Having our first new event since 1996 behind us we are bright eyed and ramping up for the big drive in 2004. The Knott's event went off well in a number of key areas that are purely due to a new format of planning and strategizing. In past events, many lessons were learned when it comes to setting up our routes, and the timing of our arrivals and departures. We take pride in being able to tell people that we will be at Exit 98 at exactly 2:18pm. and actually be there at 2:18 pm.
In the Knott's Drive we set up our schedule using two different computer mapping programs by DeLorme and Microsoft. We take the results generated by these programs and weigh them against real world information of the drive and route such as topography, traffic and road construction. On the road this is backed up and monitored by real time analysis using a laptop computer connected to a GPS receiver. While admittedly the Knott's Drive schedule underestimated the delays caused by L.A. gridlock traffic, the rest of the trip was diamond. Case in point; our schedule stated we would arrive at a rendezvous point on I-5 at 9:45a.m. We pulled in at 9:44. Later in the day, we met up with a participant waiting at the interchange of the 405 and I-5 freeways. He had emailed the day before to ask what time we would be there. We predicted 3:05pm. We passed him waiting at the shoulder at 3:04pm
What is different
Did we have to speed to keep up? No, in fact we had been delayed by traffic a few times prior to meeting up with him. In past events, one of the major issues was having to race to keep up with our tight schedules when delays occurred. This created problems for both our participants and to those who were planning to meet us at various points of the route. We often were later than expected for groups meeting us for hospitality or media crews wanting to tape our arrivals. This time we made some key changes to alleviate this problem.
First, we programmed our driving schedule software for an average speed which is less than our actual intended speed. The pace car for the convoy sets the cruise control for the speed limit - no more. The software is told we will travel at 3-4 mph less, and more overriding time is added for anticipated slowdowns like mountain passes and potential traffic areas. In the real world, our average speed over a distance of miles is always significantly less than the speed limits due to these challenges. Days before we depart on any drive we double check with state agencies to get updates on road construction and anticipated delays too. This is then considered into the schedule and can even result in last minute changes we might discuss at the morning driver's meetings.
This format allows for some good perks too! On the Knott's Drive, we arrived at our lunch stop 20 minutes early which was added to our time to stay there. Our policy is that we will still wait to depart at the scheduled time so that others that may be behind or meeting us won't find us gone when they arrive because we decided to leave earlier.
What is the same
On the big drive to Nashville where we travel in cities and routes that we realistically cannot road test like a 1-day trip we work very closely with local Mustang clubs and enthusiasts in the locations where we travel. We ask them things like, "what is the best route through Oklahoma City at 7:30am?" They will often tell us the best freeway or via, or will tell us what is the best place to stage up and stay for the night, so that traffic in the morning will be less of an issue. Our event planning success is incumbent on this teamwork, and we are in that process right now. Again we have learned from mistakes and successes in past events and the resulting lesson is "Teamwork, Teamwork, Teamwork." This cannot be done with computer software alone. We thank the hundreds of people across the United States whom we will eventually work with in advance for their help and support!
On the Knott's trip we found that most everyone was very pleased with this new format as it is more relaxing and allows more time to rest at rendezvous points. We asked one road trip veteran who had been on all of our previous events through the good and bad, and has organized a few drives with Mustangs In Motion what he thought about our new format. He said, simply "I like it". From the honorable Gary Hanson of Livermore, CA that is a compliment we take to heart. While there were a few drivers who still preferred a slower pace than the 70 mph speed limit, overall most people felt comfortable with the pace.
When ever you have a mixture of new and vintage cars on a convoy event, you have to compromise on both ends. Many of us who might drive on our own may well drive much faster than the convoy would travel. Vintage cars by virtue of their gearing and lack of overdrive transmissions are not always well suited to drive much faster than 70 mph all day, while those in late model cars could wisp along at 80 mph without a thought. Thus we state to all drivers at the morning meetings that they should find a speed that is comfortable with them and drive it unapologetically. If you want to go faster, you need not feel confined to the group. If you would rather go slower, that is fine too. We do not need to be a tight convoy; we will all eventually get there. This creed is now backed up by our new scheduling format described above that will allow those who would rather take a slower pace to still meet the schedule on time an not feel like they need to take off early to get there with the group. Will it be perfect? No, but it will be better!
The next big drive
We believe that on the big drive in 2004, this new format will make the drive more enjoyable for a larger percentage of people. As we know, you can't please all of the people all of the time, and we wont try to. The main thing is that we learn from past experience and make changes to try and accommodate the variables we have in our group. At the end of the day what we are all doing here is pretty awesome. What other activity in our lives do we have the opportunity where a group of enthusiasts exist of ages of 18-80+ can all get together and take part in a big time event together. This event will carry with it 300+ Mustangs built over a 40 year period driven by four generations of Mustang enthusiasts! To make this work, there will be some compromises, but we know we can fine tune the event to be a smooth running machine for most. The best advice we have is kick back and enjoy the drive!