Monday, June 18, 2012

The End...

Day 18: 527 Miles
Total: 6,096 Miles

Saturday turned out to be a very long day. We got an early start and covered a lot of ground. We began in Arkansas, near Memphis, and before lunch we had traveled through Tennessee, Mississippi and into Alabama. The starter on the old Ford was hanging in there, but it was clear that it was getting worse quickly. Since the car now has absolutely no overheating problems we tried to leave it running whenever we could, just turning it off when we stopped for meals.

We hit Chattanooga, TN at around 6pm and continued on toward Brevard. At about 7pm we stopped for dinner. When we came back out the car wouldn't start. This was the first time it sat for so long and then refused to start. We waited for another half hour, then another. As we were discussing the possibilities of towing the car to either a repair facility or all the way home, it finally came to life. We drove the rest of the way home with our fingers crossed. I parked it in the driveway around 11:30pm, partially unloaded the car, then we went to bed.

Sunday I went out and the car started just fine. I pulled it into the garage and put it up on jacks. I removed the starter and took it to the auto parts store where they tested it and confirmed it was fried. So I replaced it with a new one which seems to work fine.

So that's the end of our adventure this time. It evolved very differently than we expected when we initially set out, but it was most definitely an adventure. We saw many new things along Route 66, but then missed almost the entire second half of our carefully planned trip. Another trip for another day, I guess.

Until next time...


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Closer to Home

Day 17: 570 Miles
Total: 5,569 Miles

We covered a lot of ground yesterday. The 65mph speed limits along many of the Oklahoma two lane highways keeps traffic moving at a good clip. We went through all of Oklahoma and nearly all of Arkansas. We had planned to stay somewhere in-between Hot Springs and Little Rock, but we got there so early that we decided to keep going. We spent the night in northwest Arkansas, just outside of Memphis, Tennessee.

The car ran well all day. I tweaked the carburetor before we left, and that or the fact that it wasn't nearly as hot as the day before seemed to make the car run better. It still won't restart when it's hot, but at least it doesn't seem to want to stall when sitting in traffic.


Friday, June 15, 2012

On Our Way Home...Hopefully

Day 16: 337 Miles
Total: 4,999 Miles

Well, we're on our way again. At 2:30pm we picked up the 1937 Ford, swapped our stuff into it, dropped off the rental car and headed out. We drove about an hour south to connect to the historic Lee Highway in Plainview, TX. The car is running very cool; no radiator problems at all, but when we got to Plainview it was behaving badly while idling and I was having a hard time keeping it running. Then it stalled and when I tried to restart it...nothing.

So we pushed the car off of the road and I opened the hood. Twenty minutes later we were off again like nothing had happened. Then we drove for a while and had to pull over to check the map and it stalled again. When I tried to start it...nothing. We waited a bit, then I decided to try something else. I got a hammer out of our tool box and crawled under the car. I lightly tapped the starter as Sharon held the key in the start position. The car fired right up. It happened once more and a light tap did the trick again.

The starter is clearly getting worse as we go. The repair facility thought it was the wiring and they fixed that, but it obviously wasn't the problem. Intermittent problems are difficult to diagnose, but a pattern is developing. I think the headers are positioned too close to the starter and in that tiny engine compartment the starter is getting too hot. When it cools off it works, but when it's hot it doesn't. I'll deal with it when we get home, but first we have to get there. We'll see how today goes.

We made a good distance yesterday, even with our late start. We spent the night in Laughton, OK. If all goes well with the car we will probably be somewhere in Arkansas tonight. Wish us luck. Even with all of this going on it was a fun day. We only took a few pictures because we were worried about stopping too often, but I posted some of them below.

The first two were taken of a really cool historic gas station in Manitou, TX.

This gas station in Snyder, OK is a log cabin.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Still in Amarillo!

Day 15: 0 Miles
Total: 4,662

Yesterday was another non-travel day. The radiator and miscellaneous details were being worked on all day so we kept the rental car but just hung around town. There was a concert on the courthouse lawn that we went to see, and it was very pleasant. We had lunch there with our friend Croc, then met him again for dinner at a place called Cowboy Gelato . I had a bowl of green chili stew that was the best I have ever tasted. That was about it for our day though.

I called the repair facility late in the day and again this morning. They are "hoping" to have it done by noon, but best case is probably early afternoon before we get on the road. We have a lot of ground to cover in a short time, but we aren't going to waste the last few days of our trip on an Interstate if we can help it. We have a route mapped out covering the Lee Highway, another historic highway from 100 years ago. We'll stick to it the best we can given our time constraints.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting in Amarillo Again

Day 14: 213 Miles
Total: 4,662 Miles

Yesterday was a short drive. We slept in a bit and Sharon did all of the driving. We lost an hour crossing into the Central Time Zone so we rolled into Amarillo at about 1:00pm. The first thing we did was to stop by the repair facility to check on my car. The radiator had still not arrived, but they were expecting it by 3pm. After discussing things with the mechanic, it became clear that there was no chance the car would be done on Tuesday, and it was still possible that it wouldn't be finished on Wednesday either. The radiator did come in later in the day and they started reassembling everything, so we're in a wait and see mode. I did go back and book the hotel for an extra night though, so we probably won't start for home until Thursday morning.

We didn't do much otherwise except hang around the hotel and recuperate a bit. We'll see what Wednesday brings, but for now I'm antsy and frustrated waiting to get the car back.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Most of the Way Back

Day 13: 851 Miles
Total: 4,449 Miles

Yesterday was a total interstate driving day. We put over 800 miles on the car and took turns napping. We rolled into Santa Rosa, NM close to midnight and quickly fell asleep. That gives us a relatively short ride to Amarillo today.

No pictures this time, but there were a few bright spots to the day. We ate breakfast at the Ludlow Cafe in Ludlow, CA. It sits in the middle of the Mohave Desert on Route 66 but we had never stopped there before. It was a nice little place with good food.

Our second stop was the Galaxy Diner in Flagstaff, AZ. This is a great place with a wonderful diner feel to it. We have been here before, so we jumped off of the interstate and made a pleasant stop.

Dinner was late so our choices were limited in Albuquerque, NM. As it turns out, we found another great diner on Route 66 called, surprisingly, the Route 66 Diner.

We hope to get the car back today, but probably won't know the status until we arrive in Amarillo. If we do we can get an early start toward home tomorrow. My fear is that if this drags on for another day or two we will be scrambling to get home by Sunday so Sharon can get to work by Monday. We'll soon see.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Fourth Time's The Charm

Day 12: 387 Miles
Total: 3,598 Miles

As the title says, it's my fourth time driving Route 66 end to end, and Sharon's second time. We arrived at the Santa Monica Pier shortly after 5pm today to take our obligatory photos. The drive today went well. We left early to beat the brutal Mohave heat, but it never really happened. I don't think it ever got hotter than the mid-80s. We stopped a few times for photo ops, and then we stopped for a late breakfast at the Bagdad Cafe.

The cafe was originally called The Sidewinder back in the 80s when a cult classic was filmed there called The Bagdad Cafe. The owners later changed the name to match the film title. Jack Palance and Alfie Woodard star in it. Look for it; while very quirky, it's a great film. The funny thing is, the film has nothing on the real-life quirky characters who populate this place. We enjoyed talking to them and having them show us all kinds of items left over from the movie, including a boomerang, jukebox, piano, Airstream trailer, etc. We also visited with a man from England who now lives in Orange county, California, and with a German couple traveling 66. It's a bit hard to describe the atmosphere in the place, but it was actually one of the best times we have had on our trip.

After leaving the cafe we traveled through Barstow, Victorville and into San Bernardino and the beginning of the never ending civilization of metropolitan LA. We stopped and got a room at the third wigwam on our journey; Wigwam Village #7 in Rialto, CA. We then left for the 80 mile drive to the pier, following Route 66 through 337 traffic lights (give or take a few) and several stop signs. It took almost 3 1/2 hours to complete, and that was on a Sunday afternoon. We then drove back to the motel via I-10, which took less than 1 1/2 hours.

Tomorrow we will begin the trek back to Amarillo to pick up the '37 Ford. We will make the trip in two days, so nearly all of the driving will unfortunately take place on the interstates. We'll try to make up for that once we get the '37 back by sticking to the two-lane highways as much as possible.

Here are a few of today's pictures, beginning with a few shots in the desert.

The next three pictures are from the inside of the Bagdad Cafe.

Here is an exterior shot.

Here is the motel that was next to the cafe in the movie (and also in real life).

Here are two shots of Sharon and I on the Santa Monica Pier.

And finally, a couple of shots of Wigwam Village #7, the last of the villages to be built, and of the three remaining, this on is in the best condition by far.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Day 11: 370 Miles
Total: 3,211 Miles

Well, we made it out to Needles, CA on the edge of the Colorado River and the Mohave Desert. It was a fun travel day because we had an opportunity to see several of our favorite sites. We passed by Two Guns and Twin Arrows, then stopped for lunch at the Snow Cap restaurant in Seligman. Our next stop was the Hackberry General Store in Hackberry.

The Oatman Pass is a beautiful and treacherous mountain pass that runs from west of Kingman, AZ to Oatman, AZ. As you make the 20mph drive interspersed with the 15mph switchbacks you have to marvel at the brave souls who traversed the route in the 1920s. Sharon braved the drive in our rental car so I could watch the great scenery. Not a smart thing to do when you are the driver, so this was a first for me through this area.

Once through the pass, California and the city of Needles are a brief distance away. We got to our motel early, and were sad to find that it wasn't in nearly the same condition as it was when I stayed here five years ago. That was probably the last time it was cleaned, and it is the first disappointment we've had in motels on this trip. It was still passable, but we didn't feel like sitting around the room all night and there really isn't anything to do in Needles, so we took a 45-minute drive to Laughlin, NV to a couple of casinos. We had dinner and Sharon donated money to the slot machines. I watched. Then we came back to the motel.

We will make it to Santa Monica today; the end of my fourth and Sharon's second Route 66 trip. Then it's back to Amarillo. The latest on the car saga is that the new custom radiator is supposed to arrive on Tuesday morning, so the car is supposed to be done late Tuesday or Wednesday morning. We'll get to Amarillo on Tuesday, then plot our course home once the car is ready.

Here are a few pictures from Day 11:

The first is Two Guns, AZ, a well-known Route 66 stop once upon a time. It is supposedly owned by Russell Crowe who was said to be planning to shoot a movie there. There are a few people on the ground in camping trailers doing a bit of work, and the place now has a for sale sign on it, so I'm not sure what is going on any more.

Twin Arrows has been long abandoned as well. However, the Navajo are building a casino about a mile away, so there is some hope that this landmark will be revived.

The Hackberry General store is just a great place to take photographs.

Last stop for a cold drink on the Oatman Pass is the very cool, Cool Springs.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Have You Slept in a Wigwam Recently? Yes!

Day 10: 268 Miles
Total: 2,841 Miles

We had a quiet, uneventful ride through the desert today, from Albuquerque, NM to Holbrook, AZ. We stopped here and there to take some interesting pictures, but beyond that there wasn't much else to do. We ate lunch in a diner in Gallup called Earl's, and it was a pleasant stop. In New Mexico and especially Arizona, there are significant stretches of Route 66 that have been covered by the asphalt of I-40. This makes the travel quick but boring.

We arrived in Holbrook in the late afternoon and checked into our wigwam. The wigwam village is in pretty good shape. The son and daughter-in-law of the original owner, Chester Lewis, still own the place. Chester died in 1986 but his wife is still alive and living in Phoenix at the ripe old age of 101.

We ate dinner at a highly recommended Mexican restaurant here, but after the incredible Mexican meals we have eaten in the last few days, this place was a bit underwhelming. Not bad, just average. We went out and shot a few more neon signs tonight. I have included one of my favorites below.

Tomorrow we will stay in Needles, CA. It isn't much longer than today in terms of the number of miles, but there are several of our favorite places to stop along the way, such as the towns of Winslow, Seligmen, and Hackberry. And while several stints on the expressway will make up some time, the slow and treacherous Oatman Pass will slow us back down. So we plan to get an earlier start and will probably arrive a little later in the day.

Here are a handful of pictures, mostly of Wigwam Village #6. The first is a little service station in Budville, NM.

Old motel signs abound along the entire route. In some cases they sit over long-closed motels, other times they are the last remnant of a non-existent motel. Of course, sometimes the motel is still there and still in operation. The Bluewater is still sitting along a lonely stretch of Route 66 in New Mexico, but it hasn't seen a weary traveler spending the night there in many years.

This old building preceded Route 66 in Holbrook, NM.

Here is one of three remaining wigwam villages, Wigwam Village #6. Village #7 still stands on Route 66 in Rialto, CA and #2 remains in Cave City, KY on the Dixie Highway.

The wigwams here have several old cars interspersed with customer vehicles. Some of them are still operational...sort of.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Which Way Did They Go?

Day 9: 276 Miles
Total: 2,573 Miles

Which way did we go? Just before breakfast this morning I called the repair facility manager for an update on our ailing 1937 Ford. If he said they were ahead of schedule and the car would be finished today, we would return to Amarillo. Otherwise we would continue on to Albuquerque. Well...we're in Albuquerque as I am writing this. It turns out that this was not the first time this radiator had been repaired; maybe not even the second. As I mentioned previously, there is a structural problem in the way the builder first installed the radiator which causes undue stress on it and ultimately causes breakage. Instead of redesigning the mounts the previous owner just kept repairing the radiator; until he sold me. So the guys at Vintage Autohaus have ordered a new radiator which may arrive tomorrow. If it does, Sharon and I will be back on the road on Monday. If it doesn't it could take longer.

So we drove to Albuquerque today via the original roundabout Route 66 alignment through Santa Fe. Sharon loves Santa Fe. I hate it. A lot. Roads that are impossible to drive on or follow because they are narrow, one-way, cut-offs, and they drive me insane.

The positive thing, though, is that both Sharon and I like Albuquerque and that's where we are now. We are staying in a great motel I stayed in back in 2007 called the Monterey Non-Smokers Motel. It is run by a cool German guy who responded to me the same way he did five years ago when I asked if he had a room available; "If you are a non-smoker, I have a room for you." The place is meticulously clean and about a quarter mile from Old Town Albuquerque where we wandered through shops and had a great dinner.

Tomorrow we are going to Holbrook, AZ to spend the night in another wigwam. This will be the last of the three remaining Wigwam Villages that we haven't yet stayed in. There is also a great restaurant there called Joe & Aggie's that we missed last year when we couldn't stay at the wigwam. I'm not sure how much further west we will go after that, but I guess we'll have to figure that out very soon.

Here are a few pictures along Route 66 in Albuquerque today; neon, neon, neon!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tucumcari Tonight

Day 8: 133 Miles
Total: 2,287 Miles

More correctly, it was Tucumcari, NM last night since I'm a day behind in my blog. The Ford Fusion drives flawlessly and gets around 35 mpg; even so, I wouldn't trade my '37 for two brand new ones. In any event, we meandered along the short drive from Amarillo to Tucumcari, including a 17-mile stretch of unpaved Route 66 between Glen Rio, TX and San Jon, NM. Rental cars are good for something after all!

We got to the Blue Swallow Motel, arguably the most famous motel along Route 66, and checked in. We wound up staying in the same room as last year. We wandered through town taking pictures and we had a nice dinner at the newly reopened La Cita restaurant. After dinner we sat out in the cool evening breeze and met a few of our fellow travelers. It was very pleasant, and our only concern was whether we would be continuing west in the morning or turning around and heading back to Amarillo. You'll have to read today's blog to see what we found out.

Here are a few photos from our brief journey.

The dirt road below is an alignment of Route 66 heading out of the ghost town of Glen Rio, TX toward the almost ghost town of San Jon, NM. Lots of abandoned buildings along the way. A couple of shots below will give you a flavor.

The Blue Swallow is one of the coolest motels along the 2,000+ miles of Route 66. The new owners, Kevin and Nancy Mueller have had the place for a year now and have done some incredible updating. It's no Holiday Inn...and I'm glad for that.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Amarillo Again

Day 7:  0 Miles
Total: 2,154 Miles

Well we got the bad news today. The '37 is going to require a significant amount of work to make it roadworthy. The radiator didn't just break; there was a structural build problem that needs attention so it doesn't recur. And since the mechanic is going to be in there anyway, why not take care of a few other issues? So the car is going to be out of commission at least through Friday, and maybe the weekend.

We rented a car today, a Ford Focus. Not exactly as cool as the '37, but probably a bit more reliable. We've decided to do part of the remaining miles of Route 66, but we realize we won't have time to do all of it. So tomorrow it will be Tucumcari, NM and one of my favorite motels anywhere, The Blue Swallow. For today though, we had already rented the Courtyard room for two nights so we decided to explore Amarillo a bit. Crocodile Lile volunteered to be tour guide and took us around town in his 1964 1/2 Mustang convertible. We had a great time, and we also visited his art studio on 6th Street NW, which was also Route 66 once upon a time. Following our tour, Sharon and I went to buy two cans of spray paint and headed out to the Cadillac Ranch to practice our artwork. Turns out we're pretty talented! I only took a few pictures today, so here are a couple of them.

Amarillo, like many cities along Route 66, has lots of classic old motels in various stages of disrepair. The Triangle Motel is a great example of one of these beauties. The exterior is in good shape though the grounds are not. The owner is apparently in the process of restoring the motel, but it's hard to tell much about his progress at this point. Check out the carports next to each room. This place could be amazing again with enough time, money and effort.

One of the two motel signs is apparently owned by the neighbor. She claims she was offered $30,000 for this one. I'm not an expert on old neon signs with the neon missing, but I'm not thinkin' so.

 A cool bowling alley sign in front of a still-operating business.

And here is our gracious host and friend, Crocodile Lile. If you're ever in Amarillo be sure to check out his studio.


Hangin' Out in Amarillo

Day 6: 242 Miles
Total: 2,154 Miles

 No pictures today. We got up early with the intention of making it to Amarillo in the early afternoon. We were plugging along without event until I pulled over to the side of the road to return a phone call. When the call was finished I went to start the car. Nothing. This was the second time on this trip that the car wouldn't start. The first time it had stalled after being very hot. This time it didn't seem to be the case, yet after 20 minutes I tried it again and it fired right up. So we were on our way again, but with a second apparent problem looming with the '37.

As we got to Amarillo the ambient temperature was in the 90s. I was worried that the car would get very hot. It had already been running 15-20 degrees warmer today, and I knew that once we hit all of the stoplights in Amarillo it was likely to be boiling. It did get quite hot and the car was barely running when we turned the corner to the radiator place. In fact the engine died, and of course it wouldn't start. So four guys helped me push the car into the shop. They spent the next hour and a half looking it over before telling me that they couldn't fix it. The custom radiator, and more importantly, the custom installation was beyond the scope of what they could do. So they gave me the name of a local place called Vintage Autohaus that specializes in restorations of cars like mine.

I called them up and they said they were located about six miles from where I was currently sitting. If I could bring the car to them right then they could take a look at it. I said I would...if the car would start. I held my breath, turned the key...and success! We quickly drove over there, but the route was mostly expressway so there was no issue with heating anyway. The service manager was very knowledgeable and professional. He said they can fix it, but the amount of time it takes is dependent upon how much of the front end of the car they have to remove before being able to remove the radiator.

There was a nearby Courtyard by Marriott hotel so we took the car over to it and checked in, gathering all of our personal things out of it. We then returned it to Vintage Autohaus where they moved it inside and drove us back to the hotel. Sometime Tuesday they will be able to give us an accurate account of the time it will take to repair. It could be as much as three days; one to remove the front end of the car, one to repair the radiator, and one to reinstall everything. So we will rent a car and get to know Amarillo. We got to meet a new route 66 friend named "Crocodile" Lile tonight at the hotel. He is the one I have been talking to over the last few days regarding our car problems. A great guy. He has offered to show us around the area while we wait, so that is the plan. Once we get the car back we will look at our schedule and decide where we go from here. Presumably the car will be fixed, so then it just becomes an issue of timing based on the number of days we have lost. Since we don't have the time to make up for the lost days, we will have to skip major parts of our trip or alter it completely.

The adventure continues.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Another Day Closer to Amarillo

Day 5: 375 Miles
Total: 1,912 Miles

We had another relatively uneventful day today. We got a late start after Sharon and I had breakfast with Ron and Barb Hart. They gave us a tour of some of the inner workings of the Boots Motel, then Ron took me to get some pictures of the old Jefferson Highway on a long closed section of Main Street on the north side of town. It was great and I got some incredible photos. The two below show Main Street and the Main Street bridge over the creek.

It's hard to believe that one of the early great American roadways, the Jefferson Highway, ran right down this road through the middle of town as part of its route from Winnipeg to New Orleans. The Jefferson shared some common roadway with Route 66 (though not this part) but preceded 66 by over a decade.

Since we were in a hurry to get as far down the road as possible, and since we got an incredibly late start, we didn't make many stops along the way. We tried to visit 4 Women on the Route in Galena, KS but they were closed so I just snapped a few photos. We also stopped at Afton Station to visit Laurel Kane who we met on our trip through here last year. We took pictures of the car in front of her antique gas pumps and also visited the wonderful Packard museum on the premises. There is a 1958 Packard Hawk there that I would like to add to my collection!

We drove until about 10:00 tonight and landed in Weatherford, Oklahoma. We're exhausted but plan an early start in the morning. We're about 190 miles from Amarillo, which in Route 66 time is about 5 hours. So we will hopefully arrive in the early to mid afternoon and make arrangements for the radiator repairs to commence. Then Tuesday morning we will either continue our trek west or turn around and head home.

This business is located in Galena, Kansas on a section of highway that was once both Route 66 and the Jefferson Highway.

Afton Station in Afton, Oklahoma is a must-stop.