By Al Beeber on July 17, 2021.
I’ve been asked what I thought of last weekend’s Street Wheelers event and I’m in a bit of a quandary about the whole thing because I know some will have issues with anything I write on the subject.
Street Wheelers is a sensitive subject every year with some but I’m not one to shy away from taking on touchy matters as we all know, so here goes:
Readers know I’m a car guy; I’ve been doing vehicle reviews since 1988 and while tests are few and far between these days, I keep my interest up by scouring several magazines a month and perusing websites on a daily basis.
Reading about cars is fun; a break from the disasters and sadness I read all day on the newswire.
And we all need a break from seriousness in our lives. We need to have some levity to help cope with life.
That’s why I’ve always been a fan of Street Wheelers. I’ve photographed the cruise a few times in recent years, for the paper and my own interest, and I’m a regular at the annual Show ‘n Shine downtown.
Before my son got his driver’s licence, we cruised the route after the formal Friday night event ended in my trusty GMC half-ton like hundreds of others. One time I accidentally ended up on the cruise route in a minivan while trying to get to a destination and was so embarrassed with the catcalls I would have put a paper bag over my head if one had been handy.
Cruising with my boy reminded me of high school days when hundreds, if not thousands, would do a route between the old A and W drive-ins on Mayor Magrath Drive and the corner of Scenic Drive – on weekends and in summer, on any night. We did this regularly, often stopping in at the Golden Bridge for a late-night meal before heading home. The Golden Bridge had the best egg rolls ever as I’m sure many fans of that old restaurant will attest.
Back in the Seventies, doing the strip and bombing Main Street in small town Southern Alberta was a big thing; it was our version of social media. We cruised, we stopped in parking lots to chat, cruised some more and had an absolute blast.
Street Wheelers weekend takes us back to that gentler time when gas prices were cheap, climate change wasn’t on our minds every day and we were carefree.
This year, I really missed that formal cruise, a chance to see some incredible cars and trucks in one place. It is a staple of a Lethbridge July and I truly hope it returns again next year.
Shooting the cruising from Mayor Magrath Drive wasn’t the same this year; there were still crowds lined up but the kind of vehicles we hope to see in the formal cruise were now mixed in with commuters going home after work or heading perhaps to the big box stores at the south end of the city. It was a real dog’s breakfast.
The atmosphere wasn’t the same and the atmosphere of Street Wheelers has always been an integral part of the fun – it’s like American Graffitti for one glorious summer night.
Of course, there are some who complain about the sound of exhaust pipes and screeching tires but both are part of the ambience of this summer tradition. Being a westsider, I too sometimes hear late at night roaring engines and motorcycle exhausts brapping loudly somewhere in the distance. But I actually welcome the sounds because it’s part of summer. It’s part of youth, it’s part of people actually enjoying themselves instead of being cloistered around social media making snarky comments on other peoples’ posts.
Can we not just have a little fun for one weekend of the year without everyone getting their noses out of joint, demanding more policing and more responsibility?
I’m a senior, like many of my friends, and none of us go around fuming because kids and kids at heart want to let loose with big engines and powerful sound systems. We were all young once and we need to let the younger generation do their bit of rebel-rousing, too. Ear plugs are cheap and they work. For one weekend of the year, maybe people should buy a pair and let others enjoy themselves without the complaints and the criticism.
Life is serious enough already; we all need to relax a bit and maybe hit the strip with windows down, volume cranked and momentarily remember what being young felt like.
People might actually find they enjoy that feeling.
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