(from the perspective of Ric Hawthorne, editor)
On Thursday evening, I drove the Drive Performance WRX into a parking lot shared by a couple of hotels and restaurants off the Route 55 Freeway in Vineland, New Jersey. I could hear the exhaust from another Subaru – it’s such a distinctive rumble, and, although it’s the sound of power, it also is comforting and reassuring. A number of the cars wore large “48HRS of Tristate” signs on their hoods and doors. I could tell there were cars in the lot that had been in the drive last year by their reflective 48HRS.info stickers. Last year was the first time we had them.
Subaru vehicles filled the lot! I felt like I was home.
There was no need to check in at the hotel. It was 8 p.m., and I was hungry!
Registration took place at one of the restaurants. Exchanging greetings with others I’ve met the last three years, I headed to the registration table. Event co-organizer Mike Torricelli checked off names, and volunteers handed out goodies – all with Subaru logos. Those of us in line who had donations to turn in handed them to Ted Drotleff, another member of the organizing committee.
Andrew Aquilante of Subaru Road Racing Team was available for autographs and conversations about the team and this year’s #35 WRX STI. The days before the team’s first round in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge are always optimistic.
More than 50 drivers had registered for this year’s drive, some of them sharing vehicles. These included highly modified vehicles as well as non-turbocharged Foresters, a Baja, and an SVX. Donations were on a fast track.
With an early day the next morning, I had a meal and checked into the hotel for some sleep.
We started the day at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) near Millville, where Subaru of America, Inc. hosted breakfast. Subaru Chief Marketing Officer Dean Evans presented a donation from the company for the group’s charity – the American Cancer Society.
Subaru also had some special vehicles in one of the garages for the participants to see. These included:
- Subaru Road Racing Team #35 WRX STI – Andrew Aquilante was there to talk about the car
- Subaru Performance Tuning WRX STI Sedan that had been displayed at last November’s SEMA Show
- New Jersey Motorsports Park Subaru WRX pace car
- The 1986 Subaru XT Coupe featured in Summer 2011 Drive and follow-up postings on www.drive.subaru.com – its restorer, Hank Reynolds, was on hand to talk about the car (The XT Coupe and SVX owners in the group were especially interested.)
We could have stayed all day.
However, there were miles to go before we slept (apologies to Robert Frost). We split into two groups and headed for the road, right after taking three laps of Thunderbolt Raceway – one of NJMP’s two road courses.
The first day’s drive took us to Mechanicsville, Virginia, through Norfolk. Looking at a map, that doesn’t make sense; it’s not the straightest line between the Millville and Mechanicsville. But the point of the drive is to drive, and we did. Our route took us south from New Jersey and eventually into Maryland and Virginia, then into Norfolk by way of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
The bridge-and-tunnel experience was made special for us by a state police escort to one of the islands. There we lined up 44 Subaru vehicles along the seawall facing Chesapeake Bay.
After driving on straight, flat roads most of Friday, the change of route inland to West Virginia was all the more welcomed on Saturday. We routed along roads with twists and turns reminiscent of Tail of the Dragon, but with the addition of snow, slush, and ice. It was great for our Subaru vehicles!
At times, the roadways were wonderlands. We’d take a corner, and the sun would be hitting trees that still held a few inches of snow on their branches. We drove through idyllic valleys full of trees covered by snow as a quiet storm dumped even more.
That night, we met for a group dinner, during which participating vendors raffled everything from calendars to bushings to helmets. These contributions were won by tickets given us based on the amount of the donations we brought to the drive. (A list of the vendors who donated door prizes is available at www.48hrs.info. Many of the shops and companies were represented by someone on the drive – regular enthusiasts like the rest of us who enjoy travel!)
Our return to New Jersey was relatively direct, but routed to Mach V Motorsports in Sterling, Virginia. Mach V owner Dan Hurwitz gave us tours of his shop and garage area.
The final stop was in Metuchen, New Jersey – more than 1,000 miles accumulated since our starting point in Millville three days earlier.
At the meals and stops, I enjoyed talking with others who like to drive. We all have that in common. But what comes across clearly in conversations with the participants is their heartfelt support for the American Cancer Society. Group members like the charity because we’re all touched by cancer in some way.
Another common theme is the group’s camaraderie. Couples on the drive look forward to seeing one another every year. They’ve developed friendships sustained by common interests and goals and look forward to the long weekend together.