AMOC at Lime Rock 2018, Part 5
Saturday night is the silent auction and awards dinner. The silent auction didn't have too much of interest this year - mostly brochures and old literature along with a few model cars, a couple very large t-shirts, and a teddy bear. There was a poster that I wanted but Liam, the 10-year-old who I'll get to shortly, had bid on it and I don't think anyone was going to take that away from him.
I bid on a stack of old 70s-era magazines and later found out that I'd been outbid... but someone had one-upped it in my name to help ensure I'd win. Not wanting to feel unethical about it, I then outbid "myself" so that I would be the actual bidder. I ended up winning at my self-trumped price.
Awards are given out for the Friday's concours and Saturday's track day, as well as club awards given out for members for their involvement. The meal is pre-set with attendees selecting one of a few options in advance - usually steak, fish, or vegetarian. I had the steak, which was wonderful. It was accompanied by flavorful potatoes au gratin and a completely inedible broccoli of some sort.
Blade was the Master of Ceremonies (MC) for the evening. He was chosen because 1) he can work a crowd, and 2) he can speak quickly and clearly. In an effort to keep things lively, Blade was asked to move things along more quickly than it'd been done in the past. The tactic worked, but I felt like it was a bit forced. He'd start announcing the next person for an award before the person he'd just announced could even make it up to the front to get theirs. I didn't win anything but, if I did, I would have felt like my brief moment of spotlight was taken away if the presenter moved on before I was given my trophy. I passed this along to Blade afterwards and he agreed wholeheartedly. I wouldn't be surprised if he returned as MC next year and I think the pace will be spot-on.
Blade had won a club award last year, and those get returned to the club at the next year's event so it can be passed along to its new recipient. Blade knew who had won awards in advance as part of his MC duties, and was a bit dismayed that he hadn't won anything. The good friend that I am, I reminded him that not only did he win zero awards, since he had to return one, he actually won -1 awards. I don't think that cheered him up.
But as the awards ceremony came to an end, Bob Welch, the chairman, went up to the podium and announced the last award. It was the Vanquish Award, which is given "to the individual with the most 'Aston' spirit," and Blade had won it. I congratulated Blade on winning a net zero awards, which I think went over better given Blade's enthusiasm for the honor he'd just received.
Liam and the Young Lions
I've mentioned a kid named Liam a few times through this story, but kept putting off any details. I originally planned to incorporate my experiences with him into the rest of this story, but a recent question on one of the Aston Martin forums made me decide to separate it out on its own.
"Is an Aston Martin an old man's car?"
It's not a new question, but its most recent reappearance was timely enough that I wanted to address it. Last year I wrote an article for Vantage Point magazine about my experience as a young, new member of AMOC. My article was published in the Fall 2017 issue, and Bob Welch had referred to Blade, myself, and another guy as being the "young lions" that would become the next generation of the club. I see people in their late 20s and early 30s coming into Aston Martins more and more, and I firmly believe it's important to include them in club activities as they are the next generation of the brand. But the generation to follow them is already forming.
Liam is 10 years old and is a real car kid. He loves the cars and is going to grow up a part of them as the marque's youngest generation. I first met him when he and his father approached me on Thursday and Liam asked to take a picture with me. Turns out they follow my work on Redpants and loved my article. Liam then went on to say he got to meet Christian von Koenigsegg at an auto show and got his autograph, and he wanted to do the same with me. I never thought I'd hear my name and his in the same sentence, and I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped a bit when Liam said it. He even had a copy of the Vantage Point with my article for me to sign.
When I asked what car he wanted to take a picture in front of, he didn't choose the flashiest or the fastest or the loudest car there. He chose an understated silver DB5. I asked him why he picked it and it wasn't random. He said it was his favorite Aston Martin and then pulled a small toy car out of his hoodie pocket. It was a silver DB5.
Aston Martins may have traditionally been an "old man's car" but times are changing. Early DB9s and V8 Vantages are more affordable than ever, and younger people are buying them. What keeps me active with the Aston Martin Owners Club is how inclusive it is. (Why is exclusivity a word, but inclusivity isn't?) From the very beginning at my first experience with AMOC - a big trip to the UK for Aston Martin's Centenary - I have been welcomed with open arms and made to feel a part of the group. Because it's a small group, that inclusivity makes the group feel that much closer-knit. As new, younger members join the club, I sincerely hope they maintain that attitude. Aston Martins are a passion for many of us, and I would hate to see the prestige of the brand be used to turn people away.
At one point on Saturday, Don and Linda, the owners of the silver DB5, and Liam and his father were all standing near the car. I quietly told Don and Linda about Liam's interest in their car and asked if they'd be willing to let him sit in it for a picture. "Of course he can. It's a car." Don went over to the driver door and motioned for Liam to come over. His dad took a bunch of pictures as Liam sat in it, both excited and amazed at sitting in his favorite car.
Later that night, after the award ceremony, Liam approached me with a copy of the Vantage Point with my article and asked me to autograph it. I happily did so, though I'm still a bit baffled that anyone would ask me to do it. I don't think I warrant the attention - I'm just a guy in my garage - and it still baffles me that I have such an impact on people, their access to these cars, and their enjoyment of them.
The hotel staff didn't wait for people to leave after the awards were over. Instead, they came in, turned on all the lights, and started cleaning around people. It was another reminder that the hotel had a long ways to go in the service department, and one of a list of things that left me unimpressed by what could have been a perfect venue.
A group of us moved down the hall to the bar, which was then shut down on us a couple drinks later. So a slightly-smaller group of us went out on the deck to make smores. There are a couple people on the staff of the Troutbeck that saved my experience with the hotel. One of them, Rebecca, had prepared the fire outside and gotten us sticks to use for roasting marshmallows. Throughout the weekend, things kept going wrong with the hotel. Somehow it seemed she was always there to hold everything together.
I slept in Sunday morning in the hopes that I could feel like I'd rested at some point during the trip. Blade went to the hotel restaurant to have brunch with another friend, and after a while I dragged myself out of bed to join them. I had arrived late to the table so I wasn't expecting prompt service, but I did expect at least someone to check on us at some point. It took forever to get anyone to check on me, and forever again to receive my coffee and a menu. When the menu finally came, I asked the waitress not to leave so I could quickly order before she left - I wasn't trying to be rude, but I had a flight to catch and waiting 15 minutes between each table visit meant I couldn't risk losing the waitress's attention again.
Despite my intentions, she seemed to take it personally. She never looked at me directly, and when she returned to check on the other two at the table, she avoided me and didn't give me any attention at all. Being my last interaction with any of the staff at the hotel, it left me with a very bad taste in my mouth.
Blade and I went back to our room to retrieve our luggage and everything else we had with us. His car was full when we set out for our trip and we had even more to haul back. It took a few attempts to fit everything, and his Spirit of Aston award made it extra challenging. In the end, we managed to fill the car perfectly. Another hotel guest had watched us from inside, and we were finishing when he walked out of the building. He congratulated us on our packing skills and said we deserved an award for being able to do it. Looking at our work, I couldn't help but agree.
Between the slow brunch service and needing a few extra minutes to pack the car, we set out later than we had expected. Three miles from the hotel, Blade (well, Blade's car) hit a milestone. It turned over 50,000 miles and we snapped a bunch of pictures to mark the occasion.
We recapped the trip as Blade drove along the winding roads. I vented a little bit about how disappointed I was in the hotel. Blade reminded me that summer staff rarely have a vested interest in their employers' long-term outlook so they often don't offer the same level of service that would otherwise be given. It was a fair point and I'd conceded it, but I don't think it's the guests' fault that the staff showed a blatant lack of concern for their experiences.
Overall the hotel was okay - 3/5 stars, if I were to rate it. There were three people we interacted with enough that I'm holding hope for the next time we use the Troutbeck as our venue. Rebecca, the manager I'd mentioned before, Colin, a young bartender who was polite, friendly, and fun to chat with, and another bartender whose name I never got but was friendly and at one point dropped everything she was doing to get me some coffee, despite coffee service having already ended.
The hotel grounds are absolutely beautiful, with thoughtful touches throughout. There's a stream that runs through the middle of the property, and hammocks are strung between trees for guests to use at their leisure. Staff had mowed a large grass field for us to use for the concours, which made that event possible at the hotel. The road into the hotel and the parking areas were all dirt and gravel, but were smooth in most places. There's a nasty dip at the bridge leading up to the main building that caught a few people's front lips, but it was easy enough to avoid if you knew it was there.
Aside from the less-than-stellar summer staff, the other big issue I had was with our room. It's to be expected that hotels in old buildings are going to have problems (AKA, quirks or charms), and the thermostat issue I'd mentioned early in this article is one of them. I'd also count the very uneven flooring in our room as a quirk. Not having a shower curtain wasn't a quirk, though. It was a problem. Our bathroom had a traditional-style bathtub with a showerhead, but no shower curtain. There wasn't even a curtain rod. It was just open with no way to prevent water splashing everywhere during a shower. So whenever we used the shower, the entire bathroom got splashed with water - the floor, the toilet, the toilet paper... everything got wet.
All said and done, the Troutbeck had enough to offer that it's a very usable venue. They have key staff members that can make staying at the hotel worthwhile, and I think the hotel has a lot of potential for being absolutely perfect. It only reopened a few months ago after being bought out and renovated, so I'm going to chalk up some of the problem I had as part of the process of ironing out the wrinkles of a new business.
Blade and I both agreed that the hotel should become the new de facto venue for the AMOC Lime Rock event, and I think the next year we hold it there will be better than this first one.
The rest of the drive was a bit tense for me. Google Maps had us arriving at Boston Logan International Airport an hour before my flight, which meant I'd have twenty minutes to get through security and to my gate before boarding started. I hate cutting flights that close, and I've missed one like that before, so I don't like taking chances with how early I get to an airport before a flight. Blade assured me that Boston's airport was very quick and easy, and he was right. It also helped that boarding for the flight was delayed by nearly half an hour.
We had some rough turbulence in a few spots during the flight, at one point so bad that the attendants had to stop drink service to take their own seats, but otherwise the only disturbance I had was the girl sitting next to me, who kept flipping her hair against the side of my head. I'd have said something after the third time, but then she broke down crying into her fold-down tray. After a while, she stopped crying and went back to flipping her hair.
There was some beautiful weather during part of the flight, and it made me excited to get back to Tampa. Tampa, however, had something else in mind. We arrived on time despite our late departure, but were carrying too much fuel so the pilot had to stay in a brief holding pattern to burn some off. When we landed, the gates were closed. There was lighting so the airport workers had to be brought inside. We ended up sitting on the taxiway for a while, maybe 30 or 40 minutes waiting for the gates to reopen. The pilot gave us updates, and I could tell he actually cared how we felt. The free movies continued to play in the seatback screens so I sat back and watched Deadpool while we waited.
Late boarding and sitting on a taxiway in a storm when your gate is so close can make traveling by air miserable, but I have to give credit to Delta's staff for keeping us updated as things progressed. I never got the impression that they were just going through the motions or doing the minimum required for legal passenger care requirements. Eventually we did disembark from the plane, and Clare picked me up so we could finally go home.
2019 and Beyond
Flying to and from the event was my only feasible choice this year. It made the event overall less stressful as I didn't have to worry about driving, traffic, my car, or doing anything at all. I could just be there. But it also made me feel helpless. I was at the mercy of everyone else to do anything that required a car, like going onto the track. I took that chance because I know how hospitable AMOC members are and knew that no matter what I'd have a great time.
Next year I plan to drive. There was a contingent of cars from Texas, and their organizer won the "furthest traveled to attend" award. I'm sure that drive is further than I'll have to do to make it there from Florida, but if they can do it, so can I. Clare should be going with me next year, too - she didn't this year due to logistical reasons (read: dogs) but we'll be planning ahead so she can attend next year. If so, we might be bringing both our Astons, which would be fun. It's a 19-hour drive each way for us, so we'll be making it into a road trip to break the long trek into more manageable sections. Since I fully intend to make it to AMOC's Lime Rock every year that I can, I have a feeling the road trip is going to become something of a tradition.
Any of you AMOC members want to come along?