Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I love the smell of Avgas in the morning....

Saturday the Princess & I left the WAWA at 10AM to begin our 32 mile cruise to Culpeper Airport….we have done this twice in two weeks!  The weather was so very different from two weeks ago when we endured the gloomy, wet day at AirFest.  But today was picture perfect with deep blue skies, puffy white clouds and a gentle breeze….and we were going to be among airplanes!  How could it get better?  Along the way we met Lou & Arlene as we completed our cruise to the airport.

Some of you may know that my Dad was a fighter pilot….he flew P-51 Mustangs in WWII.  I never pass up a chance to be in the company of one of those artifacts of American ingenuity and exceptionalism….   The Princess has her red ’94 Mustang GT that I bought her for our 30th wedding anniversary and she wanted to have a picture of it taken next to a P-51 Mustang….to connect in some way to my Dad’s Mustang.  We rarely take her Mustang anywhere but today was going to be special because the event was going to have a P-51 present for pictures.  Unfortunately the old Warbird wasn’t up to the task on Saturday.  Remember the old Mustangs are all over 60 years old, some more than that.  It takes a very intense and costly maintenance program to keep the old birds in the air….and at $2.5mil per airplane it’s not something you just wing it with (no pun intended).  Not to mention, as my Dad would say, “they never left one up there”….and with an oil leak you just don’t want to take a chance turning the old Mustang into a glider….understood!  But I was thoroughly bummed out….and unfortunately it messed up my day altogether….I’ll get over it….but….

About 58 cars & trucks attended as well as a gaggle of bikes….which included David’s beautiful purple Harley.  My favorite ride on the ramp was the red ’47 Chevy AD pickup.  The owner had just about every period correct option installed on it….that included a cigarette dispenser!  And he was not bashful about explaining everything about it.  Wyatt brought his DeLorean from Annapolis and Duane brought his very yellow Mustang from Culpeper.  The 1960 German Ford Taunus with the SBC was in the field with many more friends and their rides.  I like the Military encampment that was set up….it added a certain ambiance to the event.  The food served in the Commemorative Air Force hanger was very good and the restrooms were kept clean and stocked throughout the day. They brought the Yak and a TBM out for pictures with cars then later a T6 was added for another backdrop.  There was also a T6 flying and I saw a C140 launch….that is the kind of airplane I learned to fly in.  It was a good turn out when you consider there were three other shows running within 40 miles!  I will always vote to attend an event that has airplanes….oh yeah.  They are going to have more events like this next year....we will be there!

It’s getting near the end of our season….just a few more events and we rest the truck for four months.  Our Over The River And Through The Woods Run on November 29 then a week later our Toys For Tots run on December 6 will finish the season….

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Here comes Fall....

Friday the Princess & I cruised to VA BBQ and the weekly gathering in Fredericksburg, VA.  The nights are getting cooler and darkness descends on the neighborhood earlier every week.  And we get to set our clocks back in a couple weeks….whoopee!  One of the neat things about fall is the sunsets.  The air is always clearer and colors are in the sky as well as the leaves.  And so begins another magical season for us to marvel about.

About 30 cars came out to enjoy the evening with us and the conversation topics ranged everywhere; from cars-food-kids/grandkids-spouses-political-social issues-weather-you name it!  When you are with friends anything is fair game to talk about….we may not always agree….but we are almost always agreeable!  Fred won a VA BBQ, anatomically correct, pig trophy….so now he has something else to cherish from his adventures with Maxine.  Earlier in the day I had switched the water valve on the heater hose under the hood of the truck to “winter” position….so the Princess was contented with the cruise back home.  It was cool enough that her private little summer vacations she gets, wasn’t enough to keep her comfy.  She is so high maintenance.

Saturday we left Stafford, VA and cruised 35 miles to Opal, VA to the start point of our second Roaring 20’s cruise of the year.  Five of us left Opal and were joined by Bob as we passed Culpeper.  When we arrived at the first pit stop in Madison, 38 miles from Opal, three more joined us for the last 5 mile leg of the cruise. 

We had lead a cruise to this museum/collection nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in late June this year.  This museum is a one of a kind deal….you will find amazing artifacts of the American automobile industry displayed everywhere.  It showcases the beginnings of our automobile culture through unique vehicles and ends with some oddities of the 1950’s.  And as the name implies, the majority of the display is from the 20’s & 30’s.    You will also find an unbelievable amount of automobile memorabilia and other mechanical artifacts from that era.  Stationary engines, powered farm implements, chain saws, lawn mowers, a few bicycles can be discovered among the vehicles.  You will also find other antique items like stoves, dishes, dolls, furniture, models, sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, typewriters....you just have to see it….which you can’t in one visit!  It is not a polished, temperature controlled, antiseptically clean display, leave your white gloves home.  It is as if the founder, John Dudley, just brought everything in and parked it last month….then left.  John & his wife, Clarissa, have passed and the museum is now in the capable hands of their daughter, Martha.  Since we plan our cruises to raise awareness to our charity, Fisher House Foundation, Martha graciously agreed to not charge us for the visit.  We received $55 in donations to Fisher House….it was a good day!

I cannot amply describe the contents of this museum but you can go to the site I have stored the pictures I took….and maybe….maybe….you can get a flavor of the experience.  It is a sensory overload….you cannot see everything in one visit, trust me on this!

After we finished the visit some of us began our next 25 miles on the way to Wood Grille Buffet in Charlottesville, VA.  This restaurant always accommodates us on our cruises in this part of Virginia.  Their food is yummy and they give all us seniors a discount….just because we are so pretty!  The staff is attentive and thorough.  Their parking lot is huge so we never worry about parking lot damage to our rides when we eat there.  After we all ate too much we loosened our belts and contemplated our 85 mile trip back to Stafford.  The amazing thing about the way we like to cruise is the destination is not the only high point of the day….it’s the journey too!  The day was perfect, deep blue skies, white puffy clouds, dark green grass and moderate temperatures….it really was perfect!  Driving around on the Virginia byways is enjoyable in itself….  The Princess is getting much better at recording our adventures in photos….you have to check out the images….go along with us….be part of the fun….I love this hobby.


Pictures from June; https://www.flickr.com/photos/53063560@N05/sets/72157645479673783/

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…..it 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…..in 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.