Growing up in early ’70s, September was the month that we went back to school after summer break (not in August like many schools do nowadays), and I remember the first assignment in English class was to write a paper (yes, actually write it with good old paper and pen) on “what I did on my summer vacation.”
For some of us it wasn’t a big deal as we actually went to a specific destination for vacation. For those who didn’t go anywhere, well, they basically wrote about how they slept in or lain around the house and watched TV—reruns of Gilligan’s Island and Get Smart, most likely. It made for a boring paper so some “embellishment” had to take place to help avoid total humiliation since reading said paper in front of the class was part of the drill.
Back then, we didn’t have video games or cell phones, so that meant riding our bikes to someone’s house armed with a baseball glove and bat, as there was always a good chance a pickup game would take place sooner or later, which was usually followed up with a swim at one of our buddy’s house who had a pool.
Well, as we all know times have changed since the ’70s and kids no longer figure out where all their buds are by the number of bikes piled up in the front yard at one particular house—that’s now handled via text or Snapchat.
In a lot of ways, summer hasn’t changed all that much for me, as I found quite a few of my friends hanging out in their cars at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, competing at the Holley LS Fest East and some others having fun at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville slugging it out on the autocross course (the NSRA calls it StreetKhana).
So, the Schwinn Sting-Rays have been replaced by Chevy muscle cars of just about every model and color—a high concentration are Camaros—and there are also some amazing Corvettes that dance around cones with the greatest of ease. And at this year’s Holley LS Fest East, thanks to some serious morning rain on Sunday, a massive puddle took residence in the right lane of the 3S Challenge. So in essence, there was still a water hole involved in this summer’s activities.
Yeah, I pretty much spent this past summer hanging out photographing, driving, and writing about cars with a different group of guys than I did throughout my youth, but these dudes (and a few girls) have the same competitive spirit as the kids I lined up against on the BMX track, only that “pedal power” has been replaced by engines that make upwards of 600 horsepower. These guys also take losses as hard as we did in the Sting-Ray days. I suppose it’s because guys/gals like us, who still play with cars, haven’t matured all that much when it comes to our ability to accept defeat.
Winning and losing, I had a great summer. I got to drive at a couple events, my car broke down in a glorious cloud of smoke, I made new friends and reconnected with some old ones, and there were a couple nights I took part in a hotel parking lot ritual of sharing some high-spirited concoctions from a glass jar. I’m pretty sure the one they called “watermelon” had very little watermelon yet enough alcohol content to fire up a supercharged big-block. That was a fun night.
In my younger years, summers always ended too soon, and now as an adult (in age only), I’m back to writing papers (actually typing on a computer these days) on what I did over my summer vacation, public speaking continues to make me nervous, and I still have my Schwinn Orange Krate Sting-Ray.
Bring on summer 2019!
Photography by Nick Licata