After-hours Access to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

“Discover Novetta” was the theme for the evening as Novetta Solutions hosted a gathering for its employees. For 4 hours, the entire National Air and Space Museum Annex near Dulles Airport was open for browsing without the large crowds. It was a little spooky at times when you found yourself all alone in the large facility.


One of the museum’s newest displays is the Space Shuttle Discovery. Catwalks allowed for different vantage points and the lack of people made photographing the shuttle easy.


Of course the area with vintage warbirds is where I spent most of my time. The restoration area is just a little bigger than Bubba’s Garage. Just a little…


You can find more photos from the night on our photo website

You collect glass insulators?

The 12th annual Shenandoah Valley Insulator Show in Martinsburg, West Virginia was proof that you can collect just about anything. Held by the Chesapeake Bay Insulator Club, the show brought collectors, sellers, and a few curious outsiders (like myself) together in the meeting room of the Calvary United Methodist Church.


So what’s the story about these insulators? From the Glass Insulators Reference Website:

Glass insulators were first produced in the 1850's for use with telegraph lines. As technology developed insulators were needed for telephone lines, electric power lines, and other applications. In the mid 1960's a few people began collecting these antique glass insulators. Today there are over 3,000 insulator collectors. Insulator clubs, local and national shows, and good reference books are available.

Peg has picked up a few of these glass insulators over the years. I guess it is my fault that she has since I was the one to point them out sitting atop some old power poles that ran next to the tracks of the Durbin Rocket. When she found out that they came in other colors besides the common clear and blue green, the hunt was on. That’s the way she prefers to collect them; by color.  She happily plunked down some cash to bring her treasures home. Guess I will be building some shelves in the near future. Guess we will be back next year!



Have you ever been to a FreakOut?

Little European cars really aren’t my thing but Peg seems to be drawn to them. So when FIAT Lancia Unlimited (FLU) decided to hold their annual FIAT FreakOut (FFO) in nearby Wintergreen, VA, she signed us up. We packed up her 2012 FIAT 500C (Luigi) and drove the 2 and 1/2 hours to Wintergreen Resort.




There was a great welcome party the first day where we mingled with the other car owners. FIAT USA brought in some great props and furniture. There was even a great little 1969 FIAT 500L parked in the middle of  the festivities. It wasn’t like it was taking much room!



On Friday we headed out to International Auto Parts for weenies and BBQ. The parking lot was full.  About half of it was packed with new FIATS.  It must have looked like someone was opening a new FIAT dealership from the road.


Friday night included a welcome dinner. After dinner it was hanging in the parking lot and a quick trip to the car wash station that was provided.



I was up early Saturday morning for the car show. It had rained overnight so I dried of Peg’s car and headed down to the show area. Soon the cars were filling the bottom lot of the resort. It was fairly well organized. We bought a boxed lunch which wasn’t bad and just about the time I was getting bored, it was over. Perfect! And we later found Peg had taken second in her class.



I discovered Bold Rock Hard Cider at one of the FIAT USA gatherings on the patio. Since we had the rest of Saturday afternoon to kill, we headed down the mountain to their distillery. The FIAT 500C’s trunk is small but still big enough for a case of cider. The bottles fit nicely in our restored Vendo 81 Coke Machine at home!


As usual on Sunday, I was up before the dawn in order to snap a few shots of the sunrise. Wintergreen Resort is a great place to wander around with a camera early in the morning when only the critters are up.



At Sunday’s breakfast the main event was the raffle. I rather enjoyed this since they did “speed drawing” of all the tickets using child labor to actually pick the tickets. Sadly, we didn’t win anything.


FLU put on a great event! We really enjoyed ourselves and the FIAT gathering just increased Peg’s love of her car.

Want to see more photos? Head over to the FIAT FreakOut Gallery over on our photo site.

FIAT FreakOut at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Smashing stuff is one of those things that excites my inner child. When I found out that the FIAT FreakOut had arranged for us to tour the IIHS Vehicle Research Center (VRC) near Charlottesville, Virginia I just had to sign us up. We really didn’t know what we would see but automotive safety engineering is a fascinating subject so it couldn’t be that bad, right?


The Vehicle Research Center is very impressive! The highly educational program that they provide on the tour was definitely not what we expected. They walked us through all the improvements in automotive safety that they helped to develop over the years. They further explained how they do the actual testing of both individual components and the vehicles. Examples of different crashes from the past as well the current test vehicles are on display in their immaculate display hall.


Of course since we were here with the FIAT group we had to checkout the smashed FIAT 500 that was on display. It is a comforting feeling to know that the 2012 FIAT 500 scored a “Top Safety Pick”. We were also told that it originally did not but FIAT redesigned it slightly to make the top rating.


I had bit of a sad moment walking into the display area for the first time. The first display is the 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air that the Institute crashed with a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu for IIHS’s 50th anniversary. The test was to show how much safety had improved in those 50 years. The ‘59 Bel Air dummy died.  Sadly, so did the Bel Air.

We actually were able to witness a "small-overlap frontal crash" test in the Crash Hall! This is a new IIHS test that crashes a vehicle head-on at 25% of its total width. The test happened on one of the two 600-foot runways used to crash into an offset wall. The propulsion system they used to propel the 2012 Hyundai Sonata to 40 mph is powered by compressed nitrogen that turns a hydraulic motor. Cables tow the vehicle to the impact zone. Even though you know it’s going to happen you still aren’t prepared for the violent impact!

What a fantastic start for an equally fantastic event. Thanks Fiat Lancia Unlimited (FLU) and Fiat FreakOut for making this all possible.

FIAT FreakOut – FIAT 500 Panorama Photos

What do you do when a bunch of FIAT 500, 500C, and Abarth drivers get together. You take their picture of course! At the end of the car show at the 2012 FIAT FreakOut (FFO), hosted by FIAT Lancia Unlimited (FLU), all the new FIAT drivers gathered for these special shots. Head over to our photo site ( to download the full resolution version of the photos.

Fiat FreakOut - FIAT 500 Drivers Panorama

Fiat FreakOut - FIAT 500 Drivers Panorama