It began as a trip for two. But Joy Rainey’s coast-to-coast drive across the United States will ultimately benefit thousands more — and perhaps ease her emotional pain in the process.
Rainey and her husband, Trevor Hulks, had planned to take a nearly 3,000-mile back-roads trip from California to Florida in a 1904 Curved Dash Oldsmobile sometime in 2010, but when Hulks succumbed to an aggressive form of cancer late in 2009, Rainey couldn’t fathom ever making the journey. However after years of soul searching, and with the encouragement and financial help of friends, Rainey has turned the endeavor into a fundraiser for cancer research. She and her team from the UK will leave Oceanside, Calif., on April 13 and travel southeast through eight states before arriving in Daytona Beach, Fla., on May 13.
“I was certain that I would never attempt this trip without my soul mate; I didn’t want to even think about it,” Rainey said. “Gary Hoonsbeen, the founder of the Curved Dash Oldsmobile Club, gently suggested that at some time in the future I might consider undertaking the trip myself as a tribute to Trevor. My reply was something like, ‘I never say never.’ But in my heart I really believed I wouldn’t take it on.”
The CDO (Curved Dash Oldsmobile), as Rainey calls it, sat in her garage for two years. Rainey admits that “thoughts of selling her often entered my mind.” But since she and Trevor had already put nine months of work into the car before he died – and it was nearly finished – she slowly began to consider that the U.S. trip might indeed be therapeutic … and something that Trevor would want her to do.
Rainey said her friends, new and old, encouraged her “without fail.” Among the most enthusiastic were Mark Riley, “who races 500cc cars and kept telling me that it would be a good experience;” old friend David Winstanley, from RallyTV, “who wanted to film the event and said in no uncertain terms that I must do it;” and Jim Carr, managing director of Durite, an automotive electrical supplier, who offered to sponsor the trip.
“How could I shy away from such generous moral and financial support?” Rainey reasoned. “I looked for excuses, but none seemed to be valid.”
Then in 2012, Rainey started the Oldsmobile for the first time in three years and took it for a drive. That did it. “It suddenly felt like unfinished business,” she said. “I was ready for the next challenge in my life.”
Rainey, an accomplished race car driver, said there were “smiles all around” when she announced that not only would she take the trip, but that it would double as a fundraiser for cancer research. Rainey’s goal is £20,000 (about $30,000).
In preparation for the U.S. trip, Rainey tested the CDO on short trips but needed a more substantial indicator of its road worthiness. So she and Riley entered the 60-mile London-to-Brighton Veteran Car Run. The annual November event was first held in 1896 to celebrate the British Parliament’s passing of the “Light Locomotives Act,” which increased the permitted speed on the roads from 4 mph to 12 mph and abolished the requirement for a person to walk 60 yards in front of every vehicle waving a red flag to warn of the dangers of motorized vehicles. Rainey said it is Britain’s most popular spectator event and attracts more than 500 entries from around the world.
“Despite torrential rain for half of the event, which made it very challenging, the CDO performed magnificently,” Rainey said.”And my passenger, new to veteran motoring, was suitably impressed.”
Rainey said the idea for the U.S. trip came to her shortly after she purchased the 1904 Oldsmobile in 2006 and read a book about the first attempts to drive an automobile across the United States. In 1903, a 20-hp Winston became the first to successfully navigate its way from San Francisco to New York. A Packard and an Oldsmobile followed within days. Rainey had hoped to duplicate the Oldsmobile’s route, but since much of it is now an interstate, it isn’t safe for the CDO, which has a top speed of 20-25 mph.
Rainey and her team of Riley, Carr and Nick Cooper will leave from the Oceanside (Calif.) Pier at on April 13 and drive from California through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida until they reach Daytona Beach on May 13. The Oldsmobile will then cross back to the Gulf side of the state to Oldsmar, which was founded by Olds Motor Works creator Ransom E. Olds in 1913.
“The CDO will encounter an enormous range of conditions, from high mountains to blisteringly hot deserts, and likely some rain,” Rainey said. “And I can’t wait.”
To support Rainey’s fundraising efforts and follow the team’s progress, visit www.joy-across-america.com. A tracking device will update the CDO’s position every half hour, and spectators are welcome to come out and show their support.