After 2425 miles, 85 gallons of gas, 6 quarts of oil, two happy people and one pooped MGA fuel pump: we arrived home after an MGAdventure to GT-29 in Cromwell, CT. Cromwell was the home of J&E Stevens Company, manufacturer's of toy cast iron banks and cap pistols. We'd been out this way before. GT-11 (1986) was in nearby Norwich. That year we received the distance award for having driven 2690 miles. Obviously, that wasn't a straight line route.
Packing It In
We started out the previous Saturday at the crack of dawn to avoid Chicago traffic. Five hours later we were in Three Rivers, MI, where we stopped for the day and picked up our annual traveling companion Bruce Nichols. This year Bruce was traveling with his youngest daughter, Robin, so there was plenty of preparation to be done before our departure the next morning, including the traditional champagne and brats bon voyage party.
Sunday we put in a marathon day ending up in Oil City, PA, to spend
time with friends who recently retired there. Along the way, we encountered
our first MGAdventure. We were noticing a lot of "road apples", but had seen no
horses. Then, all of a sudden, we were surrounded by Amish buggies: an Amish traffic jam! They were in front of us and behind
us — trapped at the speed of Amish: three miles per hour.
The Amish bus, a hay wagon pulled by a team of horses and loaded with lawn chairs, was full of kids very discretely giving us the "thumb's up." We waved and decided it was time to ease by or we'd never reach Oil City.
The Oil City stop turned out to be alucky one since these were the days of torrential rains. We just parked the 'A's and visited the area in modern motor convenience. Not too far from Oil City is Titusville: the location of the Drake Well Museum. There you can learn about the first oil drilling operation in the United States and the associated history of the area. Steven was presented with a bottle of genuine Pennsylvania crude oil. Paying souvenir prices, that bottle of oil would have made a barrel worth roughly $7100! Tuesday morning, we bid adieu to our friends and began the next leg of our journey.
We continued on through some very beautiful countryside, including the Allegheny Forest. We tarried for a while at the Grand Canyon of PA. This day presented us with two more MGAdventures. The first was a cranky fuel pump. We were happily driving down these scenic roads when all of a sudden PRNCZ just decided to quit. Coasting to the side of the road, we did the obligatory things like open the hood and "ooh" and "ahh" at the engine. Pulling the starter fired her back up, so we chalked it up to fate and continued on. After another 75 or 80 miles, it happened again. This time Steven turned on the ignition and asked Diane if she could hear the fuel pump — nada! Bruce's 16 oz claw hammer was closer than Steven's 2 oz peen. Steven gave it a whack, it started clicking, and we moved on.
The other MGAdventure concerned our map. Steven uses mapping software to plan the trip. He dutifully excluded dirt roads and fire routes. Somewhere in PA we needed to take LR 4052. We figured this wouldn't be a difficult road to find, because it's a right turn in a town where the road we were on goes in, the road we were on goes out, and the only other road is at a tee intersection. Turning right and traveling a piece, we come upon a sign that said "Road not maintained after November 17th. " No problem, it's July. The next sign said "Pavement Ends 500 feet." And sure enough, the road turned into a two-track dirt.
We pulled into a driveway to check the map just in time to see a logging truck, with HUGE logs come barreling down the two-track. We quickly came to the conclusion that LR stands for "Logging Road," not "Local Road"! After a sigh of relief and a few moments going through our directions and scratching off the "LR" roads, we were off again.
Prepping for Fuel Pump Work
Once we reached that evening's destination, Tunkhannock, PA, and after a Chinese buffet (notice the priority), the right rear wheel came off, and Steven tried to burnish the points with a ten dollar bill.
Wednesday morning we had breakfast at the "Filling Station" in town, surrounded by all kinds of cool automotive memorabilia. After a couple of preventative whacks on the fuel pump with the hammer, we were off through some more gorgeous countryside: eastern PA, the Catskills in NY, and across CT. The Catskills were particularly interesting: we noticed a lot of Kosher kitchens, including the "Mozel Wok Restaurant." It wasn't lunchtime — we didn't stop. But it's on the list for the next time we're in the area.
On The Back
Mouse Over to Read Back
There were a couple of wrong turns and reroutes before we eventually arrived in Cromwell at the Radisson, welcomed by the traditional "NAMGAR" GT banner. After a shower and a change of clothes, we attended the First Timers' Reception: 46 first timers, including Bruce's daughter, Robin. It was also an opportunity to greet our friends from the Board and Staff . The evening ended in the Hospitality Room where we caught up with other NAMGAR friends.
Entrance to Car Show
Steven washed PRNCZ soon after arriving at the hotel. That meant we didn't have to get up as early Thursday morning for the drive to the car show at Lyman Orchards . The day actually turned out to be overcast but no rain. Many beautiful cars, members we'd not seen in a long time, including our hosts from GT-11, John & Mary O'Connor. Jon Rubel of the Eastern New York MGA Club was a wonderful host at his MGA set up, with all kinds of MG related things, including a bar of "Octagon" soap. After the car show we went back to the hotel to have Mike Ash sign our copy of the NAMGAR Tech Sessions book. Steven shopped with Cecilia of Scarborough Faire and Todd of Clark's Spares. That evening we drove to the Connecticut River for a dinner cruise, beautiful sunset and dancing.
Robin, Diane, Steven & Bruce
Friday we headed to Mystic Seaport and spent the day learning about seafaring. Steven convinced Diane for a sail in a small sloop on the Mystic River. While aboard, we passed the Sabino which we had sailed back at GT-11. We had lobster rolls for lunch and returned to the hotel tired and sunburned, but not too tired to have dinner with Hal Roeth, MGA! magazine editor.
Steven Learning the Ropes
Saturday Bruce and Robin headed off to an Indian Museum, while we met work colleagues for breakfast at the Cromwell Diner. Then we visited a Trolley Museum. The museum wasn't quite as expected, but we had fun riding a couple of vintage trolley cars: a 1910 trolley from Rio de Janeiro and a 1936 trolley from New Orleans, which had a supporting roll in the movie A Street Car Named Desire.
Waiting for the Trolley
It was a hot sunny day, so we took our time and moseyed back to the hotel in time to clean up for the banquet that evening. We shared a table with Cecilia Bruce, her mom, Rebecca and her aunt, Nikki, Bruce and Robin. We were pleased that Hal Roeth received an APEX award for Publication Excellence for MGA!. The Renkenbergers, NAMGAR co-founders, received the Mac Spears Award. We were disappointed that they were not there to accept it.
We were also excited to receive a distance award: it didn't quite match the one from GT-11, but it was, nonetheless, very much appreciated. After a quick tour of the Hospitality Suite, we packed and hit the sack for an early departure with Hal Roeth to Berne, NY, near Albany. We had managed the entire trip to this point without having to erect the hood. But a mile from Hal's house, the skies opened up, and we had a quick "top-up" exercise. We arrived drenched, but enjoyed hot coffee and wonderful cranberry scones that Hal's lovely wife, Monique, had prepared for us. We enjoyed their hospitality, learned about Monique's goats, teased the German Shepherd, and viewed Hal's HO train setup.
By morning the rain had stopped, and we were off across the state of NY. It was so tempting to stop at all of the antique shops, especially across the top of the Finger Lakes. We were already looking forward to NAMGAR at the Glen. En-route to Niagara Falls, we stopped for 30 minutes at the Jell-O Museum in LeRoy, NY. It was an interesting little museum. Although Jell-O is no longer made in LeRoy, the process is discussed through displays and photographs of the process. Now Diane understands why she won't eat America's most favorite desert.
Diane Delivers Jell-O
We crossed the border just north of the Falls and drove into St. Catherine's where Diane had made AARP (in Canada, go figure) reservations at a motel close to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We dined at an Irish Pub, where there was no concept of Southern Comfort. Just shepherd's pie and Guinness. Diane had a really hard time getting a decent SC Manhattan in Canada! All that travel and a good meal made the entire entourage extremely tired — to bed!
The next morning we drove to Niagara Falls. Being morning people, we were ready for a hearty breakfast, but the Falls is a tourist venue and most restaurants didn't open until 9:30AM. By then, Diane was in serious caffeine withdrawal. We photographed the Falls and the surrounding gardens to add to the hundred other shots in our collection. And, we finally found a restaurant for breakfast: did some shopping, more site seeing, then started driving towards Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Niagara Falls Monument
Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of those arts & crafts towns with lovely flowers and expensive store fronts. There we attended a matinée performance of Pygmalion at the Shaw Festival. Afterwards we moseyed to Old Angel Inn Pub, which Len & Judy Bonnay introduced us to many years ago, for supper. Robin and Diane had shepherd's pie again, and we all shared pickled herring. On the way, we ran into another NAMGAR member who was attending the theatre but had not been at the GT: David Harrison. We dined and drank together. We're looking forward to seeing him at the Glen. His vintage MG factory race car was restored by Bruce Woodson and was featured at GT-27 in Charlottesville. After dinner, Bruce drove Robin back to the Falls for a look at the Falls at night, and Steve and Diane whacked the fuel pump and headed back towards St. Catherine's. Early the next morning we were pleased to see Ole Blue in the parking lot next to PRNCZ. We packed the cars and took off towards Sarnia. The back roads were great, but it got progressively hotter.
We were outside of London, looking for a place for lunch, when a white MGB-GT passed us going the other direction, horn honking and a hand frantically waving as it passed. Steven pulled over figuring this was another MGAdventure — maybe the car was on fire. It turned out to be Tim Coyne, truant from work. He invited us to the house, passed out a few beers, and fired up the barbie for us. Sue also showed up. We chatted about the GT and all things NAMGAR. We could not have planned that rendezvous!
Clouds were welling up in the west, so we bid them adieu and headed off towards Sarnia. The Blue Water Bridge is a beautiful structure to drive across, overlooking the St. Clair river where it meets Lake Huron. But not for forty-five minutes in 90+ degrees in blazing sun. Once we'd crested the bridge, Steven turned off the engine, and we coasted to the Customs wicket. Besides saving petrol, it prevented the engine temperature from reaching 220 degrees. Through customs, a stop for fuel and a frostie, and back on the road towards Three Rivers.
About an hour from Bruce's the skies opened up, but this time the top was already up from having to drive in the brutal heat and unrelenting sun. It rained so hard we couldn't see past the wipers. We were forced to pull over and let it all pass. When we got to Bruce's, the road in front of his house was still torn up, muddy, and we couldn't get to the driveway. We drove around back and walked through mud and long grass in the pouring rain to his house. We were so exhausted from all the excitement that we truly collapsed that night.
Thursday we had breakfast at a local dive, thanked Bruce for his hospitality and headed to Chicago. That was one looooooong day: 96 degrees, 95 % humidity and bumper to bumper traffic. Luckily, Diane had convinced Steven to keep the top up: that was a saving grace. We got home mid afternoon, hit the shower and headed out for the last restaurant meal.
A great big thank you to the Connecticut Nutmegs — we had a great time. We are already planning our drive to Michigan for GT-30. The fuel pump has been replaced and tested, and PRNCZ is ready to ramble. We're planning to take The Badger across Lake Michigan to avoid Chicago traffic so that we can arrive rested and ready to party! See you there. We'll be manning the Registration Table.