Saturday, October 13, 2001

It had been several weeks since we completed a 1 week, 3,400 mile loop of the Southeast to the Z3 Homecoming in Spartanburg, SC.  We had a great time with fantastic roads and plenty of people to drive with.  We were ready for another group drive, but the events calendar didn’t have a drive listed.  No choice but to organize one.  The nice cool fall days of southeast Texas were here.  A few emails to the drive gurus of the Houston Z3 club, and it was a go event.  On short notice of 2 weeks, a respectable crowd of 15 cars had signed up.  I guess we weren’t the only ones ready for a drive.

As the day of the drive approached the weather was looking “interesting”.  Another cold front coming could clear it out for a nice day if the timing was right.  Well it missed it by a little bit, and we gathered in the parking lot, in the dark, in the pouring rain.  Being the optimists we are, and believing the weather forecast that the rain would pass and yield to sunny skies, a group of 8 cars headed north.  We navigated up I-45 in a steady heavy rain, counting the less fortunate travelers that had spun out and ended up on the grassy shoulders.  As we approached the exit from the interstate to more interesting back roads the sky showed signs of the forecasted clearing, or at least it wasn’t raining.  We traveled along Route 21 heading to our first scheduled stop at McD’s in Crockett.  We just about had the road to ourselves, because everyone else that was up in Crockett this morning was already at McD’s.    We managed to find parking spaces for all 8 cars, and completed the pit stop.


Back on the road, we enjoyed the hills and gentle twists through the piney woods of east Texas.  There was still not a car in sight, so we made good time to our destination at the Rusk Station of the Texas State Railroad.  The cloudy day had the wildlife out, we saw a coyote, and had a deer decide, that with so few cars on the road, it would be good sport to cross the road in the middle of a line of Z3’s.  He had a good run of it, and it woke up a driver or two.

At the train station, we dispensed matching bandanas so we could find our group members in and amongst the 100 or so other folks that had decided to go for a train ride this fine day.  As we settled in to a train car, I wondered how we would find the driver of the lone car coming from Dallas.  There were no other Z3’s in the parking lot when we arrived.  A quick check of the parking lot before we left and sure enough our paddock of cars had increased in number by one.  Our Dallas driver found us by walking through the train cars, and looking for the group that was wearing various BMW Roundels, and talking about cars.  He reported sunny skies were not far away as we left the station.


The train ride was a nice relaxing time.  It chugged up and down the gentle grades at speeds up to 25 miles per hour through a mix of dense forest and farmland.  Occasional discharges of steam in some of the forest areas gave an almost prehistoric atmosphere.   Our route crossed several trestles over rivers and streams swollen from the overnight rains.  We saw several roads that were not going to be on the afternoons drive route, as they were totally underwater.  Brief rays of sun made an appearance as we approached the Palestine Station for our lunch stop, but the clouds returned along with a steady drizzle as we came to a stop. We had a quick picnic lunch under the pines, toured the station and gift shop and settled back into our railcar for the return trip.  Talked varied from tales of other train rides, but mostly came back to cars.  Even without the cars around, the group managed to break out the car keys and compare the brightness of the built in lights from the various vintages. 

Back at the station we had time for a few group shots.  The railroad folks were kind enough to do duty as photographers.  The overalls they wear had plenty of pockets to hold all of the various cameras that were handed their way.  We also had time to pose the cars for a group shot.  We said good-bye to Dana from Dallas, and headed back southward into the forest.  That pesky rain came back again as we wound our way through some of the smaller forest roads.  The deer were still out along the edge of the roads, but were safely staying put.  The biggest obstacles were wet leaves on the roads from the heavy winds that had accompanied the rain overnight.  As we continued south, the wet leaves on the road turned to broken branches, and finally toppled trees.  Most of the trees fell short of the road, but we had to avoid a few that had made it across.  The power lines did not have a good time of it.  As the call came over the radio of  “how far to the gas stop”, the answer was “not far, but I hope they have power”.  Well, of course they didn’t, so we headed off route to the next town in search of a gas station that also had power to pump it.  The sight of all 8 pumps with moderately dirty BMW’s parked in front was quite an event for the attendants, and the rest of the shoppers at the store. 


Gassed up and ready to go, we headed off to find some fuel for the drivers as well.  The dinner stop was a catfish restaurant just north of Huntsville, Texas.  The restaurant was a place where the patrons are encouraged to throw the peanut shells on the floor; we obliged and managed to throw them a few other places as well.  As we came out of the restaurant the clouds were finally clearing, just as forecast, as it was still technically afternoon.  It was a nice drive south with the setting sun, and we enjoyed all 10 minutes of it.


It was an adventure to say the least, but one that was enjoyed by all despite the rain.   

Bill Elwell

For some tips and suggested etiquette for road trips see our Road Rules column.


For more information about the park and train ride check out their web site at




Reg. No.


Head Count


Bill Elwell & Pam Standley



Fred & Sara Reinemeyer



Yrwins Acosta



Walt Brady



Dan & Valerie Baker



Spencer & Elizabeth Cubage



Don Hunter



Vickie Wallce & Margie Leteff



Paul & Vickie Singer



Don & Linda Peak



Warren Campbell & Pat Esslinger





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