Today they’ll travel north, stopping for lunch in Gold Beach, Oregon before completing their day’s drive in Grants Pass. All will be traveling in automobiles built in 1974 or earlier. In most cases, much earlier.
They began this race on June 22nd in Riverside, California, stopping for lunch in the Route 66 Museum in Victorville, before bedding down for the night in Lancaster. Their nine days on the road will take the driver-and-navigator teams to places like Gardnerville, Nevada, Grass Valley, California, Hood River, Oregon and Spanaway, Washington before completing the run at the LeMay Auto Museum in Tacoma on June 30th. The situation cries out for a lyricist to re-write Bobby Troup’s classic tune, "Route 66," to include these waypoints.
This year’s event traces its origin to 1983 when the “Great American Race” from Los Angeles to Indianapolis was initiated. It was open only to cars built before World War II. In subsequent years, newer cars were permitted to enter and the race explored other routes, too, many of them crossing the entire United States. Often, these moved from west to east. At times they went in the other direction such as when my friend and Taste California Travel contributor Brendan Cooke, campaigned a 1956 Morgan all the way from the Eastern Seaboard to Sacramento. Though still billed as a “race,” the event is more of a rally with the objective of hitting checkpoints at precise times, rather than flat out speed. While even the newest automotive entries in this year’s competition will be carrying nearly half a century of age, other cars will be considerably older. Routes selected for the race aren’t the fastest point-to-point superhighways. They’re scenic drives, far off those beaten tracks. It’s still a competition, but just being able to coax some of these older vehicles to the finish line should qualify as some sort of victory.
From all we’ve heard about this event, it’s an opportunity for folks to experience a bit of fun too seldom seen these days. The competitors are reputed to be a cordial bunch who revive the traditions of sportsmanship and maybe even chivalry. If you’re interested in checking out the cars and maybe visiting with the drivers and navigators, you can access the day-by-day schedule here.