It was a wild weekend in St Paul. The Back to the 50's Weekend was fantastic with over 11,700 registered vehicles cruising the Minnesota State Fairgrounds all weekend. Sunday over 600 vendor spaces were filled with all sorts of treasures. By 1 PM it was time to head on down the road. The Classic Automobilia Tour from the Hot Rod Reunion to Back to the 50's had been a huge success but it was time to begin the third leg of what we had called the Rod Tour Triple Crown. The Golden RODtronics Tour was heading to the NSRA Rocky Mountain Nationals in Pueblo Colorado.
We decided to get a little jump on our trip to Pueblo and made the 100 mile drive to Mankato, Minnesota on Sunday afternoon. This got us out of the Twin cities traffic and gave us a little time to rest and relax before our long trek west. Some folks washed their rides and did some minor repairs. The Road Tour convertible was running fine and the American Speed33 body with it's easy up and down top was perfect for the great weather we have been experiencing.
Monday morning the participants on the Golden RODtronics Tour gathered in the hotel parking lot in Mankato to begin the trip to Colorado. We were joined by Dave Kopser the owner of Golden RODtronics. He had been set up all weekend at Back to the 50's and was going to travel along with us in his vintage company truck at least for the first few days. We rolled out at 8AM and began our journey. Our first stop was in Sioux Falls South Dakota and the facilities of Dakota Digital. Ross Ortman, the owner of Dakota Digital had invited us for lunch on Monday and the burgers were cooking when we pulled in the parking lot. Already famous for their instruments and remotes, Dakota Digital had grown tremendously over the past few years and has expanded their line to included LED taillight assemblies. We got a look at their production facilities and their building expansion which is just being completed. By 1 PM it was time to journey onward. Our destination for Monday evening was Lincoln, Nebraska and we rolled into town a about 5 PM.
We had been very lucky with the weather so far on the Tours. That was about to change. About 4AM on Tuesday morning were we awakened with thunder and lightening as a major Nebraska storm blew through Lincoln. While it woke many of us up a bit too early, the timing was perfect because Tuesday morning we were scheduled to get a tour of one of the coolest places on earth; The Smith Collection Museum of American Speed at Speedway Motors. Joyce and Bill Smith have been in the speed equipment mail order business for well over 50 years and in that time have managed to collect an incredible number of historic vehicles, vintage accessories, collectable pedal cars, toys and all those things that make any hot rodder's heart beat faster. About 6 years ago they moved their collection into a huge three story facility on the grounds of Speedway Motors. It is hard to relate how massive the collection is and how incredibly all the items are displayed. It was the perfect way to spend a rainy morning in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was the first visit to the museum for many folks on the Golden RODtronics Tour and it was fun to watch their faces as we walked from room to room and saw all the items on display. The highlight of the Tour was when Bill Smith himself dropped by to personally greet our group. Everyone came away with a real feel for how great the Smith Collection was and how much time and effort went in to the undertaking. Many thanks to Damon Lee of Speedway Motors for helping to put our tour of the museum together.
After our visit at Speedway we headed west on Interstate 80 across Nebraska. We drove through a few more brief showers before the skies cleared and the weather got back to Road Tour beautiful. Many of us stopped in Kearny, Nebraska and visited the Great Platte River Road Archway that is actually built over the interstate. It documents the early settler's route to the west as it passed through Nebraska and on to all that laid ahead the hearty souls that set out in the mid 1800s. It was very well done and worth a stop if you are traveling across I-80 in Nebraska. It was time to continue on our own journey as we were going to be guest of honor at a car cruise in Hays, Kansas that evening. Hays Kansas resident Harold Bettis and his pals in the Hays Outlaws but together a special poker run for us and it was lots of fun. Harold and his wife Margret had been traveling with us all week and were great hosts for the evening of fun and food. Many thanks to the folks in Hays who made it a cool evening.
The Golden RODtronics Tour is not over yet. There is much more on tap, including a visit to a wrecking yard that has been operating since 1939. Check back, I will keep you updated.