NC1968Riviera

The Aqua Zephyr’s Big Adventure

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Traveling to the 2019 Riviera Owners Association International Annual Meet in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

 

I joined the Riviera Owners Association in 2017 after we purchased our 1968 Buick Riviera, which we dubbed ‘The Aqua Zephyr’. I soon learned about the annual ROA International Meets that are held in different geographical areas in the USA each year. It was too late to attend the 2017 Annual Meet in Reno, Nevada, and the 2018 Annual Meet in Overland Park, Kansas, was deemed too far from our home in North Carolina to attend.

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The Aqua Zephyr on the day we brought her home, June 1st, 2017

When the 2018 ROA Meet kicked off, we found out the 2019 Meet location would be Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, June 25-28, 2019. Much to our surprise, the Meet announcement featured a photo of our car superimposed over a view of the Gettysburg battlefield.

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2019
ROA International Meet art featuring The Aqua Zephyr

My wife and I discussed the logistics of attending the Gettysburg Meet. I told her I wanted to drive the Riviera and have her follow me in our pickup truck. She suggested, rather firmly, she would feel better if we trailered the car to the Meet. Naturally I acquiesced and in January 2019 we purchased a 20-foot car trailer. We had never trailered a full size car before and were nervous about the trip. We made a practice run by driving the car onto the trailer in order to determine the weight distribution and the center of gravity, and then we practiced using the tie down straps to secure it to the trailer. We also made several practice runs driving the car on and off the trailer. It was quite nerve-wracking, but with a lot of practice we felt more and more comfortable.  

We made our hotel and Meet reservations early to ensure we got a room at the Meet hotel, the Wyndham-Gettysburg.

In the meantime, I discovered that the Mason-Dixon Chapter of the BCA was having an All Buick/GM car show at the AACA Museum in Hershey, PA on the 22nd of June. Because I had never entered the Aqua Zephyr in an All Buick car show, I talked my wife into leaving North Carolina four days earlier than originally planned to attend this show. This car show happened to take place on my wife’s birthday, so I knew I would owe her BIG time. She agreed and I made a new reservation at the ROA Meet hotel for three more nights.

June 20th & 21st, 2019: Preparation and departure

Google Maps projected the trip from our home to Gettysburg would be almost 7 hours. The route was straight up I-95 through Richmond, VA, Washington, D.C., towards Fredrick, Maryland, then on to Gettysburg, PA. Loading the Buick the night before went without a hitch and we departed at 8:00am on Friday, June 21st.

 
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The
Riviera and truck are loaded for the trip to the ROA Meet, June 21st, 2019

I had initially put my car cover on the Buick and tied it down with rope but soon discovered the rear portion of the cover was blowing in the wind as we rolled down the Interstate. I pulled off at the first rest stop we came to and untied and removed the cover. From here on out, the Riviera would be on full display.

The journey north from North Carolina through Richmond, VA, was without incident. We got a lot of admiring honks and thumbs up from passing motorists along the way. I think my wife enjoyed the displays of affection even more than I did, as she enthusiastically waved back.

The realization that our 7-hour trip was going to become something MUCH longer settled in as we approached, and then was trapped in, the snarled traffic in the Washington, D.C. area.


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Bumper
to bumper I-95 north-bound traffic

 

We probably averaged 25-35 mph from D.C. to Fredrick, Maryland, over the course of almost 3 hours. Once we were north of Fredrick, it was smooth traveling on US 15 toward Gettysburg. But alas, the highway speeds were again disrupted by stopped traffic on US 15 due to an accident 15 miles south of Gettysburg. We sat in traffic for another hour before we finally were on our way. During our journey up US 15, the rolling hills and fields of western Pennsylvania spread out around us and we were instantly impressed with our surroundings.

We arrived at the Wyndham Hotel at about 8:30 pm—tired and hungry. We offloaded the Riviera from the car trailer, parked the vehicles, and secured the trailer from possible theft (a major concern for me, which turned out to be unfounded).

As mentioned previously, I wanted to attend the Mason-Dixon Chapter car show in Hershey the next day. Despite being tired, I wanted to get the Buick washed for the show. I found a do-it-yourself car wash near the hotel. I hand washed the car but decided not to hand dry it. I wanted to let the wind blow the water off on the way back to the hotel. My wife called me on the way back to the hotel and asked me to pick up something for her at Walmart. By the time I got back to the hotel, the car was covered in huge, ugly water spots! I was so mad at myself for not taking the time to hand dry the car that I set my alarm for 5:00am so I could get up and ‘wet erase’ the water marks with damp towels and apply a light coat of wax.

That next morning I corrected my mistake and proceeded to take several photos of the car near the hotel in the pre-dawn morning twilight.

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Twilight
pictures of The Aqua Zephyr, Wyndham Hotel, Gettysburg, PA June 22nd 2019


The Mason Dixon BCA chapter car show at the AACA Museum, Hershey, Pennsylvania

We arrived in Hershey, PA, at the AACA Museum around 9:00am on June 22nd. We were delighted to see several vintage Buicks and other GM vehicles already parked on the grass in front of the museum. The weather was clear, the humidity was low, and there was a light breeze in the air. This all portended to be a very enjoyable day. We met several other Buick owners showcasing their cars, including a stunning 1967 Wildcat that I would have gladly traded my Riviera for if the owner had been so inclined. The car show was very organized and went off without a hitch. We were thrilled that The Aqua Zephyr was awarded a Second Place trophy in the ‘Riviera’ category.

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Discovering Gettysburg: The town, Sachs Covered Bridge, old barns/ homes, and the Battlefield

We spent the next several days prior to the ROA Meet driving our Riviera around Gettysburg and the battlefield areas, trying to soak up all of the history that surrounded us. We also looked for spots to take pictures of the car.

Driving through town, especially the side streets was like going back in time 100 years. The downtown area is surrounded by closely packed row houses, many of which date back prior to the Civil War.

We discovered Sachs Cover Bridge, huge 19th century red barns with adjoining farm houses and miles of rolling hills with lots of long stretches of open county highways.


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Sachs
Covered Bridge, Gettysburg, PA area

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"1860"
dated barn, Gettysburg, PA area

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Pennsylvania
back roads

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Pennsylvania
farm and The Aqua Zephyr

One of the our favorite photo locations was at sunset in the quiet solitude of the Gettysburg National Military Park. With its 1300+ granite memorials scattered throughout I realized that I never fully understood the true meaning of the term “Hallowed Ground” until we toured this battlefield.

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Gettysburg National Military Park (Photo courtesy Nora Sumrell)

During our self-guided tours of the Gettysburg area we spotted a gravel processing facility with a pile of slate gray rock, perfect for a neutral backdrop for more pictures of The Aqua Zephyr.

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Gravel processing yard

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Gravel
processing yard

The Riviera Owners Association International Annual Meet: The Aqua Zephyr as a minor celebrity

Tuesday, June 25th, was the beginning of the Meet. It’s said that “You attend your first ROA Annual Meet for the cars; you attend subsequent Meets for the friends”. My wife and I were a little nervous that morning as the Meet ballroom was opened and members starting arriving and greeting each other. Many introductions were made as we greeted other members. All the while I observed that a majority of the members seemed to know each other very well.

My wife and I were wearing our custom made Aqua Zephyr t-shirts and soon several members were coming up to us and saying “Ah, you’re the Aqua Zephyr!” or “Mike, I have seen your car all over the internet”. It was a very humbling and surreal experience, especially when we saw the Meet t-shirts and note pads, with the picture of our Riviera so prominently displayed on the Meet check-in tables. Later, seeing those same t-shirts being worn by the ROA attendees left a huge lump in my throat.

The next three days were a whirlwind of battlefield tours, parking lot photo shoots, more introductions, and meeting up with other North Carolina Riviera owners and friends.

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Wyndham
Gettysburg parking lot

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Downtown
Gettysburg, PA

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Wyndham Gettysburg parking lot

ROA Gettysburg Guided Tour: Offering a ride to a stranger leads to great photographs and a new friendship

On the evening of the ROA Guided Road Tour around the Gettysburg area, it was very warm and I had spotted a gentleman wearing a long sleeve shirt with a camera hanging around his neck taking pictures of the Riviera’s in the hotel parking lot. I assumed he was a journalist for a local newspaper. As we were gathering for a safety briefing for the guided tour, I introduced myself to him and asked if he would like to ride with me during the tour. He introduced himself, stating he was a member of the ROA but that he did not yet own a Riviera. When he learned that I was the owner of the car in the Meet artwork, he readily accepted my offer to “ride shotgun” in The Aqua Zephyr. John and I became quick friends and he took several photographs during the tour.

One of the local Pennsylvania ROA members led 17 Riviera’s and other vehicles in his 1966 Buick Wildcat on a 30+ mile guided tour around the Gettysburg area. We stopped at the Sachs Covered Bridge, drove through farmland, past old barns and farmhouses, and by the famous ‘Historic Round Barn’.


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1966
Buick Wildcat convertible; Gettysburg ROA tour lead vehicle


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(ROA Guided Tour: Photo courtesy of John Mulhern III)

 

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(ROA Guided Tour: Photo courtesy of John Mulhern III)

My wife drove ahead of the tour group in our truck and shot a video of all of the tour cars driving by illuminated by the rays of the setting sun.

 

The tour wrapped up with a stop at Half Pint Creamery ice cream shop for a much needed cool down from the evenings heat (and hot cars).

 

The ROA Car Show. The Spectacle and the heat.

I woke up at 4:00am on the day of the ROA Meet car show, Friday, June 28th, in order to get a spot in the car wash station that the hotel had set up. The day was already warm but clear. By 9:00 am, Riviera’s were being guided into their assigned car show parking areas. Peer judging was from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, then at 1:30 pm all engine and trunk hoods were closed for official photographs. Besides the 98 Riviera’s representing all eight generations on display during the car show, there were several other Riviera’s in the parking lot that did not participate in the show. It was awe inspiring to see that many beautiful Riviera’s gathered in one place.

The peer judging for this show was the hardest I had ever participated in, with so many extraordinary examples from all eight Riviera generations. Compounding the stress in judging was the extreme heat that day. It turned out that Gettysburg, PA, had the highest temperature in the country, topping out at 100oF. I walked around with a towel soaked in ice water all day just to keep from overheating.

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2019 ROA
Meet Car Show; "Modified" Class cars

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2019 ROA Meet Car Show; "1965" Class cars

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2019 ROA Meet Car Show; "1971-1978" Class cars

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2019 ROA Meet Car Show; "1971-1978" Class cars

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2019 ROA Meet Car Show; "1966-1970" Class cars. Me standing next to The Aqua Zephyr

 

 

The ROA Awards Banquet: Recognition for North Carolina Members

The Awards Banquet that evening was a well-executed affair. The Best of Show, Ladies Choice, class winners, and runners-up were awarded attractive plaques and the food, catered by the Wyndham hotel, was top notch.

The 1965 Riviera Class Winner was Avery Wise from Waxhaw, NC.

A Winner Circle award went to @Rivman Randall and Gwyn Crain from Sophia, NC for their 1999 Silver Arrow Riviera for it's 2016 win.

Our friend and fellow Tarheel Chapter/BCA member, Ray Rapuano, was presented with a First Place award in the Custom Class for his custom-built 1964 Riviera.

The Aqua Zephyr earned a Second Place award in the “1966-1970” Class. The Aqua Zephyr was also recognized as being featured on the Meet artwork included on the award plaques.


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Fellow ROA and BCA member Ray
Rapuano and myself holding our car show awards, ROA International Meet Awards Ceremony and Dinner, June 28th 2019


The ‘Best of Show’ winner was a Green 1964 Riviera owned by Richard Harvey from Cornwall, NY. This car was also awarded the ‘Ladies Choice’ award.


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"Best
of Show" and "Ladies Choice" winner, 1964 Riviera

At the conclusion of the banquet, we said goodbye to our new friends and wished them safe travels home.

Finding the right tree, departing Gettysburg, and the trip home (more honks and thumbs up)

One of our goals during the trip to Gettysburg was to find the location of the background photo used in the Meet artwork (the location of the field, tree, and cannons). While on our guided battlefield tour on the 26th of June, we passed a spot that I thought might be the location. I made a mental note of the spot. After the car show on Friday, my wife and I cooled off in our room, changed clothes, then drove out in the Riviera to that location to see if we could get some pictures in the light of the setting sun.

My wife was skeptical that the location I found was the same spot until I pulled up the Meet artwork on my cell phone and showed her the crooked tree and cannons in the artwork matched the scene we were now looking at. She agreed with me and we proceeded to take several pictures of the car from various angles trying to replicate the picture in the artwork. I think we succeeded in replicating the artwork very well.


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Our
"re-creation" of the event art with The Aqua Zephyr creating the same scene

The next morning, after breakfast, we said our final goodbyes to several ROA members. We trailered the Riviera and proceeded to retrace our path back to North Carolina. Again, Google Maps projected a 7 hour journey, which we knew would not be true. We discovered one of our trailer tires had a slow leak. We aired up the tire and watched it carefully on the trip home, stopping once to fill it up again. After 11 ½ hours, we finally made it back to North Carolina safe and sound, all the while receiving honks and thumbs up from admiring passers-by.


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Loaded up for the return trip home; Hwy 15 Maryland rest stop on the Maryland-Pennsylvania state line, June 29th 2019

Our first Riviera Owners Association International Annual Meet was an exceptional experience, and we hope to attend another one in the future. We attended our first Meet for the cars and we will attend our next Meet to see the new friends that we made.

A special thank you to ROA Director, @Ray_Knott, and his executive team for putting together a wonderful gathering of the Riviera faithful.

 

Mike Sumrell

Fayetteville, North Carolina

BCA #49586

ROA # 15405

Edited by NC1968Riviera (see edit history)
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Mike, thanks for the terrific travel diary!  I had a similar experience on I-81S, spending about an hour in stop-and-go construction traffic, but as you discovered, the wait was worth it!  Gettysburg was also my first ROA meet, but it won't be the last.  The tour was one of our highlights of the week and the stop at Half-Pint Creamery was a nice finish and provided the opportunity to chat with new friends while enjoying a sundae on a warm, Gettysburg evening.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6um3bysKECo

 

Finally, I'll likewise thank John for capturing the week's activities in pictures -- nice work!  ;)

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GREAT recap of your travels, and the meet Mike!

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