The postal worker's creed goes: "Neither rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night..." Well, at the end of the final leg of the 2002 Road Tour I was ready to go postal! The revised NSRA schedule placed the new Golden State Nationals in Sacramento, California, in between the Burlington, Vermont, event and the finale in Tampa, Florida. I am here to say that Sacramento is definitely not on the way from Burlington to Tampa. It is, in fact, 6,000 miles out of the way! Adding to the distance dilemma is the fact that the 3,000-mile three-day run from Sacramento to Tampa is going the "wrong way."
Traveling East to West you gain time on the clock as well as daylight hours. Traveling from West to East you have to give all that back. This "Iron Man" run was a true test of man and machine.
I had returned home Monday after the Northeast Nationals in Burlington and had a few days to repack and make final preparations to the '39 convertible. My "pit crew" at BMS Engineering, Customs and Restorations in Youngstown, Ohio, went over the car from nose to tail. All the bolts were checked and all the fluids topped off. On Sunday morning at 5 a.m. it was time to "go West, young man."
I wanted to get through the Gary, Indiana/Chicago-area on the weekend. Sunday went smoothly under mostly sunny skies. There was actually no construction around Chicago but the roads are so rough already that I am sure they will start all over again by next summer. I made it to Omaha, Nebraska, by Sunday evening.
On Monday it was time to make the long run across Nebraska and then to Wyoming. The crosswinds became very strong. The Time Machine Unlimited convertible top has done a great job this year and stood up to the crosswinds just fine. It's just unnerving to have those side gusts bouncing you around the highway!
By Rawlins the wind increased and the temperature started to drop. Rain clouds were forming overhead. I knew that I had to at least get past Rock Springs and the higher elevation before I stopped for the night. This time of year anything, including a snowstorm, can happen in a matter of hours. Just past Rock Springs it started to rain and get foggy. I pressed on, my destination being Evanston on the Wyoming-Utah border. It marks the beginning of the long descent into the Salt Lake City area. I made it by 8 p.m. just in time for the weather to get really nasty.
I had some supper in a local restaurant and the waitress said that they were calling for snow in the morning. She asked which way I was headed. "West," I answered. "You'll be okay if you get two miles down the road into Utah," she replied. I asked her if it was because you drop out of the higher elevation and she said, "no, it's because Utah salts the roads!" I did not sleep well that night...
I threw open the motel curtains at 5 a.m. and sure enough it was snowing--but only flurries. I had to get out of there! Flurries turned to rain as I took the loop north of Salt Lake City. It was a very hard rain but at least it was not snowing. I-80 from Salt Lake City to the Utah-Nevada border is a long, flat, straight highway. It usually does not rain in this area. That day it did.
As I approached Wendover on the border I realized that the Bonneville Salt Flats had become Lake Bonneville! This freak rain had covered the salt. The weather had cleared and I wanted to get to Reno by dark. There were some other folks from our street rod traveling circus who were also headed West. I kept in touch by cell phone with Wings Kalahan, the NSRA DJ who was ahead of me pulling his trailer. We would find out later that Al Washburn in his Deuce roadster had the toughest trip of all of us. Vernon Walker of Walker Radiator and the NSRA caught up with me west of Wendover in his "old blue" '39 Chevy sedan. Vernon and I made the scenic run to Reno under clear skies.
We spent the night in Reno and headed toward Sacramento in the morning. It was only 150 miles, but those miles were straight up the mountains to Donner Pass and then down a 40-mile descent into the Sacramento area. The scenery was spectacular! Being from Ohio, I am not used to 40 miles of 6 percent downhill grades, but everything went fine and at 2 p.m. on Wednesday I pulled into the headquarters at the first annual Golden State Nationals.
I had used 126 gallons of fuel on the 2,550-mile trip. The Ford 302 engine with the T.C.I. Automotive automatic overdrive transmission had done a great job, giving me 20 miles to the gallon. Everything on the car had performed flawlessly on the trip West.
On Wednesday evening before the event, DJ Wings Kalahan, his assistant Ken Rea, and I made the hour drive into San Francisco to visit one of the premiere street rod shops in the country. Roy Brizio had invited me to stop by his new shop in south San Francisco. He was working on one rod that he knew I would be interested in seeing. Roy and his crew are restoring the original Tom McMullen roadster back to its 1963 condition. It was an exciting evening as I came face-to-face with the original version of the famous roadster whose clone I had driven on the 1997 Road Tour. The McMullen roadster was not the only famous street rod in Roy's shop. They are beginning work on Vic Edelbrock, Sr.'s original '40s-era Deuce lakes roadster. Also, the original Ala Kart sits in his shop, patiently awaiting its turn. It was an unbelievable time spent with one of the truly nice guys in our hobby.
Sun and street rod fun were the order of the weekend at the first annual Golden State Nationals. The Cal-Expo Center was covered with the finest rods the West Coast has to offer. They love their roadsters in California and they were there in full force.
On Sunday afternoon it was time to begin the long journey back East to Tampa and the Southeast Nationals. I had invited a friend from the show circuit to travel along with me for the three-day run. Milan Dupkanic owns International Trade Services, the company that sells the "Nibbler," a metal cutting tool that Milan displays at all of the NSRA events. We headed out at 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon and spent the first evening in Bakersfield. The next day we headed toward I-40 to Needles and then south through Lake Havasu City. We made a quick stop at Mullins Steering Gears and then it was on to I-10, which would be our route to Florida. Monday evening we stayed in Tucson, Arizona.
Tuesday was a beautiful day in the Southwest and we got into Texas before noon. The weather was still great but we were getting word of storms in the San Antonio area. "Storms" were an understatement. We reached San Antonio by 10 p.m. and it was really raining. We woke early and heard the news that San Antonio had received 5 inches of rain overnight and that the front was heading east.
That day had without a doubt the worst weather conditions that I have ever traveled in on the Road Tour. It was a downpour that followed us all day until we stopped for the evening in Gulfport, Mississippi. We got up very early the next morning and were able to drive out of the storm by noon.
We pulled onto the Florida Sate fairgrounds at 2 p.m. on Thursday. The skies were sunny and the horror of the previous day's weather soon became just a memory. The STREET RODDER Road Tour 2002 had completed its mission. It was a wild and wooly last lap to Tampa but we accomplished what we had set out to do. Thanks to the quality components of our suppliers and the craftsmanship of the crew at California Street Rods, the seventh edition of the Road Tour was a success. With over 25,000 miles on the odometer, the '39 Ford Coast to Coast convertible will have a few months rest before some lucky person is handed the keys.
I am now ready for a rest! The word is already out: construction has begun at Barry White's Street Rod Repair Company on a Ford-powered, Wescott-bodied '33 Ford roadster. Did I mention how much I enjoyed the fold-up top this year? Hey guys, how 'bout a top?
Have a great winter and I will see you next year on STREET RODDER's 2003 Road Tour. Check out our Web site at www.streetrodderweb.com for all the updates.
Sunrise over the Nebraska cornfields was beautiful. The weather was cooperating and our '3
This structure is near Kearney, Nebraska, about 180 miles west of Omaha. The Great Platte
This "field of dreams" is on I-80 just east of the Wyoming border. I did not have time to
The weather got bad by Rawlins, WY. Heavy crosswinds and hard rain slowed down my westward
This was a Road Tour first. When I woke up in Evanston, WY, on Tuesday morning I was greet
My luck was a lot better than Al Washburn's in his '32 roadster. He got caught in a freak
I had made stops at the Bonneville Salt Flats on previous Road Tour trips. It had never lo
I hooked up with Vernon Walker of Walker Radiator and the NSRA. We made the gorgeous run t
Just west of Reno you begin the climb up to Donner Pass. After you reach the summit, there
It was an exciting evening at Roy Brizio Street Rods in south San Francisco. I was in awe
In the same building as Roy's shop is John Mumford's fantastic collection of vehicles. The
"Yes sir. It's called the Street Rod Road Tour... Yes sir, 3,000 miles to Tampa, FL, in ab
We made a quick stop at Mullins Steering Gears in Lake Havasu City on Monday afternoon. Ow
We also made a stop in Lake Havasu City to visit its second most famous tourist attraction