Take Me Out to the Car Cruise...

September 1, 2008 | By Marcy Toschi

A First-Time Vintage Cruiser Shares Her Story.

Editor’s note: Marcy Toschi, an English teacher and literacy coach at Valley Alternative Magnet School in Lake Balboa, California, is our freelance copy editor, and while she’s good at helping us catch typos and grammatical errors, she’d not had much first-hand experience with vintage vehicles until she went to a weeklong cruise-in. If you’re trying to interest your family members in the hobby, you might have them take note of how quickly she became quite involved.

A 69 GTO, some ’55-57 Chevys with big engines and chrome, about five Shelby Cobras, one of which was original, and the list goes on. What made this cruise and charity car show unique was, well, it was my first…

It was 6:30 p.m. Old downtown Grants Pass, Oregon, was all a-glimmer with small town excitement. The brick buildings from the Gold Rush times were abuzz inside with shops and antique stores open for the event ahead.

The entered vehicles, including ours, were lined up in a bank parking lot, all facing the same direction. There was no rhyme or reason to the order of the cars other than first come, first to go. We were by our best friends in their newly restored Dodge Dart and were dressed for the summer-warm weather in southern Oregon, my boyfriend in his summer garb and I in my white summer dress.

We had our plug-in fan ready to go in the front seat of our little ’71 Mini Cooper. People in the cruise were standing around, talking about their cars. “Nice goat you have there.” “Thank you. We drove all the way from Washington to be here again.”

With a windshield view like this, it’s easy to see why someone might feel transported in time.
With a windshield view like this, it’s easy to see why someone might feel transported in time.

You could feel the anticipation in the air, and then all at once everyone got into their cars and engines were starting up. From surfs-up Woodies to “Happy Days” Chevys, it seemed that just about any car you could imagine was there.

The cruise was about to begin and my adrenalin was rushing. We were going to be cruising very slowly in a big square around the main part of town and yet my heart was beating as if we were about to race the Indy 500.

Our turn arrived and my boyfriend, Lee, pulled onto the street…and swarms of people were waving at us. The parade of nostalgia had started.

Cruisin’ down Sixth Street in our red Mini, I was the observer being observed. From families with their portable chairs and ice chests sitting back having a good ol’ time, to little girls dressed in poodle skirts; I saw the gamut of small town America. But where to look first? Between waving and smiling at people I knew in the crowd along with classic car watching, I had my eyes full. Which was my favorite car…I couldn’t decide. And like the people lining the street, I, too, was taking pictures as we drove around and around.

The waving was one of the best parts. This was the closest I’d come to being in a parade and it made me proud to know I had helped prepare the little red Mini for the big day. Days earlier, while Lee got the more important things ready on the car, I had the honored job of shining the wheels. Sparkling silver spokes glimmered as the sun set.

There Were Other Fun Things to Do

Saturday night’s cruise was the culmination of a jam-packed week of events. There was the Tuesday night concert in beautiful Riverside Park along the Rogue River, where we watched a ’50s rock ’n’ roll show with fireworks to top it off. Before it got dark, everyone could walk around the entries in the Classic Car Show while the owners beamed with pride over their shiny beauties.

Among other events was Thursday night’s Poker Run. We hopped in our cars and cruised as fast as the speed limit allows to each of five points. Then we would hop out of the car to get our poker cards stamped. At the final destination we dropped off the poker cards for an evening drawing.

I thought for sure we were going to win. We were in the groove, driving to all the malt shops, the bowling alley, and drive-ins on the list.

Well, we didn’t win that one…but I could have sworn I got my first trip in a time machine and was back in the ’50s.