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Northwood University International Car Show

For the second year in a row, JAGM combined a Fall color drive with the Northwood University International Auto Show, the weekend of October 7-8. This year’s event was enjoyed by 16 members and guests, although we were probably a week or two ahead of the peak of Fall colors. The seven of us who traveled to central Michigan on Friday enjoyed a relaxing dinner and conversations at Antonio’s Bar and Grill.

On Saturday morning 16 of us met at the hotel lobby to receive instructions and directions from Tom and Judy Hudak, who planned the driving event. As we were being briefed, a surprising number of large men with lots of white facial hair walked through the lobby. It turned out that Midland has a famous and well-attended Santa Claus school that was also happening that weekend! Who knew such a thing existed? Eight cars (six of which were Jaguars) took off on a very pleasant drive north from Midland to Hale, then east to the Lumberman’s Monument and Oscoda, then back south and west through East Tawas and back to Midland. The weather was cool and cloudy with on-and-off light rain showers, but the roads were scenic and traffic was light.

Lumberman’s Monument was a highlight – I was surprised by the very informative displays of the 19th-century lumber industry and the panoramic view of the AuSable River in the valley below. Dinner on Saturday was at the Villa D’Alessandro. We enjoyed this fine Italian restaurant last year, and it was just as good this year. We enjoyed the meal and conversations so much that we were the last group to leave the restaurant.

On Sunday morning the skies were brighter and we were happy to say goodbye to the rain. The temperature was a Fall-ish 50 degrees (maybe), as we headed over to Northwood University for their annual student-run auto show. We parked together at the Cars and Coffee event, across from the main show. As we started to look for coffee, we were surprised to be greeted by Britt Chapman, the President of the Jaguar Club of Central Florida, who was there displaying his LS3-powered XJ6 – a really beautiful car. He was up visiting family and saw on our website that we would be at the NUIAS, so decided to join us there. We all got to spend time with him throughout the day. Our group stayed varying amounts of time at the auto show, with some leaving for home by noon or so and others staying until the end at 2 pm. Ellie and I left at the end and headed for Grand Rapids for a babysitting stint with our granddaughter. On our way across the state, at an intersection somewhere in central Michigan, we noticed an XJ6 pulling onto the road ahead of us. It turned out it was our new friend Britt. We followed him for the next 40 miles or so before parting ways a little north of Grand Rapids. Small world.

The weekend was fun, and the company was great. Thanks to the Hudaks and Phil Crutchfield for putting together a fine outing. We’ll certainly keep this weekend event on the JAGM calendar for 2024. Is anyone thinking of a second career as Santa Claus?

Gary Hillebrand

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