Our Distance: 2845 miles
When Mike Jacobsen announced the location at GT-40, Diane and Steven immediately began a discussion about how we would travel out to the event and back home and what we'd do along the way. This also meant that if we took PRNCZ, all the outstanding projects would need to be completed: mechanical and cosmetic.
We decided that our first choice would be to take the MGA, since it would likely be the last time we'd be able to do a West coast journey of this type. So we decided to break the projects up: mechanical things the first year, and cosmetic things the year after, just before the GT.
The Fall after GT-40, when Steven prepped PRNCZ for winter storage, he took stock of everything going on underneath. Of course, there were the nagging oil leaks, mostly minor, that needed tending. But then the universal joints were on their last legs. OK for around town, but not for a 6,000 mile trip. Steven also noticed that the right front wheel had free play that had gone unnoticed. This turned out to be a worn steering swivel pin. Both would need replacement. This work was completed prior to GT-41 .
Steven took stock of the cosmetic situation and decided that new leather and vinyl were required. In addition, after twenty years, there were enough dings, scratches and dents to warrant a repaint. That process began in February 2017. By the end of May PRNCZ was on the street again, and we managed to get about 350 miles of testing before the big trip.
First Day Out
The Dynamic Duo Departing (our first selfie!)
We were going to be slightly over our daily driving budget (about 325 miles) for the first leg of this trip, and there was a time constraint, because our first tourist stop had a closing time, so almost everything was prepacked and waiting to be stowed.
Normally, Diane would have a rather large stack of paper with the printed route instructions for the entire trip. For this trip, that set of instructions would have been over fifty pages. This time Steven preprogrammed the GPS with the specific route, which saved everyone a lot of aggravation over the course of the trip.
As usual for extended periods away, we ran through our departing checklist: shutdown all electronics, turn off the water (we were burned once before on that one), turn off all the lights, make sure the windows were closed and locked, et al. Then shut and lock the door.
We backed PRNCZ out of the driveway and headed out of the complex. It was a cool morning, and it didn't appear that there would be any rain that day. We were probably five or six miles down the road, when the first question popped-up: I don't recall seeing the electronics kit; did it make it into the car? Today, one cannot live without an electronics kit. It has all the adapters and cords necessary to make those neat gadgets like the GPS and your cell phone work. So we turned around and headed back to the house. Diane ran in to retrieve the lost kit, only to return saying that she could not locate it. Then she rummaged around in one of her travel bags. Lo and behold, the kit! We were now about thirty minutes behind schedule.
We motored across the northern part of IL, then west of Rockford, headed northwest across the southwestern part of WI. When we reached Prairie du Chien, WI, we stopped for lunch. By this time it had gotten considerably warmer and a lot windier. We crossed the mighty Mississippi and continued on to our first, and only, scheduled stop: Spillville, IA.
Spillville, IA: Bily Clock Museum
Now Spillville is only slightly larger than a postage stamp. However, in its day, it was the hot-bed of Czechoslovakian activity in the Midwest. It had two claims to fame: the Bily Brothers, who had made clocks of all shapes, sizes and ornateness; all of which were never sold, just placed in this museum. It is said that Henry J. Ford offered the Bily Brothers a million dollars for one of their creations: they refused.
The second claim is that Anton Dvorák, composer of the New World Symphony, lived here for a time after completing and premiering the symphony in New York City. Apparently, he was lonely for his homeland, and it was suggested by a protege that this would be the place to spend time with his family, among the Czech speaking people. The second floor of the museum contains a history of his time here and a few artifacts. The Bily Brothers carved The Violin Clock in commemoration of Dvorák's visit in 1893. It was carved in 1948 and 1949 and is exhibited in the museum.
We spent about an hour (including gift shop time) here, taking the docent tour of the Bily clocks and roaming through the exhibits about Dvorák. By now it was quite hot, and the wind was considerable. We headed out of town and traveled west for a bit, then decided to head south to pick up the route to Mason City, IA, our stop for the night. The minute we made the turn, Steven stopped the car. Before us were large clouds of dust as the winds swept across the fields. We backed off of this road and continued westerly and southernly to avoid the dust as much as possible.
As we neared Mason City, the engine temperature climbed. We pulled into the hotel parking lot; there was no shade to be found, and the gauge read over 225 degrees. Without stopping the engine, Steven pulled into a parking spot near where he figured our room would be located: PRNCZ puked a fair amount of fluid onto the ground. It was too hot to investigate; it was too hot to stand around outside; we were too tired to worry about it at the moment.
After a short rest and cleaning up, we walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Upon our return, Steven opened PRNCZ's bonnet, and the problem was immediately apparent. There was a layer of material, like dryer lint, across the entire face of the radiator, approximately 1/4 inch thick. It came off in a single pull, as a single sheet. Problem solved.
On To Grand Island
Nebraska: Mile After Mile
The next morning we packed up PRNCZ, got gas and headed southwest to Grand Island, NE. The morning began cool with a light breeze. We were traveling the Lincoln Highway. There was nothing planned for the day, except to reach our destination before sunset. Traffic was light to non-existent.
But as the day progressed, and we got further west, the winds picked up, and it got hotter. By mid-morning the winds were gusty and coming out of the southwest, conservatively, at 30 mph. Considering we were loping along at about 65 mph, that meant the wind in the cockpit was brutal. With the sun beating down, we finally stopped at a cemetery to rest, put up the hood and install the side-curtains. It was going to be hot, but it was certainly better than being baked by the sun and beaten by the wind.
The Nebraskan scenery droned on.... We saw lots of wind turbines (good place for them with all the wind), farms, eagles and some road construction. At noon we stopped for lunch at Diane's favorite Nebraskan eatery: Runza Restaurant. Its claim to fame is the Runza, a fast food version of the Russian pirozhki or the Cornish Pasty, dough filled with meat and sauerkraut, then fried or baked. The place was packed with locals, motorcyclists and people returning from church (today is Sunday). Once we got back in the car, Steven couldn't start the car by pulling on the starter knob: it just would not budge. It was here that Steven began starting the car using the starter switch under the hood. We stopped for a break at 2:30PM in 94 degree heat at a Mormon Trail Marker. Then on to Grand Island where we stopped for the night, oil and antifreeze. Surprisingly, there was room in the boot for a gallon container of coolant.
Getting To Greeley
At 6:30 AM it was nice, so we put the hood down. We were going to head west on historic Route 6. But first, we needed to get the car started. Not only had the starter cable frozen, but the choke cable became too tight to pull also. So we devised a morning starting routine. After the car was packed and we were ready to head out, Steven would open the hood and pull up on the choke lever by hand. This would relax the choke cable so that Diane could pull it out and hold it. Then Steven would walk around to the other side of the car and start it by pulling on the starter switch. The car would start, Steven would close the bonnet, and Diane would ease up on the choke, until the car would run on its own. In no time, we were on the road, in CO and on Mountain Time.
This might be Nebraska, then again…
It became overcast, hazy, cooler and definitely more hilly. At Laird, our odometer registered the first 1000 miles. We passed many feed lots. Diane would cover her nose and mouth hoping to keep out the aroma emanating from the feed lots. Steven would just breathe deeply and mutter something about the smell of money. Along the way we passed and were passed by many semis transporting cattle.
Now when a cow is standing in a field, minding its own business, and it's time to empty its bowels, the tail goes up and the contents end up on the ground, typically in a nice pile.
The scenario changes a bit for cows riding in a transport vehicle. At 60 miles-per-hour, when the urge strikes the cow, again the tail rises. But this time, the contents exit the vehicle and are instantaneously atomized. If you were just passed by said vehicle when that happens, let's just say the results are not pretty. At the next fill-up, it took us fifteen minutes to clear the windscreen and front of PRNCZ.
We pulled into Greeley, CO, met by dark clouds and a tornado watch; also yapping dogs in the room next to ours at the hotel. Diane walked down to the desk to inquire whether the facility was pet-friendly and was most assuredly told NO. OK, so explain the barking dogs next door. Well, they're comfort dogs. Really? We were moved to another room.
Through The Rockies to Vernal
Steven was looking forward to this day. He'd been monitoring the road closure of Route US-34 in Rocky Mountain National Park for weeks before we left: too much snow to open. But just days before we left, the park service had it plowed and open.
The day dawned sunny and 55 degrees. We gassed up in Loveland, CO and headed west to Estes Park where NAMGAR's Rocky Mountain GT was held in 1978. On the way we drove through Thompson Canyon. Bruce Nichols had been to the regional GT in 1978, and the Canyon really made an impression on him. He told us to be sure that our top was down so we could enjoy the vistas. He was right. It was spectacular.
Soon we were in Estes Park and stopped at the Visitor Center. We heard from a couple coming east in their Mini-Cooper that it was 40 degrees, windy and icy at the top. Oh, joy. Steven bought a souvenir hooded jacket.
Rocky Mountain National Park
We stopped at the park's Ranger Station where Diane purchased her lifetime senior pass for ten bucks. Soon we were on our way to drive Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the US: the Highway to the Sky. It was sunny and cold, beautiful, and lots of snow and curves. We were glad to have the hooded jackets.
There were lots of tourists, too, so it was slow going. After a couple of hours we were at the Alpine Center: 11,746 feet. We were both breathing relatively freely. But the couple was right: it was cold and windy. We found a parking spot amongst the huge RVs and went inside for coffee and cinnamon rolls at the Cafe in the Cloud. We saw an elk herd and several picas, little rodents that were scurrying on the snow drifts. They're related to rabbits but live in alpine terrain above the tree line. Yup, that's where we were. We also saw a bull elk along side of the road. We completed the route at noon, stopping at the Ranger Station on the west side of the park so Steven could buy his senior pass. (Note: Good thing, too. Senior park passes jumped to $80 in August, 2017)
Climbing to the Alpine Center
Wildlife in the park
At the Continental Divide
Along the Highway to the Sky
Then it took the rest of the afternoon to descend down, down, down and finally arrive in Dinosaur, CO. We stopped at the Visitor Center, scoped out the area and decided to return to the Dinosaur National Monument on the CO/UT border the next morning.
Before we left Dinosaur, we took a picture of us with the local dinosaur to text to a few friends who were following our travels.
Soon we were across the border in Vernal, UT for the night.
Two Days in Salt Lake City
Welcome to Vernal, UT
At 7AM it was sunny and cool. We stopped in the center of the town of Vernal to take the requisite photo of us with the town's pink dinosaur. Real kitschy! Then we were headed back east to the Dinosaur National Monument which we drove through and visited for the next two hours. It was established in 1915 and is the only national park that protects an historic dinosaur quarry. What a fabulous experience. We saw ancient petroglyphs, the Green River, and all the beautiful scenery along the way. Most of the roads were fairly flat which was a nice contrast to the curves and mountains of the day before. There was also a Quarry Visitor Center where we saw an excavation site with dinosaur fossils and bones: impressive.
Now we headed west again towards Salt Lake City. It was a short drive, around 250 miles, which is why were able to visit the Monument. It was to be a two night stay: a short respite which all three of us needed. Salt Lake City was larger than we thought. We would have liked to stay near city center, but rooms were very expensive. To find lodging less that $250 a night, we had to stay north of the city in Layton.
We arrived in Salt Lake City late afternoon, just about the time everyone was heading home from work. There was lots of traffic, going very fast and a lot of unsynchronized stoplights on the surface streets, which meant overheating. We finally arrived at the Courtyard and had time to cool off and rest before walking across the street for dinner at an Indian restaurant. It was a relaxing and tasty experience.
Petroglyphs at Dinosaur National Park
Steven had done his homework ahead of time. The hotel was on a bus route that connected to the commuter rail service that took us into Salt Lake City the next morning. There was additional luck: when the light-rail line that runs through the city dropped us right in front of the restaurant we had picked for breakfast and just across across the street from our ultimate destination: Temple Square. Diane was disappointed there was no Panera Bread, but apparently they're scarce in this part of the country.
Temple Square is an interesting place. There are Mormon missionaries (all young ladies) all over the place, helping tourists navigate the sites. We took a tour of the Square and finished just in time to hear a free organ concert at the Tabernacle. This is one of the locations where the Mormon Tabernacle Singers perform, but their rehearsal was that evening, too late for us to attend and then get back to the hotel for an early start the next morning The organ was built in the 1860s and has over 11, 000 pipes with five manuals (keyboards). There was a video screen mounted on the stage so we could see the organist's feet. It was a fabulous sound. Unbelievable acoustics.
After the concert we roamed around the grounds which are beautifully maintained. We found the museum which had a special exhibit about the Tabernacle organ, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary in October, 2017. After a quick stop at the gift shop for postcards, we hurried over to the Convention Center (which seats 21,000) to hear an organ concert there. The man who designed that organ was in the audience as were members of the AGO, American Guild of Organists, who were having their convention in SLC. This organ was built in 2000-2003 and has only 7,700 pipes, but still a beautiful sound.
We were also able to sneak in a quick visit to the Family Center where Steven met with a specialist on Eastern Europe to help him with his genealogical research. He picked up a few additional good tips. Everyone was very helpful, and everything but the gift shop was free. We even picked up a copy of the Book of Mormon (also free) for some additional edification. It was an interesting and good, sunny day. Just the kind of rest we needed.
We headed back to Layton and got PRNCZ ready for tomorrow's drive.
Tonopah, Are We There Yet?
Today was the day Diane was looking forward to: Bonneville Salt Flats and the Bonneville Speedway, located near Wendover, UT. We left Layton at 6AM on a cool and clear morning in rush hour traffic headed south to Route 80 and then west towards Bonneville. After we got to Route 80, we kept looking for the Great Salt Lake. Where is it? Well, it's all salt flats, and way in the distance there could be some water. Nothing like the Great Lakes in the Midwest. It was flat, the speed limit on the highway was 80, and the only interesting thing we saw en route was a lone pelican.
Bonneville Salt Flats
After a couple of hours we reached an I-80 rest area that sits on the edge of the salt flats. You can walk out on the salt which people were doing. Not too exciting, so we headed further west until we saw the sign for the Bonneville Speedway. From the back of a postcard: "The Bonneville Salt Flats is a densely packed salt pan in Tooele County in northwestern Utah. The area is a remnant of the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville and is the largest of many salt flats located west of the Great Salt Lake."
A Short Timing Run on the Flats
Once a year, typically in September, the place is overrun with speed demons for race week when anyone, on anything, can put his/her foot to the metal to see what the vehicle can do. People who have attended the races say it's a must-do for the bucket list with lots of people and racing. Well, not today. It was eerily quiet with no people, no bugs, just bullet holes in the metal signs. Steven drove off a ways while Diane took the requisite photo. Soon a couple on a motorcycle showed up. We took their picture; they took ours. Then we were alone again. Nothing to see for miles, and nothing to hear. Feels like another planet somewhere, but definitely cool. (After we got home, we watched the movie The World's Fastest Indian again.)
After a stop at a convenience store for a few souvenirs, we continued west to Wendover where we gained another hour. We drove through town, looking for a place for lunch. Wendover is a very small town but with a lot of casinos and many more being built. We ended up at McDonald's where we had a quick bite and put the top up. It was getting hot again. After gassing up, we were on US Route 93A South, the Pony Express Trail.
1911: "Big" Bill Murphy Saves Stranded Miners
At Ely, we headed west on US Route 6. For three hours we saw nothing but hills: no cars, no people, no animals, no gas stations, no towns, just heat. PRNCZ did not like the heat (neither did we), and she started acting goofy, so we were all happy when we finally reached a gas station in Tonopah, UT. Oh, dear, less than a gallon of gas left. Whew! Made it just in time.
Tonopah was a silver mining town in its day, around 1900. Jim Butler was the leader of the mining effort then, so we stayed at the Jim Butler Inn & Suites. The Inn and the town are definitely tired. We walked across the street to the post office to mail a few postcards and met a local there who sent us to the local Mexican restaurant for dinner. On our short walk to the restaurant, we passed six (6) Tesla recharging stations. Really! El Marques Restaurant was actually pretty good. There were few choices.
One More Day
The Road to Yosemite
At 6AM we were ready to leave Tonopah and head towards Merced, CA, our last stop before Solvang. It was 64 degrees and clear so we dropped the hood and headed out of town on US Route 6, the Grand Army of the Republic Highway. We saw a sign that said McDonald's was just ahead, so that's where we headed for breakfast. Well, at 7:30 we were in Benton Corners, CA, and never passed a McDonald's or even a sign for the Golden Arches. So we stopped at the Benton Corners Cafe for breakfast.
Charlotte, the proprietress, told us that she had a 1980 Special Edition MGB in her yard, but it didn't run. She also told us that if we were planning to take CA Route 120 through Yosemite, to forget it. It was still closed due to snow, over 300 inches: it had been a hard winter, it seems. Darn. We were looking forward to a leisurely drive through the valley.
CA Route 108 Through Yosemite
So we rerouted the GPS and headed further north to CA Highway 108, which was open. This was the most harrowing experience of Diane's life. EVER! The road started out OK, but then quickly deteriorated into horrible tight turns and elevations. Twice, not once, twice, there was a 26% grade. YIKES!!!!! We're in first gear, and we're barely moving. This is where MGAdventure quickly turned into MGAngst. It was a terrifying experience, to say the least. Steven and PRNCZ did an excellent job getting us up those inclines, but Diane does NOT EVER want to do that again. HEAR? Thankfully, we got through this mess fairly quickly. We got a lot of thumbs up... little did they know!
We finally stopped at a rest area for a potty break and to cool us down and the brakes, too. Diane picked up a huge pine-cone to take home as a souvenir. Finding a safe place in PRNCZ was a challenge, but zip lock bags are a wonder. We also put the top up as it was starting to get really hot as we headed downhill (thank goodness: no more verticality).
Back in the Heat in California
It seemed like it took forever, but we finally arrived at the Travelodge in Merced, CA, where it was 96 degrees. Diane had saved quarters for several weeks to do a load or two of laundry at the customer laundry. Well, the customer laundry was broken, and it was Saturday, so the repair person did not show up. So down the street we drove to a laundromat — no air conditioning and hot dryers! The saving grace was a couple we met from the UK. They were traveling across the US and were fascinated to see an MGA on the road. The time passed quickly, and soon we were looking for a place to eat. Again, not many choices that looked inviting. We ended up at a Chinese Restaurant that was passable. By now PRNCZ was complaining severely so we quickly headed back to the motel and crawled into bed.
The Push to Solvang
How'd He Do That?
It was 5:45AM and already 84 degrees according to our cell phones. We stepped outside our room and stopped dead in our tracks. Inches from PRNCZ was a huge, class A bus parked perpendicular to her! It's a good thing we slept through that parking episode. Diane might otherwise be in jail today.
After a couple of hours we found a McDonald's for breakfast. This stop was so crowded, probably because it was the only place to stop for food and fuel for miles. We quickly ate and left. Eventually, we reached US 101 where we could have headed south to Solvang. Instead, we continued west to the Pacific Coast Highway (CA 1) and toward the refreshing breezes and beautiful ocean vistas. We drove along fields of basil and fields of strawberries. We passed many fruit trees and beautiful flowers along the highway. The smells were welcome, especially after our experience on the way to Greeley.
Should'a Stopped in Pismo Beach
We came upon Pismo Beach where we encountered what appeared to be a significant car show. And, we were there early enough to have parked only a block from the event. There was a discussion about whether to stop and take in some California iron. Steven lost.
Eventually, we pulled into the parking lot of the Hotel Corque in Solvang, CA; but our room was not quite ready, so we headed next door to the restaurant to have a bite to eat and toast our safe arrival. 2845 miles, most of them uphill. But, we're here, and we're safe. We spent the afternoon unpacking, drinking, settling in, drinking, greeting friends, drinking, eating, making plans for the week, etc., etc. We met a couple of local guys at the bar and had drinks with them several times during the week. I guess they don't meet many crazy people who drive cross country in an old car to a car show. We enjoyed refreshing Aperol Spritzers with Mike and Jennifer Ash and caught up on the year's worth of activities.
On The Back
Mouse Over to Read Back
The Hotel Corque was a really nice venue for our convention. The staff made us feel very welcome and met all of our needs. It is no wonder that it has received the AA Four Diamond Award. Being steps away from town and all the activities was a real plus, too. One thing we hate after driving for days to a GT is to have to get back in the car to even go for a cup of coffee. Here we had restaurants, shopping, a post office for those postcards that Diane likes to send, the car show, and the banquet. Oh, did we forget the hospitality room, which was always stocked with snacks and beverages?
We were so used to getting up each morning at 5AM, and this first full day at the GT was no different. We found a great local restaurant, Solvang Restaurant, that opened at 6AM for the locals, so that's where we ate each morning. Besides, the food and service were excellent. After washing PRNCZ, but not before taking pictures of all the bugs for our local resto shop to prove that we really had driven to California, we drove to O'Reilly's for supplies so Steven could fix the starter and choke cables. What should have taken about a half hour turned out to be about four hours as everyone stopped to help, or talk, or BS. Probably more BS than anything else.
Meanwhile, Diane helped the committee with last minute registration items. Then Mike Jacobsen insisted that she go out to assist Steven, at least take him cold water. After the tech session was complete, Steven showered and took a nap while Diane visited the vendor room and purchased a few NAMGAR items.
The evening Orientation Session took place on the patio with a taco bar. The food was tasty as were the pre-mixed margaritas at the outdoor bar (the hotel bar and restaurant are closed on Mondays). The Welcoming Committee ran through the week's activities and made additional announcements so we all knew what to expect. The best part: nice, sunny weather.
The next morning we attended the First Timer's Reception at the pool to greet all the new attendees. Then it was time to walk through the town and enjoy the Danish flavor. But not before going back to the Solvang Restaurant to enjoy a plate of abelskivers, a Danish dessert served with raspberry jam and powdered sugar. So good. Then off to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in town. He's known for his 160 fairy tales, translated into more than 100 languages. Everyone is familiar with The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Pea. He never lived here, but there's a statue of him in the town park and a nice exhibit in the small museum.
In the afternoon Steven had made plans for us to meet an accordion friend and his wife from Morro Bay at the Firestone Brewery in Buellton. We had a nice meal and even better conversation catching up with them, whom we haven't seen in about four years.
In the evening we drove to the Standing Sun Winery in Buellton which is run by Johnny Wright, the son of John and Linda Wright, two of the founders of NAMGAR. Diane especially loved the Riesling and Rider, the official greeter. We enjoyed music, good wine and conversation with new and old friends.
June 21 was car show day, but not before we walked to the Solvang Restaurant for breakfast. Fortified, we drove PRNCZ to the Old Mission Santa Ines, out the back parking lot of the Hotel Corque, got her settled and walked over to the mission for a tour. What a beautiful and tranquil setting. The mission was founded in 1804 and fully restored after it was partially destroyed by an earthquake. It is still in continuous use as a Catholic Church, and the Franciscan Fathers offer Mass daily. When we walked out into the walled garden, we were greeted by hummingbirds and woodpeckers amongst the flowers. Then back to the show field to look at all the cars. We needed to vote...
Santa Ines Mission
Seriously Blown MGA
What's The Buzz.
Tell me what's a Happening.
Byers Vintage Racer
Bill & Karen Marshall — Coast to Coast
We Made It, Too!
In the evening we enjoyed a BBQ at the Nojoqui Falls Park. The park is a short two miles from the hotel, but not today. Recent rains washed out the road, so we had to take the long way, ten miles out onto Highway 101. It wasn't a bad run even though we were out there during rush hour. Parking was tight, but the food was delicious and worth the "long" ride. We gassed up on the way back so we could get on the road early, not tomorrow, but the next early morning.
Thursday morning it was back to the Solvang Restaurant for breakfast. This time we sat in a booth that had a plaque stating that one of the scenes from the movie Sideways was filmed here. Yes, we rented the movie when we got home. It was fun to see the areas around Solvang and Buellton that we navigated, but the movie was so-so. Diane and Linda Holle later went shopping and then met the guys (Don and Steven) for lunch at an English pub — a nice diversion from the Danish overload.
Soon it was time for the banquet and awards ceremony. The meal was excellent as was the wine, courtesy of Standing Sun Winery. Diane took the empty Riesling bottle home for a souvenir, something difficult to pack in the A, but she managed. When there's a will, there's a way — like the pine cone. Steven was recognized as a Past Chairman, and Diane and Steven were recognized for attending 41 GTs. There were also several surprises at the banquet. PRNCZ won first in class for 1500 non-wirewheels. Diane won a door prize — a sweatshirt — where to pack this? PRNCZ also received a 2000 Mile plaque for driving 2845 miles to the event. Then the Michigan Rowdies Chapter, of which we are members, shared the Chapter Recognition Award with the Ottawa Chapter.
Next Stop, Barstow
Everyone who had traveled from the east along the southern route, which we were taking home, warned us of the incredible heat we would experience. Well, we traveled here on the northern route, and Diane wasn't doing that again, and we already had lodging reservations, so we decided to risk it. Steven reprogrammed the GPS with a somewhat alternate route, skipping some of the sites we had planned to visit. We figured our and PRNCZ's health were more important. We'd travel early and plan to rest during the midday heat. So at 6AM we left Solvang in a dense fog and 54 degrees. We traveled two lane back roads through the hills and passed many wineries and ranches. At one point we were above the fog which had settled in many of the valleys. We were somewhat surprised at the elevations and winding roads. We even saw a business where "cuties" were raised and harvested. Also saw the 20 Mule Team Borax Company from the highway in Boron (where else?), CA.
Above the Fog
By about 10AM we were entering the Mojave Desert, though no one had to tell us — we could feel it. It was slow going with lots of trucks on CA Route 58, even an indication of road construction, though we never saw an evidence of it. Was it hot? Oh, yes.
We pulled into Barstow, CA at about noon on US Route 66, just as the heat was becoming unbearable for all of us: 108 degrees. Luckily, our room was ready at the Route 66 Motel, a landmark, old motel since 1922 with old rusted out trucks and sad looking cacti. Could have sworn we had time traveled to the 1950s. But it was clean, and we opted for a king sized round bed. Cool! We rested and napped most of the afternoon and then ventured out for food.
The motel proprietor suggested Rosita's Mexican Restaurant where we could get a 10% discount with our room key. The good news was that it was only three blocks away and walkable. The bad news: it was 112 degrees and uphill. It was open, and it was busy: always a good sign. And, it was good, though we were tiring of Mexican food and McDonald's. Glad for the convenience though. We didn't pick up on the hint when the waitress said that she had just returned from Las Vegas, and the signs on the road said to turn off air conditioning... We soon found out what she meant.
The Trek to Mesquite
It's June 24 — Diane's birthday. Steven found a Panera Bread for breakfast on the east side of town near the I-15 highway entrance, so Diane enjoyed a free coffee and an orange scone, her favorite. By 8AM it was already 99 degrees, so we mentally prepared for a grueling day. And it was.
Between Barstow and Las Vegas, there is a long sixteen mile, 6% grade. Now 6% may not sound like a lot, but it is a mountain to an MGA that's geared for the Midwest. The heat and climb really taxed most automobiles. There were signs telling drivers to turn off their air conditioning: there were cars on the side of the road for those who didn't heed the warning. PRNCZ just chugged along. We didn't travel fast, we couldn't, but Steven kept her steady.
There wasn't much scenery, except for interesting billboards, through Las Vegas. Since it was Saturday, we decided to drive through Vegas, hoping traffic would cooperate, which it did. In Craig, NV we stopped for a break and enjoyed some air conditioning in a Burger King. We then gassed up and readied ourselves for more heat.
We reached Mesquite, NV by noon where it was 106 degrees. Our room at the Best Western was ready, but the water in the room (sink and tub) was lukewarm, and the air conditioning was wheezing badly. We only emptied the cockpit, hoping the heat would subside a bit before we attempted to open the boot. When we went out a few hours later, it was 110 degrees. Even though Diane took a washcloth with her to open the boot and place the boot prop, she still burned herself. You could not touch the car anywhere. Of course, there were no trees with shade at a concrete motel.
We rested, and Steven tried to find air conditioned transportation to take Diane for her birthday dinner later: no Lyft; no Uber; one questionable taxi; no luck. No shuttle or limo from the casino where the restaurant was located. So we toughed it out in the A. At 6:30PM the temperature had dropped to 108 degrees, and by the time we left the restaurant at 8PM, it was 106 degrees. Just no relief. But Katharine's Steakhouse at the Casa Blanca Resort and Casino was excellent. Diane enjoyed her birthday celebration — and cake! She thanked her friends for texting birthday greetings.
At 3AM we woke up freezing: the air conditioning had finally kicked in!
On To Colorado Springs — Maybe
At 6AM it was 86 degrees and overcast, and the further east we drove, the cooler it got. And, we noticed the air quality had deteriorated quite a bit due to fires at Brian Head, a ski resort where eight cabins had already burned down. We stopped at a rest area to don jackets - such a nice feeling after all the heat we had driven through ( we're not done yet).
US Route 50 Scenery
In Richfield, UT we got off of the highway and headed into town to find breakfast. And there it was at the Little Wonder Cafe. Then we got onto Highway 70 and drove through beautiful scenery on the edge of several National Parks: Arches, Natural Bridges, Moab, Brice Canyon, Zion. We stopped at a lookout where the local Indians were selling lots of silver jewelry and pots. We were glad that we rerouted ourselves around some of America's wonders because of the heat but were also happy that we were able to enjoy so much of the scenery from the highway.
Soon we were in Green River, UT for the night. Next door, literally, was the West Winds Restaurant where we had dinner. Again, not many choices, especially within walking distance. PRNCZ needed a rest, too. After dinner we put the hood down and repacked the boot in preparation for an early departure for Colorado Springs where Steven threatened to take PRNCZ to the top of Pike's Peak. "No Way, Jose." said Diane. We've been up there, and it's no place for PRNCZ!
At 6AM it was clear and 73 degrees. We watched a beautiful sunrise as we headed towards Colorado Springs, our next stop. At about 7:30AM we spotted an IHOP in Grand Junction, CO and decided to pull over for some pancakes. Well, for some reason, PRNCZ was not as enthused as we were about stopping. She hemmed, hawed, bucked and snorted before we parked her. When Steven opened the hood, he noticed that antifreeze was leaking, and it appeared as if the heater control valve had given up. Luckily, it only leaked in the closed position. Thank goodness for Google and smart phones. Steven found a foreign car repair shop in Colorado Springs: Concours Cars. He gave them a call and explained the situation. Frank said he didn't have the part in stock but could have one the next day from Denver. So the guys agreed to reconnect once we got to Colorado Springs.
Blue Mesa Reservoir
We got onto Highway 50 and headed east, with the heater control valve in the open position. We drove through some breathtakingly beautiful scenery. Again, we realized that we didn't need to get off the beaten path to see canyons and more elevation, 11,312 feet at Monarch Pass (jackets again), and then Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison. Also the Royal Gorge, with white water rafters, provided some relief from the heat with cool breezes. Soon we were headed north on CO Route 115 towards Colorado Springs. It was nice to see green trees and water again.
We pulled into Colorado Springs at 4PM and couldn't believe the growth of the city. In 1994 we were house hunting there for a relocation with a start-up company. We didn't remember this much congestion, growth and sprawl. Glad we passed up the relocation. Anyway, Steven called Frank and confirmed that the part would be in the shop tomorrow between 10AM and 3PM. The shop made a spot for us. As Steven said, with our luck, the part would arrive at 3:05PM.
Diane had really wanted to have dinner at the Broadmoor, at a pub there called the Golden Bee. Back in 1994 that restaurant had the best shepherd's pie — and a good assortment of ales on tap. But the weather was threatening, as was the traffic near the motel, so we had dinner at yet another Mexican restaurant, Arceos Mexican Family Restaurant. We walked back to the motel (two doors down) in time to button up PRNCZ before rain and hail began to pelt us. We went to bed, lulled to sleep by thunder and lightning. Can't worry about something you can't control.
Grounded in Colorado Springs
Today was June 27, 2017, Day 18 of our 20 day Adventure. At 6AM it was cool and clear, and we should have been on our way already to Concordia, KS. Since our appointment at Concours Cars was for 9AM, we took our time drying off PRNCZ after the previous night's storm and getting ready to wait for the part. Concours Cars was not far from our motel, so we left at about 8:15 to find it. We saw the Garden of the Gods monoliths in the near distance. They looked eerie in the middle of suburbia.
Need A Part
Soon we met Mark, Frank and the others in a really nice shop in Old Colorado City. Diane particularly enjoyed Mark's (the owner) collection of spider plants in the shop and the office which he explained he hung because they help clean the air, and they really look nice. Someone has a green thumb. He directed us to the French Bakery for breakfast and explained that Old Colorado City is nearby with several blocks of shops, restaurants, museums and art galleries.
We left PRNCZ in good hands as we strolled the avenue and had good coffee and breakfast. An hour later we were back at the shop, hanging around the reception area, willing the clock arms to move a little faster. In the early afternoon Frank found out that the part was coming via UPS, and he had a tracking number which indicated that the part was in transit. As Steven correctly predicted, the UPS truck stopped by at 3:05PM with the part. By that time, Soren, one of the techs, had already prepped PRNCZ and was ready for the part. If you live in the area, you probably know about this business. If you don't, please give them a try. We were so happy with the service and the kindness they showed to this couple of crazy old people, driving an old English car cross country.
Diane Strolls with the Queen
The work was done by 3:30PM, and we were on our way in rush hour traffic, trying to get out of town and on to I-70 East. By 6PM we lost an hour, due to a time zone change, as we raced along green pastures — how nice. The crops looked good and healthy. But fifteen minutes later we were surrounded by very black clouds but also a beautiful, double, full rainbow (no, we never found the pot of gold). We stopped under an overpass and put up the top and put in the side curtains. We just knew we couldn't outrun this storm cell. By 8:30PM it was pouring, but we were close to Colby, KS where we had planned to stop for the night. Steven had canceled our reservation in Concordia; we had decided to wing it. The Hampton Inn at the second Colby exit was full. Oh, oh. We headed back west and stopped at the first motel we came to: Sleep Inn. There was room at the inn, and what a nice property it was. The rain had stopped, but not the thunder and lighting. We walked across the parking lot to Jimmy John's for a quick sandwich which we brought back to the room. We tucked PRNCZ in between two trucks, hoping she'd have some protection from whatever Mother Nature had in mind.
The Last Night: Keokuk
The storms had passed during the night, so it was humid, but clear, when we got onto US Route 24 east towards Concordia, KS. It was a really comfortable ride through farm country, nice and flat and green. Again, the crops looked good.
Orphan Train Museum
By noon we arrived at the National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia. A couple of years ago Diane had read the book Orphan Train, an historical novel about the orphan trains that ran between the east coast and the Midwest between 1854 and 1929, written by Christine Baker Kline. It's estimated that 250,000 orphaned, abandoned and homeless children were sent to rural communities during the Orphan Train Movement. Then recently there was an article in the Chicago Tribune about Kansas statues that commemorate the Orphan Trains. Concordia, KS was added to Diane's list of places to visit on this trip.
The facility is a former Union Pacific Railroad Depot, donated by the owner. There's a museum in the Depot; there's a train, similar to the Orphan Trains, under restoration in a separate building; and there's a research and visitor center, housing the collected archives, where you can watch a video of this historical period. Throughout the grounds and in the small town are statues of some of the orphans. We didn't look for all of the statues in town, but enjoyed the ones on the property. There were also remnants of a WWII German POW Camp north of town, but we heard that there's not much to see there (dollars for restoration are hard to get these days), so we didn't try.
It was becoming hot again and really windy, so we got back on route. We had a long way yet before we got to the Mississippi River and our last night's stop. The roads were good, but it seemed to take forever to cross KS and MO on routes 36 and 6. The only interesting sight was a bald eagle sitting on top of a young deer. Not sure if it was a fresh kill, and we didn't stick around to find out as the eagle gave us a beady stare as we buzzed by.
At 8PM we arrived in Keokuk, MO, just west of the Mississippi River, watching developing, menacing clouds which turned out to be a tornado watch. Not again. We quickly unloaded PRNCZ and ran next door to Vern's (not Mexican) for a quick dinner; again, nothing to write home about, but we could walk there. We came back just as it started raining, with thunder and lightning. We tucked PRNCZ in, and then ourselves.
The Longest Day
The bad weather had stayed north of us, so the morning dawned clear. The motel clerk steered us to the Fort Worth Cafe for breakfast. We followed the Great River Road to Nauvoo where we had planned a stop to see the historical Mormon site, but it was too early, nothing opened until 10AM. We made plans to return some day for an overnight stay.
And then the longest day began. Drive, drive, drive. Overcast and 80 degrees, but windy again. Twenty miles from home, and the front right brake started acting crazy. We pulled off the road, and, thinking that the brakes were overheating, Steven emptied our water bottles on the brakes. We slowly made it home by 3:30PM.
Do You Think I Can?
Ending mileage: 5275. Happy to be home, safe and sound. OK, Diane has an earache. Steven has a cold. PRNCZ is just plain tired and dirty.
Steven, what was your favorite part of the trip? Driving PRNCZ.
Diane, what was your favorite part of the trip? Traveling with my two favorite buddies.
Let's get the car unloaded and in the garage. Diane will make cocktails; Steven will get the pizza!
We'll talk about GT-43 tomorrow. (Sorry, Bill.)