Back in early 2015, four friends met together at a bar. The occasion was not marked by social drinking’s usual jollity, for each of the friends’ fathers had only just been diagnosed with cancer, and all but one had passed away. The coincidence of such tragedy, they judged, could not have been for nothing. They resolved to do something.
The four had become friends over their shared love of rat rods. (A rat rod is a style of custom car which imitates, orgenuinely is, a weatherbeaten hot rod from around the 1950s. Picture what you might drive if you were in a Mad Max movie.) It seemed natural to the quartet of enthusiasts that they should honor their fathers with some sort of rat rodding event, but the weather put an immediate show out of the question. Instead they planned a cruise for that summer.
The inaugural eRATicate Cancer Cruise was a great success. With little more to the founders’ grassroots campaign than word of mouth and some Facebook posts, a convoy of over 50 vehicles including rat rods, mint classics, and motorcycles assembled. The line of vehicles shot along a 176 mile stretch through the Saint Croix and Mississippi River Valleys, each flying flags honoring loved ones who’d fallen ill or lost their lives to cancer. Even those who couldn’t attend had their flags affixed to the vehicles, and received them back afterward in the mail.
“It was wonderful, seeing everyone rally around the same cause, and the strength in numbers we felt during that inaugural Cruise,” said Robin Hetchler, cofounder of the eRATicate Cancer Cruise. “Cancer takes power away from people who are affected by it, but by banding together for the drive we got to take some of it back. The Cruise is a memorial and a celebration all at once, and it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.
“What we love about rat rods is the limitless creativity they allow. There are no rules dictating a rat rod’s budget — anyone can afford to build one. They can pay homage to the history of a vehicle by presenting its rust and dings in all their glory, or take on an entirely new maniacal funness. A rat rod is built to drive. Without a $10 thousand paint job to worry about, you can enjoy your creation in a way that’s truly unique in the classic car community.”
The camaraderie bred at the inaugural Cruise, as well as the sense of agency it instilled in its participants, demanded its recurrence on following years. The “Minneconsin” Cruise is set to take place May 11th this year, and for the first time ever the event will be nationwide with concurrent rides in ten other states as well. In addition to lifting its participants’ spirits, the eRATicate Cancer Cruise does measurable good for the world. Thanks to their generous sponsorship by organizations including Rat Rod Magazine and CARtoons Magazine, as well as donations from the public, the Cruise raised over $30 thousand last year. They donate that money to organizations working to cure cancer and help those affected by it, as well as families in need.
Whether you would like to be a part of that long, rusty motorcade or otherwise support the beneficent goal of the eRATicate Cancer Cruise, you may learn more about it at eraticatecancercruise.com.
By David Scheller