We were 25 miles out of Virginia Beach when The Fear took hold. I remember screaming something like, “We can’t go through the tunnel!” at Schubie, over the din of Friday rush hour and our clattering Type 1 engines.
“Why?” he yelled back, and the engines swallowed my explanation about phobias. . . .
The third annual Air and Auto Classic at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach was a hoot, to say the least. Many thanks to Roy Hendrix for pushing us to make this trip, Dale Schumacher for joining the caravan and Bill and Patti Ascheman for making my 270-mile drive look miniature. Those two drove about two and a half hours before meeting me.
It’s not every day I drive 270 miles in Bridget. Never, actually. And making those miles in 40-degree November bluster was not my fantasy when I bought this car three years ago.
But: glad I did!
With two TDs and a sweet Mini in our convoy, we cut quite a figure through the D.C. beltway on our way to meet Dale Schumacher. He was right on time at the Stafford Target.
We grabbed lunch at Five Guys and sallied forth.
We were making good time on the way down, and at Dale’s suggestion decided to take RT 17 instead of 95 to I-65. It was an excellent choice: 60 mph and very few lights. We went through some federal park land and a few nice little towns. With three TDs and the Mini, we were now a show of our own. At one stop light a guy pulled up next to me and nodded at Bill’s car, just ahead: “He drive that thing all the way from Pennsylvania?”
“He’s got bigger ones than me.”
Though snugly ensconced in a brand-new, fully-enclosed, climate-controlled Mini S, Patti gets the trooper award. After about 10 hours on the road, she stoically drove through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, about a mile and a quarter underground, despite an adamant natural aversion to being underground and underwater at the same time. Turns out there’s next to no way at all to get to VA Beach from points north without traversing at least one tunnel, something we navigational knuckleheads might have learned had we consulted a map.
Oh, we tried to avoid it!
After I screamed at Dale, the four of us took the “Last Exit Before Tunnel” to reconnoiter. Led by Bill, we then got right back on the crawling Interstate 64 before taking the very next “Last Exit Before Tunnel,” and getting right back on yet again.
I was third in our little train & had a fair view of Patti’s face through my tiny Desmo rear-view. She looked like a movie heroine strapped to the conveyer belt, resigned to a gory death by spinning lumber saws, crushing cannery equipment and sharks with laser beams attached to their frickin heads, but unwilling to give the Evil Doctor Evil the satisfaction of hearing her beg for mercy.
The Oceanfront Inn was a fine establishment. Their restaurant handled breakfast well and the Irish pub across the way seems to have an ambitious chef. There’s a fireplace in there too, if you ever find yourself, like us, on the beach during the off season. We also got free garage parking.
The Air Museum is something to see. As promised–and at a cost of $50, some large portion of which was supposedly sent to the local SPCA–we parked next to the runway, on the concrete apron that stretches for a hundred yards in front of the massive hangars.
Oh yeah. Also: airplanes.
Best overheard: Officious-looking dude to obviously pissed-off car show entrant: “We did not know they were replicas when they registered but, trust me, the judges will recognize your car.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the finest cars were not on the judging field. My fave was this 1930 Austin:
There was a monster turbo’d VW Bug, a couple of really nice Vettes, the afore-mentioned Porsche D-vert (visible to the right of the Austin, above–and what’s that there in the background to its left?). Then there was this pukka T-rod banger, which was almost certainly a kit of some sort (had an auto trans) but did sport the legit quick-change rear.
And of course: The driver of this one came by later. After telling us he hadn’t parked out with us “because I didn’t want to make you look bad,” he got pretty friendly. Turns out he’s caretaker to an Australian bloke’s collection. Usually drives the Lotus but the TD needed exercise. “It’ll only go 40 mph,” the man allowed. “Need’s carb work,” he supposes. I suppose he was properly impressed by the fact that Bill drove his HomeGrown TD 400 miles to the show on the nation’s busiest highway.
A lot of people gave our cars respectful looks and asked respectful questions. Despite my overheard, I sensed zero disrespect from any participants, judges or spectators. In fact, when the judging was done, Roy took Third Place for ancient imports.
Through some sort of chicanery, he also purloined the 3rd Place award for “Vintage Domestics.” Congratulations, Roy! (And thanks, Julie, for the pics). (The pics with dates were taken with Roy and Julie’s camera–the in-focus ones by them).
At some point in the early going Dale came back to our little group and announced that he was going to win the Bi-plane ride in the raffle. I stuffed a couple tickets in there too but, sure enough, when they drew out the number it was his.
Minutes after that he was told he’d have to wait until another “single” signed up for a ride so they could fly together. So I shelled out for that. They called us both just as we were lining up our cars under the Hawker Hurricane for a group shot. Seconds later Dale and I were trying to squeeze into the training cockpit of this sweet old bi-plane.Amazingly, the sum-bitch flew with us both in there.
Back at the ranch: dolphins playing in the surf:
Sunday dawned warmer than the previous two, which was good cause we were supposed to be on the road at 7:30. Coffee-deprived (and generally idiotic) me held us up for 20 minutes getting gas. Having forgotten the $60 Dale had just given me for the hotel room, I actually wanted to leave the station because they had a sign up that said “pay inside.” Turns out the pump on the other side of the island–literally attached to the one with the sign–accepted my card.
And away we went, yes, back through the tunnel. Here’s Bill on the bridge part:
And Dale, under power on Rt 17: ‘Twas a bit chill, but everyone made it home without any mechanical or other difficulties. Tons of lookie-Lou’s giving the two-thumb salute on the highways again. As they say, you really don’t see these cars out in the wild too often.