GT-27 Charlottesville, VA USA

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Dash Plaque

Wanting to avoid any roadside tech sessions this trip, Steven spent a number of hours on PRNCZ, rebuilding the front-end, refurbishing the braking system, and some good overall cleaning and polishing. When the morning came to leave, Steven, Diane, and PRNCZ were ready.

The travel plans were simple: on the first day meander to Three Rivers, MI, to stay with our long time buddy and travel companion, Bruce Nichols, the first night. The second day motor through Indiana and part of Ohio, stopping for a couple of museums and anything else that looks interesting. The third day cruise through Pennsylvania in a round-about fashion, ending up in Charlottesville in the early evening. After the GT, of course, the plans changed from meanders: the most direct route and drive-like-hell to be back in time for work Wednesday morning. Alas retirement, where art thou?

Auburn & Canton

The first day was that leisurely meander to Three Rivers. Bruce had dinner planned so it was just sit around, drink champagne, and catch-up with family and motoring news. Everyone's heads were nodding early in anticipation of an early start on the second day or maybe it was just due to aging.

Auburn Cord Musuem
PRNCZ Dreams of Being Inside

The crew did get up early despite the remnants of alcohol in our bloodstreams. We pounded the pavement to a local diner for breakfast. The walking invigorated us. We knew by the end of the day, we all would have a monumental case of dead-butt.  Our goal for the morning was Auburn, IN, to tour the Auburn Cord Dusenberg Automobile Museum. None of us had been to the museum since GT-7 and we felt that after 20 years it was time to return.

For our GT routes, Steven works with computer software to plan the route. The goal is to avoid four-lane limited access highways and find those unusual and generally unfrequented points of interest along the way. Steven outdid himself that morning. We viewed every corn and bean field between Three Rivers and Auburn. The drive to Auburn was sunny and cool. Not like what it would become that afternoon.


Auburn Cord Musuem
Frank Lloyd Wright's Crosley

When we arrived at the museum, we found that things had changed considerably from our last visit. The museum had fallen on some hard times, but was eventually rescued by a non-profit group of investors.

The main entrance was moved to the side from the original entrance in the front. There was more parking, and the whole second floor had been revamped to display more of the history of the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg era. There are a number of cars besides the obvious,  including Frank Lloyd Wright's Crosley. Somehow we just cannot picture FLW driving this thing around Taliesin. This museum is a must if you get anywhere near the area. Steven thought that the Duesenberg should be dropped in favor of  "Auburn, Cord, MGA." Diane always carves a little time off of viewing the exhibits to make sure that she makes it to the gift shop in the time allotted. Her efforts were rewarded on this occasion. While rifling through a small basket of sale items, she found a lapel pin in the shape of an MGA Grill for $1.00. The only one known to exist in all of Auburn, IN!

Canton Car Museum
Driving by Moonlight

Our next stop on that hot day was the Classic Car Museum in Canton, OH. This relatively small car museum is a real gem. Not only are there many wonderful cars displayed, but the settings are equally as interesting, with a whole assortment of antiques displayed from the era for each car. While there, we decided to take another classic roadster out for a spin. Bruce caught the action (picture at right) as we were just pulling away.

That evening we pulled into Fostoria, OH to spend the night. Believe us when we say "there ain't nothing there." Even the glass museum was so-so. But we did pass by a Cruise Night at the local Wendy's and decided to crash the party. As typical of Cruise Nights, there were a multitude of Rods and classic American iron. Ole Blue and PRNCZ both felt way out of place so we called it an early night after a Mexican dinner.


Our goal for the next day was Altoona, PA, a real destination for train buffs like Steven and Bruce. But on the way there we stopped in Indiana, PA,  for a quick (we got there 45 minutes before closing) tour of the top floor of the local library: Jimmy Stewart Museum.

Jimmy Stewart Museum
Steven's New Friend, Harvey

It was a true trip down nostalgia street (or Fairfax and 19th Streets) to meet up with Harvey the Pooka.  If you are a classic movie nut and are interested in the stars, then you should put this on your list of places to go. Steven thought he knew quite a bit about Mr. Stewart. He found out he didn't know as much as he thought. Steven and Bruce really got into reading all of the signs, letters, and awards, while Diane took the requisite pictures and bought the requisite souvenirs.

After this museum, we pressed on for Altoona where it was time for dinner. We were hungry for pizza, but the local pizza parlor was across a busy four lane highway, so we opted for Red Lobster since it was on the right side of the road and within walking distance. A must after a day of DBs!

It was in Altoona that we ran into the scourge of vacationers and retirees on the road. You're up at 6:00AM. At 8:00AM you've finished breakfast and are rarin' to go, only to discover that everything you want to see doesn't open until 9:30 or 10:00 o'clock. We thought we'd start our day at the Horseshoe Curve Historical Site. We got there about 9:00AM — sorry closed until 10:00AM. So we drove back into Altoona to start the day at the Railroader's Museum.  The Altoona Railroader's Museum was both a delight and a disappointment. The exhibits cover three floors and document the importance of Altoona to the Pennsylvania Railroad system. All the exhibits were well thought out and executed. A must see is the 45 minute film that documents the Altoona Works in its heyday.

Altoona Museum
Diane Berates the Pennsy President
About the Museum's Hours

It was all documented on film, and seeing them pick-up and move entire steam engines was amazing. Steven was disappointed in the grounds. Other than the building housing the museum and another that contained a local business, nothing of the Works remained. The Pennsy engines and cars that were on the grounds were also in a pretty sad state of repair.

Altoona Museum
Bruce Examines a Diorama of the Curve

From the museum, we drove back to the Horseshoe Curve Historic Site. Constructed entirely by manual labor in the middle 1800s, this is one of the few passages through the Alleghenies for trains. It is a span of track rising at a constant grade  in a horseshoe configuration and spanning three mountains. Even today it is considered a strategic resource by the U.S. government in addition to it being a historical site. A large percentage of goods shipped by rail  travels via this curve. To get to the curve level on the mountain you travel via funicular train to the viewing area. In this peaceful park setting is where you wait with the rest of the train buffs, outfitted with binoculars and cameras, for trains to pass by. If you're not into train spotting, there is a small museum and gift shop, which explains the site. All three of us had a great time with the dioramas. And also eating ice cream cones while we waited for a train to traverse the curve.


GT31 Postcard GT34 Postcard
On The Back

Mouse Over to Read Back

We pulled into Charlottesville about 9:30PM. We opted to stop for dinner before we hit town because we knew once we hit the hotel, we'd get tied up with friends in the parking lot and never get dinner. And we were hot and HUNGRY! So the next morning we met everyone we missed the night before at check-in. Diane loves this part of the meet because it's where old friends reacquaint. Cars come later.

The trip in the morning to Monticello and Michie Tavern were certainly highlights of the area and the activities. Steven and Diane visited Monticello about 25 years ago and were surprised that old Tom had installed air conditioning while they were away. Although it's not authentic, even the most die-hard historian had to be grateful for the cool air. It was brutally humid that day. Tom never fails to amaze us; we greatly enjoyed revisiting his brilliant ideas. The Michie Tavern venue was also very inviting with many trees, a steam auto display, and, alas, more air conditioning. And the food was very good, too. Throughout the day, we crossed paths with a national steam motorcar group also rallying through the area.

Monticello's Back Door

Was it that same night that we were truly amazed by the many talents of our host, Bruce Woodson, on the saxophone? What fun we had with his band. Diane bought one of their CDs and patiently waited while each member signed it. Another fun evening with our friends, the Pederson family, and also Isobel and Howard Fletcher . We lost track of Bruce, but we think he was helping someone with his car in the parking garage.

The technical sessions were very well attended this year. Of course, our favorite techie, Mike Ash, was a featured presenter as was Bob Vitrikas, who gave a very interesting talk about the Sebring cars. Several of the Sebring owners/drivers were in attendance and gave running commentary to Bob's. Pete Alberda presented his solution to curing the rear main bearing oil leak. Even if you couldn't come to grips with the pricing, his presentation provided additional information for one to stop and consider for all the other opportunities for oil leaks. Once home, using Pete's suggestions, Steven discovered a previously unknown leak in PRNCZ.


Three Sebring MGA Racers Grace the Event

The car show was held at the very picturesque location of Keswick Hall Club Estates, howling hounds and all. Again, as every year, many beautiful cars and a great display of the Sebring cars. When rain threatened, we headed for the gazebo where we chatted with a group from the East, including the Niners.

The banquet is always a special ending to a special gathering and group of friends, old and new. We enjoyed sharing our meal with Robbie MacKenzie and his friend, Helen. Great to catch up! We were fortunate to sit next to the table where the new inductees to the Mac Spears Award were located. Congratulations to Mike Ash, and his wife, Jennifer. A sad moment during the festivities was a moment of silence for the very recent loss of our great friend and leader, Mac Spears. After Bob Vitrikas' heart felt tribute, we were all left to reflect on our own personal remembrances of a very special man, who will be dearly missed by us all.

Roadside Diner
Sunday's Breakfast Stop

Is it time to go home already? Early Sunday morning we headed for the Alleghenies. We met up with the Oregon group as they were also making (a much longer) trip home. We will be visiting their website soon to learn about their itinerary since we're in the thinking stages for GT-28. We found this little diner (Shorty's) in no-place, Virginia and enjoyed breakfast with almost no one except ourselves.

Several hours down the road we heard an interesting sound from the back of PRNCZ. Steven thought it was flat tire, but it turned out to be loose lug nuts on a rear wheel. Phew! that was a quick tech stop.  Thirty more miles and there was a definite clanging under the hood. Steven pulled off just in time: one of the fan blades was ready to give way. Visions of GT-6 with Virgin.

 He was able to twist the blade completely off, but then the shaking from the imbalance was really nerve-racking. There was a convenience store and gas station about a mile up the road. Time for a serious tech session. With the the rad drained, loosened and the fan off, we had to decide how to handle this situation. As Steven said, we either run without the fan, or we find a hack saw. Ya, right. Well, the store had one behind the counter.

Broken Fan Blades
After One Hour Under the Hood

An hour later we were on the road to Lancaster, OH, and dinner with our good friend, Dave Ream. We thought for sure that he was already home, waiting for us with several cool ones. But no one's home. So we turned on the AC, got a cold glass of water and started to think about a shower when here comes Dave. He had a flat tire on his trailer just outside of Charlottesville and had to wait for Sears to open up on a Sunday morning. Dinner was at the local Olive Garden where we compared stories over drinks and seafood.

The next day we left Dave early and moved on to Columbus, OH to have the brunch of our lives with our Russian friends. Bruce had a ball, eating food from his childhood. Of course, Steven and Diane knew what to expect and were ready. A little vodka at 10:00AM never hurt anyone, right? After about 3 hours of degustation and beverages, we were on the way west again. After several horrendous rainstorms (yuck, put the top up?) forced us off the road, we parted with Bruce just west of Fort Wayne. Several hours later we were all home safely (no dinner for any of us).

We're already considering the trip to Oregon. We know we're going. Those wineries do have a way of beckoning. But, will we fly, will we train, or will we drive?

Stop back next year for the exciting answer.... End Column