Amarillo to Albuquerque (288 miles)
….but it’s not what you think. This is not the result of overeating at the “Big Texan Steak Ranch.” It was from the stomach infection that I picked up during the last dinner New Orleans four days prior. Four days of diarrhea had dehydrated my system and I was running a fever. But luck seemed to be with us on this trip. One of the largest hospitals (and in my opinion, one of of the best) in Amarillo, Baptist St. Anthony’s Hospital, was only 3 blocks from our Motel. They took me as a “walk-in” at their ER and had me hooked up to fluids and antibiotics within 20 minutes. I’m smiling because it was Texas Hospitality at it’s best. The nurse, doctor, and overall health care was as good as it gets – and we are from Seattle, you know – where “ER” is set.
2 1/2 hours later, I was released at the mercy of 5, yes 5 different containers of pills. This was the worst part about the treatment because one of the pills, an antibiotic, required that I drink no alcohol (or even use a mouthwash) until the 7 day supply of pills were gone……and then wait another 3 days for contents to clear my system. WHAT??? I’m no die hard drinker, but 10 days without a beer? or a glass of wine at dinner? So I ask: “What happens if I do drink alcohol?” to which the nurse replied: “You’ll come down with flu like symptoms.” OK, they win.
But we were back on the road a little after noontime, and lost no time discovering ROUTE 66!!!!! Here we are on a segment of the original “Mother Lode.”
Off to the right is the I-40 freeway that replaced Route 66, and we are along side it on the some of the original stretches of the historic road.
The movie “Cars” was like a documentary of what happened to the some of the towns bypassed by the Interstate.
And we just had to visit Glenrio, once a bustling Route 66 Texas town near the border of New Mexico that had been bypassed by the Interstate.
Part of the town of Glenrio, now a ghost town with a few barking dogs. The sign used to read: “First & Last Motel in Texas.” We paid homage to this place. Once a landmark for great migrations of people headed West, as well as a stopover for those enjoying the freedom of an American Road trip!
We found that segments of the original Route 66 were underneath of I-40, other parts took some roundabout detours (ask Lighting McQueen), and there were places that it just disappeared.
Albuquerque, NM to Kingman, AZ (468 miles)
Feeling much better today! It’s a long drive, but the scenery and the fact that we are on or near Route 66 is more than heartening. Every chance we have, we take an exit off the freeway and drive a little on the old “66.” And every roadside attraction that boasted anything about the old Route, caused us to veer off towards it.
Interstate 40, cutting through the landscape just like they described in “Cars.”
So we couldn’t resist pulling off at the Continental Divide and onto part of the “66” at the Continental Divide.
I didn’t realize the elevation was 7,295. No wonder the motor felt “fat.”
This was interesting…..these bikers were on Harleys and parked next to us at the Continental Divide gift shop. They came over from France to ride Route 66, obtaining the bikes in Oklahoma City and were riding to LA. They loved the Mopar! and asked to see the engine, etc….
…..and each of them wanted to take pictures of themselves in the Road Runner to send back to France! MOPARS ROCK!
We were a “66” roadside attraction!
And confirming that we were…………. when we stopped on Navaho Nation land these young men came out of a restaurant asked if they could see under the hood. It really wasn’t that much to see, but they commented that other hot rodders who came through their land usually refused to let them look under the hood. So I said, “well if you really want to see something fun…..check this out:
..and I got into the driver’s seat and hit the purge button which sent two jets of nitrous shooting up from the cowl. They all cheered and ran into the restaurant and came out with their cell phones to take action shots of the nitrous purging. Next to racing with nitrous, it was the next best usage. I’m sure the video is posted on YouTube somewhere. Talk about Mopar Action!
But our next stop was not so fun and easy. We pulled over at a rest area just to stretch out a bit, and when we returned to the car……..it would not come out of park! I already had a bad feeling about the shifting as the shifter for the past few days was feeling more and more mushy and the indexing was less positive.
Being 95 degrees, and the landscape around the rest stop looking like this, I opted to check the shifter first…….it was fine. Which of course meant that I had to unpack the trunk, drag out the floor jack, dig out my tools – and crawl under the car. It was as unpleasant as imagined. But here was the real horror……..the shifter lever, mounting brackets, and cable attachments were fine! My stomach turned, I felt weak……was it the tranny? I accessed the situation: 95 degrees, 100 miles from Kingman…….pulling out the transmission? I decided to take one last look and just happened to look up and see the fried shifter cable that was about an inch above the exhaust pipe. I couldn’t have been happier. I put large rocks on the front and back of each rear wheel and fit an open end wrench to the shift lever and clicked the trans out of park and into neutral. From there, the shift from neutral to drive and back again(and even reverse) didn’t expand the outside housing of the Morse cable as much so the shifter was usable just as long as I avoided putting it into Park. I was then able to pack up, wash my hands, and say to Vicki – “Let’s rock and roll!”
Kingman to Los Angeles (319 miles)
What can be more fitting than to repair the car on “66?” I got out my tools, but what I really needed for the repair were in my “essentials kit (you can fix practically 75% of your mechanical problems with these): Duct tape, JB Weld, WD 40, and Zip Ties….”
The first time in 23 days that I had to do anything under the hood.
The problem revealed: the outer conduit of the Morse Cable finally melted from the continuous heat of the exhaust pipe, and the metal long lay strands separated (collapsing even more when moving the shifter back). The positioning of the cable was OK for the Pacific Northwest, but didn’t stand a chance in 95 degree temps and hours of continuous driving.
Nothing a few zip ties couldn’t remedy, and we were back on the old road again!
One of Kingman’s oldest business sites. It used to be a Chinese Laundry before it was a gas station and souvenir shop. Still thriving since Kingman is an Interstate 40 destination as well as on the “66.” The owners were very friendly, engaging, and informative about the rich history of Kingman.
We didn’t have the time to go inside……….
…………but experienced the desert first hand instead.
After reaching Needles, CA, we drove on the old “66” until we had to climb over another set of mountains and then opted for the Interstate – “66” is over on the left.
Regardless of the route, this region possesses a spectacular beauty.The trip today was just like the song: “Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino…..get your kicks on Route 66.”
Driving into LA was a packed 4 lanes @ 75 mph. No problem for the Roadrunner. Plenty of brawn and stopping power to spare.
Los Angeles to Los Altos (350 miles)
After spending a fun evening with our niece and nephew and family near Los Angeles, we head up North on the all too familiar 1-5 towards the Los Altos (near San Jose).
As usual, I-5 was packed coming out of LA (for at least 40 miles), and began to thin out (just a bit) through the Imperial Valley. Miles of rich irrigated farmland detailed our drive from the huge population centers of LA (13 million) to the Bay Area (7 million). We met with 40 mph cross winds on the Pacheco Pass cut off from I-5 to the 101 Bayshore freeway; a bit challenging, but really no problem for the Road Runner (the Firm feel suspension parts demonstrated their value). We arrived in San Jose surprised at how it had grown. The city has a population of almost 1 million!
A day spent in San Jose
Population 1 million! Who would have thought? I appears that this City grew from 598,000 in 2008 to 964,000 in 2009 – making it the 10 largest city in the U.S. (it is also listed as the safest large city in the U.S.). My father was born there, and when we used to visit his old hometown in the 50’s – we regarded it like…….you know…….a large farm town.
We had a chance to visit my sister’s history exhibit at the Martin Luther King Library in San Jose where she had on display her collection of historical documents and artifacts that record the contributions that Chinese pioneers made to this region, as well as their involvement in the 1911 overthrow of Imperial rule in China.
That evening, we went to see “Moneyball.” We hadn’t even watched TV, let alone seen a movie during the past 25 days so this was almost a unique experience to us. Although we enjoyed the movie, it hardly compared to the excitement of being on the road, even during those long stretches of highway.
A day in San Francisco.
A short 40 mile drive north brought us to the town that I grew up in: San Francisco (which we referred to as: “the City.”) After being inland for so long, the Bay and the breezes off the Pacific ocean beaches were a refreshing and welcome change. Connie and John invited us to use their condo across from Ghirardelli Square.
An ocean cruise ship passing in front of Alcatraz Island. Aquatic Park is in the foreground.
A time for Vicki to relax……..
…..and to visit the Ghirardelhi Chocolate factory. Miles and miles of Chocolate. Their Sundaes were the best.
San Francisco to Eugene (529 miles)
Starting just after the morning rush hour in San Francisco, we drove the 90 miles east to Interstate 5, the freeway that would eventually lead us to within two miles of our house. Driving up through Northern California we saw Mt. Shasta and were surprised to see their record snowpack (170% of normal) look so small. I guess it we should have seen it in April.
We know that the next 300 miles will be through the foothills and mountains of the Siskiyou Range until we arrive in Eugene. The terrain is actually perfect for cruising. Gentle curves, ascending and descending grades, and glimpses of mountain scenery and connecting flatland. The smallblock still pulling hard on the grades and purring on the flat stretches through the Flowmasters same way it did when we left 27 days before. The Firmfeel suspension felt as tight as when it was installed. And on a flat stretch just before Eugene, I sprayed an extra 100 hp shot of nitrous into the sturdy 318………it worked just fine……
Eugene to Seattle (280 miles) “The trip back home”
Traveling 1-5 from Eugene to Seattle is just a short commute. Straight stretch from Eugene to Portland, and then along the Columbia River through valley areas…..
……and finally to that Northwest timber country.
Our son (in Seattle) asked us to text him as soon as we hit Tacoma so he could prepare for our arrival, so we sent him this picture of the Tacoma dome. As Seattle-lites, we don’t give this facility much thought, but this sighting made us feel that we were close to home.
And as the Interstate got close to Seattle, we saw home – as beautiful as we left it. The Space Needle is to the left of the tall buildings.
The “Jet City,” the “206 (area code),” or, as many affectionately call it: the “6”. Our baseball and football stadiums to the left.And our exit off of Interstate 5 (or the “5”) Although we were anxious to see our children and grandchildren as well as sleep in our own bed, at that moment ……..unexpectedly……… we were not all that excited. Vicki turned to me as we approached the offramp and said: “This was too much fun, I could keep on going……” …….and I couldn’t have agreed more.
Now that the trip is over, there are a few mental notes that I have been keeping during the past 28 days. I will first start off with what we did right:
1. I cannot say enough for my wife and driving partner. We thoroughly entertained and perfectly complimented each other. We sat side by side for 28 days and never wanted to be anywhere else and well as with anyone else. We shared daily experiences and adventures that exceeded all of the richness that we had expected in our trip planning.
2. The 1973 Plymouth Roadrunner also far exceeded my expectations:
-The iso-mount suspension was a real plus for extended cruising (of course the Firm Feel urethane suspension and steering modifications had something to do with it).
-The exhaust system that Ronnie from Flowmaster had designed was both quiet and efficient.
-The aftermarket A/C and cruise control worked flawlessly; the Chrysler Crossfire seats were a must and contributed to our pain free travel.
-The Challenger rear view mirrors told me about anything that was behind me.
-4 degrees of positive caster does wonders for highway driving
-The custom built 904 (w/ 2.74 1st gear and HD clutches and band) by Pat Blais always ran cool and precise.
-The heartbeat of the car, the 1972 factory stock 318 shortblock with 340 style heads never burned a drop of oil.
-Normal cruising was 3400 RPM @ 74 mph. (short stroke = slower piston speed) Overall trip mile per gallon average was: 15.01 (8,047 miles, 536 gallons of premium)
3. Staying in motels that provided a free breakfast saved us at least $20 per day. The AAA motel recommendations were accurate and we could always find a good one for around $80.00 for the both of us that included a breakfast and exercise room.
4. There is nothing like a Mopar muscle car that brings out the best in strangers. People everywhere opened up to us and demonstrated their friendliness, hospitality, and respect because of their appreciation of the ’73 Roadrunner and the adventure that we were partaking in.
What I would have done differently:
1. The 13″ aftermarket steering wheel doesn’t cut it! Ok in the city or for Autocross, but for long trips, I couldn’t reach the armrest with my elbow.
2. Fan shroud: I will never head out to in 90 degree weather without a fan shroud again. No boil overs, but some 200 + water temps when caught in traffic.
3. The KYB shocks were sufficient, but I’m certain that the new Bilsteins would have performed better.
4. Install a rear sway bar. With 300 pounds of luggage, tools, floor jack, batteries, and nitrous tanks in the back – the rear starts exaggerating the corners.
[Actually, this oversteering situation calls for more front roll stiffness; adding a rear bar will only accentuate it. Lowbuck fix: Bias tire pressures (more in rear). – Rick E.]
5. I will never mount a Morse cable so close to an exhaust pipe again.
6. Watch what I eat for dinner (I’m pretty sure that it was the red beans and rice that tasted a bit stale in New Orleans that “did me in”).
7. And never criticize a fellow hot rodder until you’re positive that they are not returning to help.
And last, but definitely, not least:
Many thanks to you, Cliff of Mopar Action for encouraging me to write this blog, and for your professional mentoring of my efforts. Thanks again for you patience and expertise.
Al & Vicki Young