A BVR TRAVELOGUE
The first person to ask "Are we there yet?" has to get out and walk.
I feel compelled to begin this article with an explanation of why it is appearing in Smoke Signals. There are probably a number of members who would question what this story has to do with either Blackhawk Valley Region, or the SCCA. After all, it is just a story of two members in a cross country trek to get parts for an older sports car. I will justify it in this way: The SCCA was founded by seven vintage sports car enthusiasts in 1944. The original constitution of the club stated its purpose thus; "Article II --- Purpose. The purpose of the club shall be to further the preservation of sports cars, to act as an authentic source of information thereupon, and to provide events for these cars and their owners." With that note, and the emphasis on "the preservation of sports cars", let me begin our story.
GOD BLESS EBAY!
I have an early Austin-Healey 3000 that I am trying to restore. I say "trying" because there never seems to be enough money at the end of the paycheck for frivolous things such as shocks, a wiring harness, new kingpins, .....you get the idea. Indeed, it is very trying. One day I discovered eBay, and realized how valuable it would be to me in my quest to restore my car. I realized if one is patient, eventually EVERYTHING one needs to complete a restoration will be listed on eBay, and usually at a reasonable price. With that in mind I began checking that website once a week for Austin-Healey parts. One item I had always wanted for my car was a factory hardtop. I had seen several listed and sold, but they were always out of my price range by the end of the auction. But I noticed a hardtop which was being listed for the third time. I contacted the seller and found out the first two sales fell through because the buyer did not discover just how expensive it wo! uld be to ship the hardtop until after winning the auction, and had to back out of the sale. I was informed the shipping cost was over $600. The cost is high because it is bulky, as it is not very heavy. So for this listing the seller stipulated it was up to the buyer to either arrange the shipping or pick up the item himself. I believed this would minimize the number of bidders, increasing my chances of getting the hardtop at a price I could afford. The auction was to end on a Thursday, and I would be on vacation the following two weeks, allowing me to pick up the item myself. So I placed a bid on the hardtop and won the auction. Let me assure you I paid much less than I thought I would have to pay. There was one minor problem. I would have to drive some distance to pick it up.
CHOOSE YOUR TRAVELING COMPANIONS WISELY
I was now committed to travel some distance to pick up the hardtop. I had to decide whether to travel alone, or find someone who could travel with me. Kathy, my wife, was out of the question. Her vacation would not start until the following Thursday. So, after giving it some thought, I decided to see if Jeff would be interested in the drive. It was my good fortune he was available, having recently become unemployed. So I gave Jeff a call.
"Jeff, are you busy this weekend?"
" I was wondering if you would like to take a road trip with me. I have to pick up a hardtop for my Healey, and you were my first choice as passenger (this was true). I plan on leaving Saturday morning, but I am not sure when we would return. That would depend on how the trip went. Are you interested?"
"Maybe. Where are we going?"
"Boise. Boise, Idaho."
"Yeah. I almost forgot, we have to be back midweek because I have to catch a flight to Florida"
"Let me think about it. I'll get back to you tomorrow (Friday)."
This would not be the first road trip Jeff and I shared. A number of years ago we shared a ride to the Runoffs when they were still held at Road Atlanta. We already had a rapport, having discovered we were both Tennessee Squires. Blood brothers have a bond through blood. Tennessee Squires are more civilized. We share Jack Daniel's whiskey. Our trip to Road Atlanta was a truly memorable event. More on that later.
Friday afternoon the phone rang. It was Jeff, and he asked "So what time do we leave on Saturday?"
I knew he would not let me down.
A THOUSAND MILE JOURNEY BEGINS WITH ONE STEP
We decided to leave at a good time Saturday morning, after having a good night's rest. We ended up leaving at 6:40 a.m. I had been keeping an eye on the weather channel for the last several days. It was early March, and snow storms can brew up without warning in the West. When we left, everything looked clear for our journey. I had looked up our route on Mapquest. Believe it or not, there were only 12 instructions for our route from Northern Illinois to Boise, with about half of them just to get us to I-39.
My mini-van had over 134,000 miles on the odometer. To put Jeff's fears at ease I pointed to the "service engine soon" light which was on. I told him to ignore it, as it had been on for several thousand miles already. I told him I had it checked out a few thousand miles earlier, and the serviceman could not find a code indicating any problems, so I had been ignoring it. I must have sounded convincing because Jeff promptly ignored it.
In about two hours time we made it to the Mississippi River at the Quad Cities. I was driving and we were lost in conversation. At the last moment I realized I was about to miss my exit and made an abrupt lane change onto the exit, with the tires squealing in protest. As we continued on our way we both laughed and realized we had to pay closer attention to the route.
The year we went to Road Atlanta we decided on our way there to make a side trip to Mid-Ohio for the WOR Games. We got a late start, not leaving until about 8:00 p.m. on Friday night. We were taking two lane roads across Indiana and Ohio. One particular road had a series of small rises which hid the headlights of oncoming traffic. Like most of you, I am the type of person who would rather drive than be driven. We were taking my car and were trading off as driver. I had decided I would not critisize his driving if he did something I didn't agree with, hoping he would do the same for me. About 2:00 in the morning we came up upon a straight truck. Jeff was driving and decided to pass it. I had a small compact station wagon loaded down with all our gear. The car was taking forever to get up to speed. I previously mentioned the rises in the road which hid oncoming headlights. As we swung out to pass the straight truck I noticed the running lights across the t! op of an oncoming semi, but I didn't say anything, keeping the promise I had made to myself. After all, surely Jeff had seen them too and must have thought he had plenty of room. As we got alongside the straight truck the oncoming semi's headlights suddenly appeared, startling Jeff. He slammed on the brakes and we were able to tuck in behind the straight truck just before meeting the semi. Jeff looked at me and said "Where the hell did that come from?"
My reply was, "Sorry about that Jeff. I saw its running lights but assumed you had control of the situation."
Note to self: NEVER assume anything!
WE'RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE
Actually, we never were in Kansas, having taken I-80 west from the Quad Cities to Salt Lake City where we would take I-15, then I-84 north into Idaho. You will recall in the movie The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy uttered the line "We're not in Kansas anymore." after realizing things were "different". Although we did not see any flying monkeys, things were different, none the less. While we were travelling through Nebraska, the driver ahead of us hit the brakes and pulled over to the side of the road for an ambulance that had on its emergency lights. The different part was the ambulance was in the Eastbound lane going the opposite direction on the Interstate. I must have not been paying attention when they taught us about that one in driver's ed. Later, we came upon a flashing sign warning us of a dust storm ahead, and we should be prepared to slow down. We thought it odd there would be a dust storm in March. We thought it even odder that we never encou! ntered a dust storm after being warned of one.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about Omaha. When we got to Omaha, Jeff was driving, and almost made a wrong turn, correcting his mistake at the last moment. That made us even, because I had done the same thing in Illinois just before crossing the Mississippi.
LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW
We passed Laramie, Wyoming at about 11:00 p.m., Central Standard Time. We were making excellent time. Then it began to snow. The higher we climbed in elevation, the more it snowed. Jeff was driving, and was having trouble seeing where the road went, as there was little traffic to leave tracks in the snow. I believe he was using the rumble strips on each side of the road as guide markers. I say I believe this was the case, as I was trying to sleep, but not having much luck for all the noise caused by said rumble strips. So we decided I should give it a try. After changing seats, I caught up to a semi and decided to stay behind it, letting him cut the trail. But by now our windshield began to ice up. There is nothing more frustrating than this, because as you know, once it begins to ice up, it will ge progressively worse until you are left with a very small clear spot on the windshield to see out of (if you are lucky). We decided to call it a night and p! ulled off at the next exit, and found a well lit building with a parking lot not far from the Interstate. Jeff climbed into the back of the van to sleep, and I reclined my seat, feigning comfort. We passed the night listening to salt trucks. It seems we parked in front of a highway maintenance building, and the salt trucks kept returning for more supplies, then leaving again.
Years ago, when we went to Road Atlanta by way of Mid-Ohio, we arrived at Mid-Ohio at 4:00 a.m. Registration would not open for several more hours, so we decided to park next to the fence across from registration, pulled out our sleeping bags and went to sleep next to the fence by the car. Two hours later I was awakened by a running car engine which sounded very close. Then I heard a siren. Had I sat up, I would have hit my head on the front bumper of the car operated by Mid-Ohio's track security. The siren was his way of waking me up. He then informed me I couldn't sleep there because someone could have driven over me. I learned a long time ago not to argue with track security personnel (Remind me sometime to tell you the story about track security at Sebring) but it seemed to me the only one I had to worry about running over me was HIM! A popular song on the radio at the time was The Dream Police, by Cheap Trick. Ever since then, Jeff and I have ref! ered to the Mid-Ohio security by that same name.
After five hours of restless sleep about 60 miles east of Rawlings, Wyoming, the snow let up enough for us to continue. Although the road crews had been working all night the roads were still somewhat icy. So I kept the speed down to about 70 mph. We stopped at a truck stop at Rawlings to have breakfast. I struck up a conversation with a trucker from California who was heading east. It was then that we discovered we must have been one of the last vehicles to make the climb through the pass after Laramie before the authorities closed the interstate the night before. The trucker had stopped at Rawlings and was waiting for the roads to improve before continuing east. He inquired about the road conditions so I told him it had been pretty bad the night before, as we had to slow down to 60 mph before having to stop for the night because of the icy windshield. But things were much better this morning as we were able to increase our speed to 70 and had only seen two! semis on their side in the median. He rolled his eyes and walked away without saying another word. I got the impression he intended to get a second opinion, preferably from someone who was sane.
HEY, THERE'S OUR EXIT! PART III
We got back on the road and were once again making excellent time. As we got closer to to Salt Lake City, I expressed my concern to Jeff about beverages, or the lack of them. Mormons do not drink anything with caffeine or alcohol. Please don't read too much into that sentence. It is one of their religious beliefs, and one of our rights as citizens is the right to practice our individual religious beliefs. There are many places in the world where tolerance of other's beliefs is not practiced. Be thankful we live in the U.S. But neither Jeff nor I are Mormon, both occassionally consuming drinks with alcohol or caffeine. For this trip we had the had the alcohol part covered, having brought Jack Daniel's with us. But I like to have a strong cup of coffee to sip on when driving long distances, and we were getting close to Mormonville. I could imagine pulling up to a street corner where a drug dealer is more than happy to sell me crack cocaine. I would ne! rvously look around as I ask him where I could get some java. Sensing trouble, he would then slowly back away from me, wanting nothing to do with me. My fears were unfounded. Coffee is readily available. As we passed through the mountain meadows, I was thankful the Mormons were tolerant of my coffee consumption!
We were supposed to exit off of I-80 onto I-84 east of Salt Lake City. You guessed it. I was driving, and we were conversing. And as a result we almost missed our exit. I had to do an emergency lane change, complete with squealing tires. Again.
The score was now two to one.
IF BOISE AND JERSEY ARE PRONOUNCED THE SAME, WHY ARE THEY SPELLED SO DIFFERENTLY?
Steve, the person I was buying the hardtop from wanted me to give him a call when we would be an hour away. I called him to give him our ETA to give him time to get to his shop, as it was late morning on Sunday in Boise. We had no trouble finding his shop. We arrived at 1:20 p.m. CST, having driven 1,675 miles. We would have made it at 8:00 a.m. if it hadn't been for the snow in Wyoming. I paid Steve and we loaded up the hardtop. But we stayed for a little while. It is virtually impossible to go to any restoration shop without looking over every vehicle in the shop, and having an extended conversation with the owner. Car guys will talk about cars for hours on end if given the opportunity. We had to get going, so after about 45 minutes we thanked him, said our goodbyes, and were on our way.
THE NUMBER YOU HAVE CALLED IS BUSY
We had the hardtop and were now heading home. We were both in an upbeat mood and knew with each mile we were closer to home. We were making good time, passing numerous vehicles on our route. Relaxed, our conversation covered a number of subjects. In mid-sentence I looked up to notice for us to stay on I-84 we had to turn onto the exit we were about to pass, and I quickly pointed it out to Jeff who was not paying any more attention to the route than I was. Looking in the rear-view mirror, he hits the brakes hard as we went past the exit. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you his cell phone began ringing at the same time. It was Sue, his wife, calling to check our progress. He answered the phone with the simple words "Hang on!", threw the phone in his lap, braked to a stop on the shoulder, turned right and drove down into the ditch about 100 feet past the exit, coming to a dusty stop on the bank of the left shoulder of the exit where we now had to wait for about a! dozen cars, trucks, and semis to pass before we could re-enter. While we were waiting, he picked up his phone and continued the conversation with the caller. This all happened in less time than it took you to read the previous two sentences. As we accelerated, I could imagine Olympic Judges standing by the edge of the road holding score cards which show scores of "10" for technique and style. Except for the French and Russian judges, who only gave Jeff a score of 6.5.
As we drove away from the scene, I mentioned to Jeff we had now both nearly missed two exits, and were now even. He politely agreed. But we both knew it was not true. He was actually WAY ahead. I'm certain he imagined the Olympic Judges too.
To keep him from smirking, I pointed out to him he would have to once again pass all of those vehicles.
I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT I'M A LITTLE TIRED. DO YOU WANT TO CALL IT A DAY?
By now it was dark and we were back in Wyoming. We were both very tired and decided to stop for a sitdown meal, and find a motel to get some rest. We pulled in to Green River, Wyoming and got a room. It was 9:40 p.m. MST on Sunday evening. After checking in we looked for a bar where we could get a drink. By now it was almost 10:00. We walked into a bar as the lady bartender announced it was closing time. Jeff talked her into serving us before locking the door. He was then able to talk her into a second drink, by which time we were on a first name basis with the other patrons. We asked where we could get a meal, and the bartender called the local Pizza Hut for us to make sure they were still open. Jeff and I then left for Pizza Hut, saying goodbye to our new friends.
We were the only customers at Pizza Hut. Other than the cook in the back room, it was just Jeff, me, and the pregnant teenager waiting on our table. They were only serving soft drinks but Jeff told me he had it covered so we both order Cokes. After our waitress left us to study our menus Jeff pulled out his pocket flask and magically changed our Cokes to Jack Daniel's and Coke. Jeff asked me if I wanted to split a pizza, and I told him I would get a pasta dish instead. At that our waitress reappeared to take our orders. Jeff ordered a personal pan pizza. The waitress turned to me and informed me he had ordered the last one and I would have to order something else. Never one to waste an opportunity, I immediately looked Jeff in the eye, scowled, and said, "You bastard! Now I have to eat pasta!", then placed my order for pasta. After taking my order our waitress left our table in haste, certain we were about settle our differences the old fashioned way, using ou! r fists.
We toasted each other, clinking our glasses, and enjoyed our drinks while we waited for our meal.
When we got back to our room we decided to get up at 5:00 to get an early start.
When we finally did wake up at 6:04, it was with the realization we were burning daylight. Either the alarm did not work, or one of us had shut it off. Either way we had lost another hour, but in hindsight, we probably needed MUCH more rest.
ENTERING THE HOME STRETCH
We began to pick up the pace. By now we were getting anxious to be home and have the trip over. We decided to do things differently at our stops. Up to that point, when we would stop we would leisurely fuel up, use the rest rooms, and get food. From this point on we would do everything with a sense of urgency, to waste as little time as possible. Our stops wouldn't be the same as Formula one pit stops, but would deffinately be quicker than they had been earlier in our trip.
When we did our road trip to Road Atlanta years ago we decided to take I-75 to Atlanta, then come up to Gainesville on I-985. Jeff was driving as we were taking I-285 around the north end of Atlanta. It was at least six lanes wide and the traffic was very heavy, but it was moving at about 65 mph. Suddenly a bed box spring appeared on the road directly in front of us. We could not change lanes because of the heavy traffic, and Jeff barely had time to hit the brakes, so we ended up hitting it square at about 55 mph. We bounded over it accompanied by a great deal of noise. I would be willing to bet there was laughter in all of the cars around us with the exception of the cars directly behind us, as they were running over it too. After hitting the box spring neither of us spoke for a moment. Then Jeff asked, "What do you think?"
I asked, "How is the steering?"
Jeff steered back and forth a few times and said, "It's okay."
"How are the brakes?"
He checked the brakes and the brake pedal a few times and said, "They're okay too."
I said,"Then let's continue." We continued on our way, with no problems. It just shows you have to be ready for the unexpected. I am glad I was with Jeff. Had he swerved or locked up the brakes the result could have been very different.
We were now well into Nebraska. We decided to figure out when we would get home. We tried to figure in our heads. Several attempts produced three different times of 10:00 p.m., 11:00 p.m., and 12:00 midnight on Monday. It was obvious to both of us we were getting tired and not thinking clearly so we got a paper and pen and refigured. This time we came up with an ETA of 2:00 a.m. Tuesday. That time seemed questionable so we figured again, this time coming up with an answer of 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. Let's see.. five attempts, and five different answers. I guess you could say we were getting tired. We believed the 1:30 answer to be closest to correct, but that time was unacceptable to us, so we did the the logical (?) thing. We increased our speed by another 5mph.
We finally made it home. It was 12:20 a.m. on Tuesday, and we had covered 3,357 miles during our journey. Our average speed from beginning to end was 51.17mph. which seems slow until you realize we were sleeping and resting for over 14 hours during the run, of which 6 hours was not planned. And if we had not dallied during our stops the average speed would have been higher. But I now have a hardtop, and its price and expense to get it is less than it would have cost just to have it shipped here.
It was one of those impulsive things that people do. If I had thought it through rationally, I probably would have talked myself out of it. But having said that, I am glad we did it. When one does a road trip of this nature one needs to choose one's traveling companions carefully. As for me, I am ready for the next road trip. How about you, Jeff?
Cost of hardtop and travel expenses.......under $600.00
Hardships endured.................................2 and 1/2 days with little sleep
Memories of the road trip with Jeff...........priceless!
Email your comments or questions to