CHEECA LODGE OFFERS THE BEST OF PARADISE

Imagine a Caribbean paradise with magnificent sunsets and sunrises, some of the best food in the world, aquatic options too numerous to mention, including fishing’s coveted “Grand Slam”, an award-winning camp for kids to properly learn about the environment, and a romantic, laid-back atmosphere usually reserved for royalty in a secluded, historic compound. You’ve just discovered Cheeca Lodge at Islamorada!

SUNRISE_FROM_BALCONY_AT_CHEECAThroughout the world, knowledgeable travelers are aware that the finest accommodations in the Florida Keys are found at Cheeca Lodge. This beautiful resort actually dates back to 1946 when it was known as the Islamorada Olney Inn. It was discovered and restored by dreamers Carl and Cynthia (Chee) Twitchell in 1960, and they combined their names to make it “Cheeca”. The Twitchell’s completely refurbished the old hotel and made it one of the most popular gathering spots in the Keys. It has long been the personal favorite spot for Presidents, including George Bush. In fact, the George Bush/Cheeca Lodge Bonefish Tournament annually raises thousands of dollars for deserving charities.

Within the Cheeca compound are nature trails with an adjacent saltwater stream that contains many of the local fish species and the award-winning Camp Cheeca program for youngsters that began in 1989. This unique camp is designed to educate children from 6 to 12 years of age about the fragile ecology of the Florida Keys, and was fashioned after the “Aquatic Wild” program developed by the State of Florida.

One of the best parts of any visit to Cheeca Lodge is the culinary experience at the Atlantic Edge Dining Room, which is an elegant , semi-circular room with sweeping views of the beach, ocean, and fishing pier. Specialties include fresh seafood, mouth-watering steaks, and an interesting array of tasty appetizers. One might also choose to dine in the casual atmosphere of the Ocean Terrace Grill, which overlooks the pool and ocean, or the Curt Gowdy Lounge that is decorated with trophy gamefish and celebrity photos.

The large, air-conditioned guest rooms in the hotel section feature paddle-type ceiling fans and most have private balconies with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. One might also choose to stay in any of the 64 villas that are scattered throughout the tropical gardens and meandering ponds, streams, and lagoons on the property. These units are fully-equipped for cooking and have enough space to bring the family.

Though much of the Florida Keys has been inundated with strip malls and gyp joints, the 27 acre compound at Cheeca Lodge is still an oasis in this insanity of commercialism. Here, one can still find the romance and unique lifestyle that originally brought the dreamers like Carl and “Chee” Twitchell to this gorgeous paradise in the first place!

Since lodging prices constantly fluctuate in the Florida Keys, call for reservations before departing on a trip. Contact the Cheeca Lodge toll-free at 1-800-327-2888. For additional information about the Keys, contact the Florida Keys and Key West Visitors Bureau toll-free at 1-800-FLA-KEYS.

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UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTERS: SCOTTY BOYD IS RELIC FROM THE PAST

A few years ago, I sat with a small group of other travelers by a flickering campfire in the hours of twilight that masquerades as darkness in the “Land of the Midnight Sun”. We were perched on logs and stones along a section of gravel-strewn beach on a spit of land near Cook Inlet in Alaska listening intently to the words of Robert W. Service through the lips of a man named Scotty Boyd.

Scotty Boyd ReadingScotty Boyd, who is known to his friends as the “Bushmaster”, is a relic from the past. He would have been right at home with mountain men like Jim Bridger.

SCOTTYBOYDREADINGBoyd was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up there until the age of seventeen when he joined the U.S. Air Force. He was a TAC radar technician during his four-year tour, which was spent between Germany and Montana.

After being discharged from the service, Scotty bought a one-way ticket to Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. He arrived with two shirts, two pairs of pants and a dime. He started work as a bartender, but quickly rose to the Assistant Manager of a resort in the area. After a couple years, however, he left the resort to manage a French restaurant on the island for a few more years. During that time, Boyd spent most of his free time learning to dive and sail on charter sailing yachts.

Scotty finally fell in love, got married and moved to California. He became vice president of Courtney Foods, which managed several diverse restaurants. After several years of being an executive, his marriage fell apart, so he returned to Portland, Oregon to manage another restaurant. He soon got restless, however, and returned to Hawaii to work on charter fishing boats for a couple of years.

He again returned to Oregon to manage a cable TV company, but soon became bored with the daily routine. Therefore, when he was offered the opportunity to work on the Kenai River in Alaska, he accepted.

During most winters, Boyd still returns to Oregon and lives in a log cabin that was built more than one-hundred and eighty years ago. His girlfriend remains there with his two dogs and a cat while he is in Alaska each year.

Scotty Boyd’s main job in Alaska is to teach visitors about grizzly bears, and protect both the bears and people from having any close, personal contact. Boyd feels that his knowledge and understanding of the bears, like his knowledge of the outdoors, has come to him over years of being alone in the Alaskan wilderness. Nevertheless, he still reads as much as he can about bears, which he says is often misleading.

In between the Alaskan trips, Boyd has done more sailing for individuals like Dan Rowan, he’s been a diving instructor, taught college classes about the restaurant business, and instructed safari guides on wilderness survival. He believes that one should hunt when necessary, but don’t do any needless killing and always honor the animal. Boyd says that non-interactive observation is always best with wild animals, so he usually teaches people to stalk them slowly and quietly. He will, however, do whatever is necessary to keep the animals away from himself or his clients.

Though an experienced and skilled hunter and fisherman, Boyd is dead against over hunting or fishing. He firmly believes that the bureaucrats who make our hunting and fishing laws and issue licenses have no conception of how many is enough.

Though we all gained tremendous knowledge of grizzly bears and survival in the Alaskan wilderness during our several days with Scotty Boyd, it was the personal experience of being with this “man from another time” that was so special. Despite the ever-present guns that hung from straps and holsters, I will always remember the mental picture of Scotty standing in his homemade coonskin hat, the long gunfighter’s coat, the boots, and his bearded face as he eloquently read from the tattered book of Robert Service, “There are strange things done in the midnight sun by men who moil for gold; The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold; The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see was the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge I cremated Sam McGee.”

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WINTER OUTDOORSMEN HAVE A SILENT KILLER IN THEIR MIDST

Recent colder weather should remind outdoorsmen of the constant danger that lurks in the cold waters around them while hunting, fishing, or boating during the winter months. A silent killer with a long name…….hypothermia……. takes the lives of many outdoor enthusiasts every year, and is a real threat that few understand.

Hypothermia occurs when the human body temperature drops below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considered to be normal. Since most winters in the south are rather mild, many believe this to be a problem that should only worry those in the cold north, but this is a bad assumption.

FALLINGOUTOFBOATMost cases of hypothermia actually happen in air temperatures of 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which falls right into the range of southern winters.  During the colder months of the year, body heat can be lost in several ways:

conduction (direct contact with the elements)

convection (movement of the air over the body)

radiation (invisible infrared heat loss caused by not covering all areas of the body)

respiration (heat loss through expelling humidified air from the lungs)

The danger to fishermen is even worse since body heat loss from conduction is five times as fast in icy water or when wearing wet clothes.

Falling out of BoatAccording to the U.S. Department of Interior, the signs and symptoms of hypothermia are in this order of occurrence: shivering; confusion; sleepiness; stiffening of arms and legs; unconsciousness; and coma. Death can occur two hours after the first sign or symptom, therefore fast action is needed to treat a victim.

Once a person is diagnosed or suspected of having hypothermia, all wet clothing should be removed from the subject immediately, and he or she must be taken out of the cold environment. Since that person’s capacity for generating enough heat to overcome the lowered body temperatures is impaired, some other source besides his own will be needed to aid in restoring the sufferer to normal body heat.

If no artificial heat source is available, place the victim between two other people and wrap them in a dry blanket or sleeping bag. Their combined body heat could be enough to overcome the loss of body temperature, and if the affected person is capable of swallowing, give them some moderately warm liquids. Remember, anything is still just first aid. This person needs expert medical attention from a qualified physician as soon as possible.

Prevention of hypothermia can be greatly enhanced by selecting the proper outdoor clothing. High-tech, man-made products are on the market today that are far more lightweight and water-resistant than conventional materials. Their insulating fibers continue to function even when damp, and can extend the time a person’s body maintains a high enough temperature under adverse conditions.

In addition to dressing properly, one should always keep a space blanket or sleeping bag for outdoor emergencies. One of these could be put into a watertight container in a boat, car, or camping pack.

Many people who succumb to the silent death of hypothermia probably never realize that they are in trouble. Even though they make it to the shore after falling into icy waters, if not prepared, help usually comes too late!

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BOBBY DEWS HAS WOVEN A PERFECT TAPESTRY OF BASEBALL AND HUNTING

To Bobby Dews, quail hunting is much more than killing birds. It’s watching the dogs work, enjoying the land, and reminiscing about the wonderful hunts of the past with his family and friends. He says that every wonderful memory in his life seems to be present as he walks through the fertile fields near Edison, Georgia.

BOBBYDEWSWORKSWITHDOGDuring about eight months of many years, Bobby Dews was the Minor League Field Coordinator for the Atlanta Braves, but for several years lately, he has been either their Third Base Coach or Bullpen Coach.

The other four months of the year, are spent in his home town of Edison, Georgia, quail hunting with friends and clients. He sees that the fields where he takes people to hunt are well-stocked with fresh quail as well as residual birds from other stockings. He keeps four trained bird dogs of his own and two dogs that belong to his good friend Mac McNair.

Just the ride to and from the fields, while hunting with Bobby, is interesting. He transports hunters and dogs with his vintage VW Thing. Besides, Bobby is an extremely personable, entertaining, southern gentleman. His hunts are both very exciting, and lots of fun.

Bobby grew up in Edison and still holds the record for the most points scored in a basketball game in Candler County. He graduated from Edison High School in 1957, where he starred in both baseball and basketball. He went to Georgia Tech on a basketball scholarship, and played there for three years until he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team in 1960.

He played shortstop and second base in the Cardinal organization, making it to as high as AAA before a spleen injury in an accident cut short his career. He then coached a couple of years in the Cardinals system before being hired by the Braves in 1970.

His input has been extremely instrumental in the development of the type of professional talent that came out of the Braves minor leagues in the past decade, which won them the World Series. Some of the players he help develop were Mark Lemke, Jeff Blauser, Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko, Javier Lopez, Dave Justice, Andre Jones, and Germaine Dye.

Bobby Dews is a person’s person’s, and one of the big reasons that the Atlanta Braves have been so successful. Nevertheless, hunting and fishing have always been important in Bobby’s life.

“I came here at the age of six, and the people of Edison sort of adopted me,” related Dews. “They have always been supportive in every aspect of my life, and have made it possible for me to enjoy my vacations away from baseball. I really look forward to returning home each off-season, and because of the wonderful people and great hunting, I will probably retire here.”

Bobby Dews preaches and teaches hunting safety in a warm and friendly way that makes those who hunt with him feel very comfortable. He even allows hunters to bring their own dogs, and provided they do it safely, they can hunt the quail in the manner they are accustomed.

“I styled my operation to the way I always wanted to be treated when I went hunting,” said Dews. “That way, it’s a much more enjoyable outing for everybody.”

The serenity he found while quail hunting has equated to great patience and perception on the baseball fields of the Braves minor league teams. His work with the young players in the farm system has resulted in a steady flow of well-trained young personnel being always available for the big club, and Bobby loves that part of his life as well.

“I thought that I loved baseball as a player until I started working with the youngsters in the minors,” stated Dews. “I found it much more rewarding to watch them develop than to just play the game, and I guess I’ll stay with it until they tear my uniform off!”

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ALABAMA JACK’S IS THE DOORWAY TO THE KEYS

ALAJACKsNo trip to the Florida Keys begins properly without making a stop at Alabama Jack’s to sample the best conch fritters in the world. Unless you’re a seasoned veteran of many visits to the Keys, or someone told you about this special place, however, you might become just another tourist.
To find Alabama Jack’s, one has to go off the beaten track and down the “old road to the Keys”. The touristy crowd always travels south from Miami on U.S. Highway 1, but the adventuresome folks veer to the left just past the center of Florida City onto Card Sound Road. It’s a narrow drive between huge Australian pine trees that were toppled by hurricane Andrew. A brackish water canal runs along most of the right side of the road and saltwater marsh is on the left. Just before reaching the toll-bridge that spans the inland waterway between the mainland and Key Largo, one will notice an old boat sitting in front of a place with the prominent name, Alabama Jack’s, clearly visible. You have arrived, so loosen up, walk right in, and allow the feeling of being in the Florida Keys to enter your mind and body.

Alabama Jack’s is a familiar old landmark that was built on a floating barge in 1953. Today, it is frequented by plenty of Harley riders, weekend Goldwing cyclists, a few lost sunburned tourists, but mostly a happy crowd who just want to drink beer and kick up some dust.

ALAJACKSCEILFANSince it has often been used as a haven for skydivers, those who saw the Wesley Snipes movie “Drop Zone” should recognize the open-air rustic bar and picnic tables. Glimpses were also shown of Alabama Jack’s unique ceiling fans that are patterned after the noses on World War II fighter planes.

During most weekends, the air is filled with great sounds from a country band, and cloggers usually do their stomping on Sundays. Also, dancing opportunities abound for the soft shoe crowd.

Most of the food served at the bar is great, but the conch fritters are the best choice. Hard liquor is not on the menu, but  several selections of beer and wine are offered. Corona, however, seems to taste better with the entrees at Alabama Jack’s than any other beverage.

A visit to this famous watering hole gives a visitor the proper perspective for entering the “Conch Republic”, especially if it’s the first time. One needs to leave the troubles of the past at the toll-bridge, and learn to relax in a laid back atmosphere where people only use first names, dress as they please, and don’t care who you were or what you did in the past.

Alabama Jack’s is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, but the most active times are on the weekends. No credit cards are accepted, so bring cash or travelers checks. For additional information, call (305) 248-8741.

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THE MYSTICAL “IRON HORSE”

IronHorseThe Mystical Iron HorseAs the first laser-like beams of morning sunlight shoot across the highest point of pasture at the Curtis farm on Highway 15 about ten miles south of Watkinsville, a huge figure begins to take shape in the misty dawn. This eerie sight has caused more than a few motorists to almost lose control as they catch a glimpse of the mystical vision. It is the oft forgotten, but world-famous “Iron Horse” of Greene County.
Even though the horse had only a brief stay on the University of Georgia campus, and was hidden at the time I arrived there during the late 1950’s, the stories of this legend were rampant in the Athens area. In fact, the one that I found to be the most-believable was that the University had bought the great horse from a famous artist and located it in front of Reed Hall. Since students at that time used the Reed Hall quadrangle for touch football and other outdoor pursuits, the huge iron statue seemed to cause quite a stir. The story continued that in spite of the fact that the large iron structure weighed nearly two tons, it somehow disappeared during the middle of the night and was never seen again.

In reality, the famed “Iron Horse” was created in the old Fine Arts Building on the UGA campus under the sponsorship of a Rockefeller Grant by the renown artist Abbott Pattison of the Chicago Art Institute. After completion, the horse was placed in front of Reed Hall, which was one of the men’s dormitories.

Within hours of situating the big metal artwork, student and faculty members began gathering around the object out of apparent curiosity. Opinions were voiced about their feelings on the introduction of the horse, and both faculty and students seemed to be split 50/50 on how they felt about it.

Soon, some of the students drove to one of the large animal barns on campus and returned with rope for a bridle, hay for the horse’s mouth, and horse manure to place under the rear section of the statue. Other students went into Reed Hall and found a couple of balloons that were blown up and placed between the horse’s back legs.

As darkness approached, the students became more hostile. They found buckets of paint and doused the huge horse with the multi-colored goo from paint cans. Soon the angry mob was chanting like heathen tribesmen and beating the horse with pieces of wood.

When the sun had set, the rowdy students placed hay, newspaper, and old tires around the horse and started a bonfire. As the fire raged around the horse, the more than 500 frenzied students chanted and cheered loudly.

The Athens Fire Department was finally called to insure that the blaze didn’t reach any of the dormitories, but the students tried to keep them away from the fire. It was necessary for the firemen to turn the fire hoses on the students to allow them to extinguish the growing flames.

In an effort to avoid another outburst from the angry students, the Iron Horse was put on a flatbed trailer the next morning and hauled away. It was hidden in the woods behind a large barn on the farm of one of the UGA professors until the faculty could decide what to do with this strange piece of artwork, and for several years the great horse was forgotten.

Dr. Curtis, however, had not forgotten the unique art object that Abbott Pattison had created, so in 1959, after four years in seclusion, the wonderful “Iron Horse” was moved to Dr. Curtis’s farm on the Greene/Oconee county line. For more than forty years, the horse has had its own place on a knoll in the middle of a gorgeous pasture on the Curtis farm……….but not without incident. Actually, when it first reappeared, UGA students would regularly come to the farm under cover of darkness and push the great statue over on its side, but that ended when it received a permanent base. The “Iron Horse” has been draped with flags on holidays, given wings like Pegasus, adorned with ribbons or wreaths at Christmas, and even painted like a tiger before a Clemson football game at UGA. Nevertheless, the stately animal sits on a high plateau where it sees the first rays of the sun in the morning, is silhouetted by blue skies during the day, watches the last flickers of light every day, and stands tall under a blanket of stars each night.

“For most of my life, I’ve seen that horse at the beginning of each day, and it’s the last thing I look at before going home each night,” said Alex Curtis, who is a third generation owner of the farm and L.C. Curtis and Son Sand Co. “I climbed the horse and played on it as a kid, and during nostalgic times, I still do it today.”

Anyone traveling along Highway 15 between Watkinsville and Greensboro can see the “Iron Horse” by looking to the left just after crossing the Greene County line. Its head will be facing towards the south and the waters of the fertile Oconee River less than 1/4 of a mile away, but you can bet that its rear end will always be pointed toward UGA and Athens where it was treated so rudely!

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ROAD ATLANTA’S “MOMENTUM MEISTER”

Me and RobWith my right foot pressing an imaginary brake pedal in the floor as hard as I could and my heart in my throat, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Going down hill into turn 10A at Road Atlanta, I sat strapped in the passenger side of my own Miata and watched as Rob Ebersol shifted up into fifth gear at the 300 foot sign and continued to accelerate. I was certain that our next stop was the gravel pit at the end of the straight, because, in my mind, there was no way we would navigate turns 10A and 10B carrying that much speed. I was wrong, and the reason I was wrong was that I didn’t understand the physics of driving a momentum car like the Spec Miata!

With the smoothness and precision that he had done thousands of times before, professional Miata driver, Rob Ebersol, whom I call “The Momentum Meister,” shifted back down into fourth gear and braked hard inside 100 feet, dropped into third gear, rotated the car to the left, and stood on the gas. My Miata responded perfectly by clipping the curb on the left, drifting out and touching the inside curb at the apex of 10B, and then power sliding all the way to the edge of the rougher curb as it entered turn 11 under full power in third gear.

Rob Coming out of 10BIn that one sequence, Rob had shown and explained to me through the intercom in my helmet most of the things that I needed to know about driving a momentum car like the Spec Miata. He had taught me about “progressive braking,” “load shifting,” “car rotation,” “proper turn-in,” and “timely use of power.” Also, he had shown me the tremendous braking ability of the car, the phenomenal tire adhesion, and the uncanny racing worthiness of the Miata. Therefore, in one track day with Rob Ebersol, I knocked 11 seconds off my previous fastest time at Road Atlanta, and that’s why I hired the “Momentum Meister” to teach me the track and the car.

In more than ten years of competitive driving with SCCA, Rob Ebersol has driven everything from Solo II to Grand-Am Cup and Motorola Cup in the professional ranks. Though most of his track time is in Mazda Miatas, Rob has driven ITA in RX-7’s and the Viper Nationals in a Dodge Viper GTS. Also, he is probably known more for his expertise with a Miata on Road Atlanta, but he has driven competitively at Daytona, Roebling Road, Watkins Glen, Las Vegas, Moroso, Charlotte, Sebring, and Mosport.

Rob and I at Road AtlantaRob Ebersol has been an instructor with the BMW Club, the Porsche Club, the Miata Performance Driving School, the Road Atlanta Performance Driving School, and numerous private students like myself. In 1993, Rob was the SCCA Rookie Solo Driver of the Year, in 1996, he was the SCCA Rookie Road Racer of the Year, in 1997, Rob was the SE Regional Champion in Showroom Stock C, and in 1998, he was the SE Endurance Champion in Showroom Stock C.

Off the track, Rob Ebersol has been the Motorsports Editor of Miata Magazine, a consultant/writer/contributor for Grassroots Motorsports, and wrote the motorsports chapter in the book, “Miata Performance Handbook” by Garrett. Rob is also a respected and valuable member of the Atlanta Region of SCCA.

Despite going through the SCCA novice driver’s school at Roebling Road, driving more than ten races this year, studying films, and discussing techniques with numerous seasoned drivers, I have learned more from Rob Ebersol than all of the others combined. In addition, I have watched from trackside as he drove several different cars at Road Atlanta, and I continue to be amazed at his smoothness and perfection lap after lap. Rob Ebersol has truly earned the title of the “Momentum Meister,” and despite his busy schedule, he enjoys passing on his knowledge to rookie drivers through private lessons. For additional information, or to contact Rob directly, call his office at: 404-687-8889.

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SAVANNAH’S RIVER STREET IS A PERFECT HOLIDAY GETAWAY

SAVANNAHWATERFRONTSavannah WaterfrontA few years ago, urban renewal in Savannah endowed a once fallen-down district of this historic city with the elegance of “Tara” in “Gone With The Wind”. The waterfront district, known as River Street is the place. The centerpiece of this resurrected area, however, is the beautifully designed River Street Inn, which often leaves visitors spellbound…especially when decorated during the Holiday Season.
The River Street Inn has forty-four individual guest rooms on the third, fourth and fifth floors, each one having a different decor. One can stay in rooms that include four poster and canopy beds, hardwood floors with oriental rugs, and polished brass bath fixtures.
Interesting shops are found on the Bay Street side of the fourth floor along “Factor’s Walk”, and just beyond the doors of the first floor along the old cobblestones of River Street. Besides guest rooms, the third floor has meeting rooms and a billiard parlor straight out of the 1800’s.
River Street Inn – SavannahPrior to meals at any of the wonderful restaurants along River Street, one should join the other guests in the lobby of the River Street Inn each evening for wine, cheese, and always interesting conversation.

RiverStreetInnMany of the original buildings in this section of Savannah were built from old ballast stone during the early 1800’s, and were used for the storage, grading, and export of raw cotton. Due to the rapidly growing cotton industry of the time, however, many facilities became too small to meet the needs of the cotton merchants. Also, since they were hemmed in by the bluff to the south and the river to the north, the only option for expansion was to build upwards. Therefore, some owners added floors to allow additional storage and office space .

So that cotton bales could be easily moved in and out of these higher structures, a unique system of alleys and walks was created on the bluff. Bridges included in this design were built to provide street access to each level of the buildings. These alleys, known as “Factor’s Walk”, after the factors who graded the cotton, are one of the distinctive features of these continuous buildings. The total line of buildings along the waterfront is called “Factor’s Row”, which is an excellent example of 1850’s commercial structures. This unique composition contributes significantly to the landmark qualities of Savannah’s historic downtown area.

Though prices of cotton dropped tremendously during the War Between the States, it had a resurgence after the hostilities. Nevertheless, around the turn of the century, cotton prices had dropped so far that the buildings on River Street had to be used for other endeavors.
Through lack of use and repair, the old “Factor’s Row” continued to go down hill until the early 1980’s when the idea was conceived to restore the old waterfront section as a tourist attraction. Today, this part of Savannah provides a New Orleans-style atmosphere complete with good food, great music, interesting shops, and unique lodging opportunities. One can easily spend a whole weekend browsing through the many boutiques and sampling the excellent cuisine.

OLDSAILINGSHIPSAVANNAHAfter an evening meal, however, one should enjoy the Mardi Gras-type mood by strolling down the hand-laid cobblestones of old River Street under the glow of antique gas lights. Even without entering any of the establishments, the great jazz, ragtime, blues, and gospel music emanating from many of these night spots is always a bonus during any evening excursion along River Street. And, never miss a chance to sit in front of a roaring fire in the lounge on the lower floor of the nearby, historic Old Pink House to hear the enchanting sounds of Gail Thurmond’s voice and piano. It is guaranteed to be the most romantic part of your trip!

In less than five hours from anywhere in the Atlanta area, one can be in the midst of an exciting and enlightening place that, on a smaller scale, is comparable with Key West or New Orleans. Savannah’s restored River Street district offers a festive atmosphere in a perfectly-woven tapestry of past and present!

For more information about lodging options, reservations, directions, or other opportunities in Savannah or the River Street district, call Toll free 1-800-253-4229.

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BRIAN WILLIS – RACING ENGINEER EXTRAORDINAIRE

From my driveway, I couldn’t help but hear a very distinct, high-pitched sound. Though it had been many years, one never forgets the perfect song of a well-tuned, Ferrari V-12. So, I ran to my front lawn as more than a dozen Ferraris rolled to a stop in front of the house at the end of my street. I had no doubt that someone important was either visiting or living in our Gwinnett neighborhood, but I wouldn’t find out until a couple of weeks later.

Every year during the late summer, all the folks in our housing development hold an informal street party for kids and grown ups alike. This event always occurs right in front of our house, and as usual, I was leaned back in a comfortable lawn chair sipping a cool one and stuffing down a cheeseburger when I heard that sound again. Within seconds, a beautiful, classic, titanium-colored Ferrari Testarosa drove up, and out stepped a gentleman with a broad smile.

“Hello, I’m Brian Willis,” he said. “I hear that you used to drive race cars in Europe thirty years ago, and that you now fish for a living.”
Though I had never met this man before, he had certainly done his homework about me. I quickly learned, however, that Brian Willis was always well-informed about most subjects, and from that moment on, we would be fast friends.
The first time I walked through Brian’s house, I knew that he was special. The walls were lined with autographed photos of most of the great racing cars of the past twenty years, and every nook and cranny was filled with exact models of cars, motorcycles, trains, military tanks, airplanes, and much more. He even had several displays of exotic rocks from all over the world. Then, he showed me the model and photo of the Williams BMW that had won the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1999. Brian had been the project’s chief design engineer, and along with a team of coworkers, had developed this winning car from concept.
Raised with two brothers in Connecticut on Long Island Sound, most of his childhood was spent doing watersports like swimming and sailing. His real joy, however, came from erector sets, tinker toys, Lincoln Logs, Tonka Toys, or anything he could use his imagination to put together.
In high school, Brian became interested in cars and dreamed about owning one. He and most of his close friends seemed to talk about cars and racing constantly. Then, a friend introduced him to the Italian Alfa Romeo, and eventually Brian purchased a 1972 Alfa GTV 2000, which stoked his passion for Italian cars.
At 16 years old, Brian was introduced to racing when he became aware of the Skip Barber Racing School at Lime Rock racetrack. The next weekend, Brian drove up to the track and watched students learning to drive racing cars. By the time he returned home, he had already decided that racing was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
To make a long story short, Brian saved his money from a summer job, enrolled in the racing school, and received his license. In the process, he met Skip Barber, who offered him a job for the following summer. Therefore, until Brian went away to college, he had a steady job with the Skip Barber Racing School in Connecticut and Florida.
Even before receiving his BS in both mechanical and aerospace engineering at Texas A & M University, Brian hooked up with Bob Sharp Racing in Connecticut. He soon became both mechanic and engineer, building winning Nissans for SCCA racing, whose top driver was actor, Paul Newman.
Following college, Brian received a one year fellowship from Grumman Aircraft to attend the Academy of Aeronautics in Queens, New York. He then spent two years as an aero engineer with Sikorsky Aircraft doing wind tunnel tests on the S-76B helicopter.
In the next two years, Brian Willis received his masters degree in mechanical engineering from M.I.T. During that period, he rebuilt and ran the University’s wind tunnel and helped to build test models of submarines for the General Dynamics Corporation.
After the M.I.T. experience, Brian worked for a couple of years as a design engineer for AAI Inc. developing advanced weapon systems for the military before returning to his real love….racing. The rest of his career sounds like a Who’s Who in every facet of international motorsports. He has been one of the top engineers with Dan Gurneys All American Racers, Inc. on GTP cars, worked with Nissan Performance Technology, Inc. on their GTP program, helped develop both a wind tunnel and a formula Atlantic car for Swift Race Cars, was a design engineer on Indy cars for Rahal/Hogan Indy Car Racing, and then spent two years designing the winning Williams/BMW for LeMans.

Brian Willis came to Atlanta in 2000 to work on numerous projects with Elan Tech Motorsports Group (EMTG) and Panoz Motorsports, but left them in 2003 to work on his own. Today, he is a design engineer and consultant for numerous confidential clients in all parts of the racing business, including NASCAR. However, over the past couple of years Brian’s primary focus has been developing the Audi R8 LMP LeMans Car for Team GOH International sponsored by Audi Sport of Japan, which won the 2004 24 Hours of LeMans. During this off season, however, Brian has been giving engineering help on the Ford Focus Daytona Prototype program for the Multimatic Corporation in Toronto, Canada.

In addition to all of the paid work, Brian Willis has been a great friend to me and has given lots of free, technical advice to many of us who just do club racing on a local level with the Atlanta Region of SCCA. He even painted my trademark yellow nose on my #21 Spec Miata in his garage at home!

Having raced professionally in Europe for ten years as a young man, being able to live modern international racing through Brian’s eyes has been almost as exciting as being there. Like me, he has always followed his passions for life and the things he most enjoys, including cars. He may have fallen in love with an Italian Alfa Romeo when he was young, but today, his tastes are more refined. Look into his garage now and you’ll find a classic Ferrari Testarosa and a modern Ferrari 360, plus a couple of fast motorcycles, not to mention enough tools and equipment to build most anything. Brian Willis is truly a racing engineer extraordinaire and the most eligible bachelor in the racing fraternity!

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COLIN MACLEAN – NORTH ATLANTA’S “FLYING SCOT”

ColinatCMPColin Maclean at CMPIt seems that throughout most of  my adult life I have always had the influence of those special folks whose lives  were tempered to toughness by the harsh climate of Scotland. As early as my  twenties, I often rubbed fenders with World Champion, Jimmy Clark, when he drove  Lotus Ford Cortinas in Europe, and sadly, I was there the day he died in the forest mist at the Hockingheim Ring in Germany in a Formula II. He had always  driven with such perfection in Formula I that all of us who had been fortunate enough to know him were stunned.

After returning to the States  from my racing days in Europe, I met another young Scot, Bill Lamont. He and I ran the streets of Atlanta for fun, won soccer championships in the semi-pro  leagues as teammates, and he was my best man when I married for the second  time.
Therefore, it only seems appropriate that my return to  racing, after more than 30 years, should again involve a young man from Scotland. His name is Colin MacLean, and though he is half my age, we bonded  with our first conversation. He respected my history of racing with some of his  childhood heroes, and despite his quiet, reserved manners, I could easily see the fire and determination in the depth of his eyes that I had seen in Jimmy  Clark.

ColinattheARRCColin’s passion for motor racing began very young, and  though I could tell the story from my conversations with him, I believe that his recollection is better than mine. So, in his own words, here is Colins  story:

“As a young lad growing up in Fife, Scotland, you can’t help but have motor-racing in your blood. I vividly remember watching in  awe at my local race track as the motorcycles with sidecars flew by at incomprehensible speeds. I remember thinking that I’d much rather be the one  riding than the one hanging on.

I also recall watching the  open-wheeled and “saloon” cars and how much fun they looked to drive and how  brave their drivers were. The local track was no more than 12 feet wide and was  completely lined with trees barely 3 feet from the track.
I  would also spend Saturday nights at the local circle track (Stock Cars), but I  would always daydream about “real” road racing. It never entered my mind that one day I would be doing it!

For my 18th birthday, my parents  bought me an afternoon at the Knockhill Racing Circuit in a Formula First. Formula First is a scaled-down Formula Ford. This car had street tires and was  limited to 4000 rpm, but to me, I might as well have been driving a Formula I car. From that point on I was hooked. The car was responsive, nimble, and so utterly compelling to drive that I knew I was done with just watching racing, it  was time to join in!

ColinMixingitupinschoolatRoeblingFor the next few years, as a student, my scant resources limited my racing to karts. Our local track rented out twin-engined pro karts, which were a blast to drive and taught everything  one needed to know about going fast sideways. I would jump in those karts every chance I got, but I always wondered how I could get back behind the wheel of a “real” racing car.

Fast-forward a few years and now I’m living in Atlanta, USA. Life’s changed a lot since those days in Scotland, but some things have remained the same. My unwavering passion for motor racing and the unchanging desire to drive a racing car again is still very much alive.
I had been driving a Miata as my street car, but my love for motor racing was going to get me too closely acquainted with the long arm of the law. Therefore, as a “grown up” I knew I had to make the decision to go racing  now, or put it behind me. They say you only live once so I figured why not!

It was around that time the phenomenon known as Spec Miata was becoming increasingly popular, and it caught my attention. I already had the car, the tools, and the mechanical know-how. The cars are reliable, cheap to  build, and an absolute hoot to drive. The class seemed tailor-made for me, so I  decided to test the waters by taking my turbocharged and thoroughly tricked out  car to Road Atlanta for a track day. Luckily for me, I was paired with an instructor with many years of Miata racing experience, Rob Ebersol. I asked  Rob to take me round in my car and by the end of that first flying lap the decision was made. It was time to go racing.

That winter the car went up on jacks and the transformation began. Before I knew it, what was once a street car was now a race car. It was suddenly February and time for race school. In the back of my mind I really didn’t believe it was happening. I had my own racing car and I was on my way to (hopefully) acquire my racing license.  Was I dreaming?”

Colin wasnt dreaming, and thanks to his Scottish determination that I had seen in his eyes at our first  meeting and his natural talent, even with an almost stock Miata, young Colin MacLean turned the fastest lap for a Miata at the drivers school at Roebling  Road. Then, he went on to run in the upper third of most of the SCCA Spec Miata races in the Southeast, and made the front runners aware of his  presence.

For 2005, Colin will be driving his familiar # 68  Miata with a new paint scheme as part of the LoansQuick.com Racing Team. As I  knew he would, Colin has come a long way in his first year in SCCA, but the boys  and girls up front better be looking in their mirrors….this Flying Scot is on  his way to the top!

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