Friday, July 24, 2009

Tech talk:

Tech talk:
I've been asked about MPG. We got about 12 miles to the gallon. We have no idea how accurate this is as we had so many issues with fuel which at times caused us to use more gas than I think we should have. We spent a lot of time adjusting the carb trying to get the flow right. Headwinds really sucked down the gas as did "tractoring" up the passes at 10 mph. So, after all is said and done, I'm guessing 12. More than 10, not as much as 15. Malcolm concurs.

While de-greasing and cleaning Malcolm discovered that many of the issues with the Cadillac probably trace back to the gas tank lining. This was a solution he used to seal the inside of the tank to keep rust and other bits out of the fuel lines. It didn't work so well.

All the spark, carb and other issues with the gas were most likely really little clogs in the lines caused by bits of lining that made it through the filter and lodged in various places. There were still bits of lining left in the tank that we didn't get when we cleaned it as at the time they were solidly attached and appeared to be holding. Those bits were quietly shedding in the tank and one large chunk acted like a deflated balloon floating over the exit hole and blocking the flow of gas. It floated around causing all sorts of trouble when the car was in motion and settled into a corner when we stopped. We never saw it when we checked and all appeared to be fine in there. Malcolm didn't discover it until he had drained the tank and pulled the lines. This blob caused all sorts of issues; during acceleration, when starting and when the gas was low in the tank (it sucked into the hole to the line and stopped the flow completely). Discussion with other car guys has led us to the conclusion that the high alcohol levels in the gasoline out west may have caused the lining to deteriorate and sluff off the sides of the tank. Frustrating, yes... the end of the world... no. Half the battle with an old car is figuring out what is wrong. The fix might just be the easy part.

So, tomorrow is another day. There is much to do and time to do it. Besides my fingernails were just a little to clean anyway.


We are finally home after a very long drive across the country back east. Funny how driving in a modern car is so very different. I found the speeds we were driving very disconcerting. Hitting the brakes in the high speed lane gave me heart issues and passing at 70mph was almost impossible to watch. It took me a few days of riding as a passenger to get used to everything moving by so quickly. It was almost a sensory overload. Strangely enough, the distances we drove each day, which would have taken a week in the Cadillac, seemed SO unbearably long in the truck. The last part of the trip was the most difficult, we were getting close to home and the anticipation of sleeping in my own bed made the time go by so very slowly.

After arriving at our doorstep at 3am, Thursday the 17th we turned around on Saturday and left for a quick trip to Rhode Island to meet up with friends who were heading back home to Arkansas. We spent a great two days at the ocean before coming back to Vermont. One truly appreciates the ocean after smoldering in the desert. I do love the subtle colors of the far west and the remoteness of that part of the country but the drive to the ocean is a bit daunting from Wyoming.

Now we are home working on cars, sorting photos and letting the trip slide through our psyche. I am dreaming of driving again. The past two nights I find myself dreaming of the trip, sitting in the driver's seat and watching the world slowly move past. And I find that I am planning.....


I'll get in trouble for this surely, but the other guy I have not thanked publicly is my 17 year old son Dylan. He was The Navigator, assistant mechanic and the all around great guy this whole trip. He sat in the passenger seat keeping us moving in the right direction, his job was to know the maps watch the road, jump out and crank when we stalled and push when necessary. He was invaluable when traveling on the interstate. He was the eyes in the back of my head. It was only possible to move off the shoulder and into road when he was watching our back for trucks, campers and other high speed motorists.

Dylan plays a mean game of "I spy with my little eye" (which is challenging in the desert), knows most of the words to most of the Beatles songs and all of the dialogue to most Monty Python movies and television shows. He is a great traveling companion. By western Nebraska he knew the sounds of the car as well as I did and could drive it with ease. He understood what needed to be done every day to get going and every night to put the car to bed. And, he accurately judged the amount of Rice Krispie treat needed for a daily fix eating his last piece on the last day. Impressive!

He never complained, well not much. When offered a chance to give up his seat and ride in the comfort of the air conditioned truck with Malcolm stated that he would rather not. He wanted to see it to the end. He weathered rain, hail, heat, blistering sun, rabid grasshopper attacks and driving a few thousand miles with his mother, keeping his sense of humor throughout. What a great kid.

There is another son. Gordi, who kept the home fires burning. He could not join us for this trip. He had commitments (work - bah!) and couldn't work it out. We had hoped that he and his girlfriend Eugenia would be able to join us in Salt Lake but it wasn't to be. But they were with us in spirit and we missed them terribly. Maybe next time....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thank you

When recently asked what I would consider the most amazing part of our adventure I found it hard to pick just one thing. There were so many moments that were, for the lack of a better word, Amazing! But, if pressed, I might have to say that it was the people we met at every juncture that really made this trip what it was. From the folks who just wanted to ask about the cars to the people who told us their own personal stories about their old cars, everyone had some sort of connection.When we were stopped by the side of the road, folks stopped to offer help, tools and more than once even a place to stay should we need it. We had the offer of cell phones, route information and even advice on places to find good food. Many times guys in auto parts stores handed us parts and said, '"don't worry about it" One man sewed up a part of my cover for me, free of charge then gave us great advice about our route through Utah.

This type of response you is not terribly surprising when you hang out in the world of brass and gas but what we did not expect was the number of people who took us in and offered us beds for the night. From friends of friends to total strangers, we were taken in like strays when our cars were in dire need of repair, given beds and fed breakfast before we were sent on our way. We have had numerous opportunities to be thankful for the generosity of so many wonderful people. Kindness is not fading in this country, and just as it was 100 years ago, there are people out there who will when necessary open their homes to total strangers and make them feel like family. Throughout the journey strangers looked out for us. And it was this caring about us, our cars and what we were doing that was the most touching.

Thank you to everyone who gave us a bit of their time and a bit of their hearts. No matter how large or small your kindness was, it contributed greatly to our success. This journey was made complete by your part in it and for that we are grateful. Thanks

The Men behind the Women

Behind every great idea there must be someone who can make it happen. In our case the someone(s) were Dan Boehm and Malcolm McNair. Malcolm is the owner of the Cadillac and my husband.Without Malcolm this trip would have probably ended for me in Indianna. He kept the Cadillac running, troubleshooting all the weird things that kept happening and making superior roadisde repairs. He was 100% responsible for us being able to drive all the way to California.

Dan kept the Ford Model T running from Ohio to California. When Dorothy's husband John had to go back to work Dan stepped in to drive the chase car and oversee the mechanics of the T. He is a fantastic guy with a wicked sense of humor and an great talent for old cars. Getting to know Dan was another highlight of this trip. He is kind, generous, patient and a tremendous amount of fun.

Without Dan and Malcolm we never would have been able to make this whole idea a reality. Most nights they worked on the cars before they went to bed. Each morning they checked, filled, tightened and tweaked before we left. I believe I can speak for both Dorothy and myself when I say we are indebted to them and no amount of thanks can really express just how much we valued both their expertise and their hard work on our behalf. You guys are exceptional and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The last day, Sacramento

We decided to end our trip in Sacramento for a number of reasons. Not the least of which was we weren't ready to take any chances with the San Francisco traffic. There was some pressure to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, and it was a tempting idea but Alice Ramsey took the ferry to SF, she never drove across the bridge as it did not exist in 1909. Dorothy was of two minds about this, but she had received news of an accident that had happened on the Model T tour where one of the cars had been hit by a truck. She was very upset by the news and it really showed us just how lucky we had been. We talked about it and my maternal instincts were in high gear. I felt that we had come a very long way without incident, and as we were a small group of two cars and two trucks we might just take the safe route and end in the state capitol.

We had contacted the California Automobile Museum and they were enthusiastic about our arrival. We had a nice leisurely breakfast packed our gear for the last time, pulled the cars out, did our morning maintenance and got ready. The ever faithful Ford started up and the Cadillac..... didn't. Nothing we could think of would get it to start. We pushed it through the parking lot, we primed, we pulled, we cursed, and prayed. Nothing was going to coax one more day out of this little car. Malcolm and Dan worked on it, rebuilding the distributor, checking wiring and finally, after about 200 cranks, many backfires and lots of false starts it caught. Dorothy was walking by and in her unassuming way, she nudged Dan, pointed to the underbelly of the car and we all saw transmission fluid pouring out from underneath. It looked like caramel syrup flowing with the breeze into a huge puddle of goo. Quickly we put a bucket underneath and tried to figure out what had happened. Why now? What had changed from an hour go that would make this happen? The boys looked at the transmission, tightened a ring and tried again. About 4 cups of fluid later we made the decision to put it in the trailer. Dylan and I would ride in the T to Sacramento.

It was now noon, and we were about two hours behind schedule. This was the first time on the whole trip where we had made arrangements with someone we didn't know to be somewhere at a specific time. And again the Cadillac was acting up. I was frustrated not to be able to drive the last day, but we were out of time and needed to go. The ride in the T was really different than the Cadillac. The little T can motor up and down hills puttering on with ease. The difference in the cars was evident and the ease with which Dorothy was able to shift and slow down left me a bit envious. That little car was a real trouper taking the 4 of us along. It also can go about 44mph which although is only a little faster than the Caddy would account for Dorothy's ability to leave us in the dust. It is an impressive vehicle.

We moved along having great conversation about all manner of things. We entered Sacramento City limits and drove along Broadway heading for the museum. We were also looking for 1930 Broadway. We found what would have been the address had it existed and took pictures. This is the address in NYC that Alice Ramsey departed from and we thought it would be a fun spot to stop and change into our clean (grease free) clothes. We decided to go all out and wear our motoring skirts, dusters and hot black leather boots. How those women survived in all that clothing I will never know.

We drove to within a mile of the museum and unloaded the Caddy. I was determined to drive the last little bit into the museum lot. It had come so far that it just seemed fitting. The car started up on the third pull and as I headed off I realized the T had stalled and would not start. For the first time on this whole trip I almost cried. I was tired, happy, sad and energized, a weird combination that makes for difficult emotional stability. I was thinking there was some sort of curse that would keep us from finishing. The cars had had it, and were letting us know. I was just about to stop the Caddy when Dylan ran over, told me Dorothy was running and to drive. We drove into the museum parking lot to little fan fare. We had made it. No press, no television, no welcoming party just us and the folks at the museum. It finished as it started, just us and a few well wishers. We were too tired to feel much of anything by then. Our adventure was done. It was sad, but we were ready, the cars were ready, and the boys were ready.

Derek Fleming was our contact at the museum. He is a delightful guy, and spent some time interviewing us for their newsletter. He asked some really insightful questions which got us thinking about aspects of our trip that we had not really articulated before that moment. He was terribly enthusiastic and I really enjoyed the time he spent with us. Afterwards we toured the museum. The collection of cars is impressive and the scope of the display is fantastic. It is another place that every auto enthusiast should visit.

After our visit, we loaded up the cars then went into Old Sacramento for dinner. We had a wonderful dinner on the river, toasted ourselves, talked, and generally delayed our saying goodbye. Emma had two helpings of penne pasta! That little girl was hungry. We then went in search if ice cream as I owed her some for doing her math homework packet. We wandered around the old town for a bit then went back to the cars for one last group picture, hugs and more hugs then Dorothy, Dan and Emma went south to Freemont and we headed north to Tahoe, lost in thought, driving in the dark wondering if it was really over.