Fireball Run - Day #1: Team 99 in 11th place with 474 points; 50 points behind 1st place.

From Team 99 Driver Terry Stewart:

Whose idea was this? Certainly, that's a question that was galloping through our brains this morning at 7 AM as we were about to start the first leg of the eight day Fireball Run competition. And those doubts were only compounded by the downpour that hit us as we were trying to take the ceremonial photos for the start of the race.

All of that aside, we cruised out of Independence on schedule with our first set of missions and bonuses (M&B), which is how you score points in this automotive combination of trivial pursuit, scavenger hunt, and any other sort of skill challenge that the folks at Universal Studios can imagine. I can say truthfully that we barely had a clue about what we were doing; led blindly with one conviction......we gotta win this crazy thing.

Now, I should add that the M&Bs were only part of the mess that we had to figure out. Bernie had equipped our car with every high tech communication device known to Radio Shack or NASA. This meant that we had to get this stuff up and running, keep it going , and remember to not embarrass ourselves with our choice of language, gesticulations, et al. Add to that four cell phones feeding us texts, tweets, hey tells, emails, etc. from the countless folks trying to help us with our quests or just making rude remarks and I think you might get some sense of the chaos in the early stages.

Fortunately, we settled down in fairly short order, only to recognize how hard it was not to speed in our efforts to get all of our assigned tasks done. At least one of our colleagues lost sight of that as they were pulled over right out of the chute. When this happens, you not only get points against your license, you get huge deducts in points in the game. Again, I share all of this in this first edition of the chronicling of our odyssey to give you a better sense of what we overcame today in what I would call a very successful Day One.

We would also like to tip our hats to all of the friends and family that came to our assistance as we reached out for help in solving the assignments. You were a terrific and we hope you'll be along with us for the rest of the ride.

The day was filled with numerous highlights, so I'll only try to cover a few. At our first stop in Conneaut, we met a large crowd on the beach where one of the largest World War II reenactments takes place every summer. Quite a few of the actors with their vintage vehicles came out in costume to welcome us. Our good friends, Bernie and Nancy Karr, were also there to help with the puzzle confronting us and to cheer us on. The good folks of Conneaut also served us up a fabulous fish fry before we scurried off to our next set of M&Bs.

All in all, we came to quickly realize through our quests the joy of traveling through these towns along the route and discovering what hidden jewels they sometimes conceal. Panama and Jamestown, New York are just two examples. In the process of meeting our missions, we were exposed to several exquisite small museums. One of them, the Roger Tory Peterson Center, focuses on extraordinary individuals whose respective accomplishments in the study of birds and the law changed the world. The other, the Robert Jackson Center, chronicles this Jamestown resident's career that ended with his appointment as the Chief Justice of the Nuremburg Trials. And, of course, I would be remiss to not remind all of you to visit the tribute to Lucille Ball in her hometown of Jamestown. I hadn't been there in some time and they have done a marvelous job in making it bigger and better than ever.

On another stop, we were also hosted by the folks at the Cummins Engine Plant in Jamestown and got to view firsthand the advances made by this industrial giant in its almost 100 proud years of history. Then finally, there was a special musical treat when we discovered that we had to perform and be judged by the world famous rock group, 10,000 Maniacs. I wish I could tell you that we dazzled them with our musical talents, but who would I be kidding. Rather, we befuddled them with our stories and our gushing love of their musical legacy. The ultimate good news is that they promised to give me a shout when their next album is released and pay us a visit to showcase the new stuff at the Rock Hall.

I'll close by apologizing for rambling on for too long. I'll be more concise tomorrow. I just wanted you all to get a sense of how full our day was and prepare you for our adventures for the rest of the week. I should also inform you that despite our early confusion, Team #99 did quite well. Our scores from Sunday put us in the top ten and set the stage for an even better result on Monday. So tune in and be a part of our road trip......we need all the help we can get!