This past weekend, I took the family to a car show.
As we serpentined through the surface streets of downtown Forest Grove in the ol’ family truckster, the little tingle of excitement I get when approaching a car event that’s already in motion began tickling its way up the back of my neck. My oldest son was in the backseat doing his best to point out parking spots, my youngest son was asking about donuts, and my wife was telling me what we’re doing for dinner next Thursday. I was busy ID’ing cars at maximum distance, as if showcasing my survival skills for spotting wildlife on faraway hillsides.
“Where’s the drag racing gonna be?,” my oldest son asked as we walked towards the event entrance.
“There is no drag racing here,” I repeated for the fourth time. “This is the (clears throat) Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance,” I said in the Frenchiest manner I could muster. “It’s a fancy car show with a bunch of really nice, rare cars!”
“Oh yeah,” he said. “So they have monster trucks?”
The event was being held on the Pacific University lawn in Forest Grove, Oregon, on a beautiful summer’s Sunday. The kids got in for free, which only seemed fair. I sensed my parenting capabilities being scrutinized by the nice lady who took my money.
We entered the event and walked right into a nicely customized ’72 Pantera. “Man, I love these Panteras,” I said. “Isn’t this cool?”
“Yeah!,” my youngest said. “Is it the fastest car in the world?”
“Well, no, but they are pretty fast. Look, the engine is in the back, well, actually it’s in the middle because it’s technically a mid-engine car, but… where’d they…”
My wife was taking a picture of the boys hugging in front of an NSX.
“Dad!,” my oldest shouted. “I think they built this one to look like my Lego!”
“Yeah, and look!,” said the youngest, pointing at the concession stand. “They have donuts!”
As we approached a 289 Cobra, I pulled the boys closer. “Check this thing out,” I said. “This car — please don’t touch the rope — is awesome. These things — I said quit touching the rope — are beautiful. This one has a small engine, the 289, but — if you touch the rope again I’m going to tie you to a tree — they also put big-block Fords in these and they were monsters!”
I then noticed my youngest son staring at me and actually paying attention to the words coming out of my mouth. I stopped talking and locked eyes with him. He looked deep into my soul and said, “Can I have a donut?”
Know your audience
I took a deep breath and upped our pace. We passed a beautiful 1954 Triumph TR2 that I would have liked like to linger on, but a little pocket of nice customs and hot rods drew our attention. I was pleased deep down in my soul that, of all the shine surrounding us, it was a heavily patina’d, flathead-powered ’33 Ford pickup that paused the boys long enough for me to snap a picture.
My fear of losing our momentum kept us moving, pointing and chatting as we meandered. We passed Aston Martins and Austin-Healeys, E-Types and B-Bodies, Road Runners and Beetles, Packards and Minis as I did my best to keep my comments concise and my observations abbreviated. We stopped at what must be the world’s nicest 1966 Volkswagen Type 3 Fastback so that I could get a few pictures and threaten the children in front of strangers for playing with the display rope. Again.
We managed to reach the far corner of the lawn before fatigue, dire thirst, and the wretched pain of hunger began to really take their toll. Almost 60 minutes had passed since we walked away from the truck for the third and final time, so, taking heed from the Gambler, I knew it was time to fold ‘em.
While climbing back into the truck for the trip home, my oldest pointed out a white Jeep Wrangler with bright red 20-inch wheels driving down the street and asked if it was part of the show. “No, I don’t think so,” I said.
“But maybe it should be,” he said, “right?”
Then my youngest, on the verge of tears and with the last ounce of energy he could muster whimpered, “Can I please… have… a donut?”
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