It's early June, 2013, and PRNCZ is still not ready for our MGAdventure to Asheville, North Carolina and GT-38. We, unfortunately, missed GT-37 last year due to school commitments and other obligations : this was not going to happen this year. Spring semester was over mid-May, finals were completed, recitals were done, grades were in; so, Steve, what's the hold-up? PRNCZ not ready:why? Do we have to bleed the brakes? How about taking her down off of the jack stands. Arghhhhh!
Finally, it's June 7, 5:30AM, 51 degrees, and we're all ready to go. Thankfully, the top was still up from the shake-down cruise the weekend before otherwise we would have frozen. Driving through rush hour traffic, we headed down route I-355 to the end, avoiding Chicago, and then began a leisurely drive to West Lafayette, IN where we were meeting Bruce and Robin Nichols at Frank Lloyd Wright's Samara, named for the winged seeds found in pine cones and used as a design element. This house was commissioned by John Christian.
Back in March Diane had contacted Samara to arrange for a tour that was to include a conversation with the original owner and client, John Christian, who still lives in the house. Diane had done all her homework, reading about the house and preparing questions to ask Mr. Christian, especially about his interactions with Mr. Wright. Well, the evening before they left, Diane received a call from the docent who said the tour was canceled due to a "maintenance problem." Drat! But we decided to still meet Bruce and Robin at the house. That way, Diane was able to take a few exterior pictures (no signs of any maintenance problems or maintenance workers!).
A Jewel Box
From Samara, which is located near Purdue Stadium, we drove to downtown West Lafayette to view Louis Sullivan's (Frank Lloyd Wright's first employer) Purdue State Bank, called a jewel box, because of the pretty stained glass windows and gold leaf decorations. It is one of eight Sullivan banks in the Midwest. Located at a very busy intersection, Diane took pictures while we were stopped at a traffic signal. At least she could cross this off her list of sites.
We stopped for lunch at "Shellie's Cafe Too" where a guy told us that fifty years ago he had an MGA while he was in Paris. Cool! The top came down earlier in the day but went back up again as we got close to our night destination, Evansville, IN — a little off route, but the closest town with a motel. Thank you, GPS. Dinner was at the Texas Roadhouse Restaurant, along with tons of teenagers who were in town for softball and baseball tournaments. It was a noisy dinner.
On To Tennessee
Jack Daniel's Tour Pass
The next day dawned clear and warm. Our destination was Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, KY. We got there at 4PM with the last tour at 4:30PM, lasting for an hour and a half. Because we still had several more hours on the road after the tour, we abandoned the tour. Since the last time we were there (GT-16), they had added a really nice Visitor Center with a small museum, so we quickly toured that, and then Steve informed one of the docents that he's a Squire so could we just visit the Squire's Room since we didn't have time for the tour. Next time you see Steve, ask him about his experiences with squiredom and Jack Daniel. We were warmly greeted, received Steve's souvenir shot glass and on-the-rocks glass, signed the guest book, and were on our way to Chattanooga for the night. Robin really wanted to taste Jack Daniel (a "first" for her), but the county is dry, and that's the way they want it. We had dinner at Abuela's, a really good Mexican Restaurant, located down the road a piece from the motel at the local mall. Thank you, again, GPS.
Just a note about the GPS. We typically do not use it as the source of our route for the trip. The route comes from prior planning using another piece of software which generates the final set of instructions, much like the AAA trip-tic of old. We use the GPS to get us out of "jams" and to locate restaurants and other attractions once we've reached our destination for the day. We're typically not interested in driving around thirty minutes trying to find something that we know exists, but don't have any directions to. And even with a GPS, it can be iffy, at times.
Sunday morning was warm and HUMID. We're in the south! We had a quick breakfast at the motel and were back on the road. We had beautiful roads along white water creeks. At one point we pulled off at the Ocoee Dam, a TVA project, to watch rafters run their rafts down to the water. Unbeknownst to us, we parked in an unloading zone, so when Steve and Diane returned to the car, Bruce and Robin were gone, ejected by the local gendarme. Down the road we went. Soon a car pulled up along side of us and asked if we were traveling with a blue MGA — he was still back at the dam. We pulled off and waited. No cell service. Pretty soon Ole Blue was in sight. At what appeared to be less than an hour from the Crown Plaza, we came upon a detour sign. Out came the GPS, and after a harrying ride on a four lane, we arrived at the hotel at 2PM and waited until 4PM for our rooms, while it poured buckets outside. We greeted all of the early arrivals and enjoyed a welcoming cocktail in the hotel bar. Diane picked up the registration packet and was charmed by the GT-38 souvenir, a pottery egg separator made by a local artisan: a little piece of North Carolina to take home. Nice touch.
On The Back
Mouse Over to Read Back
At 6PM, we joined Bruce and Robin in their room for the official GT champagne toast. We were pretty tired, and the restaurant that Diane read was just behind the hotel was actually quite a long walk (sushi would have been a "first" for Robin), so we decided to eat in the hotel which turned out to be a good idea. Robin tasted her first mussels, one of several "firsts" for her on this trip. (BTW, she loved them.) Tom Fant found us and delivered our new, lime green Michigan Rowdies Chapter polo shirts to wear at the Monday night Hospitality Room as the official evening hosts. See the picture of Steve in his polo and Dick Lunney in his orange HOST shirt. Surely, a sight for sore eyes!
After a night of rain, Monday morning promised more of the same. After a breakfast buffet at the hotel, we got ready to take NC Route 151 to "The Peak of the Parkway" for lunch at Pisgah Inn. It was a truly beautiful (hairpin) drive, but rather cold and rainy. We met up with Allen and Florrie Bachelder (Mr. Magnette) on the way up the drive and had a most enjoyable lunch with them, talking MGs and eventually music. Who new that Allen is actually Dr. Bachelder with a music degree?
Pisgah Beet Salad
There was much discussion about music theory and how to manage shaky, nervous fingers during a performance. Also, who knew that Pisgah Inn had such fabulous food (see Diane's beet salad) and views — just like the magnet we got last year as a teaser for the GT! There were several MGAs in the parking lot when we arrived, and we soon found out that these smart people spent Sunday night at the lodge. The ride back to the hotel was equally enjoyable, just breathtaking views and good MG roads. The rest of the day and evening were devoted to the Welcome Orientation, BBQ Dinner with Bluegrass Music and Hospitality Suite hosted by the Michigan Rowdies.
At the Biltmore
Tuesday was Biltmore House Day. Thankfully, the rain had decided to move on, and the day was warm and gorgeous. We decided not to participate in the huge photo op, so we meandered over to the parking lot from where we were shuttled to the horse stables for breakfast. The horses were gone, and the space had been converted to a restaurant and shops. We had a lovely meal with excellent service. Then it was time for the tour. We opted to purchase the audio tour which was a great idea as it added quite a bit more history to the tour. Here is a photo of us in the house. You can read about the Biltmore House in our GT-19 report.
Mazureks at the Biltmore
After the tour we walked through the beautiful rose gardens, had an ice cream and drove to another area on the property with a nice museum and, of course, more shops. We finally had enough sightseeing and went back to the hotel to relax and find out how the shuttle to downtown Asheville worked. Driving around Asheville in the A is not fun because of the hotel's location so we, along with Bruce and Robin, took the shuttle to downtown for dinner at Mela, an Indian Restaurant. At Diane's recommendation, Robin tried the tandoori chicken (another "first" for her) and decided that she really likes Indian food like the rest of us.
Wednesday was Car Show Day: another beautiful day. We drove over early since PRNCZ had not yet been washed or vacuumed. The show field was on the hotel property near the zip line and included a nice air conditioned facility with clean potties - and food catered by the hotel. There was breakfast and then there was lunch with lots of bottled water to go around. We all appreciated these amenities. Bruce's oldest daughter Amy and husband Geoff drove up from Anderson, South Carolina to spend a few days. Diane spent most of the morning talking with her and other people and taking pictures while Steve did the same but in the opposite direction, as usual. The official photographer used the zip line to photograph the field - can't wait to see those pictures. This year the NAMGAR Board decided to split the 1500 and 1600 car classes into disc wheels and wire wheels. We guess that the classes just got too big; well, those cars were the ones that British Leyland made the most of. In the afternoon Steve checked out the tech sessions while Diane checked out the vendors.
Poking Around Ashville
The Grove Park Inn
That evening all the Nicholses and the Mazureks had dinner at the Grove Park Inn's Sunset Terrace restaurant. We'd stayed at the Grove Park Inn on the way to GT-19 and wanted to relive the experience. It's a beautiful Arts & Crafts style building with furniture and accessories to match. Since 2013 is The Grove Park's 100th birthday, there were several "packages" listed on their website, but, alas, too pricey and with amenities the Mazureks do not enjoy, such as golf and horseback riding. So the decision was to watch the sunset at the Sunset Terrace restaurant while enjoying a lovely meal, although there was no dance band for slow dancing like at GT-19. The place was crowded with families and corporate events. It's no longer the romantic spot that Steve and Diane enjoyed 19 years ago. Also because of the centennial, the Grove Park was undergoing massive renovations, including a new wing just in line with the sunset. Diane suggested on their website that they change the name of the restaurant since the sunset was no longer visible. Too much restoration/renovation is not always a good idea - cars included. We had a great time, reminiscing with Amy, about how we met over 45 years ago while Bruce was the Chemistry teacher at Steve and Diane's high school. We soon adjourned to the lobby bar to listen to some cool jazz before heading back to the hotel.
A British Mannequin?
Thursday was kind of a free day so we decided to do a little antiquing. We drove into Asheville (grrrrrr) and found antique row. We didn't find too many things that we couldn't live without or transport home in the MG, but we did find one item of interest. Probably three years ago while Steve was the editor of MGA! magazine, he was asked by the NAMGAR Board to do a regalia shoot. After Diane tried her hand (or body) at modeling, Steve decided that a mannequin might be a good investment. Manny became a member of their household until Mike and Sandy Hickman became responsible for regalia: Manny was relocated to Kentucky. Steve and Diane noticed at the subsequent GTs that he appeared very lonely so they went on a quest to find him a girlfriend. And they found her at an antique shop in Asheville. They were very tempted to find a way to transport her back to the hotel, but there was one slight problem: she was an expensive date, at the tune of $830! Steve did find a "treasure" for Diane though: piano sheet music titled "LaDetroit Waltzes." One can only envision Cornelia Vanderbilt dancing with one of her many beaus at one of the many balls held at The Biltmore House or at The Grove Park Inn.
Soon they were back at the hotel contemplating the banquet but not before Diane made a trip to the vendor room to vote for her favorite craft: Bill Gallihugh's Arts & Crafts style mantle clock made with MGA dials. Well, the vote was the day before (is that what the schedule said?), but Bill managed to win without her vote anyway. Diane put in her order for Christmas. Bill hadn't yet decided to create a production line, but Diane wanted to be first in line if he did. After a round of cocktails, the banquet table was full: Bruce, Robin, Amy and Geoff and also Ken and Kathy Nelson. We received appreciation awards from NAMGAR for our years as Editor and Copy Editor. We also received a 1000 mile dash plaque and one night's free lodging at the hotel. To top off the wins, the Michigan Rowdies won an award for having the most chapter members at the GT. Many well deserved trophies were awarded.
Soon it was time to learn about next year's GT: Ottawa, Ontario. We both have been to Ottawa on business trips but will now be able to really enjoy the sites of this lovely city. The Vancouver Chapter is planning a C2C (Cruise to the Capitol) across country and is inviting cars to join them anywhere along the way. Guess what? Diane has already signed up for the email distribution. There was much talk about routes and a possible stop in Stratford to enjoy a work by the Bard. This discussion continued in the hospitality suite hosted by the Ottawa Chapter. The "teaser" magnet is already affixed to PRNCZ's dash. We're all excited. Steve has already planned a route, and Diane is trying to figure out how to get Manny's girlfriend to join the festivities.
Passed at the Stoplight!
Friday morning the Mazureks said good bye to everyone at the hospitality suite while enjoying that first cup of coffee and a chocolate donut for Diane. Bruce and Robin were ready to go, so we quickly got on the road to avoid rush hour. Steve picked a route touted by motorcyclists: it was lovely but a little too winding for Robin's taste. We stopped for breakfast at the Mountain Diner in Hot Springs - the best grits we've ever tasted. Was this another "first" for Robin? Not sure. In the afternoon, the closer we got to Frankfurt, KY, the more beautiful the sights became: we were in horse country. There were some magnificent horse farms along the route, even when the map took us off course. Thank you, GPS. Dinner was at the local Cattleman's Restaurant where we enjoyed a free appetizer because we were staying at the Fairfield across the road.
Saturday morning was again sunny and beautiful. We parted ways with Bruce and Robin just north of Columbus, IN. After a stop at the local antique mall (no girlfriends for Manny there) and a quick lunch at Max & Erma's, the long road home began. An unusual sight along the way was a Model T racer on its way to Lincoln, NE. It sped by us so fast that Diane barely had time to get a picture. And we thought we had a long way to go! Home at 8:30PM and our own bed.
As mentioned earlier, the plans for Ottawa are in the works: a few, minor repairs to PRNCZ, a few more grueling music semesters, a trip to The Netherlands to see the tulips next spring on a river cruise, and the Mazureks will be looking for the C2C group and hopefully joining them probably somewhere in Canada for the trek to GT-39.
Thanks to Carol Shamonsky, Jim Ferguson and their team for a well executed GT. They thought of everything! OK, they could have done a few more rain dances to keep the rain at bay! Or maybe they did too many!