Nineteen years ago this month, I attended my first Chicago Auto Show as a credentialed member of the media. My publisher, Tom Wray, and I roamed around McCormick Place during a public day to see what we can glean for our website. Needless to say, we had some differing opinions as what excited us.
That first Chicago Auto Show in 2002 would pave the way to today’s career as an automotive content creator and journalist. I would work twelve Chicago Auto Shows, along with stops in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Washington. Not to mention the number of Twin Cities Auto Shows that I worked at over the past ten years.
This career does not solely revolve around auto shows. It was the other experiences that I experienced as part of publishing and creating this website. Experiences that ranged from media drive events to road trips and everything in-between.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Victory & Reseda, I want to recap my favorite moments of this wonderful decade of amazing experiences. Whether they were events, trips, and just magical times doing this work, this list is an exercise in looking back at the good times that kept me going in this highly competitive business.
The only thing that matters is that you were along for the ride. Let’s ride again and recapture these moments one more time.
FEBRUARY 2011 – CHICAGO AUTO SHOW: This website was still a catch-all for everything on my mind and had an automotive sub-section to it. Yet, I was invited to join the company now known as Stellantis for breakfast. I knew a few people there and was proud to have met Ralph Gilles at that show. Afterwards, I would end up diving off of the deep end into this professional life. It took one opportunity to define the next ten years (and on).
MARCH 2011 – TWIN CITIES AUTO SHOW: The one defining moment that set the course for the future. I met with a local communications person for one manufacturer to connect with her. She then introduced me to another communications person from another manufacturer. What transpired with that second introduction was an invitation to become a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and to receive my first manufacturer-supplied vehicle to work with. You might say that these meetings at my nearest auto show would launch a new chapter in my career.
MAY 2012 – DODGE DART MEDIA DRIVE IN AUSTIN, TEXAS: My first media junket…wait, should we call them as such? From reading about these travel opportunities to partaking in one, I found myself in the Texas state capitol to drive the first vehicle underpinned by a Fiat platform for Chrysler – ahem, Dodge. I was part of the "social media wave," where I met various small-traffic journalists and influencers on this trip. In the end, some friendships and various stories came from that trip.
JANUARY 2013 – NORTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW: It would General Motors' turn to show me behind the scenes of this industry. As the launch of the seventh-generation Chevrolet Corvette took place, GM introduced me to both Mary Barra and Mark Reuss along with other influencers across North America. I did get my interview for at least one of my other outlets, as well as witness a cameo appearance by Bob Lutz at the Cadillac ELR reveal. This would be my first and only auto show in Detroit to date. It was extremely impactful on this career.
FEBRUARY 2014 – CHICAGO AUTO SHOW, THEN LOS ANGELES: While it was a busy time at McCormick Place for that year’s auto show, it was what came next that would set that entire week apart from all others. It was not exactly an epic travel story, but anytime I get to go back to my birthplace is a special moment unto itself. While I was visiting family and friends, I also got to see the historic collections from Toyota and Honda. Every mile driven, every minute spent in Southern California brought back old memories while experiencing new ones.
NOVEMBER 2014 – LOS ANGELES AUTO SHOW: I never thought I had to get a chance to work at the auto show in the city where I was born. The years of visiting the Los Angeles Convention Center as a spectator did not prepare me for the work I had to do there. They enlarged the space from the last time I was there – the early 1980s. It meant working doubly hard, including handing off #VOTY14 to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The extra day helped to add more context to being back at the place I was born into.
2015 – THE ENTIRE YEAR: It would be my busiest in terms of travel to various events for this work. It began, as always, at the Chicago Auto Show, and progressed through media drives from here in the Twin Cities to the Raleigh-Durham area and across the Michigan "mitten." I participated in a Pride parade with one manufacturer in Detroit, while sampling the final new vehicles sold as Scions. It was my busiest year and the most important one in this career.
MARCH 2017 – FINDING NEW ROADS IN THE CHEVROLET EQUINOX: Chevrolet flew me out to Greenville, South Carolina to find new roads with the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox. Between the state’s Upcountry and our overnight stay in Asheville, North Carolina, I was treated to a lovely part of the country and a piece of the Blue Ridge Mountains that was both spectacular and majestic. If I had to rank my media drives in terms of vehicle experience and locale, this would be among the top ones.
2019 – ROAD TRIPS TO FARGO, CEDAR RAPIDS, AND #MAMA19FR AFTER A BAD ILLNESS: In May of 2019, I got really sick. It got to the point where the word "cancer" was mentioned as a prognosis. Luckily that did not turn out as such. I recovered enough to get back on my feet and back to work. From there, some amazing experiences happened that summer and fall. Lexus helped out with a road trip to Fargo to cover their Pride celebrations, followed a few months later with a travel immersion trip to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, en route to the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s Fall Rally in Joliet, Illinois.
MARCH 2020 – CHICAGO MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES AND THE NATIONAL TRUCK SUMMIT: It was one incredible week. It all started with a road trip to Chicago to participate in two media opportunities with Toyota and the Midwest Automotive Media Association for Alfa Romeo. While I was down there, I worked on an unrelated story about a suburban Pride celebration and its backstory. Once I returned to the Twin Cities, it was back to work at the National Truck Summit and the Twin Cities Auto Show. Many yields in so little time – and just before everything shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The thing about this work that these moments continue to yield fond memories today. They serve as reminders that while I am proud to achieve these moments, there are still a lot more to accomplish. Hopefully, there will be great moments ahead, as soon as we are free to roam this planet with this pandemic in our rearview mirror.
All photos by Randy Stern