|July 2, 2007
TT-West 2007: Ashland, Oregon
"It is not enough to speak, but to speak true", words uttered under clear night skies in the beautiful city of Ashland, Oregon home of the annual Oregon Shakespeare festival. Such eloquent words seem frozen in time from the theatrical Midsummer Night’s Dream written by the much beloved William Shakespeare.
Ashland, Oregon has been home to the Oregon Shakespeare festival since 1937. The Oregon Shakespeare festival is one of the best Shakespeare festivals in the United States, as evidenced by a Tony Award for Regional Show which helped thrust Ashland, Oregon into the national spotlight. This year Ashland had one more national honor thrust upon it: it played host to the first ever National Audi TT gathering that included the new 2008 Audi TT!
The 4th Annual TT-West was based at the historic Ashland Springs Hotel built in 1925 in the heart of downtown Ashland. This proved to be a prime location for Audi TT enthusiasts to view and experience the new 2008 Audi TT and take in the sights of this historic town.
The official registration kicked off late Thursday when the majority of participants arrived. Registration was held quickly and orderly as usual, showcasing the time and effort that organizers Gina Castle and Peter Grabowsky put into this beloved event.
Participants arrived from around the country, although the majority were from nearby Washington, Oregon, and California. Others traversed the Continental Divide from Nebraska, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, and one dedicated soul even drove from the sunshine state of Florida.
While the Thursday afternoon arrivals took to the city streets of Ashland to enjoy the fine dining and cuisine offered all within walking, many of the early arrivals were still speaking about the Ashland wine tour that ended minutes before registration.
The hotel parking lot became the place for much discussion and debate. The typical enthusiast ramble about performance, modifications, aesthetics and design ensued. However, a good deal of the attention and discussion was centered around the new 2008 Audi TT.
Thanks to Sunset Audi in Portland, Oregon and Audi of America, there were a total of three 2008 Audi TTs on hand. One coupe and two roadsters made their presence felt and gave participants the ability to stare, touch, discuss and critique til early dawn. The two cars provided by Sunset Audi were available for participants to sign up and test drive during the many upcoming scheduled drives.
Another of the sponsors, Hillside Imports, was on hand throughout the event providing trial Revo software for participants test. This allowed participants to reprogram their vehicle ECU's for a more “sporting” driving experience.
Friday morning was filled with excitement as participants gathered in the lobby for the morning’s drivers meeting. The group was off for a brisk drive through the country side, through historic Jacksonville, Oregon to Grants Pass where people were given a choice during pre-registration to take a jet boat ride up Rogue River or continue on to Crescent City, California.
A majority of the group decided a scenic ride on the Rogue River compliments of Hellgate Jet Boat Excursions was too much to pass up. The remaining group continued on a scenic drive through gorgeous redwoods to the Pacific coast.
Those who braved the waters of the Rogue River were pleased with their guided tour. Osprey nests were abundant, goats could be seen along the steep cliffs and deer foraged along the banks. To every one’s surprise a couple of American Bald Eagles were observed perched in the trees during this fantastic voyage.
The group that continued on to the Pacific coast wasn’t left out in the cold considering the tremendous beauty that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Their drive continued onward from Grants Pass through the historic California Redwoods State Park via Highway 199.
Friday night was designated as open dining - each to his or her own. Many of the participants found this the perfect time to catch up on the lives of old friends and enjoy the company of new ones. TT enthusiasts walked the streets of Ashland to dine nearby at a pizzeria, brewery, sushi bar and other great restaurants.
Saturday was the famed Crater Lake drive. The drive up was filled with plenty of twisty roads and various fast straights where the cars were put to the test and drivers were allowed to challenge their driving skills. The route was cleverly planned by Russ Scott and John Wiegert.
Sunset Audi had both new TT's available for test drives and I enjoyed my time behind the 2008 3.2 6MT Roadster through the countryside and up the lower mountain pass. I then took helm of the 2008 2.0t Coupe the remainder of the way up the mountains into Crater Lake National Park. Many thanks to Sunset Audi for the wonderful opportunity given to me and many others in attendance.
Crater Lake is located east of Ashland on the crest of the Cascade Mountain range. Crater Lake lies inside a volcanic basin created when Mount Mazama collapsed over 7,000 years ago following a large eruption.
Event photographers Danielle Haney and John Wiegert were on hand taking photos of drivers along the route to Crater Lake. The photographers also chose the crest of Crater Lake for one of the most spectacular event photos ever taken.
Much time was spent at the crest of Crater Lake in pure awe of the view. It seemed to be a perfect fit for one of the 21st century’s most striking designed cars to be surrounded by such natural beauty.
Lunch was held at Crater Lake’s crest visitors’ center. Participants sat along the bank eating bagged lunches provided by the organizers for the day's trip while enjoying the breathtaking view of the lake, the clear skies, snow caped mountains and the crisp cool air.
The group disbursed in smaller fragments on the return trip to Ashland. Many stayed and drove the open roads around the Crater’s rim while others descended the mountain in anticipation of the traditional Saturday dinner and raffle.
As with every TT event, Saturday night’s dinner provided good food, laughs, great company and many raffled prizes. The prizes included Revo programs, Audi Car Club memberships, Audi sponsored driver’s education paid registration, AWE Boost gauges, a Modshack gift certificate, an official event photograph, Official Audi apparel, die-cast Audi TT replicas and many other goodies.
Everybody enjoyed themselves and towards the end the dinner lingered. You could tell there was elation in the air with a mellow sorrow undertone. Clearly the TT-West events are not only about the car and Audi TT enthusiasts, but also about the bond of friendship that so many have shared over the years.
TT-West is one of those events that many mark on the calendar to reconnect with friends that spend most of their time communicating via forums, emails and occasional telephone calls. It’s the Audi TT car that brings this group together, but the bond of friendship that has kept them together over the years.
The event organizers informed us about the prospects for TT-West 2008 and anticipation of the next year’s meet officially began.
Goodbyes were exchanged. Well wishes were bestowed upon old and new friends. One time strangers embraced and shook hands as friends as the Saturday night dinner came to a close. Many had long drives to start on return trips home, so it was best said in the words of William Shakespeare “Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow.”