TAKE A LITTLE TRIP AND SEE01 August 2020 Written by By Steve Stellini
Published in August 2020 Articles
I grew up in San Mateo. Weekend nights meant meeting up with friends, and the best place to find them back then was cruising El Camino Real, slowly traversing the street up and down again.
Sometimes they’d pull over and we’d talk about our cars, what we were doing to them next, or the new stereo we had our eye on. Cruising was a past time that started long before I was doing it, but as the years rolled on, it seems to have lost its popularity. Once things were put on pause and closed down, it put me in a slower frame of mind. I started coveting those days of simply driving up and down a street showing off my ride, being out, and seeing everyone else enjoying their cars.
During the lockdown, after sitting in my house for what seemed like forever, I got the idea of organizing an event where everyone could get together safely, maybe listen to some music, and see some friends. What better way to spend a weekend night than cruising down the street in your ride–old-school style. Fortunately, I knew just the place to meet. Lumpy’s Diner has always been a huge supporter of the local car scene. I picked May 16 as the date and I immediately created a Facebook page called East Bay Cruise Nights and started heavily promoting the event on many social media pages. Word got out fast; I was shocked at the response I got so quickly.
“Everyone out seemed to be thrilled to be part of a moving car show.”
The group that hosts the American Graffiti Festival in Modesto reached out first, they have years of experience in running cruises and they let me know they were going to be there and would help me if I needed anything. Then, Kurt Kyle from the Altamont Cruisers called offering his support. The true “OGs,” the Contra Costa Lowriders Union, those guys are so cool. They called offering help as well and to let me know they were so thankful to have a place to drive their cars and be out among the car scene fanatics again.
On the night of the first cruise, the turnout was amazing. Hundreds of cars and enthusiasts showed up. We were all respectful and stayed by our cars, except for those who indulged in a Lumpy’s burger or shake before the cruise started. I picked the Lone Tree Way corridor because it’s a commercial business area. All along the cruise route were families and excited kids. Some children were holding up signs, pointing and shouting, “Look at that one!” There were even some people barbecuing. The lowriders especially showed up with their rolling works of art. There were sports cars, old trucks, tricked-out classics, and the Modesto American Graffiti crowd even came dressed in clothes from the ’50s. It was like a parade. We had zero trouble, only a memorable night. Same with the Father’s Day weekend cruise we had on June 20 that had at least 1,500 cars in attendance. It upset me to hear of another cruise in Downtown Brentwood that was shut down. That cruise went through a residential area and I heard there had been some screeching of tires and burnouts that were unwelcome.
Everywhere I advertised, I specifically warned against anyone causing trouble. That whole sideshow culture is not what cruising is all about. I have always encouraged the police to make their presence known, to dissuade any possibility of reckless driving.
After taking notice of the popularity of the events, the owner of Ricks on Second, along the Antioch waterfront, reached out to me about doing a cruise night there. I was honored to make that happen as I learned that Antioch had a strong cruise legacy for decades from the ’50s through the ’80s. To celebrate the cruise coming back to Antioch, I wanted to kick it off in grand style, so we had the local radio station Free Radio Brentwood broadcasting from the starting point.
Everyone out seemed to be thrilled to be part of a moving car show. The “show” is what is at the heart of cruising; it’s a place to showcase your prized possession. The goal right now is to run a monthly, or maybe yearly event. It’s portable too, any East Bay city could host this and I’m sure the same enthusiasm would be there.
My love for the American muscle car started in my younger years when I owned Chevy Camaros from ’67, ’68, and ’70. The elusive Camaro I am still on the hunt for is the popular 1969 Camaro. Currently, I am the proud owner of a steel gray, 2020 ZL1 1LE Camaro, a muscle car that pulls 650 horsepower. With all that crazy amount of power, there’s still no better way to drive that car than blasting some tunes, rumbling behind a line of friends as we take a drive. It takes me back to a time when everything was at a laid back, slower pace.
The love of cruising just faded away at some point. I feel like it’s the right time to bring the cruising culture back. These cruise nights could not have happened without the extreme support of the Antioch, Oakley, and Brentwood communities. What I find most rewarding after all these events is the phone call I received from a woman who contacted me to let me know her mother accompanied her on one of the cruise nights. It was the first time she had been cruising in 30 years and it brought back great memories for her, she wanted to say thank you for making that happen. That is what it’s all about. The next generation is out there, I see them clapping and shouting when a ’55 Chevy convertible turns the corner, or a lowrider drops their Impala and then makes it jump a few times. There’s a reason America has always had a love affair with our cars–too many memories are made in them.
Photos By Casey Quist