This should come as no surprise, but the single most important thing I can do with a street rod is drive it. (Of course, I would hope you feel the same way.) To me, driving a street rod is more important than building one, showing it, or anything else. In my opinion, the very essence of owning a street rod is in the driving of it--everything else is second tier. In other words, why even bother owning one if you can't drive it?
For starters, I have always loved driving. The destination has always been of secondary importance while the act of driving has been primary. During my formative years, distance wasn't the issue but having a place to go was. I can remember spending entire evenings with fellow hot rodders while never traveling more than 5 miles from home. It was all about looking, talking, and exchanging ideas. Oh yes, there was always a great deal of verbal enhancement about the performance of one's hot rod, but that comes with the territory.
Some of my grandest nights out revolved around the local A&W Drive-In where you could park, look, talk, and eat without ever leaving the comfy confines of your Naugahyde-covered seats. I will never forget those incredible roller skating dollies that would bring me my burger and fries to be chased down with a chocolate shake. I think back now and realize that if I hadn't been able to "roll on," life would be vastly different today.
As I grew up, my driving distances increased and new lands appeared. Pretty soon it was 100 miles of driving in an evening. The results were always the same--neat cars, new friends, fresh ideas, and, of course, with each passing conversation the hot rods got faster and faster. As good as that time was, it pails in comparison to what I have enjoyed over the past four decades with a street rod.
The first long distance drive I can remember from behind the wheel of a street rod was for a Roadster Roundup when I was a member of the L.A. Roadsters. Granted, that trip was less than 300 miles but it was an experience to remember, as I drove in my own hot rod. That was followed by a drive to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for the NSRA Nats South back in the late '70s. (I even received the Long Distance Driving Award for that escapade.) To this day it is still one of the two longest drives I have made in a street rod. The longest probably took place in 1998 when I drove from my home in SoCal to Louisville, Kentucky, for the NSRA Street Rod Nationals. I have had the good fortune of being able to drive to the NSRA Nats in Detroit, Memphis, St. Paul, Tulsa, and Louisville (twice).
This past summer was a good one for long hauls: I drove to the Goodguys Nationals in Columbus, Ohio; to the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky; and to the NSRA Nats in Louisville. This coming summer is shaping up with some really aggressive plans to do even more long distance driving. Yet there's one drive that has still escaped me. I want to drive a hot rod to Alaska!
I know of several rodders that have made the trip and they say it is without a doubt a one-of-a-kind experience. The trip isn't for the faint of will or for those with a "soft" backside. There is the distance factor of 2,313 miles from Seattle, Washington, to Fairbanks. Getting to Seattle from SoCal adds another 1,200 or so miles and then there is the return trip. (Remember, I want to drive to Alaska, not move there!) When all is said and done the trip will be somewhere around 10,000 miles for this SoCal rodder. Now, that's a drive in any hot rod. Let me share with you what I have found out about my impending journey...
On goes the computer and open goes the Web. Even the most enthusiastic Web site will tell you that, "the degree of difficulty has eased sharply in recent years as more and more sections have been straightened and paved." That right there should tell me all I need to know, but I continued. As I read on, I came across this: "Today, almost all of the two-lane highway is surfaced with asphalt. But it's no freeway. There are still stretches where the highway is narrow and curvy, where it lacks centerlines and ample shoulders. Also, watch out for sudden loose-gravel breaks where the pavement has failed or is under repair. Sometimes the gravel gaps are marked with little red flags; sometimes they aren't. And that asphalt paving can ripple like a roller coaster track in places where 'frost heaves' are caused by seasonal freezing and thawing of the ground."
You would think after reading this much via the Web my spirits would be dampened. No sir, not for this hot rodder. Next, my eyes read, "Long dry spells can make the gravel portions of the road dusty, and if it's extremely dry, you may have washboard and roughness problems." Okay, I will admit that for a rodder who has never owned a street rod with a top much less fenders, this is beginning to look a bit daunting. But I read on.
Hmmm, just read that there is a mosquito season, not good in a topless roadster. However, I did find out that the best food on the Alaska Highway (commonly called the Alcan Highway) is to be found at Rika's Roadhouse, just north of Delta Junction, Alaska. Let me do some additional browsing of the World Wide Web and I will get back to you.