NAMGAR at Solomons Island

Photo for NAMGAR at Solomons Island

The Mid Atlantic Chapter was pleased to host the east coast Fall Regional GT, NAMGAR at Solomons Island, from September 28 to October 2, 2011 in Solomons Island, Maryland.

As Chapter Chairman, I was happy to welcome incoming MGA! editor Mike Tooke to his first NAMGAR outing. Mike expressed an interest in personally experiencing MGAs and NAMGAR members in action – with the promise of what happens in Solomons, stays in Solomons … or earns a mention in MGA! if embarrassing enough. We were joined by NAMGAR members from nine states and most of the 25 MGs arrived Wednesday afternoon with little fanfare.

Not so lucky were our guests Mark and Cindy Michalak, who arrived with their MGA on the back of a flatbed truck. It seems the ring & pinion gearing had given up while touring Washington, DC – much to the decided LACK of amusement to the Secret Service officers assigned to protect the White House, in front of which the gears chose to make their final rotation. The combination of a vintage vehicle with Michigan license plates pulling a small trailer simply did not sit well with the Secret Service. Mark was in the early lead for the Regional’s Hard Luck Award … but wait! … Mark’s week was not over yet.

With registration completed and Mark and Cindy in a loaner MGB GT, we were off to Vera’s White Sands Beach Club for our opening Meet & Greet reception set in a tranquil inlet overlooking the Patuxent River. After welcoming remarks by committee members Kathy Kallapos and Liz Ten Eyck, old acquaintances were renewed and new friendships made as these smaller Regional events promote opportunities to meet everyone attending. With a full day of travel for many behind us, it was an early evening return to the Hilton Garden Inn after dinner.

Thursday morning dawned with the promise of a warm autumn day in Solomons. Perfect for our plans to visit the Calvert Marine Museum to view the maritime heritage of Solomons Island and the Chesapeake Bay region through artifacts and exhibits depicting the life of the watermen and supporting businesses – or to pull the differential unit from an MGA and replace it with one shipped over-night from home. Those not engaged in mechanical work boarded the William B. Tennison - a circa 1900 Chesapeake Bay ‘Bugeye’ sail vessel later converted to a powered oyster buy-boat – for a sightseeing cruise through the Solomons harbor to the Patuxent River where it flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Upon returning to shore, we continued to explore the history of Solomons Island with a tour of the Drum Point Lighthouse, now located on the museum’s grounds, and of course taking time to visit the shops and enjoy lunch in this quaint marine town.

In keeping with our Chesapeake Bay theme, dinner plans for Thursday evening included a scheduled cross-peninsula drive to Popes Creek for dinner at regional favorite Captain Billy’s Crab House overlooking the Potomac River. As a committee, we had concerns as to how best keep a caravan of 25 MGs in tow while navigating the series of traffic lights and turns leaving Solomons as the Patuxent Naval Air Station personnel left work. Our problem was solved when Liz arranged for a Maryland State Trooper to escort our convoy until we cleared the heavier traffic and reached the more rural area of the county. Captain Billy’s fulfilled its reputation as a purveyor of fine seafood, cold beverages and excellent service and it was well into the night when the burbling sound of MGAs filled the air as we found our way back to Solomons.

With four wheels back on the ground Mark and Cindy were able to join us Friday morning as we staged in the hotel parking lot for our British Car Rallye. The goal of our Rallye Masters Bill and Kathy Wemhoff was to make the questions challenging enough to demand attention while incorporating many of the scenic landmarks and vistas of the Solomons area. Our two hour tour took us from Solomons Island to the southern tip of St. Mary’s County enjoying the towns of St. Mary’s – Maryland’s first colony and first capital - St. George Island – site of the first battle on Maryland soil during the Revolutionary War – and Piney Point – home of the oldest lighthouse on the Potomac River. Those able to follow directions were rewarded by arriving in the historic town of Leonardtown in time for lunch. After lunch, options included sightseeing in Leonardtown on-your-own or joining our group for a planned kayak excursion.

Novice and experienced kayakers alike entered the McIntosh Run at the Port of Leonardtown Winery for a lazy paddle to our landing area at the entrance to Breton Bay. We were able to convince a number of hesitant folks that kayaks were safe and near impossible to tip over. Our course, which took us through a blend of forested areas and open marshes of a wildlife sanctuary, promised neither strong currents nor whitewater rapids to upset our vessels – ensuring we would arrive to be ferried back to our MGAs in a dry condition. What we did not suspect was that returning the kayaks to shore would put our boaters in jeopardy.

NAMGAR Tech Editor, Mike Ash, and wife,  Jennifer

In combinations of single- and double-seat kayaks, 28 guests leisurely paddled through the serene sanctuary - on the lookout for the Bald Eagles, Baltimore Orioles and nesting ospreys that make their homes there. Experienced kayakers helped the novices gain their paddle motions, acted as tour guides and swapped cameras to document the experience. Even the most timid of beginners felt like experienced professionals as we approached the Leonardtown Wharf to put-in on shore. With a retaining wall separating the water from the shore, landing was a simple procedure of aligning with the floating platform, gaining a moderate amount of speed and hitting the sloped ramp to ground the kayak. First arrivals Mark and Bill helped secure the kayaks as we dismounted and cleared the ramp as others passed the kayaks to shore. Those still in the water paddled in a holding pattern waiting their turn – many eager to extend the outing just a little longer.

Mark Michalak after dunkingWhat happened next occurred in a blink of an eye so details remain a bit sketchy, but the outcome remained Mark was knocked off the platform, landed on the bow of the circling kayak of Kathy Kallapos and both ended up in the shoulder-high waters of Breton Bay. Our promise of a dry return was dampened, as were the cell phones and cameras of our now-drenched pair. While others showed necessary concern as to the well-being of Mark, Kathy and their electronic gear, I knew this was a Kodak moment not to be missed. If Editor Tooke wanted pictures of NAMGAR members in action, in action pictures of NAMGAR members he would get. In time all was sorted out, and we returned to the hotel to freshen up for dinner – some damp but no worse for the wear.

Our dinner plans for Friday evening were not as complicated as the night before. The Ruddy Duck Brewery & Grill was located in the parking lot of the Hilton Garden Inn and a quick stroll had us finding our seats. Our hopes for a quiet evening spending time swapping stories were quickly dashed when the live band began to set up just outside our dining area. Visions of loud rock n roll music played to a full dance floor were, well, true. What we did not expect was that the dance floor would be full of NAMGAR members! We took over the joint and many of us outlasted the band as the spirited nature of MGA owners came through.

Saturday was a much cooler day, down-right nippy in fact. Hoods went up on many cars as we continued our sightseeing with a visit to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station Museum. Established in 1942 as a base for experimental and advanced aircraft and weapon systems, the Naval Air Station continues in that role today. The Museum preserves and interprets the history and heritage of advancing aviation technology throughout the course of many generations of aircraft and weapon systems. After touring the museum, we gathered to caravan to our lunch destination of the Island Bar & Grill on St. George Island. We used this opportunity as another sightseeing tour of the area and headed for the Piney Point Lighthouse at the tip of the island where we posed for a group photo to commemorate the event.

Our Farewell Banquet Saturday evening provided an opportunity to thank all our guests for attending and to thank the Chapter members who helped make this Regional a great success. In addition to the aforementioned Kathy, Liz and Bill and Kathy, we recognized Alana, Karen and Betty Ann for their assistance in making me look knowledgeable while I waited to be told what to do and when.

Mark & Cindy MichalakMark & Cindy Michalak - Long Distance Award

It would not be a farewell banquet without the presentation of the usual awards. The Long Distance Award was presented to Mark and Cindy for their drive of over 800 miles to attend from their home in Michigan – the final 60 miles on the flatbed notwithstanding. As expected, Mark and Cindy also qualified for our Hard Luck Award for their mechanical issues capped by Mark’s unexpected dive into the murky waters of Breton Bay. Rallye Master Bill walked us through the Rallye questions with groans heard as many realized they made some questions far more difficult than they were. In the end, a tie resulted between Karen and I and the team of Mike and Jennifer Ash – with both scoring 18 of the 21 questions correctly. The “fix” was not in as Bill had earlier determined the tie-breaker was total time to complete the Rallye, and Team Marshall arrived at the final checkpoint minutes ahead of Team Ash. One final award was our Spirit of the Mid Atlantic award presented to Ken and Melon Doris of New York for their leading the charge on the dance floor at the Ruddy Duck and longest distance traveled by Chapter members to attend.

Sunday morning was time to pack our cars and to say goodbye to our fellow participants. The few moments we allowed to exchange good wishes always seem to extend longer than planned when standing with a group of friends, lingering just a bit to relive the memories, not wanting it to come to an end. One by one, the sound of MGAs rumbling to life signaled the end of another chapter of our MGA memories.

NAMGAR promotes Regional GT events as “anything you want them to be” as they are really about enjoying the MGA with fellow MGA enthusiasts in a manner that brings the cars and people together. As with any GT, the goal is to have fun while driving an MGA and making new or rekindling old friendships formed over the years. A Regional GT supports the NAMGAR adage that “it’s the cars that get you there, but it’s the people that bring you back”. We will leave it to Editor Tooke to determine if the people will bring him back and whether what happened in Solomons actually stayed in Solomons or if indeed as suggested; there were enough memorable moments to warrant a mention in MGA!

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Reader Comments (3)

Picture of George M. Kress
George M. Kress (Gibsonia, PA)
on March 8, 2012 8:37am
Bonnie and I had a great time at the event. I did not go for the kayaking so I missed the dip in the water. Maybe next time. I think the regional events give you a better chance to get to know people because of the size of the gatherings. The GT's are great but because there are so many people it is hard to get to know people. Thanks to everyone who worked on the event, it was great.
Picture of Bruce G. Rauch
Bruce G. Rauch (Saint Petersburg, FL)
on April 12, 2012 4:27pm
Great story about a great event. This regional at Solomon's again embodied "'s the people who bring you back." Well done, Bill. I wish it could have been shared with everyone in the MGA! magazine.
Picture of Peter & Anne Tilbury
Peter & Anne Tilbury (Surrey, BC Canada)
on April 13, 2012 4:10am
Hey Bruce,
This article is great. However, it was "shared with everyone" and more, through the NAMGAR web site. Thanks for looking.

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Last updated on February 18, 2012.