After GT-42 in Solvang, CA, the Mazureks swore there would never be another drive to an event over 1,000 miles in PRNCZ. The estimated distance to Colorado Springs is 1,100 miles. With some creative planning on the GPS, we think that distance can be closer to 1000 miles! So, the Mazureks will be there in PRNCZ. Will we see you?
We were a little late retrieving PRNCZ from storage this year, and the weather was not very co-operative with temps below 50°F, so time in the garage tending to updates and repair was limited. Steven, however, was able to complete the needed work about three weeks prior to the scheduled departure.
Steven was having some issues with his own personal engine and scheduled an appointment with his primary care mechanic. An ECG revealed a potential heart problem, and the matter was referred to tech II support. The next day the cardiologist called and told Steven that an appointment had been made at the local emergency room and that he should not delay in keeping it! After his arrival, Steven was connected to a number of analytical devices, and tubes were inserted to provide and/or extract vital fluids. Several scans were used to assist the diagnosis, and at the end of the day, it was determined that the top of his engine was not in sync with the bottom (aka atrial flutter). Luckily, this did not result in any bent valves: an overnight stay was required for a complete evaluation. Oh, and by the way, did you know that you have Covid-19? Diane, please get tested for Covid ASAP. Yup, she had it, too.
After the appropriate quarantine protocol, we were back on track for the GT. We were masking to limit spread and minimize any reinfection. The vintage luggage was out and ready to receive Diane's choices of outfits for travel. We were still experiencing some side affects from the Covid, fatigue and coughing, but the doctors had given permission for travel.
Memorial Day arrived, and it happened to be a day of sunny skies and mild temperatures. So, we decided to take PRNCZ out for a couple of hours just as a final check before traveling cross country. When we returned home, neither of us could breath normally, and we were so tired, it was all we could do to walk from the garage to the house. I guess after all these years of MGA travel, we never really thought about the effort that it takes to drive one of these vehicles for long, or short, distances. The next day we were repacking our clothing for travel in the VWA (Volkswagen of America) automobile.
Not only would PRNCZ stay home, but we also were traveling without our best friend and travel companion, Bruce Nichols, whom we lost last November. It was not the same without our best buds!
The Trip Out
Just like our trip to GT-46, we took the same route and traveled the same speed(s) that we had planned for PRNCZ. Yes, we could have cut a day from the drive out with the VWA, but for us GTs are more than just a car convention. It is a chance to see America as it once was, and this trip did not disappoint. The weather was perfect roadster fair: cool temps and clear skies. See the USA in your MGA...
We started out mid-morning, because the first day's distance was the shortest. But first we needed to console PRNCZ, who didn't really understand why we were leaving her behind.
Black Hawk Statue
We drove west towards Rockford, IL, where we picked up IL2 which follows the Rock River, southwest towards Iowa. Just south of Oregon stands the 48 foot high Black Hawk Statue, at the back of Lowden State Park, once the site of an artist's colony called Eagles Nest. It's erected on a bluff that overlooks the Rock River.
We continued southwest along the Rock River passing through Dixon, the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan. This is a place you visit one time, and we'd been there on a previous trip, so we drove on by but not before gazing at a portion of the Berlin Wall at town center.
After crossing two covered bridges, the Princeton Red Historic Covered Bridge and the Captain Swift Covered Bridge, we turned south on IL78 and headed to Kewanee, IL, the Hog Capital of the World.
Picture Post Card Perfect!
We think this community is a bit confused regarding its heritage. The name of the town is the Winnebago word for greater prairie chicken. But why Hog Capital?
The United States Department of Agriculture noticed one day that Henry County in Illinois was leading the entire nation in hog production. So on Saturday, September 20, 1947, after the USDA had declared officially that Henry County was the "top hog" in America when it came to pork production, Kewanee, by virtue of the fact it was the biggest town in the county, designated itself the Hog Capital. We didn't realize that the United States Department of Agriculture represented the world, but we're not going to argue. Kiss the pig and move on!
We eventually turned eastward on US34. There was one more stop before we reached our day's destination. On our way past Monmouth, IL, we stopped at Monmouth College to visit its Fighting Scotsman statue, the school's mascot. Apparently, it was alumni days at the school as there were a lot of banners flying. We considered a longer visit to partake in the activities, but, alas, we did not have our kilts, just our Spartan (MSU) shirts.
We moved on to Burlington, IA and settled in at a Fairfield for the night. We ventured out to a restaurant we'd heard about on Iowa Public Television called The Drake, home of the Wood Fire Grill. We tried one of the signature dishes, fried pickles: probably not a choice if we ever decided to visit again, but we did try the ribs which were delicious. "Rockin' BBQ with a View" of the Mississippi River is their motto. Only the portions were way too large, especially for travelers who have nowhere to store leftovers.
The next day, after breakfast, we headed south out of Burlington and soon turned west. We drove on extremely nice roads through farm country, keeping an eye out for Amish buggies. While stopped for road construction, we spied an Amish fellow who was about to seed a field. Drawing the seeder were two of the biggest draught horses we had ever seen. They were tall, massive, and sorrel in color; most likely Belgians. They struck quite a pose while waiting to pull. Alas, no time for a photo opportunity.
Mid afternoon we arrived at Mount Hope Cemetery in Hiawatha, KS to visit the Davis Memorial. John Milburn Davis erected this memorial to "the sacred memory" of his wife, Sarah. It is quite elaborate with many life size statues of the couple. The memorial was built during the Depression, and the townspeople were dismayed that he sunk money into the memorial rather than helping the town and its people. He proclaimed that it was his money, and he would spend it how he liked.
After settling in at the Altenhofen Inn in Seneca, KS, we headed to El Canelo Mexican Restaurant at the advice of the desk clerk at the inn. We had a really good meal — Mexican restaurants on a road trip never seem to disappoint.
The next day we continued along US36 where, by accident, we stumbled upon Black Squirrel Town. Marysville, KS is located along the Pony Express Route between Missouri and Oregon. A station still exists in town.
Marysville also has a community of black squirrels which apparently escaped from a traveling circus. To commemorate the event, there are decorated, black squirrel statues through-out town: Black Squirrels on Parade. We never saw a real black squirrel though!
We stopped when we thought we saw a squirrel that we recognized: Caleb, the Pepsi squirrel. You can't get an idea of his size, but he was tall enough to see over the top of our windscreen. It turns out that he was no relation to the black squirrel that hangs out near our house.
Our first goal that day was to visit an interesting site just north of Lebanon, KS. In 1918 a scientific survey was done and established this locale as the geographical center of the continental United States. It's out in the middle of farmland, but a monument and small park mark the spot. There is a tiny chapel (not sure why) and also a former motel, now vacant, on the property. It probably wasn't the best business plan.
Geo Center Park
Diane and the "Good" Book
It was quiet and peaceful with a great view of the surrounding country-side (corn). We probably spent thirty minutes there, just poking around and reading the various plaques installed in the park. Diane thought she'd try her hand ministering, but the turn out was a bit slim: not even Steven would sit through it. Once rested, we moved on.
Our second stop was to visit the homestead of Dr. Brewster M. Higley, famous for authoring "My Western Home" which became the inspiration for the song Home on the Range. Home on the Range ultimately became the state song of Kansas in 1947 and was a staple in elementary school music classes during the 1950s. In 2010, the song was added to the top 100 western songs of all time.
Here we met up with a local man who, living less than thirty miles away most of his life, had never visited the site. He brought along his guitar to practice alongside his pickup truck in a shaded area of the property. We stopped to listen. He was just learning and was attempting to pick the tune Old Rugged Cross. Being musicians ourselves, we offered encouragement and applause. He said that we were his first live audience.
Learning to Play Guitar
Eventually we arrived in Colby, KS at the Sleep Inn (same one we stayed in five years ago on the way home from GT-42). This time we didn't listen to the desk clerk and stopped at a Chinese restaurant - very bad idea. Should have gone to the "bar and grill" in town.
The next day we headed south out of Colby to connect with US40 west to Colorado Springs. We had one scheduled stop in Kit Carson, CO, to see the Kit Carson Museum. The main building had been built in 1904 as a train depot for the Union Pacific (UP) Railroad. It not only contained the UP operations office but also the agent's living quarters. There is a UP caboose on the premises, along with a lot containing old heavy equipment. Steven noted a gun case that contained a Winchester 73, "the rifle that won the West."
We chatted with the docent for quite awhile on topics like branding cattle, old farm equipment, and the unidentified red MGA from MO that had stopped there earlier. Please let us know who you are if you are reading this.
|Steven Rode These When Young
|Steven Used To Ride This, Too
|Station Master's House
|Diane Meets Kit Carson
It's interesting that Kit Carson may have visited the area, but the town was established after his death. His real home and museum are located in Taos, NM.
Smoky Hill Trail Marker
There wasn't much more to see along the route; okay, one antelope and a few pheasants, and wheat fields, and cattle ranches, so we stopped at a few historical markers, including the Smoky Hill Trail marker. It was a good place to stretch our legs and read about the trail which was in use between 1855 and 1870 from Atchison, KS to Denver, CO. The place did look a bit parched, so we also left a bit of water behind, too. There was no Johnny on the Spot.
The roads we traveled to this point were primarily blue-line highways and state routes. They were all quite well maintained and devoid of major traffic and trucks. For that matter, some of the roads lacked towns or had long stretches between towns of perhaps a few hundred residences and a grain elevator.
We wished we were in PRNCZ, but we had to remind ourselves that traveling in the MGA with our current state of health would have been brutal with the heat, the relentless sun, and the more relentless wind and dust.
By the end of this travel day, we were at our final destination in Colorado Springs, the Doubletree. We settled in and had a light supper at the bar in the lobby where we met up with Alan and Terry Kleinschmidt who also live in Illinois, but south of us.
Day 5 of our travels was Day 1 of the GT: registration and orientation. We spent time in the Grand Ballroom where the vendors (hi, Cecelia) and registration, along with the silent auction, were set up. This is where everyone seemed to congregate, so we were able to reconnect with friends, old and new. We especially enjoyed reminiscing with Bill and Karen Marshall.
This was also the beginning of Steven's battle with the altitude: he was having trouble breathing. Luckily, Ken and Melon Doris had an oximeter with them to test Steven's oxygen level (normal), and they also gave him a cylinder of oxygen (thank you!). We drove around Colorado Springs, looking to replace that cylinder, but everyone was back-ordered. Steve did battle all week, with minimal sleep, until we left Friday morning at 4:30 AM.
Diane noticed that Alan Magnuson had a copy of Automobile Quarterly, Vol.17 No.1 for sale. A featured article in the book is "Abingdon Modern, The History of the MGA" with a photo of our first MGA, a white 1960 1600 on page 36. Lora Swenson bought the book for Jim Goodwin, and Steven and Diane both signed it.
Diane Views MG EX-186
After the Welcome and Orientation Session, we stayed to hear Joe and Cathy Gunderson's presentation on their "Story of EX-186." They acquired this MGA-based experimental (EX) racing prototype literally in incomplete pieces and then meticulously restored it. It is a one of a kind MGA with a twin cam engine, designed to race at LeMans. Their story is truly fascinating, complete with photos and drawings. At the end of the session they distributed souvenir lapel/hat pins to all the attendees. We were pleased to know that we saw the car at its first show in Gatlinburg, TN at GT-31, 2006.
Diane attended Kelvin Dodd's technical session on MGA Electrical Systems - Explanation and Fault Finding. He is the Tech Department Lead for Moss Motors and gave a very interesting presentation. Diane realized how much of all of this she already knew, after over 45 years of helping Steven in the garage. Steven attended the session on Strange Repairs and the one on Duct Tape, Baling Wire and Other Emergency Fixes. John Twist was in the hotel portico, doing his usual auto analysis for any MG.
One evening was spent at the Flying W Ranch Chuckwagon Supper and Western Show. We all donned our western duds and rode the bus past the Garden of the Gods to the cattle ranch. There was a separate building specifically for us to enjoy happy hour, then we walked over to the main building for our western style supper (beans, barbecue, baked potato, cornbread, cake) followed by a very entertaining program by the Flying W Wranglers, a western singing group. It was a fun evening which we shared with Mike and Jennifer Ash, Greg and LeAnn Eroe, and Patrick Sussman, a first timer who is restoring a Magnette. We hope he'll have it ready for Memphis.
Steven and Diane on Foot and Lost
Diane with Cowpoke Greg Eroe and Lovely Lora Swenson
A Bit of Scenery at the Flying W
Flying W Wranglers
(click the image and listen while you read on — 2:46 minutes)
The car show was at a local high school, a very nice venue. We enjoyed seeing Larry Zelwig and his MGA from California whom we met in Solvang at GT-42. He remembered us but knew that we didn't remember him. It was a fun exchange. The Michigan Rowdies made a showing, albeit small, with the Manns, the Mazureks, the Nelsons, and Larry Pitman.
Larry Zelwig and Diane
Ken and Kathy Nelson's 1500
Bill and Greg
Bollendonk's 1935 K3/KN
Premier Class Cars
Ray Holtzapple's ZA
Bruce and Willie Mann's Award Winning 1600 MkII
There was even a Michigan member from days of yore, who transplanted to Texas: Ray Holtzapple. We hadn't spoken with him in many years.
Most attendees were preparing to drive to the top of Pike's Peak. We did that in 1989, but with a SAAB. Diane was not about to make that journey again, even if the roads were now paved! We understand that of all who attempted the climb in their MGAs, a few were not fortunate enough to make the summit. Most just suffered from heat exhaustion, but we understand that the Griblers spun an engine bearing in their MGA.
Penrose: Early Pike's Peak Race Cars
We decided to visit the Penrose Heritage Museum instead, which showcases the history of the area and the Pike's Peak Hill Climb. We invited Mike Jacobsen to join us at the museum and then to join us for dinner at the Golden Bee Pub, a reconstructed pub from England, both on the grounds of The Broadmoor. The hours of the museum are limited (Diane forgot), so it was already closed when we got there at 4PM. We checked out the shops in The Broadmoor for postcards and souvenirs and then enjoyed our dinner at the pub where we received our "bee" flying souvenirs from our waiter. We'll come back tomorrow — and did.
The last evening was the awards banquet. This is the first time that both Steven and Diane left before the awards were distributed. Both were feeling the effects of the altitude and lack of sleep. The last thing they heard was: GT-48 will be in Memphis, TN June 12-16, 2023.
After another difficult night, we just got up at 3:30AM, because someone was trying to get into our room. He appeared to be an inebriated young man, looking for his room, but there was no way to call the Front Desk or Security on the hotel's sad phone system to help him out.
We were out the door by 5AM, anxious to descend from the elevation. By the time we reached the Sleep Inn in Norton, KS, our scheduled stop for the night, the elevation was still about 2300 feet, but Steven was already breathing better. We both napped in the afternoon and slept a full night, thankfully, since we planned to hoof it all the way home the next day. We could do that relatively easily in the VWA. But Kansas is deceiving. It doesn't have much altitude, but it does have lots of dust and pollen, so by the end of the day, we had runny noses and were coughing and sneezing. Won't this ever end?
Our last day of this trip began at 7:30AM and ended at 8:30PM with our arrival home. We traversed mostly on I80, the Eisenhower Interstate System and I88, the Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway. There was not much to see except for many, many trucks and vacationers heading west. We were happy to be heading east towards home. Although, we did a couple of quick stops, one in Arapahoe, NE, to take this photo of a mural and another at the WWII POW Camp Marker on US34E near Atlanta, NE. We don't often think about the WWII Prisoner of War Camps in the US, so this marker was rather unique for us.
Many thanks to Alan and and Laura Magnuson, Joe and Cathy Gunderson, Jim Goodwin and Lora Swenson, and their entire team of volunteers for a Mighty Good GT in a beautifully scenic area. (Diane really loved the bag of Colorado goodies!)
We hope that next year's MGAdventure will be a more pleasant one for the three of us.
So happy to be home!