The last official day of summer turned out to be a near-perfect day for a breakfast drive. Pre-dawn, the air remained cool enough for a light jacket; once ol’ Sol broke above the horizon, or in our case, over the Mahwah Sheraton, the air temp quickly climbed and didn’t stop climbing until reaching the 80s.
Eleven gentlemen in nine different vehicles made the trek on the 22nd. Six of the nine rides wore German badges (I was surprised the group didn’t demand knockwurst and potato pancakes for breakfast). However, it’s a genial bunch, and we heard nary a complaint about our chosen destination, the Hampton Diner in Newton NJ.
We set out from the Sheraton at about 8:35am, with Larry leading the way in his Nova. It was a glorious drive through northern Jersey, dipping into then out of New York State. A planned pit stop was undertaken at a BP gas station in Vernon NJ. To everyone’s surprise, Bill’s Porsche did NOT need fuel, but more than a few of us took advantage of the restroom facility. One patch of rough road brought our speed down to below 30mph for a bit, but all the cars escaped unscathed.
We reached the Diner just before 10:30am, were immediately served coffee, and got our breakfast plates not long after. Thanks goes out to our young waiter who seemed to have a pot of hot java available for refills at a moment’s notice.
As is our habit, the conversations continued out into the parking lot, and it was past noon by the time the final vehicles began the return trip home. While tomorrow may be the first day of autumn, that should still give us ample time to fit in one (or two) more breakfast runs this year.
It’s been 10 years or more since the Sunday Morning Breakfast Drives started; my partner-in-crime Larry and I have been spearheading the events for at least the last 6 or 7 years; and the format is almost always the same: rendezvous at the Sheraton Hotel in Mahwah NJ; drive a pre-planned route, with all our vehicles following each other; and arrive at a breakfast joint for food and coffee.
However, we’re always looking for ways to mix things up for our little group, so we decided to try something different this time out. We opted for our own “cars & coffee” type of gathering, in lieu of an actual drive along scenic country roads. So while our participants had to drive to get to today’s destination, The Fireplace Restaurant on Route 17 in Paramus NJ, there was no caravan per se. For consistency though, I still used the word “drive” in the subject line.
A dozen or so cars arrived promptly at 8am in The Fireplace’s parking lot, and as is our wont, we chatty men loitered and gabbed for about 20 minutes before Larry yelled “hey, let’s get some breakfast before it gets too crowded in there!” I confess, one aspect of The Fireplace that I enjoy is that it’s each person on his own for ordering and paying. The usual gig at a diner is for the bill to come to me, and after I’ve calculated the tip and grand total, I’m collecting money from 20 heads. The Fireplace affords me the chance to forego that responsibility.
After a hearty breakfast, we headed outside to admire the hardware. It’s been a hot summer in NJ, and today was not any different. The temperature differential between 8am and 10am was noticeable, but that did not dissuade us from checking out each other’s rides. Several of our regulars arrived in vehicles we’ve not seen before: Julio in his very original Dodge pickup, and Sal in his “I just bought it yesterday” Alfa spider.
We heard no complaints about lack of a tour, and everyone seemed to enjoy the meal, the cars, and the camaraderie. By 11am or so, the group started to break up and head back, which points out another wonderful aspect of our Sunday runs: most of us are home by early afternoon, leaving the rest of the day free for whatever occupies one’s time on a hot sunny August Sunday. Larry and I promised each other that we’ll get another event on the calendar ASAP.
Our second Sunday morning breakfast run of the year was held on June 9, 2019, starting as always at the Crossroads Sheraton Hotel in Mahwah NJ. The assembled group consisted of 12 people in 10 cars. Our eclectic collection included Chevys, Porsches, Miatas, a BMW, an Alfa, a VW, and a Buick. This time, we headed south, with the Readington Diner in Whitehouse Station NJ as our destination. We pushed off at 8:35 am, but not every vehicle was destined to make it to the diner…..
The Buick, a ’67 Skylark convertible driven by our friend Ralph, had engine trouble on the way. This was unbeknownst to me in the lead car, but I learned later that billows of smoke were wafting from the engine compartment. Ralph quickly got to the shoulder of the highway, and just as quickly, 3 of our other drivers stopped with offers of assistance. A peek into the engine compartment revealed a connecting rod (connects the crankshaft to the piston) extending itself through an aperture in the side of the engine block where previously there had not been an aperture. This is colloquially known as a “blown engine”, and cannot be fixed with Gorilla Glue. Sadly, Ralph missed breakfast.
While Ralph waited for the flat bed tow truck, one driver who stopped needed to return home, and the other two, having long lost our caravan, found their own way to the diner. In the meantime, a dawdler who had missed our departure came rushing down the same highway, saw the blown Buick, stopped for a brief chat, then continued to the eatery. Yet another driver, residing well south of our destination, came up on his own and met us there. So we still ended up with 12 at the breakfast table!
The wait staff at the Readington Diner was outstanding as always; those of us who require morning caffeine were never without hot java. With bellies full of food and beverage, we meandered back into the parking lot, admired each others’ cars, then headed home to enjoy the remainder of what was certainly one of the most weather-perfect Sundays we’ve seen in the Northeast this year.
We plan to do this again soon. We also hope that Ralph can get his car fixed, because we like Ralph, and want him to be able to enjoy breakfast with us next time.
The first breakfast drive of 2019 was held on Sunday April 14, 2019, and while the weatherman and weatherwomen of the greater NY Metro area may have earlier tried to dissuade us, their forecast eventually pushed the predicted rain back into the latter part of the day. We made the go/no go decision on Friday, and the Sunday skies were bluer and air temperature warmer than expected.
We Alfisti almost got away with turning this into an Italian breakfast run, as the first 3 cars to show were all from the fabled Milanese marque. But diversity ruled the day, with one Japanese car (Miata), one domestic vehicle (Nova), and 6 German machines (3 Porsches, 2 BMWs, and a VW GTi) in attendance.
After a long winter’s hibernation, it was great to see so many familiar and friendly faces. We pushed off from the Sheraton Crossroads parking lot at 8:30am sharp. Eleven cars, 15 hungry car-centric folk, and a scenic one-hour drive along Greenwood Lake had us at the Empire Diner in Monroe NY by 9:30 am.
The friendly staff at the Empire had tables ready for us, and we were ably attended to by two of the diner’s finest waitresses. As usual, we lingered long after plates were cleared and 6th refills of coffee were served. Car guys never seem to run out of things to talk about. We found our way back to the parking lot, said our goodbyes one last time, and as always, promised each other to do this again as soon as practical.
Our Sunday morning breakfast runs have taken on a life of their own. As your humble scribe glanced around the breakfast table, he saw former colleagues he has known for 30 years, and also saw fellow diners who have just recently become “regulars” because they were recommended to us. The group makeup is certainly not limited to “old friends”. We had cars from the ‘60s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and the 21st century in the lot. It’s not about whose car is the fastest, or shiniest, or priciest. We’re all passionate about our four-wheeled modes of transportation. It’s not about anything but a chance to spend an all-too-brief few hours with each other, driving together and dining together, doing what friends do, which is sharing our lives with each other.
The weather prediction for Sunday September 16, 2018 said “sunny, warm, no rain”. Never mind that the reality was a 7 a.m. fog so thick that traffic signals were all but invisible until you were almost on top of them. They promised the fog would burn off, and it did. After a summer filled with excess heat, an overabundance of precipitation, and more cancelled driving events than I can count, our chosen date for a Sunday morning breakfast run was promising to turn out well.
The weather awakened something in many of our driving buddies too, as 22 participants in 17 cars made it for the 8:30 push-off from the Crossroads Sheraton in Mahwah NJ. We had not been on a Sunday run since early June, so expectations were high for a nice drive and a tasty breakfast. We were headed to the Empire Diner in Monroe NY, a first-time destination for us. The route we chose was scenic and not too drawn out. Since driving time was just about an hour, there were no planned pit stops. (The group must be learning; everyone had enough fuel in their rides to make it to the diner.) Perhaps most amazingly, traffic was light and the 17 cars managed to caravan for the entire run.
Word continues to spread about our adventures: a VW GTi and a Porsche 944 were driven by two gents who were making their maiden voyage with us. Most of the rest of the fleet consisted of old and new domestic iron, a host of German cars, a Jag, and two Miatas. Alas, the Italians stayed home today.
The Empire Diner had tables waiting for us at 9:45 (thanks, ladies!), and the food and service were exemplary. Any waitress who swings by every 10 minutes with a hot coffee pot in her hand gets my vote. As usual, the men did their best to out-gab the females, and after the meal the chit-chat spilled out into the parking lot. Speaking of our better halves, several drivers brought their significant others. The ladies are always welcome as long as they can tolerate a bunch of guys sitting around talking about cars all morning.
The first day of autumn is one week from today (and this scribe wishes to say ‘thank goodness!’). More than one driver asked when we plan to run again. With Carlisle and Hershey coming up, the best we can hope for is late October. And with what had better be cooler weather by then, we should have another beautiful drive.
This is what we do: we get up early on a Sunday morning, earlier than many of us would otherwise arise on a day off from work. We hop into our toy car, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a 40-year-old gem we’ve owned for many a decade, a recent “beater” that’s a work in progress, or a brand-new supercar. (One rule in this club that has no rules is, we do not criticize each other’s cars based on age, marque, horsepower, color, or relative value.)
We meet at a pre-arranged spot, and then we drive. It’s almost always delightful, verdant, winding, two-lane roads, which may take us north, south, east, or west. We delight in the sights and sounds of our friends’ cars in front of us and behind us. Sure, we drive in a spirited fashion, but there’s no reckless behavior on the road; we respect each other too much for that. (Rule #2 in this rule-less club is that overly aggressive driving will certainly ensure you’re disinvited to our next soiree.)
Upon arriving at our destination, we anxiously await our morning treat: hot coffee, good breakfast food, and lots of conversation. Some of us have known each other for 25 years. Some of us met about 90 minutes ago. It doesn’t matter. We share a passion for our internal-combustion-powered devices, and we’ll talk about them and the exhilarating freedom they provide until the waitresses toss us out (pity the future generations who will not know the thrill of piloting such sporting machines).
With breakfast done, our desire to continue the chat is all too obvious, as we spill out onto the sidewalk, inadvertently blocking the restaurant’s entrance. Finally, as the noon hour approaches, we reluctantly wish each other a fond “see you next time”, and head back to our machines, and back to whatever reality awaits the remainder of our Sunday.
This is what we do.
As we exited the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River, Rich S took these photos, and they are used with his permission:
Every year, my co-organizer Larry and I say the same thing: “We simply must get out there and go on a drive as soon as possible!” With Easter arriving early this year (April 1), we saw that as an opportunity to organize a drive as early as April 8.
Except, it snowed that weekend.
The next best date that worked for us was April 29. Certainly, it HAD to be warm by then….
After a glorious and sunny Saturday which saw temps in the 70s, Sunday dawned with sprinkles, a temperature of 55 degrees, and a stiff wind. Nevertheless, ten intrepid souls ventured out for a drive to the Readington Diner in Whitehouse Station NJ, where good chow and hot java awaited us.
One of the many things I personally enjoy about our informal club is that we have no rules regarding what you can drive. New, old, domestic, import, high-end, rolling wreck(!), if you think it can get you there and back, then we accept you into the fraternity. On some level, everyone’s car is interesting. This can result in quite the eclectic mix of cars, and today’s group was exactly that. We had:
Three domestic cars: a ’39 Ford (wearing a ’40 front clip), a ’72 Nova, and a late-model Mustang.
Six European cars, broken out as two Italian (both Alfas), two German (BMW and Porsche) one British (Jaguar F-type) and one Swedish (Volvo 1800S).
One Japanese car, an NB (2nd generation) Miata.
Another enjoyable aspect is the chance to meet new people. John in his Miata and Tom in the Volvo (which he’s owned for only a month) were both with us for the first time, and I dare say that they enjoyed themselves enough that we can expect to see them again.
We shoved off from the Mahwah Sheraton parking lot at 8:28 (early for once, as the group was shivering), and headed south on Route 287, destination Morristown. Taking route 24/510 west through Morristown and Mendham, we ended up in Chester, where we made a quick pit stop (for Bill).
Continuing on Route 513 through Chester, we turned left in Long Valley and had a spirited drive along the winding curves of Route 517 South. A quick right turn onto Route 22 West had us motoring only another half mile before arriving at the diner.
Andre the Magnificent served us mightily (anyone who brings coffee refills every 10 minutes is my hero), and as is our habit, we lingered long after the plates cleared. It’s obvious that the camaraderie is there; after all, most of us had not seen each other since last fall. As one participant exclaimed, “we really are CAR people!”
Let’s hope that we have many additional opportunities for Sunday breakfast drives in 2018.