Local driver finishes journey

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 14, 2006

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — Tired but happy.

That is the way Lawrence County’s first-ever driver in the Great American Race described his cross-country odyssey that began 14 days ago in Philadelphia, Penn., ended Friday in San Rafael, Calif.

“This thing really tired us,” Dave Milem, of Burlington, said Saturday.

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“It was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. I’ll give you an example: Last night we came off the course at 7 o’clock and came into downtown San Rafael. We were to stay on display until 8:30. Then we had a 40-minute drive to the motel and we worked on the car about an hour and a half,” he said.

“Then it was 11 o’clock. We hadn’t even eaten yet. We go get some dinner and we don’t get back to the motel until about 10 after 12 (midnight). We hadn’t had baths. By the time we got to bed, it was 1 o’clock this morning. And we were up again at 5. It was far more demanding that I had originally thought. It was not the leisurely trip I had anticipated,” Milem said.

Still, Milem said the trip was enjoyable, the sightseeing was often breathtaking.

“My favorite was probably stopping in Durango, Colo. I really liked it,” he said.

“Maybe that was because we had the day off. But they had a railroad museum with narrow gauge trains like they use in the mines. It was great,” he said.

His least favorite part of the trip? Driving through hot, dusty Kansas.

With fellow Lawrence Countian Buddy Pitzenbarger and friends Jim and Ben Warren of Owensboro, Ky., Milem and crew — known collectively as “Out on parole” — managed to chalk up nearly 4,500 miles.

Along the way, they made mental notes of places they want to visit on the way back home, when race monitors aren’t keeping track of their times and scores.

“There’s a big museum in Lincoln, Neb., I want to see. One of the guys has been to it before. There are some place we just want to go that we didn’t get to see on the way out,” he said.

Milem said the 76-year-old Ford Model A Speedster he took across country has performed well except for one electrical problem Thursday. Other than that, he said he is proud of how well it withstood the demands of the race.

Milem and crew were the county’s first entry in the annual classic car race. It was sponsored by three area businesses: J&H Erectors, Engines Inc., and Southern 52 Excavating.