On the morning of Saturday, January 28th, 2006, we packed up our gear and got an early start out of Orlando. Our destination was the 17th Annual River Ranch Rod Run, which is hosted by Rich and Linda Martin of the Sunshine State Rodding News, and held at the Westgate River Ranch located among the very wide open spaces on Highway 60 between Yeehaw Junction and Lake Wales, Florida. By wide open spaces I mean it feels like it is literally in the middle of nowhere the first time you go (which for us was several years back). That is because the rest of the year the River Ranch caters exclusively to vacationers seeking a western flair....and the remote location and expansive acreage helps accomplish that when combined with the neat cabins and various other authentic touches that all come together effectively.
Those attending the car show got a nice dose of that atmosphere as well, as the Westgate River Ranch really is an actual dude ranch with all the trimmings. That means it offered western items such as a real rodeo and horseback riding, along with things everyone loves like tennis, fishing, swimming, boat rentals, golf, restaurants, shops, etc.
Getting everyone into the swing of things was a Friday night welcome party in the saloon with free soda and popcorn to participants, plus authentic hay rides were available. Then on Saturday the grassy fields made a nice canvas for the many show vehicles that arrived, and since it is an open show there were a wide variety of street rods, customs, classics, antiques, muscle cars and trucks. By the end of registration there were a total of 329 vehicles registered, plus a little over a dozen swap meet vendors located in an adjacent field. That made for a full day of gazing, gawking and talking with fellow enthusiasts. When lunch time came around I stopped at the concession stand located right by the show car area - and keeping with the rustic theme I decided on a huge turkey leg (these things taste great, and make you feel a little like a caveman while eating it....which is fun and fulfilling all at the same time).
This show doesnt really focus on awards, but rather the idea of just hanging out and having fun with fellow enthusiasts. Still, at the end of Saturday there were plaques for Long Distance, Hard Luck, Ranchers Pick and Club Participation. There were also dash plaques, T-Shirt sales, door prizes, and raffle items including a Sears Craftsman three drawer tool chest, portable stainless steel BBQ grill, pedal car, and a rod run quilt handmade by Linda Martin out of previous River Ranch shirts which was a nice touch.
This is one of the events we look forward to every year, and with good weather the 2006 edition went off without a hitch. Rich and Linda Martin, along with some help from friends, always do a great job of keeping things flowing while retaining that laid-back feel. Keep an eye on our Coming Attractions section for the announcement of the 2007 dates, and well see you at the River Ranch Rod Run next year! CN