Monday, June 10, 2013

Spring Tour- 2013


As the James Taylor song goes, "I've seen fire and I've seen rain," and that certainly applied to this year's tour! Before we even hit the road, Ted's Garage in Clinton, Illinois, a 50s-themed restaurant where we were to have our Friday night dinner (as a change from the traditional hotel pizza party) burned down on Easter weekend, and Ed Levin and Rose Kovalenko had to quickly rearrange the schedule and find a new place to eat (this time on Sunday evening). Per Ed, 'don't ever mess with the Friday night pizza party or something bad will happen!" Also, this was the week after the severe late April rain/flooding, and the weather forecast was for 80% rain (with possibly flooding) in the Peoria/Decatur area over the weekend, so this tour was the FIRST EVER to have NO 'Little T-Birds' at all on it: we did have two of the newer 'Birds, but the rain drove away the Classics. Despite this, a merry crowd (Ken and Kathy Smizinski, Pat and Jerry Peterson, Liz and Bill Worth, Karen and Larry Kelly, Pete Krarner, Jim Wilson, Laura and Mike Cielenski, Annie Luginbil! and Joel Greenberg, and Rose and Ed) left the Hinsdale Oasis Friday morning heading toward Peoria. On the way we linked up with Judy and Tom Bruin, Soon Hee and Doug Rogers, and Lloyd and Joan Schellin. In Peoria we met Pat and Mitch Mitchell, our Pekin, Illinois members, who brought with them several members of their local T-Bird club (Central Illinois Classic Thunderbirds). We ate lunch together at the Avanti Restaurant in Peoria and then went to the 'Wheels O'Time Museum, in nearby Dunlap, Illinois. This little museum contains a bit of everything... clocks, music machines, autos, a full-size train, a walk-through display entitled "Grandma's Kitchen," another with a barbershop quartet (wearing rubber Halloween masks of various US presidents), and more. Once we had toured the museum, we headed on toward Decatur and the Welcome Inn (and pizza in the Hospitality Room). There Tom Bruin displayed a silly side heretofore unsuspected by many of us; he teased the people behind the check-in counter, as well as some folks in line to check in who weren't even part of the group! We were joined for pizza by Gordon Gluff, who had missed connecting up with us earlier in the day. In the Hospitality Room, Rose was given a Dept. 56 'Palms' building (since she and Ed really love the Palm Court Restaurant, and they were instrumental in setting up the Dudes and Divas dinners - but have never made it to one of them) while Ed received what has come to be known as "the Golden Fluke"- a 24K Racing Champions 1:64 diecast model of a '56Bird...with the Chevrolet logo! Kathy Smizinski had the winning hand in the Poker Run contest and won a $100 Lettuce Entertain You gift certificate.

The following morning, Len and Mary Keil joined us. We learned that the Inn had a pancake machine, and Larry Kelly started making pancakes; he was so good at it that some people thought he should get his own machine! After breakfast, we headed out to the Chevrolet Hall of Fame Museum. There we viewed a number of Chevrolets dating from the 1920s to the present; cars include Impalas, Novas, Camaros, and, of course, Corvettes. This Museum is also a storage area for a number of Chevrolet owners, and various cars get taken out and driven. Ed and Rose had arranged to have our lunch catered at the Museum, and we munched on chicken - while surrounded by Chevrolets; eating was difficult, but somebody had to do it... After lunch we went to the Long Creek Vineyard and Winery in Long Creek, Illinois, for a wine tasting. The kindest thing that can be said about this place (which some thought was created as a tax write-off) is that it was an experience. Pete did buy a container of their wine - which had no label - and Larry, our resident alcohol expert, said that if he had to drink that wine he'd likely stop drinking altogether! We then headed back to the hotel, where a large number of people watched Orb win the Kentucky Derby. (Kathy also won the Derby pool - lucky gal!) Dinner that night was at the best restaurant in Decatur, The Beach House, where menus came printed with the restaurant logo and "Welcome Thunderbird Club of Chicago." There, we had an excellent meal and watched young people in their prom attire as they came and left. Once dinner was through, we went back to the hotel and the Hospitality Room for more camaraderie, food, and drink.

Sunday was a 'free day.' Some people left for home while others went out to eat to celebrate Cinco De Mayo, elected to do antique shopping all day, or went back to the Monticello Railway Museum that Tom and Judy had taken us to last year (when I wrote the 'Strike Four' article about our 'Bird). At the Monticello Railway Museum, once again Tom was quite the comedian and kept us laughing all the way from the museum to the depot in Monticello and back. This group also stopped at an antique mall on our way to the hotel (and browsed but didn't buy). That evening, we went to O'Charley's, a family restaurant down the street from the hotel, where we managed to confuse not only the waitresses, but also the bartender! We then returned to the hotel and the Hospitality Room, where we laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes.

On Monday, we headed home, bypassing the traditional Culver's lunch in favor of getting back to our respective domiciles. Wouldn't you know it - the closer we got to home the sunnier it became. Be that as it may, we had a wonderful weekend (and acquired more material for standing tour jokes), and Ed and Rose did an outstanding job despite the fire and rain!!!

- Annie Luginbill

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