Amtrack Road Trip 2004
January 16-18, 2004
by Ann & Jake Snyder
"So how long are we going to do the Amtrak Road Trip?" we asked each other. "As long as at least one other club member goes along". There does not seem to be an end in sight, as Bill Mennell (also known as "Mr. Chairperson"), Jim Renkar and Tom Holzman showed up to take the Friday afternoon Amtrak to Dearborn. Actually, most of us had met earlier for lunch in Union Station, where we found that you must have both persons present if you are purchasing two beverages for lunch. Or at least have the other person's ID with you. Talk about security!
The train left on time. We managed to get seats together, though this can take a few stops and the cooperation of the conductor, all of whom liked to see a group traveling on their train to have fun, in a low-key, quiet way, of course. The train had a club car, though they soon ran out of a good selection of beverages, a circumstance all of us had foreseen and had therefore provided for. We happily passed around cheese (probably six kinds among us), sausages, crackers, chocolates and other health food, supplemented with the odd flask and bottle.
From left to right- Jake and Ann Snyder,
Jim Renkar, Bill Mennell, and Tom Holzman
The train got to Dearborn Station less than a half hour late (a very good showing), and the Greenfield Inn sent their shuttle to pick us up. Registration went smoothly, and we got the lowest price in many years. This was the fifth trip to the Greenfield Inn (destinations of the Ford Museum, the Automotive Hall of Fame, The Walter Chrysler Museum and twice to the North American International Auto Show in Cobo hall). Trips have been made other years to St. Louis (a private car museum), South Bend (the National Studebaker Museum) and Bowling Green (the National Corvette Museum). Others have found the Greenfield Inn an acceptable place to stay, including Charles Lindbergh during his service to Ford Motor Company during WWII (a factoid gleaned from the autobiography of the same, as none of us is quite old enough to remember those details). The swimming pool, sauna, whirlpool, restaurant and magnificent dark-wood paneled lounge make it perfect for anyone, especially at bargain winter rates. Toss in the thousands of prints, lithos, drawings and photos of automobiles over a hundred-year period on the walls of the corridors, and there is not much to top the place off. Except the hot, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies at the front desk.
But the business point of the trip remains: Simply put, the Detroit Auto Show. We saw the photos and write-ups in Autoweek, but the real thing is literally stunning. The cut-a-way engines, many motorized, showing quad cam V-engines. The W-engines, frequently enough presented that we thought we understood how they worked, for a while. And the Viper V-10, which a gentleman show goer noted to one of us was a push-rod engine, "as all real engines are", may have been pleased to note the response from the blonder of us that, "real engines have carburetters, too".
The Pontiac Solstice, due out in the fall of 2005
There were reportedly 60 new production models in the show. Some, like the Corvette C-6 were constantly mobbed. The nearest car to an MGB, in our opinion, was the Pontiac Solstice, and it is hard to understand why such a vehicle has not been in production for the last 25 years. There were many strange things to see, and some, like the full-size Lincoln pickup truck, with lighted front and rear tailgate emblems, left us asking, "Why".
Lunch was an opportunity to sit down, whether eating a seven-dollar sandwich or drinking a seven-dollar beer. We think we might have paid seven dollars just to sit for a while.
Then back to the huge hall, to view automotive splendors with eyes and minds that were overwhelmed by the sensory overloads. Basically, we were happy when 4:30 rolled around and we could phone our somewhat erratic taxi driver. Heavy traffic around Cobo Hall meant we had to seek out our ride under the building, and he took us back on the scenic route through Corktown and by Tiger Stadium to the Greenfield Inn. While we tried to get the most from every minute, the sight-and-sound experience in Cobo Hall made us all call a short night of it, and we were left with only the swimming pool, breakfast and the perfect ride home the next day.
And the five of us who went wish the rest of you could have been along.