Picture a scene if you will: the day has just begun on a quiet Sunday, temperatures are in the mid forties, the sky is clouded, and there are still rather large examples of prima fascia evidence that the last great snow event of the season occurred not too long ago with the remains piled up in corners of this retail parking lot that resemble arctic pyramids. Where am I, a parking lot. Yet this is no ordinary lot, no something is different. No, it’s not the early bird shoppers hoping to run in and run out before the rest of the hamlet awakens and descends upon this oasis of free market retailery just outside Baltimore. No, this is something altogether different. There are freshly detailed machines sitting in parking spaces with proud owners standing beside them admiring the other machines, and fielding questions about their own machines from the increasing number of passersby. What I’m attempting to describing, yet failing miserably at is a phenomenon that occurs in places just like this across the US, and revered the world over by gearheads. I’m speaking of course of Cars-N-Coffee. These events are either one of two types: 1) a loosely organized event when people roll in and out at various times and there is a vague sense of boundaries that defines who is participating, and then there is option 2) a highly organized shin-dig complete with signage, start-stop time, a codified set rules of etiquette as well as personal conduct. What I found in that parking lot just outside of Baltimore was an example of the latter. And that is a very good thing.
I was fortunate enough to be contacted the night before by some fellow VW enthusiasts of the “R” variety who had graciously offered to share details of this event with yours truly. I was flattered, you see car people are a wonderfully unique group or subculture, and as a member of said subculture I’m very conscious of the dynamics at play within the group. People like love to talk cars; theirs, their friends’ car, even a complete stranger’s car, it doesn’t matter. And there are rules to abide by in these groups, but more on those later. Some members of the subculture have evolved over time into sub-cultures within the sub-culture that is the car community; you have your brass car folk, vintage hot-rods folk, customs folk, muscle car folk, manufacturer specific folk, racing/track day-centric folk, Asian-centric folk, rally folk, Euro-centric folk, late-model folk, hyper car folk, truck folk, bike folk, military vehicle folk, e-folk, Scandinavia folk, obscure car folk, and unique rides folk. You get the idea, right?
The group I meet is composed of a few people who completed the Charm City Circuit de Reservoirs with me a few weeks ago. Those individuals have an obvious passion for one manufacturer, but still appreciate all things automotive. I’m greeted warmly, and I’m introduced to other members of the group not previously known to me. Then a discussion of parking, and which location to try to secure as well as how many other friends may turn up that need to park alongside our party. Introductions and briefing concluded, we get back into our respective vehicles, and begin to convoy from one area of the retail parking lot to the far side, and by my count the larger side of the retail development. The parking lot seems massive spread over several acres, and at 8:00am is beginning to fill up. We agree that we need to try for the far side of the lot, and are rewarded with 4-5 spaces with one additional set aside for another to join us shortly.
We park, and set up shop or really just get out of the cars. A bounty unfolds before us. Within the 120 allotted minutes this event is scheduled to last there are literally no spaces left except the ones that open up from time to time as attendees begin to leave, but more often than not those spaces are quickly refilled with another attendee in an interesting vehicle. I spend time talking with every member of our group then strike out on my own to take in the splendiferous sights of steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, aluminum, and plastic all with motors! There are vintage Volvo’s, a trio of Ford Focus RS’ lined up side by side by uh side. There are two lime green Lamborghini Murcielagos side by side. Numerous BMW’s, Mercs, Corvettes, Porsches, Vee Dubs, Audis, a few bikes, lots of trucks, Subies, Miatas, Honda’s, Toyota’s, muscle cars, customs, and Model A and T’s line the rows of the lot. Examples of each manufacturer or model are unique with subtle differences within the same model, and all have been imbued by their owners with some manner of distinction, a specialized color matched set of wheel bolts or special colored mirror caps. It ends, and I realize I’ve not seen every car that came out for the meet. And just as quickly as it filled in there are farewells among the groups and cars leaving one or two at time until the lot begins to show significant vacancy for the first time, and I’m left wondering when can I come back?
EDIT: Pictures were originally attached to this post, but then my server gave up the ghost and they went kaput. Will repost the pics shortly.