Milem hits midpoint in journey

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 3, 2006

DURANGO, Colo. — Racers get the day off today, but then tomorrow, the journey continues for Lawrence County’s first-ever entry in the Great American Race.

With one week behind him and one week remaining, driver Dave Milem, of Burlington, is in 70th place out of 86 cars in his division. More than 100 cars are participating in the annual antique car challenge. The cross-country trek took them from Wichita, Kan., to Pueblo, Colo., Saturday and then from Pueblo to Durango, Colo. Sunday. Milem said the travel through the Rocky Mountains was both beautiful and amazing.

“Coming across Wolf Creek Pass, it was 10 miles up and then 10 miles down (the other side of the mountains),” he said. “We stopped in three or four little towns and there is a lot of fating going on in this area.”

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The team known as “out on parole” came within 2 seconds of getting an “ace” ranking Sunday — that ranking is reserved for racers with perfect time.

“We’re really satisfied,” Milem said. “Being rookies and all we think that’s pretty good. There’s a lot to learn about this.”

The object of the race is to get from one point to another within an allotted amount of time on a route that is largely made up of two-lane back roads.

While traveling in the antique cars, drivers and their navigator partners are not allowed to have cellular telephones or digital devices. Their times are secretly recorded as they pass by various checkpoints along the route. $270,000 in prize money will be handed out at the end of the race.

Along the way, drivers and their crews get the perks of sightseeing and making new friends.

“Just about everywhere we go we run into someone from back home,” Milem said.

“They had a big party for us in Durango and I saw this man who had a Valvoline cap on and I asked where he got his hat and he said ‘oh I used to work for that company.’ He was from Ashland, Ky. I didn’t get his name but he was a super nice guy. He came because he wants to be in the race next year.”

Milem, along with fellow Lawrence Countian Buddy Pitzenbarger and two friends from Kentucky, Jim and Ben Warren, left Philadelphia, Penn., last Saturday. They will complete the

4,100-mile race in San Rafael, Calif., this Saturday.