Monday, Labor Day, September 4
From Jersey City to the Vintage Festival at Lime Rock Park
169 Miles today, 4610 Miles since Monterey
A Fine Day Out on the Last 150 Miles of the Road Trip
All good things must eventually come to an end, but this road trip to end all road trips ended with a roar at the final day of the Rolex Vintage Festival at Lime Rock Park sponsored by BMW and MINI, where many of the same cars and drivers (including our Mini Cindy and her Mini Cooper S numbered 747) put their vintage racers out on the track for wheel-to-wheel competition.
The challenge that the Motorists, were concerned about, however, was surviving Labor Day traffic in our own wheel-to-wheel competition as we traversed the most populous urban center in North America. Our options were the route that goes into Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel, then up the West Side Highway and across the Bronx, the shortest route but one even the local Motorists weren't prepared to recommend, or the slightly more circuitous route that bypassed Manhattan to get to the eventual peace and quiet of suburban Connecticut before arriving at the track around noon.
We opted for the longer route and were rewarded with what many considered to be the best drive of the entire trip, taking into account scenery, driving pleasure, and traffic conditions. The worst part of the entire trip was getting from the hotel to the turnpike onramp, which required a couple of turns on city streets, a trip down a one-way alley behind an apartment house, and then two more turns before a 12-inch square sign pointed us on to the "NJ Turnpike."
After some very rapid motoring to stay with the unleisurely Labor Day traffic on the Turnpike, and three successive off-ramps to avoid getting on the George Washington Bridge, but rather to make our way to the Palisades Parkway north along the Hudson River, we were home free.
From there life became very good; the Palisades Parkway, edged with green, trucks not permitted, with peeks through the trees to the Hudson on our left, was marvelous as we made our way north to the Tappan Zee Bridge. Crossing the Hudson, we took the Sawmill River Parkway to the Taconic Parkway, and discovered another of the fine Motoring roads of our beautiful country, in the one place that we never would have expected, the populous New York-New Jersey metropolitan area.
The parkway system in New York and Connnecticut was laid out in the 'thirties and built with WPA labor, explaining the handwrought stone walls that form the barriers along much of the roadway. They were the first limited-access highways in the country, specifically designed for Sunday drives into the countryside as an escape for city dwellers in the crowded urban centers of the northeast. With none of the safety amenities of modern interstates – no shoulders, stone walls, right-angle access roads, and no service facilities, they have a particular period charm. Curving through tree-lined verges that shield the everyday commerce only a mile or two away from the road, the parkways open out to vistas typical of the Hudson River Valley with no signs of civilization, not so much as a power pole, visible from the road.
After passing Poughkeepsie, we left the parkways to traverse a series of smaller roads into Connecticut, which gave us the opportunity to drive through charming little towns with landmarks like this gatehouse, probably build during the age of the robber barons, and now seeming to beckon us back into a slower and more elegant period of history.
Only a few miles further on we passed this sign signifying that we had made it – leaving Monterey, California 15 days ago, we had traveled across the entire width of the country, and much of its length as well to finally arrive here in Lime Rock, Connecticut.
The cars that had made the entire journey were allowed to park in a place of honor, right along the path that every spectator entering the track would pass. Few of them really knew the significance of the achievement completed by these cars, but they all recognized these cute, capable cars.
For those who arrived early enough, the vintage race sponsors had set aside a little time for the MTTS Motorists to take an honor parade lap of the Lime Rock Track, with the announcer noting that 15 days and 4800 miles ago, these same cars had circled the track at Laguna Seca in Monterey.
As the Motorists had done each day, we brought our logbook to the passport desk to have it stamped, but this day was special for those who had made it the entire distance. When our book was stamped with the Lime Rock stamp, we were ushered across the finish line and our book was stamped one last time with the special "I Crossed the Line" to lots of cheers. Here Ray Brown, the R/A Performance Team Event Producer and Desiree Tinder, a member of the R/A route team, stamp my book.
Once our book was stamped, we were given the "I Crossed the Line" t-shirt awarded only to those who had made it the whole way. needless to say, after over two weeks together, we've become a close band of fellow travelers.
Like rock band tour shirts, the Line-crossing Motorists' t-shirts had each of the dates and stops along the tour emblazoned on the back. We wore them proudly as we watched the races from the private lawn in front of our pavilion overlooking the Lime Rock track's start-finish line.
On the track, MiniCindy Shaffer, the MC2 racing columnist, was ripping up the track in a close dice with Kristi Edelbrock in a Shelby Mustang, trading places back and forth on every lap, as Cindy would outbrake Kristi at the end of the front straight, then fight to stay ahead on the tight curves of the relatively short and bumpy track, only to be overtaken again with Kristi's faster and more powerful big-bore on the front straight. Needless to say, spectators were impressed by the performance of this little-car-that-could and its equally game driver. But just as exciting as the racing performance, Cindy received one of the highest accolades available at this vintage festival, the award for the best spirit of preservation and performance in the production GP group. Congratulations to our MiniCindy!
We had the rest of the day to enjoy the races and festivities from the pavilion erected specifically for all those wearing the red wrist band of an MTTS Motorist. Whether the enthusiasts had joined just for this one special day, or had been on the trip for the entire journey, with 415 MINIs entering the front gate, perhaps ten percent of the MINIs that had participated in one leg of the journey or another, we all knew we were part of history. We had participated in the Road Trip to Top All Road Trips. We don't believe that the slogan should be "...to end all road trips" for there are already rumors that the run-away success of this marvelous set of events has convinced MINI USA to do it again on another route in two years.
We'll see you then.