Hot Springs Arkansas, July 13-17, 2009
On a last minute whim I decided to attend the NAMGAR National Meet at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs AR. Having no pre-registration or reservations at the host hotel, I booked my tent into a KOA a few miles from the main gig, then slapped a new set of tires on my trailer at the last minute, and sailed off down the expressway with my MGA at 1:00 am on Tuesday 7/14. About 700 miles on I arrived in Hot Springs at 12:30 pm, having killed half an hour for running out of gas once (somewhat embarrassing), and having put the top up once for getting soused in a heavy downpour just west of Memphis. While yíall in Chicago were wondering about abnormally cool July weather up north, I was basking in high 90ís and humidity in Arkansas for the duration.
Seems I missed the welcome meeting Monday evening, and an interesting night at the Gangster museum. I also missed the programmed time for a drive to Mount Magazine Tuesday morning, but managed to do that the next day. Tuesday afternoon had a tech session on rebuilding MGA seats (while I skipped the Shoppers Rally). I also skipped the Chapter Contacts Meeting (not being one of those), and the first timers reception (having graduated from that class more than 20 years earlier). The resulting vacant time was nice for meeting and greeting old friends, new friends, and lots of internet acquaintances, matching faces to cars and stories. The evening program was a general reception with guest speaker Gary Watson, producer of Inside the Octagon (parts 1 and 2), and a full length viewing of part 2. Of course every late evening involves a stint in the hospitality suite and/or some midnight tire kicking tech sessions in the car park. It was cool enough (barely) by near midnight to take the rain-fly off of the tent for better ventilation and get a little sleep, then put it back on before leaving camp the next morning.
Wednesday morning had 90 MGAís parked on the grass in a small park across the street from the hotel for the traditional car show. When that broke up at noon I headed north for a 90 mile drive to Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas. Once out of town the roads turned twisty and wound through the hills for a couple of hours, a very nice cruise through mostly forested areas with sparse traffic on state and county highways. The programmed tour the day before stopped at a nice restoration shop, but I missed that tidbit. After a brief picnic on the mountain top I headed back, then getting drizzled on for an hour or so but not bad enough to make me put the top up. The cool rain was actually a nice break from the heat, and it was dry and hot again back in town. After a quick cool down and a bit of chat we headed off for a two hour lake cruise and dinner on the riverboat Belle of Hot Springs, then back to the hotel for more hospitality suite, late night tire kicking (habit forming), then back to camp to remove the rain-fly and get some more sleep.
Thursday morning had two dozen cars out for a rally, about 70 miles if you didnít get lost. I drafted a lady navigator (when her husband and kid were running the rally in their MGA Coupe). This turned out to be a poker run, and the nice lady drew three aces, so we got first place trophies just for being there (sort of). Mid afternoon had a tech session on vintage
racing presented by Lou Marchant, a young lady racing driver turned driving instructor. Her MGA race car was parked in the hotel lobby all week, so we had plenty of time to look it over. During this tech session another heavy rain storm broke loose big time, and it dawned on me that I had forgotten to put the rain-fly back on the tent that morning. Oh well, such is life. Evening brought the awards banquet with dinner, silent auction, live auction, awards, and some other frivolities,
followed by more hospitality suite and bench racing. When I returned to camp later I got to haul all the wet stuff out of the tent, lay it out on the car and picnic table, and swab out the tent. Luckily a suitcase was on the high side and didnít get wet (much), so I had a little stack of dry clothes to use as a pillow while sleeping on the tent floor. Oh joy, nothing particularly new, and still plenty warm to sleep without blankets, so all is still well with the world.
Friday morning was warm and only slightly drippy under the trees,
so after a quick breakfast I just tossed all the wet stuff in the trailer and headed home on the expressways, skipping the farewell coffee and donuts back at the hotel. With mid day lunch at a rest stop table, three tanks of gas and 700 miles on I was home before dark, unloading the trailer and spreading the wet stuff out to dry in the garage. The MGA did well for over 1700 miles in four days (in spite of a bit of encroaching valve recession on one exhaust valve). Canít wait for next year when the NAMGAR GT will be almost in our back yard in Delavan, Wisconsin.
-- Barney Gaylord