Thursday, June 28, 2012

Where is Occoquan again?

Our small group left Stafford, VA at 6:30 and cruised 25 miles to the 20th Annual Good Ol’ Days show in Occoquan, VA….managed by Prince William Cruisers.  We have been working this show for the last few years because the charity is Wounded Warrior Project and we like to support the club with this effort.  And I really like to help Jo & Roger with the registration.  I get to meet everyone that attends which is a very cool deal.  The Princess & Ramona sell T-Shirts….they make them go away every year!  And Dan helps Dave take the money when the participants come in at the main entrance.  Would you try to game Dan when he sticks out his hand, that is the size of Vermont, and says $15 please?  Not me….

This year the main tent was set up at a different location, at the end of the field and I think it works much better.  The only negative about it is that the restrooms are farther away….but that’s OK.  The restrooms were clean and well stocked.  The food was better this year but at some point I wish the Park would allow private food vendors to attend….it could make a big difference.  The band, Route 66, wowed the audience as usual….this band plays so comfortably they just feel/sound like an old friend.  An old friend that can belt out pretty much any song you want and do it like the pro’s that they are!  Sally and her grandson ran the 50/50 and collected over $900….which meant someone was going home with a few Benjamins in their pocket.

The attendance is a bit if a mystery….197 cars registered (I was helping register them)….if you devide the money taken in by $15 you get 220!  So….either someone can’t count or some people paid but didn’t register or some people paid more than $15 to get in?  I don’t know what it is but I took picures of all the cars and I got 203!  In any event it was a lot of cars.  The quality of the cars improves each year and the two cars the roofer brought were superb examples of how money can change a car into a work of art.  But there were many other cars that deserved praise like the yellow/black ’67 Camaro or the brown ’57 Chevy hardtop….or the red/black ’70 El Camino.  The best of show was the candy red Merc lead sled and it was a ‘best of show’ quality car.

The weatherguessers were saying that rain was coming in so the PWCruisers moved up the award ceremony a little so the cars would stay dry.  We ran into just a little rain when we got back to Stafford but some told me that they got poured on….oh well.

Tuesday we participated in saying good bye to a friend that cancer took from us last week.  Jim Ferguson was a friend and fixture at all the ‘car’ events in our area….he and his blue ’67 Olds will be missed….rock on old friend….

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Back to the Past

Tuesday, June 12, the Princess and I left Stafford, VA and motored west for the 10th NHRA Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, KY.  We attended the event in ’04 & ’05 but then the Princess had a boss change and the new regime didn’t allow school bus drivers to escape the last two weeks in the school year….which always coincided with the timing of this event.  But this year the Princess was retiring in June so she decided to retire a few weeks early which allowed us to attend the event this year.  I had been working on problems with our truck and did not get it finished in time for the trip….so we took our daily driver…we were going to make the pilgrimage to Bowling Green even if we had to take a cab!  It is 651 miles to the event so this time we decided to break it in two parts and our first stop was Huntington, WV. 
Wednesday we arrived in Bowling Green about 1PM and after checking in at the Hilton Garden Inn we decided to re-acquaint ourselves with the area.  We checked out the route to the Park and it was as we remembered it from seven years ago.  As you may know I like airplanes as much as cars and while going over some of the information about Bowling Green I discovered they had an airpark….cool!  We found the Airpark on the outskirts of the town and the three aircraft displayed there represent people that lived in and around Bowling Green.  The F-4D on display is General Dan Cherry’s actual airplane he flew in Vietnam when he and his WSO, Jeff Feinstein, downed a Mig-21…. There is more to that story….but for another time.  After we left the Airpark we explored more of Bowling Green and decided to call it a day while watching all the hot rods coming into town for the event.

Thursday we left early after breakfast and headed for Beech Bend Park.  We parked by the entrance gate then moseyed into the event.  I noticed there was a vendor renting golf carts near the gate….who would want a golf cart at an event like this?  Yeah....who….  We walked through the hot rods and other special cars, taking pictures on the way to the vendor area to pick up our goody bags.  Most of the event vendors were set up.  Holly, NHRA, Hot Heads, AAA and many others were selling their wares and networking with customers and potential customers.

Over the years of attending various events we have found that each one has a “personality” and this one is very different.  At all “car show” type events the show is the deal and anything else just is incidental to and in support of the show.  At Bowling Green the NHRA has wisely made the ‘car show’ the incidental part.  The nostalgia racing is the deal….everything else supports that focus!  The last time we attended in ’05 we set up our hot rod but didn’t put up the chairs or canopy.  We left the car and didn’t return till the event was over for the day.  There is so much to do that is much more interesting than sitting in a chair behind a hot rod.  The show venue is amazing with green rolling hills, mature trees and asphalt paths winding through the whole area.  You pretty much park where you want!  Thursday the qualifying and testing started around 10 AM and continued all day!  We sat in the bleachers for a while….then checked out the vendors again….then looked at some of the cars in the “show”….then walked around in the pits….then back to the bleachers and the racing.  I’ll tell you that if you get bored at this event you must have latte in your veins and unless you get a nitro transfusion there is no hope for you. 

A word about the bleachers.  I don’t know how old these bleachers are but I found 6 different coats of paint on the seats!  They are metal framed wood seat & back affairs that could have come from an old theater or lecture hall.  They were made for little people so if you are man sized like myself they are a little….um….tight!  They have a size 15 seat and my seat is a size 400.  I and many other patrons kind of wedge ourselves into the seats, I still have bruises!  But the bleachers have backs on the seats and the roof keeps the sun and rain out!  They really are OK but if you’re not a runway model you may have to endure a little with these seats….and we did….and will again next year!  The bleachers on the pit side have more lateral room but no back….it’s a trade off.  And….AND….a big consideration of using the bleachers is that they are very close to the permanent restrooms.  These facilities are so welcome to event goers that are a little long in the tooth like us.  They were always clean and stocked with paper and soap….for those of you with portapottiephobia you have no worries at this event!  We men don’t really care about such things because the whole planet is our restroom.  But the Princess whines incessantly if she isn’t happy with the restroom facilities….she is so dainty, did I ever tell the story about the pea and the mattress….did I say that….whew!

We left the track around 5 PM and headed for the Steak ‘N Shake by our hotel, I love these places and I have eaten at the original one in Normal, IL back in the ‘50s.  After that we cooled off in our room a while before heading to the cruise at the host hotel across the street from ours.  About 6:30 we walked to the cruise and found many, many hot rods already there!  We had seen some of the cars at the Park earlier in the day but many different ones were cruising in to the deal. It was evolving into a robust selection of all types of cruisers.  Some of the vehicles were trailered to the hotel and the owners just drove them around for the weekend’s event.  Some drove their rides all the way from home….which might be Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, California and all points of the compass.  Drivers, it’s what a cruise should be for.  Race cars need trailers, hot rods don’t.  After we walked around the cars we went across the street and set up our chairs next to a local gentleman with a nice Nova, and watched the evening unfold.  The cruising cars came and went on the street in front of us….some went quickly and loudly….hehehehe.  We called it a day around 9:30 and retired to our room but we were able to hear the cruising festivities continue well into the night.

Friday morning we decided to set up our chairs at the gate to the Park and photograph all the cars coming into the event.  This was a good idea but next year we need to position ourselves better with the sun at our back and a better photo background, we are always learning. The background was neat though, one of the few all wood roller coasters in the Country.  We stayed there till 10 AM when I checked out the golf cart rental vendor again.  Our plan was to rent a cart, cruise the whole event & take pictures then later in the day we would retreat to the bleachers to round out the day.  But….no golf carts unless I had a ‘reservation’?  No reservation, no cart!  Since neither the Princess nor I get around well enough to walk all day we decided to park ourselves in the bleachers for the rest of the day.  The racing was great….so many old cars.  At one time the staging lanes were full of Willys gassers then the Mopars would take over the lanes with the Super Stock cars.  And they have a “Hot Rod” class that I may have to check out, it looks interesting.  Around 11 AM a Vette blew an oil line during his burnout and the strip was closed for cleanup for about an hour.  After that the racing continued till about 5 PM when the rain started.  Yeah it rained, not a lot but enough to shut down the track.  We worked our way back to the motel and were too tired to attend the festivities at the host hotel….we heard them though!  Grin

Saturday we got an early start to beat the crowd….wrong….the crowd beat us, must be a different time zone or something!  It took us about an hour to reach the Park and then the Constable would not let us park by the main gate as we had done the day before!  I told him I needed to be close because of my ankle reconstruction….he asked to see my handicap permit.  I don’t have one so he said I had to park in the general spectator lot.  After more conversation he said I could park in the handicap area which helped a lot.  The uneven ground, although picturesque is treacherous footing for me and I don’t need to shatter the bone grafts and/or eject the pins & bolts in my ankle.  Next year we will have the hot rod so parking will not be an issue.  We stayed in the bleachers all day….yes, all day….about 12 hours!  We moved around some but for the most part we were in the same area all day except for using the restrooms or getting food.  Oh yeah….the food.  The food vendors were great, the quality was above average for race track fare and the price was not too hateful.

The racing was the best….everything from stockers to Top Fuel.  The gassers and altered were my favorites.  I have not seen a AA/FA field this large since the 60’s!  The Winged Express was running with Bradford’s, Rat Trap, Nanook and four others.  You cannot imagine the flashbacks I was having watching those cars.  There were many gassers and the ‘Hot Rod’ class was well represented.  The junior fuelers were everywhere….I didn’t know that class still existed, they are a hoot.  The track was fouled a couple times to the point it took over an hour to clear it.  Then at 4:10 it started to rain.  And rain.  And rain some more….big rain….trash floating rain!  Dave McClelland, NHRA announcer, kept reassuring us that the remaining events would happen in spite of the rain.  Really?  The strip had 4” of water on it!

After about 2 ½ hours of intense work by the track crew the activities resumed to include a run by two jet cars!  The winners of the car show were recognized and allowed to parade down the track.  One of the winners was a primered ’62 Chevy that the owner and her dad had built.  They were driving it across the Country….  “See the USA in your Chevrolet” came to mind and the lifetime of memories they are building reminded me of the ’62 Chevy we bought for our youngest daughter when she was in high school and the fun times we had with that car.  Making memories….  After all the racing and demonstrating was complete and darkness was overtaking us….the part of the weekend that most of us were waiting for began to unfold….The Cacklefest.

The Cacklefest began in 2000 at the California Hot Rod Reunion held near Bakersfield, CA at Famoso Drag strip.  It was envisioned to be a small addition to the event but it has grown to one of the main reasons some attend the reunions.  Old dragsters, funny cars, altereds are fired up and parked on the drag strip in front of the grandstands….they idle till they get too hot or run out of fuel.  The smells, sights and sounds are memorable….and at night the fuelers are blowing fire!  It’s an encounter to be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

As usual AAA, Holley, Dynamat, Heacock, Hot Heads, SoffSeal, Justice Bros, NHRA and the town of Bowling Green put on an event to remember.  Be sure to check out the over 850 pictures and the 1 hr 27 min video I took, I know it’s a lot to absorb but it will give you a flavor of the event and hopefully you will be as excited as we are about attending next year.  And NHRA announced that they will be having a new Reunion at New England Dragway next year in September.  Can’t wait for that!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Down time

No activity this weekend....the truck is broke down again....we will be in Bowling Green, KY next weekend for the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion....but we will be in the daily driver.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The best laid plans....

We had planned to visit the Exquisite Car Club cruise in Woodbridge, VA on Friday but tropical depression Beryl took care of that!  The rain stopped, as forecasted, around 3AM so the cruise to Brunetti’s restaurant in Mechanicsville, VA, near Richmond was on for Saturday.

We left the WAWA in N. Stafford around 2PM as the cruise was from 3pm to 8:30pm and it would take us a little over an hour to cruise the 67 miles.  We chose a route that is less traveled as the more direct route of Interstates would be slammed with traffic.  Rt 2 & 301 is a great road through the flat lands of rural Virginia….never much traffic and always in good condition. 
Since I make changes and upgrades every week to the Cruise Missile it’s always an adventure when we drive it out of N. Stafford.  Everything was going fine till we were about 40 miles from home.  Then the Princess started to whine….”How come it’s raining on my side of the windshield?  The weatherguessers said it wouldn’t rain….AND WHY DON’T YOU HAVE ANY RAIN ON YOUR SIDE OF THE WINDSHIELD?”  Hmmmm?  It all happened so fast….she did in fact have liquid on her side of the windshield….it was green coolant!  I pulled over at the first opportunity to see where the coolant was coming from.  After much blotting of coolant and avoiding the running, engine mounted fan we discovered the leak was between the thermostat housing and the intake manifold.  It is O ring sealed and the O ring must have a defect and the coolant was spraying out toward the fan which was blowing it back on the passenger side firewall and hood….the hood has louvers so the coolant was blowing through the louvers onto the Princess side of the windshield….she is just so special.  It was SO UNFAIR that it went on her side and not mine….!  It also went down the side of the truck and Jim said it went on his Vette behind us!  Last weekend we had driven many miles and didn’t have any problems so I took my tool bag out for this trip….big mistake!  But since we were traveling with friends as soon as I said ‘does anyone have a 9/16 wrench or socket?  I got two immediate responses from Tony & Dan….so I tightened up the housing bolts just a little, the leak stopped and we proceeded on to Brunetti’s.  I also have to check out the radiator cap pressure….it might be over pressuring the system….something else to do this week.
We had dined at Brunetti’s a few times before after Chuck & Cindy turned us on to the restaurant and cruise years ago.  Brunetti’s food is as I have written before, better than great!  It’s worth the trip just to eat there….  And Ramona always tries to turn our cruises toward Brunetti’s or Capt. Georges whenever she thinks she has enough power to sway our decision.  Jim & Linda had not eaten at Brunetti’s but were anxious to check it out after all the good things we had said about it….  Andrew likes Italian food and was likewise anticipating the dinner at Brunetti’s.  Tony is an Italian food aficionado and had not eaten at Brunetti’s but had heard us brag about it for years.  It was to be the high point of the week for all of us.  The anticipation was thick as real Italian pasta sauce.
We cruised into the parking lot and there were only 5-6 cars?  Fay-Ray, the tune misters, was not set up?  The ‘primo’ parking spaces were available?  So we all parked, opened up the cars and started to make our way to Brunetti’s for the much awaited dinner….  They were closed for renovations!  They would be open in two days!  I stood in disbelief….reading and re-reading the closed sign.  I thought if I read it again it would change?  WOW….it was like a gut punch….almost took my breath away!  I was so disappointed on many levels.  Not the least was….we were all hungry!  We looked around to see where else we could eat.  A local cruiser recommended a ‘nice’ restaurant about a quarter mile away in the mall across the street.  The street was Rt. 301….a six lane, extremely busy, divided highway with a 45 mph speed limit….I think he wanted to lower the population a little by sending us over there?  When he saw we weren’t going to fall for that he said there was a pizza place the other direction.  It was a Stevie B’s pizza off in the distance across Atlee Rd.  Could an old person really walk that far?  Some more of the local cruisers recommended it so we trekked across Atlee Rd. and settled in for a pizza dinner in a kid infested “happy” restaurant/kids game place….whoopee!  I guess it was alright but I just ate enough to fill the hungry hole and sat back while I waited for the others to be done.  It was kind of like ordering a new Challenger SRT10….waiting months for it….going to the dealership to pick it up and your salesman gives you the keys to a Prius….yeah it’s a car, kinda cool….but not the same….
So back at the cruise the lot was filling up….evidently the ‘yellow’ memo got circulated in time….I never saw so many yellow cars at one cruise!  There were about 75 cars at the event, most parked and stayed awhile but some just cruised through.  I liked the yellow and white ’58 Chevy wagon and the red and white ’55 Nomad was neat as a pin.  The ’67 AMC Rebel SST is a seldom seen car….it looks a little like the early Plymouth Road Runners from a distance.  The yellow ’62 Corvair was a cool glimpse of our go fast heritage. 

We gathered up our stuff around 7:30 and cruised back home.  This is a popular well attended cruise that you should check out when you are in Mechanicsville, VA on Saturday night….just call ahead about your dinner plans!