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Vintage cars cruise through town on 1,100-mile tour

Rene Green, of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, steps down from her 1910 Buick on Friday after arriving at the CNY Living History Center in Cortlandville while on a tour of New York state.

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Rene Green, of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, steps down from her 1910 Buick on Friday after arriving at the CNY Living History Center in Cortlandville while on a tour of New York state.

CORTLANDVILLE — Imagine taking a two-week, 1,100-mile tour around New York state in a car with no radio, no air conditioning, no heat, no adjustable seats, no power steering and one that can only go about 100 miles before needing to be refueled.

To some, that may sound like a road trip from hell, as we are spoiled with the luxuries of modern day cars, but to owners of 100-year-old vintage cars, it is heaven.

Thirty participants, fromall over the U.S., in 15 different classic cars ranging from Model Ts to Reos to Buicks and more, are in the midst of such a tour.

“We’re enjoying every minute of it,” said Wayne Simoni, after pulling into the parking lot of the CNY Living History Center on Route 11 Friday afternoon, with his wife in their black 1911 Ford Model T, for a midday break.

The museum was just one of their stops during their100-mile journey that day.

The tour, this year, is known as the “Circling New York Tour”with participants traveling all around the upstate and Central New York region, totaling 1,100 miles. The location of the tour changes every two years it is held.

Before making a stop at the museum for a catered lunch, the travelers started in Canandaigua then toured Cazenovia, Clayton, Alexandria Bay and Vernon, said Darlene Bono, who organizes the tour with her husband, Steve. She could not remember every future stop, but said the group will also go to Watkins Glen, Bath, Niagara Falls, Rochester and a few others before ending back in Canandaigua.

“It is a great tour. The carsare wide open so you can see everything. The back roads driving in here (to the museum) were amazing,” said SkipCarpenter, of Massachusetts, who helped form the first tour in 1993.

He said he got a few friends together with vintage cars, who were up for an adventure and not afraid to trek endless miles in cars over a century old and built on a wooden frame.

The event initially starting out running every four years, but Carpenter said he and the people involved realized they were not getting any younger and eventually decided to hold it every two years.

The number of participants has grown slowly over the years, said Steve Bono. He said the group is made up ofpeople he and his wife know, particularly ones they know who have a car that can make the trip.

For the past two events, every participant has finished with no issues, he said.

Simoni believed he might have a significant issue with his Model T, as it had a hard time going up hills, he said, but that still was not enough to break the smile on his face.

“This is a good time,” he said. “Touring 1,000 Islands area was very nice. Great scenery.”

Simoni is on the tour with his wife, Kim, who acts as his navigator during the trip helping him with the directions, she said. The two, from California, have been touring the East Coast for 15 years in a vintage car.

Wayne Simoni has had his Model T for 20 years, but up until last year he and his wife would have to borrow someone’s car, with the Ford back in California. But they had their car shipped to a friend’s house in New York last year, where it will stay, so they can enjoy the tours in their own car, Kim Simoni said.

“It is a lot of fun to drive,” said Wayne Simoni, who first owned a Model T when he was 16 years old. “It normally drives well. You can get up to about 40 mph in it. Not that you’d want to go any faster.”

Aside from specific lunch times, like the one at the museum, and set destinations, the participants are free to go along at their own pace and make any extra stops they want. There is a breakfast, lunch and dinner stop every day, which tour registration fees help cover.

But the tour is a true testament to man and machine. There is no one in a modern car following the pack of 15 vintage cars to give assistance if someone breaks down. The drivers must have a good understanding of their cars and how to work on them if needed.

“We don’t use these as show cars,” Darlene Bono said. “We go and we drive them.”

This is what these cars were built for in the early 1900s. They were the original definition of a grand touring vehicle. And now, 100 years later, still with no modern day accommodations, just the driver, the car and the road, they continue to signify the enjoyment of simplicities in life.

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