Search through street rodding history and you will find practically no mention to a “Run” involved with hot rodding until I started using such a description in Hot Rod Magazine in the very late Fifties. In the following decade, we began to use the term more frequently, until by l960 it was universally invoked to describe an event wherein a group of like-minded hot rodders would drive a goodly distance to a destination for a gathering, then drive home again. This as distinct to driving to a race meet.
When we (Tom Medley, Tex Smith, and Bud Bryan) decided to create a national rod run gathering (In Peoria, Illinois) at the end of the Sixties (the staff of Rod & Custom magazine hosting), editor Tom Medley pulled out all the stops in creating catchy slogans. One was simply “The fun’s in the run!” This was a universal truism even more true today, especially with ever-fewer groups and clubs doing the rod trot enmasse.
Increasingly, I found that at a so-called rod run, there was too often very little excitement in the destination, until today I find almost no interest whatever in wandering around a same-old same-old portable car show. Call it rod run burnout if you must, but more and more I have shifted my “destination selection” to the routes to be taken. True, I often need to work a bit more to gain additional knowledge about my routes, and what there is enroute to tickle my fancy, but that only makes me ever more eager to find out where I will have been when I try and describe why I have selected such and such a “rod run” to others.
First off, I try and avoid the interstates when plausible. This may mean a few hours less at the destination, but I can have gained precious new memory moments by rediscovering what there is between my start and stop. For instance, on the old main highway that spurts east to west across Nebraska, parallel to the freeway, there is an old Pony Express station. You think your modern day roadster spanks your butt? Back in the day, young daredevel horsemen had rearends that were ten times stronger than a Ford 9-inch. Down in Florida there is the “tallest place in the state” that will bedazzle you with it’s shortness while, up in the Dakotas there is a cow statue that would rival Babe of the northwoods fame.
The point, if I ever have one, is that these are trivialities by the millions out in the great beyond, practically all outside the scope of Thruways, and Freeways, and Tollways. And anyways, the thing to do is take a bit of extra time getting to the rod run destination, because most always you will just turn around and drive home again. Take a different route on the return, work in some time to visit the small towns of America, listen to all the greyhairs talk about the “used to have one just like this, only it was green and a Hudson.” If you can, always park at lunch time in front of the local senior citizen home. Remarkable places to pick up tidbits about local weirdo gearheads.
Oh, and don’t forget to browse the local weekly newspapers, as well as the handmade posters on vacant storewindows, advising about quilt raffles and Ludafisk feeds at the Lutheran church and donkey softball games over at the county seat……
See, the real rod run fun is not in the being there, it is in the getting there.