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Rekindling memories of grandpa's garage

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Culture > Every Saturday in Tesuque is all about the cars and bringing people together

As a little girl growing up in Kentucky, I was always surrounded by interesting cars. One of my grandfathers was a mechanic and owned a small garage in a tiny town called Midway.
I have fond memories of conversing with the customers, swindling free bubble gum and riding my bike in the gravel outside the garage.
Occasionally, I would have the honor of being his helper. Grandpa would have both hands under the hood of a car, shouting out the name of the tool he needed. I would revel in the praise I received when I handed him the correct one.
My other grandpa collected and restored old Chevys, including a deep burgundy 1957 Chevy Wagon. One of his garages was filled with cars in various stages of restoration.
Part of that garage was filled with his completed projects, all carefully covered in white drop clothes. The only time the covers were removed was during parade season and for the occasional, and very rare, Sunday drive.
As I grew up and moved away, I lost touch with the car culture a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I can still spot a sexy car from a mile away and, luckily, the car culture in this state is alive and kicking. I simply admire from the comfort of my Toyota sedan, as I tour the interstates of New Mexico.
It is not unusual to spot a couple of restored Corvettes, Impalas, and even the occasional Model-T driving down the freeway on a Saturday afternoon.
On a shopping outing to Española, you’re almost guaranteed to see some very entertaining low-riders, one of the most recognizable symbols of New Mexico car culture.
You can imagine my delight when I recently learned that there is a regular opportunity to see these impressive cars all in one place.
One of my good friends, Steve Shaw, invited me to this month’s Cars and Coffee in Tesuque, where I would have a chance to get a closer look at these cars and meet their enthusiastic owners.
The Los Alamos bunch meets at the Totavi gas station at 8:30 a.m. I parked my car outside the gas station to become a passenger in a zoomy, red Corvette. From there, the cars formed a mini procession as they traveled down the quiet, morning roads to Tesuque.
The drive conjured childhood memories of when I would get to ride in one of my grandpa’s custom projects. I always felt so special when people would turn their heads to take a second look at the car I was riding in.
Upon arrival, a hotel employee assisted drivers in carefully parking their cars around the entrance of the hotel. Within 20 minutes, the entire driveway was lined with an array of impressive automobiles. People wandered the display with free coffee in hand, snapping photos and marveling over the vehicles.
Everyone was warm, friendly and eager to share their latest automotive project with passersby. You could hear car owners conversing as they gathered for coffee on the steps of the hotel.
After a while, it was clear that the event was more about catching up with friends than the cars themselves.
It occurred to me that this wasn’t much different than the scene at my grandpa’s garage. Although it was his bread and butter, it was also a place where the locals congregated to discuss the latest with their friends. The cars were merely a catalyst that brought the people together.
If you enjoy custom cars, meeting new people and free coffee, Cars and Coffee happens each Saturday in Los Alamos in the Chamber of Commerce parking lot, except for the first Saturday of the month when they meet on a larger scale at the Four Seasons Encantdo in Tesuque. The event starts at 9 a.m. and everyone is welcome.

April M. Brown is a sales representative for the Los Alamos Monitor. Reach her at april@lamonitor.com.