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.