I'd have to say that the best part of my job is when I get the chance to hit the road and meet face-to-face with the readers of Popular Hot Rodding. That actually doesn't happen as often as I'd like, or as much as you'd think. Everybody wants a little piece of me-a few hours here for a meeting, a few days there for a trade conference, a gazillion emails from ad guys, publishers, manufacturers, and anybody trying to hard sell me on something-it all adds up. Then there are the weekly deadlines, proposals, copy editing duties, advance planning, and the administrative chores of running a big magazine. By the time I'm done with all that, I sometimes wonder if I'm running a magazine about bitchin cars or a widget factory.

And then the magic happens. I pack a small bag, turn on the "out of office" tab in the email, and hit the road. On the best days, I can sneak into a show or a race incognito with a favorite old T-shirt, and a pocket full of stogies. My favorite thing is to strike up a conversation with the owner of a cool car and just jawbone. I discovered a long time ago that if you attend an event in full corporate "regalia," it's like having a big, fat target on your back. Some of my peers in the biz like being rock stars-but unless you actually are a rock star, it's not that cool. The thing is, it's really hard to capture the truth about anything when you're emblazoned with a magazine's name. Going undercover is more fun, and far more revealing-when I can get away with it.

So the other day, I'm in a corporate meeting, trying to explain what sets PHR apart from everything else. With so many magazines about hot rods under one roof it's a really big deal. For years, PHR was unofficially branded with the Pro Touring label, and although that wasn't a totally accurate depiction, we really didn't do much to set the record straight. But with the competition heating up, it's important to send a comforting message to our readers and vendors as to what they can expect month in, month out. What we realized is that the reason why we feature so many Pro Touring cars is because-surprise-that's what people are building! At the end of the day, a magazine can't fabricate a trend-it can only report on it. Tech Editor Christopher Campbell actually said it best when he uncorked this gem: "Popular Hot Rodding is right here, right now." That's when everything clicked. Let the other magazines mine the archives or go dumpster diving-PHR is all about what's going on right now and what's coming down the pipeline. It's what's popular.

"Right here, right now" is our new mantra, and with the blessing of the corporate gods, we have a mission statement that is guaranteed to be relevant for as long as cars inhabit the earth. From a practical standpoint, right here, right now means being on top of the latest technology, emerging build styles, regional trends, new builders, clever budget-oriented homebuilts, groundbreaking street machines, and the latest iron out of Detroit. And twice a year, it also means showing the world what's in your garage-damn the fancy trends!

As the show season gets cranked up, I'm going to get out on the road a lot more for as many reality checks as my threadbare T&E budget will allow. Christopher and I will be looking for everything cool. Could be Pro Touring, could be Pro Street, could be a gasser, could be NASCAR street rat, could be a meticulously turned-out stock-appearing dragstrip terror. We're going to be looking at anything and everything, and asking lots of questions. Don't be surprised if a scruffy-looking cigar-chomping dude asks you out of the blue, "Hey bro, what do you think is the coolest thing here?!"

Speaking of which, we just worked a deal with the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association to sponsor five Street Machine AutoCross events this year. We'll be there giving away cool jackets and taking pix for some killer cornering coverage. Time to make the magic happen!