If your idea of a good time is rolling up miles on your street rod, seeing the country through a bug-covered windshield, and generally having a great time hanging out with the best like-minded folks on the planet, at least one of the legs of the STREET RODDER / PPG Road Tour should be on your summertime schedule. I was lucky enough again this year to draw the Vintage Air leg from San Antonio to the L.A. Roadsters Show & Swap Meet in Pomona, California. And while the beginning and end of this year's Vintage Air leg were the same as last, trail boss Rick Love made the middle substantially different this time around by leading us through New Mexico and Arizona on miles of fun-to-drive and scenic two-lanes. To make things even better, this year I got the chance to travel with the one and only Tom "Stroker McGurk" Medley in his '40 Ford coupe.

As usual, before we departed on Sunday, June 10, a few of the cars were attacked by gremlins, and Tom's '40 was one of them-the alternator decided to quit charging on the way to our motel Saturday night. That wouldn't normally be a big deal, but it was 10 p.m. and all the parts stores were closed, and we were planning to leave at 7 a.m., before any of them would be open. So, in true STREET RODDER style, we came up with an alternate alternator plan. George Packard fired up his Deuce coupe, and then his battery was swapped for Medley's so we could get to Rick's garage on the battery power. There, stashed under his workbench, was a slightly grimy-but-serviceable GM alternator; of course the wiring harness had to be modified, and the mounting ear had to be tapped to work the mounting bracket, but then if this street rod stuff was easy, everyone would do it. Slightly blurry-eyed from our repair session that lasted until the wee hours, we met the gang at Vintage Air on the appointed hour, hit Highway 90, and headed west.

At our first gas stop in Uvalde, Texas, the gremlins returned, this time attacking Jimmie Vaughan's gorgeous Flathead-powered '32 Ford five-window. The alternator's mounting stud had pulled the threads in the intake manifold, and, as a result, the belt that runs the alternator and water pumps couldn't be tightened. But, like every other time we've seen a street rod have problems on the road, help came from everywhere. Fellow travelers, locals just driving by, and even the town policeman on patrol stopped to see what they could do to help. A trip to the local farm supply produced a bolt to replace the stud and we were on the road again.

For reasons I've never been able to figure out, there's always at least one street rod version of a Chinese fire drill on our segment of the tour, and this year was no different. After a lunch stop in Del Rio, Texas, Tom and I were among the last to leave, so of course we looked at this as a chance to turn the wick up on the '40 to catch the others. As we rounded a bend at speed, a gust of wind blew Tom's cap out the window, so of course we pulled over, turned around, and went back to look for a $9 hat. Over the years, Vintage Air's Jack Chisenhall and son Landis have followed the group to make sure no one with problems gets left behind, so they pulled over when they saw us turning around. By the time we found Tom's hat, reversed direction again, and were making tracks to catch up, the Chisenhalls had turned around and were coming back to check on us. Even as we passed at speed, we could all see the smiles on each other's faces; it doesn't take much to entertain street rodders.

A short detour off Highway 90 took us to the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center. Remarkably, the original building that was Bean's home of law west of the Pecos-as well as a bar and pool hall, among other things-still stands in the town he named after English actress Lillie Langtry, nicknamed the Jersey Lily. After checking out what was the Jersey Lily saloon, we opted for the offerings of the town's post office/store-soft drinks and ice cream push-ups-then it was on to our first night's stop in Fort Davis at the historic Hotel Limpia. That evening there was a car show and barbecue in the town square.

Monday morning we stopped just out of town to tour Fort Davis, said to be the best surviving 19th century military post. Active from 1854 to 1891, the fort was brought back from near ruin thanks to an ongoing national park service preservation and restoration program. The authentically restored barracks had everyone speculating what life must have been like back then.

As if to go from one extreme to another, our next stop was in Roswell, New Mexico. On the way into town, a number of sharp-eyed street rodders spotted a salvage yard full of vintage tin from the '40s, '50s, and '60s. Unfortunately a few herd of sheep were the only living things on the premises, so we had to be content looking at it all through a chain-link fence. A few more miles down the road we found the center of town and the International UFO Museum and Research Center. Evidently the last spaceship that landed in town was full to the brim with T-shirts and bumper stickers, and they're still trying to get rid of them. Somewhere there's a street rod plastered with a "My Other Car is a UFO" sticker, but don't blame us.

Tuesday we continued west through the rolling hills of New Mexico. After a lunch stop at K-Bob's in Socorro, we wound through the hills of "Billy the Kid" country, stopping in Capitan, the birthplace of none other than Smokey Bear. This was an interesting stop for those of us who could remember the "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires!" campaigns from the '50s. When the Smokey Bear fire prevention program began in the '40s, an illustration of Smokey, wearing jeans and a campaign hat, pouring a bucket of water on a campfire was used. Then, in 1950, a tiny, badly singed bear cub was found clinging to a tree during a blaze in the Capitan area. The little black bear was nursed back to health and became the living symbol of Smokey. He lived in the National Zoo until his death in 1975.

At our lunch stop earlier in the day, we were tipped off that Pie Town on the continental divide was a great place to check out; as you might guess, we packed the place. After this stop, Medley and I were among the last to get on the road, and as we crested a hill not far down the road we found the Road Tour coupe parked on the side of the road with our very own pavement pounder, Jerry Dixey, and STREET RODDER Publisher Tim Foss discussing the finer points of fuel management. After all the wisecracks like, "These guys know less about street rods together than they do individually," and, "Who was the genius that swapped the 16-gallon tank for a 12?" were over, we turned our attention to solving the problem at hand. By this time, the Chisenhalls were on the scene, but between all of us there wasn't a siphon hose or a can to put gas in. Around the time we were deciding who was going to get fuel, Seth Bradley and his father, John, pulled up in Seth's Deuce roadster. And, although the Bradleys couldn't help, they knew someone who could-Bob and Kathleen Jackson were just ahead of us in their '41 Dodge coupe and they had a full fuel can onboard.