Sunday, November 23, 2014

With a little help from our friends.....

On October 6th this year I received a forwarded email from our friend, Fred Fann, which is the President of the Car Club Council of Central Virginia.  It was a message from Judy Popov, the Marketing Manager for Welburn Management, inquiring about a “car show” for a Grand Opening of a local McDonald’s in Spotsylvania, VA.  After a couple messages back and forth, our group, Cruisin For Heroes, agreed to assist Judy with her request.  We were to provide 12 vehicles to be displayed in the McDonald parking lot.  We were to share the lot with two Spotsylvania Sherriff vehicles that were to be used to “stuff a cruiser” with food for local needy families and a couple very large pieces of rescue equipment from the Chancellor Volunteer Fire & Rescue.  For providing these vehicles for a 5 hour display the Welburn Management Company would make a $500 donation to Fisher House Foundation.  

Since we only had 54 days to put the display together….we had to move quickly.  We had to ensure that our display grid would include only spectator friendly vehicles with friendly, outgoing owners.  The weather is always a consideration and since it would be in late November it could be cold and/or wet!  After considering our choices of vehicles/owners we decided to invite Ken & Carmen Billings with their 55 Chevy BelAir, Bill & Debbie Bell with their ’23 Model T Speedster, Rick & Kim Sinclair with their ’03 Chevy Silverado, Bill Errera & JoAnn Meneloas with their ’57 Chevy BelAir, Bill & Linda Barnes with their ’65 Plymouth Valiant, Denny & Betty Raymond and their ’34 Gatsby, Duane & Valerie Mitchell and their ’67 Mustang, Ron Lacasse & Donna Aker with their ’69 Camaro.  Then with Lou & Arlene and their ’53 Ford Sunliner, Dan & Ramona Crane with their ’55 Chevy, Fred & Debie Davis with their ’57 Dodge and the Princess & I with our ’49 Chevy truck, this would provide the rest of the 12 vehicles for the display.
After a hiccupping start in Stafford the group began to arrive at the site from all directions of the compass.  There were a couple abandoned vehicles in the parking lot that had to be removed but everyone finally got settled in for a cold day at McDonald’s.  The cloudless sky allowed the sun to shine brilliantly belying the fact that the air temp was about -258 degrees with a 40 kt wind making the chill factor about absolute zero!  We all took turns going inside the warm restaurant for coffee and burgers….then back outside to interact with the spectators that milled among the vehicles throughout the day.  The cold made it difficult to do my normal impersonation of a flightless bird….running around waving my arms and making noise.  I tried to keep my hands in my pockets if I could and keep the talking to a minimum so I wouldn’t frostbite my vocal cords….grin  Everyone persevered and I’m told that they all enjoyed the day out with their hot rod.  The fact that we earned $500 for Fisher House Foundation was not lost on anyone either, it was another good day for our Veterans and the other organizations the Welburn Group shared with!
Judy was managing the event like a Swiss watch with the official ribbon cutting ceremony beginning at 11AM that included the big check presentations.  Mr. & Mrs. Welburn and their family all participated in the Grand Opening ceremony….it was a family affair.  The Spotsylvania County Sherriff’s Office, Chancellor Fire & Rescue, Fisher House Foundation, Spotsylvania County Public Schools all received presentation checks.  The National Wildlife Federation presented Mrs. Welburn with the “Certified Wildlife Habitat” certificate & plaque and our group, Cruisin For Heroes, presented Judy with a plaque of appreciation for working with us to serve our Veterans through Fisher House Foundation.
Ronald McDonald was energetically cruising through the crowds stopping at the different activity stations, doing magic tricks and other feats of wonder to the amazement of all.  Sparky and SafteyPup, the Fire & Rescue mascots, also mingled inside and outside with the crowds while they posed for pictures.  They had a face painter working tirelessly with her magic paint while the DJ kept the mood very upbeat. 
It was a great day for McDonald’s AND the local community.  This restaurant was built to be a certified eco-friendly establishment and is managed by sensitive friendly people willing to give back to the community while they serve it too.  Stop by and check it out….I think you will be impressed.

Ft. Belvoir Fisher House

Thursday, Nov 20, 2014…..we had an appointment at Fr. Belvoir, VA.  Our group, Cruisin For Heroes, wanted to visit the Fisher House that was across the street from the sprawling Base hospital at Ft. Belvoir.  Since it was a weekday not all of our members could make it so Lou & Arlene, Fred, the Princess & I were to represent CFH for the day.  After three changes of convoy leaders (only three vehicles) we finally arrived a little late….but we had a good impromptu tour of the Base enroute to the FH….  Upon arrival we were welcomed by the facility manager, Roxanna Maria (Miss Roxy), and given an abbreviated tour of the public areas that were accessible to visitors at the time.  The House is magnificently built and decorated to feel like a home….not a house!  It seems that every need the Veteran and/or their family might have can be addressed onsite.  The facility is about two years old and is usable for any need.  The bronze plaque at the entrance says it all for me; “THE ZACHARY AND ELIZABETH FISHER HOUSE….THIS GIFT IS DEDICATED TO OUR GREATEST NATIONAL TREASURE OUR MILITARY SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN AND THEIR LOVED ONES”.
Reading and studying about a subject is always helpful….but physical immersion in the subject always leaves one with a much more visceral understanding of the subject….it is so much more meaningful to see/touch the Fisher House in person than looking at a picture in a brochure. 
We visited for about an hour then Lou & I presented Miss Roxy with the “big” check that represented the proceeds from the Valley Mustangs Unlimited car club show in August.  She said it will all help keep the lights burning and the heat on….  We feel so blessed to be the face representing all the people that donated to help Fisher House Foundation through CFH so far this year. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Veterans Day 2014

Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014….Andrew met with the Princess & I at our home and we car pooled 125 miles to Staunton, VA to meet up with the Valley Mustangs Unlimited car club.  Along the way, near Culpeper, we joined Lou & Arlene and Fred and followed them the rest of the way to Staunton.  We arrived a little early in Staunton so we made sure the Dunkin Donuts were safe to eat….it’s a public service we perform whenever we can.  When the sinkers hit bottom we drove to the nearby Lowe’s parking lot for a few pictures of the Mustang club that had gathered.  When all the cruisers were accounted for we cruised to the Local VFW a few miles away.  Valley Mustangs Unlimited had committed to donate the proceeds from the show they held in August this year to the Fisher House Foundation.  Our group, Cruisin For Heroes, was presented with a check for $3094.12 in a ceremony in the VFW hall.  It was a moving experience for all….  I was interviewed for a local TV station and I don’t think I embarrassed myself too much….  The camaraderie between the Veterans and the two ‘car’ groups was something to see and experience.  The Respect was going both ways….really cool.  It was a great day for all and especially for the Fisher House Foundation.   I love this hobby

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Another busy day....

Saturday, Nov 8 we began our adventures by attending the monthly breakfast hosted by the Fredericksburg Classic & Muscle Car Club at the Golden Corral in Massaponax, VA.  This club always has these informal get-together’s during the winter.  It’s a cool way to stay connected with each other while the hot rods spend more time in the garage than on the road.  The gatherings are open to all hot rodders; regardless of club affiliation….it really is a neat deal.  We visited and ate for about an hour then said our goodbyes and began the next leg of the day’s schedule. 

We drove our daily driver because we didn’t know what to expect at the next event, the Paws4Vets dog walk?  Two of our friends are connected to the organization and we wanted to support their efforts so for that reason we agreed to attend.   We arrived at Old Mill Park in Fredericksburg, VA to find DJ Ron already set up with his traveling music trailer and two clowns roaming around.  And….there were people walking dogs, what a concept!  Paws4Vets is an organization that matches service dogs with Veterans that need assistance that they are not getting.  The dogs can be trained to help PTSD sufferers, diabetic problems, blind or hearing impaired, as well as many other issues that the dogs unique senses can help the Veterans with.  The cost of these amazing animals can be north of $45,000…..yup!  The cost is high but the value is higher for the Veterans as their four legged companions truly make a life or death difference.  The event was held to benefit Walter who is suffering from Vietnam era PTSD that was awakened recently by a bout with Lyme disease.  His service dog, Jackson, was the gentlest little setter I have ever seen….and it is a constant companion for Walter that senses when Walter needs the attention to bring him back. 

The event was held to raise money to pay it forward so the next Veteran will have the option of having a service animal in their lives.  They had a silent auction and were taking donations for the cause.  There were about 22 dogs on the “walk” pattern and some just came to support the event.  Bill & Debie brought out the newly commissioned puppymobile with their dogs, Cooley & Riggins aboard.  I think Bill has way too much time on his hands….maybe….but then again maybe the just a little crazy Debbie encourages him too much….you decide!  Ron tried out the puppymobile but I think it had too much motor for Ron…..HO HO HO.  After the closing ceremony we all packed up and headed for Shannon Airport….

You all know I like airplanes more than hot rods….I just can’t afford a flying machine nor do I have a place to keep one….so I just take every opportunity that is presented to me to be among them.  Debie (not Debbie?) invited us to attend the re-opening of the airport with Debie’s boss, the new owner, dedicating it in a very informal event.  Informal it was….but….there were some very powerful elected officials.  Like Congressman Rob Wittman, Senator Reeves and others!  The new owner, dedicated the airport to serve the area in a more aggressive and positive way and to help be one of the economic engines that take Fredericksburg into the future. 

When we arrived we were directed to park in the overflow parking….just a little way from the entrance to the event….about 428 little miles away.  But not to worry….we were able to walk on the rolling grass field to the podium area….actually it was pitted with deep holes that were camouflaged with the long grass… was an experience to traverse and remain upright!  But walking with Debie & Fred while the Princess & I stumbled along must have been a sight to behold….but we made it.  We listened to the speeches, watched some airplanes take off & land and decided it was about time to leave.  Then Bill & Debbie arrived….hungry!  They suggested we try a new, to us; Mexican Restaurant called El Pino on Rt. 3.  We all like the south of the border food, so off we started….to retrace our steps….on the 428 mile trek back to the chuckling car.  Whew….  

The restaurant was superb….the food was great, the wait staff was very attentive….the prices were extremely fair.  We all ate too much and had enough fun that other establishments may have asked us to leave….but here….they just kept bringing us food!  I would recommend this restaurant….in fact we returned the next day with some other friends and it was like déjà, all over again with the great food and service.  You have to check it out if you’re in Fredericksburg sometime.

Eventually we headed for home….about 12 hours of fun with friends….