We were ready! Steven spent lots of time correcting all the problems from the previous year and replacing the appropriate 17-year-old, new parts. PRNCZ ran really well around the neighborhood and short trips in the area.
During the winter we arranged to caravan with Bruce Nichols and Joyce Hart. Steven had trip software on the computer and planned a great route there and back. Diane sat with the atlas and the route and planned the stops and activities.
For this meet we also had to relearn serious MG packing. Diane found two old antique suitcases the previous winter and asked the fella who did the interior and top to make a cover for the larger suitcase from the top material so it could be strapped on the luggage rack. The smaller suitcase fit in the boot on top of the spare, just between the hinges. We even had room for tools, oil, and two pairs of cowboy boots. We were back in the saddle, again!
Bruce and Joyce drove down the Friday before the GT. We had the trip down figured at four days. We had our bon voyage party and hit the sack early: up at 6AM. Saturday, and every day during the trip except one, proved to be hot and sunny. We won't belabor the point, but this was one hot, hot, hot trip. We ended up putting the top up after the second day because the sun was just too brutal to go without it. This was going to be, yet again, another MGAdventure.
About four hours into the trip, PRNCZ started running extremely hot and began to ping, big time. We ended up in a town park in some berg in the middle of Illinois. Our first tech session revealed that the timing had slipped to 32 degrees BTC — who knows why. Diane had us on another tight schedule the first day. We had to be at the Mississippi River by 6PM to make the last ferry or drive about 60 miles out of our way, back north. The time for lunch had been consumed fixing the car: Wendy's eaten on the run. Time for our second tech session. PRNCZ was idling wildly, so while the ladies ran in for refreshments, Bruce and Steven discovered a loose throttle clamp. We're off again and now only 20 minutes behind schedule.
Mississippi Car Ferry
The car ferry runs between Ste. Genevieve, MO, and a break in the levee on the Illinois side. As we neared the crossing, signs read "Last Ferry 5:00 PM." The time was 5:45 PM, we're 15 miles away, and the fastest we could manage on these roads was 60 mph when there wasn't any traffic. Things weren't looking good. The sun was setting, and the hills and old buildings had turned a golden color. We passed up a lot of Kodak moments, screaming through the countryside.
As we approached the levee, the road went from paved to gravel and from two lane to two track. Now we were just screaming along the embankment to get to the ferry. When we reached the crossing, the ferry was on the other side, and there was a bit of consternation while we tried to determine if it was coming back. We flicked on the headlights, there was a toot from the ferry whistle, and soon it was headed in our direction. There were a number of incorrect signs along the road.
Once we crossed, we headed, just down the road, to the Inn St. Gemme Beauvais, an 1848 Bed and Breakfast with more tchotchkes than you can shake a stick at. Ste Genevieve is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement on the Mississippi River. So after dinner, we roamed around town, pressing our noses against the windows of local establishments and reading the "histerical markers." It was after 8PM, and most things were closed.
It was now Sunday morning and after a great breakfast at the Inn, we were off towards Branson, MO. Everyone has to do Branson at least once. Branson is beyond belief (at least ours) — the retirement capital of the world. It was really frightening in PRNCZ around all of those HUGE RVs, driven by the geriatric crowd on very hilly roads. You can't walk anywhere! We even stayed here two nights, enjoying the IMAX and a show at the Shoji Tabuchi (the Japanese Cowboy) Theatre and its renown restrooms. It was entertaining and fun, but, we've been there and done that. Enough said. Venture to Branson with your MGA at your own risk: physical and cultural. Did we mention that it was hot there?
It was also about this time that Steven began to notice that the oil level was dropping faster than expected. Also, the further south we got, the hotter it got. Things that were working fine at home, weren't working any more. Things that didn't work well at home, began to work great. How far are we from the Mason-Dixon line? At least we weren't on a tight schedule now.
After Branson, we continued to travel south until we came to the entrance to Quachita National Forest. We stopped at the ranger station to get some water, give some water, and stretch. We started up a conversation with the ranger, who told us of this great drive through the forest: the Talimena Scenic Byway through the Ozarks. What a beautiful drive. We stopped at the Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge for lunch and a few pictures next to several trains since the first inn was opened in 1898 by the Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf Railroad. Unfortunately, the ranger didn't tell us that it took us 75 miles out of the way and off our trip map. We didn't have really good local maps. We were lost. After scrounging though their "A," Joyce found a road atlas, and the next major road we hit, we were on our way again. PRNCZ's oil consumption now down to 100 miles/quart, with two quarts in the boot — no sweat. And we had all that oil in Texas (see the postcard) to help us out once we got there.
Where Was This Mural?
Our next stop was Fort Smith in Fort Smith, AR. We got in a quick tour of the patent museum which has quite a few working models from the earliest U.S. patents. We did a bit of antiquing and stopped for a root beer float at a reconstruction of a 1950's pharmacy complete with soda fountain. The poor kid working the fountain must have through we were nuts. As the four of us wandered through the pharmacy, looking at all the old products, like Ipana tooth paste, we'd break into song, singing the appropriate jingle for the product we were standing in front of: You'll wonder where the yellow went .... That night was the local cinema (Men in Black) and a pizza. The next day we toured Fort Smith, and from this point forward, the mind was foggy with the heat and humidity. It was in the 90s starting at about 10AM (did we mention this trip was hot?).
On The Back
Mouse Over to Read Back
By the time we got into Texas, PRNCZ was consuming about a quart of oil every 50 miles. She was leading the pack, and, by now, the front of Joyce's car had a fine mist of oil covering the grill. We were about 25 miles north of Grapevine, on a two lane highway with a lot of trucks. This is where we learned about the Texas passing lane. All of a sudden we heard a loud spronnnnnnngggggg, and the tach went right to 6000. With the clutch disengaged and no response from the gas petal except idle or 6000 rpm, Steven made a panic left into a gas station — broken throttle spring. A local farmer stopped by and offered his barn, tools and tractor parts for help. It was real southern hospitality, and it was really hard to turn him down, but his smallest tractor part was still too big for PRNCZ. After noodling about it for a while, Bruce came up with a six inch bungee cord. After putting about six knots in it, it was short enough to act as a spring when one end was connected to the throttle linkage and the other connected to the inside edge of the wing.
Once at the hotel, Steven set about locating people with parts. Dave Smith gave some assistance by offering his two wheel trailer as a ramp. The oil leak turned out to be three: both ends of the oil return pipe, the compression washers had failed, and the felt washer in the timing chain cover. Cecelia Bruce from Scarborough Faire was gracious enough to break into a compete seal set to get new compression washers. Steven spent the next three early mornings working on the oil leaks. Each morning before sunrise, Steven would trudge out to the parking lot, pull back the tonneau, and look at the water temperature gauge: 120 degrees, and the car hadn't even been started. There was always a small crowd. Other than those few hours each day, we didn't spend much time outside.
Parking Lot Car Show
On Friday we drove into Fort Worth to the Cultural District to see a Monet exhibit at the Kimball Art Museum. And then it was off to an antique mall to escape the highway heat. Diane was looking for a matching hat box.
The Friday Night Barbecue and Dance were held at the Austin Dude Ranch next door to the hotel. We all learned how to line dance and two-step. Also, a number of members participated in an "Eagles" sing-a-long on stage while Mac and Diane waved lighters and candles. Miss Kitty had a good time with several NAMGAR members, including Danny Beha of the Buckeyes.
The car show was in the hotel parking lot where we enjoyed the latest Tom Ball tour. Most of the time was spent in the lobby, socializing with Mac Spears and Hal Roeth and anyone else who stopped by for a cold one. It was one big party in the lobby. Everyone was escaping the heat of the parking lot (did we mention that it was hot?). The GT information sheet mentioned that lapel pins and coozies would be available at the meet. We remember buying lapel pins, but, doggone it, what are coozies? (even spell-check can't help on this one) There were lots of tech sessions to chose from. Diane attended Mike Ash's on the electrical system and on carburetors.
Dan with the Belle of the Ball
Ed Sass and the Texas MG Register (Rangers?) did a great job on this meet. We're still trying to decide if we should blame them for the hottest summer in Texas history.
Mike Ash Tech Talk
The trip home was a bit easier. We didn't have any hotel plans so we just moseyed. The first night we ended up in Johnson, AR. We stayed at the Inn at the Mill which turned out to be a wonderful architectural structure. The lobby was very Frank Lloyd Wright with, of all things, two Charles Rennie Mackintosh settees. As we were relaxing in the lounge, contemplating dinner, Bruce looked up at the enclosed workings of the mill wheel, and in all the contraptions he noticed several balconies. We asked the gal at the desk about the hotel, so she gave us a personal tour.
The historic Johnson Mill was renovated by the architect James Lambeth who also constructed eight unique suites. Two were in the hand-hewn beams which Bruce was noticing. The other six were in the style of FLW, Walt Disney, James Lambeth (the honeymoon suite, which was occupied), Claude Monet, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Frederic Remington. The young lady who gave us the tour had never heard of FLW so Diane gave her more information than she'll ever remember. We never had dinner, just more wine and cheese. Since it was Sunday, the James at the Mill Restaurant, on site, was closed. It is the highest ranking restaurant in Arkansas. Some day.
James at the Mill
We also passed through Springfield, MO, on the return. As we drew nearer, Diane insisted that we stop in Springfield, but only for lunch. Well, she introduced Joyce, Bruce and Steven to the "world headquarters" of the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. Joyce thought that Diane had lost her mind for sure — we convinced her it was the heat. This is the mecca for all thing hunting, fishing, and camping related. The antithesis of Diane's life credo: luxury forever. Actually, the restaurant inside the place was quite good and quite reasonably priced.
The next night we made up for all of the culture the night before. We stayed at a truck stop. Need we say more?
Tuesday we stopped in Hannibal to tour the Mark Twain historic site. And, wouldn't you know it, the further north we got, the cooler it got. By the time we were back in Illinois, it was in the low 60s, we had the hoods up, and were wearing jackets. Once we crossed the Mason-Dixon line, things that worked in the south failed, and things that wouldn't work in the south began working again — go figure.
By the way, PRNCZ is now up to 250 miles/quart...