My job was not to be a writer, but to edit the articles written by the guys who actually knew about cars. They wrote really technical pieces about engines and brakes and chopping and modifying and all kinds of grease monkey stuff I didn’t understand. All I knew what to correct was their horrific spelling and awful punctuation. The only thing I could really appreciate was the pictures of these gorgeous, curvy, shiny cars. I had no idea what year, make or model they were, but man were they cool.
There was a garage just a short walk from my cubicle where I could go see these cars being worked on. However, that was the most traveling I got to do. The writers, however, hopped in their rides each summer and made their way around the country to huge events where hundreds or thousands of these magical cars would show up for week-long parties. One of these events was called Hot August Nights and was held in a mythical land I had only heard of in fairy tales called Reno. Looking at the photos of all the people, their cars and their parties filled me with wonder and I never thought I’d ever see it in person.
Lo and behold, a decade later here I am living and working smack in the middle of it. The first time I saw the lines of cars motoring around Victorian Square it was like all those magazine pictures suddenly came to life. The few car shows I had been to in California were nothing compared to the overwhelming intensity of Hot August Nights, if for no other reason than the sheer number of people who showed up to this small, fairly remote corner of the world with their precious pieces of wheeled Americana.
Throw in the live music and events, such as the sock hop I attended at the Silver Legacy last year, and it really is like traveling back in time.
I got to thinking about all this over the past few weeks as the drama unfolded about Hot August Nights adding Long Beach, Calif. to its itinerary and the ensuing fear that the event will move away from northern Nevada entirely. On one hand, event officials swear they are not leaving the area but in almost the same breath they talk about needing to keep Hot August Nights economically viable. There are still a lot of question marks about exactly what will happen with this longtime local event, but the thought of it leaving the area makes me sad for several reasons.
The first reason is the people in Southern California will not appreciate the event. It will just be another listing on an already full calendar of stuff to do. Having grown up in the area, I know that people take for granted the activities and the good weather: Hot August Nights could change its name to Hot January Nights there. Something I learned while reading about these car events is that people who live where winter is a factor really enjoy their summers.
Second, isn’t the whole idea of the event is for people to have a reason to jump into these beautiful machines and drive them? Participants from outside the Truckee Meadows (particularly those from the Southern California area) have a gorgeous drive to get here, and what better way to do it than in a topless classic car through the fresh air of the mountains and desert? Much better than the trashy neighborhoods and smog of Long Beach. Even the beach in Long Beach is unimpressive.
Third, there really is no place like northern Nevada for the romance of this event. There is no better locale for the spirit of Hot August Nights, with the casinos and bars for nightlife and the outdoors to be appreciated from inside a piece of mechanical perfection. Southern California is too jaded and shallow to appreciate such beauty.
These arguments are entirely emotional and the other factor is financial. Everybody is feeling a pain in their wallets right now, but we’re trying to weather the storm together. It would be a shame for Hot August Nights to abandon the home that has been loyal to it for so many years.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go appreciate my summer.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.