"You work nine to five and somehow you survive until the night." That line from the song "Night" off of Springsteen's epic "Born to Run" album pretty much summed up what it meant to come of age for middle class baby boomers. Every area surrounding Baltimore had its favorite strip where young men and women would cruise the streets showing off their muscle cars and hot rods during the warm nights of summer. For many, their car was their first love.
Perring Parkway in Baltimore County, Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie, Baltimore Pike in Belair, and dozens of other circuits scattered throughout the area provided a release for restless youth. Too soon however, adulthood hit home, along with the first Gulf oil crisis. Cruising around aimlessly gave way to careers, marriage, kids, youth sports, PTA meetings, band concerts and plays. Gas prices started to rise, going from an average of 28 cents a gallon in early 1973 to well over a dollar by the end of the decade. Throw in the ever escalating insurance premiums carriers required to cover anything badged with Roadrunner, GTO, SS, Mach I, etc., and for a time it seemed muscle cars and hot rods would go the way of the dinosaur.
Americans are resilient however. Nothing keeps us from what we truly hold dear. And for a sizable portion of the population,muscle cars and hot rods, which many thought would become extinct, live on. All around the Baltimore area, cruisers spend their weekends taking over shopping center parking lots from Belair to Glen Burnie, and beyond.
Everything is represented, from Model T's and Woody's to customized 50's rods and 60's muscle cars. Exotic paint jobs and chromed engines are on display, allowing boomers to wax nostalgic about the days when life came without a lot of responsibilities. It is also a chance for our offspring to see first-hand the evolution of the American automobile. Do you know most children born after the mid-seventies don't know what a wing-window is?
As you can see from the accompanying photo, not much has changed since the sixties. It is a warm weekend night, and hanging out in a parking lot with your first love is still a rite of summer. If you are inclined to join them, here is a quick list of three parking lots you may want to cruise this weekend.
On Friday night, you can check out the Lowe's off of Route 924 in Abingdon anytime after 6. This event attracts a large number of muscle cars from all over the area. Also, on Friday, on the other side of the metro area, Glen Burnie Town Center - formerly Glen Burnie Mall - on Ritchie Highway fills up the back lot with performance cars of all ages, including late model cars, as well as vintage hot rods and muscle cars.
Saturday night, you can drive a little further south to Marley Station Mall on Ritchie Highway, and take in over a hundred cars from varying eras. The lot starts to fill around 5, and the event runs until 10, though it seems most people begin leaving around 9. Getting there between 6 and 9 seems to be the best time to see the most cars.
There are many other places in Maryland that hold similar events. We are going to spend the rest of the summer finding them, and bringing them to you. In the meantime, climb in, strap up, and hold on.