VENU Magazine, Fall 2014
“Life! It’s Wonderful Here!” proclaimed Buick ads in 1942, fanning America’s passion for exploration. Pioneers by nature, Americans have long been drawn to the open road and to the freedom and independence it affords. The promise of the horizon symbolizes the pursuit of democracy, liberty and individuality, tenets inherent to the American psyche. The automobile provides drivers the means to wander along country lanes and cruise down highways, anticipating the destination while savoring the journey. “The motorcar…is the magic carpet that makes us master of the world’s domains; it is wings, it is speed, it is drama, it is adventure,” reflected historian Charlton Ogburn, Jr.
In the spirit of Lewis and Clark and the nineteenth-century geological survey expeditions, early motoring men, women and canine alike ventured forth over roadless terrain without the guidance of maps or directional signs. In 1903, Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson braved the first cross-country drive, traveling from San Francisco to New York City in 63 days on a $50 bet in a two-seater, 20-horsepower Winton; mechanic Sewall Crocker and bulldog Bud accompanied him. Alice Ramsey and her three female passengers were also emboldened by the challenge, making a 59-day transcontinental crossing in 1909 in a 30-horsepower Maxwell DA tourer of the same year. Novelist Edith Wharton’s “imagination [was] so tantalized by the mystery of beyond the next blue hills” that she returned home from her New England outings in her 1904 Pope-Hartford “laden with a new harvest of beauty.”
Contemporary automobile wayfarers, aka “car guys,” continue to embark upon voyages of discovery behind the wheel, exhilarated by wafting whiffs of fuel and leather and wide-eyed with wonder at the passing landscape. We share Toad’s thrill of being “Lord of the lone trail,” echoing the plaintive plea of Kenneth Grahame’s misadventuring motorist in The Wind in the Willows to ride in the front seat where, if “I could get the fresh air full in my face, I should be all right again.”
Little excuse is cause for gathering for camaraderie, tire-kicking and refreshments. Zumbach’s Gourmet Coffee is a favorite spot any day for a chat with owner Doug; monthly “in-season” Sunday mornings draw spectacular cars, car lovers and families to Caffeine & Carburetors centered at his 77 Pine Street, New Canaan, Connecticut, shop (caffeineandcarburetors.com). A recent C&C run to Lime Rock Park rewarded attendees with a dazzling array of wheels and the vaunted 109 Cheese & Wine Ultimate Grilled Cheese, which is just that; Monica and Todd Brown of 109 in Ridgefield, Connecticut, “Will Drive 4 Food,” and they sustain us with their delectable offerings (109cheeseandwine.com).
We auto fanatics are a gregarious—and hungry—lot, celebrating with equal import “what goes around the table as what is on it” as expressed by Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker essayist and author in his book The Table Comes First. The autonomy of a trip coupled with the community of a meal evoke nostalgia for America’s more innocent and less complicated past.
Car clubs eagerly meet at local restaurants for a formal dinner and casual car show. Horseless carriages, steam-powered cars, behemoth classic beauties and sleek vintage and modern sports cars dot lawns and fields at idyllic picnics; we share our compatriot Toad’s delight in unpacking the “luncheon basket,” reliving his joy as he “shook out the tablecloth and spread it, took out all the mysterious packets one by one and arranged their contents in due order, still gasping, ‘Oh my! Oh my!’ at each revelation.” Impromptu jaunts for ice cream can easily be rallied to the pleasure of gallivanting foodies as well as waving passersby along the way.
Matt deGarmo Classic Motorcars invites clients to exercise their classic and vintage cars on scenic country roads with the reward of a lavish picnic catered by 109 Cheese & Wine. Luncheons of the finest selections of cheese, charcuterie and wine create America’s dean of cooking James Beard’s ultimate picnic experience: “a feast for the senses and the emotions as well as for the palate.” Aston-Martin, Austin-Healey, BMW, Ferrari and Porsche are among the distinguished marques that grace his caravans (degarmoltd.com).
Ed Hyman’s Vintage Sports Car Club annual Vintage Rallye will lead car and food enthusiasts around Berkshire County, Massachusetts, this Fall. Club members and new friends will enjoy the hospitality and local, farm-to-table cuisine of The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, antique hunts, rallye contests and car collector garage and restoration shop visits during this highly anticipated weekend.
Vintage Rallies nourishes the soul, combining the highest quality in luxury accommodations, gourmet food and exotic sports cars on their elegant tours. Rich Taylor’s and Jean Constantine’s five-day, 1,000-mile excursions traverse America’s most beautiful and least-traveled roads; sumptuous meals created by some of the Country’s most renowned chefs top off each day’s ride. Annual events include the New England 1000, Northwest or Southwest Passage, Mountain Mille and Texas 1000. Vintage Rallies has raised $1,700,000 to benefit local and national charities since their 1993 inception (vintagerallies.com).
Let’s meander the countryside, friends, answering Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1939 call to “take a second-hand car, put on a flannel shirt, drive out to the Coast by the northern route and come back by the southern route. Don’t talk to your banking friends, or your chamber of commerce friends, but specialize on the gasoline station men, the small restaurant keeper, and farmers you meet by the wayside, and your fellow automobile travelers.” Enjoy the views and honk a cheerful greeting as you pass by!