Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Report on the 2016 Porsche Parade at Jay Peak, Vermont

The 2016 Porsche Parade at Jay Peak,Vermont, is now history. Having been there on and off for the entirety of it, I guess I'm a part of that history, so here are a few observations arising from it all.

Drive right in. The effort expended on signage was significant. There was even a sign truck running around, continuously.

This was my first Parade, therefore, I can't directly compare it to other Parades, but since I offered to do work shifts on four days as a humble volunteer helper, probably I learned a bit more about the insides of it than those PCA throngs who otherwise showed up to enjoy the show. That said, I have the impression that the turnout for this Parade was smaller than at other recent Parades. Monterey, California, in 2014, was undoubtedly larger, because CA is where every second car on the road is a Porsche and if just a few of them showed up at the Parade there must have been a million of them there. That, and Jay Peak is way, way off of the beaten track.

Also and sadly, there were many cancellations among the would-be attendees to Jay Peak, due in very large measure to the shenanigans of a couple of
"alleged" crooks who are accused of committing a massive fraud against the place involving hundreds of millions of dollars +. Word of this got around, fast. Attending Parade, especially for someone living at any substantial distance, involves a sizable commitment of time and money. Finding out at the virtual last minute that a large part of the northeast corner of Vermont, including Jay Peak, has been heavily damaged by a Ponzi scheme of sorts might have caused a few PCA types to change their minds about going there. Of course it did.

The following is somewhat an aside:  If a simple man steals $100 from a convenience store he will wind up in the slammer as soon as the police find him, and he will stay there for a while. In the Jay Peak case, $200,000,000 has
"allegedly" been 'misused' by two men and they are walking around free. An individual who knows him reported to me that one of them, Bill Stenger, who is under court order to have nothing to do with the operations of Jay Peak, was seen standing next to an Audi, watching the activity during the Concours d'Elegance. Ariel Quiros, the "alleged" 'other perp' whined to a federal court in Miami, Florida, that the Feds had to release some money to him - from the funds that the court had frozen - because he couldn't put food on his family's table. He is accused of "allegedly" siphoning off $55,000,000 for 'personal expenses', so reports go. There is nothing in his pantry? He otherwise has no legitimate assets? I hope that guy in jail for taking $100 doesn't hear about this. Quiros needs to pay an army of lawyers. Note that they haven't been found guilty yet - wink, wink. The words "alleged" and "allegedly" have been added to the two above paragraphs on the advice of counsel.

For more recently released extensive details about this fraud case, click here.

But back to our main story, because PCA has nothing whatsoever to do with fraudsters, especially the ones at Jay Peak. Anyway, the government put the operation of Jay Peak into the hands of trustees who, it must be said, worked well to ensure that the Parade was able to take place as planned.

The Hotel Jay is one of the larger hotels on site.

I began my duties in/at the simple Welcome Tent, on Saturday, June 18. I was one of those who handed out ice-cold water and junk food, along with answers to basic questions about where to check-in to a condo, and things like that. Attendees showed up in various states of fatigue, some were confused, others were quite fresh for some reason. There did not seem to be a relationship between having a new car, or an old one - people simply hold up differently to automobile travel. Clearly some enjoyed the trip, while others looked forward to a relaxing bath to recover from it. One agitated man immediately demanded to know where the nearest bar was located; at least he was finished driving. He wasn't the only guy like that in attendance. Over all I noticed more variety in the cars than in the people, and no one pretended arrogant superiority either, but of course everyone was driving a cool, shiny Porsche, alors que peux-tu faire? (You would hear a little bit of French now and then since the Parade was near Quebec, after all.)

Welcome Tent. Red, white, and blue bags of junk food.
Saturday also offered Parade 101, and Concours 101, both 'courses' for those not yet familiar. I should have taken Parade 101 instead of handing out junk food, c'est la vie pas le paradis.

Sunday involved check-in to the Parade for the bulk of those who attended. The affair was organized so that the process took place in a reasonably efficient way, and I got to sit down for much of it, good. There were more people here all at once than on the day before, but it was never crowded, and I did not witness any major screw-ups at all, just little ones. Outside, the Concours combatants were cleaning and polishing for all that they were worth, and I had to wonder how many thousands of Q-Tips were consumed in the melee. And, you could drop off your art work for the Art Show, buy stuff at the Goodie Store, have your kids entertained (there weren't many kids attending), and get a safety/tech inspection for Auto-X, plus everything else already mentioned. In the evening you could go to the Welcome Party if you still had any energy left. I went home to a nice dinner and my own bed. Also, on Sunday, there was a meeting of the Protest Committee, for those who wanted to know how to disagree with Concours judging decisions - before any decisions were even made. The Concours people, and the Auto-X competitors are deadly serious, and each has a Protest Committee of their own, set up ahead of time.

Check-in, in the Ice Haus. I wore a green Volunteer shirt, too.
On Monday the Concours judges assembled at 7:00 a.m. and concluded their decisions by 8:30, by some miraculous means. Maybe they had seen all of these cars before. . .  Here is a story I was told: One Concours competitor lost first place in their class for this reason - The car was out on a lawn that had a slight slope. Someone wanted to have the car seen in gear, but with the hand brake not engaged. It must have looked nicer that way. The car rolled 3 inches in the process of doing this, therefore, there was a slight patch of moisture from the grass visible near the tire bottoms. Lost first place for this unsightly dampness. The way those people prepare, and judge, their cars, I believe this story. I can't prove it though. The Concours exhibition ended at 3:30. By four o'clock many of the competing cars were already loaded into 'Reliable' special car transport trucks, so as to be moved to the next show promptly, I guess. Honestly, the Concours didn't interest me that much; just look at the parking lot. After all, there were several locations where anyone could wash their Porsche upon arrival, or at any other time during Parade. OK, I'm not being very generous. I guess I should consider Concours as an art form, and appreciate it in that light.

Concours on the golf course. A really deep plum colour - excellent.
There was a Historic Display, too, and some of those cars were driven long and hard to get there, if you judged by the fascinating collection of bugs on the front of them. These vehicles were interesting for their accomplishments, rather than their shine. My favourite was a Porsche diesel farm tractor, however it hadn't been driven there, too bad. I expected more old race cars, but they appeared to have stayed home. Truly some of these Historic cars were compelling, but it was a small number of vehicles for an event like this.

No rusty junkers here. I'm sure a lot of people lusted over as many of these cars as I did. Mobile jewelry.

Due to the large golf course venue, the cars were spread over considerable acreage, and you had to hike through the woods, literally, to get from one section of the 'exhibit' to another. It made it seem as if there were fewer cars than there actually were, since they were so stretched over the landscape. I doubt that anyone complained about having some elbow room.

The car to the left was a Paris-Dakar 959 'tribute', if I remember the correct sign. This one got driven there, and if you click it to see a larger version of the photo you will be impressed by the numbers of bugs on it. Why clean up a racer? That car would probably burn the paint off of the car in front of it if it got too close.

Concours again. Nice seats - ventilate the rear of your thighs, too.

My favourite, the farm tractor, was off to one side and often ignored, which was too bad. I don't know why there aren't more old Porsche tractors around, maybe they were too pricey back in the day. They were wonderfully engineered, though. Even a smaller one, in the Hospitality Suite, had multiple power takeoffs, clever attachment points, seating for a passenger, and other embellishments. I wish my Massey-Ferguson had some of those nifty inclusions. What I like about my own P-car is its raw, simple utility, but it's not actually that simple. Neither is the tractor.

Possibly the largest size of tractor that Porsche made. I'd like one, but would I be allowed to get it all dirty?
Monday also included a Concours lunch, Wine tasting, TSD (time, speed, distance) Rally school, a dinner cruise, as well as a Farm to Table buffet. There was a lot of eating involved, every day. Same as my local PCA Region. I don't know why more PCA types aren't substantially heavier. Maybe it's because they want to save poundage in the name of Porsche-level performance. Porsche works hard to remove every kilo of weight that they can from their high-performing cars, so perhaps this objective rubs off on the owners who want to scoot around as Dr. Porsche intended. However, this performance svelteness does not seem to apply to the biggest selling Porsche, the heavy Cayenne. What does that mean? In any case, a lot of people get mixed up about which Porsche they should be seen in, and why. Nice people, though, no doubt.

The Hospitality Suite on Monday. Vendors were around the edges, Porsche Classic included.

On Monday afternoon I worked in the Hospitality Suite, in the Ice Haus, so I checked out the Concours and Historic cars, mentioned above, before my tour of duty. One 'perk' of being a volunteer worker at Parade is that you get to chat with other workers, and ask a few questions. The Parade Information table was handing out self-guided driving tours instructions. All of them originated at Jay Peak, and then returned there. After a friendly chat, I got a complete set of the 22 tour descriptions. With a little editing here, and connecting of the dots there, some rather nice new tours can be concocted from this information. Good for the locals in the Region around here. PCA had more than enough copies of the tours on hand. 

On Tuesday the TSD Rally began at 7:30 in the morning, with the last finishers expected to return at 5:00 in the evening. I've driven in rallies where some people never did return, but those rallies were seen as successful, anyway. Kind of a weeding out process, perhaps. TSD is one of the 'big things' at the PCA Parade, on a level of focus equal to the Concours, or Auto-X. That means keen competition amongst those Type-A types, but then you could say that about dog shows, too. Whoever had fun was doing it right, but those who got an ulcer over any of this might try something else. To each their own and I don't argue with any of it.

Tuesday also offered Driving Tours (including to the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory), a Lunch Cruise, an Ice Cream Social, Seminars on Secrets from the Archives, the Connected Car, and Driving Experience. Then there was a Dinner Cruise, a Concours Social, and finally the Concours Banquet (these last two sponsored by Porsche). Fun, all of it, but largely eating again. What about taking an old Porsche 911 (like mine) apart, and putting it back together again - all in a day. That I'd really enjoy; I can eat anytime. Okay, not with a whole bunch of Porsche People, but still. 

Porsche Cars of Canada sponsored a cocktail party for thirsty Canadians and, sure enough, I showed up for that. It involved no eating, so I was good. I didn't know anybody, but I chatted with random revelers who also didn't know anybody, and we got along fine, because no one expected to actually prove what they claimed about their Porsche exploits. Some of these people had remarkable stories to tell, then we said good-bye; forever, more than likely.

Photo borrowed from PCA. Because they wouldn't let me get any closer.
Wednesday's main offering was Auto-X. This I wanted to see, because while I have read about it and followed some competitions through the media, I have never been present at a real event. There is no road race track anywhere within the PCA region that I belong to, so Auto-X seems to be the only type of competitive driving open to us - aside from rallies, which we have done. Therefore, I wanted to check it out for future reference. Anyway, it was pouring rain, and the first day was for 'stock' cars. You had to prove to everyone that your car was stock, and that meant that between runs on the course you had to open the trunk and engine compartment - in the pouring rain - for any other competitor to examine. If they spotted anything that they didn't like as they peered into your soaking engine room, they would report it via a protest process. I told you that these people are serious.

Waiting in the rain for a go at the course. Show room stock category. Let me check that engine to be sure it's stock . . .

The guy driving this car is enjoying it. He drove in Auto-X, and he drove in the Gimmick Rally on the next day. I give him credit; a 918 may be packed with serious technology to keep it upright and you in one piece, but it can kill you, too. As a result, he had a qualified instructor along in the passenger seat during the sodden Auto-X, in order to protect himself - along with numerous course workers, other cars, and god knows what else.

Next run group. I believe he drove down from Ontario.

While there were plenty of competitors, there were fewer spectators on hand. That's not difficult to understand, but too bad. The thing is that, I suppose for safety reasons, the spectators were kept hundreds of metres away from the course, so one hopes that their binoculars were of the waterproof variety. I had a big umbrella, but there was a breeze, so my pants and shoes were soaked, same as everybody else. I confess that I didn't stay that long.

A view from the grandstand. That horizontal line way out there is the course. Kinda far.

The crowd in the 'grandstand'. Honest; I took the picture.

Wednesday also included a golf tournament and later golf awards, a driving tour to Lake Champlain, more driving tours to Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory, a lunch cruise, a beer party, a dinner cruise, and a 'Checkpoint' social, plus a 'Checkpoint' award ceremony. I guess these last two concerned the rally of the day before. Plenty more calories were consumed.

Thursday offered the only activity that my significant other was prepared to join. To be fair, she was working most of the week, but this fit in. The Gimmick Rally. This is our kind of rally, because you don't consider time, or speed, but you do consider distance - although in a different manner than the TSD people do. We were given a large and often useless map, sometimes GPS co-ordinates, and other written clues to find a collection of antique Vermont covered bridges. This did give the locals an unfair advantage; never mind, the point was to have fun. As we located each bridge, we were required to take a selfie with the bridge in the image in order to prove that we actually found the thing. The rallyists who discovered all of the bridges, plus one exceptional road, in the fewest number of miles traveled were the winners. We tried our absolute best. 

The results were published for everyone to see. We came in 97th place, out of maybe 130 or 140. No trophy this time.

The Fuller bridge.

I blame it on the traffic. That's why I'm snarling at it as my photo was taken in front of this bridge. You can't get on with it with all of those 918s, and similar, causing too much congestion. I was told to lighten up.  

This is more like it. No traffic congestion here as there is in the other picture, above.

It says on the above bridge's sign, "Slow autos to 10 miles an hour. Horses to a walk. Per order selectmen." Good as far as I'm concerned.

And so we carried on, proudly propelling #978 toward certain victory. That didn't work out, but we made pit stops along the way where we met up with friends - most of whom were locals with some of the target bridges in their virtual backyards; that was a perk. Actually, I think I prefer 97th place to 4th, where we would have been a tiny, and agonizing tick away from the podium. There is no such anxiety when you are 97th. According to the results listing on the PCA website, a number of competitors' results were 'incomplete', 'ineligible', and many had 'no score' for some reason, so it's hard to figure out who finished in actual last place, another retrograde distinction for someone. We did fine.

This is the exceptional road I mentioned above. I pulled over for this photo; it's much tighter and smaller than this looks.

Thursday also included the Autocross competition for modified cars, some of them purpose-built in fairly extreme ways. Such as, two speed transmissions. Autocross takes place on small-scale courses, always, so who needs more than two gears? You save weight and complexity that way. Clever. I couldn't go, because I was driving in the rally.

Then there were more Driving Tours, to Lake Champlain, and to Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream factory again, a dinner cruise again, and other ancillary merrymaking and eating. One of those was the Brats & Brew Buffet. When we saw a number of friends while on the Gimmick Rally, they suggested that we join them after the rally at the Brats & Brew thing. We inquired and were told that tickets were available at the door. Good, and convenient. After the rally scoring procedure, where we had to produce our selfies to prove we actually visited each bridge, etc., we drove to the site of the Brats & Brew Buffet.

It was sold out; we couldn't get in. What? Well, it cost serious money at the same time, so maybe we were lucky. The tickets were $100 per person (I'm pretty sure); not easy to swallow for a sausage and a beer, with potato salad, whatever. It turned out that the beer wasn't included! Really? And the dessert that was promised didn't exist. Never mind that, an oom-pa-pa band was present and playing so loudly that no one could hear themselves think, forget having a conversation. I didn't find one person who was happy with that event. The rally was fun.

Before I get to Friday, I have to mention a competition that does not involve the skills that are employed in some of the precision events at Parade, such as Auto-X. It involves dogged perseverance. You get a prize if you have driven the greatest distance to get to the Parade. One guy - I don't know his name - has been awarded this prize almost every year, recently. He drives down from Alaska, and since he showed up in Vermont that is an extended drone of a drive. His car is always identifiable, because in order to protect it from gravel on the Alaska Highway, and all manners of other junk that gets flung at a car driving down the road, he covers his 911 in blue painter's tape. A lot of it. How he gets the stuff off of the car is beyond me, because after baking in the sun it really sticks. I know, because I covered the front of my van with similar tape when I drove to Alaska, and it was a devil of a job to get it off. Took forever. 

Sticky tape special, hard butt version.



The guy did neat work, and it must function. He keeps doing it every year.

OK, Friday. I volunteered to work once again in the Hospitality Suite. The stint was five hours in the afternoon. Since I live more than an hour's drive away, plus an extra time allocation in case there is congestion when crossing the US/CAN border, plus finding a parking spot, etc., my starting time for a shift beginning at noon actually turned out to be before 10:00 am. This meant that I had to get out of bed at 8:00 am, nearly the crack of dawn in my opinion. At least the sunrise then is nice, but I'm lazy enough that I would have been happy getting back into bed after enjoying it, however, I made myself eat my nuts and twigs breakfast, shower, and haul myself all the way to Jay Peak just to be hospitable. I hope it was appreciated.

By the end of the week the Hospitality Suite didn't draw the same population as it did on the first days of the Parade, but the free soft drinks and pretzels continued to attract a certain crowd who knew their preferences. In fact those things weren't free, but you know what I mean. Anyway, being hospitable meant that I didn't see much else during the day and I had no reason to go to the Late Apex Awards dinner in the evening.

The cool light projection says it all.

Nevertheless, feeble witticisms aside, volunteering is important for the success of Parade. The venue is costly to PCA, and in this case very large, and the attendees show up in massive numbers (the largest booking in the history of Jay Peak), plus they needed everything, given that the whole show was in the raw, far north of Vermont. For example, people wanted to know where to buy gasoline. That was a good question, because there were only two gas stations anywhere nearby, and one of them wasn't that nearby. 

I was honestly impressed by PCA's colossal efforts in pulling this event together. There were extraordinary challenges to conquer, particularly considering the questionable antics of the upper management of Jay Peak. I congratulate PCA for a job well done, regardless. But, they could not have done it without the volunteers.

The Tech Academy was the big show on Friday, and if I had all of this to do over again, I'd certainly attend it, rather than be a hospitable volunteer. The Tech Academy lasted for six hours, and you could stay for part, or all of it. It would have been six hours for me, but then I really like technical stuff. Aside from what I have already mentioned above, there was another Driving Tour to Lake Champlain - and all the rest of it, near as I can figure, involved eating.

That brings us to Saturday. The day started with a 5K run/walk affair, for those who wished to burn off all of the calories they had been absorbing. There was again a Driving Tour to Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory - for the fifth time! Plus, once more, a Driving Tour to Lake Champlain. There are only so many things around Jay Peak, you see. However, remember my mention of the 22 self-guided driving tours described in the Sunday section, above. 

Then, I joined the Dark Side. I attended the Volunteers' Lunch, and I ate a big plate of food. I couldn't help it. I was virtually surrounded by the Banquet of Trimalchio all week, so what could I do? At least I waited until the last day, lest I become addicted to this sort of thing.

A small sign down in the grass, but I found it.
While I was munching away, staging for the Parade of Porsches was taking place outside in the large parking lot between one of the hotels and the 15,000 sq. ft. circus tent in one corner of that lot. A tent of this size was essential, because there were 700 volunteers helping with the Parade, and also with this lunch! 

You can find good photos of the staged cars on PCA's website, here:  I didn't join that parade, because my car broke during the Gimmick Rally. More on that sad business in the "I'm Mad at My Porsche" post, immediately below this post. This is why I have no idea where that car parade went, if anywhere, nor can I even guess.

Hungry volunteers. That's not even the full length of the tent.

Following the volunteer lunch, there was a 'On the Border' Tour that found its way to the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, in Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec. This building literally straddles the border. There was a talk given by a Vermont politician, I believe, who gave a rendition of State history, but people reported to me that it was boring, too long, and said little about the Haskell itself. My route home goes right past the Haskell Library, etc., so I didn't bother to stop; been there, done that. At the same time, the Haskell building has an interesting history.

For example, the USA/Canada border splits the building in two, and the actual border is painted as a black line on the floor. It is the only library in the USA with no books - they are in the Canadian part of the place. However, the reading room is in the US. Once, a wanted criminal managed to cross the border, but
The Haskell, from Canada to the left.
he was caught. Somehow he avoided extradition, yet he was tried anyway! The judge sat on one side of the border, in the reading room, and the crook was brought into the other side. They tried him across the room (and border) and reached a verdict. Could be that he then was extradited. I believe that this was at a time when laws were somewhat different from now, but still. There are many other cool stories about this place, but back to the Parade.

Okay, one more thing. It doesn't look like this any more. Outside, the border is blocked off (the street on the left used to go into Canada), and US Homeland Security guards sit here all day in idling Chevrolet Surburbans, frowning. There are cameras everywhere. Innocence lost. 

Conclusion:  It was certainly fun seeing all sorts of fancy and interesting Porsches. Many of the cars I saw were familiar, but virtually. I had not seen them in the flesh before and it was enormously enjoyable to have them right there to gawk at. Some of them looked impossible, such as elderly examples in the Concours. If they had been built yesterday they wouldn't have looked as good.

People did their thing, Porsche style; competing, eating, meeting, driving, and visiting a new part of the continent that they had not seen before. It's a funny thing, a car club. You like a certain kind of car, so you celebrate with others who all have the same marque of automobile. That's it. No funnier than any other kind of club, though. It was a great show, I saw some Porsche notables, everybody waved when they met another Porsche on the road, the local cops lightened up, it was beautiful countryside that was a delight to drive through. Altogether a remarkable experience. Going to one Parade was enough for me.

PCNA did its thing. 'Exclusive' versions of Porsches, plus unavailable ones, etc. Teasers.

I finished this post on August 12, nearly two months after the Parade. I did it in bits and pieces, I was busy.

The Jay Peak tram has been ordered shut down by the State of Vermont for required repairs to make it safe for operation. The $4.9M repairs will likely take until June, 2017. You can hike up to the top if you want exercise and a nice view.

Important update:  The Burlington (Vermont) Free-Press newspaper has now reported that the gondolas of the tram have been re-inspected. A hairline crack was found in the carriage of one of the gondolas (the blue part that connects the gondola to the cable above), and this gondola has been removed from service. Therefore, the remaining gondolas will be able to operate for the time being, before a total overhaul of the whole system, now scheduled to begin in the spring of 2017. You will be able to ride up to the top after all. P.S. Service resumed on June 25, the last day of Parade.

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