By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer
Amid cheers and whistles from bystanders, participants in the 25th annual Great American Race rolled in for a breakfast pit stop Tuesday in Portales at the Roosevelt County Courthouse square.
Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce volunteers were on hand to serve the Great Race participants and staff a hearty breakfast of pancakes, sausage, fruit and beverages. According to Chamber executive director Sharon King, this was the first breakfast stop in the history of the race. It was also the only breakfast stop on the cross-country route, she said.
“I think it went very well. I was pleased. They were (GAR staff/participants) just real pleased,” King said.
The Great American Race is a cross-country trip that features cars from 1969 and older. Teams consist of a driver and a navigator.
Traveling a great many miles to participate in the race is Visselhovede, Germany, couple Klaus and Maja von Deylen. The couple are driving a 1967 Volvo they shipped from Germany to Halifax, Canada. With five days until the race start, the couple drove from Canada, in their car, to the starting point in Concord, N.C. Once the race is over Saturday in Ahaheim,Calif., the couple will return to Canada to ship their car and fly home, they said.
“We do the whole trip with our racing car,” Maja von Deylen said.
For the couple, the race affords the opportunity to see the United States and meet people. A challenge the couple faces is having no support team traveling with them, they said.
“It is demanding for the car and the team,” Klaus said.
Portales resident James Wilkerson and his grandson Jalen Carter, who is visiting from Arkansas, were out early to see the cars and visit with the drivers. It was the first time Jalen has been to a Great Race event, Wilkerson said.
“I thought it was real enjoyable. The drivers were real nice, they would talk about their cars,” Wilkerson said.
“I thought the cars were cool and enjoyable,” Jalen said.
For Bridal Veil, Ore., couple Pat and Pat Brothers (yes, they have the same name), the race is a fun opportunity to meet people and travel to parts of the United States they wouldn’t normally see. This is the third year for the couple to participate. They are competing in a 1956 Ford Thunderbird that Mrs. Brothers has owned since she was 16. She drives while her husband navigates, she said.
“It’s the only two weeks a year he can tell me what to do,” she said with a chuckle.
Behind the scenes for the past 23 years is sweep team Steve and Vickie Atkinson of Waxhaw, N.C. The couple are responsible for traveling behind the racers, keeping score and passing out daily instructions, among many other duties, Vickie said.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s for the people that I come back,” she said.