PPG / STREET RODDER Road Tour #5From Shades to the Zoo

After a few weeks of R&R back in Ohio, it's again time to get back to the task at hand--leading street rodders around the country from event to event, having fun, and stopping at interesting places along the way. Tour #5 was starting at the Shades of the Past event in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and then heading to the NSRA Nationals North in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

From my home in Youngstown, Ohio, it is just a nine-hour drive to Pigeon Forge, but I decided to stop and see friends Carol and Wade Hughes in Cincinnati on the way. Wade is the master and originator of the Ohio Hot Rod Flames technique of heating up the graphics on all types of vehicles. I stayed Wednesday evening at Carol and Wade's, and we headed south on Thursday morning. Wade was driving his recently completed '32 roadster and I was in the Coddington-built '34 Chevy. It was a sunny day and a fun drive to Pigeon Forge, just southeast of Knoxville.

After 15 years of traveling around the country attending street rod events, this was actually my first trip to Shades, as it is known in the hobby. It has become one of the more prestigious events in the country, and yes, it is actually held in a field! It's quite a sight to see some of the finest street rods, customs, and musclecars gathered together in the Tennessee countryside--it is a cross between Woodstock and "A Field of Dreams."

Since Shades is a Friday and Saturday event, Tour #5 actually began on Sunday morning. The Road Tourians gathered at the Music Road Inn in Pigeon Forge and headed to the Floyd Garrett Muscle Car Museum in nearby Sevierville, Tennessee. We were treated to an incredible collection of high-performance cars from the '60s, '70s, and '80s. In addition to the cars, there were also some great automobilia and nostalgia items on display.

From the Muscle Car Museum, we headed south through Gatlinburg and into the heart of the Smoky Mountains. Our one-hour drive included a stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was definitely a great way to spend some time on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Tennessee.

After crossing into North Carolina, we stopped in Maggie Valley at the Wheels Through Time Transportation Museum. I have been to a lot of museums and seen a lot of collections over the years, but it would be hard pressed to top what we saw at that museum. Dale Walksler has assembled a collection of over 300 American-made motorcycles from all eras. What makes the collection fantastic is that most of the motorcycles are in original condition, and incredibly, over 90 percent of them run! We got a personal tour from Dale himself, and it was great to see a man with such passion and love of his hobby enjoying it and sharing it with others. If you get close to Wheels Through Time, you have to stop and see it for yourself.

We were all invited Sunday evening to Lokar Performance Products for dinner. Lokar is the official sponsor of Tour #5, and owner Debbie Walls was traveling with us to Kalamazoo in the Blue Skunk, the 1933 Ford coupe I drove on the very first Road Tour in 1996. Everything Lokar does is first class, and the dinner was no exception, as a chef prepared steak and chicken for us to enjoy. It was a great day and a great way to kick off the tour.

Monday morning, we headed north on I-75 toward our evening's destination of Cincinnati. We ran into some rain in Lexington and had to cut our stop short at the Kentucky Horse Park. West of Cincinnati, we stopped for a visit at SoffSeal. Owner Gary Anderson has been a longtime friend, and his staff gave us a tour of the facility and we got some insight into what goes into their quality rubber seals and rubber products. We also got a look at Gary's collection of automobila and nostalgia. Gary is another big boy who loves his toys. From SoffSeal, we made a quick stop at Dynamic Motorsports, one of the largest dealers for Superformance Cobra replicars in the United States.

Our hosts for Monday evening's activities were the folks at Dynamat. Dynamat has become the most widely used insulating and sound-deadening product in the street rod industry. This year's coupe has Dynamat throughout and it has made my summer much more enjoyable as I spend so many miles on the road. Scott Whitaker and Beth Maranda rolled out the red carpet for us as we enjoyed pizza and lasagna. The local hot rod folks from the Cincy area turned out to join in the fun and it was great to see so many familiar faces.

Wow! All that in just two days. Stay turned, Tour #5 is just getting started. We have stops to make in Akron, Cleveland, and Detroit before we get to our destination of Kalamazoo. As I type this on Tuesday morning, it is thundering outside and the rain is pouring down. It should be an interesting drive today. Check back--I'll let you know how it went.

Jerry Dixey