Monday, October 13, 2014

Just another day at the airport....

Saturday, after buying three giant thermal containers of coffee and all the support supplies for them at WAWA, the Princess & I left Stafford at 5:15 and cruised 32 miles to Culpeper Regional Airport….in the rain.  This would be the 5th time we have supported the Airport’s annual AirFest event.  Our group, Cruisin For Heroes (CFH), invites a mix of interesting special vehicles to display on a lot next to the only entrance to the day’s festivities.  We try to screen the invitees to our display so we end up with people friendly people as well as their interesting vehicles.  The display is meant to compliment the AirFest event but not distract from it, so we have to be careful what/who we invite.  We began planning for this year’s event while we were executing last year’s event….always improve….Kiazen. 

This year the Airport staff was expecting in excess of 12,000 spectators!  They would bus them to the event then back to their vehicles from nearby High Schools.  The Airport staff was working tirelessly behind the scenes, solving the onslaught of problems the day would bring.  The local law enforcement community sets up a command trailer on the ramp, coordinates the traffic and provides any emergency equipment during the day.  It is a major event.  And did I mention it was an air show?  Yup….there would be many airplanes that would fly and WOW the spectators….not the least of which is Nalls Aviation’s Harrier.  It is the only civilian owned Harrier in existence….it is an amazing machine.  And this year there were to be 75 Warbirds!  These Civilian owned old Military airplanes from trainers, observation, fighters, bombers, transports and liaison planes are such an important part of the historical fabric of America.  A lot of noisy, really cool airplanes that when not flying are parked on the ramp and are ‘touchable’ to all the spectators!  A little after Noon the low ceiling began to lift and some of the airplanes began to fly.  It would be an abbreviated air show program but most of the show did go on, to include the Harrier!  It is truly an experience not to be missed, and it’s free. 

This year the vendor presence seemed to increase drastically to include many different kinds of foods like funnel cakes, hot dogs, hamburgers, barbeque, kettle corn, ice cream and much more!  Other vendors selling interesting local wares filled the ramp area; it looked like a tent city!  A few hangars were open to the public to include the Commemorative Air Force hangar.  This group supports the restoration as well as flying of the old warbirds.  They always have a few examples of their member’s machines lurking in their hangar.  They also have an open house every month for the public to see what they do to preserve the old air machines.

Last year it rained all day….I rolled that thought around my mind as the distance between us and the airport got shorter and shorter while I peered out the tiny cleaned spot on the windshield.  The top of our truck is chopped 4” and we have modified little 7” wiper blades to use when it rains.  They clean a spot about as big as a salad plate; it’s like mowing your grass while wearing a snorkel mask to see where you are going.  Peripheral vision is overrated.  When we arrived at the airport the youngest member of CFH, Andrew, was already parked next to the display lot and three of the sponsors vehicles were set in the display lot!  Lou had worked with the sponsor on Friday to help deliver their cars to the Airport.  As we drove past Andrew, I turned to go onto the grassed lot that we would be walking on for the next 10 hours to see if it was too soft.  When I got off the asphalt the truck bounced a little and started to make grinding noises!  I thought for a moment that we had dropped off into a quagmire of mud and grass.  So I immediately stopped, then selected reverse in the old TH350 transmission and began easing back out.  The grinding noises accompanied us till we got on the asphalt again, whew.  I jumped out (not really “jumped”, kind of a slinky fall out of the cab onto my wobbling legs and numb feet) to survey the damage, in the rain, in the dark.  Andrew was walking over to see what was going on while I was fumbling with my new cosmic tactical flashlight, that wasn’t working.  When I found my backup flashlight I saw what the ruckus was all about.  A cinder block was left on the grass!  We were next to the main gate to the airport ramp and it has two 10’ gates.  When the gates are opened they will swing shut with a little wind.  So, this is the cinder block that they put in front of the gate after it’s opened so it won’t swing closed.  Since it was early, the gates were still locked and closed and the cinder block was lying on the ground.  So while cautiously looking out the salad plate sized clean spot on my windshield, in the rain, 1 1/2 hour before sunrise… had escaped my attention.  The Princess was freaking out.  I think she thought we had run over something that was capable of tearing off the underside of the truck and we would see the oil running on the ground any second.  She got out and looked at the bumper and fender and pronounced that it looked serviceable.  I didn’t see any vital fluids leaking out or any parts lying on the ground so we might be OK.  I gingerly backed up to the end of the holding lot and parked with the headlights left on to illuminate some of the display lot while we maneuvered vehicles into position, in the dark, in the rain….whew.  Later inspection of the cinder block attack would reveal no damage, not even a scratch?  I guess those old bumpers were built a little different than the ones today.  While Andrew and I were discussing how we would deal with the day, Lou & Arlene drove up and parked.  Lou is the important part of this whole deal….he brings the 4 dozen doughnuts!  Shortly after Lou parked, Arlene joined the Princess in our truck so they could plot their part of the day’s activities.  Princesses don’t do anything by accident….they plan everything….we just think they are a little air headed and spontaneous….no way….hehehehe  Next Fred joined the group without Debie….she would join us later….arriving in a school bus….you have to ask her why?  Now there were six crazy people….in the cold rain….in the dark….looking at each other wondering why we have such crazy friends!  Normal people would still be home asleep or if they are up at this bizarre hour they would be sipping a warm latte in a cozy room while watching the cold rain fall outside.  And normal people would be wondering why anyone would go out in this kind of weather.  Normal?….that’s just a place in Illinois! 

About 6:30 we decided to take up our positions so Andrew left to man his critical spot.  Andrew would be the first CFH person anyone would see as they drive in on the access road.  Since many of the participants we invited this year were first timers they would need to be directed from the access road to our parking staff near the lot.  CFH was also a little short handed this weekend so initially Lou, Fred and I would be directing the placement of all the vehicles on the display lot.  Dan would be leading a group from Stafford that would leave there at 6:30….in the rain….in the dark.  When he arrived he would become the fourth person to help place vehicles on the display lot. 

As mentioned above the spectators were to be bused from two local HS and disembarked on the part of the display lot near the sidewalk.  Because of that the total size of our display lot had been reduced by about 1/3!  We had reduced the amount of people we invited by about 15 so the vehicles would not be too cramped.  With as many spectators that were expected we wanted ample room between the vehicles to prevent any damage to them.  Shortly after 6:30 the first of the days display vehicles began arriving.  Everything else that happened would be pure crisis management from this point till about 11AM.

Cory, his son and his Dad brought in their two beautiful Fairlanes and a Patriotically wrapped trailer hauling the red Fairlane.  We parked their trailer and the Fords then Fred & Lou parked the rest of the vehicles as they came in.  Since our sponsor was a Ford dealership we invited more people that had Fords.  And since there was to be a Mopar show the same day we avoided inviting any Mopars except for Bill’s Valiant.  By 8AM most of the vehicles had arrived and were in the process of settling in for the day.  Fred, Bill & Bill began setting up the hospitality canopies that would house the coffee & doughnuts.  They also set up the CFH/Fisher House Foundation canopy near the entrance.  Fisher House Foundation has been our major charity for three years now as we try to raise awareness and dollars for this fine charity that assists our returning Veterans as they mend from their war injuries.   Like the McDonald house, Fisher House houses the families of the Veterans that are in the hospital.  There is never a cost to the Veteran or their family and the Fisher Houses are placed all over the Country near VA hospitals.  You need to consider them when you do your charitable giving for the year. 

Bill brought his 1923 Model T Speedster to the party; I think it was the most popular ride all day even though Wyatt’s DeLorean always had a crowd around it too.  These two cars always attract attention wherever they are, they are so unique and the owners really like to interact with spectators.

I think it was around 9AM that the little PT Cruiser came in with the two more clowns!  Yup….clowns.  One of the vehicle invitees was Bill, his main squeeze is Jo-Ann….a sure enough, real clown!  A few months ago she had asked me if we would like to have some clowns at the event?  I never thought about that!  The event is very family centric….and everyone likes clowns….why not have them join us?  The Princess and I attended a clown gathering to make our presentation….yup, they really get together in large groups, grin.  Their group is called LUV_N_LAFFS Clown Alley.  We made a presentation about AirFest and Fisher House Foundation and invited them to share the day with us.  We knew Jo-Ann would “be in clown” for the event and hoped others would join in too.  After they parked their PT Cruiser, Bill helped them set up their canopy next to the hospitality area and the fun began!  To say the clowns added to the event is like saying the Grand Canyon is a hole in the ground….it’s so understated.  PJ the clown did face paintings under the canopy most of the day to include the two Princesses.  They would become roving cheerleaders for PJ’s art as they wandered around doing Princess stuff.  JoJo and Curly Que mingled in and out of our display, and then onto the airport ramp with the spectators and the airplanes….it was just too cool.  They made every child that saw them a little happier….and most of the adults too!  It was the best new thing we have done at AirFest in the last 5 years!

Sometime around Noon our group began to hand out our tokens of appreciation to the participants of our display.  Everyone but Andrew joined in; he was playing Uncle and chasing a little curious munchkin all over the airport.  Maybe it was a test run to see if he and Angela could keep up with the little energy machines…..grin  Anyway the rest of us thanked each participant for bringing out their prized ride, in the rain.  Some came from as far away as Annapolis, MD, about 130 miles away and Harrisonburg, VA, about 75 miles away….in the dark… the rain.  Some have been with us for all five years and some have joined us for the first time this year.  It is just amazing to me/us how some people will selflessly come out and share their ride with thousands of people they don’t know to benefit people they don’t know and will never know them.  It’s one of the good things that makes up the fabric of our Country….it’s what/who we are.

The biggest ‘take away’ I had from this year’s event is the way we made lemonade.  Did I mention that the day’s weather was worse than miserable?  That it was cold, raining, windy and gloomy all day?  It would have been so very easy to turn inward and complain about the circumstances that we had no control over and then the day would have been dreadful for everyone.  Or we could just press on working the event, solving problems as they came to us.  Encouraging each other, keeping our thoughts on the mission to make our part of the event as enjoyable as we could to the spectators and in the process we would find enjoyment in that.  We succeeded!  We took the lemons the weather gave us and made some lemonade….

Monday, October 6, 2014

A ride in the Countryside and beyond....

Saturday five cruisers began our trek to Beaverdam, VA from Stafford at 7AM.  Along the way we were joined by two more cars in Chilesburg, VA and we all headed to the Riverside Baptist Church and annual the show on their grounds.  The ride was a little tedious because the night’s rain had stopped around 5:30 so some of the road was still wet!  And some low spots had standing water that we tried to dodge and weave away from….fun me thinks.  We arrived early and were about the 5th through 12th entrants to the show.  Our little band of car gypsies set up camp and began to enjoy the glorious day.  The weatherguessers were conflicted about their forecast….two said rain all day but three said rain stops early and partly sunny all day.  We got the last guess….a really beautiful day.

This show is like most rural Virginia shows….it’s a community event with a car show attached, instead of the other way around.  There were flea market/yard sale areas, home cooked breakfast and lunch that included Brunswick Stew.  There were activities for kids and craft vendors for all.  A couple dune buggies were giving rides to the hapless spectators who were brave enough to climb into one of those things!  There was no music!?  I usually like background music but about half way through the day I realized it’s absent.  After one of the door prize announcements I waited for the music to begin again….but it didn’t!  I think the absence of the music actually added to the ability to have conversation when you don’t have to talk over the music.  And the announcements were listened to more because they were not just a change in the ever present din.  Something to think about….

The show attracted a nice mix of original antiques to much modified street cars.  I always like the field to be mixed up like this because I like most anything with wheels.  Jim’s yellow ’72 Plymouth is always a welcome sight but there was so much more in the 30 or so vehicles that attended.  The yellow F-1 was a very special ride and the beige ’34 Chevy sedan was too cool.  My favorite was the black ’35 Ford coupe that was mostly original but detailed with modern touches that were still true to the original.  The owner wouldn’t let a particle of dust take up residence anywhere on it!  He just kept rubbing on it somewhere, it really was that nice.

I was feeling a little queasy so after the awards were given out we broke camp and left for home.  It was a Chamber of Commerce, picture post card perfect day…..a deep blue sky with puffy white clouds with the trees beginning to turn color.  An ever-present brisk rustling of the leaves told me winter is right around the corner….bring it!

Some of the ladies in our circle of friends had been mentioning that we should visit the Graves Mountain Apple Festival with all the vendors and crafts and other ‘stuff’.  I thought I had effectively dodged the inquiries well enough to put it off till next year….then I could make excuses why I didn’t want to go to THAT.  I lost!  Debie, Arlene, Jo-Ann, Ramona and the Princess explained that in the interest of family interpersonal relationships we needed to visit the apple deal convinced (you guys will know what I mean).  I think Lou was the first one to cave….I think he might be taking those sensitivity training classes way too seriously.  Anyway the ladies put the deal together and via email and Facebook they got the route planned with two start points for those coming from different areas.  Lou led the troupe from Brandy Station, VA by following the nice lady that lives in his GPS.  The route was through an area in Virginia we had never traveled.  The road and scenery was spectacular.  We had visited Graves Mountain years ago when we were riding the Harley but it looked so different.  We picked our way past the full parking lots and crossed over a very narrow bridge to more parking on the way toward the Graves Mountain Lodge.  After we parked we began our walk to the vendors….then I heard the unmistakable sound of an old stationary engine.  As we approached the entrance to the event the sound was growing louder….then I saw it!  A very green, beautifully restored, John Deere stationary engine with a whirring flywheel and the accompanying ‘POP’ that it made when the spark plug fired to keep the momentum turning the flywheel.  I love these old engines and that this one was hooked up to an ice cream churn was just what was needed to set the ambiance of the event!   

I thought the walk would be disastrous on my old worn out body but because of the leisurely stroll we were using and the relatively even grassed walking surface it was actually enjoyable.  Did I say that?  Many vendors were showing/selling their wares from wood workers to canned foods to Native American items to jewelry to African banana art!?  So many different kinds of food to sample with apples at the core of most of it!

After the ladies had gathered enough apples and other stuff for the next millennium, I knew this part of the visit would be my downfall.  I knew the ladies just wanted us for our bodies, we were to be their pack mules to tote their newfound, must have, can’t live without it, I’ve been looking for this all my life, treasures back to the cars!   But….the Boy Scouts of America came to our rescue!  A small troop of these future leaders of America were offering to transport our booty to our cars.  Wow….that will work!  We loaded up their wagon with ‘stuff’ and led them to our cars.  They said they were doing it as a public service but we all gave them something for their trouble.  They thanked us and said the money would go to the troop for Scout activities…..what a concept!

About this time the ladies were getting hungry?  Of course they didn’t want to partake of the food offered at the festival….oh no!  I guess it was just too pedestrian for their delicate palates.  THEY wanted to go to the Graves Mountain Lodge for a country buffet!  A buffet!  And the Lodge was nearly at the top of Graves Mountain with a walking path about 50 miles long, UP to it.  I asked where the base camp was that Sir Hillary set up to make this trek?  I think the Lodge was up high enough to have clouds around it.  Dan & Ramona decided to walk up but the rest of us knew we would never make it.  We would fall down from exhaustion or some body part failure….then roll down the mountain into the river and float to the ocean, never to be seen again….  So we decided to take out cars up the narrow road to the Lodge, it worked!  The Lodge is a nice place to dine but it’s like some buffets….the food is ok but not great.  The restaurant’s ambiance is what makes the experience good with the views and character of the Lodge itself.  There is a mindset that comes into play when you eat at a buffet.  Some try to eat all they can….because it’s an all you can eat deal!  I mean, that’s what the instructions say….ALL YOU CAN EAT.  And you don’t want to be a slacker so you eat….and eat….and eat….and eat.  When the cook came out to see who was depleting everything they were cooking in the kitchen, I knew it was time to leave!  When we were done we all gathered at the massive fireplace for a group picture….a fitting end to the experience.  There would now be a photo of us at the entrance with a red slash across it….grin

We maneuvered down the hill and across the narrow bridge then on to the Virginia byway and home.  This was a great adventure with great friends….next year we need to take our hot rods instead of the daily drivers.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Friday the Princess & I cruised 40 miles to Culpeper to attend the weekly cruise at Arby’s.  We left early enough to dine at the Glory Days restaurant before the cruise-in because the Princess likes the Friday fish special they serve.  And we always sit on the patio outside so we can watch the hot rod while we eat.  We were done about 4:30 so we cruised to Arby’s next.  We waited till after 5PM and no one else showed up?  This cruise-in is not “run” by a club or group…it’s a very informal gathering of friends and acquaintances….very low key.  So the chance of all the friends being busy on a Friday night is real….I guess we hit one of those nights.  It would have been a loss except for the great meal at Glory Days and the awesome ride in the Virginia countryside getting there.  But we wanted to meet up with some “car” friends somewhere… we headed for the Burg….Fredericksburg, VA.

Fredericksburg has two cruise-ins this year about 4 ½ miles apart and they both have pluses and minuses for us….and we have friends that manage & attend both of them.  So it’s a little tricky to not show favoritism for one over the other….kinda like having two kids at Christmas and making the experience even for both of them….tricky.  So we try to alternate our visits between the two….whew!  This Friday it is VA BBQ!

When we arrived the lot was pretty full but we managed to find a spot next to Fall Hill Rd….where the Princess likes to park.  When I got out and looked at our neighbors parked in the line with us….I thought we might be in a front line in a Chevy dealership!  Camaro’s aplenty….which is ok with us….it was just a little funny.  When we visit the cruise-in at the other end of town the same thing happens but it’s Mustangs there….too funny!

We were instantly greeted by Kim and a little later Rick came over to sit a spell and talk….always a good time!  The black ’39 Chevy coupe is the nicest one around and is a regular visitor to this cruise-in.  Hoppy brought his red/white ‘55 Ford golf cart to the mix and was giving people rides around the parking lot in it.  A pair of nice ’67 Chevy Nova posts arrived….one with a cool graphic in the side.  The light blue VW added to the international ambiance of the evening’s gathering.  But the Camaros….mostly newer models but very nice nonetheless.  Kandy’s yellow ‘Bumble Bee’ was special….the color always brightens up the model row.  So many of the newer cars are in ‘power’ colors, black-red-dark blue….they look nice but the brighter colors, yellow-green, just add something to the display for me. 

Around 8PM a fellow, Gary, walked over and started a conversation with us.  He wanted to know “what was going on here?”  We explained it was a cruise-in and what that was verses a ‘show’.  He asked questions like ‘how much does it cost to enter?’, ‘how do you get in?’, ‘where are you allowed to park?’.  So the Princess and I explained a lot of things for him.  On the ‘cost’ question I told him there was no cost to park but that the managing club, Fredericks Classic & Muscle Car Club, ran a 50/50 each Friday.  He asked ‘what was that?’  I explained the club sold tickets for $1 or more and they drew one of the tickets at the end of the cruise-in.  The winner kept half of the night’s ticket purchase dollar amount and the other half was kept by the club.  The club used the money to help local needy families during Christmas every year.  He said that sounded like a good thing and I agreed it was!  He said he had recently completed a restoration of a ’62 Falcon….it wasn’t “special” so he parked it way over among the daily drivers near Rt. 1, hidden from view of ‘our’ gathering!?  We told him to bring it in and park anywhere he wanted including next to us.  He said his car wasn’t ‘special’ and were we sure he could do that?  I told him to just get his car and park it next to us….everyone would be ok with that.  Except the Camaro owners….hehehehe….I didn’t actually say that!  He brought his nice, stock, almost original beige ’62 Ford Falcon and parked next to us.  You could tell he was proud of it and after he felt “accepted” he thanked us and strolled around the lot looking at other people’s rides.  I have thought about this encounter a lot since Friday.  The Princess & I usually sit in a group with friends while we visit the evening away.  If someone new to our hobby walked in they would probably be intimidated by our ‘clickish’, loud little group and may not ask the questions Gary did.  That would be a shame for everyone and the hobby.  Sometimes we are so involved with our cars or friends that we fail to notice someone on the ‘outside’….something to think about.  Around 8:30 the Princess started whining about being cold and wanted to go home….so we packed up and headed north.

Saturday we left Stafford with Jim & Linda and cruised 28 miles to Manassas, VA and the weekly cruise at the BK by the airport.  When we had parked and were getting the chairs out I heard a very distinctive sound above.  Something rarely heard then seen in these parts.  The whine of a full tilt Rolls Royce Merlin V-12!  Jim & I looked up and were treated to the sight of a P-51 Mustang banking out of the traffic pattern of the airport!  Such a sweet sound….  Then I remembered the airport was hosting a small gathering of WWII warbirds that weekend….they even had the B-17, Aluminum Overcast, at the airport.  That will be a preview of what our AirFest Saturday weekend may be like on October 11 in Culpeper, VA.

After we set out the chairs we all visited the BK for lunch and potty break….they have taken the ‘satisfrys’ off the menu?  Why?  Oh well, I really don’t need french fries anyway.  When we returned to the lot it was filling up nicely.  This cruise-in usually has 100-150 cars and tonight was going to be an overflow night.  This cruise-in also has a lot of transient folks.  They cruise in and stay a few hours then cruise somewhere else.  That makes it difficult to nail down the actual total participation for the night.

Nick and a few friends brought their Pro Streets and parked next to a very nice grey Camaro Pro Touring car.  A white ’59 Rolls parked next to us as the evening unfolded and more cars came and went.  Paul took up residence in “his” spot with his yellow ’32 Ford 5w coupe.  There is a nice red ’40 Ford coupe that attends frequently that is motivated by a cool SBF.  It runs an Edelbrock cross ram intake with two Edelbrock 4bbls.  They are topped with air cleaners made with Ford hubcaps….how cool is that?  There were Challengers, Corvettes, Mustangs, Vipers, Camaros….old cars, new cars, stock cars, much modified cars and even a Morris Minor to add to the international flair, with a North American Mustang making music overhead….whats not to like?  About 6:30 we gathered up and cruised back to Stafford.  We have to be home before dark….the evil local suicide deer population is everywhere.  I read on the internet that they are targeting vehicles this year….beware!

Sunday would be our second annual Kodak Cruise where we drive our hot rods somewhere picturesque and everyone takes pictures of their rides and the Princess & I take some too.  It has been a fun time in the past but we wanted to make the one this year a little closer to home so more people could join in on the fun.  The Princess & I waited at the WAWA start point till what I thought was the launch time of 7:30 then departed alone for Curtis Park in Stafford, VA.  I send a weekly email that posts the start time and general itinerary of our weekend adventures.  I guess my brain had a flat spot because my email actually said that we leave at 8:30!  So….there I was….all mopey and unhappy that no one was going with us.  Oh well, we go on anyway like we always do. 

We cruised 12 miles to the Park and waited at the information center to see if anyone else would show up at 8AM, which would really be 9AM.  Soon Bill arrived with his 1923 Ford Model T Speedster in tow.  We talked and decided where he could unload his ride then meet us by the lake.  Since we were an hour early the sunlight was very low and a mist had formed over the lake like a low thin fog, it was really cool.  And the early morning sunlight was very intense so I knew the pictures would be special.  And I still didn’t realize I made a mistake and didn’t know Bill usually arrived very early to events so we set up Bill’s Speedster and began taking pictures.  We had just about finished with Bill when Lou & Arlene and Fred & Debie showed up!  Then I got a call from Ramona asking if we were still going to cruise!?  I told her I must have had a brain flatulence or maybe I was running on old grumpy people’s time!  I think she laughed.  We started photographing Fred’s ’57 Dodge and by the time we were done the rest of the group showed up!  We all made fun of my time mistake….including me!  It’s neat that friends can do stupid stuff then their friends just laugh and point at my silly self and we go on….too cool….

After Bill’s car was photographed he offered to take the Princess a ride in/on his Speedster….whohoo.  The Princess gave Bill very specific instructions that he was NOT to go fast enough to mess up her hair!  Very specific instructions….  I think she had a good time waving at people from the seat of the Speedster and when she came back Arlene jumped on the Speedster for a ride too.  They were doing that while I was photographing the rest of the cars.  The Princess was busy taking “natural” pictures?  Geese, water, bushes, trees, a man fishing…..artsy stuff me thinks.  After we all took pictures of our rides at the lake, we moved to the entrance of the Park which is tree lined on both sides and is a very good set up for pictures.  I have the cars come down the lane going from side to side to get different angles and light.  The entrance is about 100yds long and I try to take 4-6 pictures before they are at the end.  I hadn’t planned on the where the cars would park when they were at the end of the lane so they did a U turn and went back beyond the point where the Princess would start them.  That made for some interesting shots too!  Finally we were done with the photo shoot and it was time for lunch.  It is the only entrance to the Park so we had to wait for the normal Park traffic that was beginning to arrive to clear so we could get pictures with just the subject vehicle in it.  That was a very tedious exercise.  We all formed up and departed for lunch that was about 12 miles away.

I had contacted the restaurant earlier in the week to let them know we would be visiting on Sunday about Noon.  They said that would be ok but they didn’t take reservations….that should have rang a bell for me.  When we arrived at the restaurant there was a line OUTSIDE waiting to get in, and they had been open for three hours!  I knew this was going to be trouble.  We parked in an empty lot across the street so we wouldn’t have to mingle with the daily drivers and I walked over to check it out.  Inside I informed them we were about 20 people and was greeted with ‘we can’t combine tables and there is a 20-30 min wait!’  This wouldn’t work for us.  I informed our group that the restaurant wouldn’t try to accommodate us so we needed a plan B.  Debie recommended we try Ryan’s in Central Park….that would work.  Most of the group left then but we were a little early to the restaurant and some friends that couldn’t go on the photo shoot wanted to join us for lunch.  And they were on the way.  I had the phone number of Jim & Linda so I called and redirected them to Ryan’s.  But I could not contact Bill & Debbie or Ron & Donna.  The Princess and I waited in the lot for them so they could be redirected to Ryan’s.  Bill & Debbie arrived about 15 min before Noon and were driving their ’23 T Speedster, not really a long distance ‘road’ car.  They had unloaded it at the train station a couple miles away and driven to the restaurant to meet us.  Then had to drive back to the train station, load it up on a trailer, drive it to Ryan’s….whew!  We waited until a little after Noon and hadn’t heard from Ron so we left for Ryan’s.  I need to plan a little better next time me thinks.

We all finally were at Ryan’s and in our own ‘private’ room and feeling good about the day even with a lot of bantering about planning and such.  Bill even told us his sad encounter at McD’s, you have to ask him.  The food was good and the service was great at Ryan’s.  We may plan on coming back here again, they really want us there!  Before we left Lou made a comment about the day being so nice that we shouldn’t waste it on just going home….we needed to drive somewhere.  What a concept.  We put our heads together and decided to visit the Lake Anna State Park and after that go and see if Bruster’s still sold ice cream in Culpeper!  Sounds like a plan, yup.  Some couldn’t join us because of pets that needed attention at home but the rest of us were in.  During this time I got a call from Ron & Donna, they wanted to join our adventure and they would meet us at the Dairy Queen in S. Fredericksburg at 2PM. 

We began our 28 mile cruise to the State Park through the wandering Virginia countryside after we met up with Ron & Donna at the DQ.  The ride was great and the Park was everything I remember but it has been built up a little since our last visit 10 years ago.  The gate lady that was taking fees for the Park was so impressed with our little convoy she let us in free!  She just wanted to take pictures of our rides as we entered the Park….what a deal!  After we parked, we strolled around the facilities and Lou called his son that was vacationing at the lake.  He was about 2 min away in a boat so they came to the boat ramp and visited while the rest of us took in the lake’s beauty.

It was time to leave and make our way to Culpeper but two of our cruisers decided to go home instead….  The rest of us cruised 35 miles to Bruster’s….they still had ice cream!  We visited for another hour but decided to leave before dark….you know about those deer around here, grin.  Another great day driving our hot rods, sharing with friends….enjoying the life God has given us.  I love this hobby!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Going South....

Friday we were going to Fredericksburg, VA and the weekly cruise at VA BBQ but we took an extra day to come back from our Fla. visit with friends and were really tired.  And we hadn’t cleaned the truck up from our cruise the Sunday before….in the rain.  So we stayed home to recuperate.  But Saturday after we cleaned up the truck we were ready to do some cruisin.

The Princess & I drove 58 miles from Stafford to Orange to visit the monthly cruise-in at the BK on Rt. 15.  This cruise-in is declining a little but still attracts over 80 cars every month.  This was a 200+ deal at one time.  Since we were a little early we chose a new place to park….away from the cigar smoking we had to endure the last time we attended.  As soon as we were parked David rolled in with his ’92 Fox Mustang and we had a “group”!  Later Andrew would join our little gathering.  A lot of very nice rides attended but I liked the blue ‘48 much modified Buick….did I just say I liked a Buick, must be the cold weather approaching….grin  The car was lowered and smoothed with many body mods….it just looked right.  I also liked the silvery blue ’48 Chevy PU….it was also a nice build.  I took a picture of a Peterbilt tractor that had a custom paint job that was a little different.  As I was strolling through the cars taking pictures the truck started to leave.  I stepped back and was watching him when I heard the unmistakable scrubbing sounds that tires make when they are rolling on a road surface!  I looked to my left where the sound was coming from and saw the truck’s oversized trailer heading for me as he negotiated his turn!  I jumped back (don’t know how I did that?) and narrowly missed being smushed into the asphalt.  I am ready to go but really don’t want to meet such a ignominious end as being run over by a semi trailer in a parking lot!  I really need to keep my situational awareness peaked better when I’m walking around.

While the Princess was sitting and talking with the spectators around our truck a small group walked near the truck.  It was a middle aged couple assisting a very elderly white haired lady as they walked among the cars.  The lady was 101 years old!  As they approached the truck the older lady reached out to touch the truck, the young lady said “Don’t touch it”.  The Princess saw/heard the exchange and exclaimed “It’s OK….she is welcome to touch our truck”!  Then the little lady extended her hand and ran her weathered fingers over the pinstriping on the front fender and smiled.  You could tell she was also watching some old memories playing out in her head….just too cool.  That’s the part we like best about sharing our hot rods with people….it almost always stimulates some kind of positive memory for them.

The shadows were becoming longer by the minute signaling that it was time we began making our way home.  We said our goodbyes and cruised home….making more memories along the way.

A few weeks ago Fred had suggested we attend an event that was 109 miles away in Dinwiddie, VA on Sunday.  It was the Mega Mopar Action Series event at Virginia Motorsports Park.  It was a Mopar event, I drive a Chevy!  Fred assured me that since Sunday was “Mopar against the world”????....I would be OK.  Since a lot of my misspent youth was done at one of the drag strips in SoCal I thought it would be fun to watch the racing but enter a Chevy in a ‘car show’ at a Mopar event sounded like a non starter to me. 

The Princess didn’t want to be the only girl in our group so she called Debie and convinced her to come along with Fred?  Remember these women people are the same ones that have to visit the restroom in groups too….so I guess it’s a herding thing?  We were to meet Bill, another cruiser and Mopar guy at the onramp of Rt. 17….but a VA Trooper had other ideas and made Bill “move along”.  So we joined up with Bill at the Rest Stop on I-95.  Soon after that we met Fred & Debie at the Thornburg Dairy Queen interchange where Fred took over leading our group and continued our cruise to Dinwiddie.  I-95 is an interesting road most if it is well maintained and a pleasure to travel on, but some of it is horrible.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.  It’s a long way to Dinwiddie….trust me. 

When we turned into the Motorsports Park I was greeted with a large, “No Weapons” sign.  So….using the TSA guidelines I would have to leave behind my pocket knife, fingernail clippers, bottled water and any other item of self defense I might have brought with me or go home.   Fred negotiated with the money taker at the gate then told me it would be OK as long as I left anything in the truck!  OK….  That sucks but I didn’t want to lose the day or disappoint our friends that have made the trek with us just because of a wrongheaded rule.  Being a ‘rule follower’ is difficult sometimes. 

I didn’t really want to compete in the show with Mopars….it was ‘their’ deal after all.  But when we had parked in the spectator lot the show announcer guy came bounding over to us and said we were welcome to be in the show!  We moseyed over to the show grid and took up temporary residence….I had a Mopar on both sides and in back of me!  Hmmmmmm   After a short while we decided to go watch some racing in the grandstands. 

This facility is very nice with permanent restrooms and snack bar.  I have not visited many drag strips since moving to the right coast in ’73 so my recollection of drag racing is from Lions, Irwindale, Fontana and O.C.I.R., with O.C.I.R. (The County) being the most modern of the lot.  I remember the first time I visited The County and being very impressed with the concrete bleachers with the permanent restrooms, snack bar and tower that was state of the art.  The Motorsports Park is every bit as accommodating as The County was.  I’m not a real fan of handicapped racing….I think that’s one thing that killed ‘class’ racing.  Like the Gas and Altered classes that fell victim of ‘bracket’ racing.  Oh well….it is what it is.   The racing was fun but not too many ‘hot’ cars....just one BB/FC and one Weezer.   The Princess & Debie were choosing cars they liked sometimes by the color of the car then cheering them on!  It’s what drag racing is supposed to be for the spectators.  Us guys were always mumbling things like; reaction time, too much bite, lifting, valve float….I think the girls have more fun!

After a while we heard the announcer call for all the ‘show’ cars owners to begin congregating at the announcer canopy.  The show car field consisted of 19 cars, so when the ‘top 20’ awards were given out no one went home empty handed.  They divided the show field into ‘Old School’ and ‘New School’ vehicles for the ‘specialty awards’.  I think that was a good way to try to level the age disparity of the cars.  The Princess won the ‘Best Interior’, old school, award but as she was leaving the award table with it, she was called back.  The announcer guy had made a mistake?  The Princess reluctantly gave the award back….very reluctantly.  I could see the wood peeling off the plaque from her fingernail scratches as he removed it from her clutches.  Then the announcer said that she had won the ‘Best Paint’, old school, award instead.  Whew, there will be peace and happiness in the Shotwell hovel next week!  Bill won ‘Best Interior’, old school, with his Valiant.  Bill muttered something to the Princess about her trying to steal ‘his’ best interior award as he walked by her, it was just too funny!

After the award ceremony we went back to the grandstands to watch the racing.  This time we took umbrellas to protect us from the relentless thermonuclear rays the sun was sending out.  After an hour or so we noticed Debie was getting a little red around the gills.  I asked if she was OK….she responded “yes”.  But her demeanor and appearance told me otherwise.  She was still drinking water and sweating but she needed to get in a different environment, soon.  We all retreated to our rides and began our ride north and home.  It was a fun day and the facility was top notch….just too many Mopars…..grin


Monday, September 22, 2014

Life after rain....

Friday we cruised to the Dairy Queen in Fredericksburg, VA to attend the weekly cruise.  Tonight was to be “special”.  Nick had convinced some of the big tire car guys to attend the cruise and if they showed it would indeed get real noisy!  The Princess & I rolled in early so we could dine at the DQ.  This is not little finger in the air dinning but just good old solid American food….it always pleases.  Some other cruisers started arriving and coming in to eat with us….too cool.  When we went back outside the lot was half full and the music was cranked up. 

As the sun’s shadows were getting very long the background din was interrupted by the growling and snarling of something….something that would not be ignored!  The Pro Street cars were rumbling into the lot!  Five of the gnarliest street machines around jockeyed for proper parking among the other rides.   They moved back and forth guiding the beasts precisely where the drivers wanted them….it is a kind of dance all hot rodders do as we park but the big tire cars defiantly dance with a different tune!  Before they safetied them down the crowds began to gather….and they soon were inundated with people!  Those kind of cars are what is at the heart of hot rods for me and evidently a lot of other people too!

But….there were other cars too!  Bill’s Model T Racer draws a pretty respectable crowd too and Bob’s ’33 Ford with the supercharged flathead harkens to our roots.  JV’s T-Bucket is like it's right from a 60’s hot rod magazine cover!  I think that’s why many like the hot rod culture; it brings back memories of a happier time….maybe?  When we had to leave the big tire cars were still in the lot….but it was time for us old folks to be home.  We found out later that some of Fredericksburg’s finest closed down the road by the Dairy Queen and allowed the Pro Streets to exit, quickly and noisily to their waiting trailers….grin  I probably missed the video of the year by leaving early….  I did get to shoot some artsy fartsy pictures anyway….fun.

Saturday we left the start point in Opal, VA and began our 120 mile odyssey to Wardensville, WV and the monthly cruise at the Quarter Mile Diner.  While we waited in Opal it began to rain….not just a shower….but real rain!  Oh well….we had stayed home too many times this year because of rain and we were driving a “road” car that is ugly underneath and doesn’t mind road spray too much….so we shook our fist at the rain and Fred & Debie and the Princess & I left on time for the mountains.  In Sperryville Bob & Benda and Butch joined us for the day.  After we crossed one mountain in the rain we made a pit stop in Luray for fuel and bladder control.  We then proceeded over the next mountain by a very lesser traveled road.  Rt. 675 winds through the woods on a narrow country road….no side lines, no center lines and in some places no guard rails!  It is fun but does demand the drivers attention all the way!  We dropped into Edinburg, VA then continuing on Rt. 675 we climbed into West Virginia and rode the ridge of the last mountain that paralleled the WV-VA border.  The road was full of switchbacks and inclines, up and down!  The countryside is almost pristine in places….just beautiful.  Somewhere before we got into WV the rain stopped and by the time we arrived in Wardensville it was dry!

Our four dirty rides parked in the lot of the Diner and before we stepped away from them the host of the cruise, Scott, was upon us….smiling and shaking our hands welcoming us to his little corner of heaven.  I met Scott on Facebook.  I have so many “friends” on Facebook but I have never met half of them in person.  Scott invited us to his cruise early in the year but it rained the first time we were scheduled to visit but it worked out just fine this time.  The Diner is owned by a genuine gearhead that has tasteful auto memorabilia throughout the inside of the Diner.  There is also a garage next door with more automobile memorabilia around it….it was a very cool place to take pictures.  And the food!  The menu is auto centric with selections like El Camino salad, Rag Top Po’Boy, Malibu Tenders and it goes on.  I had a Nitro Burger.  It was very tasty but I thought it might put a little pop in my step….no luck!  I guess I’m ready for a rebuild….grin  After we finished we said our goodbyes and cruised on Rt. 55 to the Mother Road, Rt. 66.  Yes we have part of it in Virginia!  We cruised another 75 miles home to end the marvelous adventure.  You have to come out and play with us sometime.  All that road spray will wash off and you don’t want to miss another opportunity to make some memories….or….you can stay home and watch TV….choices

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blue skys and blue crabs....

Friday we had reservations to stay overnight in Harrisonburg, VA so we could attend the CrossWalk Adventures Fall Cruise-in.  The weatherguessers were forecasting 50%+ chance of rain, with heavier in the late afternoon.  We didn’t want to sit in the rain and didn’t think many others would come out in bad weather either….so we cancelled the motel and decided to stay close to home.  I didn’t rain in Harrisonburg!  They had blue skies and more cars than they had at their cruise-in, in the Spring!  I don’t know how to deal with this….  Meteorologists have so much expensive cosmic equipment, years of data to consult and I’m sure they make more than minimum wage but they just can’t get a 24 hour forecast right.  I guess it’s not a new phenomenon because I remember my Dad telling me the weatherguessers would seldom get the forecasts correct when he would fly his Mustang on fighter sweeps or bomber escort missions over Japan in 1945….but this is 2014!!  We have been kept away from too many really good events this year because of forecasted bad weather that didn’t materialize. 

So….Friday we visited Fredericksburg, VA and the weekly Cruise-in at the Dairy Queen.  It was so very hot that we lingered inside the DQ after we ate just to soak in the A/C for a little while longer.  By the time we did venture outside there were about 40 vehicles parked and more kept arriving all the time.  The Princess told me that was because of the heat….?  It was a little cooler after the sun went behind the trees so she could be right.  Princesses are so sensitive about things like that.  While we sat by the truck, I was engaged in conversation and let my “golden hour” of optimum photography time slip away.  For various reasons, I do not like to take flash pictures after dark so the result was I didn’t “take” all the vehicles by the time we left.  Oh well….  As usual we had a great time and will visit again the next Friday because Nick says the big tire cars will make an appearance….if it doesn’t rain….pfffttftt  I have wipers and real tires….hehehehehe

I had done some maintenance on the truck recently and wanted to put a few local miles on it to ensure I did it correctly, so we decided to cruise somewhere on Sunday.  Dan & Ramona suggested we revisit Tim’s at Lake Anna, VA for seafood.  It sounded like a good idea to the Princess so we polled some of our regular cruisers and we set up a 4 car cruise to the lake.  It’s challenging to put together a cruise when the participants are geographically scattered all over VA….but we did!  We had to drive a few extra miles to include everyone….but it WAS a cruise ya know!  Dan & Ramona and the Princess & I left Stafford, cruised to Spotsylvania and were joined by Fred & Debie.  Then we cruise together to Tim’s restaurant where Lou & Arlene were waiting for us.

Lou intercepted me as we ambled in from the parking lot and asked if we wanted to dine inside or out?  Since I had already made reservations for inside I was confused (something that is happening with more regularity lately).  I should have remembered those lessons from the sensitivity training classes about actually listening when someone is talking to me….think about what they are saying, not just waiting for the noise to stop so I can talk again.  In my past professional life I was very good at that but in retirement I don’t use all those interpersonal habits that served me so well for 40 years.  So….I acknowledged Lou but didn’t really think about what he was asking.  We are both hearing challenged and when we get in large groups the background buzz almost renders us deaf.  Inside Tim’s the big screen TV’s were blaring the first ‘real’ Redskins game….the normal background buzz was ratcheted up about a gazillion decibels…..just short of ear bleeding.  Most of the time I could see people’s mouths move but couldn’t understand if they were asking me to pass the Grey Poupon or trying to tell me that my hair was on fire!  We got through it….but it’s a task.  After about a half hour into the meal I remembered Lou asking inside or out?  Now I know why….

Most of you may not know that the Princess likes to eat blue point crabs.  She will devour as many as you put in front of her.  And we found out Debie will do the same thing!  But Lou & Arlene do not eat crabs….what’s up with that?  I thought it was in the Virginia Residency Agreement that you HAD to like to eat crabs?  Lou’s expressions went from wonderment to disgust to amazement….and back & fourth a few times….it was fun to watch him as he watched Debie & the Princess devour enough crabs to sink a small boat!  Because of the aforementioned noise level and Lou’s Italian body language it was like watching a Mime describe sausage factory.  It really was a fun two (2) hours dining at Tim’s.  The food was a little salty but great which matched the very attentive service.  I recommend this eatery whenever you are near Lake Anna….and you can get to it by water too!

When we were all full from the great food or tired from watching the Princess eat, we waddled out to our rides and discussed the next leg of the day’s cruise.  Fred & Debie left for home but the rest of us decided to cruise to Culpeper and see if Bruster’s Ice Cream was still there….it was!  This is one of the nicest Bruster’s we have ever visited.  It’s close to Rt. 29 and the parking lot is very spacious….which complements the staff that is always helpful and quick.  We always try to visit this place whenever we are within…oh….1500 miles of it!  It was going to be dark soon so we said our goodbyes and cruised 36 miles home to Stafford.  What a day….you really have to drive those hot rods to realize how much fun they are.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Be Prepared....

Friday the Princess & I took our hot rod and cruised to Culpeper, VA.  We had some loose ends to tie up at the Culpeper Regional Airport for our event in October and we met Lou & Arlene near the airport.  Lou & I do most of the grunt work for this event since he lives in Culpeper and I like airplanes….that we both are retired helps too!  The meeting went well with Tanya & Tony and I do believe this year’s event will be the best yet! 

The Commemorative Air Force is flying a restored B-17G around the Country; it’s called “Sentimental Journey”.  It is a beautiful representation of the type of bomber that took the war to Germany & Japan in WWII.  The love and attention they lavish on it is just mind boggling.  The airplane was at the Culpeper airport all week!  When we concluded our meeting with Tanya, the airport manager, she asked if we wanted to take our classic cars out on the ramp and take some pictures with the B-17 before we left?  Well….uh….Lou & I looked at each other and blabbered in unison “oh yeah, that would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something like that”….YUP!  We carefully motored out on the ramp and over by the glistening old bomber being careful not to run over any people admiring the airplane too.  We parked and took some of the most memorable pictures with our hot rods we may ever get.  What a deal….  After that photo shoot nothing could go wrong the rest of the day!

We floated away from the airport and headed to our next stop, Battlefield Ford and our meeting with the owner Gary.  We needed to tie down more loose ends with our AirFest sponsor. We met with Gary and had the fastest meeting I have ever had but also one of the most productive in memory.  We are set with the sponsor….on to the award company. 

Ed’s Trophy & Engraving has been making our awards for this event since we began six years ago.  Our event is not a competitive event, no trophies thank you very much.  But we do appreciate everyone that takes their time to come spend the day with us at the airport, sharing their vehicle and talking to the thousands of spectators that roam through our vehicle display on the way into the airshow.  So we present everyone that participates with a token of our appreciation….something to help them remember the day.  Our group, Cruisin For Heroes, puts on the event to raise awareness that hopefully will translate into donations for our charity, Fisher House Foundation.

After our meeting with Ed we cruised to Glory Days and an early dinner out on their patio….  The afternoon was pleasantly comfortable but we really wanted to be able to watch our hot rods while we ate….those of you that drive your hot rod will know what I mean.

After eating too many fish & chips we wobbled over to the weekly cruise at Arby’s.  This is a casual gathering of local hot rodders that just enjoy each other’s company and want to get together every week, even in the winter!  It’s in a very nice venue and will support about 25-30 cars, which makes it very cozy and friendly.  The food is good and indoor restrooms are always a plus.  There were less than 10 cars Friday, no doubt due to the Holiday weekend.  We may help promote this cruise next year, I really like it and it takes about the same amount of time to cruise 40 miles to Culpeper as it does the 18 miles to Fredericksburg!  Yes, traffic around here near I-95 or Rt. 1 is horrific on Friday evening….all year around.  And with the current construction it won’t get any better for a couple years!


The only drawback about this cruise is the close proximity of shopping for the ladies.  The Princess and Arlene should not be allowed to go shopping together….and when Benda goes with them the shopping bag count can go way up!  I think it must be like a competition….to see how much stuff they can buy….it’s a sickness I think?  Its times like these I’m sorry we drive a truck….like the Post Office, ‘If it fits, it ships’.  I may be able to keep the Princess near the truck if I hang up a chrome wind chime or something else shinny but Lou & Bob are on their own with their ladies!

We said our goodbyes around 8:30 and cruised to Bruster’s Ice Cream in Culpeper.  I think Lou’s GPS is hard wired with the Bruster’s address….we can’t leave the area till we stop there!  After Ice cream we had an uneventful cruise home….in the cool of the evening….windows down….smelling the smells of late summer.

Saturday we decided to cruise to Manassas, VA and the weekly cruise at the BK near the airport.  We met Dan & Ramona on the way out of Stafford and made the rest of the 30 mile cruise without incident.  When we arrived in the lot Dan found two parking spaces near the ice cream stand….coincidence?  I think not!  Dan’s most favorite food in the world is ice cream….never get between him and ice cream….it could get ugly!  The attendance was a little down; no doubt from the holiday weekend, but some fat tire cars came out anyway.  I always like to see/hear/feel those rides….it really is a visceral thing with those cars.  About 8AM we decided to call it a day and almost had another uneventful cruise home.  That is until Dan blew his deer whistle!  I think there is something on his ’55 that makes a noise that deer like, it attracts them.  This time he was able to stop before hitting one even though one was standing in the road….looking at Dan….like he was saying “come on big boy, is that all ya got?.  The Princess and I were laughing so hard I was having trouble seeing because of the tears….too much fun I guess.  You had to be there….maybe next time you will?