Home Jim Bishop | Road runners: Honk if you love Miatas

Jim Bishop | Road runners: Honk if you love Miatas


Sunday dawned basically gloomy and I admit to quickly feeling the same way.

The Weather Channel had called for partly sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 70s, but that failed to materialize for our anticipated fall Miata cruise Sunday afternoon, Sept. 20.

I went to church as usual and, while I didn’t get up during our regular “sharing time” – we don’t say or tell anything to fellow congregants, we “share,” usually at great length – I prayed silently that Ole Sol would be smiling down on the faithful by the time we exited the building.

It turned out my prayers were answered, but perhaps not as first expected.

I received cell phone messages asking “is the cruise still a go” and last-minute cancellations, owing to the uncertain weather, from two persons who originally planned to take part. I didn’t blame them for their decision; I was debating either canceling the event or shortening the route.

I checked with fellow Miata enthusiast Sam Miller for counsel, and he responded without hesitation, “Hey, bicycling aficionados – (he actually didn’t use that fancy word) – stick with their plans for a rally, whatever the weather. We might have to put our convertible tops up, but we’ll stay dry. Let’s do it.”

And so we did, even as threatening skies and unseasonably cool temperatures prevailed.

Several Miatas had already assembled at the nearly deserted Waterman Square parking lot by the time wife Anna and I arrived. My spirits immediately lifted.

I welcomed everyone, introductions were made and then I offered some guidelines for the road. A fine assortment of years was represented, both among the 34 participants and in the sporty steeds they commandeered. About a third of the group was riding for the first time.

This time around, wife Anna rode shotgun as we brought up the rear of the caravan, making certain no one wandered off some side road or experienced mechanical problems. (One driver, on our first outing the fall of 2008, totaled his car on the first hairpin turn on Rt. 33 west while ascending Shenandoah Mountain.)

As we motored along, I thought: There’s something special about crusing a scenic portion of roadway, a procession of vibrant vehicles stretching as far ahead as the eye can see.

Although it was even cooler and heavy clouds draped over the mountain ridges as we traveled a stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, I was surprised by the decent visibility overall.

It did feel a bit strange, however, to follow my former faithful companion, the white ’97 Miata that I drove for five-and-a-half years and racked up some 95,000 miles before trading on a forest green ’99 Miata a month ago.

At Sam Miller’s urging, we stopped at Humpback Mountain Farm visitor’s center on the parkway. A bluegrass music group was serving up a smorgasbord of music in an idyllic outdoor setting. Some of our group stood and listened while others roamed the grounds, savoring the scenery. I took a group photo before we hit the road again, exiting the parkway and snaking country roads through Sherando to Fishersville and up Rt. 11. We ended up by getting our licks at Kline’s dairy bar in South Harrisonburg.

What struck me as the cruise ended was the sense of camaraderie that seemed to emerge as the group interacted during its brief adventure. Many of us didn’t know each other and may not have occasion to relate again in quite the same way, but for several hours on a sanguine Sunday we operated from a common ground of sharing our enjoyment of similar vehicles with each other – and with many spectators along the way.

Several participants expressed interest in having one more cruise when the fall foliage reaches its peak, but I’m not sure that will happen. For one thing, I have major commitments on the docket every weekend in October. The next outing I’m willing to arrange will take place late spring, 2010.

Meantime, as I’ve reflected numerous times since our outing – oh, what a feeling to get behind the wheel of my Miata and realize anew how much fun driving can be. And, I get to shift for myself.


– Column by Jim Bishop



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