Burlington man, friends begin great race

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2006

YORK, Penn.— They’re off!

The chance of a lifetime began Saturday morning for Lawrence County’s first-known entrants in the Great American Road Race.

Burlington resident Dave Milem, driving his 1920 Ford Speedster, left Philadelphia, Penn., Saturday morning with more than 100 other contestants in this year’s cross country classic car race. The race will take him and three companions 4,100 miles in 14 days across 14 states, eventually ending in San Rafael, Calif. The first leg of the trip began in Philly and ended in York, Penn., Saturday evening. Describing his adventure, Milem said, “so far, so good.

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“The car is running good, everything couldn’t be better,” he said. “This being our first time, we missed a couple of turns, you know, and you run against a clock so you have to make up your time here and there but we’re learning the tricks of the trade from some of the veterans on the trip,” he said.

Because the race is conducted primarily on two-lane back roads, it is also giving the men a chance to see glimpses of Americana, taken in at a top speed of 45 miles an hour.

“We went through Amish country up around Lancaster, (Penn.) and they have some old blast furnaces like we’ve got at home. And you should see some of the Amish farms and peach orchards, oh my,” he said.

Milem and crew are in good company on this trip: Four Olympic gold medalists are also making the cross-country trek, as are some vintage automobiles.

“There is an English Rolls Royce in the race, a big car,” he said. “And there is a car from Australia, too.”

Along with Milem, fellow Lawrence Countian Buddy Pitzenbarger and two friends from Owensboro, Ky., Jim and Ben Warren, make up the team self-dubbed “Out on parole.”

The second leg of the trip that began Sunday took him from York to Washington, Penn., where he spent Sunday evening.

“We left York at 8 a.m. and drove for a quite a while in the pouring rain, I mean, it was nearly a white-out,” he said. “But we put on our wet suits— they’re not the most comfortable things to wear — but that kept us dry.”

The third leg of the trip today will take him through eastern Ohio and finally into Dublin, near Columbus, where they will spend the night.

Scheduled stops throughout the day and special activities in the evenings allow people in race stop cities to meet the teams.

“When we stopped in Cumberland, Md., (Sunday afternoon), they had music and a bandstand. There was a cafeteria that is normally closed on Sundays but it was open. And everyone is so nice to you, they want to talk to you,” he said. “Everywhere we stop people are so friendly, glad to see you. You’ll go into a town and the sidewalks are lined with people taking pictures.”

Three area businesses are sponsoring the trip: &H Erectors of Portsmouth, Engines Inc., of South Point and Southern 52 Excavating of South Point.

The trip will end July 8.