Journey to Homecoming III
Please enjoy Sandra McConnell’s experiences and photos of her journey from the California bay area to Homecoming 2015. Thank you for sharing, Sandra!
I am definitely not your typical S2K driver. Not that I have done or seen any official studies of the demographics, but in my casual observation, most drivers of this little roadster tend to be young Asians, mostly male, and a smattering of older white guys. By older I mean 40+… older than the young Asian dudes. There are very few of us ladies who are the primary drivers and I may well qualify as the oldest female primary driver of a Honda S2000 CR. Maybe.
If you read my previous blog, you know I originally wanted an S2000 and my late husband decided, I “needed” the Club Racer, or CR model. With Jim I attended one meet-up of about 35 CR drivers down in SoCal. We also did one ride with a NorCal group to Yosemite. After his death, I attended a Mega-Meet at Treasure Island with over 100 S2000s. At every event we were welcomed and made to feel a part of the family of S aficionados.
I found out about the S2KHomecoming3 from Steve Cullen (Vanishing Point), Mr. Honda, who we had met at the CR meet. He encouraged me to go and I decided I would as homage to Jim. One of my best life-long friends, Mary, agreed to be my passenger and we made plans for our trip. I was so impressed by the amount of planning and communication that went into the event ahead of time. The Facebook group kept me updated and I felt as well prepared as I could be. I knew the trip would be bittersweet, one I would have rather made with my husband, who really loved that car, but I was happy to make the trip for both of us, and carried some of his ashes along for the adventure.
We left on a Friday around 7:00 a.m. and laughed and tweeted our way down the coast. It was a blistering hot weekend, so we decided to drive the coastal route, even though it added a few hours to our journey. I only drive ‘topless’; the hardtop is stored in the shed. Despite the route, we had the heat on in Paso Robles and by Buellton we had the AC full blast as the temperature reached 99°F. Driving on the 405 was quite an adventure, and honestly a little scary. I’d been on LA freeways before and was fine, but I felt so small and exposed in my little, open-air car. When we pulled off the freeway, I awarded myself an S2000 honor badge for Bravery!
We finally reached Irvine where the meet would start early the next morning. As we neared the hotel, we saw the first other S2000 of the trip. I was all excited and started waving like a kindergartener. Little did I know in mere hours I’d be surrounded! We stayed at the official Homecoming hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott. It was fun to pull into the parking area ‘reserved for American Honda only’ and find a smattering of Ss. Some guy walked up to me and asked if I was on the (S2KI) forum, I said yes, gave him my screen name (jamesmc) and he got a big grin and said, ‘I’m Feezy!’ He had helped me out with some information about my smog check and I already relaxed realizing even if I’d never met anyone there, there were no strangers.
After getting a bite to eat, we headed back up to the rooftop garage to give the car a little bath. By now, over half the lot was filled with S2000s, and everyone again was just so welcoming. Feezy offered me some cleaning supplies and seemed pleasantly surprised to hear I’d brought my own (Jim taught me well). Roni and Christian, also it turns out, from the bay area, helped me with my car, admiring it as well.
I knew a white CR, excuse me, a GPW CR, was not all that common and we’ve kept our car in very good condition. My husband made some performance modifications, mods, and a very few cosmetic changes. It is a clean car with fairly low mileage. I didn’t realize how good it looked until people I’d never met came up to ask about my car. I knew Jim was smiling. Before he died, he had written out a build sheet with everything he’d done to the car. I studied it that night so I’d be ready to ‘talk shop’ if need be.
I always find it difficult to sleep in a new place. The distinctive low rumble of S2000s pulling into the lot lulled me to sleep, after I wrote this haiku: engines low roaring ~ S2000s arriving ~ my own lullaby.
I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and looked out the window to check on my car… the lot was FULL of S2000s! The rouge Impala and Fords were moved and it was just Honda after Honda. What a pretty sight!
Early risers leaving the lot woke me before my alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. We rose quickly and were joined leaving the parking lot by 8-10 cars. It was already fun driving in our mini caravan. As we arrived at the meeting spot, we were directed to the white car section. Each color of S had its own rows and we were closest to the 85 Bakery, which meant the last group to leave for Torrance, where American Honda is headquartered, our destination for the day. The staff at the bakery was incredibly prepared for us and quite friendly despite the crowd and the hour. People milled around and we talked about our cars. We met drivers from Louisiana, Texas and Georgia. A few people walked up to me and asked if I was Sandy. Since I go by Sandra, I was a bit surprised, until I realized my Google account is Sandy, and they had read my blog. It was sweet how even at a ‘gearhead’ event such as this, people took the time to share their feelings and support.
After the driver meeting and a drone flyby, we were off. Or rather, we returned to our cars to wait our turn to leave. I pulled on my bandana and the 20-something in the car next to me called out with genuine admiration, ‘You are so cool!’ Another badge, “Cool Old Lady.” As we watched the parade on the road, we kept track of colors to know when our turn was coming. Finally we pulled out and were on our way. It is hard to explain the exhilaration of driving in a caravan of 250+ of the same type of car as yours, with people who love their cars as much as my husband loved ours. Even though we were only going 65 mph, I felt like I was flying. My eyes were moist as I thought about how much Jim would have loved this.
As we pulled off the freeway and into a long line of S2000s waiting to wend our way through the streets of Torrance, I noticed we weren’t the only ones pulling out our cameras. There is nothing quite like the sight of S2000s as far as the eye can see! Although it was a long wait as we slithered our way up Western, no one felt impatient. It is indeed, all about the journey.
As we pulled into Honda HQ, the excitement was palpable. We made it! We were ‘home’ along with 250 of our siblings! Again we were directed to the section for white cars and mine was one of the few who arrived top down. We had to back into our spaces, something I cringe every time I have to do. Fortunately I didn’t hit anything or anyone. The Back Up Badge is mine! We parked next to Baron, the young man who had organized the S2000 Mega Meet at Treasure Island. Even though I really thought I didn’t know anyone, I kept running into people I’d met.
We visited the luxury ladies port-a-potty – yes, it did flush – and watched the show cars arriving from the line. Although we weren’t with the crowd, we ended up with a front row view! There was a lot of ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the NSX lead cars, but I am a purist so I was not as impressed. Yes, they are beautiful cars and I loved the chance I had to drive one, but not all of us want to grow up to drive an NSX. I am happy with my S.
I’d been keeping my eye out for Steve and Kim Cullen. I hadn’t seen them in over a year and wasn’t sure I’d be able to pick them out of a crowd. Over the speakers, I heard them announced as Steve arrived in his S600 racecar! Even I was impressed by that car! I love classics. Later I got to catch up with Steve and Kim and as with everyone else, I felt so welcomed and cared for.
We were in the first group to board the shuttles to head over to the secret Honda museum. As we talked with other owners, I was starting to get the picture as to how special my CR is and again could just feel Jim smiling. The museum was very cool. I have been a Honda girl all my life. My first car was a ‘77 wagon, the same design style as the ‘75 two door they had on display. Keep walking, there’s my ‘83 Prelude and my ‘94 and ‘07 Accords. What fun! It was a trip down memory lane. I heard one man pointing out an early 90s model to his young son, saying ‘that was my first car!’ I told him to turn around to the ‘75 to see mine! I went upstairs to get an overall view and met Helen with pink hair. She told us she had come to Homecoming alone and we invited her to hang out with us. It amazed me how a young vibrant woman would want to spend the day with a couple of 55 year olds, but she did! I guess when it comes to cars, there is no age factor! As we left the museum there were a few sprinkles of rain in the air. Since I had no roof within 500 miles, it did me no good to worry, so I just laughed. Although a cooling rain would have been welcome, the sky did nothing more than dribble and the day stayed hot.
We went back to Honda HQ and waited in line to buy raffle tickets. I was disappointed that there were no more fleece jackets but I went ahead and bought one raffle ticket, just in case, and to help pay for the shuttles. After that, we got our food. There was a Habit Burger truck and I am not sure if I was super hungry or what but that burger sure tasted good! There were also yummy shaved ice cups, which were so refreshing on a day that was becoming hotter by the minute. We walked around and looked at all the sponsor booths. Jim would have been able to tell you all about them and why each of them was amazing, but I just smiled and kept walking. I did talk to the guy with the headers, since I was still trying to resolve my smog check issues. I was glad they were there to support the event; I wish I had more to offer.
Finally the time for the raffle came, but before that Mike, our organizer extraordinaire (Back-cracker), announced Mr. Honda. It came as no surprise to me that it was Steve Cullen. Steve is not only a genuinely incredible human being, but he owns more S2000s at once than I have owned cars in my life. He also owns NSXs and heaven knows what else. Steve is knowledgeable and passionate about the car and is incredibly generous in sharing what he knows. He and his wife Kim are gracious and down to earth. I am honored to know them. However, I was stunned when Steve called out my name from the stage. Steve wanted to recognize me for the long journey I took to get to Homecoming. My journey didn’t start Friday morning; it started the day Steve helped me decide to keep my car after my husband’s death. Mine was a journey of loss, sadness and at times frustration. Steve called me to the stage, and as I walked up, tears were streaming down my face, as they are while I am writing this. I just knew Jim was watching and smiling and pumping his fist in the air, so proud of me for making it this far. Another badge for Resilience. Steve honored Jim’s commitment to the car and his passion for all things S2000. I was so pleased to be able to accept the recognition on Jim’s behalf. My heart was filled with joy that so many people now shared in what I knew, how much my husband loved that car.
I was presented with a faceplate signed by the father of the S2000, Shigeru Uehara-san, something I will cherish forever, for what it symbolizes. I returned to my seat and the guys (yes, mostly guys) sitting around me were so excited to see the faceplate. They asked for the link to my blog and one of them read the post right then and there. Another young man, Josh, who had come up and introduced himself to me on the shuttle, and had read my blog, happened to be sitting near the front and he was able to record the presentation, which was great because it was all kind of a blur being up there in front of over 500 of my ‘siblings’.
The raffle was over and although my number wasn’t pulled, I felt like a winner. We drove back to the hotel and rested for a bit before heading out to the organized luau at Aliso Beach. Again, although we were older than most of the enthusiasts, we felt at home and enjoyed our time. The food was great and it was nice to finally see Mike almost relaxing.
The Drive Home
We slept in, skipped the organized breakfast and decided to take the coast road home. We had a relaxing brunch at the Endless Summer in Santa Barbara and then moseyed up the coast. We had pie at Linn’s in Cambria and then cut over to Paso Robles where we spent the night. I woke up in the morning, looked out at the car and realized it had rained the night before! California is in a years long drought and it rains when I am topless, 200 miles from home! I just burst out laughing. Of course it’s raining! As we packed up the car, the light rain started up again and continued well past King City. We didn’t really get wet. I drove ‘faster than the raindrops’ and honestly felt like I’d earned yet another S2000 honor badge, Driving Topless in the Rain. We made it home without incident and I truly did say, ‘what a wonderful day’ after driving around the whole day.
I love my little Honda. I love what it meant to my man. I am so happy Steve talked me into keeping it and Mike invited me to come to Homecoming. The event appeared to attendees to go off without a hitch and was an amazingly-choreographed day. I am glad I got to share Jim’s story with so many other enthusiasts. I made some friends that I never would have met if it were not for this event. It was wonderful to continue the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the S2000. As Shigeru Uehara-san said, I enjoyed sharing my time with others who love this car.