In an alternate history, I am a high school student cruising down Williamson Road in Roanoke, Virginia. That’s what high school students did when I was a kid there.
However, I moved from Roanoke when I was 13 years old. My cruising was done on Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie, Maryland. I was usually with my friend Chuck in his orange Volkswagen Beetle.
Cruising is a social activity. Teenagers are out there to meet friends or maybe connect with a member of the opposite sex. I recall that most of our cruising in Glen Burnie was pretty boring.
The only person we ever saw was an aimless character named “Joe” walking down Ritchie Highway. He was a sympathetic figure, really. I think he was a Vietnam War vet. I guess all the smart teenagers were home doing their schoolwork.
The gap in my Roanoke history made me excited about attending Star City Motor Madness last weekend. This is an annual car show that kicks off on Friday night with a cruise of antique vehicles and muscle cars down Williamson Road.
I took my two boys along for the ride. We parked at old Crossroads Mall, the first shopping mall in the state of Virginia. It’s now a series of separate stores.
We walked down Hershberger Road to Williamson Road and turned right. I had read that this intersection was the outer boundary of the cruise into the downtown.
The boys found a grassy spot to park their bods to watch the parade, but I kept walking down Williamson Road to Breckinridge, my old junior high school. This was my last school experience (six weeks) in Roanoke before moving off to Baltimore with my family.
Along the way I spotted reams of old, beautiful cars. There were so many parked in lots that it was hard to absorb it all, so I began to concentrate on favorites.
The Corvette headlined Star City Motor Madness, so I looked at a lot of those. I wanted to send some shots to a young friend in Finland who owns an ’87.
I also looked at a lot of Bel Airs, the old Chevy. We owned one in our family, but it was wrecked. Too bad, so sad, Dad was mad, I guess.
In addition, I tried to spot some Dodge Swingers and Plymouth Satellies. Our family had owned a Swinger, when I was in high school. I remember getting to drive it to my senior prom. I used to see the same car, red in color, walking to the train to go to work in Helsinki. One of the neighbors owned one. I talked to him about our old Swinger once.
I had been given a Satellite in the 80s by a friend. It had stuffing coming out of the seats, but it was the first car my wife and I owned, and we loved it. Unfortunately, it ended up needing a brake job that cost more than the car was worth, so I sold it.
I even got a look at an old version of my current car, a Ford Crown Victoria. People say my current car makes me look like a cop. I think the police were probably chasing this one.
I didn’t get a chance to talk with many people. One I did have a chat with was a man named Jerry. He had a Bugatti from the 1920s. He now lives in Troutville, but he like me he had grown up on Williamson Road, past Hershberger on the edge of Boxley Hills. That was suburban countryside mostly when I was a kid. Jerry was a nice man.
It was cool to watch all those unique vehicles ride down Williamson Road mixed in with regular traffic. It was also cool that it didn’t cost a dime to watch.
On the way out, I thought I would take my pilot son over to Peter’s Creek Road and show him a nice view of the airport. We rode through Boxley Hills on Williamson Road, and the line of cars continued almost all the way to Peters Creek Road. I guess the show has grown.
It was a nice Friday evening in what I call my “living history” over in Roanoke. Groovin’ on a Friday afternooon.