Alexis, Sierra, and Miranda Perkins, along with Motor the hitchhiking kitty, are back toge
All of us have a feel-good story to tell from time to time. While many of these revolve around hot rodders who find themselves a day late and a few bolts short, the end result is a story worth embellishing for late-night tales with fellow rodding insomniacs. This story is different, as it doesn't focus on any specific rodding element, but it's a story to be told, nonetheless.
For starters, I enjoyed the perfect summer. By definition a perfect summer revolves around driving to the NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, while seated behind the wheel of a highboy roadster. This being the 75th anniversary of the Deuce, it makes sense a perfect summer would be experienced behind the wheel of a '32. I found myself driving with Steve Coonan of The Rodder's Journal fame (and almost fortune) in his Deuce highboy roadster when it all began. (Turn to page 66 in this issue for the rest of the drive story.)
It was Wednesday, the last move-in day for exhibitors into the Kentucky Exposition Center (all 500,000 square feet), and I thought I was minding my own business when fellow staffer Ryan Manson said, "Hey, there's a cat in that trailer." Upon further examination, the kid was right. Sitting peacefully on a running board was a tabby. How did we see this cat, you ask? Well, turns out with the hundred or so semi trailers in attendance, this one had a glass side that allowed passersby to peer in.
Being the animal lover that I am, it was time to bring everything to a halt and find out more about the hitchhiker kitty. The trailer didn't have any markings, but I figured the driver would know. Well, he spoke little English but lots of French. Next stop: "Where's Tony LaPoint from Coast to Coast Street Rod?" Tony's company is out of Quebec, Canada, and I figured he would be my "bridge." Well, Tony was the right guy, as it was his trailer. After some interpreting from French to English, we figured out that the driver picked up his unwanted feline near Rochester, New York, where he had dropped off a car for Craig Perkins. After a quick phone call and a subsequent message, it was now a matter of time before Craig would call us back and, hopefully, confirm our suspicions and set him at ease in the process. In the meantime, I continued my walking with kitty when I ran into Pat Skiver-friend and Road Tour partner-along with our very own Jerry Dixey. Pat reminded me that ye ol' Jerry is fond of animals and his wife, Mary Ann, is dedicated to animal rights.
"Hey, Jerry, can you call Mary Ann and figure out what I'm going to do with this cat?" Now we were waiting for two phone calls-one from Mary Ann and the other from Craig. Back at our booth, Jerry was foraging for food and water for our formerly incarcerated feline. Kitty had just traveled some 600-plus miles in three days in an enclosed trailer with no food or water! But we were solving the last part of the equation. The friendly but fussy feline didn't like Jerry's leftover breakfast bacon, but an ample supply of water was to his satisfaction
Heather and David Mills, no less the worse for wear from driving all night and into the ea
Next up, Kathy and Torry Tolbert, attending the Nats like thousands of other rodders, walked by the booth. Kathy saw kitty and asked, "What are you doing with a cat in the middle of a convention hall in Louisville, Kentucky?" I told her I was asking myself that very same question. As luck would have it, Kathy and Torry are cat lovers, having more than their share back home on their farm. Wouldn't you know it, she had the proper wet and dry cat food in their street rod and she said she would retrieve some. Half an hour passed and Kathy was back with food in hand.
Now the return phone calls began: Mary Ann had the phone number to the Metro Humane Society in Louisville, and Craig called back saying his daughters (Alexis, Sierra, and Miranda Perkins) were upset since Motor (yep, the purrfect name for a hot rod kitty) was theirs and had been missing for days.
Over the next two days, I became all too familiar with the MHS, and a plan began to unfold through the efforts of Jerry and Jason from MHS and their boss, Wayne Zolinski.
Craig was willing to do whatever it took to get Motor back home, so I figured this should be a snap. It became obvious the earliest anything would happen would be Monday, and I was going to be gone on Sunday. Given my "white-hat" mentality (remember, I am a football referee who relishes being in charge), I began to panic. "What will happen when I am not there to take charge?" Road Tourian Pat said he would handle the logistics in my absence, and I began to feel better about everything. And that's when life gave me lemons when what I needed was lemonade.
Getting a ride was proving harder than expected. Next was a series of phone calls to the airlines. My wife, Kim, was back in California calling airlines to find out what it would take to get Motor to Rochester. If Motor was traveling with someone, then he can go in a kitty carrier and ride for free. Outstanding, except Motor would be traveling solo. He could travel in the cargo hold, but the catch there was ambient air temperature. Turns out the airlines couldn't guarantee the temperature would not get above 80 degrees and to compound matters, there was a layover and cargo had to be shifted to another airplane. Let's see-Louisville in August ... the average temperature at the Nats was above 95, so my guess was the cargo hold would get really warm! Even the airline people said it was a bad idea. And, should he survive the temps, there was the possibility Motor could be routed to the wrong airport. It went from bad to worse in one phone call.
I called Craig to tell him it was becoming a bit more difficult, but that I would continue to work on it from my end. I suggested, "What if he could meet someone half way?" Craig himself had just started a new job and didn't have ample time off for days. What could we do? He later called and told me his niece, Heather Mills, could make a portion of the drive if I could get Motor to a midway point. There was a catch-they (she and husband David) couldn't begin their portion of the drive until 10 p.m., as that was the time he got off of work. That would prove interesting, since I knew who would be making the drive from my end. In order for all of this to work out, it had to happen on Friday night. I then got back on the phone with Wayne from MHS, who made all the arrangements for me to pick up Motor on Friday at 9:30 p.m. About now it was hitting me just how late of a night this was going to be. The MHS staff, to their credit, provided a great kitty carrier, complete with food and water.
Dixey and I sat down to map out a route that would take me from Louisville, through Lexington, to Cincinnati, then Columbus, and on to Cleveland, where the swap would occur. I felt like I was in some great suspense movie, only there was no super-fast car to drive or bikini-clad beauties to feed me grapes. What I did have was a long night ahead of me; my contact lenses already felt as if they were permanently affixed to my retinas, and my buttocks were sure to be sore after nearly 12 hours and 700-plus miles of non-stop driving. Well, there were two short stops-one to get Motor and one for gas. Did I mention that I had just spent a thrilling day walking around the Kentucky fairgrounds amidst 11,000 street rods under the always-endearing Kentucky-in-August sun?
My leg of the trip proved to be 375 miles each way, which translated into driving six hours and some change each way. Arriving at my destination at 3:30 a.m. was bad enough, but realizing I would be watching the sun rise on the way back would prove plenty tough. Hey, it's been decades since I had pulled an all-nighter!
As it turned out, I arrived at an all-night Denny's restaurant within 15 minutes of David and Heather, and the handoff went smoothly, although I did have to wake Motor.
The drive back, while long and uneventful, still proved to be a challenge. Even for someone like me, who thoroughly enjoys driving-and especially long distances-it was a push. But, there's a story and I suppose a moral in here somewhere. You can figure that one out for yourself. I do know that Alexis, Sierra, and Miranda are happy, and that suits me just fine.