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10 Years Ago This Month

AutoFair

Date: Saturday, September 18, 1999
Time: 7:00 PM
Place: SC Welcome Center
Members Attending: Brian Bogardus, Donna Bogardus, Karen Breitinger, Kurt Breitinger, Carol Haff, John Haff and Rudy Wilmoth.

Our little four car caravan left heading east into the sunrise on a brisk morning, with Rudy the only one with his top down. Kurt and Karen arrived at the Welcome Center with their top down, but while the men chatted about widgets, Donna and Carol convinced Karen it was too chilly, so they put the lid up.

At first there was intermittent chatter on the CB’s, but soon even that faded as we became hypnotized by the monotonous staccato of interstate expansion joints. Praise be the rebels in the statehouse though, as the trip now goes by much quicker with the advent of 70 MPH speed limit. Even passing north of Columbia on I-20 is pleasant now that the reduced speed through there has been raised from 55 to 65 MPH.

First stop was at an “America’s bathroom away from home,” a McDonalds just a few miles north of the Capitol City on I-77. After refilling on Egg McMuffins and coffee we headed north again.

Next stop was the North Carolina Welcome Center to get directions to the Charlotte, oops, Lowes® Motor Speedway. We knew it was north of the city on I-85, we were just unsure of which exit. We probably could have figured it out though, because it turned out that Exit 49 was called Speedway Road.

None of us knew what to expect because we had never been to one of these type events before. Rudy had seen on the Internet that there was going to be 7,000 vendors, so we anticipated some wallet lightening to go along with all the visual delights. The first of which is coming around the corner and seeing the motor speedway stretched across the horizon. Seeing the NASCAR races on TV just doesn’t prepare you for the shear size of the venue. After paying our $5 and parking we walked over a highway overpass to the outside grounds of the racetrack. From there you pass through an entrance to the grandstands and down onto the track itself.

All the way around the track, along both sides, were cars that were for sale. 1984 Ford F-150 pickup trucks, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28s, 1972 VW Super Beetles, 1930 Dodge 4-door sedans; unrestored, mint factory condition or customized; you name it, it was yours for a price. There were even a couple of Miatas in the mix, but their prices weren’t low enough to persuade one of us to buy one. The entire infield was covered with row upon row of the 7,000 “vendors.” Turns out that anybody who dragged all their old rusty car parts from the barn to here and paid the fee was a “vendor.” To be fair there were some real vendors selling new stuff, but overall it had more of a flea market type atmosphere than we expected. I’m not saying that is a bad thing either, Donna and I were tempted to buy a traffic light for $40 but couldn’t agree on whose lap it would make the return trip on.

After a lunch of $5 hamburgers and $2 soft drinks we found our way over to where some of the local car clubs had set up displays. We were also lured into a giant white tent where there were some 2 year old international auto show concept cars, the Chrysler Atlantic, Plymouth Pronto Spyder, etc. When we finished up in the tent we headed over to the custom car show for the real “American Graffiti” stuff; chopped & channeled, Lead Sleds, flame paint jobs and chrome out the wahzoo. After that most of us ran out of steam. It was agreed upon that we would start heading home.

On the way out we wanted to pass by the car auction area just to check it out. They were piping the bidding sounds over the loudspeaker so that it could be heard in the track area and this was creating an irresistible urge. They were bidding on an ’74 El Camino as we entered the auction area. We didn’t stay long as my wife was afraid that I would sneeze and accidentally buy the car.

Last stop was chatting with the Carolinas Miata Club members who were gathered by a big ol’ shade tree outside the track. With so many car clubs they rotate between inside and outside and this was their year to be away from it all. Exiled with them were the BMW club among others. They had 8 cars and a box for you to vote for the best looking Miata. Your ballot would then be put in a drawing for a die cast Miata. After we had worn out our welcome there, we headed back to the Interstate for the trip home.

Big trouble, still a couple miles from I-85 the traffic on our 4 lane road came to stand still. We were warned, the lady at the welcome center had said that yesterday was the grand opening of a brand new mega-store mall. If that wasn’t enough they also had just opened one of those Bass Pro Shops where you can buy everything from silk thermal underwear to plastic wiggler worms to trolling motors. So we quick made a U-turn and headed back towards the Speedway. There we took a right onto US-21 South. When we got to the Interstate we kept on going as we were looking for a refueling spot before the trip back home began in earnest. After waiting for Rudy to fill out his log book, we zigged and zagged around suburban Charlotte until we came to I-77 South.
Plan was to drive on the Interstate until we got to Clinton, SC, there we would hang a right and finish the trip southwest on some backroads.

In Greenwood, SC at a snack & chat stop, the Georgia contingent convinced the Bogardi to follow them over to Martinez to have an evening meal with them. After much haggling over who wanted what, Kurt said he knew just the place. The seven of us dined at a little Italian place called the “Upper Crust,” where Donna got her salad, Brian got some chicken thing, the Haff’s & Breitinger’s got their pizza and Rudy had some pasta.

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