Hot Rodding, Then and Now
Rumbleseat's East Coast Run 2003, Last Run, Part 12
LAST RUN, PART 12 (last entry). Tuesday, June 17, 2003. Traveled west after leaving Watseka, IL to reach US 40. Turned south. The Tuesday afternoon sun was hot when in town, but was just right at speed. I cruised along at the speed limit enjoying all the farm and ranch "yard art" (relics) along the road. Just kind of kicked back and listened to the hum of my hopped up flathead mill and pipes. At dusk, I called it a day near Champaign, IL. Got a motel and washed the daily bug kill off the roadster. After dinner, I called blnflat49 and set up meet for late the following morning.
Wednesday morning I was close to Effingham when I saw a complex with a billboard advertising Mid-America Corvette Drive-in. A drive-in for Corvettes? This I had to see. The billboard advertised a 50th Anniversary Corvette Convention the coming weekend. It was a very large complex and was super nice. I slowed down to give it a lookey over. No 'vettes parked in the parking lots yet. Too early in the week for the convention people to begin arriving I guessed. However there were several 'vettes near, what appeared to be, the main building. Saw an old timey filling station near one of the other outer buildings. A pic of my rod in front of the station would be nice to have. Got on the juice binders and turned into an entrance. As I drove through the huge parking lot a couple of Mid-America trucks went by. And they didn't look too happy about a Ford being on their sacred turf. Parked in front of the filling station pump's and took a couple of quick pics. Decided to ruffle some feathers and drove around the complex on the way out. Slowed down as I approached the main building. Quite a few 'vettes parked there with about a dozen people standing around them. All were wearing (mandatory?) Corvette apparel. They sure glared as the old Ford relic crept by. But what twisted my crank was several women smiled and nodded as the flathead pipes mumbled by. 'Least they appreciated a good ride when they saw one! Loved it!
Pulled into Effingham, IL. Sandy and I were to meet at Bobber's Truck Stop at exit 160 on I-70. That should have been easy to locate.. Problem was there wasn't any Bobber's Truck Stop there. Quite a number of businesses, but no Bobber's. Drove down I-70 both directions to the nearest exits. Nope… no Bobber's at either. Checked into a convenience store back at exit 160. Got the word Bobber had sold out a few months before. The new owner had changed the name.
Drove to the truck stop and found some shade a distance away from the restaurant. It was getting pretty hot. Sandy soon arrived in his daily beater. He had taken time off from work. We had lunch at the restaurant and talked engines. He had brought along some pictures of his '49 and '39 standard. The '39 standard sports a '40 hood, grill, and fenders. He said this was quite a major undertaking to get things to fit. We didn't have a lot of time to visit. I would have enjoyed more. He left to return to work. I was ready to get back on the road and cool off after I had gassed up.
Topped off the fuel. Checked the engine over with a quick visual. Put away the e-mails of the forum members that had responded to my post on my last run. On each e-mail I had made cryptic notes concerning our meetings. I hoped I'd be able to decipher them once I was home. While I was in the shade of the station's canopy, I studied the Road Atlas for both two lane roads and interstates heading west. I knew I was getting close to running out of my meds. A quick check showed I'd have enough medications to make it home. Barely. I'd make it with enough medications left for one meal…… if I didn't have car troubles. It would be close. That clinched it. I had to take I-70 to Denver. Running two lane roads would take about one day longer. Secured everything and snapped down the driving compartment tonneau.
Lit the mill and pointed the grill down the interstate. Wound the flathead through the gears. Kicked it into overdrive about 60 mph and stayed in it until it hit 75 mph. I wanted to run faster, but there were just too many highway patrol around. Went through St. Louis MO and into Columbia, MO before dusk. The roadster didn't get its usual wash job that night. The next day it would get plastered with bugs before it had been on the road hour.
One thing about running in the western states is you have an hourly quota of bugs you're to flatten (the last thing that passes through a bugs mind when he hits a car doing 70 mph is his butt). And crossing eastern CO or KS is usually a bug splattering experience. And this run wasn't an exception. I seldom wash the bugs off a windshield because the bug juice has been known to stain the paint. So I just look between them and drive. But then there are times when the bugs get so bad, I can't see through them. Then they have to be removed. That's the way the last few days of this run would be.
Up early Thursday morning. After a quick McDuck's big breakfast, I nailed it on the approach ramp heading west on I-70. Ran 70-75mph mostly because of highway patrol. Cruised across the width of MO and in to Kansas City. Once I cleared Kansas City I leaned on it to bring it up to 75-80 mph. As expected, the bug kill went up in direct proportion to the speed. Stayed in Salina, KS that night. This was Thursday night. Didn't bother washing the roadster again that night. It almost looked like one big bug. After dinner I buttoned down the roadster for the night. Checked my medication supply. I had enough for the following morning and evening only. I figured Salina, KS to be an 8 hour run to Denver. Looked like I'd make it with one dose of meds left. It'd be close.
Overslept and didn't wake up until after 7:00 on Friday. Had a quick breakfast at McDuck's (again). Least they're fast and they fill a void. I pointed the roadster west again.
Now between Salina, KS and eastern CO the wind always blows….and blows hard. Early morning is the best time to cross this section, because the wind comes up about 10 AM. Seems to come out of the north in the AM and out of the south in the PM. Maybe it's been where it wants to go in the morning and is returning home in the afternoon to get ready for the next day. All I know it blows directly at the side of a car. You have to turn into the stiff wind to keep the car going straight. And when you're in a roadster with no side windows, the fierce hot wind will actually blister the side of your face. This day was no exception. It was soon between 95 and 105 degrees (where's that rain when I want some?). The hot air blew hard at the right side of the car. At times it felt like the light roadster was about to get blown clear off the road and the chicken bone in my right foot would cause me to lift off the accelerator slightly. (The older you get, the bigger the chicken bone grows. And the bigger it gets, the sooner you lift off the accelerator.) I tried to run in the 70-75 mph range with the steering wheel turned nearly a quarter turn into the wind, but often was down to 60 mph or so.
Stopped in Burlington, CO for fuel. When I accelerated onto the interstate, I could feel a definite lack of power. Damned altitude. I had been near sea level for so long, I had forgotten how much power is lost due to increased elevation. At sea level it had pulled as hard in high overdrive as it did in straight high gear at 5000'. And the octane of premium no-lead we get in CO is a sparkling 91. Lousy gas.
Finally got out of the cross wind about Limon. Then it just got hot. Pulled into the 'burbs of Denver just in time for Friday rush hour. Through Denver to the west side near the foothills. The roadster front end and windshield were multi-hued from the front end filling my bug quota.
Later inspection would show the radiator fins were about 30% plugged shut with them. No wonder the mill ran 190 degrees from Salina home. As I approached the foothills to the west of Denver, I turned off the interstate. I was only a few miles from home. I'm sure the flathead needed a rest. At least I did. It wasn't quite 4:00 PM when I pulled in the driveway. I had enough meds for that evening. Made it.
My last run had covered 10,400 miles. I had been in 22 states and Washington, DC. Time from start to finish was 5 weeks. The hopped up flathead engine had no trouble other than breaking a starter drive spring in Ohio. The engine rebuild had 81,000+ miles on it when I finished the run. I did not carry a spare tire, jack, nor lug wrench simply because I don't have the room. Cost of the trip? "Road costs" included food, motels, premium gas, and engine oil. This averaged $146 a day. Not too expensive. This did not include costs associated with museums, car shows, souvenirs, etc.
My new paint had road rash on both front fenders. I got two dings in the doors from other car doors. About what I had expected. The windshield received several rock pits. The engine began using oil during the trip. But since I drained the Castrol 40wt (about all I could find on the east coast) and put in Valvoline 40wt, the consumption went from 450 miles per quart to near 1000 miles per quart. However, it does put a puff out the right tail pipe during shifts. A compression test showed the same numbers as before the run. Plans are to rebuild the engine this winter and put in a little more cam. The upholstery is showing wear too.
One additional note. I had wanted to meet my good friend Sopp in Eau Clair, WI….. and mcginnis in Minneapolis, MN…. and walts52flatty in Marine on St. Croix, MN….and 40cpe in Star, MS. But simply ran out of time and medications. Sorry about not meeting up with you guys.
So I made my last run. Sure hate to not be thinking about a trip next year. Wonder what it would have been like to get north of the Canadian border a couple hundred mile and zigzag from the east to the west? Or take a run to Alaska? Guess I'll never know. All I know is, So many roads, so little time…….. rumble seat