There are Audi enthusiasts and then there are Audi TT enthusiasts. It might be unfair to the regular Audiphile to say TT owners are on another level, except to maybe define that as a parallel, yet very different level. Sure, they can fit in with a group of more diverse Four-ringers just fine, but they’re different somehow, and a very tight-knit group. Is it any surprise then that their owner’s get-togethers are also unique in their own way? Recently we attended TT-East to get a better read on the TT community and to learn more about what it’s all about.
Now in it’s fourth year, TT-East attracts Audi TT owners from not only the East Coast as its name implies, but also those who fly, ride or drive in from points west that are hundreds of miles away.
Surprisingly well organized, the folks that put on this event, as well as TT-West, have gotten quite adept at planning it down to the minutest of details. Whether it be welcome kits, various events to attend, meal quality or even a police escort, those in charge of the event have taken its quality very seriously, which becomes quite evident for all who attend.
TT-East took place this year in Cumberland, Maryland. The small city is located in the Western reaches of Maryland and is known for its rural atmosphere and breathtaking beauty. Breathtaking as well were the views from the Rocky Gap Inn and Golf Resort, located just off of Exit 50 on Maryland Route 68. We found ourselves torn between staring at the beautiful lake that lapped ashore just next to the hotel and the 80-plus Audi TTs parked in the adjoining parking lot.
To be honest, we’ve attended a TT-owner’s gathering once before. The year was 2001, and the place was Somerset, Pennsylvania. Not far from this year’s location in Western Maryland, we were struck then as we are struck now at how tightly knit and social this group can be. Sure, it’s about the car, but it’s not just about the car and that remains particularly evident every time we visit with this group of individuals.
TT-East, along with sister event TT-West and a new TT-MidWest, draws owners from a wide area of geography. TT drivers from as far away as Texas made their way to Cumberland this year, meeting up with others along the way in order to convoy in together.
What was once a weekend getaway, has now turned into a solid three-day event. The seriously dedicated roll in Thursday night in order to catch up with old-friends from the various Internet-based TT communities. If they don’t choose to party through the night, which seems to be more common than not, then they are well-rested for Friday’s busy schedule.
The following morning begins with a driver’s meeting where owners had the opportunity to choose between several predetermined routes. While we heard complaints that some were a bit too off-road and reminiscent of Audi’s rich rallying heritage, we were told that the route tracing winding roads into nearby Pennsylvania for visits to Ohiopyle State Park and world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s trademark Falling Water house seemed to be the drive of choice.
After their morning drives, Friday afternoon saw the first of its kind TT-East Casual Public Choice Concours. Not your typical car show, TT owners were awarded for categories as diverse as greatest distance traveled, cleanest TT, dirtiest TT and even best Trunk Monkey.
Regarding the Trunk Monkey, it’s one of many inside TT-community things, a TT-ism if you will. Ask any one of the TT veterans over a beer, and they’ll be happy to share, but we think that’s best left to them to tell.
Public Choice Concours Results
Longest Mileage traveled by TT: Mark Bebawi
Cleanest TT: Sean Conner
Dirtiest TT: Pat Ransom
Best Sound System: Michael Pare
Best Modded TT: Steve Schwing
Best Trunk Monkey / Mascot in a TT: Jay Schwartz
Friday’s dinner shows just how avid and diverse, yet socially conscious this group can be. The steak and crabcake buffet and the crowd varying from reserved to the raucous bunch in the corner (you know who you are ;)) might not look all that different from any other wedding or family reunion that takes place at this particular hotel. However, once the Mayor of Cumberland explained just about everything you ever wanted to know or maybe didn’t want to know about this small Maryland town, the true TT-ownership colors became evident.
Awards were given for each and every Concours winner, with the furthest distance traveled being Texas and the owner driving straight through a whopping 19-hour drive.
The climax of the night came with the charity auction of a signed baseball glove. In true avid TT-phile fashion, this wasn’t just any baseball glove. It was an official Dudley Thunder softball glove, which you may not know was the original inspiration for the baseball glove-style interior of the TTS concept car shown at the Tokyo Motorshow in 1995. Further, it was signed by the TT’s designer, Freeman Thomas; a real showpiece for these TT owners that netted a generous $1,300 dollars for the 9/11 United Airlines Flight 93 Somerset County Memorial fund. Even the charity was well thought out, as the first TT-East had been held in Somerset back in 2001.
On Saturday, the group of TT owners descended upon downtown Cumberland like the Brood X cicadas that have also invaded the East Coast this year. Unlike the cicadas flying clumsily from ground to tree, this group of Audis moved in with police escort, keeping intersections open while the group of cars swarmed into the Western Maryland Railway Station to take their now traditional group photo. Staging for the photograph took nearly two-hours to place so many cars in such a small area in a way that they could all be seen, at least in part, by the photographer shooting from the roof of a nearby warehouse.
Such a tight group like the TT-owners are never short on inside humor, jokes and stories that seem to permeate everything. Besides the Trunk Monkeys, we learned of another as we made our way back to our own TT following the photograph. One owner triggered the Panic function on his keyfob, setting off the alarm of his nearby car. Within seconds, eighty-some TTs did their own Cicada impression, drowning out the sound of Cumberland’s downtown with their own beep-beep-beep mating call.
Following the photograph, owners headed to lunch at nearby Uncle Tucker’s Wood Fired Pizza, then eventually returned to Rocky Gap Inn for another impromptu gathering in the parking lot.
Vendors such as New German Performance, Pro-Imports and REVO were on hand with plenty of TT-oriented products to tempt visiting owners. A big hit were the REVO and APR chips on sale, even with such a surprisingly high chip-rate of owners on hand.
One unlucky owner with a 5-hour REVO test program on his black coupe took to the nearby roads to get a better feel for his car on boost, only to return shortly thereafter with a fairly significant speeding ticket. Unfortunately, we overheard him saying in a rather chagrinned tone that the money he’d have spent on the chip will now be sent to Johnny Law.
A final dinner was held Saturday night with a door-prize giveaway rumored to have a cumulative value of over $10,000. From coilovers to ECU upgrades, TT press-kits to T-shirts, plenty of winners went home with something.
Another reminder of how different TT-East is, and a knod to the strength of their community was when chosen winners who didn’t need the prize commonly instructed the organizers to draw another name. Where at many of these types of giveaways, owners will horde their prize and dump it on Ebay for a profit if they don’t want it, TT-owners take care of their own by spreading the wealth around.
Many needing to get back to their real-lives hit the road fist thing on Sunday morning. However, for those who have more of a motorsport orientation, TT-East had made sure to slot in some spots at the nearby National Road Rally Association autocross held at the Cumberland airport. The cost was extremely affordable, though sadly our schedule dictated an early Sunday departure.
We greatly enjoyed attending TT-East, especially as one of the first events covered by the newly formed Fourtitude.com. Extra special thanks must certainly be said to the tireless organizers of the event including Peter Grabowsky, Gina Castle, Michael Rierson, Ellen Erickson, Paul Simoni and Kevin Stone. Without these people, TT-East would probably not even happen, much less be the extremely well-organized event that it continues to be, year-after-year.
If there is one downside to TT-East, it’s that if you don’t own a TT, you’ll probably end up missing out on these wonderful events. Whether it be TT-East, TT-West or the newly created TT-Midwest, any Audiphile is missing out if they don’t at least try the event once. With such a tight-knit community of owners, the group is surprisingly friendly and welcoming to outsiders, and a heck of a great mix of people to spend a weekend with.
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