As it turns out, it is possible to have an MGAdventure traveling to a GT even if you are not taking the MGA! While attending GT-35 in Delavan, we made the decision with Bruce Nichols to take MGAmtrak to Reno.
The MGAmtrak Experience
Traveling by train west during the summer months requires some planning: trains fill fast. So we purchased our tickets and reserved two roomettes the week after GT-35: one year in advance.
For that next year we planned our trip and really looked forward to a relaxing journey. On MGAmtrak all seats are first class, your motel room moves with you, the windows are wide-screen, and there's surround sound, but little engine sound. In addition, it is air conditioned, and the restaurant is never more than two (train) car lengths from your room.
The week before we were to leave we confirmed: our roomettes, our reservations at the Silver Legacy in Reno and the taxi that would take us to the train station. Three days before we were to leave, and the day before Bruce was scheduled to arrive at our house, Amtrak called and informed us that our trains to and from Reno were canceled. It seems that Mother Nature decided that it was necessary for the Mississippi River to flood in Omaha, drowning the train tracks. So, now what: fly, power drive, stay home, or take the MGAs even if they were not ready for such a trip?
We called Bruce for a pow wow. The decision was to fly, which, actually, was less than the train travel (but more expensive airfare since we had to book at the last minute) and not nearly as much fun. Steve was the only person to actually ride a train on this adventure: the commuter into Chicago to get the refund on the train fare so that he could pay for the plane fare.
Bruce arrived the prior Wednesday, and now we had time to kill. So on Thursday we visited the Lake County Museum in Wauconda, IL to see the Civil War High Tech Exhibition which explained how the American Civil War influenced technology and how technology aided the Union in winning the war. We had dinner at an authentic (questionable) pub in Barrington and headed home to entertain Bruce with videos of Steve's Master's Accordion Class in Mesa, AZ in January.
On Friday we attended the Elgin Symphony Orchestra to hear Joyce Yang, a marvelously talented young lady, play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. It is arguably the most difficult piano piece ever written. We enjoyed a Chinese dinner before heading home.
On Saturday we puttered around most of the day and watched two movies before calling it an early night: The King's Speech and The World's Fastest Indian. If you have not seen either, they are both outstanding movies. The latter is an autobiography and a bit quirky, but very entertaining. We had an early morning wake-up call so we had our traditional champagne toast to our journey and then tried to sleep.
Off to Reno
On The Back
Mouse Over to Read Back
We were up and out the door before 5AM to get to O'Hare Airport. We hadn't traveled by air for quite a while so there were new TSA rules to experience. When booking the air line reservations, we also ordered wheelchair service for Bruce (who had major back surgery scheduled for the week after the GT). This shot us to the front of lines, helping us move quickly through security and board planes. This was truly helpful since we had only a half hour layover in Denver on the trip home. We got the last three seats on the plane to Denver and then after a two hour layover, we made it to Reno.
We arrived in Reno on Sunday at about 1PM and were able to check in, relax and unpack before going to explore the huge Tri-Properties which include three huge hotels, three huge casinos, many restaurants, shops and bars. While Bruce napped, Steve and Diane walked over to the Amtrak Station, out of curiosity, and noticed that all the trains were on time! Curious, since we were forced to fly. Diane checked with the station master who told her that the trains were only running as far as Denver and back.
Diane got a recommendation from someone on the plane for a restaurant in the complex — Fairchild's Seafood, so we scoped out the menu and decided that's where we'd eat, but only after having a cocktail or two to celebrate our safe arrival. The restaurant was good, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat for the NBA title. Diane was ecstatic because the Chicago Bulls had lost to the Heat in the playoffs.
The Reno Experience
Diane managed to contract a nasty cold. So Monday morning while Diane slept in, Steve and Bruce had breakfast, wondered around the hotel, and returned to the Amtrak station: Bruce is a train buff. Later they registered for the event, then greeted Cecelia and the Girls at the vendor's area.
Historic Reno Train Station
That evening's event was a reception and dinner at the National Automobile Museum (NAM). Needing a bit of exercise and fresh air, we walked over while Bruce took the shuttle. Even though there was no hospitality room at this GT, we were still able to at least say hello to most of our MG buddies.
Tuesday we attended several tech sessions and perused the vendor room again. We met Cecelia's cousin and his wife and enjoyed their company tremendously. Tuesday evening was Register night. Guess we forgot to mention that NAMGAR's GT-36 was part of MG2011 which was organized by the five MG Registers (MGA, MGB, MGC, MGT and MMM). This occurs every five years (GT-21, GT-26, GT-31 and now GT-36). Finding meeting locations was another adventure, most times. None of the printed material was consistent with meeting times and locations: so it was kind of a free-for-all.
1954 Kaiser Darin, Nation Automobile Museum
As members of NAMGAR's Board and Staff, we attended the First Timer's Reception and met new NAMGAR members. We learned a lot about Elvas from Scott Philben (see his article in V36N06 of MGA! magazine). Then we joined the rest of NAMGAR for dinner and an evening of festivities, including an entertaining talk by member Gene deRuelle. There was also an MG-centric quiz compiled by Bruce Rauch, where Steve can now claim his name was in a puzzle (ah, fame). It was unbelievably hard!!!!
Wednesday was an "on your own" kind of day so we explored Reno while Bruce sat "on the corner, watching all the girls go by." Reno has been hit pretty hard by the recession with many closed hotels and casinos. And, if you don't gamble much (like us), there really isn't a lot one can do without one's MGA. We didn't take the Tahoe bus trip because we've been there twice, for GT-5 and for GT-24. We found an antique mall and had fun looking around. Steve found a pawn shop that had a $550 accordion but decided to pass it up (aren't four accordions enough?). We had scoped out a Vietnamese Restaurant across the street from the hotel where we had a great dinner with Bruce that evening. We then joined the auction and evening's entertainment at the Silver Legacy Convention Center: the MG Band, already in progress .
Hail! British Flagged Tonneau
Thursday was car show day. We hopped the shuttle to a knoll at a pretty park, viewing 612 MGs, including 81 MGAs, Magnettes and Variants. It was a cool and breezy day but sunny. We enjoyed seeing the pre-war MGs, including Bill and Sarah Richey's police car, complete with mannequin. We also liked the Union Jack tonneaus on two As from Michigan — very clever. Then there was the in-need-of-restoration MGTD with 10,000 original miles for $10,000. There were many lookers, including Steve, but we don't know whether there was a serious buyer. Diane had the opportunity to meet Samantha Lee, a young contributor to the Octagon, newsletter of the MG Owners Club — Bay Area, NAMGAR Chapter. Samantha's articles are always very well written and from a younger generation's point-of-view. At noon there was a flyover with a photographer who took pictures of the field for purchase later. After a quick lunch, we took the shuttle back to the hotel to get ready for the banquet. We wondered how the registers had the time to tally the votes and be ready for the 5PM receptions and awards. But, they did.
Diane with Author Samantha
We walked across the street to the Reno Convention Center for the reception and banquet. Each register had its own reception where they presented the 2nd, 3rd, etc. place car show awards and any other register specific awards and business. NAMGAR presented a new award this year, the annual NAMGAR Chapter GT Attendance Award which is given to the chapter with the most attendees at the GT. Needless to say, the Michigan Rowdies didn't win. Then on to the banquet hall for the banquet and first place awards. There were also photography awards and craft awards, though we never did hear what the crafts were. Our table decided that the three winners were for Aircraft, Watercraft and Kraft Dinner.
Reno at Night
There was no Friday morning goodbye coffee, and with no hospitality room, we were very negligent in our farewells. We met up with Pat Orrino at the airport and enjoyed hearing about his fabrication projects for the Twin Cams. He's also contemplating the restoration of a cello, so we have the beginnings of a chamber group within NAMGAR. Our plane rides (even the hour layover in Denver) were fairly uneventful, particularly if you enjoy the back row of the airplane. We made it home safely and very tired at about midnight and spent the rest of the weekend recovering and reminiscing about this year's adventure.
We look forward to driving to Dayton next year to GT-37 being ably managed by Dave and Lois Gribler who have attended many GTs and are known for their "power" drives. We hope to leave Mother Nature at home (wherever she lives)!