20 May 2013
The Lincoln Highway was not really a highway at all. It was a collection of roads that formed a route from San Francisco to New York in the early part of the twentieth Century. It is an idea that was dreamed up by some early automotive pioneers; the President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the President of the Packard Motor Company, Harvey Firestone of Firestone Tires and others. Their purpose was to promote private motoring to the public and to municipalities. In the case of the public, to drive cars and buy related products. Municipalities could see possible revenue in making roads that would promote increased business in their cities much as railroads had accomplished.
The Lincoln Highway opened in 1913. The route was managed by Lincoln Highway Association. The entire route was marked with triangular red white and blue colored signs. This highway and the association existed until 1928 or so and was disbanded soon after the onset of numbered highways. The Association was revived in 1990, the new purpose being to preserve the Lincoln Highway. Every ten years beginning in 1993, they have organized a tour of the highway. This year is the 100th anniversary.
My girlfriend Leslie, and I will be driving the highway in June. We are part of a group, a club actually, the Tidewater Antique Automobile Club (TRAACA). This club is a subset of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA). Basically, these clubs are composed of old people who like old cars. I am not the exception to this general rule. We are taking a half dozen cars built anywhere from the 1930s to the present and driving from New York City to San Francisco. This will take place starting June 20th. We will meet with the group coming from San Francisco in Kearney, Nebraska (the midpoint of the country) on the first of July, continue on and end up in San Francisco around the 15th. Leslie and I actually have two other goals to accomplish, more on that later.
Our car is a 1956 Chrysler New Yorker. It really has a “presence” to my mind. I bought and restored this car a few years back. I showed the car for a few years and it did well, but even cars that are only used for show eventually age. Now we are driving it on this trip. I like this Chrysler because it is a rare sight. No chance of seeing yourself going in the other direction like fifties Chevy’s, which are everywhere at shows. Growing up, we were a Chrysler family. Not always, my dad liked Pontiacs, and we also owned an Edsel. The Edsel is how we became a Chrysler family, but that is a story for another time.
Leslie and I have been dating for a long time, just ask her. If this Chrysler should make the entire journey, we plan to be married in San Francisco.
June 17, 2013
Today is Monday, three days until the start of the trip. I am having some real anxiety about this road trip. First is my business. I own an auto shop. It is never a good time to leave, especially for almost a month. Second is my Chrysler, named Max by the way. It seems like it is ready but who knows. Four thousand plus miles seems pretty insane for a 57-year-old car that doesn’t even have AC. What does the Lincoln Highway have to do with this car? The highway was closed 28 years before it was even built. In an odd way it does seem right however. I do not think I would do the trip if I had to take a new car. Tomorrow I will take it to the shop and do the last minute checks. Spare parts that I may need but hope I do not are under the back seat. They include a starter, fuel pump, idler pulley, fan belts and wiper blades. The tool box has been sorted, all the metric tools have been removed. I have wrenches, ratchets, screwdrivers and pliers for all minor repairs that I think can occur. It has it’s plce, centered in the trunk.
Leslie and I plan to make a stop where the car was originally sold in Lewistown, Montana. When I originally looked at the Lincoln Highway map, Montana was only one state up from the route. In Virginia, where we live, that is a few hours drive. It seemed like a good idea to visit and try to find the original owner. What I did not realize is that one state up is almost 1500 miles of extra miles of driving. Those western states are big! I know the ownership history of this car after 1972. I have been trying to find the original owner for four years through phone calls, letters and emails to Lewistown. This is probably the last chance to find who owned this car from 1956 to 1972. What is an extra 1500 miles anyway?
Today I called the Lewistown Chamber of Commerce. We planned on rolling in town on July 3rd and leaving early on the 4th. Connie, a person that I talked to when I was trying to find the owner in 2009, told me I could be in the Lewistown 4th of July parade. They will have an announcer who will say anything I request such as; do you know who owned this car. If we stay in Lewistown two days and meet our group further west in Salt Lake City instead of Cheyanne Wyoming, we could do this.
June 19 2013
Tomorrow is the day. Cleaned up problems at work as much as I could. Tonight, I filled Max with gas and checked tires and fluids. The odometer is reset to zero. Leslie and I are ready, as soon as we pack.
June 20 2013
The moment has finally arrived. We left the house about 7a.m. and headed for the meeting spot at the Chesapeake Bridge Tunnel. Since we live on the other side of the bay we are about 20 miles or so from this spot. We must first drive through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. Here, there is the usual morning rush hour back up about three miles before the tunnel. Lots of traffic everywhere else along the route. I hate stop and go traffic because the car runs hotter and the generator cannot keep the battery charged. Alternators are a great invention. Chrysler had them first, but not until 1960. All went good however. At the meeting spot we stopped and waited for everyone to show. Now we can see who is going on this trip; A 1932, ‘34 and ‘53 Packards, 1959 Caddy, 1966 Mustang, a new Buick and Leslie and I.
June 21 2013
We left southern NJ at 10 a.m. Our hotel was not too far so we stopped off at Trenton. We visited a French and Indian War era barracks. Jere Avenson found it online. It turned out to be a good visit, we learned a lot about the French and Indian Wars. Afterward, we walked a few blocks and ate in a Deli. That turned out to be a good time. The Deli owners talked with us as did the barber next door. Joe the barber, was a weightlifter. He is 80 years old, but, looks great. He had pictures of himself when he was young on the walls of his shop. He looked like a 50’s era hunk. As we left we drove our cars by their shops. We stopped in the street and they took pictures and posed with the cars. We drove to the hotel. It was now 3:30 p.m. on Friday. Driving was 60 miles of hell half on rte 1 with tons of traffic and lights. Then we got on the NJ turnpike. That is always crazy. Finally we got to the hotel. Lots of cars, new and old ready for the trip. We had dinner in the hotel and got the final instructions. Leaving from here at six fifteen for Times Square. The trip will then officially begin.
June 22 2013
We awoke at 4 a.m., had to because we, meaning Leslie, have to bring in every bag in every night. It takes an hour to make all the trips to the car and repack. Seventy or so cars were lined up in front of our hotel, ready to make the trip to Times Square, the beginning of the Lincoln Highway. The first mistake was thinking that this time of the morning would have light traffic. That was a very wrong assumption. The traffic started building before the Lincoln tunnel into Manhattan. By the time we were through the tunnel everyone had been scattered in traffic. Only a few blocks into Manhattan, there were old cars next to me, coming at me and passing from left to right and right to left. At least I have driven into Manhattan before. I followed a Mercedes thinking he knew a route, but, he soon pulled over and told me he was lost. I told him where Times Square was and we drove directly there. We pulled up next to the Army recruiting station in Times Square. This is a gift from NYC, and shows appreciation for the military that goes back to WWII. There were two cops standing on the sidewalk, they looked at the cars and let us stay for a minute. I took as many pictures as I could. I knew the Chrysler would never be here again.
We left for lunch and went down route 27, basically the old Lincoln Highway route. We never made lunch, a combination of getting lost and an accident blocking the road when we finally got close. We had to turn around. We finally had lunch South of Princeton at a small restaurant. From there we went across the Delaware at Trenton, past the same Deli and Barber Shop we passed the day before. Then through the outskirts of Philadelphia to the hotel. Mostly on Highway 30. It was like driving on Jefferson Ave for 150 miles or so. New Jersey has too many cars, not enough roads. You cannot go through three traffic lights in a row that are green. This part has to get better as we head west. Tomorrow is Amish country and Gettysburg.
There are some casualties in our group. Bob Woffit’s ‘34 Packard had generator and front end problems. Bill Wilcox’s ’32 Packard also has generator problems. There is a beautiful ’53 Lincoln that has already lost two hubcaps, had a new water pump installed. He caught up to us while we ate lunch. When we came out, his radiator had sprung a leak. He nursed it to the hotel. The trip goes on.
June 23 2013
We started the day from Malvern, PA. Things are settling into a routine. Leave for the next leg when you want, preferably early, hook up with a group, smaller is better providing someone knows what they are doing. See sights in the morning. Stop at the designated lunch sight. See sights in the afternoon. Go to the hotel then go to the designated dinner sight and talk about the day. Get a briefing of the next day and then go back to the hotel.
The first stop was the Fraiser Diner; a small diner dating back to what I would guess is the 1940s. Took pictures there and then went to Amish Country. A brief stop there, looked at people riding horse drawn carts. Spoken like a true tourist. Then on to the house that looks like shoe. It was built by someone who owned a shoe company in the ‘40s. This was also the lunch stop. From here we drove on route 30 to Gettysburg. Route 30 is basically what the Lincoln Highway was before states designated roads with numbers. From what I have been told, we will be on this until Nebraska. Pennsylvania is a pretty state, a lot of hills and greenery. The towns that you pass are old with most buildings constructed of red brick. For the most part they look quaint and not beat up like New Jersey. There are less people and traffic. The pace was a lot more relaxed than yesterday.
The day was sunny, not too hot in the morning. At one point Leslie and I were entering one of these towns cruising about 30 mph. The sun went behind a cloud and it got a little cool. The car windows on Max were all open. A small breeze blew through the car. The radio was playing a ‘70s song. My elbow was resting on the top of the door. The town looked particularly picturesque. At this point it suddenly felt like times when I was a lot younger. I thought to myself that I am having a good day.
We stopped in Gettysburg at a coffee shop. By the time we were done, it was too late to catch the scheduled tour. We drove through the battlefield by car, without a guide, much I’m sure like touring Europe in a week. We did climb a tower that looked over the battlefield. Afterward we drove to the hotel in Chambersburg and went to dinner. I followed a GTO all day long. It is a red 1967 convertible. I must say that the car was growing on me by the end of the day. They are nice.
June 24 2013
I woke early to work on Max. Yesterday I noticed that the car seemed slower. I had to mash the accelerator to the floor just to get up hills and keep up. The accelerator pedal was loose on its mount. Tightened it and it seemed almost OK. Took off the air cleaner. I grabbed the guy with a ‘62 Corvette to step on the pedal while I looked down the carb. The throttle was barely moving. Adjusted the linkage and when we left for the tour it was faster than it has ever been. I cannot believe I have been driving this car for 6000 miles like this. I also adjusted the angle of the power steering reservoir. This I knew was wrong for years but I have just been too lazy to fix it. This took about 2 minutes.
The day started with the same crew. Today was more sightseeing that ever. We stopped to take pictures in front of; a 1920 Seldon truck, numerous painted murals on barns, an ice cream store in the shape of an igloo, a coffee shop in the shape of a coffee pot, a 1927 gas station that is still in use, numerous painted antique gas pumps to include one 50 ft. tall, a motel that is now a residence, a motor court that is still in use. We had lunch in a restaurant that dated back to the 1760s. Everyone took so many pictures. Japanese tourists have nothing on us.
A reporter for Old Cars Weekly dove with us for part of the day. He was very familiar with this part of the tour and even led us for a while. We took numerous trips off state road 30 to see abandoned parts of the Lincoln Highway. Each state on the route has a Lincoln Highway Association. This one has to be one of the best. There were guidebooks with pictures and histories of what we were seeing. The route is marked with signs everywhere. The businesses also named many stores Lincoln this and that.
On a more serious note, after lunch we went to the Flight 93 memorial. It was very simple and quite sad. Those passengers were real heroes. Finally, the trip would not be complete without going through downtown Pittsburgh at rush hour to the Heinz museum for dinner. I rushed through part of the museum, but could not talk anyone to go with me. Everyone was beat and burnt out. We got to the hotel and settled in by 9 p.m. I still do not see Bill Wilcox and his Packard, I will go out and see if he is here later. More stuff tomorrow.
June 25 2013
Today was the hottest day yet. Bill came in, by tow truck, at 11PM. He is traveling with Ken Talley and a neighbor. Ken decided that the coil is bad. They borrowed one from Jere. As Ken was installing it I asked Bill if he wanted me to trail him today. He immediately said yes. I know the feeling from the Hilton Head show in 2010. Max would not run without stalling every ten minutes. In two days I was driving 550 miles home. When you lose confidence in your car it is in your head every minute you drive. So while I am not on Bill’s A list to tour with, I understood why he immediately agreed. As it turned out he became part of our group so everyone stayed until the coil was installed. We left about 10 a.m.
I will take this opportunity to talk about what I have seen observing Packard cars. When the battery has a problem you must remove the driver’s seat. The ignition call is located under the dashboard. In their favor, the starter can be removed while standing and reaching in the open hood. It weighs 50 lbs. however.
The first stop was typical, a giant teapot on the PA, West VA border. We then went to a long time Lincoln Highway bakery in town. Afterward across the original Lincoln Highway bridge over the Ohio River, narrow and shaky looking. Not very level either. From there to a diner, the Trolley Car Diner, about twenty miles into the state. Very period looking. This is a very rural area. A lot of the people look like extras from the movie Deliverance. They are friendly and ask about the cars. Ohio is even more dedicated to the Lincoln Highway than PA. The route is well marked as it meanders left, right, and on route 30. We stop in an old area of a town and walk around. Most buildings have construction dates, 1800 -1850. We drive on an original Brick road section of the Lincoln Highway that runs a mile or so. It had been raining for a half hour or so, but, we pulled over under trees when it started to hail. We have a rest stop at an IGA of a Lincoln Highway fan. He ran the route in 2003. His friends have brought their cars. They all look to be highly restored.
Next to Canton, not to the football hall of fame but, a car museum. Not a lot of cars, but good quality stuff. There was a 1937 Lincoln Convertible that I would trade everything I own for. Next stop, the Smucker store owned by Pillsbury Corp. A Disneyland of food. They give us a free Ice Cream Sunday. Finally on to Mansfield, our destination. A church serves us a meal. They are actors pretending it is 1913. They are dressed in period garb. After the meal in the basement we go outside for the dedication of a Lincoln Highway marker. It is dedicated by a former boy scout who helped plant the original markers in 1928. He is 101 years old. He is standing and I think he looks pretty good. We walk from the church to the hotel to check in. The day ends.
June 26 2013
Woke up to a driving rain. Luckily it cleared by the time we took off, normal time today.
We went to a town called Becusy. Very picturesque, with two big murals painted on walls of buildings. There was a reception committee, they took pictures of our cars and showed us a factory that hand makes copper products. The building must have dated to 1850 or so. It was dark and falling apart. There was some machinery that they told us was part of an update to the factory in 1913. We watched as they worked, real craftsmen. The place is profitable. You could never tell just by looking.
Next on to Wyandotte for a rest stop. We looked at the county museum. By now it was time for lunch and we were still 60 miles from where we needed to be. We ate in town, drove the eighty miles and at least looked at the town, the name I never knew, they are all blending into one another. By now, we were really late, far from Southbend our final destination. Yet, for some reason, everyone wanted ice cream. So we spent 30 minutes looking for and ice cream store and had some before we took off. The last 3 hours were spent on the interstate driving to the Studebaker museum in South Bend. Along Interstate 80, we encountered as bad a rain storm as I have ever seen. Surprisingly, we did get to the museum in time for dinner. It is really nice. I need to visit the Chrysler museum some day to see if it is done as well. We were served a Polish dinner than were on our own to look at the cars. From there a hotel check in, then to the drugstore to renew Leslie’s subscriptions, now we have arrived back at the hotel. It is 11 p.m.. What a vacation.
June 27 2013
Started the day a little early and without Leslie. Drove the Conners to Notre Dame University. A very impressive campus. They have a quad like UVA. Actually they have two quads. One has open space and one is wooded with paths, benches and statues. The church on campus is huge. All the buildings are made of limestone. It is an odd light color, similar to where I went to college at Kansas State University. We went back to the hotel and met with everyone else. The first stop was a Grist mill, and rest stop. Again, all volunteers treating us like celebs. Next we had lunch at a museum in Joliet. The Lincoln Highway runs by the museum and for three eights of a mile it shares the road with Route 66. The afternoon consisted of going straight to the hotel through the Chicago suburb traffic. We actually got to the hotel early for a change, mostly because of the change to central time.
The dinner meal was 16 miles from the hotel. We set out by ourselves. This is rare for us as we usually trail someone. This time someone in a 1940 Lincoln Zephyr followed us. First stop before dinner was the Lincoln Highway Illinois HQ. The building is in Franklin Grove. It was built by Abraham Lincoln’s cousin in 1860. It was a short drive from there to the outdoor dinner. The meal was hobo stew. The recipe is from a famous hobo rail rider. Someone is trying to build a circa 1900 town by moving old buildings on his property. We walked around. It appears to be in the early stages as most buildings are not restored. Tomorrow we cross the Mississippi.
June 29 2013
Left Rochelle around 9 a.m.. First stop was Dixon, IL, boyhood home of Ronald Reagan. We started with a big group today, about 8 cars. That is really too big because there was more miles to cover than usual. I split off with the couple from NJ with the GTO. We stopped briefly at Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home, but only enough for a few pictures. A few blocks away we stopped at a park with a AH-64 helicopter and an M60 Tank. I can remember when I flew the AH-64 Modernized series. It was the best attack helicopter in the world. Again, it is an antique on display in a park sponsored by the local vets. Speaking of veterans, every town seems to have some kind of veteran park with a equipment display. They are all well kept. So are the homes we pass. Most of the homes we pass starting from PA look like a subdivisions from the ‘40s and ‘50s. I think it shows that things have been stagnant as manufacturing has left in the last three decades. Still, everyone seems to take a lot of pride in what they have. The houses and lawns may be small but they look tidy.
We made a small detour through a park where Lincoln campaign stumped in 1859. A statue was erected in 1915. We took pictures. From there we went to the bank of the Mississippi in Fulton to have a quick snack and look at a windmill that was disassembled in Holland and re-erected here, (in whatever town we were in). It was a giant grist mill. We walked around the windmill and got a good look at the Mississippi. It is at flood stage and scheduled to get even higher. People in the town told us the levee was raised in 1965 to 100 year flood height. Since then the river has surpassed the old levee height three times, to include now.
Holly told me that is was John and Vicky Peters 44th anniversary. Since they travel right behind Holly and Dick, they asked me to buy a cake. We left after them, crossed the river and went into Clinton Iowa to a bakery then went our way. We caught up with them in Mt. Vernon and ate lunch. We had a choice of all the restaurants on Main Street that were still open. It was after 2 p.m. Had a decent sandwich, Leslie even liked her meal. The town people were about looking at all the old cars. Someone in town brought out a 1916 Buick that had been in his family since new. He had great pictures of the car driving the Lincoln Highway in 1916. It was unrestored but seemed to drive pretty good, we watched him drive out of town as we were leaving.
By now we were running late as usual. The pack left ahead of us, but they had a slow , Lincoln Zephyr in their group. We caught them when we reached an old restaurant/gas station on the side of highway 30. From here left ahead of the main group. Soon we were well ahead and now we had some extra time. We stopped at an original Lincoln Highway bridge. We took the obligatory pictures. We went off 30 on to some original dirt Lincoln Highway roads and that was a lot of fun. The day was really perfect, clear and for the most part cool. Iowa is the first state that has a really different personality. Really open skies, small well spaced towns, all the rest farms and open area. A great day to drive.
We finally arrived at another roadside restaurant/gas station for dinner. This place had been around during the time of the Lincoln Highway. Parked at the gas pumps was a 1948 Tucker. The first one I ever saw in the metal. Really cool car. After dinner Dick and Holley announced to the crowd that John and Vicky were married for 44 years today. I went to the car to get the cake. Instead of John and Vicky, I had the baker write Jim. I was slightly embarrassed. John took it well but Vicky seemed put out. We then went the last 20 miles to the hotel. More people there brought their local cars and people came to look at ours.
June 30 2013
The group decided to leave an hour early, there are over three hundred miles to cover. We stayed with the group until the first rest stop. Some unpaved parts of the Lincoln Highway. The pace started slow and the weather was perfect. Iowa has rolling hills, crops are planted everywhere. There are also thousands of huge windmills. They are in groups everywhere. I’m not sure what they are powering. They must be efficient because the last two days have been constantly windy. We detour off of highway 30 to go on sections of the Lincoln highway and small towns. In a lot of the towns people have their lawn chairs and cameras out. They wave and snap pictures as we go by. If they own an old car they park it on the side of the road in a show of solidarity. Highway 30 in these parts is like an Interstate. The towns have been completely bypassed. They look like they have been forgotten too. The buildings look like they date to western times. Some have cheap aluminum facades that we probably done in the ‘60s. Our first stop is a small one road town with a small Lincoln Highway museum. The people are friendly and they have made baked good for us to eat. They have also brought their cars. There is a really clean ‘50 Chevy hardtop and of all things a Porsche Speedster. How odd for that car to be here in this town.
Leslie and I decide to leave the highway to meet Jared’s parents. They live in Audubon, about 35 miles south of the Lincoln highway. We drive the Lincoln Highway to Carole and turn south. It takes a few wrong turns but we find them. A dirt road on the outskirts of a town with a population of 500. Really nice people. Their health seems better than Jared thought and I will tell him. We took pictures and stayed for coffee. We continued south to Interstate 80. I figured this is the only way we could catch up. We drive 80 to 680 to 29 and got on the Lincoln Highway north of Council Bluffs. I called our “posse” and surprisingly, we are ahead of them. Instead of waiting I decided to see Bob Hofheimer of Imperial Heaven, a place where I get my Chrysler used parts. By now I realize that we are way ahead of our group. Leslie navigates and we take all the side roads in every town where the Lincoln Highway once passed through. It is very relaxing. Some of the roads are still brick. We pass an entire car club that has brought their cars and cheers as we go by.
We stop for our snack break in Columbus. The restaurant is a restored 19th Century building. It is honestly done better than anything in this town inside and out. This restaurant would be a nice place anywhere. They even brew their own beer and make their own sodas. As we leave I call Bob Hofheimer and he agrees to drive up and see us in Silver Creek, about 20 miles away. We drive to Silver Creek and sure enough he is watching for us leaning on his truck with his wife. Leslie and I get out of the car and exchange greetings. He is a mountain of a man around 6 ft. 4 in. and 300 pounds. He is wearing bib overalls. The voice is unmistakably him. We talk cars for a few minutes. He tells me someone from Canada has just bought every Hemi engine he had. He looked at my car and seems genuinely impressed. Leslie and I take pictures of him and I and him with Janet, his wife. After that we both have to go. HIs sons are running in a demolition derby tonight. He tells me that Crown Vics are now the hot derby car and we both agree that is how it should be. Get rid of those Fords.
We have been invited by Bill Wilcox to eat at a relative of his wife Karen’s house. We head there and arrive in Aurora. We call Bill but the posse is still an hour away. We tour the town and have a shake at McDonald’s at the intersection where they will appear. An hour later they appear and we follow them out of town to a dirt road that goes on forever. All kinds of crops are on both sides of us. The only thing I recognize is corn. We finally get to a farm and it is Bill’s relative. It is a nice big house but subdued. Not a McMansion at all. Paul and Dori are our hosts. We eat dinner and have small talk. I ask him if he owns all of the land from the dirt road to his house. He laughs and says no but when he tells me what he does own, I do the calculation in my head and it is about 1000 acres.
By the time the sun goes down, everyone has eaten and we are beat. We drive out as a group, but, Leslie and I separate from the pack when they stop for gas. We do another short stretch on I-80. For the first time since leaving home the car acts up. It is cutting out. It lasts a few seconds. Just as my mind starts to race, it comes back on and we drive to the hotel without further problems. I am thinking that the fuel filter must be clogging, but I am not doing anything for now. Tomorrow we meet early and drive to the halfway point. Kearney Nebraska. We will meet the cars from the West Coast and have a parade.
June 30 2013
Slept good because I was so worn. Did not get up till 6. Took Max to the car wash about 2 miles up the road. They had a towel vending machine which would be a good idea where we live. Anyway, Max started stalling on the way home. Now I knew I was in trouble. Line up for Kearney was at 8:15. Barely got to the hotel, I opened the hood and the fuel bowl was empty. I took it off and luckily there was a lot of debris in it. I cleaned it out and put it together. The tricky part is getting it not to leak, but luck smiled on me because it did not when the bowl filled with gas. I ate and got dressed and was ready and Leslie who was working out also was ready. We drove to a college and lined up by year, oldest first. I was 7th out of about 50. The three from our club, a Model A, a Buick and another Packard were in front of me. I met a Chrysler guy who had a ‘64 Imperial like mine and knew John Cote.
We had a police escort for thirty or so miles until the outskirts of town. We waited until coordination with the group from the west coast was finalized. We waited for about an hour. We were in the parking lot of a car museum so we had a look. Then we were off. As we got into town, the West coast group was coming toward us. We waved as we crossed each other. They had a lot of Model As and more cars, but I believe we had some better quality. We staged at a RR station by Main Street and waited for the parade to begin. I missed an opportunity to get a picture of Miss Nebraska in front of my car as she walked to her convertible. Finally we started moving and the cars turned down Main Street. But there was a problem. Bob Woolfit’s Packard died in the middle of the road as he turned down the street that started the parade. Every one behind him, he was car #3, was directed around him. It was a great parade, the announcer said there were 12.500 people there. Afterward we parked on the next street and Leslie and I watched the rest of the parade and got lunch.
July 1 2013
Last night was happy and sad. We had a mixer with the west coast group. There were speeches and food and then it was over. Reminded me of high school graduation, everyone hugging knowing that it was over. It was announced that Leslie and I were engaged and we stood up. Afterword, our group gave us an impromptu wedding card that was made up from a Lincoln Highway cover that everyone signed. This couple from NY, Owen and Linda, paid to have two cheesecake cupcakes delivered to the dinner. Leslie and I fed each other, but no funny business, we did not smush them in each other’s faces.
One side note that I thought was funny. The last few days someone with a 1940 Lincoln followed us. His name was Andy, although the T-shirt that he wore every day said he Mark written on the back. He said he lived in Tennessee, but his license plate said New Mexico. He said his car was a Lincoln, but it was a Canadian Lincoln which meant it was a Mercury with a Lincoln grille. Anyway, he broke a crankshaft pulley and got towed away, presumably to whatever state he lived. He was a nice guy, a real character. As another aside, it seems that most of the old stuff that broke were Ford products, Owen’s 53 Lincoln, and a Ford and Lincoln from the west coast group. The exception was Model A Fords. From my observations on many road tours they seem to be indestructible. Today we break from the pack and start the trip to Montana. In fairness to the west coast cars, someone on their tour thought it would be a great Lincoln Highway experience to drive a gravel portion of the highway 160 miles though Utah. It took 12 hours with many breakdowns and flat tires.
We got off late and headed off about 9 a.m.. The day was cool and beautiful. We left town off Highway 10 and turned west on highway 2 about 30 miles out of town. The first stop was Broken Bow, the town Bill Wilcox grew up in. It is really small but quaint. A 1950 Plymouth with a taxi sign on top passed us. I took a picture. We traveled through many small towns spaced far apart. If they had a gas station I usually got some as Bill told me there would be long stretches without fuel. We were driving through the Sand Hills on the highway. It is an area that Charles Kuralt called the most beautiful road in the country. There were hardly any cars, mostly driving toward us. In our direction we were alone most of the time. The sand hills are just that; dunes of sand covered by grass. It looked like the beach without water. There was really no restaurant you would want to eat in until Alliance, a distance of about 200 miles.
I filled up there and noticed a small antifreeze leak. I was thinking where I would get Jared to mail the spare water pump at the shop, but on further look it was a freeze plug by the starter. I went to an auto parts store and got some GM radiator pills, some antifreeze, and some strong stop leak that I would not normally use but I put it in the trunk, just in case things get depurate. Outside of Alliance is Carhenge, Stonehenge made with junk cars circa 1987. We stopped and took pictures. I even drove my car out to it and took some more. We then drove 385 North to South Dakota. Things started getting more hilly and rocky. The sky is huge, many times you could see thunderstorms ahead, to the left and right. You could probably see thirty miles in any direction when you went over hills. We went through a national park, Buffalo were actually on the road. A deer crossed in front of us. Then drove through the Black Hills. By now there are lots of rock formations. We drove through Hot Springs and then Custer. These towns really have a different feel. They look western, quaint and beat up at the same time, under a big sky. We made it as far as the Crazy Horse monument, but it was getting late and we did not have a hotel. We turned around and went back to Custer. Today was our longest mileage day, 410 miles. Max seems tired, he was popping through the carb on the way back to Custer. I hope the carb just overloaded at a traffic light.
July 2 2013
Headed out to Mt. Rushmore. About a 20 mile ride through the mountains. It was very impressive, we took lots of pictures to include the spot that Eva Marie Saint shot Cary Grant in North by Northwest. From there we drive to Deadwood and finally on to Sturgis. We went to the Full Throttle Saloon walked through and actually saw Michael Ballad and Taco somebody or other. Leslie knew who he was. Now it was 12:30 and we had gone about 60 miles. We got on the interstate and stopped for a meal and a quick picture in front of the welcome to Wyoming sign. From here things got real isolated, browner and mountainous. This place is the end of the earth. We ended the day in Sheridan. When I looked at the map hard I was disappointed. We have another long day tomorrow. I wish I had gone another 90 miles.
Meanwhile Max is using antifreeze and now that we drive only highway, oil too.
July 3 2013
As it turned out, where we stopped was a good place. We left a little earlier than usual.
We checked into the hotel and went to the newspaper to meet Bill Phillips, his editor and the reporter writing the story. They could not be nicer. In fact everyone is nice. We had a great lunch, went to see Bill Cowan. He used to work with Bill Denning and both knew Fred Farrell who Denning claims owned the car.
We took pictures of where Judith Mountain Motors was, (it is now a bar called the Mint). We also took pictures of Bill Dennings ENCO service station. It is now a gas station/quick mart. Later, we visited Bill Denning at his house. He looked at the car and confirmed that Fred Farrell did own it. He told me that Fred loved it and cleaned it constantly. He also told me that Fred bought the car at Cooley Chevrolet, where the original owner had traded it in. It is a different story than he told me years earlier, but this one makes more sense. He and his wife bought dinner for Leslie and I. He gave me a phone number of Donald Vnanek, an owner of Imperial Motors, a Chrysler Dealer in the ‘60s. He claims it is possible that he sold Fred Farrell the Chrysler. Tomorrow is the parade. Maybe someone will remember it.
July 4 2013
Last night I washed the dirt of off Max at a car wash. This morning I cleaned the bugs and engine compartment and detailed the body and wheels. I did this while Leslie was working out. Afterward, Leslie came out and we walked downtown. We went to the only open store and shopped then had some coffee at a coffee shop. By now it was getting close to line up time, 10:30. The lineup was in front of our hotel, so we did not have to go far. A lot of people looked at the car. Some knew Fred Farrell, but no one knew the original owner.
We had a great time at the parade. It was quite a big crowd. Afterward, we went to Bill Cowan’s shop. He knew Fred, and he also tried to call Vnanek, without success. I took Leslie back to the hotel, and drive Bill to his house outside the town. On the way to his house, we stopped at Vnanek’s house but he was not home. He is really my last chance. If he sold the car to Fred while Fred was working for him, it is possible he may remember the original owner, otherwise the trail will end. Once at Cowan’s house we I met his wife, Vicky, and another couple and we talked outside on his patio. We had some chicken and dessert then we went to a neighbor to look at his cars. He, I do not know his name maybe Larry Carroll, had a big house on the side of a hill. He had three garages. I saw a Super Bird, lots of AMC high performance cars, and an Australian Ford that was used by Mel Gibson in a Mad Max movie. He had a ‘56 Chrysler 300 with 18,000 original miles. I wanted to study the 2×4 Bbl set up, but, as luck would have it I forgot my glasses. Eventually I left and went back to the hotel. Leslie was blogging and so I called Jennifer, Lauren, and Judy. When she finished we went to the restaurant in the basement of the hotel, afterward, the Laundromat.
Tonight is fireworks at 10 p.m., past our normal bedtime, tomorrow we start out to rejoin the posse. What is left of it, anyway. John with the GTO, has flown home, John Peters Caddy had brake problems and was left behind. They will drive back to Florida when it is fixed. That leaves the three Packards.
July 5 2013
We left Lewistown a little late. We went to the Argose to say bye to the newspaper staff. Then to Bill Cowan to thank him for his efforts, finally, to the laundromat to look for my sunglasses, but no luck. Jennifer gave me them, so Ihope they turn up in the luggage. We left at the opposite end of town, turned south on 191 and took it 100 miles or so to the Interstate. We rode the I-90 a short time and then turned down the road to Yellowstone National Park. We saw Old Faithful, then doubled back, turned west to Idaho Falls. Yellowstone is really pretty but with too many tourists. The highest mountains were over 6000 ft. Max was really struggling in traffic going up those steep inclines. He would almost overheat and cough when you accelerated. Cannot wait till we scale Donner Pass. It was probably the longest one day drive mileage-wise yet. We pulled in Idaho Falls, checked into a hotel, and had dinner. The town looks like a million others only on the rundown side. Our waiter suggested we see the waterfalls in town and so we did. It is actually a mile of water wall and a nice walk around it. So the town actually turned out to be nicer than it looked. I called the posse and tomorrow we should reunite in Salt Lake City.
July 6 2013
Pretty routine day. We left late because we did not have far to go. We were in Salt Lake City before 2 p.m. We drove down a valley between two mountain ranges for at least fifty miles. The country is so large that I felt like how an ant must feel in front of my house. Arrived at the hotel the same time as Jere Avenson. Bob Woolfit is also here. Chipchack and Bill Wilcox are still touring. Max is doing great. The water leak is gone since I added more cooling tabs. The speed limit here is 75. I try to stay between 65-70. If we do this again, we probably need an overdrive. We passed two vehicles all day. I must have been passed by a few hundred. The weather is still on our side. Today was very comfortable. The white roof definitely helps. Last week it was 110 degrees here.
July 7 2013
Went downtown this morning to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It was amazing from the stage to the singing. Afterward, we walked around Temple Square. Really beautiful. Then we looked for photo ops for my car. We drove around and took a picture in front of a Brigham Young statue. Then it took Max in front of the best picture of the church I could find. It is behind a wall, so it was hard to get a good shot.
We exited at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The track is 80 ft. wide and ten miles long. From there it was lunch at the next town. There were lots of Casinos. By now it was 3 p.mp and we had 120 miles to go to Ely. We left I-80 and took route 94 south. This road is total mountains and desert. I was glad to be in a pack. We finally got to Ely and checked into the Hotel Nevada. Built in 1929, it was the tallest building in Nevada until the 1940s. It is six stories tall. It looked like the rest of the town, which is, a place you don’t want to be. We looked at our room last. Everyone was describing their room in not great terms, no windows, the room three feet larger than the bed, etc. I paid ten dollars more for a suite. It turned out to be well spent because our room is large with two windows. Jimmy Stewart slept in this room once. There is a plaque with lots of memorabilia on the walls. We walked through the casino and all had dinner in the dining room.
I cannot believe we have dodged bad weather yet another day. We left Salt Lake as it was heating up. On 80 you could see the storms and we rode into a big one. You could see the rain falling but it was evaporating before it reached the ground. The cloud cover stayed with us until about 10 miles outside Ely. We are in the desert however and driving 300 miles tomorrow a road that is called the loneliest in the country.
July 8 2013
We left late again. A combination of waiting for Bill Wilcox and Bill Wicox finding things to see in various places. Today We went to the railway station in Ely and looked at the steam locomotive. It was in the station taking tourists for rides. A block from the station was an original ‘56 Chrysler Windsor still going strong.
We drove on the “loneliest highway in the United States” out of Ely. First stop was Eureka about 120 miles down the road. This was once a mining town of over 10,000 people, now the population is 800. It had a restored “opery” house and a museum that was once where the town newspaper was published. As we went to the next town, we were driving over mountains and across valleys. The fourth time we did this, the car started to cough at 7500 ft. The mountain before Austin was the 6th one and the worst. Bob Woolfit pulled over overheating. . We sputtered over the mountain. I pulled in to Austin to get gas. We I started to open the gas cap, it was whistling like a teapot. The ethanol in the fuel was boiling! I saw Jere down the block, his hood was open and he was cooling down his engine. He left, Bill Wilcox and Chipchack appeared and left, and Leslie and I waited for Bob Woolfit, who eventually cooled his car down and came into town. We followed him to Fallon.
Jere had made reservations for us at a Navy base. Nice rooms cheap. We went out for Mexican and now we are ready to be in the final State on the trip, California.
July 9 2013
We left the Naval Base to meet Dick and Holly, who stayed at the Holiday Inn Express. Everyone helped themselves to a free breakfast. Bill and Bob had the nerve to complain about the food and bathroom. They did not even stay there. After gassing up we headed to Reno. We stopped at the Harrah car museum, then lunch at a casino. We left for Ca. and decided to stay on the Lincoln Highway through the Donner pass and not take I-80. Soon we were ascending. Max started to cough again. I was behind Bill, he was having problems too. I saw a pull off on the right, and the steep road ahead and pulled over. Bill pulled behind me. I got out of Max and could see Bill was overheating. All of a sudden antifreeze started gushing out of the radiator overflow. Max was down. We had to wait for Max to cool. Two strangers dropped off water at different times. After Max cooled, we filled both cars and used all the water. Max took a gallon and half of another. We then left and made it the last two miles to the top, about 9000 ft.
Soon we came upon Lake Tahoe, really big and beautiful with blue water. Crossed into Ca. and stopped in the parking light of a sporting goods store. There was a pow wow to see which way we would go to Sacramento. I was all for I-80 but Bill, wanted to go through the Donner Pass. What? That last hill was not the Donner Pass? Now I was worried. I figured if Max started cutting out I would pull over, but leave the Max running. I think that was the mistake I made. Ken had put a heat gun on Max when he was overheating the temp at the thermostat housing was 240. The radiator cap was 7psi. That meant the boiling point was 233 without accounting for the altitude. I think had I left Max running the water temp in the head would have been cooler. Anyway, I took off first so I could keep speed, which presented problems when I was behind the Packards. They were too slow. There slowness highlighted the weakness in Max’s two-speed transmission which is to say it does not have a gear for every situation. Going up mountains slow is a primary example. The car is moving too fast for low and too slow for drive. Anyway, I went by myself and got near the top to the rainbow bridge without any problems. I even stopped the car in the pull off. I was taking pictures and was getting to the plague of the people who died in the 1800s crossing the pass. When Leslie started crying. Apparently she has developed a recent fear of heights. We then drove to the very top and waited. Bill went by and we followed 5 minutes after. Down to the bottom of the pass and finally on I-80 for the last 90 miles to Sacramento.
We made good time, but then we got a call that everyone was having dinner in Austin. We were passed the exit and got off. Leslie went to the drug store and then we went back two exits and met Bill and Ken. A dad and his son we talking to Bill when we pulled up. After a while he pointed to the sky and said if I could see the light in the sky. I said I could see the plane. He said it was not a plane and that things were flying over Austin for a week. I watched it for a minute. It looked like a plane when the sun is shining on the fuselage. It was going left to right but soon another light appeared and the plane changed direction and went right to left. About that time they both disappeared. Very strange.
We all met up and drive to “old town” which was a very yuppie old town with restaurants and trendy stores. It was neat, but the temperature must have been 100 degrees. This was at 6 p.m.. Bob Woolfit found a place and we had a great time; Bob, Ken, Bill, Chipchacks, Leslie and I. Woolfit bought two bottles of wine and soon the people who were not driving were feeling pretty good. Afterward, we all drive the last 30 miles to two different hotels. Tomorrow is the end of the tour. Leslie and I will go to City Hall first to get a marriage license.
July 10 2013
The Lincoln Highway ended today. The western terminus in San Francisco marks the end of the tour. It was a real action packed day. We all had breakfast at the hotel. Then Leslie and I went downtown to look for a place to get a license. That turned out to be easy, we then made a decision to get married today, as everyone would be split up after reaching the end of the tour. Bob Woolfit had already left. The rest of the posse was also downtown looking at a railroad museum and old town Sacramento. We told them the plan and actually went to the museum for a little bit. Then we went back to the county clerk. We left the museum early, I personally could not concentrate. Went back to the clerk to see if they were open during noon hour, the time we told everyone to meet. They were, now the problem became where to change. Leslie had clothes in three suitcases. We took them out of the trunk and she began rummaging around on the sidewalk. She also did her makeup and hair looking at the window of an office building. I was pulling slacks, shirt and shoes out of a suitcase in the trunk. I felt bad for Leslie and told her that she deserved better. Meanwhile, while this was going on, people were coming to us and the car, which was parked along the curb of a main street and telling us how nice it was and asking questions.
Everyone in the posse started driving up as we were finishing this. We all went into the clerk’s office to change and get married. Bill and Ken were our witnesses and after some paperwork we all went into a small room and in five minutes we were married. Everyone hugged and we were off to San Francisco. This typical of when we all drive together, we are always late to everything. It was now 1 p.m., San Francisco was about 90 miles away, it was around 90 degrees. Did we go straight to SF? No, after about 60 miles we stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant. While here, I received a call from Bill Cowan in Lewistown. He told me that the car was front page on the paper and someone had come forward to say that they owned the car. He said the proof would be that the driver door was in an accident. This is true. I was very excited and took down all the information that he gave me.
We drove another 10 miles and stopped again, this time to the house of someone who rebuilds Buick water pumps. Ken sent him a water pump to rebuild two years ago and never got it back. The person said he had been sick. It sounded fishy but we did go to his house and as it turns out, he is pretty old and does not look good. He showed us his garage and pictures of his ‘34 Buick. For a while it seemed he was stalling, but, eventually his son drove up and Ken got his water pump and two others that friends had sent even before Ken. Now it was 4 p.m. and we headed for SF. What I figured out from breakfast was about to happen; we would be driving through SF at rush hour.
I hate a caravan in the city. Even on the highways, freeways here, it can get intense. We eventually overlooked the golden Gate Bridge before taking it, getting off at the Presidio, former Army base and finally to the terminus of the Lincoln Highway, 4,850 miles after leaving Newport News on June 20th. This trip had now had completed all three objectives; We got married, found out the owner of Max, and completed driving the Lincoln Highway, all on the same day. After pictures we drove to San Jose, about 60 miles to the South. Last order of business: shipping the cars home.