Route 66 and Corvettes have been linked in my mind ever since I first watched Todd & Buzz head off into the sunset. Frequently mentioned half seriously, the idea of pointing a 'Vette down the remnants of the old highway started to become entirely serious a couple of years ago. A new Corvette model was about to be released and my entry into empty-nestdom made that seem particularly timely.
I started talking seriously and some friends expressed interest. Questions were no longer entirely rhetorical. How long would it take? When would it happen? Who would go? Three weeks would be good. Did I have three weeks to devote? No. Maybe two. Two friends would each take a week and split the trip.
The C5 Corvette hit the dealers in January of 1997. I ordered in June with delivery anticipated in late August. I learned that the games dealers play are not always concerned with integrity and, when August became "maybe November", I canceled the order. I reordered elsewhere. The '98s were now being built and included a convertible not available in the first year. "I'll take one of those." Museum delivery seemed a natural. My first Corvette and the National Corvette Museum only a couple of hundred miles away. I drove the car out of the NCM in March.
There just wasn't enough time that summer to fit in the Route 66 expedition and we knew it early on. We promised ourselves "next year" and enjoyed the summer while trying to pick a date to anchor our plans. Early spring seemed the most attractive if for no other reason than it was the earliest that was practical. Then, at the annual Labor Day celebration at the NCM, the perfect target date became obvious.
The NCM would be five years old in 1999 and there would be a repeat of the national caravans that had helped open the museum. Only these would be bigger. 1994 saw 5000 Corvettes converging on Bowling Green. 1999 might have 8000, maybe 9000, maybe 10000.
With one buddy traveling west and another returning, there was a definite possibility that attitudes on the return trip would not be in synch. After seeking out back roads on the way to LA, I might be burnt out and ready to straight line it home just when my traveling companion was beginning his portion of the trip. Traveling from Los Angeles in the company of a couple of hundred Corvettes with planned festivities along the way promised to make the return trip every bit as interesting as the one out.
The caravan schedule was quickly firmed up. In order to reach Nashville at the proper time for the final leg to Bowling Green, the LA group would start east on the morning of August 30th. This automatically meant that the preceding week would be used in the west bound run. The workweek ends on a Friday and on Saturday morning we could be leaving Chicago.
It was starting to sound like a plan.
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