Friday, August 31, 2012

The Great American Road Trip


Historic Route 66: The Mother Road

 It was a journey I had hoped to make ever since college back in the late 1990's.  Ideally, I would be making such a trip in a classic.  In reality, we made the trip in our hemi powered 2011 Ram, which proved both comfortable, and plenty capable of hauling all the necessities. It was an amazing trip, eye opening, with beauty all along the way.  Our trip out followed much of the original Route 66, with daily use of the freeways when we needed to make up time.  Here is a list of the major cities we passed through on the way out.

Detroit, MI
Portage, IN
Gary, IN
Joliet, IL
Springfield, IL
St Louis, MO
Cuba, MO (stopped for day)
Springfield, MO
Baxter Springs, KS
Tulsa, OK
Oklahoma City, OK
Amarillo, TX (stopped for day)
Tucumcari, NM
Albaquerque, NM
Gallup, NM
Petrified Forest, AZ
Winslow, AZ (stood on THE corner)
Flagstaff, AZ (stopped for day)
Seligman, AZ
Hackberry, AZ
Kingman, AZ
Oatman, AZ
Barstow, CA
Victorville, CA
Corona, CA
Escondido, CA
San Diego, CA
Santee, CA (destination)

The trip out took us 4 full days, arriving on our final day around 9:30pm.  Our days were long and miles extensive, mostly because I wanted to see as much of Route 66 as possible.  The journey down old 66, stopping or driving through the small towns, combined with the 55 mph speed limit in many areas, really slows you down.  That being said, a line from the movie Cars came to mind.  The line was something to the effect of the freeway sliced through the land, where as Route 66 followed the land.  It was a perfect description, as you look over at the freeway you observed gently rolling hills and fairly straight lines.  Route 66 on the other hand, you came to the crest of a hill, sometimes with sharp hairpin curves in the mountains.  No guard rails where there to protect you, only the recommended 10-20 mph around the most severe curves.  Most days were drove anywhere from 700-800 miles a day, totaling about 2700 miles on our trip out.

I've already posted pictures from the journey out, so I won't post duplicate pictures, but a link below will take you to the photo album from our trip out.  Our 2,700 mile journey out really opened my eyes.  Neither myself, my wife, or 2 year old daughter (obviously) had ever seen so much of the country.  The beauty of some areas was breath taking.  Other areas, well, were down right boring.  Having grown up in the country, amongst the cornfields and cattle farms, I thought I knew country.  What we saw made me realize, our farms were nothing like farms elsewhere.  Some areas are so desolate, especially in Texas, that there are times when you can't see a single standing structure.  No trees, no landmarks, and nothing but flat farmland as far as the eye can see.  Occasionally, a farm of wind turbines will interrupt the earth's flatness.  One other thing, that term "dry heat," well, those folks who throw that out there are full of shit.  When out got out in Oklahoma to take pictures, I swear to God, the 115 degree temps felt like I was stepping into an over.  My sandals felt as though they were melting as my feet cooked.  Dry heat my ass.

I would say that my favorite part of our journey out was when we hit New Mexico and Arizona.  The small towns, still with many neon signs and old hotels, felt like a trip back in time.  The trip up into the mountains to Oatman, AZ was unlike any drive I had ever made, and one that I'd love to make again some day.  After Oatman, we hit Cali shortly after.  At this point of our trip it was more of a race to the finish than seeing the sites.  We knew we were on pace for a 9pm+ arrival, and our previous nights which were even later, had caught up to us and we were ready to call it quits.  That said, aside from a drive up to Alaska, we had driven to the farthest corner of the continental U.S., so future trips to other parts of the country should be a piece of cake.

I was also somewhat surprised to see the living conditions of many in SW U.S.  Many of the trailers were in very poor condition, and other shacks were crumbling, though still appeared to have inhabitants. The homelessness in L.A. was significantly worse than Detroit, and I would almost consider it shocking, though I suppose the weather plays a big role.  For a gearhead, I was also amazed to see all the classics scattered along the way, once getting to the dry states.  While muscle cars were rare, there were still a ton of 1950's pickups all over the place.  There were more than a few "junkyards" filled with even older cars and trucks from the 1930's and 1940's.  It's really tempting to get a trailer and go find a car some day, as there were many to choose from.

Detroit, MI to Santee, CA - Photos from along the way

California Love stated previously, Top Gun had instilled an expectation of what California was like.  My senior trip in 1995 left me disappointed, as California wasn't what I had envisioned.  L.A. seemed vast and sprawling, even trashy in many areas.  I left California just expecting more.  Our trip back through L.A. reaffirmed my feelings of L.A., but our time in San Diego and Santee were much more to my liking.

San Diego is simply beautiful.  The whole city, at least everything we saw, seems nicer than most cities of comparable size. There wasn't a bad area that we saw.  The mass transit seems sufficient, the weather perfect, and scenery with the surrounding mountains adds to the appeal.  We hit the beach once in La Jolla, and once in Coronado.  Checked out the U.S.S Midway, the Aquarium (disappointing), and the San Diego Zoo, which was everything I expected and without a doubt, best zoo in the country.  The freeways seemed highly efficient, and aside from one day we came upon an accident, our travels were as smooth or smoother than your typical day in Metro Detroit.  Throw in a day out scuba diving, and our trip was everything I could have asked for.  San Diego, which was the place most of Top Gun was filmed, was the California I had expected growing up...a true paradise in my opinion.

Lincoln Highway: Our Journey home...but not without a stop at Bonneville


Our trip home was a more northern route.  Mostly...well, specifically, because I wanted to stop and see Bonneville and the racing taking place during Speed Week. We headed north through California, making a somewhat disappointing stop in L.A., and then finished off our time in Cali at the Santa Monica Pier.  The view from the pier was awesome, and I'd love to return there some day and spend a day or two at the beach there.  That being said, as cool as the pier was, it seemed a bit cheesy after the fact.  There were little shops, food stands, and an amusement park among other things.  I guess while part of me thought it was pretty cool, it's also something that directly attracts the tourists and is probably a place the locals never visit, aside from the beach portion.  It was nice to see the end of Route 66, and considering the view of the Pacific, it was truly a fitting end for the journey west from Chicago.  The rewards traveling west are much greater than the trip on Route 66 heading east.  Chicago is no slouch, it's an awesome city, but as you get to the the flat cornfields of the Midwest states, the drive gets quite tiresome.  As much as Chicago has to offer, it's comparable to most other major U.S. cities, and can't hold a candle to the scenery in the southwest or view of the ocean.  Here is a list of our cities from our return trip.

Santee, CA
San Diego, CA
Oceanside, CA
L.A., CA
Beverly Hills, CA
Santa Monica, CA
Las Vegas, NV
Ely, NV (stopped for day)
West Wendover, NV
Bonneville Salt Flats, UT (stopped for 3 hours)
Salt Lake City, UT
Evanston, WY
Green River, WY
Rock Springs, WY
Laramie, WY
Cheyenne, WY (stopped for day)
Kimball, NE
Sidney, NE
North Platte, NE
Lincoln, NE
Omaha, NE
Platte City, MO
Des Moines, IA
Iowa City, IA
Davenport, IA
Le Claire, IA (visited Antique Archeology)
Joliet, IL
Gary, IN
Portage, IN
Detroit, MI (home)

After a few hours at Santa Monica, we hit the road.  Unfortunately, we didn't have time to cruise the strip in Vegas, mostly due to troubles doing a police patch exchange that took about an hour.  We say Vegas from the freeway, and vowed to make a return trip some day.  Leaving Vegas, we split off north on highway 93/318.  This was also one of my favorite drives of our trip, both out and back.  The scenery was awesome, driving a two lane road stretching as far as the eye can see between mountains most of the way.  As the sun began to set, the shadows and reflection off the mountains was truly a sight to see!  We stopped for the night in Ely, NV.  Seemed to be a cool little town, and like pretty much every town in NV, it had it's share of casinos.  The town was also home to a railroad museum and train rides up into the mountains.  While small, the town had plenty to keep vacationers occupied for a few day stop.  I'd love to take the train up into the mountains.  This stop seemed to be a place many Bonneville fans and racers also liked to stop at, as their cars and trailers were present in nearly every parking lot in the area. I couldn't wait to see Bonneville the next day.


Our second day started out with about a 3 our trip, if memory serves me, to get to Bonneville.  Just north of Ely we picked up a branch of the Lincoln Highway, and shortly thereafter, we joined what was the original Lincoln Highway, which we would follow east for several states. The flats were everything I had expected, and then some.  The racing wasn't the only attraction, as walking the grounds was like visiting a car show too.  A few recommendations, bring sunblock, sunglasses, a canopy, and plenty of water.  While the temperature was in the upper 70's low 80's, the reflection off the salt soon had it feeling like it was in the 90's or 100.  Also, while we walked much of the pits, in the future I would simply drive the grounds and get out for stuff I wanted to see.


The conditions at the flats become more brutal the longer you're out walking, and there really isn't a reason to walk the grounds when you can drive pretty much everywhere.  Our time at the flats was limited, though the 3 hours we stayed was more than I had planned for.  There was so much more I would have loved to see, but home was calling, and if we hoped to make our planned stop for the night we had to get back on the road.  We stopped off in Cheyenne, WY for the night, which had a cool little downtown area and an awesome capital building where we bumped into some fellow Michiganders also taking photos.

2012 Bonneville Salt Flats - Photos

As we left Wyoming and entered Nebraska, our day trip was rather uneventful, and it was obvious we were starting to enter the Midwest.  We stopped for the night at a friend's place just north of Kansas City, MO in Platte City, MO.  Just before arriving at Platte City I found it ironic that we saw a Carhart billboard.  The fact that we saw the advertisement wasn't the ironic part, it was the water tower for Dearborn, MO that followed shortly after.  You see, Carhart is HQ'd right here in Dearborn, MI, so seeing the two tied together reminded me of home.

After a beautiful sunrise in Missouri, we hit the road for our last stretch home.  Other than patch exchanges, our only planned stop for the day was in Le Claire, IA to see where the American Pickers home was, Antique Archeology.  It looks small on tv, and it's even smaller in person!  Danielle on the show has her own place across the street, and I couldn't leave without buying a magnet and poster of her for the garage...with the wife's approval of course, I was allowed to get one with her posing on a motorcycle, which seemed most fitting for the garage.

The stretch through Illinois and Indiana put us back on the path we headed south from on our venture out.  Familiar landmarks and cities popped up as we headed for Michigan.  After reaching the Michigan line, we still had a few hours for home, but it still felt good to be in our home state.  While we fall under the Midwest states, and have our share of fields, Michigan just is a lot greener than much of the other Midwest states.  Fields often don't butt up to the freeway, and instead you see thick wooded areas and vegetation.  More lakes, more cities, and the all around Pure Michigan in which the state now sells itself as.

In the future, something else I learned from this trip was to stay at the independent mom and pop hotels.  For one, you save a ton of money!  Secondly, we didn't really need all the extras like a pool and such.  We just needed a place to lay our heads that was clean and quiet to rest up and hit the road early in the morning.  A trip like this, you don't exactly get to make on a yearly basis.  If not for relatives we stayed with in Santee, CA, the trip would have been significantly more expensive.  Not only the cost, but even though it's a vacation, it's not exactly a relaxing vacation.  Our 8 days in California really flew by, and were equal to the amount of time we spent on the road to and from our destination.  I think every 3 years or so, such a trip would be fantastic.  Perhaps next time with no set destination or time frame, allowing us to stop and see sights along the way.  There were many in which we bypassed in order to make good time and our planned stop.

As fun as the trip was, it was nice to be home.  After seeing so much of the country, 15 states in total, I can say this...Michigan holds it's own in terms of being an attractive state.  Aside from San Diego and southern California, you can have the deserts (Vegas included), the cornfields/cattle fields that stretch to the curvature of the earth, the 115 degree days, and brown dried out vegetation, which even southern California had.  Michigan is actually quite attractive in comparison to many of the other states, and it'll ALWAYS be home.


Santee, CA to Detroit, MI - Photos

Sunday, August 26, 2012

2012 Hines Drive Cruise - Simply Awesome!


This year was the 2nd annual Hines Drive Cruise, and the first year I attended.  The show left a lasting impression, and I would argue that it is THE best show in metro Detroit, even topping Woodward, if for no other reason, it's closed down to all traffic aside from classics 25 years and older.  There were a few exceptions that managed to find their way in, but 99% would fall under the acceptable category in my book.

This was a cruise in which you could actually cruise.  The total stretch was probably 5 miles or so, and the cars were lined spuratically along the way.  It was nice simply being able to pull off the road, check out the cars, then hop in my ride and cruise to the next cluster.  You didn't have to pay to park, pay to cruise, or worry about having to remain parked any where.  There were plenty of country officers on patrol, but aside from the occasion blurp and tire squawking, nobody really got outta hand.

Perhaps the ONLY down side is that if you don't have a classic car, the show can be a bit difficult to check out, as it will entail a lot of walking.  That can be solved easily by bringing a bike though.  Woodward will always be an over the top, greatest collection of cars, and largest number of spectators.  Yet this cruise, at a more managable size, and cruise friendly has won me over.  I already can't wait until next year!  This cruise made getting my car quieted down and cooler inside my #1 priority, as it must be baby friendly for our little girl.  Plus, I'm tired of cooking my feet in my flip flops!  There are a few more cruises and car shows on my radar, a few of which I hope to take my Camaro to.  I also plan on attending Frankenmuth this year for a day, though my Camaro won't be making that trek at least this year.

I thought this was a badass 55 when I saw it.  It wasn't until after the fact that I realized that it was painted by my friend, Rod Calvin.  This explains why the car was so badass.







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2012 Hines Drive Cruise - Photos

Friday, August 24, 2012

2012 Hines Drive Cruise: August 26, 2012

Just a quick reminder, the 2nd annual Hines Drive cruise takes place this Sunday August 26, 2012.  Though I missed the inaugural event, I hope to make this year's event for a few hours at the very least.  The cruise takes place from 9am-6pm and will be open only to vehicles 25 years and older, or newer cars that have been customized.  I plan on taking my Camaro and will take plenty of pictures.

2012 Hines Drive Cruise

Counting Cars: Ranchero Pool Table

Just watching some dvr'd Counting Cars.  They built one sick pool table out of a junk Ranchero.  You can check it out via the link below.

Ranchero Pool Table

Monday, August 20, 2012

2012 Woodward Dream Cruise

My ride, before the overheating trip home.

Automotive Overload.

That is how I would best describe the Woodward Dream Cruise.  There isn't a single automotive event that draws a larger number of cars, spectators, or variety of vehicles.  This year's event didn't prove uneventful for me, as I ran into troubles leaving the show Friday night.

Tired of battling cooling troubles, back in 1999 or so, I copied my friend's solution but mounting 4 Flex-a-lite electric fans on the back of my aluminum radiator.  Initially, all 4 were wired on one circuit with an adjustable temp control/relay.  Learning the ills of my ways, I wired them up correctly this past winter, with a relay for each, one on a toggle, the other on the adjustable temp sensor.  I knew when I bought them that they were not intended for street use, but they worked flawless for me on trips several hundred miles long, while stuck in traffic, and at the track.  They worked fine, right up until this year.  I lost 1 fan a few months back and figured I could get by with the remaining 3.  I can't say whether it was the loss of the first fan, or simply the fact they weren't intended for street use, but I had a catastrophic failure of the remaining 3 fans.

The fan shrouds literally deformed from the heat, seizing up the fans, then progressively burning each one up.  If that weren't enough, because of the shrouds were a closed design aside from the openings for the fan, once they stopped, it was restricting the air so much that the engine progressively got hotter even on the freeway.  Soon, I was looking at 260 degrees and forced to pull off to the shoulder, blowing over half my coolant out.

I let it cool for a bit, then limped off the freeway and into an industrial park/automotive supplier.  Lucky for me, a fellow gearhead worked at the company, Valeo, and gave me a helping hand until my friend Scott showed up.  After topping off the radiator, we took off for Scott's shop a few miles away, stopping occasionally, and removing the electric fans during one parking lot break in hopes of gaining additional air flow.  Once at his shop we installed a mechanical fan and I was back on my way for home, hoping this would offer a temporary fix of my cooling troubles, and allow me to return to the show the next day.

Not only did the mechanical fan, without a shroud, cool my engine.  It cooled it better than I think the engine has ever been cooled!  Even with a 195 degree thermostat, my temps on the way home never got over 185 on the freeway, and hit 195 once I got off the freeway and stopped at a gas station close to home.  The last mile home, it was back down to 185-190.  I'm sold on mechanical fans and will gladly give up the 5-10 hp a flex fan may sacrifice.  I'm not saying electric fans can't work, as they worked sufficiently for me for years.  I'm just saying that when they fail, they can be a major pain in the ass.  This winter I will upgrade with a shroud, perhaps a different mechanical fan, but don't think I will even consider a pusher electric fan at this point.  Sometimes it's best to leave well enough alone, and it's back to mechanical for me.

As for the show?  It was amazing as ever!  This year in addition to my dad bringing his 1995 Pontiac Formula, my father-in-law brought his 2004 Rumble Bee.  It was a fun family outing that I hope becomes a family tradition for both sides of my family in future years.  Even had a few friends stop by this year, and this was the first time we had a tent to sit under for added comfort.  In addition to the photos below, be sure to click on the link to see all 400+ pictures.
Dad's Formula

Father-in-laws Rumble Bee

Probably my favorite traditional Hotrod of the show.  There were a much greater number of streetrods this year than in the past few years, which was nice to see.

My favorite Vette of the show.

Awesome Packard, with Big Block Chevy Power.  I have to say, there was a time when I was fine with everything Chevy Powered.  I have concluded that while everything I own would have to be V8 powered, I would like to believe it would be the correct make engine.



A few Panteras were at the cruise.



The nicest Chevy II I have seen.









You may recall this Hotrod from last year.  I only saw it drive by once.  Talk about an engineering marvel.  Not another like it I'm sure.  Yes, that is a Caterpillar engine in it.




70's style!


You don't see too many Syclones these days.  Or Typhoons for that matter.












I believe this is a 61 Cadillac.  I use to consider the 1959 as my favorite, but this one has become my new favorite.  While I still love the 59 boat, this one just looks....more chiseled, nicer lines, and a sharper design.  I'd take one in a heartbeat.


An old Hudson.  I'd still like to check out the Hudson museum in Ypsi before summer is over.

Blue Knight Rider?  Really?

These Broncos, and similar Scouts, are two old SUV's I'd love to own.

So that concludes another Dream Cruise, and typically is a sign that the cruise season is winding down.  I still have a few more shows under my belt, the the summer is coming to an end, and soon I'll be starting on that list of winter improvements on my ride.  Next up however, is the much talked about Hines Drive Cruise, that some have called their favorite of all cruises, after it's innaugural year last August.  I will have to see for myself.  Frankenmuth may also be in the plans, though the Camaro won't be making that trip if we go.  Hard to believe summer has nearly passed us already!

2012 Woodward Dream Cruise - Photos