Gasoline tourism: part deux


Big fins and all, I really have to admit I enjoyed seeing the Coasters 2010 antique car and trailer caravan—the one making its way from Newfoundland to BC.

I took our three boys down to see these beautiful, hand-built machines lined up and down King Street in St. Andrews, and stopped to take pictures of them for my dad, who’s also a huge antique car fan. Along the way I saw my neighbour, who was there with his brother checking out a nice 1940s Ford truck. In fact I saw a lot of neighbours along the way.

I had no idea the caravan would be arriving. The first clue was driving along the main street and seeing a huge lineup of grey-haired tourists trying to get into the Sweet Harvest restaurant. I wondered what was going on, and looking around noticed all the other retail shops filling up. As far as I could tell it wasn’t a special day—just another summer day in paradise. So what was up? Of course, as I drove around the corner I saw the caravan.

There it was. The antique cars and trailers filled both sides of the street, bumper to bumper, for five full blocks. All other cars were somehow cleared from the street. Once again it was a model of town organization. Traffic guides and roadblocks seamlessly redirected traffic without a hitch. It’s impressive to see a tourism town that really works.

Why do I approve of this particular gasoline-powered event and not the Atlanticade motorcycle event? Well, let’s say it has something to do with context. The Coaster event simply fit St. Andrews perfectly. It arrived on an otherwise ordinary day, put no undue pressure on local resources, brought a lot of interesting paying customers with them, and their vintage machines added some rolling art to our pretty vintage seaside community. And as an added bonus, it was quiet.

But what about that waste of gas? Yes, like Atlanticade, this event showcases the last gasps of the fossil fuel generation. But this wasn’t some noisy chrome-plated version of rebellion. This was more like a rolling museum exhibit, something that informs us about the fading golden age of the automobile, and the nostalgia and feeling of loss we’re already experiencing. This was an event that respects who we once were.

Sorry to say, the Coasters didn’t stay long. They left as quietly as they came, cruising out of town, antique trailers in tow, on to the next lucky community en route, which would be Hartland according to their website (

Not only were the Coasters good for our town’s economy, they’ll be good for the economies of all the towns along their route, from sea to sea. (In fact, we'd seen them the day before, stopped at the blueberry store on Route 1 halfway to Saint John.)

And the cars? Fantastic. There was a mildly modified ’48 Chev convertible in a white top and candi-apple red paint that really stood out. There was a Studebaker with a matching trailer and a mid-’50s Mercury and a couple of beautiful T-Birds, some Mustangs and an early ’60s vintage ambulance and a pair of old Model As, you get the idea… Oh, and that Plymouth with the huge fins… And the little 1930s pickup truck with the blue-green iridescent paint!

In exactly one month from their arrival here—by August 19—they’ll be in Victoria, BC. That’s pretty fast traveling for some of those old cars, and I know how that is. My dad built a 1930 Ford Model A roadster from the ground up, which I’ve inherited, and it too is a thing of beauty. I may be picking it up this summer, and have often thought about driving it out here instead of having it shipped. It’d be a long trip; the car cruises at about 25 miles per hour, but it could be fun—especially if I took my three boys along for the ride. And I’d love to take my dad along, but I think he’s just not well enough to make it—though I’m pretty sure it would be a trip we’d all remember for the rest of our lives.

As to my own history, I’ve said it before, I’ve been addicted to cars and gasoline and driving fast since I was a young kid. I’ve owned a lot of sports cars in my life, and still have one in the driveway. That said, we’re all going to have to adapt to a changing world if we want make a small difference for their kids’ future. The only debate is how we get there.

And that may not be easy. We have yet to see the world’s first electric car caravan, for example. It may involve rebuilding our railways. Some of us would have to give up waterfront land to make that happen. We may even be forced to give up our cars altogether.

As we all know, giving things up—including our habits and assumptions—ain’t always easy.


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