I’m in that phase of parenthood where the kids come along for the ride. Trouble is, it's a long drive for many of my hobby-related trips, which means I’ve had to become creative in terms of finding ways to make it fun for everyone. Last year, I had my kids up at 4 am so that we could make the multi-hour trip westward in order to catch the car show I wanted to do. That was an efficient use of time, but the kids were entirely out of fun before I had finished my go-round of the show. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too, so this year, I booked a hotel room in Belleville on Friday night. Would it work? Would the extra expense be worth it? It was worth a try.
The drive from Ottawa to Belleville is about three hours, and the kids were a little crabby by the time we arrived at the hotel at about 9 pm. But they like new experiences, and to them, any hotel is a new experience, with the strange sink, TV channels, or even view of the vacant lot from our window. They slept well, and by 7 the next morning, they were both little rays of sunshine, ready for adventure.
They enjoyed their complimentary breakfast of cereal and waffles, although they were a little disappointed that this particular hotel, as comfortable as it was, didn’t have a pool. They got into the car with me and we made the 20-minute drive northward to Stirling. There are always garage sales lining both sides of the road as we come into town.
My son announced, “Dad, a garage sale!” He pressed his nose against the window. “Can we go to one?”
“We’re going to the big flea market,” I said. “It’s much bigger and better than a garage sale… and we’ll be there in just a couple of minutes!” I’m always looking for the positive spin to sell my ideas to the kids.
We arrived at the fairgrounds and parked the car in a field. The kids had a budget of $10 each, and I spent the first hour or so discouraging them from buying the very first things they found. Two years before, I wouldn’t let my daughter buy a dirty, headless Barbie, and I endured about half an hour of crying afterward. It would have been easier to just back off, but I don’t want them buying garbage. Or plush stuffed dolls. That’s my rule of the flea market—no stuffies. We don’t know how many times they’ve been rained on, or what species of mites inhabit the innards. Any toys we get have to be washable—you can’t wash an infested stuffie.
Of course, I come to the automotive flea market for the plates, which I did find, little by little as the morning progressed. At first, there were just unexciting YOM years like 1946 and 1971, but there was plenty of time for things to pick up. We alternated between browsing for plates and stopping at tables with toys. My son enjoys an easy shopping experience at the flea market, since there are Hot Wheels cars everywhere.
While at the show, I saw a really interesting car—a 1948 Packard Deluxe Eight sedan. It was embellished with a lot of chrome on the front end, and had its unique streamlined appearance where the fender cowls gracefully curve into the body. There was also a 1942 Dodge pickup. I’ve seen it before at Stirling, but I really like it because it has a rugged finish that’s in keeping with a utilitarian vehicle. I’m not so much into hyper-restorations with racing mags and neon paint. Another beautiful vehicle at the show was a 1947 Dodge Power Wagon. It was immaculately restored to its stock appearance in dark green, and it had a huge winch, oversized military tires, and pop-out panels on the front windshield.
I did happen to make a bunch of YOM finds for my business, but nothing truly earth shattering. Some of my better pairs were 1931, 1938, 1961 (a shorter number, too) and 1965. The trip had been made possible by the hotel stay, and thankfully, my market finds were worthwhile in spite of the extra cost of the hotel. A bunch of my restorable plate finds were made toward the end of the day, and I suspect I might not have been able to make those finds if I were defending against tired, mutinous kids.
After shopping in the field, we went to see the show lot. There were a couple of YOM-plated vehicles, one of which came from me—a 1968 Chevelle with a hard-to-find low number plate. I’d seen it before at the Stirling show, but the cars were parked fairly close together last time, so I was glad to pull out my camera to shoot a few more pics. I saw a 1965 Cadillac Fleetwood finished in battleship gray, sort of rat-style, with blacked-out racing mags. I did my best to take a profile portrait of it, but it was too darn long and I couldn’t back away far enough to fit the whole body in my viewfinder.
With that, afternoon was upon us. I had found the plates I wanted, and my kids had filled their pockets with various trinkets. It was a short trip spanning two days, made shorter by the fact that I’m not able to take as many pics, or dawdle along the scenic route to and from the show. But I found comfort in the fact that the kids were happy, and we weren’t in any mad rush to get home. Rather than take the 401 back home, I headed through downtown Stirling and veered northeast toward the prettier Highway 7. On such a sunny day, I figured it would be a more relaxing way to get home, and the shorter distance combined with the lower speed limit would get us home in no more time than if we were to rush on the 401. We even stopped for lunch in Kaladar along the way. A drifting musician was apparently stranded and calling whichever people he could to get a lift in the opposite direction from which we were travelling. Not that he spoke to us—he was just more of a loud-talker on his phone while we ate our sandwiches. Stuck inside of Kaladar with the Toronto blues again.