By Mel Harris|
Cast of characters|
Ron and Debbie Berger
Roy and Sandy Buntin
J.D. and Jonnie Clemons
Chuck Cook and Peggy Hoffman
John and Kay Lynn Dragoo
Rodney and Martha Duerksen
Doyle and Linda Groat
Mel and Rustyne Harris
Tom Jennings and Brenda
Larry and Annette Myers
Tru and Sherry Osburn
David and Linda Reeds
Curtis and Kay Welch
Tony and Brenda White
|Or, Sailn' the Coast, Floatin' Your Boat, Kachinging in the Rain
Heading back to Biloxi brought back some bittersweet memories. It had been 30 years since last seeing that part of the United States. I was TDY at Keesler, AFB in 1969 before heading to Vietnam. That region had just undergone a direct hit from hurricane Camille and needless to say the area looked a lot like Oklahoma City did after the May 3 tornado. Also my two oldest kids, who were babies then, are now grown with children of their own!! Talk about time flying.
Before leaving there was a mountain of things to accomplish. Make arrangements for the pets, service the truck, get money , pack the suitcases, get medicines, load the car on a trailer, get money, buy some snacks and cokes, fill up with gas, get money. Notice a pattern here of getting money!!!
Hoping we've not forgotten anything, we meet everyone else at the Cracker Barrel in Norman on Wednesday morning October 6 for a pull out time of 8 a.m.
Hoping we've rot forgotten anything, we meet everyone else at the Cracker Barrel in Norman on Wednesday morning October 6 for a pull out time of 8 a.m. That is if our club president gets back from his house soon!! Seems our otherwise well-organized leader had forgotten something. (Said it was a sign for the side of his truck). Anyway, we get on the road headed for Pauls Valley to pick up the Welchs and I soon discover that my speedometer and the front doors (CB lingo for leader) are not even close. I'm running between 65 and 70 mph and he's pulling away. Oh well, put the pedal to the metal and we're headed for Greenville, Texas and our first scheduled pit stop. Wrong! My truck and my kidneys say otherwise. (Along with quite a few others I might add). Should have seen the foot races to the restroom. Gas tanks full, bodies empty. Head em'up and move em'out once more. We're having fun now. People giving us the thumbs up and waving to show their appreciation of our cars.
Ron and Debbie Berger from McKinney, Texas, are waiting for us in Greenville and we all pull in to say hello and stretch our legs, but not for long though. Seems some woman who owned the pharmacy in the shopping center was upset about us blocking the drive (which we weren't) and said we needed to move on. J.D. said she was just down right mean. OK, back out on 69 and looking forward to lunch. Oops. Roy and Sandy are sitting still. Car won't start. After a few minutes their '57 is up and running again and our convoy will soon descend on Mineola, Texas, for something to eat, at last.
Three couples from the Tulsa area club, Tom Jennings and his friend Brenda, Doyle and Linda Groat and Tony and Brenda White are waiting for us at the restaurant. After a good meal, which Roy skipped to put a temporary fix on his starter, we're back in the saddle and headed east for Monroe, La., on 1-20. We've traveled a few miles on the interstate and another fuel stop is in order. Two stations will have to accommodate all of these cars and trucks. Somehow the writer, a smokin' pickup and a GTO with a new motor get left behind. No matter how fast we run, those in the lead cannot be caught. Guess my speedometer is still messed up. CB must be broken also because we can't communicate with anyone. Finally come upon a rest area and guess who is waiting? Yep, those who forgot all about us in the first place. (Calm down it will be OK.) This is when we make a decision that 14 cars running together just isn't going to work. Other plans should be considered. So we divide into two groups.
On to Monroe
The trip on into Monroe is uneventful and we reach the motel just before dark. After about an hour we all get checked in, park the cars and trailers then eat again. Some of the folks from the area Classic Chevy Club come out to visit with us, including Bobby Hobson who is the State CCI Rep for Northern Louisiana. Really enjoyed talking with them about our clubs and cars.
A good night's sleep, wonderful motel breakfast, it's Thursday morning and time to head on south. Some seem more anxious to hear that kachinging sound (the noise a slot machine makes paying off) so they leave earlier than the scheduled departure time. Those of us left finally get our convoy headed toward Vicksburg, Miss. Good music, straight level road but wait, I can't believe what I'm hearing on the radio. The weather report for the coast is calling for rain all weekend long. This was not a part of the Plan. Suddenly, Bricktown 1993 comes to mind. However, before worrying about the weather we've got to wonder if our cars and trucks will hold together while driving on the roads around Jackson. I swear my car has rattles it never had before because of that stretch of !!!
|Those of us from OKC stop for a happy meal at the golden arches while the three couples from Tulsa continue to travel toward Hattiesburg. We're completely satisfied with our gourmet selections and now, bellies full, we're pounding the pavement again. Boy is it raining! Hard to see, Jonnie and J.D. are having trouble with their charging system and those black cars are getting dirtier than the rest. (Yes Larry it is true.) Quick pit-stop, tighten the battery cable on the Suburban and continue down 49 toward Gulfport. Man is it ever raining. Come on windshield wipers don't quit now! Have I mentioned rain?|
A ray of sunshine
Hey a bright spot in the sky. The rain has stopped and we're close to the Rice Pavilion. The other group has notified us to expect about an hour and a half wait to get registered. Following John's lead we let the girls out close to the registration tent and drive on to find a parking place. Gee, in about ten minutes the women reappear and we're ready to find the hotel and get unloaded. Lot's of traffic headed east on highway 90 and the wind is creating large white caps on the Gulf. Area looks basically the same and the stately homes appear in better condition than they did in 1969. Finally arrive at the Imperial Palace, get checked in, cars safely in the parking garage and it's time to eat again. Have I mentioned rain?
Pigging out at the buffet
Dining at the buffet sounded good, so living up to the COCCC tradition we overindulged and felt miserable but got our money's worth. (John, the carrot cake was delicious and I'm sorry you had to beg for your piece.) Now we must try to clean the dirt from our cars while Curtis and Larry work on Tom Jennings' truck. We had a bucket of water and no hose, all the while Rustyne saying it can't be done. Mission accomplished and we're ready for the weekend fun to begin. We soon discovered that trying to have a spotless car was a waste of time. Have I mentioned rain?
For those who have never attended this event a little explanation is in order. There isn't just one car show. We had four different locations, spread out over about 30 miles. You cruise along the coast from one spot to another and get your cards stamped. This makes you eligible for the Prize money on Sunday. You might find live bands, swap meets, craft shows and plenty of beautiful cars plus an enjoyable, scenic drive. One hotel had Johnny Rivers performing. Our hotel had the Kruse Auction on Saturday morning and another had a beach party that evening. So, there Is plenty to do besides spending time and money in the casinos.
Friday morning the sun was out so we headed to Bay St. Louis. This trip of about 27 miles was filled with numerous classic cars, white sandy beaches and lots of nice homes. While I concentrated on driving, guess who was trying to spot a retirement home on the beach? $$$$$. After spending about two hours enjoying the cars and entertaininent at this location we headed back to Biloxi and D'iberville. Have I mentioned rain? How about monsoon? Toad-strangler? Gully washer? Get the point yet?
Have I mentioned rain? How about monsoon? Toad-strangler? Gully washer? Get the point yet?
Back at the hotel we wipe down the cars again, eat and wait for the weather to improve. Ha! Ha! It doesn't. So a decision is made to brave the elements and complete the task of getting our cards stamped. A little soggy and damp we return to the hotel parking garage and -- you guessed it -- wipe down our cars one more time. The evening has arrived and we're ready to refuel our bodies. We split into groups, and head off in different directions. Eight couples enjoyed a fine meal at the Grand Hotel while others indulge in shrimp at Boomtown. Some then headed back to the Imperial Palace in hopes of hearing that infamous kachinging sound. An old phrase comes to mind. "A fool and his money are soon parted."
Breakfast Saturday morning, a tour of the car museum and a lot of the guys head for the Kruse Auction while some of the women make a trip back to D'iberville for the craft show. If I'm not mistaken, not a purchase was made at either one. After lunch we cruise over to the swap meet in Gulfport and try to find an instant bargain before heading back to the hotel. Most went their separate ways that evening, some to shows, others to the casinos or the beach party.
We wake up Sunday morning to the sound of rain hitting our hotel window. Go down for breakfast, look outside and decide we'll wait until 10:30 before making a decision about attending the awards ceremony. Let's just say some are braver than others. While a few of our club members headed on home, some did go to see if they'd won any money and four of us went to the Beau Rivage for lunch. Afterwards we load the two remaining cars on trailers and then proceed to Boomtown for more food and that very popular kachinging sound. Just ask Curtis and Kay how nice it is.
We tried our best to avoid the rain but to no avail. Thankfully, most of us had used Rain-X on our windshields but even that wasn't enough. Approximately 6 inches of rain fell during our stay and certainly curtailed some cruising. Those days went by in a hurry and before you know it we're loading cars and getting ready for the trip back home. At least three couples headed off in different directions and I'm happy to report everyone returned safely.
You may be wondering how much money was won or lost? Can't really say. All I know for sure is the kachinging sound was very limited. As for the gaming tables - well, you'll have to ask those who indulged. Other expenses included a new tire for the trailer I borrowed from Benny. The Clemons had to buy an alternator. A transmission rebuild was called for in the Duerksens'57. I think the Buntins starter still needs attention and Tom Jennings' truck has a new rocker arm and plugs.
Was this a fun trip? You bet. All 1640 miles towing that trailer. Will we go again? Maybe, but it is too early for that decision. As the CCI Rep. I have to ask would any of us put forth that much time and effort to attend a CCI Convention? Let's think about it!
A final thought. Many thanks to those who had previously attended "Cruisin' the Coast" and took the time to help all of us rookies learn the ropes. It certainly made for a more pleasant experience.