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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gearheads stay social at Spokane Valley car meets despite virus concerns

The sounds and smells of revving engines and exhaust filled the air at the old Spokane Valley Albertsons parking lot on East Sprague Avenue on Friday night as young people chatted and gawked at one another’s cars.

“There ain’t no corona out here ’cause the fumes are too strong,” Randall Kinsey said with a smile.

The warm-weather tradition loosely organized through social media resumed a few weeks ago with no visible impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, offering a reprieve from isolation for young people and local gearheads.

“It’s a real car community,” said Dylan Almeida, who said he spent a lot of his time in isolation working on his cars.

Huge crews of more than a dozen Subarus often drive into the parking lot en masse, scraping the pavement with their undercarriages on their way in.

“Scrr scrr scrr,” Almeida said mimicking the sound.

American muscle cars, European sedans and Japanese imports are other mainstays.

Almeida drove a 1988 Isuzu compact pickup equipped with a roll cage to the meet.

“It’s stock as rock, gets sideways,” said Almeida. “It’s a drift truck.”

His brother, Devin Clark, brought two 200-plus horsepower Honda Civics.

“It rips whenever you want it to,” Clark said of his 1994 Civic that he upgraded by swapping out the engine and transmission.

Spokane Valley police occasionally stop by and drive through the bustling parking lot, but Almeida said he hadn’t heard of any concerns from law enforcement about social distancing.

Almeida said the Denny’s at East Sprague Avenue and North Pines Road allows them to use the parking lot each Friday night.

“The guys at O’Reilly say they stand in the window and watch,” Almeida said.

Last Saturday older car enthusiasts planned to meet at Ron’s Burgers while the younger crowd gathered at Krispy Kreme for two bigger events, according to Almeida. Then hundreds of cars were to cruise down Riverside Avenue at nightfall.

People from Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls often travel to the car meets, and sometimes people from as far away as Tri-Cities attend, Almeida said.

Almeida and Clark said they grew up going to car meets and the Spokane County Raceway with their grandfather.

The brothers said they weren’t surprised to see so many people turn out for the meets in light of the pandemic.

“We’ve been cooped up for too long,” Clark said.

“We just come out, have fun, meet all kinds of new people,” Almeida said.

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