It used to be you’d hop on a boat to make a long trip, then the car came and finally we could get places faster. People burned rubber across famous routes such as 66, seeing America and making their own adventures as they journeyed towards whatever their destination. Then airplanes came and rather than spend days or weeks driving somewhere, we hop on a plane and get to wherever we’re going in mere hours. While I don’t think anyone wants to give up flying, in our fast paced world it’s nice to take the slow route every now and again.Which is exactly what I did as my wife and I packed our newborn daughter and two dogs in my newly finished 1966 Econoline Van. Initially my wife’s idea, the road trip stuck with me and when wanting to see family in Georgia and a photo job in Tennessee lined up, it was decided that we’d truck it across this great, beautiful country we live in.Besides, it seemed to be just the thing to break in the van…it’s only an oil change each way, right? Plenty of supplies, as well as necessary extra parts and tools, were loaded and off we went.Besides, it seemed to be just the thing to break in the van…it’s only an oil change each way, right? Plenty of supplies, as well as necessary extra parts and tools, were loaded and off we went.We’d start off by navigating as much of Route 66 as possible for the first leg of the trip into Oklahoma. From there we headed southeast to Georgia then up to Tennessee. Heading back we stayed slightly north on our way to Colorado then heading south again down to Santa Fe before finally heading back west to California. All in all we were on the road for a month and racked up a handsome 5,672 miles!Sticking to Route 66, “America’s Main Street,” was a grand idea, it kept us off of the super highways and let us get a feel for small town America. Tons of interesting, wacky, odd, and majestical things were seen…you’ve really got to experience it for yourself to understand.Once in Oklahoma I got to stop into my old friend Chris’ shop, Shoebox Central, and see what he was up to. It also gave me a minute to check out the van and see how the ol’ girl was doing.
From there, we got a little rushed by the weather. It seems we were either chasing or being chased by the next big storm threatening tornadoes or snow. I guess that’s the nature of the beast though. Although cut a tad short, we were still able to take in our fair share of sights. On and on we went until we hit our destination in Georgia, 2500 miles from home.After a week of family time, showing off our 7 month old girl, it was time to do a little work up in Knoxville, Tennessee at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals. We were expecting an easy 300-mile afternoon drive with plenty of time to relax when we got there, but that’s not how it panned out. About 20 miles from Chattanooga, I started hearing an old friend grinding in the back – it was an axle bearing letting go. Driving this many miles in an older car, you can’t be all that surprised by obstacles like this, so we pulled off and called AAA to give us a tow into Chattanooga.After making a few calls I was surrounded by a couple of fellow hot-rodders I had never met before, but who were more than willing to go out of their way and help me get going. Out came both rear axles and we started to find replacement parts. I was in huge need of a shop with a press to be able to change out the bearings. I finally stumbled upon Honest Charley’s Garage, but was pretty sure they’d all left town for the weekend towards the NSRA show. I left a few messages and had a friend put a call into the owner, Corky Coker of Coker Tire, a vintage-style tire company. After about an hour, I got a call saying I could get into their shop and use their tools to get my car back up and running. It was only fitting that on this slowed-down road trip we’d be shown this graciousness and hospitality, restoring so much in me about people and how small our world is – people going out of their way to help me, that’s awesome.In the morning my new friend P-Paw drove me and the parts over to Honest Charley’s. Greg, the boss, got down there to open things up and greet me at 7am on a Saturday – he was so dang kind! Not only did he have the time to help me bust the axles, he went ahead and gave us the nickel tour of the shop and its projects! He invited me to come back again and see the wide collection of cars they have…I will boys, don’t think I’ve forgotten!I couldn’t lag behind too long, I had an appointment with the Street Rod Nationals and it was still an hour away! Back to the hotel we went with the fixed axles to get the old girl back down on all fours. About 20 minutes later we said farewell to P-Paw and loaded the family in the Van towards Knoxville.The NSRA event was great – you could see just about every classic imaginable, all shapes and sizes. The day’s good juju was only spurred along by all the good help I’d received earlier to get there.
It was finally time to turn back west and begin our long journey homeward, via Colorado. If you’ve spent any time around Colorado, you know how quickly and often the weather changes – our drive in was beautiful and sunny, but that didn’t last for long. Stopping off in Oakley to see Wild Bill’s Memorial, we thought we were going to be lucky with the weather.By the time we’d hit the base of Pike’s Peak Mother Nature began to dump on us .For five days there was nothing out the windows but white snow and ice. Thankfully we were with family by that point…but the 80-degree weather of home was really starting to call me.Finally a good pocket of weather came, so we said our goodbyes and motored on. The Grand Canyon would have to wait until next time, we were booking it back to Route 66 and warmer climate.Setting our sights for Santa Fe, we lingered there for a day sightseeing. There’s just something about that town that draws me in, the architecture and history of it.Next we detoured down the Turquoise Highway to Albuquerque. It’s only about 50 miles, but will take a most of a day to really see it. I highly recommend this drive, so many little towns with lost charm seldom passed by anymore.Finishing our trip, we were finally back in So Cal, but it wasn’t quite time to go home yet…El Mirage is just a couple hours from my home and it was the 2-day season opener for the SCTA land speed trials. What a way to end it all – we got our load of dirt and speed (like we hadn’t gotten enough yet!) Coming home was sweet, but so are the adventures and memories made along the way!