Some call it the Nightmare Ride.
Some call it the White Trash Parade.
The official name is the Woodward Dream Cruise.
Call it what you will.
I have a love-hate relationship with the Dream Cruise, billed as the largest one-day auto event in the world.
It’s big. It’s more than a one-day event. If you happen to live near it, you know. It starts when July bleeds into August and continues to build momentum until the big day: the third Saturday in August. If you live near it, you either book a vacation, host a Dream Cruise party, or bar the doors and settle in with a stack of movies and a stock of alcohol.
If you live near Woodward, you have two choices: accept the fact that a trip to the market will take double the time or drive to a market in another town, taking the long way around. As the days grow closer to the event, the roads are so jammed that traffic comes to a standstill. The summer soundtrack adds a few guest performers: revving engines, roaring exhaust systems and squealing tires. This is the not-so-fun side of it.
The area transforms itself to accommodate the car lovers, who come from down the street or across the country to park their lawn chairs at the curb and settle in for an extended viewing. There are drink stands and T-shirt booths. Cities along the route take advantage of the event and offer Dream Cruise parties and festivals. Some businesses lease their parking lots to radio stations and other promoters for classic car shows and oldies-music parties. One nearby town set up a drive-in movie theater and showed Abbot and Costello reels. This is the festive, fun side of it.
The party girl in me enjoys the lively atmosphere, the excuse to get out and have fun. The grumpy side of me just wants to move about my neighborhood without all this hoopla. The nostalgic side of me can’t help getting excited when I spot a mint-condition Ford Mustang Mach 1 from the mid-70s, or a late ’60s Plymouth Barracuda fastback or one of those slick, black “gangster” rides from the 1930s with gleaming chrome pipes.
Call it what you will. It’s a dream to ride down memory lane. It’s a tribute to the glory days of the automobile and Detroit. It’s a flashback to the days when no one thought twice about burning gas for hours in their father’s Oldsmobile or a Little Deuce Coupe. It’s a nightmare if you get tangled in the traffic on your way to the pharmacy or stuck next to the Right to Life “Truth Truck” with your children in the back seat. (Warning: link images are upsetting.)
It’s good. It’s bad. I’m glad it’s over.