I had been planning to go for a few years now, but I was not planning to go anywhere. It was a long weekend and there were no solid plans. Perfect for making some progress on projects on the garage list and watching the Monaco Grand Prix. Then I got the email. It said that a procrastinating set of BMW 2002 pilots were making a dash for the Vintage at the Vineyards event in North Carolina. Well I can accept many different kinds of defeat but I will not be out-procrastinated by this bunch of worthy competitors. Suddenly, I had 3 hours to get ready and get on the road. It was 11:40am
So what do you do with three hours to prepare a 40-year-old car that had not been driven in several months for trip of 1000 miles? You change the oil, take the car off the trickle charger, and check the tire pressures. The last time I let the car sit for this long, the clutch plate stuck, but not this time. The forecast suggested that I would be encountering rain somewhere on this journey, so I applied some Rain-X to the windshield. 2002 wipers are more uuhhmm….thoughtful in their operation than efficient. Then I threw the toolbag in the trunk, grabbed a bunch of audio CDs (remember them?) topped up the tank with premium, and got on the road. It was 3:00pm. Late already.
I was forced to set a pretty blistering pace (relatively speaking) right off the bat in order to make the rendezvous point in Maryland. Fortunately, the law-enforcement gods were smiling on me this day and the tii was thrilled to be able to clear its lungs after the long winter siesta. It was all interstate and the speedometer hovered between 80 and 90 for almost the entire segment to the Maryland rest area. I should mention that the speedometer in this car is relatively accurate and not optimistic as many are. That, combined with a four-cylinder four-speed non-overdrive car, made that a true test very early on in the trip.
The convoy was made up of another 2002, a heavily modified 320i, and a 633 CSI. Gustav (name changed to protect the guilty), the other 2002 pilot, pulled me aside and whispered that we should stick together if the other two got crazy. I said fine, being more concerned about cops than anything else. If I were a cop, I would be interested in the badass blacked out 320i even if it was doing nothing wrong. Once we got underway, we were fine for the first couple of hours. The 633 was out front and set the cruise control at 75mph. Then we stopped for gas and Gustav took point for an hour or so. Then the 320i could contain itself no longer and leapt up front. I thought Gustav would let him go as per the plan, but he gave it some welly instead. The 633 followed, and I brought up the rear. Into the night we went covering great distance relative to time, if you know what I mean. Triple digits were not uncommon. At the next gas stop, Gustav emerged grinning ear to ear. “We were hauling butt back there!” . I was going to ask him what happened to the plan, but I know that grin.
It was my turn on point, and the 320i gave me his Passport radar-laser detector. In Virginia. I continued the pace anyway, and soon we got off I-81 and onto 581/220. This is one of those bizarre roads that has 55mph highway that can suddenly turn into a town complete with a traffic light. In between it is a wonderful undulating twisting pathway into North Carolina. There is something pretty magical about driving a car at or near the limits of its headlights, on a road you’ve never been on before, that has elevation changes and curves. It is exhilarating if not crazy. The 320i and I traded point position and often occupied both lanes side-by-side as we danced along this barely visible ribbon in the night. There was nobody on the road at 10:30pm, and the absence of lighting made it all the more exciting. The 320i boosted horse power was of no advantage here, but his H.I.D headlights were. At some point in North Carolina we stopped at a light, and realized that there was no sign of Gustav or the 633. No answer from the cell phone. We waited for five minutes, and then decided to press on as we were not far from the hotel.
At the hotel we called again, and found out that they were only about 15 minutes behind us and that all was well. It was close to midnight, and I was shot.
At breakfast, we regaled each other with stories that had already become prone to hyperbole. The triple digit speeds were now 110mph+, and Rte 220 had become the Nurburgring. Then we had coffee!
It turns out that there was a large vintage event in town for BMWs!! I attended the very first vintage at the vineyards event around 2004 or 2005. In any case, the event at that time was mostly a gathering of BMW 2002s at the vinyard home of fellow 2002 enthusiast Scott Sturdy. It was a wonderful gathering of a few dozen 2002s along with a smattering of other cars such as Bavarias and 633’s. The next year it grew larger, and was quickly exceeding the capacity of the venue. In subsequent years it had to move to a larger vinyard venue, and continue to grow. Eventually, it outgrew the expanded location and moved to downtown Winston-Salem, where it takes over the historic Old Salem district. The vinyard word is now dropped from the name, but the spirit is largely intact. I missed many of the most recent years, as it always tended to coincide with other activities.
The best thing about the Vintage at the Vineyards event, is that it forces a whole bunch of us to get our cars in shape for a relatively lengthy journey to North Carolina. There are many stories of roadside repairs and misadventures getting to and from this event over the years. Including my own, when a throttle return spring sidelined me temporarily somewhere in southwest Virginia. A small and easily fixed matter compared to some, but it serves as a reminder that driving 30-year-old (now 40-year-old) cars several hundred miles nonstop cannot be taken for granted….
I am going to resist trying to describe the show and the vehicles there. Words cannot do justice to the quaint setting of old Salem juxtaposed with machines ranging from mild to mad. I will simply let the pictures speak. Highlights included reconnecting with old friend Mike Pugh and a conversation with Ray Korman (yes, that Korman). While there, Bo, Ben, Mike, and others convinced me that I need to make the Mid-America event. That was in Arkansas this year. Did I mention that BMW 2002 owners like to drive their cars ? By the way, besides North Carolina and Virginia, I think Pennsylvania had the largest contingent.
Question: What’s better than a vintage vehicle event? Answer: A roadtrip in a vintage vehicle to a vintage vehicle event.