Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Meet Me in Saint Louis

We attended the LCCI Grand Invitational held in St. Louis, hosted by the Show Me Region of our club over the extended Memorial Day holiday. Mario and I were able to catch-up with some friends we hadn’t seen in a few years as we were unable to attend the 2007 nor the 2008 Grand Invitational shows.

A small group of us from Chicago agreed to caravan down into St. Louis early Thursday morning. We agreed to meet about seventy miles southwest of Chicago in Dwight, IL with the caravan promptly departing the local BP/Burger King at eight o’clock sharp! Mario drove the Clenet to Chicago a few days earlier so that we could have the fenders hand-striped in time for the invitational. This will be another story, so keep checking in!

I set my alarm for five a.m. and woke up just before the alarm sounded. Mario was already up as I approached the guest room to wake him. We were both eager to get on the road to start our journey with the Clenet. We had the car packed by 5:45 and made our way to the local Starbuck’s in Sandburg Village by 6:00. With our morning coffee in hand, I was behind the wheel heading south on LaSalle Boulevard.

The drive down Interstate 55 was uneventful so early in the morning, however we both noticed that the traffic inbound to Chicago was already backed up for miles and miles well into the next county! Mario and I were the first of our group to arrive at the designated meeting place. We had just finished topping off the gas tank as other members from our region started to arrive. Our caravan was comprised of a very eclectic array of cars, ten in all.

Mario and I chose to drive down with the hardtop fitted to the car to make the highway driving more bearable. To our surprise, the replacement vent window seals coupled with the hardtop gave us a very quiet journey. The air conditioning was cycling as it should and we were very comfortable the entire way.

We departed at eight o’clock and continued along the Interstate in formation. Mario and I would periodically pull out of the caravan to snap some pics of our friends in their cars. As we approached St. Louis, the caravan made another stop to top off our tanks before getting into the metro area. After refueling, we had our first minor incident. The white Cadillac DeVille Convertible lost control of his throttle linkage. Mario and I hopped out of the Clenet to help resolve the problem. Mario eventually made a quick and effective roadside repair to get us on our way.

We arrived just in time for lunch that was already taking place at a lovely historic park near St. Louis University and being served under a striking Victorian-era gazebo. We were delighted to have many of the people coming over to our car, showing interest and asking many questions about the car and the make. After lunch we toured the Anheuser-Busch Brewery with the club where we enjoyed the architecture, stables, company history and some ice-cold brew afterwards. We arrived at the hotel and promptly asked the bellman to check our hardtop after removing it from the car just outside the lobby doors.

The five-day meet cumulated with the grand car show held on Sunday afternoon with an awards banquet following later that evening. I was disappointed that the Clenet did not receive any of the popular vote, however I was very proud that the car received as much attention as it did. Many, many people from the club and the public who attended this semi-private show gave the car a good deal of attention.

After meeting with a few friends at the farewell breakfast early Monday morning, we repacked the Clenet and my Jaguar XK8 that good friend Larry used for the entire weekend. The weather turned against us as we endured several wicked thunderstorms near Springfield, IL. The Clenet handled well during the torrential rain and high winds that persisted for the first hundred miles or so. The rain subsided to infrequent showers all the way through back to the Chicagoland area. We arrived back at my home where Mario then continued his journey with the Clenet back to southwest Michigan.

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