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.
Our Sunday Morning Breakfast Runs, about which I’ve blogged so much, started well before I joined the fray. I believe I had been told that the initial trio who launched these events began back in 1999 or 2000.
Earlier this year, someone in our group who had joined around the same time as I did asked me, “when did all this start?” Great question, I responded to myself as much to anyone else, and decided to pore through my photos to see how far back I could trace my involvement.
The earliest photographic evidence of my participation takes me to early spring of 2006. Since the trees in the photos have yet to bloom, I would pin the timeframe as late March/early April. The photos were taken in Cold Spring NY, which was a frequent destination for many of the early runs. We parked our cars around a little cul-de-sac, with the Hudson River in the background, and this served as a wonderful photo op (that’s Burton standing on the bench, primed for some excellent shots). Note that there are SEVEN cars, a typical number for our group at that time.
My ’68 Mustang California Special (GT/CS) had been in my possession for only 2 ½ years. The year 2006 would be the year in between driving that car in the ’05 and ’07 New England 1000 rallies.
The next time I photographed a Breakfast Run was June of 2008, and since the pictures reveal that our destination was Granny’s Pancake House in Hamburg NJ, I know that this was one of the, if not THE first time that Larry and I “hosted” the run. Granny’s had been recommended to me by a colleague at Volvo, and it proved to be a tasty breakfast place.
As we exited the restaurant, I asked each driver (and passenger, if there was one) to pose next to their automobiles. As is always the case, the eclectic mix of vehicles is a big part of the draw. Our NE1000 buddy Ron dared to show up in his 1937 Packard convertible. I can report that he doesn’t baby the car on the road, as I had to keep my foot into my 390 to keep up with him!
Again, there were seven cars, which made it easy to keep everyone together in a caravan. Little could we imagine the size to which our outfit would expand.
In a future post, we’ll continue to look back at some of our older Sunday Breakfast Runs.
A 1937 Packard Super Eight convertible coupe, with a 135 hp, 320 c.i. inline-8, cost $2,680 new. Or, one could purchase a 1937 Ford DeLuxe cabriolet, with an 85 hp, 221 c.i. V8, and pay $719 (27% of the Packard’s cost).
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.
Don’t believe the weatherman. Yes, he’s frequently right; but he’s wrong as often as he isn’t. Guess that makes the forecast a 50/50 proposition. If you allow your planned outdoor activities to be dictated by the weather, you’d miss out on half the things you wanted to do.
On Saturday, the forecast for Sunday, September 17, 2017 predicted a sunny, warm, humid day, with a slight chance of thundershowers. Except we all woke up to fog and mist. As I headed to the garage and looked at the Alfa, then the Miata, I considered taking the newer car. I quickly changed my mind; it’s not as though I’ve never driven the Alfa in the rain. My determination was to set an example, and as I pulled onto the highway, wipers flailing, headlights barely cutting through the fog, I told myself that we’d be lucky if 7 or 8 cars showed up for this morning’s breakfast run.
Sometimes you feel better about being wrong. Our stalwart group arrived, 17 cars strong, plus one spouse as a passenger. My planning partner Larry and I were trying something new this morning, in the event we had a crowd like the last few outings. For the first time, we sent out maps, directions, and destination info a few days ahead, in the hope that the group could familiarize itself with the route.
What transpired instead was a plan to split the group in two, with Larry leading the first 8 cars or so, and I, your spirited Alfa driver, leading the rest. This worked perfectly. Traffic lights and stop signs did not break us apart; no one made any wrong turns; we kept to our planned pit stop; and we were at the diner by 10:10am, only 10 minutes later than intended.
Larry planned a stunning route, mostly along Greenwood Lake Turnpike, Warwick Turnpike, and Route 94. We dipped in and out of NY and NJ several times, and traffic wasn’t terrible. Maybe the weather was keeping people home. Several times, the sun blessed us with its warm rays, as it worked to burn off the fog.
The Hampton Diner on Route 206 in Newton NJ hosted us this morning, and it was our first time with them. A table set for 18 awaited us as we entered. The service was a bit slow, but it was a New Jersey diner on a Sunday morning, and no one seemed to mind. We’re not shy about yakking it up while waiting for food.
Speaking of yakking, this crowd loves to gab, as captured in the photos. A few of us managed to linger in the diner parking lot for close to an hour after the meal. For one moment, we considered heading back in for lunch.
With the group size continuing to grow, and everyone getting along so well, the biggest challenge may be keeping things moving along so that we eat breakfast while it’s still morning.
The most frequent comment I heard as we departed the diner was “are we going to do this one more time this year?” The answer was “yes, we’re counting on it”.