I grew up in a small farming town. There wasn’t much to do on weekend nights. When my friends and I finally got into high school and were old enough to drive, our favorite Friday evening activity was driving 20 minutes out to Monroe, the closest “city,” and cruising back and forth down Telegraph Road looking for hot high school boys doing the same thing. It was a pretty worthless practice—no one made any love connections with this activity. Our car full of girls pulled up next to a car full of boys at a stoplight. We batted our eyes and shyly looked in their direction. The boys smiled and winked back. Maybe one of us shouted something suggestive out the window to the other car. The light turned green, and the cars sprung into motion again, the twitter of giggling girls left hanging in the air.
I have a soft spot in my heart for cruising. Brings back all sorts of fun teenage memories.
There seems to be something about our car-loving culture that makes driving back and forth on a main drag appealing. I have the impulse, but I don’t know if I understand it. It’s just ingrained in me. It’s a piece of Americana.
And Americana never was more visible than during the Grand Rapids Metro Cruise.
The Metro Cruise is an annual event that brings all sorts of vintage cars to Grand Rapids. A lot of people cruise up and down 28th Street in their hot rods and muscle cars of all makes, models, and colors. 28th Street is on the border between the city of Grand Rapids and the suburb of Kentwood; it is where you go to shop and to eat—there are two malls and a million chain restaurants. That street is a hub of activity and traffic every day at all times of the day, but never more so than during the Metro Cruise.
Photo courtesy of Berger Chevrolet
Restored cars clog up the streets. When we came out on Saturday, it took us nearly an hour to travel the 5 miles down 28th Street from East Beltline to Roger’s Plaza. Roger’s Plaza is the hub of the Metro Cruise. Cars that don’t want to cruise or want to take a break from cruising can park in this expansive lot and spectators can mill about, oohing and ahhing at a variety of classic autos. The cars line up for what seems like miles, their hoods propped open and their chrome glaring in the hot sun. And we can’t help but daydream about owning one of these American-made treasures ourselves and showing it off all around the country.
It always amazes me what an event the Metro Cruise turns out to be. At its core, it’s really just an ongoing parade of old cars. But people of all ages, large families and big groups, settle in on the narrow strips of grass on either side of 28th Street. They bring grills and food and lawn chairs and tents, and they party and park their asses there all day long just to watch a wide collection of machines drive by. Some people bring binoculars. Some people take videos. Vast numbers of people care about and want to celebrate these rare and antique automobiles.
I suppose the Metro Cruise reminds spectators of times gone by, and even though those years are gone for good, they can take comfort seeing these relics and remember or maybe even re-live that era when times seemed easier and America still made great things with its own hands—when the most interesting thing to do on a Friday night was cruise up and down the main drag.
For more information about the Metro Cruise, visit their website.