LONG BEACH — The noise rattled windows and terrified dogs, as participants in the traditional Saturday night cruise roared through downtown on Sept. 10.
The event resulted in one police chase and one rollover wreck, and some police officers said the atmosphere seemed a bit rowdier this year. But aside from those incidents, the Rod Run was safe and successful, authorities said.
More than 800 vehicles registered at the official Beach Barons’ Wilson Field east of Ocean Park, a club member said. Rain on Saturday afternoon somewhat dampened the celebratory atmosphere, but on Saturday morning the field looked as full and lively as it ever has.
People who pour their life-savings into vintage cars are pretty sensible drivers — they don’t want to destroy an irreplaceable part or destroy a perfect paint job. But the long line of raised jeeps and old Toyota pickups from an off-roading club had no such concerns. As they pulled through the intersection of Pacific and Bolstad at sunset, one Jeep-driver peeled out, and jerked backwards, slamming on his brakes just as he was about to hit his buddy’s Jeep. On each pass through downtown, they revved their engines, surging forward and screeching to a stop again and again. Some observers cheered, others looked seriously annoyed.
Officially, the Beach Barons’ Rod Run to the End of the World is a celebration of lovingly-restored “hot rods” and classics. The 34th annual Ocean Park car show was open to cars made no later than 1987. But this year, the informal cruise seemed to draw a lot of cars — and people — who were made well after 1987.
As always, there were pristine Mustangs, Bel Airs and Barracudas whose owners hovered over them with chamois cloths in hand. There were custom-paint jobs worth more than the actual cars, mirror-like chrome bumpers and hand-upholstered leather interiors too beautiful to sit on. This year, there were also more souped-up model Ts, ancient Chevy pickups and other jalopies that wore their flat paint, rusty bumpers and dents like badges of honor. These were the “rat rods,” the redheaded-stepchildren of the hot rod world.
Mixed in with the vintage cars were dune-buggies, homemade mopeds, coupes with giant spoilers and neon lights, and giant muddy trucks.
Drinking on the downlow
Early in the evening, a visiting officer from Castle Rock noticed a man in a black truck talking on his cell phone as he drove through downtown. When he signaled the man to pull over, “The guy dropped the cell phone, turned and took off. He went to Ocean Beach Boulevard,” Washington State Patrol Sgt. Brad Moon said. “The driver was headed north, accelerating to the point where he lost control of the vehicle.” Near Bolstad Avenue, the man crashed into a white SUV and jumped the curb, nearly hitting a woman in a wheelchair.
Officers from several agencies arrested him at gunpoint. Tests later revealed the man had a blood-alcohol level of 0.26, well over the legal limit of 0.08, Moon said.
Though a bouncer meticulously checked IDs at one popular watering hole, a lot of drinkers didn’t bother with bars. Many of the people who lined the route of the cruise surreptitiously pulled out flasks, or sipped from red plastic cups filled with mystery-punch. When a spectator threw something into the bed of a passing truck, a hidden cache of empty cans clattered loudly.
There’s always a certain amount of partying associated with Rod Run weekend, Moon said. But crime dropped significantly after local authorities moved it to after Labor Day and beefed up the downtown police presence several years ago.
Fifteen years ago, Moon said, State Patrol would send as many as 40 troopers to help out, and they’d arrest 40 to 60 drunks over the weekend. For the last few years, they’ve arrested four to six people drunk drivers each year. This year, there were three DUIs, Moon said.
There was one fender-bender involving a 1948 car that lost steering and crashed into a bush near Chinook, Moon said. The only other Rod-Run-related wreck occurred on State Route 103, near the Dunes Bible Camp in Ocean Park.
Two men in an open-top Jeep were headed south on 103 on Saturday night, when the driver missed his turn.
“We suspect he was going too fast for the conditions,” Moon said. “He did a u-turn. It rolled over.”
Both passenger and driver were ejected from the vehicle. At first, the passenger, who was “highly intoxicated,” appeared to be unresponsive, but he woke up. The driver was not drunk. Both men were up and walking around by the time responders arrived. They refused aid. The vehicle had to be towed.
“That ended up being a minor injury collision,” Moon said.
The Observer will publish a list of winners and many more photos from Rod Run’s Wilson Field next week.