It was near May Day in Shasta County, and that means I was itching for some cornhole. I have been really, ever since an acquaintance of ours, a realtor and mother of two for crying out loud, told us about the recently opened Final Draft Brewing Company, which has, in addition to attention deficit disorders, black dragons and various other house-made concoctions, cornhole.
She said it with a sly smile, and she and my girlfriend Kelsey broke up cackling. WTF is this cornhole thing? I wondered.
Last weekend, I finally got my chance to find out, but first we stopped by the Kool April Nites Car Show at the Redding Civic Auditorium. I have to say, I've been to car shows before, but not this particular car show, and was somewhat shocked at the depth of the content.
I don't know how the guys who organized the event did this, corralled thousands of the world's most interesting automobiles into 20 or so rows of organized lines so there was something odd or strange or remarkable on every row, but they did it.
A perfectly restored dark blue 1968 Dodge Charger growling past as we waited to cross the street into the show turned out to be a good omen. It led a large procession of Mopar vehicles on a joyride to who knows where? I hope nobody got hurt. I'm a Mopar man myself and it was pleasing to see my favorite marque was well-represented, before I'd stepped a foot on the grounds.
It was fascinating stuff, all of it, but like I said, I'm a Mopar guy, so I gravitated toward the many cherried-out Plymouths, Dodges and Chryslers that were on display. This one particular 1970 Dodge Charger with a totally-blown 440 Magnum under the hood parked at the end of a row really caught my eye. It's the ultimate display of rude muscle car arrogance, the wide-mouthed grill with no centerpiece (until 1972) threatening to suck up anything in its path.
Welcome To The Time Machine
It would be easy for me to reminisce about the muscle cars that were so popular during my high school years and that have for some reason, remained popular—witness the various retro remodels of today's Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, which are crawling all over the streets of Redding.
But Kool April Nites reaches much deeper than that, and that depth is indicated by this massive Packard encountered on the end of another row depicted below. With its V-12 low compression four-stroke, front-mounted engine, it took me a while to place it, but a car very similar to this was winning races like the Indianapolis 500 some 100 years ago.
Unlike today's single-seat Indy cars with the engine in the back, this Packard includes a passenger seat for the mechanic, necessary to keep the car limping along to the finish line, including getting out to push-start the beast. Check out the detail on the leather!
Back in the 1950s, when America was allegedly great, computers really hadn't taken hold yet and most automobile designers didn't enjoy the luxury of having a wind tunnel to test their configurations. Nevertheless, unlike the muscle-car designers of the 1970s, they were aware of aerodynamic concept that if you smooth the corners off and put wings on it, maybe it might just fly—at least with the gullible public!
But alas! The poor-but-sleek little Studebaker depicted below was too far ahead of its time and never really caught on with the masses. While it looks like it might have seen the inside a wind tunnel, the same can't be said for the expertly-restored Buick panel wagon that follows. Its curves seem smooth, sensuous and potentially aerodynamically sound—except for the multiple badges above the front fenders.
On the contrary, the wings on 1950s Cadillacs, like on this awesome sample of a custom Sedan DeVille, might actually help stabilize it in flight if the heavy beast could get off the ground. I had a friend who had a convertible version of this version and we used to go spin brodies with it on the mudflats. It believe it had a 490 cubic-inch V-8 or something like that. I'm pretty sure Cadillacs didn't come stock with a paisley racing stripe, but it's a nice addition.
Keep On Truckin'
I'm no expert when it comes to trucks, but the pickups depicted below were among the most tricked-out vehicles in the show. You're not likely to take a load to the dump in most of the masterpieces depicted below, but if you had to, you'd get there in a hurry.
Perhaps not if you were driving the 1950s Chevy sedan that's been jacked up and converted to 4-wheel drive that follows. For starters, it' not even a truck, so there's no place to put the garbage. We must marvel at the mind that says, “I must build this.”
The steroided-out flat black 1960s Ford Bronco was perhaps one the most functional vehicles in the show. You could go literally anywhere in this thing, as long as you don't push its high-centered short wheelbase around corners too fast. Definitely not the Bronco O.J. Simpson drove.
Who Said The Germans Could Play?
Kool April Nites is mostly an affair of pre-1980s American iron. There was a smattering of smaller British sport cars, but as far as I could tell no Japanese makes and no BMWs or Mercedes. A major exception to this rule has been granted to Volkswagen, a testament to the impact VW's simple, air-cooled, four-cylinder, rear-mounted boxer engine had on generations of Californians in the 1950s and 1960s.
Hence, a VW Beetle that's been hacked down to dirt-track racer, spikes and all, nestled in one of the rows doesn't seem out of place. Swapping out a VW engine was a mechanical rite of passage at one time. The couple eyeballing the VW van with the pop-up canopy were wishing they could take it for a test journey, like millions of Americans have before them.
VW's The Thing of course is one of the ugliest vehicles ever manufactured, but as with most Volkswagens, its charm rests in its simplicity. The model depicted here glowed in the sun like a solid bronze brick that had been vaguely machined into the shape of an automobile. I find it hard to love, but Iggy Pop owns one, so what do I know?
Hot Rods & Veterans
A giant American flag, suspended from one of the Redding Fire Department's big ladder trucks, set a patriotic tone for the event and many veterans were not only in attendance, but participating in the show.
The KIA and MIA veterans were on hand, exhibiting a pre-WW II sedan I don't recognize but looks suspiciously (and appropriately) hearse-like. Without being overbearing, It was somber reminder that some Americans have paid the ultimate price defending our country.
I don't know my 1920s-through-1950s coupes very well, but this red number depicted below was painstakingly restored and customized by one Bob, who also apparently had a successful career in the US Navy.
Rise Of The Rat Rods
I know what you're thinking. What about the cornhole? We'll get there, trust me. This Kool April Nites thing is a pretty damned big show.
The type of vehicles depicted next is what - for lack of better name - I call the "rat rod". It's the Frankenstein-meets-Road-Warrior-in-the-not-so-distant-apocalypse category. Ever since automobiles have been around, backyard mechanics have been chopping and channeling, mixing and matching, sometimes in an effort to go faster, sometimes just for the sake of changing it up and making the thing yours.
The one over-arching requirement appears to be the thing can never ever really be quite finished. Fancy paint jobs are out, decades-old patina is in. Here we see yet another pre-WW II coupe, sleek and low to the ground, trimmed for a land speed record attempt; an ancient blue-and-orange International truck out of some bootlegger's nightmare, a 1950s delivery van that looks like some sort of horseshoe crab, and a fully-blown jeep so low to the ground it must require hydraulics in order to function in real life.
The Rat Rod category gives me hope. I've started several car restorations in the past, but never finished them. It's good to know there's a place for me.
Best Of Show & Honorable Mentions
There were all sorts of events scheduled where winners in the different categories we're chosen and given awards, but we didn't stick around for those. Instead we picked out own favorites, seen below.
Being a Mopar guy, and having already weaseled the 1970 Dodge Charger photo into the story, I chose the totally-immaculate electric purple 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner as my best of show.
Kelsey, in addition to choosing the highly modified Chevrolet pickup with the flame-face paint job on the hood that opens this story and is included in the trucks section, took a liking to a pale green 1950s French firetruck.
The 1954 Ford police car restored by the Shifters Car Club allegedly once patrolled Redding's street, and it deserves honorable mention, if only because I feel sorry for the cops back in the day, having to chase down hot rods in this hunk of iron.
Oh Yeah, There Was A Huge Fire
While we were at the show, the commercial building next to BedMart on South Market Street burst into flames, and a large plume of black smoke rising above the site could be seen clearly from the Civic Auditorium. According to the local daily, “All of the Redding Fire Department's on-duty personnel went to the three-alarm fire,” but as mentioned above, one of the department's ladder trucks was occupied flying the stars and stripes at the auto show. Just sayin.' Fortunately, Anderson lent Redding a ladder truck to help fight the blaze and no one was injured.
So About This Cornhole Thing
We arrived at Final Draft Brewing Company as relative virgins so far as cornholing is concerned. Neither one of us had done it before, and even though the recently opened microbrewery's spacious confines were pleasantly dark, the idea of cornholing in a public space necessitated fortification, which was conveniently available right on tap.
I had the Black Dragon, one of those dark IPAs that have grown popular in recent years. It looks like a stout, you think it's gonna fill you up like a stout, but it's somehow light without being too bitter. Nice rendition, FDBC. Kelsey had the Attention Deficit IPA, which I hoped would distract her mind from the task at hand. We also split an order of fish tacos,enough for two and decent bar food at a reasonable price.
Cornhole, in case you didn't know it, is a lawn game. You may have heard it called “bean bag toss.” For an unknown reason, some otherwise perfectly respectable people call it cornhole. There's even a California Cornhole Association. No, it's not headed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Anyway, cornhole is very similar to horseshoes. At FDBC, they've got two cornhole courts set up. Each court consists of two slanted platforms, each with a hole in them, set about 50 feet apart. Each player is allotted four bean bags. The object of the game is to get the bag in the hole for three points, or at least on the board for one point.
It's ridiculously easy to cornhole and drink beer at the same time, and thus the genius of the game's inclusion here in the microbrewery setting is revealed.
Kelsey hit her first cornhole on her second toss, it took me about eight times before I got one in the hole. There's a nice long bar next to one side of the cornhole course, and I set my pint in the middle. I found my rhythm, tossing the bags first to one side, pausing in the middle for a drink on the way to the other side, tossing the bags back the other direction, pausing in the middle to drink …
Yep, I think they've got a moneymaker here!
Of course, you want to be careful drinking that high-octane microbrew. Two pints are my limit when I'm driving, and that's probably pushing the issue. No reason to ruin a perfect day of cornhole in Redding with a DUI or something worse.