour).

Sunday morning we all headed to the scenic Great Smoky Mountain National Park for a drive on our way to Knoxville. The park covers an extensive area of mountains and forests in Tennessee near the North Carolina border. We made a brief stop in Cherokee and after a climb over the mountains we stopped in Gatlinburg. Sunday proved to be a beautiful day's drive in the Smokies.

The tour continued on Monday morning with a visit to Lokar Performance Products in Knoxville. Lokar has supported the Road Tour program since the tour's inception back in 1996 and its products have been used on every Road Tour car over the past 14 years. We were greeted at Lokar by Debbie Walls (she and her husband Skip are the owners) and the company's President, Rick Craze. A Road Tour stop at Lokar is a guarantee for great food and plenty of goodie bags.

After a great breakfast buffet of fruit and croissants we were given a tour of the manufacturing facilities to see how quality is built into every Lokar product. Debbie greeted everyone personally and provided everyone with a goodie bag and Lokar umbrella.

On hand at Lokar was the first (1996) Road Tour coupe-a 1934 Ford with a distinctive blue and white paint scheme and owned by Debbie since 1998. She has logged plenty of miles over the past decade. The stop at Lokar was a great way to kick off our week of travels on the Coker Tire Tour.

From Lokar it was a short drive to Alloway's Hot Rod Shop. Alloway's is known for its distinctive and award winning hot rods it has built over the years. There are few shops that can boast having build a Ridler award winner, an AMBR award winner, and a Goodguys Street Machine of the Year award winner.

With Bobby out of the shop on business, staff member Joe Baily gave us a behind the scenes look at the current projects that are under way at Alloway's. After our brief visit it was obvious that the shop has many more awards in its future.

From Knoxville, our journey continued to Charlotte, a five hour drive that doubled us back through the beautiful mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. Our travels were a bit damp with light rain but we arrived at our hotel in Concord at 4 p.m. The Hampton Inn folks treated us to a dinner of chicken pasta and we headed out to Fatman Fabrications in nearby Mint Hill. Fatman himself, Brent Vandervort, greeted us and we were treated to a tour of the Fatman facilities. Known for many years for their frames and suspensions, the Fatman folks continue to add to their huge line of well-engineered products.