2015 Reptile Roundup / Lake Mirror Classic
By Santiago Fonseca
October 15-18, 2015
The Deep South Cobra Club (DSCC) conducted another successful gathering this past weekend. One of the largest in members’ attendance that I’ve been to, it combined two different events into a weekend of fun, food and drink, camaraderie, great driving, beautiful cars and friends – both new and old.
Two traditional, yearly events held by the DSCC are the Reptile Roundup (could be held anywhere) and attendance to the Lake Mirror Classic at Lake Mirror, in Lakeland, FL. This year the board of directors decided to hold the Reptile Roundup in Lakeland, in Central Florida, and anchor it to the Lake Mirror Classic event. It was a great idea; one that brought over 80 participants spread into 48 Cobras, a Sunbeam Tiger, a Cobra Daytona Coupe and a Solbra.
All album images are mine, except where indicated.
THURSDAY: The weekend started on Thursday, October 15, with an “early arrival/meet-n-greet” at the Lakeland Linder airfield’s Hilton Garden Inn. People came from as far as North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia and a great number of folks from all over Florida. Cobra manufacturers represented were Backdraft Racing, Factory Five Racing, Everett-Morrison, Unique Motorcars, Superformance, Allied Industries, West Coast, Shell Valley, B&B Roadsters, Kirkham, Street Beasts and a couple of totally home built Cobras. Backdraft Racing barely won the manufacturer’s presence with 15 cars, closely followed by Factory Five Racing with 14 cars. If the Daytona Coupe was a Factory Five car – then the two brands tie with 15 cars each. I did not count Backdraft’s factory display vehicles, or Craig’s factory car – only members’ Cobras.
Thursday afternoon/evening, we hung out at the hotel’s meeting center, handed out t-shirts and other club apparel people had bought and had a couple of beers. We then drove to the Brew Hub (http://brewhub.com/) in Lakeland for dinner and to hang out – visiting with folks we had not seen since the Summer Cruise up in GA/TN/NC last July. After dinner people returned to the hotel and some (locals) went home.
FRIDAY: The morning started with a group photograph at the hotel and the establishment of a “Poker Run”, where drivers would pick up a card at every stop and the best hand would win a prize at the end. This was followed by a day cruise of our area’s backroads, with a stop for lunch at Woody’s River Roo (http://woodysriverroo.com/) in Ellenton. We pretty much had the run of the place – especially the parking lot (they had roped off a large portion of it for our cars). After lunch, we had a scheduled stop at Streamsong, an out of the way, very unusual and beautiful Golf Resort (http://www.streamsongresort.com/). Jaqueline Bohmer, their Marketing Manager, gave us a presentation highlighting all the activities the resort has to offer and handed out goodie bags. We also had some free time to go look around the grounds. Especially interesting was the 6th floor’s bar and terrace where the view is 360-degrees – seems like forever. The place is so remote and so far from light pollution Jackie said clear nights are incredible, so we (Debbie and I) are going to go back later in the year, on a clear night to catch a glimpse of a star-studded sky, and check out the Acqua Pietra Spa and restaurants...
After Streamsong, it was time to make our way back to Lakeland and the Hilton to rest for a bit and then drive to Lake Mirror for the “Budweiser Hot Rod Rendezvous”. This was a free outdoor concert and party held at the Lake Mirror Amphitheater. They had new car unveilings, Rock & Roll bands, and several dozens of pre-registered Hot Rods. The DSCC had a special parking lot with Backdraft Racing sponsoring pizza and drinks for DSCC members. The event was open to the public and many came to our lot to see the cars and some models Backdraft had on display. At 8:00 PM all cars on display started engines and that was pretty awesome. Shortly after 8:00 PM, club members started making their way back to the hotel to prepare for the big show on Saturday – “THE” anchor event of the weekend – The Lake Mirror Classic Auto Festival.
SATURDAY: After breakfast at the hotel, we made our way to the festival grounds. Several people from our group chose to do a cruise to Bok Tower for their 7th annual Boktoberfest celebration. This was instead of “hangin’ wif de homeboys” at the car show... We all drove to Lake Mirror together in the early morning, but 9 cars and 14 folks peeled off around noon to do their own thing. Craig and Debbie Ollinger led this cruise. Recap at the end.
The Auto Festival itself consists of several built-in events – an opening ceremony, the sharing of some of the most notable automobiles’ “biographies”, a lunch parade for the Concours d'Elegance participants, and a Vintage fashion show highlighting the fashions of the eras represented by the classics displayed. This is followed by a parade of classic wooden boats and displays of antique bicycles and motorcycles. For some reason, this year they didn’t have the Amphicars on the lake. In addition to all the concourse “stuff” down by the main area, there were hundreds of Hot Rods, Classics, Collectibles, Street Rods and new cars, all assembled in groups of similar makes and styles around a 14-block area of downtown. The last scheduled event was the awards ceremony where cars and motorcycles were judged by professional judges. This year’s “Best Of Show” was awarded to Tom duPont’s DuPont Speedster. An incredibly difficult show to judge due to the concourse quality of the models present – some of them one-off automobiles, so it is such an honor to be selected as the Best of the Best. The Speedster is kept at DuPont Publishing in St. Petersburg, FL for all to see during the monthly Cars & Coffee held there the third Saturday of every month.
After the show was over, we made our way back to the Hilton, enjoyed a swim at the pool and rested for a few minutes. Then, we drove to “The Club at Eaglebrooke” (http://www.eaglebrooke.com/) for our annual membership dinner. After dinner, we had the award presentation ceremony, where John and Debbie Hill received the “Best of Show” award for their Factory Five Racing Cobra. This award is significant as members vote for the best Cobra amongst all present, and with 48+ BEAUTIFUL cars to choose from it is a task to select the one that embodies the Cobra mystique, so CONGRATULATIONS to John and Debbie on winning this year’s award!
We also had door prizes, such as merchandise provided by Backdraft Racing (brought by John Lennon – who, by the way, refused to sign ANY Beatles songs…), a couple of free 2016 DSCC membership renewals, and general, unadulterated fun (LOTS of BS as well!). Jim Milliken and Marta Ramos received an award for the oldest Cobra, Dave and Yvonne Van Sleen received one for the Cobra with the highest odometer reading, and Bob Mason, for being the member who traveled the farthest for the Roundup. (Bob actually drove, not trailered, his Cobra from Cornelius, NC). Last prize went to Mike Trainor, who won $100.00 for having picked the best hand during the poker run.
Next, Kirk Mason, from Tampa, volunteered for and was approved by the membership to be the newest member of our board of directors. We also gained a new member: Brian Blash, from Palm Beach Gardens – so welcome, Brian and his friend, Tasha (Natasia) Torres. After dinner, people made their way back to the hotel on their own timeline. Many of the locals went home after dinner.
SUNDAY: Some members, such as those with long drives home (6 to 11 hours), hit the road early Sunday morning. Local yokels like us, with a 30 minute drive home (some even shorter than that!), participated in the last event of the weekend – a cruise around some of Lakeland’s beautiful lakes’ homes and an area featuring one of the largest concentrations of Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes. These are found in the vicinity of Florida Southern College. The cruise ended at Reececliff Family Diner – the longest running restaurant in Lakeland, in business at this same place since 1934 (http://www.reececlifflakeland.com/)
After breakfast we made our way back to the hotel, checked out and, after hanging out with 80+ friends all weekend, took the lonely drive home.
IRRITANTS AND MISHAPS: We had a couple of cars “act up”, both ended up in trailers for the trip back home. A couple others had minor aggravating failures that were fixed on the spot – our club has a large amount of members who have put their cars together from scratch so there’s always a wealth of knowledge among the participants and things are fixed quickly and efficiently. One incident (though thank God, did not end up gravely) happened to a couple going back home on Sunday. They rear-ended a Camry on I-4 causing considerable damage to their car’s front end. Again, thank God they are OK. They had their car towed to a yard where an adjuster will assess the damage and go from there. They rented a car and drove home a bit shook up. Another member of our club is helping them with the recovery of their car from the yard it was towed to for the return of it to their possession and subsequent repair.
Other than those incidents, we had a fantastic weekend – caught up with some friends and made some new ones. And we are already planning for the next Reptile Roundup – this one possibly around the Beaufort, SC area.
Last thing I’d like to share is “Congratulations for an excellent job!” to Mike Cheek who planned most of the events, the primo parking at the Friday evening rendezvous, the Streamsong visit – dinners, and breakfast on Sunday. Also, Craig Ollinger for planning and executing the Bok Tower cruise-within-a-cruise – cruise... To Pat and Bruce Miller for organizing and conducting the Poker Run. Every “tour” we have with the DSCC is only possible due to the hard work some members put in to make it all seem seamless and easy. THANK YOU MIKE, CRAIG, PAT & BRUCE!
In closing: We had a wonderful weekend, perfect weather, lots of beautiful cars and people, great food and drink, and except for the one accident on I-4, everyone got home in one piece and for that, we have to be thankful!
Now let’s get ready for the next one!
BOKTOBERFEST RECAP: 9 cars left the Lake Mirror Classic grounds for an afternoon trip to Bok Tower and a visit to one of Lake Wales’ largest annual events: The “Boktoberfest”. After leaving Lake Mirror, following a quick pit stop and a cruise through rural rolling hills leading to Bok Tower, they got ensnarled in a major traffic back up when approaching the entrance to the grounds. There, they found local police officers directing traffic, and the good news was they were able to convince one officer, who happened to love Cobras, to allow them to enter the grounds. Parking for the cars was graciously granted and secured by a local grower, which left only a short walk through the woods to the festivities. When they finally arrived at the fest grounds, events were in full swing with German heritage music, brats, many beverage kinds, along with numerous vendors selling tropical plants and crafts. While some in the group took a brisk walk to the tower to feed the goldfish and enjoy the panoramic view from one of the highest points in Florida, others toured the visitor center and enjoyed the festivities. The group returned to the hotel via backroads around the many lakes in the area.
To view all the RR photos by Santiago and Dan, click on the Gallery on the home page of the website.
Annual Summer Mountain Cruise
by Santiago Fonseca
July 8-12, 2015
We held this year’s cruise July 8-12. 8 and 12 July being travel days and 9-11 cruise days. As with last year’s cruise, this year’s, again, was flawlessly organized by Eric and Cheri Edscorn. Not a Deep South Cobra Club cruise per se, like the one in March (Flawlessly organized by Ricky Harper and Lee Roddenberry as well J), but a Southeastern U.S. Cobra Owners’ gathering in North Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. The plan was to do the major “cruise” roads there: Tail of the Dragon, NC 28 (Moonshiner28), the Smokey Mountain National Park’s highways and byways and other local roads and trails, all famous for their beauty and the driving enjoyment they provide. The plan was also to check out some interesting sites and great restaurants along the way. This year, Eric added an overnight in Gatlinburg, TN for some visiting around that area.
The weekend started with early arrivals on Wednesday evening at the Lake Chatuge Lodge in Hiawassee, Georgia (http://www.lakechatugelodge.com/). Group members traveled from all over the south. The Florida crews came from: Tampa/Riverview, Palm Beach Gardens, Umatilla, St. Cloud, and Plant City. The rest were from NC, SC and GA. I guess next year we ought to give an award for the longest distance traveled –WITHOUT trailering the Snake!
A trip like this puts us always at the mercy of the weather, but the weather Gods smiled upon us. Saturday was the only day it rained a bit – moderate while driving, except that it rained quite a lot Friday night in Gatlinburg, and several cars were soaked through the night and plenty of towels were needed to soak up all the water collected in the few cars left uncovered. One member had the good fortune of finding a spot under the motel overhang so he was golden come Saturday morning. Our Cobra, broken down once again, or STILL, was at home so the trusty Bimmer was our sled.
DAY 1:Thursday morning started with a meeting at 09:30 and a review of the day’s plan. Eric handed out detailed turn-by-turn instructions in case anyone got separated, and that always happens when you are traveling in a convoy of many cars (16 in our case). Somehow we managed to stay together through the day. We left Georgia and traveled roughly northeast into North Carolina, through the Cullasaja Gorge, with a stop and a walk down a trail to the Dry Falls for a quick photo op. These falls have a trail that goes down one side of the river, behind the falls and up the other side. After this stop we continued on to Highlands, NC and then on to Cashiers, NC for a lunch stop at the Cornucopia restaurant. The afternoon drive took us down to NC 28 – also known as the Moonshiner 28 (http://moonshiner28.com/). The choice was to either go on this drive or go back to Highlands and hang out, then meet up for the drive back to Lake Chatuge. The majority went on the drive.
These cruises are never without gremlins, or Murphy’s Law, malfunctions, whatever. Wednesday evening a member discovered 4 header bolts missing (out of 16) and several loose ones. A trip to the NAPA shop ¼ of a mile from the hotel, early morning Thursday, got us some replacement bolts and that Cobra was OK from then on. Later that morning, another member’s car kept acting up, cutting out, starting again. Then, after lunch at the gas stop, it quit for good. Multimeters came out, tool kits came out, fuel pumps were tested, electrical systems checked - but nothing going.
A young man who was gassing up at the same gas station had come down to check out the cars and was watching the attempts made by several people to get the car back on the road. He mentioned a shop, literally, around the corner who may be able to help. Off we went and found a dream shop called Passion Performance (http://www.passionperformanceauto.com/). We talked to the lady up front, and she called Tim, one of the mechanics (second from right on the staff photo). Car guys that they all are, Tim dropped what he was doing and said: “Let’s go and see what we see”. Two minutes later we were back at the car, and Tim traced the problem to a faulty EFI relay (it’d gotten wet and shorted out – he thought – and it looked so). So, he called a local shop they do business with, we drove there, got the relay (under 10 bucks!), came back to the car, installed it and that was it. By then, the rest of the folks who’d gone on the Moonshiner 28 run were back so we hooked back up in Highlands and made our way back to GA and the Lodge. We met for dinner at The Copper Door back in Hayesville, NC where Eric and Cheri know the chef/owner and we had our own room to dine in and it was a very good dinner.
But before dinner we stopped to visit the shop of a local “artist” who builds hot rods. They are known as “Art Rods” and the place is called Cutworm Specialties (http://cutwormspecialties.com/). Owned and operated by Jeb Greenstone. Jeb builds hotrods from scratch – literally. He uses OEM engines and alternators and brake cylinders and rear ends, but the rest of it he fabricates. Road wheels and steering wheels, seats, intake manifolds, dashboards – even the wheel lugs. Take a gander on his website. Incredible craftsmanship. A most excellent first day!
DAY 2: Day consisted of a 147 mile cruise through three states, passing Peachtree, Andrews and Robbinsville. We cruised around Fontana Lake and followed the road to the Fontana Dam. This road affords a view on the dam from below, and as you climb, from the top and behind. A beautiful trek! Our lunch stop was the Historic Tapoco Lodge on the banks of the Cheoah River in the Nantahala National Forest (http://tapocolodge.com/). The place is absolutely beautiful! We had 26 people in our “party” but the kitchen handled the load rapidly and efficiently and the setting, right on the river was just beautiful. Luckily, being a Friday, there were not too many people in the place so we had the entire outdoor seating area to ourselves (this, the “Slick Rock Grill”, being one of two restaurants in the place – the other, a more formal one inside is “Jasper’s”). And did I mention the food? Holy smokes! One of the best burgers I’ve ever had! Anyway, I digress… The manager came out and offered to host another gathering for us so this is a thought – maybe base out of there next time? Much longer drive, to start from for us FL folks, so we’ll see! One interesting tidbit is the Tapoco Lodge has an old style Texaco gas station with pumps so we had everyone stop in front of it for individual pictures. Gas shows to be 17c per gallon then. Taxes alone are higher per gallon now…
After lunch, the ride took us to Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort for a quick break and on to the Tail of the Dragon (http://tailofthedragon.com/). 11 miles of mountain road with 318 turns, some so tight that if you are not careful, you’ll run into the back of yourself… Not quite, but there are many a report of 18 wheelers going down the Dragon, really messing things up, and of course, car and bike accidents. Here’s a link to previous mishaps: http://tailofthedragon.com/tail-of-the-dragon-info/trucks-on-the-dragon/. TN has finally banned large vehicles and you have to be a moron to take a rig that’s 70 to 80 feet long and find yourself on a 180-deg hairpin turn that is 50-60 feet edge-to-edge. A lot of people, especially bikers, really race up and down this road, so staying in your lane is sacred! Look at the one 18-wheeler in the link’s pictures (green cab, white trailer with “Lisa” on the side in red letters – there’s a slide show of it). There are several outfits who have photographers at intervals and they take pictures of cars as you go by and you can go to their site and get killer pictures of you going through it. These photographers – one is http://www.killboy.com/(but others will pop up on this link) have thousands of pictures up for viewing. There’s one even called “killboy crashes” and there are plenty of these! A lot of people drive way beyond their ability, and though most wear good biker attire, many drive with totally inadequate clothing – tank tops, sandals, etc. Many bikers have left plenty of skin there. Enough said!
As we departed the Dragon (drove in one way and came out the other – though many people go back and forth), we made our way down the Foothills Parkway and on to Townsend NC, to a stop at the Tuckaleechee Caverns (http://www.tuckaleecheecaverns.com/). These caverns are estimated to be 20 to 30 million years old and have an underground waterfall that is 250 feet below the surface. I never asked how deep the caverns go, but there’s one room we went in after we stopped at the waterfalls that was lower than them and it had a ceiling that was 150’ tall. In this room, our guide (with previous notice) turned off the lights and I have never experienced blackness so deep, so impenetrable, that if the lights ever went off with people down there, I do not know how people would make it back up. If you ever go there – bring flashlights, seriously. And though I am sure they are prepared for that contingency, you do not know total absence of light until you are 300’ underground and the lights go off – unless you are a miner, or an informant that the mafia caught and they gave a you a brand new pair of cement shoes and took you out for a nice boat ride.
After we left the caverns, we made our way to Gatlinburg, TN, our overnight stop, via the beautiful Little River Gorge. Wish we’d been able to stop along the way and maybe catch a glimpse of a bear or other animals, or just the fantastic scenery (the biggest hills us FL folks see are called “Landfills”), but with so many cars and turns so tight it was almost impossible to fit all of us in any one turn off. The traffic wasn’t bad, but there were still many cars on these places.
So we drove straight through to check in at out overnight location, the Chalet Inn (Now, THAT was a place to remember - remember to never go back there again, that is!). More on that later. After everyone got settled in, we drove down to Parkway and the Cherokee Grill. Another awesome steakhouse where we had a long table reserved for all of us. After dinner, people went on walks, to check out stores and such, looking for Cobra shirts and mementos, and after that, everyone made their own way back to their rooms.
Now, for the Chalet Inn: http://www.reaganhotels.com/fabulous-chalet-inn.htm; the website shows a beautiful place – yada, yada, yada. Well, it ain’t so! Only thing “fabulous” about it is that word on the link… Our room looked as if a crime scene crew had just left. No chalk body outline, but our room door was definitely breached with something – a foot, a battering ram, something. The safety chain was not there and where it was supposed to be, the whole frame was shredded. The area of the strike plate for the door latch was also completely shredded, and in place of a standard strike plate, they had cut a piece of tin, and cut two holes in it to fit the door latch and the lock. The floor was squishy/nasty, there were hair clumps in the bathtub plus dead AND alive bugs galore. The frame on the bathroom door was screwed in with drywall screws and they were all sticking halfway out. What a horrible place. Too late, Friday night, to find anything else in Gatlinburg. Other members found similar things – no towels, dirty everything. Like an idiot, I did not take any pictures of this, and to make matters worse, there’s no one at the front desk to talk to after a certain hour or in the morning at check out. They direct you across town to a Quality Inn (or something) so we just dried the cars and left. That is the night that rained the most.
DAY 3: Saturday morning we had breakfast at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp prior to leaving Gatlinburg. Plan was to be there, chow down and leave by 09:00. Yeah, right. After sleeping with one eye open at the Chalet Inn, most people did not get a good night’s sleep so we were slow getting started – but after a great breakfast, we hit the road again, and never looked back (at that mess anyway). This stage of the cruise would have us driving through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the views are just fantastic! Waterfalls, many historic places and buildings and perfect mountain roads. We traveled up to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a 10 MPH trail through the forest that offers views of the Grotto Falls, the Rainbow Falls and other beautiful places, but the trail is too narrow to pull over so we just drove in one end and came out the other (http://www.mypigeonforge.com/things-to-do/roaring-fork/). It’d be nice to do it on a bicycle but considering the bears I’m sure live in the forest, we were just fine in the cars… Leaving the Nature Trail we continued on to Cherokee, NC and tried to make a stop at Clingman’s Dome, highest point in TN at 6,643’: (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/clingmansdome.htm). I said “tried” because since it’d rained hard the night before, the fog was so think than getting out of the car would be like going into a pool – besides the fact that the visibility was almost nil - so we found a suitable place to turn around and headed back down the mountain. I think we made it almost half-way up there before we turned around. On a clear day, the view is fantastic but the traffic up/down can be daunting! We made our way back down to Cherokee with a stop at a historic mill called Mingus Mill (http://www.mysmokymountainvacation.com/historicbuildings/mingus-mill.html), built for 600 bucks in 1886 and rehabilitated in ’68 by the National park Service and it is now operated as a fully-functional museum.
After this stop we made our way back down to Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino for lunch. They told us Cherokee is Gatlinburg’s poor cousin. Very similar place on the other side of the mountain, but not as touristic. Still very nice. The Harrah’s casino is a HUGE place with multiple levels, thousands of machines and tables and several sit-down restaurants plus a food court, so people scattered to find a dining experience of their choice. Leaving after lunch was a bit tough to stay together with so much traffic so we just drove back to Lake Chatuge and the lodge for our last night’s stay.
Last event of this GREAT trip was dinner at The Chophouse, a steakhouse within walking distance from the lodge where, again, we had a room dedicated to us – but for some reason, in the middle of our u-shaped table, sitting about 20 tired, loud, boisterous car guys and spouses, they had ONE single round table where a family was having dinner, and when they left, they sat another group down. I’m SURE we ruined their dinner (too…), but although they didn’t complain, we were getting plenty of dagger looks and stink eyed looks. However, after a while they even seemed to be laughing at some of the stupid shenanigans going on at our table. Needless to say, I will not mention any names, or pin a particular shenanigan on any one person…
DAY 4: Travel day. Most people within a 1-4 drive home left Saturday night. Our fearless leaders (Eric and Cheri) live 15 minutes away. The rest stayed and departed early Sunday. We had a leisure breakfast and left around noon to our next stop in Roswell, GA to visit family. After a great overnight stay, we left Monday morning for the drive back home.
The whole trip was only possible (to be so awesome) due to Eric and Cheri’s meticulous planning, reservations and carefully crafted itinerary. Also important was the camaraderie always present at these gatherings. A group of people who can sometimes be so disparate in backgrounds, ages, ethnicity, etc., but who are bound by the love of the roads and driving the cars as a cohesive group. Thanks everyone and I’m already looking forward to next years’ event.