Blogtoberfest Guest Post: Riding with the King

By Joseph N. Schneiderman, Esq.

October 12, 2019

Mileage Start: 165207, Archdale, N.C.

Mileage End: 165313, Archdale, N.C.

“Pressure and time…and a big goddamn poster.”

“Seven…that’s the time we leave is seven…”

“Seven Winston Cup Championships and 7 Daytona 500 wins..”

Well, seven was also the time I woke up…I was not missing this day for anything. Twenty-three years ago, Mom graciously bought me a Richard Petty documentary that had a 1970 Plymouth Superbird diecast car with it.

I really wanted the Superbird…Little did I know that it would turn into a full blown…obsession…I wanted to be The King! Even though I had barely slept the night before, I was energized.

Even though 7AM was my exception and not the rule to when I woke up, I was up and about. It never hurt that I had laid out my clothes the night before. And it was still dark out. I methodically dressed just enough to be presentable for breakfast. And I opted against heavy eggs or the like. I opted for my preferred yogurt and granola which I found. And as much as coffee as I could. I ate quickly but unrushedly. I was excited. Once I felt further jumpstarted, I headed back to the room to fetch my camera, phone, and fully dress. I opted for a red oxford shirt that I’d had since age 15.

Something appropriate to meet the King, no? Gotta dress the part. I packed my autograph items into a Ringo Starr bag- and grabbed the bag to take with me. One item was a 1996 Petty Enterprises STP 25th Anniversary Racing Hauler Tractor Trailer that I’ve had since I’ve been a Richard Petty fan-and still had cars inside it.  And there’s a laminated poster. The cars from the STP 25th Anniversary celebration in 1996 that match the hauler. Two from 1972. One from 1979. One from 1984. And the beautiful silver and blue and red specialty car from 1996.  

My friend Mike, my only friend and friendship who has endured since primary school, gave me that poster a long time ago. Somehow, this poster survived a hellish move. (I’m sad to say that one of the cars on the poster Mike gave me that is on the poster did not…Mike, I’m sorry. I loved that car. But…Well, as The King says, “Don’t put a question mark where God puts a period.”) And it languished in a dark corner. But, after I made my decision in August come to North Carolina, and, after seeing the Petty Blue documentary two Sundays before this trip, I cleaned the poster up, took the glow in the dark stars off it, and hung it proudly on my fridge. 

Back into Theresa. She was so awesome and tried to tell her as much every chance I could during this trip.  Up and out of the hotel parkin lot. Right turn back to I-85. I merge…But I don’t have to go very far-one mile if that-to the next exit-and Route 62 eastbound. Gas station to my right. The sky is grey, but, the fields are wide open and full. The transition from suburban to rural is seamless. Farms and fields and foliage changing. And fifty miles an hour, tall trees. Churches. Intersections but no traffic lights.  I’m looking for Business Route 220, and then Branson Mill Road. Route 62 winds but it’s not severe.

Now that I think about it, this was truly the perfect breeding ground for those moonshiners to drive race cars. And from out of nowhere, a body of water appears. It’s Randleman Lake. I feel somewhat at home-this countryside reminds me of Western Massachusetts…and I’m getting closer to where I need to go-Business Route 220, and then Branson Mill Road. And another gas station. I-73 again. Also Route 220. I’m close now. Finally. A traffic light. Randleman Road-my right turn. Some businesses appear on the right. At last-Richard Petty Museum to the left! I’m close! I’m close I’m close! And the Level Cross Volunteer Fire Department! I make a left on Branson Mill Road. And the classic rock is still cranked and it’s still not even 8AM!

A few houses. A barn. Then…white fence…and a sign…and a gentleman in a reflective shirt! A tandem sign.  Petty’s Garage! Petty Museum! I made it! I made it! I turn left and I’m waved in. And I park on the big lawn! I’m here! I’m at Petty Enterprises in Level Cross! 

I can’t believe it! I made it! I’m out of my car Theresa and I make my way to a line.  There is someone wearing the same Cowboy Hat and a vintage Petty Racing and Petty Enterprises jacket. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that’s the King. And there’s a line all the way back to the edge of the parking area! And I queue up-the first person I meet is Mark Ray and I tell him it only took me 20 years, but, I drove all the way in from Connecticut and New York, I’m a lawyer in those states and in Massachusetts. And I’m so excited to be here… And I snap a photo of the line for my friend Dan at 8:00 AM.

Mark Ray came about an hour across North Carolina to be here-not 700 miles-the mountains-Mount Airy. He’s been a fan for a long time and he volunteers here. He’s a kind, unpretentious man. And he’s marveling in my marveling, and the story of how, as a kid, I became a Richard Petty fan.  I get to talking to the others in line, like Tammy. She’s a BIG fan and I share my same story with her. She makes friendly quips about her age-naturally, I tell her that she does not look it. There’s Steve-wearing a bright burgundy Petty Enterprises shirt. He’s built like I am and just as gentle. We get to talking about autographs and the history-he’s come in from Ohio, and we discuss that infamous crash at Daytona in 1988…I’d like to add a photo of that crash that has a signature-“Keep Havin’ Fun”-sometimes the practice of law can feel like you are flipping seven times at Daytona! Keep Richard Petty kept right on havin’ fun! (Steve, Hope you got my note, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for that photo.)  

There’s a table of memorabilia on my right-a much larger version of my poster is there. It’s an auction table-all to benefit Victory Junction, the Petty Family Foundation-and all kinds of awesome stuff is on the table-jackets, autographs,  I must be the youngest person here, well, at least, one of the youngest adults here at 32. (But I don’t reveal my age then.)   Eventually, I meet Ms. Linda Ritchie-whom I spoke to on the phone and sent a check to a couple of weeks ago. She hands me my Richard Petty Fan Club Membership card, the commemorative pin (which goes initially on my collar and then on my pocket) and I thank her for her help! And there are two blue tickets-everybody, well, the first 150 (sensible to me), gets two autographs.  And I cross the threshold…into the Richard Petty Museum!

And big as day and life, is that blue and dayglo orange 1984 Pontiac Grand Prix he won race number 200 in! I have to carefully move among a whole bunch of people inside shopping-and there’s the car… A Richard Petty Coke Mini Fridge…I try to take it all in….Petty’s Garage apparel to one side, Richard Petty Cars all over, the STP Pontiac Number 43 dead center, the life-size bobble head, glass cases of everything…I…don’t know how many laps I have to make… WOW-also big as day-with the bright red orange letters 42-is Lee Petty’s 1959 Oldsmobile. He won that first Daytona 500 in that car in 1959! There’s the ’67 Plymouth! The King won 27 races in 1967 in that iconic Petty Blue Plymouth, including ten straight! And there’s Mrs. The King-Lynda off to one corner! There’s the Plymouth Superbird-The King from CARS!  The Superbird is perhaps the King’s most iconic car, with that giant wing, he won 18 races in 1970. A celebrity wall-Fleetwood Mac is up there! I would recognize Stevie Nicks at a distance! Directly across from that is the 1981 Buick he won that 7th Daytona 500 in-the 1986 Pontiac 2+2…There’s a political case….CARS is on in the background. The King, as The King is giving Lightning advice and its all over his head. Diecast cars in cases…A Pontiac Grand Prix trunk and back bumper is a bench.  I wander my way outside to the courtyard and to the red floor-which was the race shop for 60 years-it was only 2009 that Car 43 left. Petty’s Garage is the performance shop behind the red floor (closed today as it’s Saturday.) Initially seeming out of place is a big Ford Thunderbird bearing the Wood Brothers No. 21, grit and CITGO decals. That was Kyle Petty’s Car that he won the World/Coca-Cola 600 in 1987-NASCAR’s longest race. And its next to his last car-the No. 45 Dodge. Because it was Kyle’s car, it’s not out of place.  And that’s Kyle Petty’s corner. But, wait Joe…Why would that car seem out of place? The Wood Brothers were Petty Enterprises’ greatest rivals since NASCAR started. Famously, in 1976, David Pearson, driving the Purolator #21 Mercury fought Richard Petty on the last lap of the Daytona 500. Pearson and Petty wrecked, and Pearson beat the King because The King’s Dodge would not restart, even though he was closer to the start-finish line!

And across from me in a walker is a gentleman-William-and his loved one-Elizabeth, I believe.  (I am so sorry to everyone whose name I missed, y’all were the kindest most welcoming folks ever! I hope that I will see some or all of you again in 2020! Thank you thank you thank you!)  William is a veteran, he also volunteers at the museum and I recount my same story to him. I thank him for his service. Behind him is Richard Petty’s first car ever-a 1958 Oldsmobile. And fittingly enough, next to it, is his last ride from November 15, 1992 at Atlanta. (More on that later.)

I get to talking with William. We find some further interesting common ground beyond the King-we both are concerned that young people are not learning history in school. We are both disconcerted about how some history is erased…Show some respect for the dead. The conversation turns organically, to (Western) Massachusetts and about Captain Daniel Shays and his rebellion. And how I’ve been to the last site of Shays Rebellion in Sheffield-and how being down here reminds me of that countryside. And, about my name… The red floor is quiet. But I recognize the Petty Blue documentary in the background-and Adam Petty’s Car No. 45 in a corner.  I gently excuse myself back to the action. William says, “What a nice man.”  I smile. I needed to hear that. And Oh if my dear lawyer friends or colleagues could see me now…. That was a constant refrain.  Back to the main museum floor.  I don’t know what brought me to the cashier’s desk…Correction! I remember!

More below-I was buying goodies for myself and Nate, my mechanic—and low and behold, there she is-Ms. Sharon Petty Farlow is handling my transaction personally-and Ms. Farlow is Richard Petty’s oldest daughter!  I recognize and greet Ms. Farlow-Thank You Again! It’s really warm. I don’t need this heavy lined denim chore coat I wore and I take it back to the car. And somewhere in there I realize…D’oh! I didn’t put the battery in the camera! Ah well.  I’ll come back. I make a few laps…including back to the red floor…And texting Dan Gauthier all about it. And there’s Ms. Farlow again! I’m fairly certain I told her I came all the way from Connecticut-but I can’t remember. 

I ask Ms. Farlow if we can take a photo together. And we do-with the King’s first car-she asks me about that. “Which car? How about the Oldsmobile, the first car? Oh that’s a good one.” Ms. Farlow brought tremendous joy, energy and enthusiasm. Before Ms. Farlow retired to running the Petty Museum and running events like this, indeed, running this show, she was a kindergarten teacher.  Like her daddy The King, I can tell, She’s Still Havin’ Fun.  Still Havin’ Fun…What does that mean? Richard Petty said he’d retire when he stopped havin’ fun. Lynda Petty, his wife and loved one of nearly 60 years confronted him in a hospital bed after he went barrel-roll flipping horrifically 7 times of Turn 4 at Daytona in 1988… he’s starting at the ceiling. She asks, “Are we still havin’ fun?” Thank you again Ms. Farlow! And I keep making laps. On the far side of the courtyard is the original garage-the Reaper Shed-that Lee Petty started in in 1949. And there’s old equipment back there, a 1950 Plymouth.  It’s all frozen in time beautifully. I pause  few times. 

Next to that 1958 Oldsmobile is Richard Petty’s last ride…a 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix…—still burned and scarred from when he wrecked.  at  Atlanta in his last race on November 15, 1992. (Someone with more time on their hands than me immortalized it as a meme.

Heroically, Richard Petty’s crew managed to fix it so he was running at the finish-albeit without a hood or any front sheet-metal at all, and he took an iconic final farewell lap after the race. I wanted to see that car without fail. And Richard Petty’s uniform is there from that last race. And so is his helmet and leather jacket. There’s a gray unpainted test Pontiac, the iconic blue and red Dodge Charger from 1972, the red Dodge Truck from NASCAR’s Truck Series, I grew up around that truck! There’s a Petty Blue (indeed, its own color, the product of creativity at 2AM mixing white and blue to paint a car) Challenger Convertible with a mural, trophies and checkered flags…  There is a whole corner just for Adam Petty.

I remember when Adam Petty died-he was so seen as the future. His first win was at Charlotte-he was breaking into the major series and he was not even 20 years old-and won at 18-just like his daddy Kyle at Daytona in 1979. And it just didn’t happen. He wrecked, in cruelly and ironically enough, New Hampshire Motor Speedway. And Petty Enterprises never quite recovered.  But the car he won at Charlotte in is there.  I step back outside. The sun is now out and the day is warm. It later occurs to me-this is a summer encore.  I’m still getting to enjoy summertime freedom here! How bloody awesome is that? And soon the line begins queuing up to meet The King! Ms. Farlow is here, reminding us to make sure to have our tickets and our items ready-and not to pull any fast ones-she taught Kindergarten! As we patiently wait, I meet a Mom and Son. Dylan-and Tammy! (I believe…)

I’m sorry I didn’t buy some goodies from Dylan. But I did buy a few little goodies, mostly related to the poster and the hauler, from the picnic table from David-all benefitting the Petty Family Foundation and Victory Junction. The first Tammy joins us again. The line slowly snakes, as lines tend to do. We’re on the far edge of the courtyard when all of sudden, “There he is!” NASCAR’s KING and Ambassador, 7 Time Winston Cup Champion, 7 Time Daytona 500 Winner, 200 race winner, Ambassador to NASCAR when Ronald Reagan flew in on July 4, 1984, ladies and gentleman, in all his glory, the Man, the Legend, The King Richard Petty! And Richard Petty is there in his Cowboy hat, moustache, shades and all! I’m giddy like a child again and excited! The excitement’s palpable to Tammy and Dylan and I think everyone else in my orbit-even as the discussion moves to how it’s been a long few years for me leading to this. Tammy offers sound maternal inspiration-Mom’s with me and proud and happy.  Mom would be.

She knew I was an adventurer. So did Dad. I think Mom would be proud that I went and did this finally and put it all together. Tammy is so kind and supportive. I’m moved. Back to the excitement at hand! We’re getting closer. Finally, we’re snaking back towards the museum from the red floor! And the King is getting closer-and Ms. Farlow checks with us about everything (“I’m an elementary school teacher-don’t put one over on me [paraphrased.]”)—I’m almost all compliant-I didn’t have my second item out. I remedy that.  Finally…I’ve handed the camera (well, iPhone 4) to Ms. Farlow…and have my objects for autograph  at the ready out of the Ringo Starr bag…One of the other favorite Richards… “Mr. Petty, I’m Joe, I’m a huge fan,  I’m so happy that I finally get to meet you after 20 years!”

“Thank you man.” “I drove 700 miles all the way in from Connecticut to see you today!” “Now you drive safe driving back up there now, ya hear?”  “I will! Thank you! Thank you!” And photos are taken! I DID IT! I finally met Richard Petty! Only took me 23 years, but, I met RICHARD PETTY! I MET THE KING! I MET RICHARD PETTY! I MET KING RICHARD PETTY AND THAT POSTER MIKE GAVE ME IS SIGNED SEALED DELIVERED!  And the Richard Petty Convention slowly winds down. I secure my autographs safely in the car and return to the museum. I finally officially meet Bonnie Davis-she is the ambassadress of the museum, she runs retail, schedules, and all the rest! I thank her-she also answered one of my phone calls in September. It has been an epic day already and its only 12PM!   Bonnie was a kind thoughtful wonderful person-we get to talking about all things legal, how I came all the way in from Connecticut. I start in on photos, including Theresa on the Petty lawn, an official citation from the Massachusetts State Senate, you name it! Naturally, there is discussion of Massachusetts-and of Richard Petty’s substantial firearm collection-I tell Bonnie that one day he’ll have to visit the Springfield Armory. I promise Bonnie and Ms. Farlow that I will be back with the camera battery. And I tell them a few times, “You outdid yourselves, Thank you so much!”

I’m so happy-if Christmas happened in extended summer in October, that wouldn’t even come close…I include Bonnie’s assistant-Maddie, or Hannah? (I’m so sorry for forgetting your name!) I hustle the 25 mile roundtrip back to Archdale to fetch the camera battery, still giddy. And I’m back! Much of the fandom has cleared out, off to Downtown Randleman for NASCAR Days, but, I’m here to savor. 

Ms. Farlow acknowledges as much! And Ms. Farlow is happily departing, she’s done for the day-and she’s earned it. I thank her again for outdoing herself and going above and beyond. But I also speak up. “Before you go, could I ask one more small thing please?” “What ya need?” “Would you please take a photo of me and the ’67 Plymouth, please?” (That car won 27 races that season, including 10 in a row.) Ms. Farlow graciously obliges. Thank you again Ms. Farlow!! And then she’s off. Thank you again-you truly outdid yourself! And I spend a solid hour or 90 minutes admiring and absorbing everything and taking photographs, the guns, Lynda’s dolls-it’s not just Lynda’s dolls that are here for here. If Richard was the King, Lynda was truly the Queen of NASCAR. Richard made a point of ensuring Lynda was in CARS with him-and there’s a big poster honoring Lynda’s character from the movie-Mrs. the King. Lynda stood by her man-for 60 years-and we are all diminished without her. The museum isn’t just the cars-it’s a whole museum to Richard Petty and the family-everything that goes into him and his life.

Dare I say it, Richard Petty is a renaissance man for whom racing came first but had a whole bunch of interests-and he brought those interests to all of us.  Thank you, King Richard! And there was Melinda (I think…)-she invited me to come to the Daytona 500 with her as part of a group trip down from North Carolina! Oh I so would have said yes! But,  honored and flattered as I was, I had to gently decline-I didn’t live in North Carolina and couldn’t contribute. Richard Petty was Melinda’s connection to her dad-they listened together every Sunday afternoon as the King raced. (Sounds like my Mom and her Dad-Star Trek was one of their many links.)  I so wanted to say yes-but, I couldn’t-I couldn’t make it work. But she was wonderful-a total stranger inviting a daggum Yankee like me to Daytona??? WOW. Awesome.  I hold court a little bit with Bonnie and Maddie/Hannah. And I tell her about the other important and awesome Bonnie friend I have, Bonnie Gauthier, Dan’s wife and loved one back home. And I shop. Round one-aha! That’s why I originally met Ms. Farlow!

Nate, my mechanic, is a good friend and has a big Powered by Petty’s Garage logo on his truck. I promised Nate something with Petty’s Garage….And I found it. An Awesome Petty’s Garage hooded sweatshirt…And I bought it for him-and a Petty Blue long sleeve t-shirt with STP on the front and the 43 on back. And I shop-Round 2, as I promised Bonnie. Three more t-shirts, all with a 43 on them go into my stack. I ask Bonnie, “May I try on the dress shirt?” “Sure thing.” The shirt fits great-and Bonnie notices. (I wore the shirt to the John Adams Courthouse on November 26.) I find a patch, a pin, I could spend a lot of money here. I did-$200. But…They asked me if I wanted to round up to benefit Victory Junction. Happily. Indeed, I guesstimated my tab on Round 2 of shopping at $125. I was right-but it was-$115 with my Petty Fan Club discount. I said,  Round it Up to $125. I eyed things…I said my thanks you and goodbyes-and Bonnie takes my picture with my hand on that magical 200th victory car. But as I got to the car…Something felt incomplete.  Back for Round 3. A Petty’s Garage shirt for Dan Gauthier. And now, time to go downtown to NASCAR days and lunch! I ain’t eaten since breakfast! Down Route 220 to Randleman. I find town, park, and walk in! Wow. There are a bunch of people here! And I walk into a festival. STreets are closed, there’s a Number 8 Stock Car with Goodwrench livery, there are bunch of people. And I walk freely and happily among the crowd. That other Richard comes in handy…. “I’m from New York and New England.” “Well, we’ll forgive you that.”  “Well, how many New Yorkers do you know who can do this? They’re gonna put me in the movies, they’re gonna make a big star outta me, yes they are, make a film about a man who’s sad and lonely….And all I gotta do is Act Naturally…” “BUCK! Well done.”  Later… “You came all the way down from Connecticut in one day?” “No, not quite, I stopped off in Gettysburg and kinda did General Lee’s march backwards through Antietam!”  In a different way, the streets of Randleman are just as much of a sensory buffet as the Petty Museum was. This is a true small town, a downtown, well, North Carolina calls Randleman a city. So too will I.  This city’s population is 4500 or so, there are small stores, counter restaurants, churches aplenty, all centered on Main, Academy and Naomi Streets. There’s a band singing, classic cars in a neat line, and right at City Hall, there’s the ’79 Monte Carlo the King won his 7th Championship in by 11 points over old D-W Darrell Waltrip. (Well, actually, he drove an Oldsmobile and a Chevy Caprice that year also-but whatever. We don’t venerate form over substance.)   A church is selling barbecue for $5. I happily buy some-I’ve been wanting to try Carolina barbecue since I committed to this trip! They do not disappoint-the pulled pork is delicious. This is right near City Hall. And Lo and behold-Carolina Barbecue Sauce! No…HAWG SAUCE! Mark McMasters HAWG SAUCE! Mr. McMasters is kind and encouraging and welcomes me to sample it.  Pause for a moment. Carolina Barbecue is its own wonderful invention-a vinegar based sauce. There’s Eastern Style-which is straight vinegar based. Then there’s Western Style-also called Lexington Style (just down the road)-which is vinegar plus tomato and ketchup. And Mr. McMasters is selling Lexington Style. “Would you like to try some, Sir?” “Yes please, I’ve been wanting to try Carolina Barbecue!” Wow… Tangy with the vinegar…then a sweet and spicy explosion! My kinda thing!  “Delicious! May I have another please?” “Sure.” “I’m Joe, I came all the way in from New England to be here today!” “Well thank you so much sir.” “Joe, call me Joe, we’re not in court.”  I buy two bottles-one for me, one for my friend Andy.  And I take in all the street vendors-making a charitable donation here and there, ending up at Matt’s NASCAR and DIecast stand just out side a biker bar and a Hot Rod. I almost head in for a beer. Matthew is from Martinsville, VA-not that far up the road.And we get to talking-about how I’ve come in, how wonderful the people are-and how we always can meet someone-I recount stories of the New York City Subway and how tourists from down South were always wonderful. That’s what’s it all about, ain’t it?  And he finds the one and only Richard Petty car he’s got and I happily buy it from him.   I must admit, I am awestruck at how kind, outgoing, and interested everyone I’ve met has been in Randleman and at the Richard Petty Museum. The fact that I’m daggum Yankee isn’t a strike against me. I’m not trying to foist values on anyone. I’m just here because, for 23 years, I’ve been a Richard Petty fan and I might not ever have another chance to meet this American Hero!  And I fit right in-just as I fit right in the grit and specialized training of the brothers at Rescue 4, the three-wayed-couple at Charlie’s Steakhouse in New Orleans…. Acceptance has been SO hard to obtain and attain in my life….Provincialism sadly percolates much of where I’ve lived over the years…Or people have misunderstood and branded with me labels… ENOUGH. I’m savoring every minute walking the streets of the City of Randleman, the sun is out, it’s 80 degrees and it feels like the hope and wonderment of summer, even if its October 12! I buy lemonade, I buy more Barbecue sauce, this time from Blue Mist! Blue Mist was awesome too-I need a nice piece of meat for that.   If you haven’t tried it, TRY CAROLINA BARBECUE SAUCE! That was part of the hype lead up to the trip-me looking that up and discussing it with my friend Ira-he’s originally from North Carolina! And then…The King’s back! I run into…Oh God…What were their names? We held court at the museum…David and Brett…No… DAN! DAN THE MAN! Fail on me….They were so wonderful-and we had such great discussion… “Joe, you gonna join us for more autographs? I hadn’t planned to..But you talked me into it.”  Preliminarily, I actually run and fetch the car real quick and bring it a little closer to downtown. Then I resume my spot in line-I’ll get another autograph with the car I bought from Matthew. And the line snakes around City Hall to that ’79 Monte Carlo. And I talk to more fans….And offer to pinch-sign.Tammy and Dylan are there too… And I’m back in the presence of the King and Mark Ray! And I introduce myself as Joe Christmas (yes, that’s really my name) and thank him again for everything! And I have a photo taken with him! And with Mark Ray-and get the new friend their bobblehead. And thank Sergeant Lowe of the Randleman PD…. I’m officially charbroiled-that’s what happens when you wear long sleeves in 80-85 degree humidity. But I met the King and met the most wonderful people! Unfortunately, that’s about where we parted with Mark Ray, Tammy and Dylan-all with miles to go before they slept-another time I look forward to further holding court with them. I opt for a soft serve ice cream to cool off.  And I met the most wonderful folks from the Randleman Chamber of Commerce-the day was definitely wrapping up-Josh, Leigh, and Jeff. They are impressed that I drove 700 miles down-and I offer to help them start taking the day apart-by moving a large table. They wished they had a hotel in Randleman-but I think staying in Archdale (also in Randolph County) counts as close enough.  They care about this city of theirs-and are devoted by selling shirts (I buy one), and selling Randleman as the place to be. Leigh, next time I’m there, I promise to try your Sir Pizza! I thank them for outdoing themselves…And I suspect I told them how much their city and area reminded me of The Berkshires and my adoptive Commonwealth… There are two touching scenes in Cars with Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, and Owen Wilson. Paul Newman talks about why he came to Radiator Springs after the racing world quit on him-people in Radiator Springs cared about one another. Bonnie Hunt left the city and broke down out there-that is, in the countryside of Radiator Springs-and she stayed-to be happy. I don’t want to leave the orbit of Massachusetts or New York. But I do want, no, yearn and crave for community, where, as Bruce Springsteen says, “Nobody crowds you but nobody goes it alone.” The positive sentiment of community was alive, well, joyous and thriving when I met the Richard Petty fans at Petty Enterprises and went to Randleman and celebrated NASCAR days-like Paul Newman and Bonnie Hunt finding community in Radiator Springs.  

Thank you, Randleman! 

I drive home, well, back to Archdale with the window open. It’s not far up Route 220-73 back to Route 62 and drive the same route back. The sun is setting over the highway. The trees and the hills are gorgeous, almost soothing. The highway is open and inviting. I drove Route 62 at sunrise. Now I bookend to driving Route 62 at sunset. The sky is fiery orange-and the pastures are pristine-Rockwell could not have painted a better portrait. The low sun over the fields and the high tree is idyllic-happy pastoral. I am quietly giddy with happiness and inspired by the whole sight-this is a gorgeous and wonderful spot. I don’t know that I could live down here, but, I definitely want to return. I feel at home here-all the connections to nature and natural beauty are here… Ms. Linda Ritchie, Steve and Tammy all invited me down to the after party in Asheboro. I return to my hotel room and jump in the pool for a little while. My shoulder is bothering me-I suspect it stemmed from moving the large table for the Chamber of Commerce folks. But I wouldn’t change a thing. If a tender shoulder is what I have to go through to savor acceptance and community and a summer encore, I welcome it.  But I had broiled and needed to cool off desperately. And I did-and jumped in the shower-and put on one of the (Petty Blue) shirts I bought over a red long sleeved t-shirt-I looked like Richard Petty’s car! That was a good decision packing that shirt! Back in the car for the 30 minute ride down to Asheboro. The night horizon is gorgeous-and the highway is comparatively empty. The serene calm I felt driving down Route 62 returned as I traversed the North Carolina night. It’s remote countryside and I am quite alone on I-74 and 73, but I am not lonely or nervous.  I have a destination.  And I arrive-quite tardily-but still with a good party going-to smiles from Steve, William, Tammy, Ms. Linda, and the new folks I hadn’t met before. William is impressed that I cleaned up. Tammy invites me to sit down with her and we go through the raffle-she dominates and wins handily! I am among friends. Oh God-what was the kind older woman’s name? Elizabeth again….I’m sorry I don’t remember. She offers to pour me soda…Thank you! Thank you! The Cranberry Ginger Ale please. THen there’s David… I don’t win a thing, but I don’t care. I’m content. William and Elizabeth have to head for Tennessee-and they share gorgeous photos. I hope to see William again.  And Steve, William, Tammy, Tammy, Dylan, Dan, Ms. Linda all ask me the same question: “See you next year, Joe? It’s the 50th Anniversary next year. [Or some variation of that.] Yes, absolutely! You invited me!” The afterparty finally winds down. It was simple but effective and excellent. Ms. Linda and David share stories of conventions past, what we hope to accomplish for the 50th-I help David load up, and I offer to let them ask me legal questions. And I tell them all about my practice. And then…the big reveal. “How old do you think I am? Forties, Joe? Oh, thank you! Go lower. 37. Lower. 35. Lower. Come on Joe. I turn 33 in December.” And I promise to be back-and thank them all one more time and wish them safe travels-as they wish me the same back to Connecticut. I find some dinner nearby in Asheboro (even though it’s pushing 10PM)-that was the one thing I missed was having a local sit down meal. Next time. And I head back up I-73 and 74 to I-85 to Archdale, through the Piedmont night.  24 hours ago I had parked at the Fairfield Inn with a dream, a daggum Yankee a long long way from home. Tonight I parked at that Fairfield Inn having accomplished that dream-I met Richard Petty at long last after 23 years-and I found a wonderful group of people who just wanted to know me and took me as they found me. 


Playlist for the Road-“Nineteen Summer”-Played Consecutively or Even Better Shuffled

  1. This Song-George Harrison-33 1/3
  2. It Don’t Come Easy (Live)-Ringo Starr-The Anthology…So Far, Disc 1
  3. The No No Song (Live)-Ringo Starr-The Anthology…So Far, Disc 1
  4. Act Naturally-Ringo Starr-Ringo Starr-The Anthology…So Far, Disc 2
  5. Everywhere (Live)-Fleetwood Mac-The Dance
  6. Gypsy (Live)-Fleetwood Mac-Gypsy (Live)-Single
  7. Richard Petty Fans-Alabama-American Pride
  8. Don’t Stop-Fleetwood Mac-Rumours
  9. Never Without You-Ringo Starr-Ringorama
  10. 10.Manana (Is Soon Enough for Me)-Jackie Davis-Ultra-Lounge, Vol.2 Mambo Fever
  11. Memphis in Your Mind-Ringo Starr-Ringorama
  12. 12.Weight of the World-Ringo Starr-Time Takes Time
  13. 13.For You (Live at the Roxy Theatre, ’78)-Bruce Springsteen (And The E Street Band)-Live Collection-EP
  14. 14.Keep on Running-The Spencer Davis Group-THe Best of the Spencer Davis Group
  15. 15.You Can Leave Your Hat On-Joe Cocker-Classic Hats
  16. 16.Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band-The Beatles-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  17. With a Little Help from My Friends-The Beatles (RINGO!)-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  18. 18. Don’t Go Where The Road Don’t Go-Ringo Starr-Time Takes. Time
  19. 19.Atlantic City (Live)-Bruce Springsteen-MTV Unplugged
  20. 20.Temporary One (Live)-Fleetwood Mac-The Dance
  21. Sussudio (1985)-Phil Collins-…Hits
  22. 22.The Glamorous Life-Sheila E.-The Glamorous Life
  23. 23.Tequila-The Champs-Party Super Hits
  24. 24.Who Can It Be Now? Men at WOrk-Contraband: The Best of Men at Work
  25. 25.Act Naturally-The Beatles (RINGO)-The U.S. Albums
  26. 26.Flashdance…What a Feeling-Irene Cara-Flashdance Soundtrack
  27. Go Your Own Way (Live)-Fleetwood Mac-The Dance
  28. 28.Wrecking Ball (Live at Giants Stadium)-Bruce Springsteen-Wrecking Ball (Live)
  29. 29.Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) (Live at the Roxy)-Bruce Springsteen (And The E Street Band)-Live Collection-EP
  30. 30.Jungleland (Live)-Bruce Springsteen
  31. Don’t Stop (Live-with the USC Marching Band)-Fleetwood Mac-The Dance

ENCORE/ADD-ONS FOR TASTEBorn to Run-Bruce Springsteen-Born to RunFlirting With Disaster-Molly HatchettThe Promised Land-Bruce SpringsteenPHIL COLLINS-THE SINGLES COLLECTIONDon’t Lose My NumberI Missed AgainA Groovy Kind of Love Who Said I Would (Live in Dallas)You Can’t Hurry LoveThru These WallsSussudioOne More NightTwo HeartsIn the Air Tonight (Single Version)Easy LoverAgainst All Odds (Live in Dallas)Take Me Home——————-

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