It was 8 am and the humidity was already up to 72% when I last ventured outside. This promises to be a miserably hot summer for people like me. There’s no hope on the horizon, either, with the weather guys projecting mid to high 90s all the way out.
Summer used to be great. It meant scout camp, mission trips, freedom from school, and fun with friends. Then we all grew up and got jobs to pay off our debt, so summer became just like the other seasons – except now we can bake cookies on the dash while we sit in traffic on the way to the office.
But like a bad TV-order product, summer comes packaged with distractions, things far better than the weather, to take our minds off the fact that we’re melting. For us, those distractions are usually shiny, colorful, loud, and fast. If you’re looking for a great summer, see how many of these you can pack into a road trip.
Date: Virtually every weekend
Location: Depends on date
Cost: $18 adult, $6 child
Locally organized car shows are fun because you never know what you’ll see. Weird, quirky stuff, rat rods, uber-short VW busses. Goodguys shows are fun because you do know exactly what you’ll see: pristine, gorgeous cars, often numbers-matching and always tasteful. Goodguys is like the Wal-Mart of car shows, which is a good and a bad thing. It will always be comfortable, you’ll always be able to find just what you’re looking for, and they’ll be fairly identical all over the country. The bad? Perfect uniformity can be a bit of a letdown, and you can only ogle so many Mustangs, Camaros, and Chargers before you want to see something unique.
Date: August 29th-September 3rd
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Cost: $61 on Sunday, less on prior days
Even if you don’t follow straight line racing, even if you protest that it’s all an engineering and money game, you should still get to an NHRA national event before you die. There’s nothing like seeing those land-borne rockets take off, firing down the strip, spending a fifth of their engine life and generally being some of the quickest wheeled vehicles on the planet. Smell the nitro fumes, feel the earthquake exhaust notes rattling your cells apart, and take as much ear protection as scientifically possible.
NASCAR at Watkins Glen
Date: August 12th
Location: Watkins Glen, New York
Cost: Starting at $75
Oval track racing can be fun to watch, but put those beastly stock machines on a twisty track and prepare to be surprised. Lower speeds lend to lower-risk rubbing, and the still-massive horsepower means fishtailing in the corners. You can almost hear the cars complaining, “Who put that chicane there?” Speedway races can be predictable after qualifying, but on a road course like the Glen, anything can happen.
Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival
Date: August 30th-September 2nd
Location: Auburn, Indiana
Cost: Free, unless you’re bidding, in which case, definitely not free.
When you’ve spent your budget at the NHRA nationals, head up Interstate 69 to get to Auburn, Indiana. Site of the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg museum and former factory, the ACD festival centers around one event: the auction. You can ogle some of the most perfect, concours-ready autos this side of Milan. Not every gorgeous car ever made in America was about hot rodding or dirty muscle. Some were refined, finer things. So take a cane and top hat. Like a sir.
Woodward Dream Cruise
Date: August 18th
Location: Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan
Cost: Gas money
Take all the things you hate about car shows – the trailer queens, the lack of exhaust noise, the admission and entry fees – and toss them out the window as you amble along Woodward. The Woodward Dream Cruise is like the biggest car show you’ve ever seen, but it moves. Granted, it’s a slow roll, but there’s plenty of engine noise to be had, and it’s proof that the cars, some beautiful, some hideous, all interesting, can actually move under their own power. And they scatter around the area all weekend, and to a lesser degree, all summer. So parking, walking, or cruising, spending Saturday at Woodward is like marinating your soul in all the best cars to be found in America and Canada. I experienced this for the first time last year, and I’ll definitely be going back this year. Look for a few features here in the Garage.
Since we inadvertently left out most of the country, what are your favorite automotive vacations? Where are you going this year?