A Summer Drive For the Forever Young

By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 2, 2008

Saturday morning, Northern Virginia. The sun has barely been up 90 minutes, and the pavement is already squishy-hot. Drivers zoom up and down Vienna's Route 123 in their sedans, air conditioners blasting. The only exposed skin in sight is that of a lone, drenched jogger.

Until the 30 convertibles come breezing through.

They all pull into the Vienna Inn diner.

As they have every Saturday morning for seven years, the men and few women of the Capital Area Cobra Club loudly find seats at long tables filling half the diner: engineers, building inspectors, real estate brokers in T-shirts and baseball caps, swapping convertible war stories over bacon and eggs.

"So this huge thunderstorm hits when me and the wife are coming back from Lake Anna," drawls Ron Hawkins, an Annandale mortgage broker originally from Oklahoma. Rain's getting harder as they go under the Mixing Bowl, he says, his eyebrows raising. Bridge gutters are dumping -- dumping-- water onto his topless red-and-white-striped Cobra.

"I looked at my wife and said, 'Honey, as long as we're movin', we're okay,' " Hawkins says to nods up and down the table.

"Then the question is, do you have adequate drain holes?" Fairfax Station lawyer Gary Hughes asks, with the tone one would use to inquire about adequate life insurance.

The guys flirt with their regular waitress. Strategize for next weekend's autocross race. Thump chests over who drives topless more in the winter.

These are the hardest of hard-core convertible drivers: Cobra roadsters sit just three feet off the ground, and they don't come with tops (making them technically not convertibles). Going topless is mandatory. In brain-frying humidity. In snow. In thunderstorms. Even on the rare comfortable days that sometimes appear without warning in summertime Washington.

These are people who own waterproof luggage.

People who put on sunblock for a drive to the supermarket. People who have accepted that their hair is a mess.

After breakfast, the gang makes its way outside to gaze under each other's hoods. Colin Jevens, an Arlington County husband and father who teaches tactical driving for the State Department, talks in the hyper tone of an evangelist.

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