This story begins as usual with a dream but this time Richard Prior's brother Ian who wanted to take his restored 1961 MGA Sebring back to where it won its class in the 1961 12 Hour Race at Sebring and to be reunited with the sister car for the first time in 50 years. Sebring in 2012 is going to be a big year with the 50th anniversary of the last MGA to compete, the 60th anniversary of the event and the 100th birthday of the town of Sebring. Ian was seeking interest to accompany he and wife Pam as travelling companions and to defray the cost of shipping by sharing a container. Barbara and Richo jumped at the chance to take the YT on another epic journey that they hoped would be as enjoyable as the "Antipodian Adventure" in 2003.
After much planning the cars were finally loaded into a 40 foot container on the 27th January for the 28 day trip from Melbourne
Australia to Savannah Georgia along with another MGA belonging to travel companions Ray and Sharon Mullins. To get this far was not without some pain
as all cars went through some major overhauls. Ian had only just finished rebuilding the original factory engine and Richo discovered clutch problems
the day before transporting the YT from Perth across to Melbourne and had to replace the clutch the day before loading. Also we had concerns on whether
the cars would actually all fit in the container. Fortunately a plan to remove bumper bars and irons and replace them with flat bar just prior to
packing paid off as this gave us about 100mm clearance between cars and the
container ends and if needed would allow us to have cars touching.
The CMA CGM L Etoile sailed from Melbourne Australia a few days later and arrived in Savannah GA via the Panama Canal on 28th Feb. Our intrepid travellers left Melbourne on the 3rd March and arrived in LA a few hours before they left on the same day. After two more internal flights via Dallas Forth Worth they arrived in Savannah 26hrs later.
Sunday 4th To Sunday 25th March
Sunday 4th March dawned and the travellers were keen to explore Savannah and ward off any Jetlag. Certainly the old part of Savannah with its historic waterfront buildings dating back to the days of cotton exports and all the beautiful southern colonial homes were fantastic to explore. The Old Town is a myriad of small parks that open up the intersections rather than roundabouts (rotaries) with statues or fountains as the centre piece, Spanish Moss hanging from the trees and Azaleas in bloom were all there to enjoy. Savannah is also the home of Johnny Mercer and a local church and park bench (now in the museum) hosted scenes from the Forest Gump movie. A local tour with lookalike trolley cars was engaged which is a great way to see the sights and gain lots of local history. This was followed by revisiting and further exploring later in the day until tired limbs required a well earned rest. Further expeditions, including local and rail museums followed over the next few days waiting for news of the cars. On one expedition that passed Police HQ, a display of early Patrol Cars was seen out front.
Monday, and the Aussies were keen to establish when they could get their cars. They were optimistic with the ship having arrived a few days earlier that it would only be a day or two – how wrong they were! Because the shipping agent in OZ had appointed a Customs broker in LA it would be lunchtime before they could make contact so they decided to visit Customs House just around the corner from the Hotel and plead ignorance to ascertain what progress had been made with clearance. Customs basically insisted they had to go through a local broker but could go out to the customs clearance house some miles away and try their luck. A few hours later contact with the broker in LA revealed the shipping agent had done a very poor job with paperwork and because fines with late tendering of documents with customs were highly probable, they were having great difficulty getting a Savannah broker to accept the role. A visit to the clearance house was not fruitful, but in the meantime LA had come up with a local broker not far from the clearance house and they sounded very positive. After the visit to the local broker with copies of the appropriate forms the Aussies were quite confident all would be well – wrong again! A further 3 days passed with all sorts of excuses being made and never a return phone call. Friday morning with nothing positive the Aussies were now really panicking because they had to be at Amelia Island for the Concour on Sunday. During the day the organisers from Amelia Island rang because they were concerned Ian’s car had not arrived. The situation was explained and a logistics company known to the organisers contacted. In the space of a couple of hours but now late afternoon miraculously the cars were available. In the pouring rain the cars were loaded with bags and bumper bars refitted and off they set. 60 miles down the road in the dark and still raining Ian’s Sebring Coupe died with a dead battery as a result of a faulty regulator. A flat tow was engaged and they all made Fernandina Beach (Amelia Island) at midnight.
Saturday was spent attending seminars at the Concour location and trying to get a fix for the faulty regulator as well as a final detailing of Ian’s car. Sunday and off to the big day at Amelia Island Concour. What an amazing event with hundreds of pristine motor cars of all ages and types ranging from veterans, classics, exotics and racing cars. There was only a small group of MGs on show immediately behind the Sebring cars, just one TC, TA TB SA Tickfords, L1, PA and SA Tourer but sadly no Y Types. There were quite a few Shelby Cobras and a good assortment of Rollers. At the top end of one fairway was a big collection of Vic Elford racing cars and a few examples of the famous Chaparrals. The feature car this year was the Ferrari 250GTO and there were 12 examples estimated to be worth over $1m each!
The highlight for the Aussies was to see Ian’s Sebring coupe in a line with 7 other factory Sebring MGAs from ’57 to ’62 and of course to see Ian’s #44 reunited with sister car #43 for the first time in 50 years. The icing on the cake was #44 with Ian and Pam on-board called to the presentation dais to receive the “Wits End“ award (hard luck trophy) and to hear the commentator publicly acknowledge the effort made to bring the car from Australia, the breakdown on the way and the dramas with Customs Clearance. It was heard later that a customs official made an apology for the delay!
During the day a guy from the Lamborghini camp came running after Richard because he was under the impression Richo was the official show photographer and they needed photographs taken. Well for those that don’t know, Richo dreams of owning a Lambo, especially in yellow, maybe one day, he nearly wet his pants at the proposal but had to fess up that he was wasn’t official he just looked that way. Anyway as you would expect he seized on the opportunity to get close up and intimate with his dream car.
With all that excitement under the belt it was time to do some relaxing cruisin’ before the next big event! Before leaving Fernandina Beach it was decided by the group they should go out to the coast and actually look at the town proper and it was also time for morning coffee! They were chatting to a local who came to look at the cars and he suggested they pop into a local garage called Amelia Island Dream Cars that had a number of MGs in the collection. The proprietor showed the group around and apart from some American classics, a number of prewar and T Type MGs, there was a family of Y Saloons and Tourers in hibernation patiently waiting for their turn to be brought back to life. No wonder the locals were saying they had never seen a YT before, they were all there! The group then headed off further down the Florida coast to Saint Augustine to enjoy the sights of the oldest town in the USA and a pleasant evening with local MG folk and another OZ couple who joined the tourists at Amelia Island.
The following morning they went on a conducted trolley bus tour to soak up more history. Particularly some early buildings in the originally walled Old Town and icons such as the Fort and “The Senator” a surviving oak tree many hundreds of years old. Later on they headed south and a stop off at Daytona Raceway was in order because #44 ran there back in the ‘60s however, the place was inundated with bikers for bike week with 600,000 expected. A quiet spot was found around the other side of the circuit and the obligatory picture in front of the gate! They also managed a good look at the track as there was an open gate in the fence. Following a stopover in Titusville the next port of call was to meet up with the people who were instrumental in Ian purchasing #44 from a wrecker’s yard in 1977 and for them to admire the restoration to its former glory. From there it was a pleasant drive across country and the later part through orange groves and the pungent smell of citrus to reach home for the next few days at the lovely old Hotel Jacaranda in Avon Park near Sebring. On arrival the YT had its only breakdown which was a flat tyre caused by a split in a creased tube. An attempt was made to book in at the Reeds Motel for nostalgic reasons because previous Factory MG teams had stayed there over the years but sadly it is now defunct.
The next few days were spent enjoying the celebrations at Sebring in the company of all the MGA competitors and Sebring owners plus all the passers-by who stopped for a chat. This was a huge event and equal in size to any major race meeting or even F1. The extent of the pit area and the race team facilities were amazing as were all the regalia stalls and masses of huge RVs. There was also a big assortment of older Sebring cars in the support events and a good display of yesteryear 12 hour cars in the Gallery of Legends including 3 of the Sebring MGAs.
The highlights for the YT and of course the driver and navigator were a lap of the track following the Sebring MGAs at moderate speed and the parade drive under police escort into the town of Sebring and to park with some exotic race cars in the town circle.
The YT created a lot of interest parked out at the track and in the town as it was obviously an unusual car in the company it was keeping. Many people who came to chat had no idea what it was or its age and amazed it had come all the way from Australia! A demonstration of the Jackall System really impressed Joe Public! One wonders what the crowd thought of the YT as it went flashing by on the track in hot pursuit of MGAs and racing cars?
After Sebring the tour continued right over to the Gulf of Mexico to Naples and a viewing of the Collier/Cunningham collections car museum. This museum is only open by invitation or prearranged booking which had been made on behalf of the group so they were privileged to get in. The museum is located in quite a smart building with no signage or evidence of what lies within. The inside is equally as smart and very well laid out, all down lit with grey and gunmetal walls. The collection consisted of around 115 cars many of them fairly late exotics but also quite a few early machines and many in themes of how motor cars or makes progressed. One impressive section was numerous competition Porsches from early to recent examples. The only MG was a K3!
Following Naples the touring party headed SE back across Florida through the top of the Everglades to Homestead on the East Coast which was the start of the dash down to Key West and halfway back as far as Marathon. Part of the way across the Everglades the first 1000miles was achieved. The YT and crew just love the scenery and long smooth roads in this part of the country, this is what the car was built to do and sitting on just over 2000rpm at 50MPH it is just tonking along! The drive down the Keys over the causeways and bridges all the way to Key West was fascinating and the 7 Mile Bridge an amazing structure. Key West is the second oldest town in the US and some very nice colonial homes but our tourists think Savannah still wins first prize. A point of interest in Key West apart from being only 90 miles from Cuba, it is the start of Interstate 1 North and the 0 Mile post in town is a sort after collector’s item and has to be frequently replaced! And an item of trivia - India has sacred cows but Key West has free roaming Bantams.
At Marathon the accommodation was very liveable and more like holiday flats than typical motel rooms which had a very pleasant outlook onto a protected waterway so it was very tempting to stay a day or two. However there was work to be done and the day started with a check of #44 tappets which had become quite noisy only to find the rocker bushes were badly worn and it is only a new motor! Examination showed the oil feed pedestal was at the wrong end and thus no oil feed other than a bit of splash. The YT, also known as the “Mother Ship”, came to the rescue because squirreled away in the spare wheel compartment treasure trove was a complete rocker assembly that had been there since the first Antipodean Adventure in 2003!..With the changeover complete the tour hit the road with a proposed stopover at Okeechobee at the top of the quite large Lake Okeechobee. After a quite a long a fairly uninteresting drive they discovered the town was completely booked out with a fishing carnival and the nearest hotel with 3 rooms available was on the coast over 50 miles away at Vero Beach. With a new destination in the GPS the YT lead the way to Vero Beach but could not locate the hotel. Eventually with some directions from a local the hotel was found to end a long 300mile day. Just short of Vero Beach #44 provided some more entertainment or rather consternation by popping off the handbrake button and locking on at a set of traffic lights. The convoy pulled over into a car park and eventually managed to get the pawl free of the ratchet while joking about Ian losing his knob!!! All these antics in full view of the local Sherriff who had also stopped for a break and later came over to make sure all was ok. The hotel at Vero Beach was one of a number of occasions where the tourists were invited to park their machines under the canopy of the hotel forecourt for the night.
The next morning was a leisurely drive up the coast via Melbourne Florida, not to be confused with Melbourne in Australia where some of our tourists hail from, to reach the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral. A very informative tour of the facilities Launch and Assembly buildings was undertaken including displays such as the massive Saturn V Rocket and command module in an equally massive enclosure. A mock launch in the actual Launch Control Room was enjoyed by all and finished with an excellent 3D film in the I-Max theatre all about Shuttle trips to repair the Hubble Telescope and then went into mind boggling effects and detail about what the telescope can see in far outer space . The last Shuttle was still parked awaiting its piggy back ride to Washington DC.
It was then time to head back inland to attend the Orlando GOF at Altamonte Springs. The whole weekend was staged at the Hilton Hotel so this was a great time to relax for a few days and meet up with more like minded MG folk and their cars. It was also a chance to renew some acquaintances from Amelia Island and Sebring. Friday morning it was time to clean the cars for the afternoon “First Timers” Show n’ Shine followed by a dinner at the hotel with all attendees. Saturday morning it was Show n’ Shine for all entrants with everyone expected to vote by model or class and great to see the YT parked alongside a Y Saloon. This was the only running Y seen on the trip! Again the YT and its mods created a lot of interest and for some it was their first YT in the flesh! During the afternoon a number of the attendees went to the Morse Museum in Winter Garden to view a display of Tiffany Glass and other modern American artworks. That evening was the presentation dinner and 1st MGA went to Ian and Pam’s #44. Richard and Barbara, and Ray and Sharon received awards as mementoes for attending all the way from Australia with their cars.
Sunday dawned and everybody had congregated in the hospitality area on the 7th floor for breakfast, quite a crowd. After numerous goodbyes the Aussies again hit the road heading for an overnight stop at Jacksonville. Their path up the Interstate 4 the 17 and 207 and ultimately onto the very scenic County Rd 13 took them along a very long waterway, which appears to be nameless, and eventually reaches the ocean at Jacksonville. On the way they had a coffee stop at Deland which is a very pretty town and home to Stetson University and also a brief stop at Palatka. Near to the top of the waterway the final stop before Jacksonville was a locality called Switzerland, would you believe, and time for a leg stretch and look at the picturesque nameless waterway! Along the very scenic 13 there were numerous great examples of the classical southern colonial home with probably more than normal displaying the American flag to add to the scene and quite a few with the confederate flag as well!
And thus ends Episode 1 of this great journey!
Monday 26th March To Tuesday 3rd April
On Monday 26th, the group left the overnight stop at Jacksonville and headed further north on the Highway 301 leaving Florida and into Georgia to reach an overnight stop at Statesboro some 200 miles ahead. The plan was to pick up the historic Woodpecker Trail otherwise known as the Route 121 Tourist Drive which dates back to the 1920’s as the main North/South access from the Carolinas to Florida. The travellers were very surprised to find “Tow-Mater” of “Cars” fame at the start of the trail to bid them a happy journey! The countryside was now changing to open rural land, pine plantations and some natural woodland and more noticeably, there were undulations and some small hills. In Florida the biggest hills were bridges! There were also patches of small pink wildflowers appearing on the road verges. During their travels the tourists were surprised to see Aussie Icon fuel stops namely Kangaroo Express so they just had to have a picture!
The next day was only a short drive of around 90 miles continuing on to Augusta, Georgia the next overnight stop. During the morning the odometer in the YT indicated that 2,000miles had been covered so far, and yes the odometer is accurate! More of the scenic 121 Woodpecker Trail was enjoyed as well as very low traffic volumes which made it more relaxing. Morning coffee and sticky bun, part of the traveller’s staple diet was at Waynesboro, and Augusta reached around midday. An early arrival was the plan so that the cars could be left at the hotel and a cab into the old town which was reputably quite historic and worth a look. Well it may be historic but it was like a ghost town. The museum was closed and the streets were almost deserted with hardly any shops open and many permanently closed. There were quite a few nice old buildings and wide streets with trees and gardens down the middle, but the walk along the top of the levee bank beside the Savannah River was probably the main attraction with all the plaques and pictures of town history.
Wednesday morning and the mission was to find the main gates of the famous Augusta National golf course and a picture of the cars in front. The gates were eventually found down a side road but security was high with the pending Masters tournament beginning the next week. A chat with the Sherriff parked out front who obliged by stopping traffic so the cars could be safely driven across the road and positioned for a happy snap. A quick couple of holes was out of the question, so off to resume the 121 Woodpecker Trail which became more hilly and scenic with longer stretches of natural woodlands and trees coming into leaf with the early spring. The 220 mile journey included a short stop at the W. D. Nixon Bridge over the Richard B Russell Dam, lunch stop at Walhalla and an afternoon leg stretch to view Long Shoal Falls before pushing on to Asheville via the South West corner of South Carolina and into North Carolina for the next stopover.
Thursday 29th, and Asheville was a planned two day stopover for a little R & R and visit to the Biltmore Mansion. Set in an 8,000acre estate, the mansion was built in the late 1890s by one of the Vanderbilt’s (George). The house was absolutely awesome, or you might say obscene, that this was a family home and needed 35 servants to run it. The house consisted of his and hers master bedrooms, a billiard room with two tables, bowling alley, 70,000us gallon swimming pool, gym, banquet room, smoking room, servant’s living quarters and it goes on. The pantries, kitchen, meals preparation areas and kitchen staff quarters were extensive and took up enough space for a modern home!! Inside the entrance to the house was a huge glass domed roof indoor garden known as the winter garden. The surrounding grounds were manicured lawns and feature gardens. Lower down was the walled garden which had a magnificent display of tulips and at the end a huge array of hot houses to keep the house in supply of fresh flowers and floral displays. Beyond was the Azalea garden, Bass pond and a waterfall. Some distance away were the farm buildings which included a Smithy and carpentry shops etc. The blacksmith entertained the group by creating a leaf that he made as part of a chandelier restoration and played a tune on his anvil. In more recent times a winery has been built with other buildings to cater for the tourist trade such as tavern, bistro and creamery for ice-creams etc. Next to the winery was a special enclosure for a 1913 Stevens-Duryea Model C-Six but more interesting is George Vanderbilt’s previous car, which was a 1912 Stevens-Duryea Model Y!!! By late afternoon all were leg weary so the same cabbie who dropped them off was called for the return journey. Back at the hotel it was drinks all round and a light evening meal.
Friday and still in Asheville, today is their planned trip to the Smokey Mountains. First up they called into a car wash and lube joint so Ian could get an oil change for his A. This took a little while for Ian to wait his turn so the girls did a little shopping for essentials and Richo took the opportunity to check fluid levels in the YT master cylinders, engine and gearbox - all were fine. However a bit of oil was running down the spokes of the rear NS wheel so he decided to put the car up on the rear Jackalls just to check whether a wheel bearing may be on the way out. No dramas there, so probably just a little oil coming out the axle splines. But when he looked under the car to make sure the jacks had retracted hydraulic oil was piddling out of the feed pipe on one of the rear jacks. The leak appeared to be in the pipe right at the flare nut, something to check later but probably a fractured pipe.
Anyway off they went heading for Cherokee about 50 miles away. They passed through undulating treed and wooded countryside then had to make a big climb that required 3rd gear and around 2,800rpm in the YT to keep the motor on cam and a long way down the other side into Cherokee. They walked up one of the streets looking at all the Indian touristy stuff and Subway for lunch sharing a foot long whatever after 64 questions - do you want ??? with that and a drink of course. After lunch there was a short quite heavy shower of rain. A bit more strolling of the shops including the fudge shop which could not be resisted and discovered ‘Mr Fudge’ once owned a TD. He obviously spotted the MG logo on their shirts. After refuelling they headed for the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway only to find barriers across the road and the road closed - bugger, after coming all that way. So it was decided to go back into Cherokee and back on the Asheville road to see if they could pick up the BRP further on and they did. By then it had started to rain again and a short stop required to fit the YT side curtain because the sun had disappeared behind clouds and Richo was starting to get a bit wet and cold. The Rain-X on the windscreen had not been replaced for some days and the YT was fogging up, plus they were now in cloud, thus vision was not the best so they just followed the double yellow lines on the road and the white roundel on the back of Ian's car when he was in view. They made a stop up the mountain and tried to apply more Rain-X but it went all smeary so didn't help at all. Eventually the top of the climb at 6,053 feet was reached and freezing and being completely surrounded by cloud there was not much of a view. The rain eased and a chance to do a proper job of getting Rain-X on the windscreen which was a big improvement. Descending through more rain and cloud they then came across another road closure. No option but detour down an alternative very steep decline with very tight corners but at least they could see the road now. There was a bit of traffic on the approach into Asheville but finally after a couple of navigation whoopsies they made it back to the hotel and as it was still raining so Richo decided to have a free carwash while the others disappeared inside. All met up a bit later and went across the car park for Italian again.
Saturday 31st. A leisurely start this morning after a quick chamois down of the cars following more overnight rain. The first port of call was the Midas muffler shop so Ray could get his exhaust system attended to. After refuelling and buying some lunch it was a short distance to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) Information Centre to check on the proposed route for the day and any more possible road closures. After picking up some maps and hat pins etc., Barb and Richo decided a BRP sticker would be appropriate for the back of the YT. BRP could also mean Barbara & Richo Prior or even b(u)rp which the car is prone to do!!!! They then headed for the Arts and Crafts centre followed by lunch.
After a picnic lunch they were off on the BRP. Well what a fantastic road and scenery. There were plenty of lookouts or overlooks, as they call them here, to admire the fantastic views of the Southern Appalachian Mountains although it was a bit misty blue at times and hence they are also known as the Blue Ridge Mtns. The BRP extends 469 miles along the crests of the Southern Appalachians. The road twisted and curved up the mountains at times up to over 5,000 feet and then down the other side - it was an awesome drive and even though the speed limit is only 45mph it is fast enough! All the trees are starting to shoot new leaves and there are lots of Rhododendrons along the way in bud which will look beautiful very soon. Unfortunately it was still out of season on the BRP so quite a number of tourist spots were still closed. It was a bit cool at times but when the sun came out it was surprisingly warm. After a stop at Gillespie Gap for a coffee break the road continued on over a number of viaducts around the face of the mountains and more tunnels. Just short of Boone by a couple of miles, Ray and Sharon’s MGA had a flat tyre. The Priors were able to pull off the road a short distance on and Ian and Richo walked back to give Ray and Sharon a hand. They were not in a good spot so Richo got the safety triangle out of the YT boot and placed it up the road to warn oncoming cars of the danger ahead. It was surprising how effective it was and most cars moved to the left lane to avoid them.
Shortly after Ray and Sharon were mobile again it started to rain so it was lucky it did not happen earlier with all their gear out of the boot and on the side of the road. On arrival at the hotel the rain stopped and the cars were quickly unloaded, and indoors was the place to be. A short excursion in the rain to obtain drinkies and nibblies allowed them to all kick back for a while and then decided early tea was the go so walked a short distance to Applebees Bar and Grill in front of their Marriott Hotel in Boone.
Sunday 1st April (fool’s day) today but the Aussie contingent were no fools and were heading back to the BRP (Blue Ridge Parkway) for nearly another 200 mile journey along this magnificent road from Boone to Roanoke, Virginia.
First up the cars were refuelled and some air into Ray's spare which is still on the car until his road wheel is repaired. The climbs were not quite as steep and long but still lots of nicely cambered bends and pines and natural woodlands either side of the road plus some open very green farming countryside as well. Occasionally the road ran right on the spine of the mountain and there were views both sides. There were plenty of Overlooks to stop at and great views but still quite misty. The lack of toilets was discussed and the conclusion reached they call their lookouts overlooks because they have overlooked having any dunnies
(aka toilets - webmaster)! Maybe they don’t wee in this country because none of the towns or cities have any public toilets either, and there is a lack of lemon trees as well but at least the rhododendrons don't mind and there are heaps of them!!!! Apart from stopping at overlooks, a stop was made at the Cascades Trail which was quite a spectacular waterfall and a pleasant 30 min return walk.
A detour off the BRP was required for a while because a section was closed and lunch taken at the Freeborne Hotel in Laurel Springs with a heap of bikers who were interested in the cars. They had no trouble identifying they were MGs but the YT really had them intrigued. It was a long wait for a Chicken BLT toasted sandwich with such a hungry crowd but a good chance to chat with some of the bikers. Back onto the BRP and a stop at the Mabry Mill which was a water wheel driven flour mill back in the early 1900s. When our travellers walked back to their cars they were surprised to see a bunch of hot-rodder's had parked beside them so they all had a good yarn about their respective cars and where they had been etc. The guys called their cars RAT cars because they are not in the slightest bit interested in show cars but machines they can drive and enjoy - They were all very much on the same wavelength.
Motoring on to eventually pick up an exit into Roanoke, they could not bear to leave the BRP too soon. They continued on but the Tom Tom GPS had them turning onto roads that we were bridge crossings but no links to get onto the road beneath. When it was realised they had gone too far they had to turnabout until an exit was found. Finally entering Roanoke the GPS had them travelling a strange route to the hotel but they did get there. The nearby El Rodeo Mexican restaurant was just the ticket for a great feed after another memorable day.
Monday 2nd and the plan was to complete the last 100 miles or so of the Blue Ridge Parkway taking in some more of the same awesome twisty and hilly road and panoramic views at numerous overlooks that a camera simply cannot do justice to. This section of the BRP follows the Great Valley which was used by the American Indians and later early settlers all explained in the sign pictured above. The road in parts was a little rough where some slippage down the mountain had occurred so drivers had to be on the ball. Barbara has now got the hang of the fancy Canon camera and took some great shots along the road and even some movies that you will enjoy later.
Apart from overlooks the convoy stopped at the facility at Abbott Lake for morning coffee and a walk around the pretty lake. Packed lunches were purchased and enjoyed further on at the bridge over the James River. At every overlook there were always other people who quickly come over to look at the cars and have a chat about where are you from, where are you going, where have you been and the big exclamation - you brought your cars over from Australia!!!! Many had some experiences with MGs in one way or another but most had very little idea of what models they are or age. The YT surprises them as never having seen one before and it's age. The TC boys will be flabbergasted at knowing many have asked is that a TC!!!! All of the people wished our travellers well and thank them for visiting their country.
The afternoon session was a case of do the miles and enjoy. Just before the end of the BRP was reached the address of Gassman Automotive in Waynesboro was entered into the GPS. This is a business that specialises in British cars and was recommended as the best chance of getting a tyre and tube for Ray and Sharon's MGA. Tom Tom was right on the money and Ray's wheel was immediately attended to. The group enjoyed chatting to the proprietor Mike Gassman and looked at quite a few MGs, Jags and to Ray's delight, Triumphs. Mike had a barn story non fuel injected TR5 sold in the US as a TR250 that had been locked away for 40 years and was still like brand new. A Mk IV Jag with a supercharged MGB engine and an MGA with the same - really neat installations. All sorts of other cars under restoration or being worked on in various ways. All the crew that worked there were interested in the tourist’s cars and quite taken with the mods to the MGB engine in the YT. After gasbagging for ages the hotel address was dialled into Tom Tom and again did the business. Our travellers were back using Holiday Inn hotels because Marriott were getting a bit expensive and the standard is no better. They are now all experts on room design for hotels because some are rubbish, when you step out of the shower, which most times is in a bath, and your foot goes straight into the toilet pan!!! I ask you - clever or not???? Dinner was at the local Outback Restaurant and was one of the best meals they have enjoyed.
Tuesday 3rd and the next overnight stop was Front Royal. The first part of the journey was back to the end of the BRP where they finished yesterday, and is also the start of the Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive. After a short distance there was a compulsory stop at the ranger’s gate to part with $15. The road appeared to be brand new bitumen as did the double yellow lines down the middle of the road and the white edge line, and it stayed that way for the next 105 miles - smooth as a babies bum! It was a bit difficult for the drivers to stick to the 35mph speed limit and most of the time they sat on around 40 which meant the YT was only pulling a bit over 2,000rpm in 4th gear and no chance of overdrive today. The YT tonked along just fine up and down hills and around the nicely cambered corners with 3rd only being required when it ran out of revs on the long climbs. It did not take long for them to realise why such a slow speed limit, when a pair of deer jumped out in front to play chicken with the YT! There were a couple of other deer further on but that was all and the tourists were disappointed not to see any Bears. As previously they stopped at numerous overlooks to admire the great views and chat to their impromptu groupies!!!!
Big Meadow was one of only two facilities that were open on the Skyline, and a convenient stop for a coffee break and to buy some lunch for later. There was also a small museum with some interesting local history particularly about the construction of the Skyline Drive which opened in December 1935. An enquiry at the information centre about some good but relatively short walks and any waterfalls revealed there was Dark Hollow Falls Trail just down the road and only about 1.6miles round trip. The track was a relatively steep and they all commented about the walk back. Anyway they marched on and reached the bottom of the main falls and got some great pictures. Barb and Richo headed back up the track with a few rest stops on the way. Not far from the top Ian & Pam who went all the way to the bottom of the cascades caught them up and Ray and Sharon were a little further ahead. Back at the top of the trail they all sat on a rock wall for a rest. It was then back to the cars and off to the next stop at Skyland where they enjoyed the previously purchased lunch, which also happened to be just 3 miles short of 3,000miles covered so far! They left the container yard at Savannah with the odometer reading 70,145. It was now mid-afternoon and there were still a few miles to go so they headed off continuing to admire the magic woodland scenery with the bonus of some pink and white Dogwoods beginning to appear and numerous panoramic views. Attempts to punch the name and address of the hotel for the night into the GPS failed but fortunately at one of the last overlook stops they met a local, who was a Scot would you believe, and he gave them some simple directions and true to his word it appeared on the hill way in front. They mentioned to the desk clerk that according to the GPS his hotel and the street do not exist and he said that wasn't the first time he had heard that. Interesting because the hotel is 4 years old!!! Even though it was a new map of the US in the GPS it was obvious that there are lots of roads still not in the data base and would continue to be a frustration.
Waiting in the hotel car park for their arrival was Bob Ross who Ian had been in touch with way back in the 70’s doing some research during the purchase of the Sebring MGA. The boys all headed for the bar while the girls got some washing done and then they all caught up for dinner at Houlahan’s, next door to the hotel.
Thus ends Episode 2
Tuesday 4th April To Tuesday 17th April
Now that almost 600miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah Skyline
Drive has been completed it is time for the Aussies to head out to the East
Coast and then North for the finish line which is ultimately New York!
Today they headed
off to Charlottesville only about 80 odd miles via the Heritage Trail that
runs virtually parallel to Skyline so back roads not the motor way. They
passed through beautiful rural areas and some woodlands and a number of very
quaint small towns and villages with lots of lovely homes. It was a very
pleasant scenic drive and a great undulating bendy MG road!!! On the way
they passed by the other side of Old Rag Mountain 3268ft that was seen from
the Skyline Drive yesterday. On the way the morning coffee stop was at the
town of Madison in Madison County (as seen in that famous movie The Bridges
of Madison County) at the Mountaineer Café, Richo could not resist a slice
of Lemon meringue pie but not as good as his wife Barbara can make!
The girls wandered off to look in a quilt shop and the boys’ spotted an old
garage/workshop across the side street. The quilt shop had some lovely
inexpensive fabrics apparently. The boys spotted a Left Hand Drive XL Falcon
Ute being restored (known in the US as a Ranchero and very rare) and they
chatted to the proprietor or rather listened, he chatted, as he related
about the other F 100 and similar American vehicles he had.
Pushing on to
Charlottesville lunch was at Burger King before driving around to visit Mark
& Maryann Harris whom they met at Amelia Island. My, what a beautiful garden
they have. Still only mid-afternoon and having booked into their hotel for
the next two days, Ian and Ray made a quick dash over to the Gassman at
Waynesboro to get another matching rear tyre for Ray's A: in hind sight he
should have purchased the other day.
Thursday 5th. A
cab was caught to Thomas Jefferson's home on the hill, Monticello. A
beautiful and interesting home which Jefferson himself designed, and was
work in progress during his political career as governor of Virginia,
Ambassador to France, Vice President and finally the 3rd President for two
terms. The house was completed when he retired in 1809. The overall design
has the house located at the base of a flat bottom U shape. The legs of the
U are wooded terraces and below these, cut back into the hill are the
kitchens etc. in the South Leg and the stables/carriage house is built
beneath the North Leg. A Tunnel connects between the legs and runs beneath
the house where there are the beer and wine cellars. In one cellar are two
small dumbwaiters that go up either side of the dining room chimney to keep
the drinkers well supplied!!! The house also has skylights and beds located
in alcoves to save space in the room. Jefferson and his new wife initially
lived in a small single room building at the end of the south terrace while
the first stage of the home was being built. There is also a similar
building at the top of the North leg and they both look like guard houses.
Most of the workshops and slaves accommodation no longer exist. Jefferson
died deep in debt and the house was sold by his daughter to the Levy family
to pay off the debts and they maintained the house and land until ultimately
selling it to the Jefferson Foundation (US Govt) as a museum in 1923.
Jefferson also sold some of his book collection while he was alive to pay
off some of his debts!
On the way back
to the hotel some provisions were purchased for a Pork BBQ at Mark and
Maryann's that evening which was made all the more enjoyable meeting and
chatting with other MG people. It was also an opportunity to further admire
their beautiful garden of Dogwoods and Azaleas in full bloom.
Friday 6th. This
morning was bloody freezing and an icy wind - coats and gloves were quickly
donned as the cars were loaded up. Soon Mark and Maryann, hosts from last
night, arrived in their black twin cam MGA and another couple (Bob & Chris)
rocked up to form a convoy down to David Harrison’s at Chester (Nr Richmond
VA) for lunch. David was part of the team who organised the MGA Sebring
reunion and made sure the Aussies were well looked after. The route was
discussed and it was suggested to head out past Monticello and pop into
President Munroe's house just for a quick look. As agreed they then headed
out to pick up the scenic drive using Route 6. Tom Tom was required to
navigate to David’s house close to Chester and was spot on. After much
chatting with more MG folk and some tyre kicking of David's cars including
an MGA, TR7, A7 Swallow, Bug Eye Sprite and the pre-war Alpine Rally winning
L Type (L2), following a lovely lunch, David then lead the way out of town
in his MGA so the Aussies could pick up the 5 North. The next port of call
was an overnighter at Mike Eaton's Mother's place at Hallieford. Mike was
the other coordinator with David for getting all the Sebring cars together
for Amelia Island and Sebring. On arrival at the Eaton's there was a very
warm welcome by the family and friends. The guests were then shown to their
quarters, which was a lovely 3 bedroom cottage near the beautiful main house
and beside what appears to be a lake but is actually an estuary of
Chesapeake Bay. Well they all thought they had died and gone to heaven!!!
But that's not all - after a quick change of clothes for some they were off
in the cars to the local yacht club for drinks and buffet tea and more MG
folk – absolutely wonderful it was and also of course by the same beautiful
scenic waterway. Back home and back into the Cab Sav, beer, tea or coffee
for more chatting and tall stories. Then it was time to head over to the
little cottage beside the lake and some sleep and best of all a sleep in
because breakfast wasn't until 9am in the big house. Rosemary (Mike's mum)
had prepared fruit, muffins, and two southern dishes, a breakfast casserole
sort of like scrabbled egg with goodies mixed in and biscuits as they call
them that were like big scones with salted ham and cheese - rather yummy.
Saturday 7th. The
late mid-morning start allowed time to inspect one of Mike’s other cars a
South African built Twin Cam raced by Bob Olthoff. Mike then led the way to
Butch and Judy's house whom they met last night. He had an Alamo Beige A
roadster with a red hood and a nice '67 BGT. Now a bit behind in their
schedule they had to make a loop south to cross the bottom of Chesapeake Bay
but messed the navigation up a bit and ended up on an awful section of
concrete road that had been repaired with lumps of bulging bitumen!
on track they approached the amazing 20+ miles long Chesapeake Bay
Bridge-Tunnel, paid the $12 toll and passed through a series of tunnels,
bridges and elevated causeways. Partway across is a manmade island (South
Thimble Island) with restaurant and jetties to view the structure and very
popular fishing spot. It is also the first tunnel entrance going north.
Other manmade Islands are the additional tunnel exits and entries and above
the tunnels are the shipping channels. After a quick bite to eat and some
pictures they headed off on the remainder of “The Bay Bridge”, as it is
known, to pick up Highway 13 north to visit Mike and Jenny Ash at Eastville
but the GPS could not find their street. A quick phone call for directions
and they were underway. On arrival their street appeared on the GPS but
obviously is not discoverable in the data base. Mike confirmed his GPS is
the same, very annoying! Mike who is the NAMGAR Technical Director has a
nice running MGA Coupe, a Magnette, YA saloon and VA Tickford all in various
stages of restoration or planned. Their lovely log kit home backs straight
onto Chesapeake Bay and very pleasant indeed. Now running very late with 80
odd miles to go the tourists dragged themselves away still heading on ‘the
13’ for their Hotel at Delmar on the border of Maryland and Delaware. Again
the GPS could not find the address but it was finally discovered on the
highway. Now, a bit late, they walked down the highway in the dark to where
heaps of eating places were supposed to be. This was not one of their better
ideas and was a bit scary with no pathway or illumination and cars whizzing
by. They entered the first establishment they saw which was a Subway, Beer
Cave, Dunkin Donuts and ice cream combination. They managed to get a feed
but you cannot consume the beer or wine you buy in the complex!!!!. They
managed the treacherous walk back and called it a night.
Sunday 8th. A
lazy day today and with only a relatively short distance to cover to reach
Lewes (pronounced Lewis) the decision was made to go on some scenic routes
to the west and make a loop thru the bottom west corner of Delaware over to
Georgetown then Lewes. They followed the 313 for a while through flat rural
country and a few little towns some of them quite nice. There are lots of
nice homes but all commented on how strange it was that many were all alone
with no fences or gardens just like they had popped out of the ground like a
solitary tree. At the most western point they knew they were near water
which looked like a lake but was actually the estuary of the Choptank River
which runs into Chesapeake Bay. They drove down a small dead end road and
ended up at a small quaint fishing settlement. Within a minute of stopping
to look at the surroundings a couple came out of their house to chat. They
chatted for quite a while and others came over to look at the cars and chat
as well. Tempting invitations to stay were extended but they eventually got
away and headed off to Lewes via Georgetown and found a nice seafood
restaurant just the other side of Lewes at Rehoboth Beach. Being a Sunday
the area was quite busy. After lunch they went for a short drive to the
ferry terminal and then returned to walk the historic part of Lewes. The
town has quite an interesting history and was originally a Dutch settlement
formed in 1631. The town also has many streets of well-kept homes in the
colonial style and quite a bit of military history. One building even sports
a British cannon ball lodged in a foundation wall? Another interesting
building is the red shingle clad Ryves Holt House believed to have been
built in 1665. Late afternoon they returned to the hotel they had booked
into earlier and the girls went off to buy cheese and crackers and some
fruit as nobody seemed interested in a big meal. Richo took the opportunity
to take the door trim off the passenger’s side of the YT to fix the lock
that was stuck on and not allowing Barbara to open her door from the outside
which was becoming a nuisance. The problem was a small spring had broken so
that the lock plate stayed engaged. A bit of bending with pliers and some
wire a temporary fix was achieved. After their light evening snack and some
drinks they hit the hay.
have an early start to catch the car and passenger ferry from Lewes across
Delaware Bay to Cape May in New Jersey. This is a short cut for what would
otherwise take a couple of days to drive around the long way. The tourists
are getting close to the end of their touring now as they need to be at the
docks on the afternoon of the 11th to hand over the cars for shipping back
home to Australia. Then they have almost 4 car free days in New York to
finish off the trip. A great time touring has been had by all but just about
had enough of packing, loading and unloading every day and the driving does
make you weary because you have to concentrate more than normally when you
are on the wrong side of the road in a Right Hand Drive car!
The mornings and
evenings are now quite chilly especially if there is a breeze so warm
jackets are in use. It is quite warm in the car when stopped at lights with
roof and side curtains on but just right when on the move.
Monday 9th. They
arrived at the Lewes ferry terminal in plenty of time to catch the car ferry
across to Cape May in New Jersey (NJ). It was a pretty smooth trip with just
a bit of rock n roll and the 90min passed very quickly. First port of call
was the information centre in the old part of town to get some advice on
what to see in a couple of hours or so. The old lighthouse was first on the
agenda and then they drove up and down a few streets in the old town to
admire more beautiful southern style homes. They then parked the cars to
walk the mall which is a closed off street and selected The Ugly Mug Tavern
for lunch. From Cape May they decided to head north to make a good start for
tomorrow so selected Somers Point. Route 9 was chosen to escape the motorway
but it was very suburban and lots of traffic lights. Near Somers Point they
were diverted out to Ocean City on the coast because of a bridge closure and
after a while pulled over for a team meeting on where to head next. Ian has
not been feeling all that well for the last couple of days and was happy to
call it a day so the Tom Tom was called upon to search for the closest
Holiday Inn and one at a spot called Pleasantville just 13 miles further up
the road was selected. On the way they went over a huge new bridge still
under construction. On arrival at the motel the girls did a spot of washing
and the boys washed the cars to clean off salt spray from the ferry ride. It
was found that a 3/8 socket extension was just the thing to turn on a garden
tap and hose. Ray and Richo drove a short distance down the road to obtain
some drinks and nibbles and do a reconnaissance for restaurants. All was
just a short walk down the highway so tea was at Pistol Pete’s Steakhouse.
Ian got on the
internet and made a booking for the next day in New Brunswick, New Jersey
which will have them nice and close to the container yard in Irvington New
Jersey for Wednesday.
They departed Pleasantville on the 9 north parallel to the coast for a
while, it was a nice bit of road and although not spectacularly scenic it
was good to be driving through natural bush again that was starting to green
up with spring getting warmer. They then picked up the 539 north at
Tuckerton where they had their obligatory morning coffee and donuts. Heading
further inland and after passing through more rural country and little
townships they came across Hightstown. Well what a picture postcard
reasonably large town this was, so beautiful they just had to stop for a
walk around and a big bowl of soup was the unanimous choice for lunch. All
the streets and the main drag into town were lined with beautiful original
timber homes in the traditional style and colourful dogwood trees, some of
the homes were quite ornate and included gargoyles. Although, one thing our
travellers were somewhat disappointed to discover was that some homes of
traditional appearance were actually modern kit homes clad with plastic
sheeting in a weatherboard profile in any colour of your choice so very low
maintenance. Motoring on towards New Brunswick for the overnight stop they
somehow lost the road they thought they were on so the convoy pulled over
and plugged in the hotel address into Tom Tom who seemed to take them on
quite a devious route but they did get there! The boss of the hotel
suggested they should park their cars under the canopy at the front entrance
to the hotel which they obviously agreed to do. He also gave them a very
sketchy diagram of where to find a car wash which worked fine but was
hopeless for the return journey. Anyway the car wash was a modern style
drive through and not what they wanted as they were keen to pressure wash
under the mudguards (wings/fenders) etc. in preparation for customs back at
home. The car wash suggested a place 6 miles away but they decided to head
back and eventually found the right way back to the hotel. Ian and Richo
passed one another going in opposite directions at one stage!!! They cleaned
the cars inside and out and across the front to get rid of any bugs and
grass seeds and some general cleaning where they could see hoping that will
satisfy OZ customs. They discovered that plastic bins from their rooms made
excellent wash buckets as there were no garden hoses available. The hotel
boss also suggested the Hilton next door for a restaurant but that was
booked out although they were suspicious they may not have liked the look of
the somewhat scruffy Aussies!!! The hotel ordered them a cab and Jay took
them to an Italian Restaurant which was the same chain as the one across
from the hotel in Asheville. Chatty Jay also picked them up for the return
journey and after they had a short team conference in the lobby before
heading to their rooms.
Tomorrow drop the
cars off and then over the Hudson to New York!!!
Wednesday morning the 11th April the team made a leisurely start so the
worst of the traffic would be gone and set the Tom Tom for the final leg to
Schumacher’s Logistics in Irvington New Jersey only about 30 miles from the
hotel. A nice bit of road up the 18 and then the Garden State Parkway, both
were still pretty busy so they kept to the right hand lane out of the way.
The last section of back streets was extremely rough and they had to zig zag
down the road to miss dips and bumps and holes. They arrived well before the
appointed time but a good thing because there was quite a bit of paperwork
to be done and no surprise there was a drama because they had no paperwork
and no proof of entry because of the stuff-up in Savannah with customs. The
guy who was booking them in contacted the boss (Warren), who got them out of
jail in Savannah, and he is going to contact the brokers in Savannah and get
our paperwork in an airbag to Irvington ASAP.
removed bumpers and driving lights and packed them in the cars as they did
in Melbourne and took the cars around the back and put them in the agent’s
warehouse. They were pleased to see a lot of other cars waiting shipment and
watched one container being loaded so that made them comfortable that the
cars would be in good hands. After having covered just short of 4,000 miles
(6,400kms) on this epic journey the cars have done very well and earned a
They then asked the guys at the packing company to order a taxi but people
movers were not available and two cabs would be required at great expense.
The advice was get a cab to the station and catch a train across to
Manhattan but that would have been a nightmare with all their bags. Anyway
Warren, their contact in CA, intervened and cabs were prepaid (probably
around $100ea) as part of the deal and off we went. Barbara, Richo and Pam
were in one cab and Ian, Ray and Sharon in the second. The first cab arrived
at the hotel in West 81st Street ages before the other even though they all
left at the same time. They think driver No1 had F1 aspirations ‘cos he
drove like a bat out of hell and the other driver much more conservative.
After booking in
they went and had a bite to eat and then decided a stroll in Central Park,
which is only a short distance down the street, would be the go. They
wandered about and then off to find Strawberry Fields of Beetles fame and
the John Lennon ‘Imagine’ memorial in the park opposite where he was shot.
In the park they were entertained by a guy making large bubbles and went to
the weather observatory which was located in a small castle (Belvedere
Castle) on some high ground. The temp was only 10.6C – no wonder it felt
Returning to the
hotel they enquired about tours and the hotel suggested Gray Line Tours
Downtown. So off they went to discover the NY Underground. No big deal and
caught a train to 51St Street and then a short walk to Gray Line. They ended
up buying 48 hour tickets for 4 tours and the first one was a night tour
that evening to Brooklyn and around parts of Downtown. Barb and Richo braved
it upstairs in the open top double-decker and froze but it was the best
view. It was a bit hard to understand the tour guide who tended to waffle on
a bit but they saw lots of sights. The Empire State Building, Brooklyn and
Manhattan Bridges, stopped for pictures looking back at Manhattan and
Brooklyn Bridge and even saw the Statue of Liberty in the distance all quite
speckly at night. The tour stopped at the end of Time Square so a night
viewing of all those huge electric signs and screens in a sea of Yellow Cabs
could not be missed. They were also entertained during the tour with an
estimated 20 odd near misses. The coach driver was pretty aggressive and did
not give any quarter and took delight in nearly T boning one car to make him
get out of the way. At the end of the tour they headed for Starbucks for a
coffee and a sweetie to thaw out!!! After coffee it was back to the
underground and the hotel.
Our tourists are
not that impressed with the Hotel Excelsior for the excessive prepaid room
rate. No Fridge, no coffee or tea making facilities in the room, you have to
pay extra for Wi-Fi and breakfast, all things that have been inclusive and
at half the room rate where they have stayed on tour!!!! Also the TV and
bedside clock were not working because they were not plugged in – slack!!
The tourists caught the Gray Line tour on the west side of Central Park at
the end of 81st Street only a few hundred metres from the hotel. The tour
started with the uptown tour on the west side of town as far as Washington
Bridge then across through Harlem and down the East side, across the bottom
of central park and down to Time Square. They left the tour there and went
for a coffee and muffin before catching the downtown tour. Are you out of
Towner’s still with me??? On the downtown tour Sharon and Ray left at the
Empire State Building. which the others had seen on previous visits to NY.
Continuing on the remaining four got off at what was the World Trade Center
or Twin Towers. It is still called the WTC but there are now 4 towers
emerging from the ground where the twin towers previously stood. These new
buildings will not be as tall as the twin towers but WTC 1 the tallest at
104 floors will still be taller than the Empire State Building.
They continued on
foot and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and re-joined the tour at the next
stop. They then stayed on the bus back to Time square and went to check out
cheap theatre tickets but the queues were a mile long so caught the
underground back to the hotel to reunite with Sharon and Ray at 6.30. They
then had an expensive drink at the hotel bar and checked out their equally
expensive menu. They had all had a big day out so just walked around the
corner to Ray’s Pizzeria and enjoyed a very satisfying meal at about a
quarter of the cost.
Unlucky for some maybe, but the team began their day by going around the
corner into Columbus Ave to a Starbucks style coffee shop but with more room
for their regular coffee and bun to start the day. After this they went all
the way to the bottom of Manhattan Island to do the last tour which was
Brooklyn, an enjoyable tour although it was a bit hard to hear the guide. On
their return a cheese burger and lemonade was the unanimous choice and then
decided on a ride on the free ferry to Staten Island and back just to see
how far it is and get some good views of the City and the lady with the
lamp, Ellis Island etc. They then got back on a Gray Line bus to complete
the Green Route, they skipped the day before, back into town and got off at
the Rockefeller Center for a better look around plus it was quicker in the
traffic to walk to Time Square from there rather than stay on the bus. Then
off on the metro back to the hotel to scrub up, have a quick tea and then
all were off to see a live show. Ray and Sharon went to see Mary Poppins and
the four Priors to see Jersey Boys on 52nd St and 8th Ave near Broadway.
Jersey Boys was a fantastic show, great singing, very slick set changes and
movement through the story made it very entertaining.
Their last full day in New York so it was declared a shopping day or do
whatever you like. They all went down the street to the regular bistro for
breakfast then a short stop at the hotel to clean teeth and whatever then to
catch the Metro (underground) and their usual stop at 42nd Street. From
there the 3 couples went off separately to shop etc. Barbara and Richo
continued down 42nd Street to get some pictures of Grand Central Station and
the Chrysler Building. They then wandered about looking at various shops for
a few NY mementos for the grand kids. They sat down for a break at
Rockefeller Square and watched the skaters on the ice, admired the Easter
display and popped into the Lego shop opposite – quite amazing. After more
walking in crowds of people they headed for 5th Ave & 50th street for the
agreed meeting point at 2pm, in the meantime they enjoyed a coffee and a
donut. From there the four Prior’s headed for the Blue Line metro only to be
held up by lots of people marching and spectators waving the Flag of St
Andrew and of course the obligatory pipe bands – very Scottish indeed and
quite stirring so it was assume it was St Andrews Day? On they pressed only
to discover that the blue line stations were closed in that part of town so
they had to resort to catching the Red Line Train and changing trains at
59th Street. On arrival back at the hotel they discovered Sharon and Ray in
the Lobby and discussed plans for what was left of the Arvo. Ian was keen to
go the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art so Barb and Richo joined Ian and Pam
for the experience. Late afternoon the museum have a pay what you want entry
fee and on arrival there was already a huge queue. While waiting ice creams
were enjoyed from a sidewalk vendor and eventually the doors were opened. It
is an interesting building that spirals to 6 levels with a gradually rising
walkway and at each level a display annex. Richo thought that 95% of the
displays were an insult to one’s intelligence. All the way up the spiral
were pieces of so called art which were no more that crunched up car body
panels and bumpers welded together in different configurations and straight
from the local crash repairer. There was one annex with real paintings but
none that you would call stunning even though some were from the so called
masters! The other annexes were weird photographs and some with equally
weird audio visual displays so they were grateful they only paid a dollar
each for a load of crap!!! They sauntered back across central park to the
hotel and all six headed for UNO which is a family restaurant diagonally
opposite. They were understaffed but we did eventually get a drink and quite
a good meal for our last supper!!!
Sunday 15th to
Tuesday 17th. With some time to kill the tourists decided to check out the
museum across the road which they soon discovered would take two days to
give it justice. There were heaps of interesting and excellent displays and
dioramas on anything from Mother Earth, the big bang theory, outer space,
Animals of the world, development of Mankind, rocks and minerals and
precious stones something for everyone and highly recommended. One room at
the hotel was retained so everybody’s luggage could be stored then at 2.30pm
their stretch limo would arrive to take them to JFK Airport. The first
flight is 6+ hours across to LA and then at 23.30 they are off back home to
Melbourne Australia on a 16hr marathon. It is bizarre that they depart at
6.45pm Sunday evening and don’t arrive in Melbourne until Tuesday morning.
Monday just disappears somewhere over the Pacific. On arrival at LA they had
to wait while they backed a plane out so busses could get in, to take them
to another terminal. The bus trip also took for ever to a very substandard
terminal with very few facilities particularly duty free shops. Eventually
they climbed aboard the huge A380 double-decker aeroplane and were off. They
all got a bit of sleep here and there or watched heaps of movies but the
16hrs just took forever! They eventually disembarked in Melbourne and got
through customs and immigration without any dramas. Barbara and Richo did a
self-check in because they had relatively new passports that now have
electronic chips in them. When they got through customs their pre-booked
limo driver was waiting for them and this time he had a Roller so they have
certainly been transported in style. The Priors said goodbye to Sharon and
Ray who were being picked up and heading back to Shepparton. Now back in OZ
it was so nice to be able to make a decent cup of coffee or tea with real
milk and sugar and to walk around in the fresh air and not put up with
Aircon that is either too cold or too hot. Melbourne turned on a real nice
day for them. Barbara and Richo spent a few days in Melbourne visiting
family and friends before flying back to Perth.
Well that’s the
end of this travelogue of the MG Tourists in the US of A; they hope you have
enjoyed their tale!!!! However, there is one more bonus Episode to come.
When the cars arrive back in Melbourne early in July, Barbara and Richo have
decided to drive the YT back to Perth, across the Nullarbor, rather than
have it transported. It is a long journey and one they have done before in
the YT but it is always an adventure!