Connected by Internet,

met via interstates

By Jeffrey Fazio
Special Sections Writer

Imagine taking a seven-day road trip that covers nine states and exceeds 2,000 miles. Averaging more than five hours of driving and passing through a bit more than one state each day does not leave a lot of time for stopping to smell the roses and sight-seeing. So whatís the point?

Imagine that the point is a love of driving and a curiosity to meet up with a dozen strangers only "known" through the Internet who share a love for the same sports car.

Recently I made this trip. As an active member of the Toyota MR2 online message board, I decided to embark on a journey to meet some of the people behind the screen names ó see the faces behind messages. Some of the people I ventured to meet I have been talking to for years online, some a few months and others just a few weeks.

The journey started here in Reading and my first destination was Louisville, Ky. to finally meet Terry Heick, known as "BlitzMR2" on the board.

I have been talking with Terry for over a year online through the board and instant messaging. He is an automotive writer and his wit often gives the whole online forum a reason to smile. We have grown to be good friends, so it was a pleasure to get to actually shake his hand.

The ride to his home in Louisville consisted of driving through a rain storm while crossing Pennsylvania, which led into a snow storm while crossing Ohio and a small portion of West Virginia. Although this wasnít ideal driving, it was satisfying just to be on the open road.

Once I was settled in Louisville, Terry and I spent some time admiring each otherís cars. Then he took me for a ride to see the sights in the city and we went for a short ride through a portion of Indiana that borders Louisville.

I spent two days in Kentucky and took the opportunity to also meet Bill "$nocash$" Roberts. Bill makes custom exhaust manifolds that he offers through the board. I had been talking to him over the net about his parts, so this was an opportune moment to make his acquaintance and to see him at work fabricating the pieces.

After my weekend in Louisville, my adventure took me across Kentucky and through the mountains of West Virginia. Regretfully, most of my drive through West Virginia was under cover of darkness so I was denied the view of the beautiful mountains that I could sense around the curved roads I was carving through.

Part way through West Virginia, I spent the night. I awoke the next morning to ideal weather and a few hours of driving in the mountains on twisty roads that literally descended into the clouds. Who says you canít enjoy an early Monday morning?

As my day continued onward I entered Virginia, where I intended to meet several more board members.

My first stop was in Charlottesville, Va. where I enjoyed lunch with William "Bill Strong" Strong Jr. It was enjoyable to meet Bill since he is the owner and administrator of our online board, which hosts well over 5,000 people internationally.

I have no intention of meeting all 5,000 members (at least I donít think I do). It was interesting to hear his ideas on expanding our forum and to hear his local tales of driving.

After lunch with Bill, it was a short burst of driving to stop in Richmond, Va. for just a moment to meet Mike "8LEGS" Turner and his wife Janet "BtrHalfOf8Legs."

Since it was in the middle of a Monday workday for them and I had obligations to be in Virginia Beach by nightfall, the visit was very abbreviated. They are a very interesting couple that share the love of their cars and are both very active on our online board.

As my Monday adventures came to a close, I found myself safe and sound at my brotherís home in Virginia Beach. While my brother was at work the following day, I headed over to the home of one of our most infamous board members: Bryan "NoShoes" Moore.

Bryan tunes and races cars and has done work on board membersí cars all over the country from Arizona to Florida and as far north as New Jersey. His personal car has demonstrated his tuning abilities by recording the fourth-fastest 1/4-mile time of all of the members of our board ó 11.8 seconds and above 115 mph.

His zeal to demonstrate the power of his car regardless of location has only added to his notoriety in our online community. Needless to say, I took the opportunity to take a ride in his car ó letís just say his reputation is well earned.

I started early the following morning to get a jump start on an 81/2-hour ride from Virginia Beach to New York City, which took me through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

John F. Kennedy International Airport was my destination. I was picking up Kathryn "mr2Chiksta" Henley, a board member from Temecula, Calif. (an hour north of San Diego).

After reading some of my posts on the board, Katie initiated an online exchange with me about modifying her car. We had been corresponding for just over three months and she decided to fly out to meet me and visit the East Coast.

Since Katie and I both race with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), we took one of my cars out to participate in a local SoloII autocross event that was hosted by the Blue Mountain Region of the SCCA at Maple Grove Raceway in Brecknock Township.

Prior to this race I invited other board members to join us at this event. The power of the Internet and our online forum showed itself when we had five other drivers show up from three different states.

A caravan of board members came from New York and New Jersey to race in this event. Included in the convoy were Daniel "Rarh" Brundige, Mike "mike325ci" Choi, Sin "qQFoB" Leung and Jim "redblues" Ong. A local board member, Travis "SweetT83" Himes, also came out to race. After the race we all went for pizza to wrap up our day.

Over the course of my trip I was able to meet 12 of the more than 5,000 members of our online board. Although this was a small portion of our group, it was large enough to sense the diversity of the fine people that are brought together by the love of one automobile.

Although it is a love of the same car that brought us together, in the end it is the quality of people I met and the seeds of new friendships that were sewn that made my trip worthwhile.

There are a lot of really wonderful people out there. Sometimes you just have to take a little drive to find them.