We planned to attend GT-43, hoping of course, that the traveling weather would not be a repeat of GT-42. We were correct; the blistering heat did not repeat. It did, however, rain upon departure and upon return, sometimes torrentially. Though Richmond is a paltry 850 miles from home, we took three days to get there: we're retired and didn't want to rush things. This also gave us an opportunity to stop for any interesting sites or repairs.
Our travels were primarily over two-lane state and county roads. The entire route, out and back, had been pre-planned and loaded, by day, into our new GPS. Most of the roads going promised to be shady, following small rivers and passing through a lot of forested land. Our return trip would be less so, because we planned to spend extra time in Dayton, OH, and wanted to minimize road time. So the routes were more direct and yet off of limited access roads as much as possible.
Saturday morning Diane was awakened at 4AM by pouring rain, thunder and lightning. The weatherman promised that the storms would pass through Chicagoland by 7AM. Steven was still snoring, so Diane rolled over to catch a few more Zs. She woke again at 6AM to still more rain, thunder and lightning. Oh, joy! This time we got up, hoping things would settle down by the time we planned to leave — about 10AM. We took the VW and headed out for breakfast, hoping. We ate breakfast, hoping. We drove home, hoping. By 10:30AM, we had lost all hope of a dry departure, put up the bonnet on PRNCZ, and left. The rain appeared to be subsiding; or, was it still hope lingering?
After a terrifying miss with an idiotic SUV driver, we headed south on I-355. By the time we arrived at Rte. 6 and headed east, the rain had stopped, and the roads were dry. In Crown Point, IN, we stopped at a McDonald's for a health break and a bit of lunch. The sun was finally out, and it was 73 degrees, so we dropped the bonnet. Three young men sitting in their car watched us. When we finished, Diane asked them how we did. They said, "OK"; but, they were actually waiting to hear the engine start!
Leaving Crown Point, we passed the Legacy Field Sportsplex main entrance and were surprised to see Seward Johnson's statue that recreates the famous photograph of a 1945 Life Magazine photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt of an embrace between a sailor and a nurse celebrating the end of World War II in Times Square, New York City. We pulled over to get this picture to the chagrin of a long line of cars behind us. Oh, well....
We eventually connected with US-30, the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Highway, and followed that towards our destination for the night: Fort Wayne. In retrospect, we're happy that the day's drive ended up enjoyable.
Charging-Up For Day Two
Charging-up for the Day
The next day we woke up to dense fog and 64 degrees. After gassing up, we stopped at the Tesla Charging Station so PRNCZ could get a good charge for the day. We neglected to do this last year in Tonopah, NV on the way to GT-42, and our air conditioner failed.
We worked our way down to US-33 and continued our south-easterly travels towards OH Rte. 29. At the Indiana/Ohio border the odometer turned to 72,000 miles; this was since the restoration was completed in 1994. That meant that in PRNCZ's lifetime, she has traveled in excess of 149,000 miles - over half-way to the moon!
By 11AM the fog had cleared so we stopped at another McDonald's in Urbana, OH to take a break and shed our jackets.
In Circleville, OH we stopped for a photo op at a mural which celebrated 100 years of the Pumpkin Fest in 2006. In the late 1970s we visited the Pumpkin Fest with the Reams and the Nicholses. Everything conceivable was made with pumpkin, including pumpkin fudge to which Diane gave the thumbs down.
Driving along OH Rte. 69, a really twisty little road, we came upon Johnston Covered Bridge and Park. Another nice photo op. We even spotted a baby beaver — now that's cute!
As we approached Ohio's Hocking Hills, as promised, the roads became tree lined and covered, with a lot of twists and turns. Soon we were in Logan, OH, where we stopped at the Baymont Inn for the night. Our room was not quite ready, but we were thrilled that the antique mall that we were going to visit was right behind the motel, within easy walking distance. As was a Glass Center, an Ice Cream Shop and the Old Dutch Restaurant where we had an enjoyable supper that evening. While we were in the antique mall, there was a horrendous downpour, but since we were inside and PRNCZ was tucked away for the evening, we just spent more time looking at collectibles.
Not One of the Better Days
In the morning we walked out to a really wet car. The folks at the inn lent us several old towels, but for naught. It started raining again and we were forced, again, to put up the bonnet: bummer!
Wiper Repair Time
Off we went in the rain with occasional downpours. During one especially heavy downpour on a wooded two lane back-road, the wipers quit working. While they are almost totally worthless anyway, in a downpour, not having them is even worse. We were forced to drive while peeking at the road between the beads on the windscreen. There was no place along the roadside to pull off and effect repairs.
Eventually we were able to stop at the Marathon Food Center in Little Hocking, OH, which had an overhang where Steven could work on the problem without having to deal with the rain. He went inside, charmed the ladies, and was given permission to park for awhile. Out came the schematic. Steven was almost convinced the switch was bad, but he has been fooled before. After confirming that the wiper motor was working properly, a blind reach behind the dash revealed a dangling wire. Out came the switch, and ALL the wires were refitted. After an hour we were off again. This was, of course, after meeting everyone in town who stopped by to watch two old people working on an equally old car and regale us with stories of MGs, or other old vehicles once owned by them, or their fathers, or their brothers or their old girl friend, or …. Diane noted in her journal for next year: pack and use RainX.
The rain hadn't stopped so we enjoyed (NOT!) hydroplaning and dodging pot holes. We took a break in Weston, WV, hoping the rain would subside: not to happen.
At 3PM we arrived in Elkins, WV, looking for the Hampton Inn which was at the very tippy top of a l – o – n – g hill access drive: yes, PRNCZ, you can! The saving grace that day, along with fixing the wipers, was finding an excellent Mexican Restaurant, Don Patron, just a bit down the road. Diane's Margarita and Steve's beer tasted really good (the food, too). On the return to the hotel, Steven stopped for gas and Diane walked to Big Lots for a few items and then Goodwill to find a book to read for the rest of the trip: War and Peace on her Kindle just was not going to cut it.
A Brighter Day
The next morning greeted us with two pleasant surprises: a really nice breakfast at the inn and SUN! Bonnet down, a few photos, and we were on our way down that long hill, on the way to Richmond.
We drove through some pretty countryside: streams, wooded lanes, gaps and hollers. There were many 7% grades, a few 10%, but, thankfully, no 26% like Yosemite National Park on the way to GT-42, last year. It was at this point, after a lot of engine ping, that Steven determined the gas purchased the evening before was either bad, or, the station had put E85 into its standard gas containers. At the first opportunity, we stopped for some high-test gas.
James Madison Estate at Montpelier
We drove over Skyline Drive in the Smokies and soon saw several signs for Montpelier, the James and Dolly Madison homestead. We had some time, so we decided to pay a visit and maybe enjoy a "spot of tea." So on a whim, we headed off-route. Our GPS went crazy: we didn't take the time to reprogram. After a few, "please make a U-turn at the first opportunity" announcements, she got over it and replanned the day's route for us.
What a lovely place. Montpelier is not as grand as Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, but equally as lovely. The estate is comprised of 2700 acres in Virginia's Piedmont, within site of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We enjoyed walking around, especially through the walled garden and around an active archaeological site. If you recall, dear Reader, James Madison was the fourth President of the United States, from 1809 to 1817, and was known as the Father of the Constitution. And, everyone remembers Dolly Madison confections. We truly enjoyed our detour to this lovely estate.
We arrived at the charming Virginia Crossings Hotel & Conference Center, site of NAMGAR's GT-43, at 4:30PM on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 after 853 miles. There are three main buildings on the property, joined by a walkway underground for use during inclement weather, which we did not have. We checked into our room in the Monroe Building. Parking already was at a premium as everyone wanted shade. There were several functions occurring that evening and dining spots scarce, but we were lucky to secure a spot at the bar in the Tavern Bar for dinner. We greeted, and were greeted by, several members of the host committee.
Virginia Crossings Hotel & Conference Center
On The Back
Mouse Over to Read Back
Wednesday was the start of four days of activities, beginning with registration in the Jefferson Building Lobby. We had planned to attend a Civil War Presentation at 10AM, but we were late because the host committee changed the meeting time to 9AM. We found out after the fact that the mobile phone alerting system hadn't been implemented: a bad way to begin.
Presented by Jack Bantle, an expert on the Civil War, the presentation was excellent, specifically the attack on Petersburg, VA. He was assisted by three history buffs dressed in period garb who helped display artifacts including rifles from the period. There was a drive to a Civil War Museum, but we passed on that, recalling the attack at Antietam. The fact that our first MGA, Virgin, was attacked at Antietam (GT-6) wasn't even mentioned.
In the afternoon Diane attended the Ladies of NAMGAR Ice Cream Social on the poolside terrace while Steven attended a tech session on proper oil and fuel products for the MGA, presented by NASCAR's Lake Speed, Jr. Diane joined him for the last half of the presentation.
After the tech session we took a walking tour of the conference center grounds. We learned that the Battle of Yellow Tavern took place on the grounds of the hotel and golf course. The famous Confederate General Jeb Stuart was mortally wounded during this battle. As mentioned earlier, there are three buildings on this property. The Jefferson Building, in the center, is in the Federal style; the Madison and Monroe Buildings are in the Williamsburg style. We also learned that the Liberty Golden Eagle, atop the Jefferson Building, is 3000 pounds, made of bronze and copper and gilded in 24k gold leaf. It stands as a tribute to our fallen service men and women. The lovely Jefferson Gardens feature the same plantings as at Monticello. Also, the Jefferson Building contains a bright yellow room as a tribute to Thomas Jefferson whose favorite color was this marigold hue. We walked out to the Pergola which has a putting green and a lovely view of the grounds and sunsets.
Michael Crews & Steven At First Timers
In the evening we were invited to the First Time Attendees Reception in the hotel courtyard. It was nice to meet new members and view their cars. Of course there are old-timers wandering around too, like Michael Crews (GT-1), whom one only sees in a blue-moon.
After (another) happy hour we enjoyed a delicious welcome dinner in the main ballroom where we heard about the activities for the remainder of the GT.
We washed PRNCZ on Thursday morning, then drove to a really nice antique mall with Bill and Trudy Gallihugh. There were more tech sessions scheduled for the afternoon, which we chose not to attend since Steven has already done all those things to PRNCZ and didn't wish to relive them, so the four of us just hung out.
Swan Bedroom at Maymont Mansion
Friday was the tour and luncheon at the Maymont Mansion on the James River. The exterior of the building is rather blah, but the interior is magnificent, decorated in the Queen Anne style of the Guilded Age, the 1890s. Diane especially enjoyed Mrs. Dooley's bedroom with the swan motif. Such opulence — rather over the top, but so well preserved. The Dooleys were the only inhabitants (32 years) of the mansion which was opened to the public as a museum after Mrs. Dooley's death. The grounds also have carriage houses where we enjoyed lunch, toured the wine cellar, and dodged horse manure.
Saturday was car show day — so thankful that it was on the property of the hotel in the courtyard. We were honored to place PRNCZ in the Premier Class since she won best in class last year at GT-42 in Solvang, CA. She had some tough competition, and will have to remain in this category for a total of five years.
There were 160 cars total at the car show and not enough time to see them all and talk to the owners. There was a drone taking pictures, but we haven't seen them, so maybe the drone was actually a UFO. That evening was the banquet and the end of the GT.
Diane & PRNCZ
1600 MkII Class
Len & Ruth Renkenberger's Albatross
MGA Tourer with After-Market Hardtop
1948 Austin A40 Devon
Twin Cam Coupe
Other things go on at these events. This year we had an evening with the live band "KOS" that included our past chairman, Bruce Woodson, on sax.
The final banquet was the standard sit-down affair with announcements, award giving and idle chatter amongst the attendees. People come together for picture taking and farewells afterwords.
Steven, Diane, Trudy Gallihugh, Sarah Richey, Bill Gallihugh & Bill Richey
It's always so hard to say good bye to everyone. But next year the GT is in Dubuque, IA - only 4 hours from home!
On Sunday we began the drive back, caravanning with Bill and Trudy. It was Father's Day so we toasted Bill at lunch and again at dinner. It was a long day, but we enjoyed the smell of honeysuckle and saw lots of kudzu overtaking trees and fences and anything else in the way. Don't stop, PRNCZ! Plus it was really hot and humid — in the 90s but some cloud cover to help.
We finally arrived in Charleston, WV for the night. Steve was really whipped so he snoozed for a bit. After a shower he felt human again. We piled back into the As, gassed up and had dinner at a nearby Friday's. Just as we ordered our dinners, the skies opened up and drenched everything in sight for a good hour: lots of thunder and lightning. Not much we could do so we just enjoyed our meals and waited for the storm to pass. PRNCZ was fine, but Bill and Trudy's A had taken on a substantial amount of water.
Monday, which was Day 10 of our GT-43 MGAdventure, was overcast, but not raining, so after a really nice breakfast at the INN (Inn of the Year), we headed for Dayton, OH. We had a nice journey to Dayton, though there were lots of trucks. Too soon, we were waving good bye to Bill and Trudy as we parted ways: they headed home, just a few hours west.
We continued on to Beavercreek and the Marriott where we'd stay for the next three days. The Marriott is situated in a shopping mall, but nearly impossible to get to. Only one road leads into the hotel parking lot, and it was difficult to find: GPS didn't help. We finally found the road in back of the Red Robin restaurant which served as our land mark for the next two days.
After settling in, enjoying free cocktails at the bar (nice to be loyalty members) we found the Jeet Indian Restaurant. The food was quite good; we wondered, since we were the only people, besides the staff, in the place. We stopped at a BP nearby to gas up for the next day, only to be surrounded by dozens of geese with their off-spring, idling around the gas pumps. It turns out that the owner made the mistake of feeding them one day, so now they return everyday for a handout. The eight babies just parked between the pumps while the twenty adults scavenged for food. A motorcyclist helped clear the area — geese really don't like a revving motorcycle — so we could leave before being bombarded with you know what after they finished eating. Whew!
Tuesday we planned a day to visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The front desk said it was located just over the highway. Right. It was as easy to find as the hotel was. Thank goodness for GPS. The day was sunny with brilliant blue skies so we left the bonnet down and just used the tonneau cover.
We hadn't been to the museum in probably forty years, so we were so happy to see that all of the aircraft were now indoors and under one roof. It was a hot and humid day so we were doubly thrilled to be in air conditioning. We entered through security, got tickets to two 3D movies: D-Day, Normandy 1944 and Aircraft Carrier, then planned our day around those times.
Top on Steven's list was the Memphis Belle Exhibit so we headed in that direction before the first movie. The Memphis Belle is a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress used in WWII. It completed 25 combat missions before retiring to help sell war bonds. It was recently restored and on display since May 18. It is named after the pilot's sweetheart, a resident of Memphis, TN. The artwork is really nice - blue on one side and red on the other, of a curvaceous blond. We watched the two 3D movies, highly recommended, with lunch at the Valkyrie Cafe and a visit to the gift shop in between.
We were wandering around one of the buildings, so may planes to see and walk through, when we heard this horrific pounding on the metal building — another downpour. Oh, well, ignore it (hard to do) and enjoy the exhibits. At the Holocaust exhibit we were surprised to see an accordion and a violin found in one of the concentration camps. It's interesting that the Nazi guards often spared musicians who were able to entertain them. Music transcends....
By the time we left, the rain had stopped, but it was still quite cloudy so we put the bonnet up just in case. The interior was wet but not as wet as it would later get.
B-17: Memphis Belle
Diane Examines "Roswell UFO"
An Early Flight Simulator
Ask The Man Who Owns One
The next day we decided to visit an antique mall where Steven found an LP of accordion music. Diane knew how to pack it, based on her experience packing souvenirs last year: always carry some bubble wrap. Diane found a spoon.
From the antique mall we drove into downtown Dayton to the Citizens Motorcar Company, America's Packard Museum. We were looking for a place to park when one of the employees waved us onto the sidewalk. The museum was hosting a local station wagon club and invited us to park with them. How nice. This is a fairly small museum, but with lots of interesting things, in addition to the fifty cars, to see. Even a 1940-1950s vintage television set running Packard videos. Very enjoyable.
The library also had videos running. Diane perused the books and found Automobile Quarterly, Version 17-1, the very same one that has a picture of our first MGA — a white 1960 1600, named Virgin. The museum is also the world's only restored Packard Dealership operating as a museum. When we returned to the hotel we decided to leave the bonnet up and put in the side curtains. Rain was being predicted for our trip home the next day.
June 21, the last day of our MGAdventure, First Day of Summer, and the weatherman was correct, it was raining: big storm clouds. The storm clouds and rain stayed with us the entire trip home. They are not our favorite travel companions. Along the way there were construction; reroutes; standing water; big puddles and serious flooding. Then when we needed to turn north on Rte. IL-45, the storm front stalled: we swear it dumped half of Lake Michigan on us. At times, it was difficult to see the front of PRNCZ. We were deluged the rest of the way.
We arrived home, safely, later in the afternoon. It took another week for the carpeting and floorboards to completely dry out.
Save for the rain and storms, it was another fun GT and another fun adventure. Our thanks to NAMGAR's Board and the local clubs for providing us with such a memorable event.
We are already planning next year's route across the top of Illinois into Dubuque for GT-44, our 43rd GT. It's been years since we've been to the Field of Dreams site nearby, so we'll be watching the movie again in preparation. Steven's already replaced the brake calipers; this trip was their last rodeo. Who knows how old they were; he got them used thirty years ago. The left shock is in question, and the timing chain cover seems to have developed a serious oil leak: always a few more repairs, but we're anticipating another fun time, if the stars align.