My New Jersey trip started sometime in the middle of the night on a lonely stretch of expressway between Philadelphia and the Atlantic Ocean. Running on pure adrenaline, I gripped the wheel of a futuristic German supercar that, for whatever reason, the fine folks at the rental company thought would be a suitable replacement for my missing sedan. The numbers on the digital speedometer continued to climb. Big trees, small trees, oversize signs and off-ramps made momentary appearances, only to be swallowed by the darkness.
I scanned my surroundings, then checked the clock again. It was half-past three a.m. I was the only one left on earth. That didn’t matter. Nothing did. “We’re gonna make it,” I told myself, turning up some Post Malone on Spotify. “There’s no stopping now.”
A few hours later, I woke up at the Aztec Motel in the beach town of Wildwood, New Jersey. The morning light cut through the blinds, bringing my beach-themed room into focus. I rubbed my eyes. The past 24 hours had been a dizzying mess. With four delayed flights and one lost rental car, it took a grand total of 18 hours to make it to Room 118’s doorstep. Nonetheless, I was there. And I had a job to do.
As I lumbered to life, I felt a hint of jealousy. The rest of the world had a head start on the day. And this wasn’t just any day. This was Saturday, October 2nd—the first day of The Race of Gentlemen.
Boogie on the Boardwalk
Although I’ve never been to the East Coast for T.R.O.G., I could feel the excitement in the air as I trudged down Atlantic Avenue with half my weight in camera equipment strapped to my back. The closer I got to the beach, the more and more I felt like something big was about to happen. I popped up on the boardwalk. Navigating my way through the crowd, I peered up at the unmistakable skyline of twisted roller coaster tracks, thrill rides and one enormous Ferris Wheel. “There it is,” I said to myself. “The Jersey Shore.”
Wildwood’s Surfside Pier was in full swing. Hot rodders from around the globe were all there for the same reason as I was: to see some of the country’s best traditional hot rods and motorcycles square off in an eighth mile beach race like none other. This event has gained a cult-like following in the past decade, thanks to founder Mel Stultz and the Oilers Car Club.
While wandering around the boardwalk, I thought back to past articles about the race. I had written some, while others journalists painted the picture in their own way. I was itching to jump in the sand and get to work. Mid-thought, I heard a familiar voice off in the distance. It was none other than John Helmuth.
Donned in a wide-brimmed hat and horn-rimmed sunglasses, John greeted me with a handshake and a smile. He and I had planned to meet up the previous evening at the Night of the Troglodytes chopper party, but the airline had other ideas. John still went and captured the debauchery in 35mm.