Chrysler 300 Club International
Fall Meet in Blacksburg, Virginia

August, 2013

Mountain Lake Host Report
Thomas DeBusk

Our Fall 2013 meet took place in Blacksburg, VA. The host hotel was the historic Mountain Lake Lodge (formerly known as Mountain Lake Hotel), whose claim to fame is being the resort where the movie “Dirty Dancing”, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, was shot. Our club pretty much had the resort to ourselves, and it proved to be a perfect “oasis in the sky”. Cool nights, sunny days, and sumptuous breakfasts in the stone dining room, and plenty of tire-kicking conversations in the unhurried atmosphere made for an intoxicatingly laid-back experience.

On arrival, most participants climbed the final, twisting, six-mile road to the resort without incident. Not so Tom & Dannis Cox, who lost their 300F transmission on final approach. A couple of phone calls from the resourceful host had Roger headed to the scene of the crime with a rollback within minutes. Take that, Triple A! Local Mopar enthusiast & ace mechanic Gary Kinder had the sick transmission in the back of club member Don Verity’s pickup truck before you could say “nobody puts Baby in the corner”. Then there was Mick & Martha Kreszock. At least their 300B had the good sense to kick the alternator to the curb just a few miles from home in Boone, NC. So they just swapped their bags into to a “modern” car and rolled on with their schedule only slightly wounded and their enthusiasm fully intact.

On Thursday the group departed for longtime club member Benny Buckner’s private junkyard & restoration shop in Princeton, WV. Wow, what a treat! Club member quote: “I think I died and went to Mopar heaven.” Benny has lots of Forward Look cars, and is a go-to source for many hard-to-find Mopar parts and George Glavis certainly helped himself to his share! Among MANY other cars, Benny had just completed the restoration of his lifelong pursuit: a red & white 1957 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer convertible with the D500 option. The host’s lead 300 Hurst dropped a fan belt en route to Benny’s. (“I guess that heat lamp on the dash IS working!”) Benny: “Not a problem. The NAPA guys know how to get here. Just have them bring one right up.” They did, it fit, and we were on our way!

After lunch in Princeton, we wended our way to the New River Gorge Bridge, the longest single-arch bridge in the world, and the second-highest bridge in North America. At 1,000 feet above the river, it would tower over the Statue of Liberty. We carefully piloted our land barges around hairpin switchbacks down the pre-1977 road to the river at the bottom where Mick Kreszock took gorgeous photos of each car as it crossed the river. Participants got out 75 years back in time and strolled across the old angle-iron bridge, marveling at the wild river currents boiling past monstrous boulders 60 feet below. John Begian, Noel Hastalis, Mick Kreszock, and Brian Frank were so captivated by the experience that they challenged the mighty rapids up close and personal on a rafting trip Friday. You go, guys!

Club members who managed the final leg of the day’s drive sampled tasty treats at the Hinton, WV Dairy Queen, situated just a few feet above the New River. Who says world class atmosphere has to carry a high price tag?

Friday featured a quiet morning at the lodge, followed by a sun-drenched afternoon picnic on a private campground at Claytor Lake. Jean-Yves Chouinard proved to be an expert jet ski pilot, splashing and zooming across the lake with anybody who was brave enough to climb on board. Many club members rode in the host’s 1974 Correct Craft Southwind 18, Moparvation, an inboard ski boat powered by a one-of-a-kind reverse rotation roller cam Chrysler 318. But the exotic power plant didn’t mean nearly as much to the Rinaldi kids, who just had a super time tubing before the grownups commandeered the craft for trips to the dam. One of the highlights was the Mona Lisa smile on Don Verity’s face as he captained Moparvation across the scenic waters. Brought back memories, huh, Don? Country Kitchen catered the event with macaroni & cheese that should’ve caused instant heart arrhythmias, but instead generated relaxed smiles and easy laughter. Nobody wanted to leave in a hurry.

On Saturday, club attendees posed their cars from the oldest to the youngest for an iconic photo shoot in front of Mountain Lake Lodge. The sight was breathtaking and “shutters” clicked incessantly. Afterward, we caravanned to Roanoke for a joint car show with the Roanoke Valley Mopar Club. The 300 Club made a huge statement and local RVMC members oo’ed and ah’ed in agreement as the mighty 300’s motored into the parking lot. Even Roanoke’s neon 88.5’-foot-tall Mill Mountain Star paled in comparison to the fins & chrome that glittered in the sun that day. Evening brought a sumptuous dinner in the stone dining room at the host hotel. Ah, southern hospitality!

As a first-time host, I have to say to anybody contemplating hosting in the future: go for it! This club does an excellent job of supporting the meet hosts. It provides fantastic resources in accumulated wisdom contained in practically professional meet host materials and collective club member experience. I was prepared for just about every bad-case scenario that developed because I had those resources.

Special thanks goes to Ray Jones for great personal guidance, to Tony Rinaldi for creating a gorgeous logo & t-shirt image, to club secretary Gloria Moon for returning a zillion emails asking detailed questions with side-splitting wit and spot-on wisdom (even though she couldn’t attend!) And, finally, I get to say a huge thank-you to my local support system. Bonnie Vaught helped guide me to the venue when my first choice fell through and seconded numerous details. Mark Freeman, Pat & Bryan Martin and Sue Howington bravely greeted, guided, and registered guests, stocked, and transported and restocked coolers. You guys made it look easy.