You know it’s late in the collector car driving season when the 8 a.m. arrivals at your starting point are still in the shadows, waiting for the morning’s yellow rays to rise above the concrete and steel horizon.
And so our final Sunday morning breakfast drive for 2017 began, but we knew the day’s weather would be in our favor. Those of us in the Northeast are coming off what may be the best week of weather we’ve had all year: sunny, dry, daytime temps in the mid-to-high 70s, with the thermometer dropping into the 40s and 50s at night. And all this in late October to boot.
For our October 22 drive, we had 14 travelers occupying 11 cars. While the turnout was a bit less than our last motorcade, many of our regulars showed up, drawn in part by the attraction of a favorite destination: The Silver Spoon Café in Cold Spring NY.
The route to Cold Spring is an easy one, and includes Seven Lakes Drive in Harriman State Park. It’s a shame that we didn’t give ourselves a chance to stop and admire the view. At such an early hour, the water, smooth as glass, acted like a mirror for the fall foliage. The scene would have made a lovely backdrop for our myriad group of sporting machines.
We arrived at our destination in under an hour, and the attentive staff at the Silver Spoon had a table for 14 waiting for us (calling ahead and being patient when they say “we don’t take reservations” can still provide your desired result).
The Silver Spoon staff hustled to serve 14 or 15 hungry drivers, and the sometimes erratic service was not entirely the fault of our intrepid waiter. Plates remained unclaimed as diners endeavored to remember what they ordered! Even with the delay, the food was excellent, washed down with coffee by the gallon.
As is customary, as the meal ended, the crowd lingered in front of the restaurant, with no one in any great rush to depart. The warm October sunshine will do that to you. It sounds far away to say “see you on our first drive in 2018”, but it will be here soon enough. We’re also hoping to organize an off-season trip to a museum as we did last winter. For this scribe, it’s now time to put the babies away for the year. I’m pretty sure I still have some Sta-Bil in the garage.
For only the second time this year, our informal “breakfast club” got its act together to go for a drive on Sunday July 30. After a prediction of heavy rains for Friday and Saturday, the weatherman promised a good day on Sunday, and we got it! At my 7 a.m. departure, it was actually cool (probably low 60s), quite unusual for midsummer NJ. The great combination of bright sunshine, comfortable temperature, and low humidity stayed with us all day. As Ken said to me, with only the slightest exaggeration: “this isn’t the best day of this summer; this is the best day of the last three years!”
The turnout was impressive, something we don’t take for granted, what with everyone’s summer schedule so jammed. We had 15 vehicles, four of which held passengers, for a total of 19 hungry mouths. We were happy to see some new faces out with us for the first time. We pushed off from the Sheraton Crossroads, as promised, as the clock struck 8:30 a.m. Destination for the morning was a perennial favorite, Stella G’s in Hackettstown NJ.
A casual observer of our motorcade would be forgiven for thinking it was the local Porsche club’s outing, with a few non-German cars thrown into the mix. At least it seemed that way, with a total of five 911s plus a 944 cabriolet. The two additional German cars were both BMWs: a 320 and an E30. Three other European sports cars rounded out that continent’s representation: an MGB-GT with a V8 conversion, a Jaguar F-Type convertible, and your scribe’s Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior.
Four domestic vehicles completed today’s field, three of them GM products: a C6 Corvette, a ’66 Buick Skylark convertible, and a ’94 Camaro Z-28. The nineteenth vehicle was a ’64 T-Bird convertible.
After a short run on Route 287 South (we try to minimize highway driving), we exited onto Route 23 north, then turned south / southwest, heading toward Sparta and a rendezvous with Route 517 which would take us the rest of the way to Hackettstown. With a group this large, it wasn’t possible to keep all the cars together on the road, and the back half went their own way in Sparta, eventually taking the highway again, but getting to the restaurant only minutes behind the first arrivals. For those who did stay on the planned course, the roads and scenery made for spectacular driving.
The good news about Stella G’s is that the food is great; the less good news is that it’s packed on Sunday mornings. Our hostess Lauren informed me that “a table for 19” wasn’t going to cut it, so we were seated in waves of three. The seating arrangement didn’t affect the food and coffee, which were top-notch as always.
And what did we do after breakfast? We did what we always do: we retired to the front sidewalk, where the yapping continued for an unspecified amount of time. The party broke up by 11:30 am, which put everyone home by early afternoon. We start early, get a lot done, and still get home in time to tackle that honey-do list. What’s better than that?
We eased into our first driving event of 2017, with 6 cars occupied by 8 hungry drivers and riders. After a cool but sunny dawn, we got the weatherman’s promised warmth. In all, it was an almost perfect early spring day for a drive, evidenced by the dropping of several convertible tops.
Our destination was the perennial favorite Silver Spoon Café in Cold Spring NY. They were expecting us, and we were seated by 9:45, and drinking coffee by 9:48. The food was good, the service was exemplary, and as is our habit, we exited the café only to spill out onto the sidewalk to continue our chatter.
We were happy to be able to drive so early in April, and while we’ve said it before, we’ll say again that our intent is to schedule one drive per month for the remainder of our Northeast driving season.
We had an excellent turnout for our early October outing, with 16 like-minded friends willing to venture out in spite of a gloomy forecast (for the record, it didn’t rain during the drive). All in, we had 12 classic cars, 2 modern Volvos, plus a motorcycle! Several first-timers seemed to like it well enough that they’ve threatened to show their faces again.
You could be forgiven for looking at the photos and thinking that this was a meeting of the local Porsche 911 club, what with four of them (three red) among our assortment. We still had a fine mix of American, British, Italian, Japanese, and other German cars, old and new.
Our ride this day took us north from the Sheraton in Mahwah, along Greenwood Lake, and eventually to New Windsor, NY, where we dined at the Ikaros Diner. The diner staff had a table waiting for us, and somehow, in spite of constant blabbering, we also managed to consume food and coffee.
The diner’s parking lot made for an excellent staging area for group photos. (Thanks to Bill W and Andy M for the panorama photo of us). We must be doing something right, because at the end of the event, most everyone wanted to know when we’re going to do this again. It must be the coffee.
The Boonton NJ cruise night, held on Fridays in the WalMart shopping Plaza, had its first show of the 2016 season on June 10. This year’s festivities were scheduled to start on June 3, but that show was cancelled due to inclement weather.
The cruise night, sponsored by the Starlight Cruisers car club, began in 2007 and has proven to be one of the better attended events of its kind in northern Jersey. The parking lot is roped off to allow parking for up to 250 cars. Because of the show’s popularity, vehicles are limited to those with QQ (NJ antique automobile) plates, or those which are at least 25 years old. The club provides music and door prizes.
The weather on the 10th was perfect – sunny, warm, cloudless, with low humidity, which brought out the crowds. The show cars were 99% domestic product, with a large percentage of them easily defined as “modified” – everything from bolt-ons to full customs in the old-school sense. GM vehicles from the 50s and 60s dominated, but there was also enough variety to keep things interesting for those who seek the unusual. There was a smattering of pre-war iron, including a lovely 1940 LaSalle convertible. Original owner and/or unrestored cars were present, such as a 1967 AMC Marlin whose owner has had it since 1971. And some imports dared to show up among all the Chevys and Fords, including an Opel GT, a Saab 93, and your author’s Alfa.
AMC products are rare sightings at any car event. This cruise night featured a number of them, including this Rebel “The Machine”, and this 1978 Concord AMX.
This 1967 Marlin was striking in several ways, most notably because its owner told us that this was his first car when he bought it in 1971. His daughter was dutifully deployed to attend to polishing duties. When asked about the missing fuel door, he replied that the door has been shipped to Sweden (!) for color-matching. We were left unclear as to why.
The number of Corvettes in attendance easily reached several dozen. What was especially impressive was the large number of C1 and C2 cars.
It is often stated that American car styling reached its bizarre peak in the late 1950s. While that may be true, what is sometimes missed is that interior styling also captured some of that strange creativity, and that included functional items such as transmission controls. This 1958 Edsel and 1960 Plymouth both used unusual solutions for transmission control placement. (Note that the Edsel has a floor shifter as part of a complete drivetrain swap.)
Studebaker’s history began 50 years before the dawn of the motorized vehicle, when the Studebaker brothers manufactured covered wagons. By the 1950s, they struggled to compete with the Big Three. “Daring to be different” was a strategy employed by them (as well as by AMC), as borne out by this Hawk and Avanti.
Despite the dominance of 50s-60s muscle, a few cars from an earlier time were also on the show field. None was more striking than this 1940 LaSalle. The LaSalle brand was a “junior Cadillac”, but alas, could not compete in the marketplace. Production ended in 1940, making this car a representative of the marque’s final year.
This Saab has been in Boonton before. Although we did not have the pleasure of seeing it run on this particular evening, the owner has kept the 2-stroke motor and has opened up the exhaust a bit, resulting in some glorious albeit raucous noises.
DeLoreans never went away; they’ve been hiding in plain sight all these years. For a vehicle which was manufactured for only two years (1981-1982) and in limited numbers, one always seems to turn up. Their collectibility may be on the rise, though, as a recent change in government regulations will allow the “new” DeLorean Motor Company to begin to legally manufacture cars again.
In 1970, if you could not afford a new Corvette, you may have been drawn to the Opel GT. Buick dealers sold them as captive imports. Built in Germany, the Opel GT was available with either a 1.1L or 1.9L inline 4-cylinder. You certainly didn’t pay the Corvette’s price, but you didn’t get the Corvette’s horsepower either.
The Alfa may have looked lost among the sea of U.S. built cars (it certainly is physically smaller than all of them), but several spectators stopped by to tell the typical “I had one of those” stories. The car ran flawlessly up and down Route 287 that evening.
After a relatively mild winter, the spring of 2016 has been taking its sweet time arriving in the Northeast. Any fears of summer heat waves in early May have been unfounded, with daily temperatures often running 10 degrees below normal. Our little driving club tried to get an early start on the season by planning a mid-April event, which had to be cancelled due to the threat of snow! Our scheduled drive on Sunday May 15 did successfully occur, in spite of cool weather and surprise showers.
Checking back on last year’s blog entries, we never had more 15 participants on any one run (excepting Spousal Accompaniment Day). Today, we broke that record with 17 gentlemen occupying 12 cars. Obviously, we had 5 passengers, several of whom were joining us for the first time. Our destination was a crowd favorite, the Silver Spoon Café in Cold Spring NY.
We pull over to give those in back a chance to catch up
The cars: we usually count up the Chevys, and then all the rest. Today, the Europeans won the day with a total of 7 cars: 3 Germans, 2 Brits, and 2 Italians. We had 4 U.S. brand cars, and one Japanese. There were old(ish) and new(ish) vehicles in all the subcategories with multiple vehicles.
The Mother Country was beautifully represented Rich S’s black MGB and Rich L’s white Jaguar F-Type.
The 2 Italians cars were both Alfas: EC was the proud papa bringing his ’91 spider out with us for the first time, while your humble scribe brought his trusty, un-rusty ’67 GT Junior.
German marques ruled the roads today with 3 cars: Peter’s stunning red 911, Sal’s BMW 325is, and John M’s new Audi A3 cabrio.
Among domestic product, it was all Chevrolet, including 3 Corvettes: Bill’s C1, Ron’s C4, and George’s C6. Larry ran his reliable Camaro.
The sole Asian car was Jim N’s Datsun 280Z.
We departed the Sheraton Crossroads parking lot (almost) right on time and headed north. As soon as we did, the skies darkened, and the clouds threatened. In spite of the weather, several drivers motored with convertible tops down. After a beautiful ride along Seven Lakes Drive and over the Bear Mountain Bridge, we were at our destination with 10 minutes to spare. The staff at the Silver Spoon had a table for 17 waiting. Coffee was almost immediately served, with hot breakfast plates soon following. As always, the camaraderie around the table made it difficult to leave.
When we finally wrenched ourselves away from the food and endless caffeine, we stepped outside to some slight sprinkles. Those who had left their tops down scurried back to their cars. Several of us continued to linger and chat, not wanting the festivities to end. But end they eventually did. We’ve assured the group that we’ll do our best to get out at least once a month this driving season.
Our final drive of the 2015 season took place on Sunday, November 15. The day dawned sunny, dry, and as the weatherman might say, “seasonably warm”, with midday temps approaching 60 degrees. The emails with regrets I had received during the week led me to believe that we would have a light turnout. This was incorrect, as we had 11 cars and 15 guys, not too shabby! As has been the tradition this year, two gents new to the group joined us for the first time. We must be doing something right.
We pushed off from our usual Mahwah Sheraton Crossroads departure point at 9 a.m., one hour later than usual, in deference to the shorter November days. Heading down Route 287 South, yours truly was all too happy to cruise in the Miata with the top down, but not too many other convertibles took advantage of the sunshine, at least not at first.
Our destination for the morning was Stella G’s, an excellent breakfast joint in Hackettstown, NJ. We’ve been there before, but not this year. The drive consisted of three roads: Route 287 South to Route 23 North to Route 517 South. A new tradition is the now-obligatory pit-stop, christened the “Bill Whited fuel and bathroom break”. This time it was a Quick Chek. Your scribe observed that once we stop and let everyone start yapping again, it can be problematic to get the boys back into their cars.
After a beautiful cruise down Route 517 (we will NOT mention that the chase car made a wrong turn and ended up on Route 80), we were at Stella G’s at exactly 11 a.m. Customer Service in the state of NJ can indeed be spoken about in the present tense, as proven today. We called Stella G’s twice to ask them about seating 15 arrivals, and even though they do not take reservations on the weekend, we walked in at 11 a.m. sharp to find tables reserved and set for our large crowd. The food, coffee, and service were excellent as they always are at Stella G’s (thank you Kate!).
We were having too good a time. It was difficult for the group to leave the restaurant, and leave Hackettstown, knowing that we would not have the opportunity to do this again until the spring of 2016. Since time moves faster the older we get, it remains an unspoken truth that our first drive of the New Year will be here soon enough. To a man, we can’t wait.
History was made on Saturday, October 17, 2015, when the New York Mets (sorry, wrong blog) the Sunday Morning Driving Club went out for a ride, and changed all the rules. What exactly did we do? We drove on a Saturday (for the first time); we scheduled a breakfast AND a lunch (for the first time); we visited the Jersey Shore (for the first time); and we allowed drivers to invite their Significant Others along for the experience (for the last time; sorry, wrong blog – for the first of what we are sure will be many more times).
As best as we know, all the participating husbands and wives were still married to each other at the end of the day. Seriously, we think the ladies enjoyed themselves, and got a taste of the genuine fun we men have had for years, namely, riding through beautiful scenery in interesting cars, and sitting down for a hearty meal with affable and like-minded people.
The formal part of the day started at the Bridgewater Diner in Bridgewater, NJ. Changing with past tradition, attendees arrived on their own between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and fortified themselves with good local diner food. By 10:30 a.m., after a few who skipped breakfast but were joining the group arrived, we were out of the parking lot, embarking on the first half of the day’s drive. This 30-mile-route, dotted with fall foliage, took us along the Millstone River, through the farmland of Monmouth County, into the historic village of Cranbury, and eventually to a Wawa pit stop, sorely needed by the men after all that diner coffee.
This deserved Wawa-stop allowed us time to hang and chat in the parking lot. Old friends caught up with each other, new friends were made, and Bill Whited bought gas. After sufficient time was given for life’s necessities, the lead Alfa driven by your humble servant (who assigned the 90-horsepower car to lead??), with 11 other cars in caravan, headed east on Route 33 for the second leg of our drive – a 25-mile straight shot to the seaside resort town of Ocean Grove.
We allowed plenty of time for folks to find parking and wander along the picturesque Main Ave. before our 1:30 lunch reservation at The SeaGrass restaurant. Our table was set and ready for us ten minutes early, and our rowdy crowd was ably handled solo by one young waitress who, to her credit, smiled through the whole ordeal. The food was excellent, and more than one person in our party remarked that while not expecting to be hungry after breakfast, the food at The SeaGrass was too good to pass up.
It bears mentioning that as the popularity of our drive events has grown, participants have told friends, who have told friends…. For this drive, we had two drivers who were with us for the first time. Several others had only made their first trips with us earlier this year. By my count, half of today’s drivers are people I’ve met through other drivers. It’s been rewarding to see the group grow in this fashion.
Lunch was over by 3 p.m. The shoppers delayed their departures so they could wander through the many gift shops in Ocean Grove. Others hit the road in order to get back home before the ever-earlier darkness closed the day. Overall, our many “firsts” combined to make this drive one of our most successful, read, enjoyable outings yet.
The morning of Sunday, July 12, 2015, dawned sunny and temperate. The promised heat was still a few hours away as 10 cars and 13 participants gathered at our usual meeting spot, the Sheraton Crossroads Hotel in Mahwah NJ, for our planned breakfast drive.
The first arrivals were on site by 8am. We were “all in” by 8:30am and caravanning by 8:35, headed to Cold Spring NY. Cars built by General Motors were again predominantly represented by Bill’s C6 Corvette, Larry’s Z28 Camaro, Ted’s boat, er, Eldorado, and Ralphie’s Buick Skylark.
We had two Mustangs this time, both driven by Nick! Nick D piloted the white convertible while Nick S drove the grey coupe. The only MoPar again wasn’t a car, it was a Viper. It was also a last-minute substitution as Rich S intended to drive his V8-equipped Alfa spider, but “something” was causing a rear tire to rub. And your author’s Alfa had European company from Peter’s 911 and Jeff’s BMW Z3. Enzo, Rich L, and Bob P hitched rides with willing drivers. (Jeff, in a most humanitarian gesture, allowed Enzo to drive his Z3.)
Larry led the charge through Seven Lakes Drive, across the Bear Mountain Bridge, then north into Cold Spring. We were at our spot, the Silver Spoon Café, ten minutes early. Nevertheless, our table was ready and waiting for us. Terry met us there, having ridden his bike from home nearby, so 14 hungry men sat down for a good breakfast. It was our first time to this restaurant, and high marks all around for the food, the coffee, and the service. Thanks, ladies!
No one was in a rush to leave the table, and the staff was in no rush to show us the door. In fact, they kept coming ‘round and filling mugs long after the bill was paid. When we finally made it back outside, the temperature had kicked up considerably. The group still continued to mingle on the sidewalk in front of the café for a few more minutes, and several of us also took advantage of a tour through the charming town of Cold Spring, either on foot or by car.
For several participants, it was their first time out with us, and they’re threatening to return. Given that it’s the middle of the summer vacation season, we still had a great turnout from the regulars. We always say the same thing: “It’s about time we did this again!” And so we will. We’re already perusing the calendar for an August repeat.