Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another season in the book....

We have a traditional hot rod run we do here in Stafford, VA on the second Saturday in December that’s called Santa’s Helpers Toy Run.  It’s our way of participating in the local USMC Toys For Tots program.  This is the fourth year Dan has planned the event and last Saturday was “T” day!
Friday evening Dan and I discussed what the weather guessers were forecasting for the next day so we could determine what kind of vehicles to use on the run.  They were forecasting sleet, ice, snow, rain, hurricane, tornado, Derecho, the early arrival of Daylight Savings time, earthquakes and a general armageddon that would leave our earthly orb smoking and hurtling through space producing the end of the world as we know it.  So….we decided to err on the side of safety and use daily drivers instead of hot rods….   It would be safer if any of the prognostications of the weather weenies came true.   We contacted everyone we could via Facebook, email and phone calls to advice of our decision.  The object of the day’s activities was to provide as many toys for the USMC Toys For Tots campaign as we could while mixing socially with friends that we may not see till March when the new season begins.  We wanted to make the run with the hot rods but we also wanted to return home with all the parts on the cars that we left with!  So most of us drove our daily drivers….most of us….not all, just most.
Around 10AM people began congregating at the Chill’s restaurant in N. Stafford, in Stafford Marketplace.  The manager, Derek, is enthusiastic about the gathering and the mission of the day….Toys For Tots.  Derek opened his store early to accommodate our schedule and had his staff fired up to make the beginning of our event a positive one.  He also arranged to have 20% of money that was spent on food during our visit, to be donated to Toys For Tots!  Our group mingled for a couple hours and then it was time to go….  No bad weather yet….we were still ahead of the end of the world!
One of the things Dan sets up is to have the Stafford County Sherriff’s office provide an escort for our band of cruisers and I’m told that it is one of the high points of the day.  In years past I would leave Chili’s about half an hour earlier than the rest of the group so I could run to the USMC museum and take a video of the group as they arrive.  But this year since we were using our daily drivers I would leave with the rest of the group and would be able to experience the “escorted” cruise….it was very cool.  Dan’s son, Deputy Crane, met with the cruisers in the commuter lot to explain how the escort was going to work and how we had to drive.  It’s always better to explain things so the procession moves effectively and safely.  It was only a 6 mile cruise to the museum but thanks to the Deputies it was smooth and trouble free.
Some of the car clubs from the north met us at the museum so there were about 32 cars total….which was down a lot from last year’s 87 vehicles….no doubt due to the abovementioned end of the world prediction….  But many people had purchased toys so they gave them to the people that were going to attend the event so in the end we contributed a massive amount of toys for the program. 
After dropping off the toys most of us gathered in small pods to talk and catch up with friends we haven’t seen in a while.  Some visited the displays of the museum that helped us understand what it means to be a US Marine.  The rich history that is on display chronicles the exploits of the Corps….it is truly something that one must experience.  Duty, Honor, Country….  Something that is sadly foreign to most in D.C. nowadays. 
Some stayed till Mr. & Mrs. Santa arrived at 3PM but most without small children left by 2PM or so.  The Princess and I said our goodbyes and cruised north for lunch at Cracker Barrel with some friends.  While going through Dumfries we got caught in the tail end of the Christmas Parade that was winding down.  The Princess got to practice her ‘Prom Wave’ out the sunroof of our car….you have no idea.  After lunch we motored home and I guess the weather weenies were wrong…. again…. Surprise?  Although it did rain a little on the way home so I guess it was a good decision to not bring out the hot rods….
This ends the 2013 season for us and I will start posting again in March.  Please check out the pictures of this event at;

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cruisin....just for fun!

Sometime in the late summer of 2009 a couple of local friends were trying to figure out how to lengthen the cruise season and decided to make a country cruise sometime after Thanksgiving.  Most of us had some kind of “event” planned for Thanksgiving that involved family but usually by Saturday the family was gone so we decided to make our run the Saturday after Thanksgiving….and so it has been since then.  It has evolved from a drive in the Countryside with a nice restaurant at the end to visiting a vehicle restoration shop or museum, then a meal to end the day.  All this while cruising the lesser traveled roads in the magnificent Virginia countryside.  On past cruises we have visited the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum, that is part of Luray Caverns in Luray, VA.  We also visited White Post Restorations in White Post, VA.  Then last year we visited the Vintage Motorcar Company in Inwood, WV.  This recipe seems to be working because on the first Over The River And Through The Woods Run we had 17 special vehicles on that inaugural run.  This year we had 57 cars cruising around Virginia!

We try to make the start point as centralized as possible as vehicles are coming from all over Virginia and a couple from WV.  This year we had a group of Corvette drivers from MD!  We drove 30 miles and some drove 90 miles….to the start.  Some did not want to make the trip to the start point, but joined in along the way….that’s ok too.  They just don’t get the information package that the people do at the start.  Based on the loop we were going to travel this year our “centralized” starting point would be Opal Virginia.  Opal is not much more than an intersection of Rt. 29/17/15.  With two large gas stations, a couple fast food eateries, Clark Brothers Gun Shop, a truck stop and a really neat barbeque restaurant.  We would use the McDonalds/Sunoco location to launch our adventure this year.
Our group of three vehicles left the Eustace Rd. WAWA at 7:30 and cruised the 30 miles to Opal.  We arrived at Mickey D’s about 8:15 and the other cruisers began arriving soon after we were parked.  We all milled around talking to old friends and making some new old friends….the group kept growing till we were 40 cars!  Ronald McDonald kept the natives happy and entertained till it was time to launch….the adventure began precisely at 9AM.
Our first destination was the Liberty gas station in Luray, VA which was 49 miles away.  We wound our way through the countryside and picked up another 9 cars when we reached Rt. 211.  Then up to the top of the first mountain from Sperryville.  Next we proceeded under Skyline Drive as the road begins its downward spiral to the Shenandoah Valley and the town of Luray.  Cruising through the valley past Luray Caverns to the first stop at the Liberty gas station, where we picked up another 6 cars from the Valley Mustangs Unlimited Car Club from Harrisonburg, VA.  There were two other local cruisers waiting when we arrived….we were now 57 cars!  As soon as everyone was ready we left on the next leg of the cruise, a 22 mile jaunt to Broadway, VA and the W.W. Motorcars & Parts shop.
The town of Broadway is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains between the Shenandoah National Park and the Monongahela National Forest….it is a very picturesque area.  Broadway is a quaint little town that is somewhat typical of this part of Virginia.  The many towns on old Rt 11 that parallels I-81 are like this too.  One of the attractions for this year’s cruise were the old comfortable stores near the restoration shop that have treasures just waiting to be discovered by travelers.  Some of the ladies get bored with the “car” stuff and like to shop….so this year we made sure the ladies would have an alternative to sitting in the shop office waiting for the guys to get done.  The Princess found a cool sign that has ‘Over The River And Through The Woods’ painted on it….the name of the cruise….what a concept!  She had to have it.  It could have been much worse!  I’m ok with a sign….just glad she didn’t find a “special” collection of Princess Bling….  In case you haven’t noticed, we stay away from the big city Bling stores….the little craft shops are ok….grin
The restoration shop is a sprawling affair that has been expanded over the years as the need arises and contiguous buildings become available.  The main part of the shop was a grain elevator many years ago and the owner tells me the whirling grain has left tracks in the wood structure in places….how cool is that?  And when the fire department needed to expand their facilities the owners annexed the old fire house building across the street to become a new/old part of the enterprise.  The whole complex just blends into the town and keeps the small town USA ambiance intact!  Except for the left side of a Nash Metropolitan that is attached to one of the buildings…..grin  Although I have seen something like that in Wardensville, WV.  One half of a 55 Chevy resides on the side of a carwash in that little town!
The owners, Mr. & Mrs. Wenger, graciously opened their shop on Saturday, even though they are usually closed on Saturday.  The owners and a small army of their employees took groups of 10 or so around the complex and showed off the skill sets they have available.  They had someone in every building all the time; they got us in and out by 1PM!  It was quite impressive.  You can tell the expertise and skill they have for their craft by the examples they are working on or have completed.  You can tell the pride they have in what they do by their willingness to share their shop with us.  You have to remember we are a tough crowd….most of us have done or are doing what they do every day!  If you are contemplating a project you might consider contacting them;
Dave W. from the Mustang club had arranged a local TV station to film our departure from WW Motor Cars and accompany us on the next leg of our adventure.  We said our goodbyes to the staff at the shop and began our 17 mile stretch to Harrisonburg, VA and the Wood Grille Buffet Restaurant.
Everything was going according to plan till we got in Harrisonburg and we were going to turn onto Rt. 33 E.  There was no sign identifying Rt. 33!  My GPS was telling me to turn but I didn’t see a sign.  We had been tricked a few times by the GPS before so I kept going straight.  Dave W. then took over the lead; since he is from the area and he wasn’t lost!  We twisted and turned our way to the restaurant but some of the others had the same experience of not seeing the Rt. 33 sign.  That is one of the pitfalls of running with so many people through cities and all the traffic lights.  You will get separated and all of a sudden find yourself the leader of the pack.  If you are prepared that’s ok….if not then you scramble for the directions and try to come back into the fold.  We had two small groups get separated.  Raymond, from the Mustang club, talked one of them back to the restaurant, the other found it’s own way back….whew!  That is one of the things that stresses me out….people getting lost.  We now have a group of people that will be making sure that doesn’t happen again next time.
The managers of the restaurant had reserved a room for us so we could dine together as a group…..that worked out great.  The TV crew filmed the presentation of a $1000 check to Fisher House Foundation from the Valley Mustang unlimited Car Club.  It was given to our group, Cruisin For Heroes, and we will forward it to Fisher House Foundation.  Besides enjoying our special vehicles the reason we cruise is to raise awareness and money for Fisher House Foundation.  It was very much appreciated that the Mustang club voted to make such a large donation to Fisher House….  Their club challenged other clubs to step up and support Fisher House Foundation too.
After an hour of sampling the irresistible massive selection of the buffet, I think everyone’s ‘full’ button had popped out.  So….we waddled out to our vehicles and said our goodbyes.  Then assembled to begin our 42 mile cruise to the last stop of the day near O’Neal, VA and the Sheets gas station at the intersection of Rt. 29 and Rt. 230.  Some of the cruisers took different routes home, whatever was best for them.  That’s the way we roll….  The cruise over the mountain near Massanutten was uneventful and we soon arrived at the last pit stop intact.  After fueling and saying more goodbyes, we cruised the last 68 miles home.  What a day.
I’m reminded that although we own the vehicles we drive….we do share them with all that see them whether we intend to or not….they evoke memories they want to recapture….it makes their life just a little bit better.  I love this hobby.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Special Day for our Veterans....

Monday the Princess & I cruised 20 miles south to Fredericksburg, VA and the Golden Corral Restaurant.  The Fredericksburg Classic and Muscle Car Club partners with Tony, the manager of Golden Corral, to provide a display of special cars to enhance the Veterans experience while they dine at Golden Corral.  As does many restaurants, Golden Corral offers Veterans a free meal on Veterans Day.  It is a small but moving way to say thank you for your service to the many local Veterans.  Tony also gave free meals to those that brought their special cars….that was a classy touch!  You can read more about Golden Corral’s program at;

There were about 20 cars in the display that the cruisers brought out to share.  Since parking space is limited 20 cars is just about right.  The day was sunny but a little chilly….it IS November after all!  The club arranged for our friend Coach, to DJ and for Butterfli the clown to paint faces on the kids.  I think some of the “kids” were a little….tall.  I wonder if they go trick or treating too….hmmmm The fellowship at these kinds of events is wonderful….no competition, no stress…just be by your vehicle so the customers and spectators can interact with you.  It’s a fun time sharing your hot rod passion and another way to say ‘Thank You’ to our Veterans.  I know everyone enjoyed the day….giving back….I love this hobby.


Monday, October 28, 2013

The end is near.....grin

Saturday at 8AM the Princess and I left the WAWA in N. Stafford, VA and cruised 31 miles to Manassas, VA.  Our objective was the Burger King near the airport so we could be part of this year’s Bull Run Street Rodders, Fall cruise.  This club puts on a cruise every year in the Fall that we always try to attend as they are an experienced club that knows the value of a lazy drive through the Virginia countryside.  And that they always end their outings somewhere that has good food adds a bonus to the day.

When we arrived at BK there were already a few cruisers in the lot and more began arriving as some of us grabbed a bite to eat inside.  Since the event is as much of a social thing as a car thing, most of the guys significant others come with them.  I know some of the ladies don’t care much for car deals but they will go for a ride in the country to find somewhere to eat….almost as good as shopping….almost!  Since some of the ladies rarely accompany the guys, this social time allowed us to get reacquainted with old friends and meet new old friends….always a good thing.
Shortly after 9am we all woke up some of Detroit’s finest of yesteryear, and headed W. NW to Stephens City and the Butcher Block Buffet….about 57 miles.  Driving around in a vehicle that is old is always an adventure….but some of our rides are almost 90 years old….that’s Ninety!  Every creak, shake, noise or vibration adds to the experience of the day.  We truly do not know if we will come home under our own power or ignominiously on a roll back.  But since we are in a group of 15 + vehicles we feel safer….I think it’s a herd mentality.  The collective knowledge and skill that is represented in our little traveling car show can usually fix anything well enough to proceed or return home.  That sanguine feeling is something that’s missing when we travel alone….so we prefer traveling in a group most of the time.
Traveling the Virginia countryside, in the Fall, can be fraught with surprises.  Not the least of which is meeting another fellow sojourner out for the day with their prized example of coach craft from yesteryear.  We met a young man traveling opposite from us in a pale green 1952 Buick.  As is customary we all waved and smiled….a knowing acknowledgment that we were doing something that few in our hurry up, hi-tech world will take the time to do.  Enjoying the day riding around in a touchable reminiscence of yesterday!  Some need to get acknowledgment of their handy work by competing for awards.  Some hide their rides in garages and trailers.  Some brave the rock chips and bug splatters to enjoy the rides the way they were meant to be enjoyed….by driving them!  While we cruised the byways we picked up a few other cruisers that folded in with us as we kept rolling toward Stephens City.
We arrived at our destination to find that the club had secured permission to park our rides in the adjacent business parking lot so we wouldn’t be subjected to the bumps and bruises on our vehicles that often accompany parking with non-car people traveling in their daily drivers.  The Comfort Inn has done this in the past and it’s an example of local businesses helping each other get through their business day. 
Soon after we secured the vehicles we all descended on the Butcher Block Buffet.  The Bull Run Street Rodders had negotiated with the managers of the restaurant for a great price for all of us and a semi private room so we could be seated together.  That kind of pre planning is crucial to a successful event.  If you can’t find enough to eat at this restaurant then you just don’t want to eat.  Everything they prepare is exceptional and that it’s a buffet means you can eat enough to last till Thanksgiving…grin The service for our group was as always, top shelf. The wait staff is attentive and so helpful its difficult not be impressed.
Too soon it was time to depart….we had to get home before the deer came out!?  One of the collateral benefits of the restaurant location is that it allows us to take many different routes to end up in the same general place.  So as the parking lot emptied the cruisers were going like a starburst in all directions….really cool.  We motored home by a different route to give a new look to the day as we headed back to Stafford….I love this hobby!
Sunday we left to attend the last show of the year at Family Diner in Fredericksburg, VA.  We like to frequent this eatery during the year and always try to support Monk & Debra when they have a show.  We got a late start so we arrived around 11:30. And why did we get a late start?  I read a warning on Facebook that the time was going to change on Sunday….Ok….that means we could get some extra sleep.  But the Princess couldn’t sleep so she got up early to change all the clocks.  Now at our home….we….have….clocks.  Grandfather clocks, mantle clocks, microwave clocks, coffee machine clocks, stove clocks, kitchen cabinet clock, computer room wall clock, family room wall clock, garage clock, three car clocks, two cell phone clocks, two computer clocks, a projection clock in the bedroom (don’t ask), an alarm clock, a Princess watch clock….we got clocks.  The changing of the time at our home is a bi-annual event of epic proportions.  So when I started getting the warnings on Facebook about the time change I made sure the Princess was alerted.  In years past we were passive about it….we would look at the computer or cell phone in the morning, that is supposed to automatically change, and say….good grief, the time changed and then kick into clock changing mode.  This year I decided that we would be pro active and change BEFORE the morning so we would wake up and the time would be right.  A plan!  Without getting into too much detail….I told the Princess the wrong weekend!  I didn’t find out till AFTER she changed most of the above mentioned clocks.  It was not a happy time in the Shotwell hovel….angst just doesn’t adequately describe the mood.  A noxious blue cloud of very UN Princess like verbiage directed at me, the minion, might be a little closer to what happened.  In the end the Princess announced to me that the clocks were NOT going to be changed back….we would just deal with it this week….OK, I knew that!
So when we arrived all the lots were full and we parked on the street, which was ok as we did not intend on staying for the end of the event.  There were about 70 cars in attendance that varied from near new to a T-bucket.  Even Wyatt traveled from Annapolis with his DeLorean to be part of the day’s festivities!  I really liked the yellow and blue ’51 Chevy Pickup….a very nice ride.  The Virginia Stockers car club assisted with the registration and kept the event moving in the right direction.  The event was to be a Halloween deal so some of the people dressed up….Kandy and her zombie was over the top scary, I think Kandy liked the chain part, grin.  Monk & Debra looked like they stepped out of a Grease movie set.  Too much fun!?  There was also a band, Black Jug Relic, which belted out the tunes while the munchkins wore out the moon bounce!  It was a fun event and a fitting end to the show season around here.  There will be a few more cruises like our Over The River And Through The Woods Run November 30 and the Toys For Tots run December 14 and don’t forget the Veterans Appreciation display at Golden Corral on November 11.  We’re getting close to the end of this season….the Princess is starting to whine already….it’s going to be a very long winter me thinks.   

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It's what we do....

Saturday the Princess and I started out from the N. Stafford WAWA at 5:15AM….then met Dan, the homeless guy, at the Lake Arrowhead 7-11 a few miles out Rt. 610.  Dan then led the way while we cruised 32 miles to the Culpeper Regional Airport and their 14th annual aviation extravaganza called AirFest.  This is the 5th year our group, Cruisin For Heroes, has supported AirFest by providing a special vehicle display for the 6000-8000 spectators to wander through on their way in and out of the AirFest event.  We usually start to plan for the next year’s event a couple days after the current event happens….so for a year we have been planning this year’s display.  Last year the folks at the airport asked us to increase our presence by about 100%!  So all year we have been inviting special cars that come with special people that can interact with the spectators at AirFest 2013.

This year we also had help in the form of financial assistance from Chrysler of Culpeper that would change the makeup of our display a little.  We also had invited special Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs to show the evolution of the Generations of each mark.  We also had some very special race cars and motorcycles booked.  We had to arrange special unloading and parking of the trailered vehicles that would be attending.  Each member of CFH has been planning for the 2013 AirFest event for a year.
This year we also had a last minute welcome participant in the form of Ray & Terry’s Team Fisher House race car.  They had been planning on attending another event and at the last month they were able to be at our event.  Since CFH’s main charity is Fisher House Foundation this was a very welcome addition to our display, in fact it would become the centerpiece of the display!
It began raining here about October 7th and was continuing as we left on a dreary Saturday the 12th.  We had a couple meetings in the last month with the airport folks, Tanya & Tony, to determine if we could still have a display if it rained and where we could set up.  Since the weather guessers were all over the board as far as the Saturday forecast we really didn’t know where we would be till the morning of the event…at 6AM….in the dark….in the rain.  We met with Tony shortly after we arrived onsite and he found us an area on the ramp where we could be safe and strategically located so most of the spectators would walk near our display on their way to the rest of the event.  Without Tony’s assistance the event would have been a total bust for us.
As previously instructed, the 7 brave souls that shook their fist at the rain and decided to drive their special cars to the airport began arriving between 7:30-8:00.  We set them up next to Chrysler of Culpeper’s cars and near the Fisher House racer of Ray & Terry.  Everyone pitched in to set up canopies, chairs, coffee & donuts then settled in to endure the long, wet, cold day.  There were 48 people that thought better about subjecting their vehicles to the deluge that was unfolding before them and stayed home.  We had instructed everyone that their safety is the most important thing to us and if they thought they might jeopardize themselves or their vehicle by attending the event....we were encouraging them to please stay home….there is always 2014.  And in the end if all 55 people decided to come out and play in the rain we didn’t have anywhere to put them….it would have been a chaotic mess.  So I’m glad we had 7 cars instead of 55!
I began photographing what I could in the rain and the others began talking to the spectators as they trickled into the event.  This event it always the high point of our year…we really like to share our hobby with the spectators and tell them about Fisher House.  So many people do not know what Fisher House does for our Veterans and it’s our mission to try to fix that.  The point of the Team Fisher House race car is to pique interest in the car and while talking with spectators about the car, share about Fisher House too.  We were a little disorganized most of the day but Lou & Ray still managed to interact with many people that had no idea what Fisher House is…that’s a win!  It is uplifting to see a parent giving their very young kids money to put in the Fisher House donation barrel….it’s a teaching moment for us all!
Because of the playground fight in DC that caused the shutdown of our, OUR Government there were no FAA Inspectors available to oversee the event’s flying.  It was a moot point because the weather ceiling was maybe 2” most of the day so nothing flew while we were there.  Some of the vendors stayed home and other planned displays were also absent.  Those that showed up tried but in the end the incessant rain prevailed.  There was about 30 aircraft to see tied down on the ramp….not the least of which was the P-51 and the Yak-11…two neat allies from WWII.  I would have liked to see them both fly.
About 11AM the airport announced that there would be no airshow because of the weather.  We kept going till noon then decided to call it a day.  Everyone worked like a machine to take down our little encampment and make sure everyone’s stuff got back where it belonged.  We made sure we didn’t leave any trash and just that quick it was over for us.  It was a good day to follow through on the commitment we made to the airport and Fisher House….we hope that a few more people now know what Fisher House does for our Veterans.
There are just a few more events we will attend this year, one on November 30 and the last on December 14….so any additional entries to this blog may be limited to those dates….and then we will begin our adventures for 2014 in late March.  It's been a fun ride so far this year....