There seem to be more cars on the road than ever, including lots of roadtrippers which seems to be back in fashion. If it ever was out of fashion. Having just returned from an annual 4-day convertible classic tour, I was disheartened to experience how many cars there are out there, at any given time. The roads are packed and the drivers, well, not always the best or safest.
I don’t have the statistics, but it would be interesting to know what percentage of drivers exceed the posted speed limit. Many, many, I would guess. Once a fast driver, I’ve mellowed over the years and find myself a little apprehensive about exceeding a posted limit as high as 70 mph. In fact, nowadays, I seem to be hovering around 60-65 mph., and am jolted each time a vehicle passes me at speeds that are probably in excess of 20 mph of the speed limit. Today's vehicles make it easy to exceed posted limits; they are so quiet and powerful, one isn't always aware of the speeds at which he or she is driving.
Nevertheless, cruising in the beautiful state of Wisconsin is always very relaxing. Especially if you choose the back roads, or blue highways. Our OAC (Open Air Classic) convertible group spent the weekend in and around Manitowac, WI, on the east side of the state, just south of Green Bay. There were long stretches when we were the only car on the road. Had I been riding with my Corvette Club, the average group speed would easily have been over 100 mph.
I am, and have been a member of Open Air Classic (OAC), based in Madison, WI for the last 23 years. I have been a part of this 4-day “tour” occurring somewhere in the state of Wisconsin, along with many other convertibles. Over the years, the number of convertibles participating has grown, and this year OAC hosted 198 cars/drivers/navigators.
If you own a convertible, you’re probably nuts about your car. Not only have I participated in OAC each August, I joined their Winter Air Conditioner one January. It wasn’t for naught as I now hold the distinction of being the first OAC member to have been given the “Convertible Spirit Award.” That January of 1995 included not only frigid temps but snow, as well. It was the first year of this event and not many came. After all, not every convertible owner allows their ragtop to see winter weather. Nineteen degrees and four degrees below zero wind chill, I was driving a friend’s convertible (a Saab: “The Car for all Seasons”), and for the first time, used heated seats. It’s easy to love driving a convertible on a warm, sunny day. Driving in winter conditions is a horse of a different color. Bundled up with the heater blaring and the seats warming my bum, I was quite comfortable.
Each OAC Tour has a theme; this year it was Dashing Through the Kettles, Cruising Wisconsin’s East Coast. We maneuvered the backroads around Manitowac, the birthplace of ships and WWII submarines, for the 13th OAC. In attendance were 198 convertibles of various shapes, sizes and years. From a 1938 Buick to a 2018 Corvette, Fords held the lead with many Mustangs, as Chevrolet took second. Miatas, Thunderbirds, VW EOS’, and PT Cruisers among the group, held their ground with several 1960s-70s “Landcruisers.”
Not a race or a rally, OAC is a non-competitive Tour. The membership supports the cost of organizing the Tour, a first chance at registration, limited ticket events, discounts on OAC merchandise, registration fees and entering in membership-only drawings. Membership is open to any convertible owner who loves riding topless.
America’s Greatest OpenAir Spectacle, organized and run by Gary and Mae Knowles and Mike and Donna Peroutka, and families for the last 13 years, has driven all over the state. Touring in and around Wisconsin’s east coast area this time, the convertibles worked their way out from Manitowac each morning. There were five separate groups, all leaving at different times. Rule number one: “Don’t Follow the Car in front of You.” Good advice, as we each go a different direction, in order to spread out the amount of people and cars arriving in each area on our route.
Tackling twisty roads covering several miles of spectacular scenery, we made stops in friendly hamlets, gathering stamps, as we earned checkpoint tickets to turn in on the last morning for valuable prizes. We spent an hour just resting on a bench overlooking beautiful Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler. Another requirement: Waving to each of the participants as we pass on the road, as well as to all the locals straining their necks to get a look at the convertibles. There have been Tours when as a group we would drive through small towns. People love this as it's quite a sight to see these beauties. We will then park in town for a few hours so browsers can take a closer look.
On Saturday, we ended our day at America’s “Cathedral of Speed”-Road America in beautiful Elkhart Lake, WI. For those who have never driven on a ‘real’ racetrack, OAC drivers were given the chance to kick it up. On our way to the track, we drove through the glacier-made Kettle Moraine hills, taking in the beauty of such towns as Sheboygan and Kohler. We drove for miles without seeing any other cars (other than our own OAC members), people or shopping centers! If you’ve never experienced this part of Wisconsin, don’t miss it. We passed llama farms, vegetable stands, art shops, and at times, the ‘sea’ that is Lake Michigan.
Wrapping up another successful Tour, the co-directors and their families began to plan for 2019, Tour number 14. If you’re interested in joining, and securing your spot on the grid, go to www.OpenAirtours.com, or email info@OpenAirTours.com. And tell them member #419 sent you!
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