Trying to think of a “Softer Side” topic, I initially drew a blank, so I picked up a new, yellow, lined pad of paper for inspiration. Hmmm, not so inspiring after all. Then came tropical storm Irene and the havoc it wreaked on Vermonters. We were in northern Maine that weekend for a family reunion, where there is no cell phone or radio reception. There were lots of relatives, pine trees, lakes and loons, but no information on the storm‘s track. The last we knew Friday morning when we left home, was that it shouldn‘t affect us until late Sunday afternoon. We left Maine early on Sunday, not knowing anything until well into Vermont. Thanks to VAE member, Ken Squire’s reporting on radio station WDEV, operating on generator power, we were guided safely across northern Vermont and all was well, but, oh, poor central and southern Vermont! Reports of Vermonters helping Vermonters, including several VAE members, men, women and schoolchildren all were working to restore power, repair roads, clean up people‘s homes and posses-sions, bringing in food and water, rescue and recovery operations, were so heartwarming. Such a lot of courage and resilience was shown by all involved. On the lighter side, we have been enjoying the Mountain Slow Spokes and Gypson Tours lately. What is especially enjoyable about old car touring is the great reception you get from people as you drive by. Most people notice and give you a smile and a wave. They all appreciate and are glad to see you. We even pulled up alongside a State trooper who rolled down his window and gave us a thumbs-up, even though we didn‘t have an inspection sticker. When you are in an old car, everyone is your friend. What a shame that some folks miss this experience, and don‘t even realize they are missing it. One can drive an expensive sports car and get attention, but the reaction from observers is more of a single finger wave, than those smiles and waves our classic cars receive. As VAE members, we treasure that reaction and hope more folks will be eager to take the road to that same experience.
There has been a lot of complaining in the media, diners, coffee shops, etc., about poor road conditions, from pot holes to mud bogs, now flooding. We live on a dirt road, and, in fact, with each new Town Manager, we bring him or her a copy of a piece entitled “Dirt Roads”. A quote from it says, “People who live at the end of dirt roads learn early on that life is a bumpy ride”. Thus dirt roads give one character. We do not want our dirt road paved as we need all the “character” we can get. I guess “character” started when we had to walk to view this house with the realtor as the road was a mud bog – but we still bought it! Just like our vintage cars, the roads we drive them on need maintenance. This is particularly true for dirt roads. Technically, of course, the Town is responsible for road maintenance, but they need a little help from the taxpayers to let them know what is needed and where. There are two approaches to doing this, the positive and the negative. Although some people don’t seem to understand this, the negative approach gets negative results and the positive approach gets positive results. With the negative approach, you make a phone call to the highest possible town managerial level, and speak loudly to be sure you are understood. Be sure to mention your credentials in terms of taxes paid and political clout. Also mention your assessment of their credentials and then explain what you want done. This will definitely get results. For example, during a winter snow storm, your road will be widely plowed, giving the mailman easy access to where your mailbox used to be. The positive approach doesn’t require any phone calls. I’ve found that a periodic stop at the town garage with a tin of sticky buns or whoopee pies gets very positive results. Our road is frequently graveled, graded, raked and chlorided to keep the dust down. That’s how they let me know when some more treats would be in order. Just as a little attention and TLC keep our vintage cars running smoothly, the softer touch keeps the roads smooth. Now don’t let me get started on people who feel a dirt road is a good place for their trash to be tossed. There is not enough room to cover that!
As a one-time “old car widow”, I have experienced an epiphany! When my husband first joined the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts, one of my friends suggested with great sympathy, that going to meetings and events would be just old car “stuff” and boring talk about old car “stuff”. I tended to agree with her, so Wendell and I reached an accord in that he wouldn’t require my presence at VAE activities if he didn’t have to go to craft fairs. At some point I decided I should be a little supportive since he was so enthusiastic and worked so hard to fix up our 28 Dodge coupe. I remember a phone call from him during the Shelburne car show asking if I’d be o.k. with him buying another car, a Plymouth roadster ( we really did “need” a car with a rumble seat). I, of course, was at a craft fair. Despite my surprise at the “consult” and having no clue what a “roadster” meant, of course I agreed and he was a happy man, a very good thing. When I started to attend meetings with him, I found myself meeting a lovely group of men and women whom I otherwise wouldn’t have met. They welcomed me and made me feel needed. Since I pretty much live to be useful and to feed people (ask any of our family), the potluck meetings fulfilled that desire. When Wendell became activities chair, requiring us to bring the basics for dinners, the “new fangled” coffee pot was a challenge, but again, there was always help. And, by golly, the meetings and events were fun, informative and interesting – and that Stowe show flea market turned out to be a bonanza of really good “stuff” I could relate to while the guys talked cars. To complete my “epiphany”, when we recently attended the Farm Show in Barre, just like my experience at VAE meetings, I noticed how pleasant and friendly people there were – they would smile back at you, something sadly lacking in most crowds these days. It is very good to be surrounded by “real” people. So, I guess this makes me an “auto enthusiast” for life, as VAE members are, like, totally real. Ladies, give it a try!