Every Memorial weekend, while the lakes and rivers of the nation are overrun by families who took a second out on their home to buy a toy hauler, a sleepy little town nestled in the hills near the college town of San Luis Obispo, California, gets equally overrun by ground-scraping, pipe-rapping, candy-coated hot rods, choppers, and leadsleds. The West Coast Kustoms' Cruisin' Nationals has exploded into a lowbrow happenin' for anybody who digs the '50s and the automotive trends that came with that era.

The town, of course, is Paso Robles, or Paso for short. Kind of like Vegas to a gambler, when the word Paso is mentioned to the hot rod and kustom crowd, the mind starts whizzing to life with images of chopped and channeled coupes, metalflake Mercs, and a town square straight out of Mayberry swarming with the likes of hot rodders, kustom-car aficionados, and otherwise all-around gearheads. If you've never been to the Cruisin' Nats, it's definitely something that needs to be experienced to fully understand.

Since the show is held in downtown Paso Robles and most of the hotels in the area are sold out months ahead of time, the town literally turns into one big car show. Friday night begins with a cruise up and down Spring Street, the frontage road to the town square, where a spot on the sidewalk is the best seat in the house to view all the hot rods and kustoms as they cruise the boulevard like they used to. Friday night usually ends at one of the local motel parking lots, where an impromptu late-night car show gathers due to the number of attendees who drive to the event.

Saturday morning comes quick and early, and you better get in line before the sun comes up, for its first come, first serve here if you want to get a good spot on the lawn and in the shade. Everything starts to kick off around 9 a.m., with the streets closed off and the square packed block-to-block with cars. An awards ceremony takes place in the afternoon at the gazebo, where Chip Foose and Blackie Gejeian were among this year's honorees. As Saturday drew to a close, the diehards headed down Spring Street to the Paso Bowl for live music, more cars, and an overall good time.

The Cruisin' Nationals in Paso Robles has become a sort of mecca to the hot rod and kustom crowd, with enthusiasts coming from all over the world. The town is literally sold out months ahead of time, so make your plans well in advance before cruising out to one of the best shows all year for early-style hot rods and kustoms.