Another year begins. GT-26 looms in the future, and hope springs eternal as we plan our trip to St. Paul for the All MG Meet.
Will the trip be uneventful? Or will PRNCZ have more opportunities in store for us this driving season? Our plans are simple: drive up the west side of the Mississippi and return on the east side.
We've invited our long time traveling companion, Bruce Nichols, to accompany us. Even though it's only an eight hour drive, we'll take two and one-half days going and about one and one-half days returning. The broken crank from last season's adventure is repaired. Steven has replaced the dynamo with an alternator, changed the oil, and fiddled with some other stuff. We've driven PRNCZ about 200 miles since storage. We're ready for the GT! Bruce has also done lots of work on Ole Blue and is ready to motor. He arrived Friday midday. After our usual Bon Voyage dinner and toast to NAMGAR, we hit the sack early in anticipation of another MGAdventure.
Saturday morning, 06:30AM. The sky is blue. The air is cool and crisp. Perfect motoring weather. Our goal for this day is Spring Green, WI, the location of Frank Llloyd Wright's (FLW) Taliesin and the American Players Theatre. About half way there we stopped for a quick tech session: a few adjustments here and there, and off we went.
That afternoon we toured the FLW Hillside Home and School and the family chapel. Then we checked into the motel. We stayed at the Usonian Inn, a motel designed by a FLW apprentice and very reminiscent of FLW's hand. We cleaned up for dinner and made our way to the outdoor theatre to see a Shakespeare play.
The mosquitoes were ferocious, even with multiple applications of OFF! We suspect that the whippoorwill was also feeling the pain of mosquitoes since it would not quit singing throughout the whole performance. Diane thinks you call that "atmosphere."
While we packed up in the morning, Bruce pointed to a large wet spot three feet in front of PRNCZ, but we chose to ignore it since it had rained that night and there were American made vehicles in the area (they leak fluids, you know).
We were in shorts for another hot day but quickly changed into jeans and sweatshirts: a front came through with rain and dropped the temp over night to the 50s. But what beautiful motoring weather. We stopped in Winona, MN on the other side of the Mississippi River on Sunday afternoon. We antiqued, admired the Prairie style architecture of several buildings in town and had dinner at the Jefferson Bar and Grill which is a converted train warehouse. We ran into the first caravan of MGs headed for St. Paul at the Grill: several Bs, a C and a motorcycle, all from our neighborhood in Illinois.
Monday we breakfasted at the historic Anderson House in Wabasha, MN, the town of "Grumpy Old Men" fame, although very little of it was actually filmed there. We took the requisite pictures of a small river town and also of Slippery's Bar (not exactly like the one in the movie). Then we drove on to Red Wing, MN, another very picturesque river town. We antiqued. Diane found another piece for her rare pattern Roseville collection. While lunching at the historic St. James Hotel, a sudden cloudburst appeared, so we just sipped our drinks a bit longer. Next we were off to St. Paul. Steven had a very direct route to Roseville, right through the middle of St. Paul at evening rush hour (Hey! It ain't that big). It was a good thing too because PRNCZ was becoming more difficult to start. We needed to be someplace with lots of other MGAs.
Where's the Hotel?
Finally we arrived at the hotel: could this be it? It looked like a bomb site or worse yet — an abandoned K-Mart.. A quick check-in, shower, dinner, and cruise of the parking lot.
The meet itself was held at the Minneapolis State Fairgrounds - a great site. Unlike GT-21 at Indianapolis, there was shade, food, and potties everywhere (you know, the necessities of life).
We started out early for the first day, because Steven had spotted a Batteries Plus and wanted to check out the batteries and charging system, before focusing on the starter itself. When Steven asked for a hygrometer, the technician said, "You mean that thing with the balls?" Geez, why doesn't Minnesota license these people? But he was helpful. Loading the batteries, we determined that there was a charging problem — the "new" alternator. Although the starter would work occasionally, we decided it was time to use the crank for something besides adjusting the valves. Steven got a lot of practice on this trip.
Do you Crank to the Left or Right?
The host committee did a great job of coordinating all of the events in one locale, which sure made the commute each day easy. Along with the requisite tech talks, tours, vendors and car show, a highlight had to be seeing really beautiful specimens from each of the major MG Registers. There were a lot of cars, but we were able to see them all and spend time with many of the owners.
Tuesday evening we drove over to the fair grounds for the MG talent show. There's nothing wrong with a talent show when the talent's good. We lasted about an hour. But only after we had the distinct pleasure of learning a little of the Minnesotan language: "Uff da," "you betcha" and "ya, sure." Several weeks after the meet, we stopped by the restoration shop to see the current projects and were surprised to see a very nice early 50s pickup truck from Minnesota with two of these three phrases in decals on the bumper.
There was still enough daylight, so we decided to wash the cars. When we returned to our parking spot, Steven again noticed that the pavement in front of PRNCZ was wet. A couple of passers-by commented that she was leaking anti-freeze. But you just couldn't see the problem, until Steven passed across the front of the car and a fine line of wetness appeared. Had Steven wet his pants in frustration? No, the spay from the leak was so fine you couldn't see it unless you were standing in front of it. After a couple of seconds of careful consideration, Steven unscrewed the radiator cap, and the leak stopped. One of the kibitzers that invariably shows up whenever a bonnet goes up commented on our "67 horsepower squirt gun."
On The Back
Mouse Over to Read Back
Wednesday was the Fourth of July and the show of cars: a good representation of MGs from 1928 through pre-production Rover MG 2002 models. Rover shipped over two 2002 models and a 1936 WA Saloon car. The new Rover MGs did not impress us. There was little difference between them and a Jetta, in our opinion. One was a Sedan and the other a Station Wagon. But we politely looked and Steven filled out the questionnaire, because he wanted the MG monikered pen they were giving away.
We spend hours wandering around the cars. Diane was excited to see her first MG 1100 Princess (she thought PRNCZ was the first Princess) and also to learn about the Marcos, a British car reminiscent of a TVR. We really appreciated having the vendor area indoors. All of the expected regulars were there: Ledermann Rupp, British Tools, Paintrix, Scarborough Faire, NAMGAR, Triple C, and many others.
MGAs at the Car Show
Thursday morning was the awards ceremony. We were very pleased to learn that Tom Ball won the NAMGAR Premier class - and we even earned our own "I took the Tom Ball Tour" button. The car next to us in the show of cars was a fresh restoration owned by Bill and Elaine Pederson. It was so fresh that there weren't even any creases in the hood windows. But there were bits of lint to which Steve donated the piece of tape that was holding up a placard in our car to remove it. And wouldn't you know it, the Pederson car took top honors in the 1500 class. Imagine a piece of tape between us and first in class! We are not about to let Bill and Elaine forget this.
PRNCZ in the Spotlight
PRNCZ got pulled into extra duty as a model for the history of MG talk. In this picture, Len Bonnay explains the history of the MGA, using PRNCZ as an example of the 1500 series. At this point his hand indicates the number of times in the last five years that PRNCZ has traveled to a GT and encountered mechanical mishap. If you can't see his fingers, he's holding up all five. This walking history tour was a very clever way to quickly and efficiently review the rich MG history.
Friday was the best day. MG race cars (about 20) were on the Fairgrounds racetrack. Each car was afforded five laps at speed. It was amazing to see the N and M types, especially when they were hitting on all cylinders, with smoke from the tailpipe reminiscent of a contrail. Diane can never get enough of that sound. There were 5 As, including Dave Smith's Mk II and Bob Samyn's Draggin' A coupe. Even the few raindrops couldn't dampen anyone's spirits. Steven was in the infield with Hal Roeth, taking action shots for MGA!
The banquet was held in a hall on the Fairgrounds. The Best of Show MG, a two tone blue 1936 SA Saloon, and the Honorable Mention, an ocher colored MGB still owned and restored by the original owners, were displayed on the floor, along with an MG TD which was celebrating its 50th birthday. NAMGAR's Ed Sass placed 2nd in the 900 mile Endurance Run, and the Michalak Men were right behind him. Good Show!
The trip home came way too quickly. Because of Bruce's schedule and our problems, we decided to make the return trip in one day. Steven figured if we were conservative, there was enough juice in the batteries to make it home before dark. There wasn't any concern about the radiator leak. We'd just run without pressure. Actually, it seemed to run cooler without pressure anyway.
We started off quite confident. About halfway back we encounter some rain which, unfortunately required windscreen wipers and more "juice." About a half hour outside of Madison, WI she started to miss and pretty soon we were on the side of the road next to a cornfield. Now's a hell of a time to find out that the fuel pump requires at least nine volts to operate! As fate would have it, there was a house on the corner about a quarter of mile up the road. Up hill of course. We pushed PRNCZ to the house in hopes of some assistance.
Nila and Rusty, their family, friends, and Rottweiller were hosting their annual Fourth of July party. They couldn't have been more accommodating and hospitable: offers of beer and food. Rusty ran off to the farm for a battery charger to connect to those shriveled 6 volts. It took the better part of twenty minutes on boost for the needle to begin its descent towards the charged zone on the dial. Then there's Diane: "Is it done yet?" Diane watch the pot boil! An anxious hour later, Steven figured we had enough juice, gas and daylight to make it home the remaining 3 hours. Then again he figured we'd make it without incident the first time. We abandoned the scenic route and headed east on Route 12 until we got home.
We're home now. The alternator is replaced and the radiator is in the box waiting its turn. Diane thinks everything has been replaced at least once since the restoration. "There's something about the arrogance of being able to keep them on the road." — to paraphrase Ken Gross, Peterson Car Museum.
Bill and Elaine Pederson promised to meet us at GT-27. Their MGA now has a name, Abby, thanks to their daughter Kris' curiosity on how we'd named our car. As Steven explained, it's not after the deceased Princess of York, but after his wife: Queen Diane. The daughters of all queens are princesses.
And the play we saw our first night must have been a prediction for this MGAdventure:
So what's next? We'll find out next year on our way to or from Virginia (is for Lovers). With a slogan like that, it's got to be a great time. (FLW's Pope-Leighey House is in nearby Alexandria for the other Frank "freaks" in the Register.)