It’s been nearly 40 years since I cruised around my Northern California hometown with my high school buddies, but the mental time warp has been going full force lately, taking me back in nostalgic bursts when I least expect it. It is due in part to all our planning for the Woodward Dream Cruise and the Week on Woodward (WoW) event, and to putting together this special Woodward-themed issue. But it’s also timing. As I write this, school is almost out in our neighborhood. Summer beckons, and there’s something in the air, especially at night, that feels very familiar even all these years later.
There’s a pull, a draw, to the streets at night. Back then it was to get out of the house, away from parents, chores, maybe homework if spring fever struck before the semester ended. These days when the urge hits I grab my teenage daughter and take her for ice cream. As far as she knows, it’s just more daddy-daughter time and probably a big pain, taking her away from her virtual pals on Tumblr. (Facebook is so over for teenagers.) I use the local Coldstone Creamery as an excuse, the carrot to dangle to get her away from her laptop and so I can get on the road.
Back then we were mostly in borrowed parent’s cars, though a couple of guys could afford their own. We didn’t call them beaters, but that’s what they were — all we could afford on meager part-time wages. It didn’t matter, really, not in our group. We weren’t street racers. We just cruised, windows down, arms on the doorsills, smelling the night air and the promise it held.
That’s what I remember now: a sense of promise, or potential, every time we hit the streets. I doubt the teenage me thought that way. At the time I was just happy to be out. But you’d shut the car door, turn the key, drop the gear shift lever, feel the car rumble and the wheels turning, and motor into the unexpected, where anything — even in our little town — could happen. Or at least you hoped so. The future was out there, the future that our nightly few hours of freedom promised, paid for with just a couple of bucks for gas and a little left over for a run through Jack in the Box.
It’s a powerful thing, that anything-could-happen sense. We buy, build, and drive the cars of our youth not just because we appreciate their power or design, but because of that promise. It lingers in the smell of the upholstery, the feel of the skinny wheel in your hands, the tug in your gut when you leave hard from a light.
A million people and who-knows-how-many cars will descend on the Detroit area in August, all feeling the same pull. We’ll be there too, during the Dream Cruise on August 18 and for our Week on Woodward tour the week before. WoW is technically a Street Rodder magazine Road Tour, but it was our idea and we’re looking to mix street rods and muscle cars on a series of day trips to some of the coolest automotive-themed attractions in the Motown area, culminating in the Dream Cruise itself.
You can register for WoW by visiting the Road Tour section of Street Rodder’s website, www.streetrodder.com. The cost to register is $75, parking for the Dream Cruise costs an additional $25, and there may be admission fees at some of the venues. Small price to pay to hang out with friends old and new, see some incredible sights (and sites), and taste again, if just for a short while, that sense of potential.
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