After the NSRA Southwest Nationals in Oklahoma City, it was one down, ten to go for the 2004 PPG / STREET RODDER Road Tour. Our Brookville-bodied '32 performed flawlessly on the trip to Oklahoma and back to Los Angeles. After the initial 3,200-mile shakedown, we took the roadster back to Hot Rods & Custom Stuff in Escondido, California, and checked in with Randy Clark for a quick inspection. With a 3,500-mile trip ahead everyone wanted to be sure that the Deuce was in good working order. Everything checked out fine. There was even time to install an XM Radio system, which (thanks to total coverage across the entire country) makes my long days behind the wheel much more bearable.
I headed out from Randy's shop and traveled north on 1-15, skirting around Los Angeles and then on to 1-5 across the hills north of L.A.--a route known as the Grapevine. It was a little chilly in the higher elevation but a light jacket and the Vintage Air heater kept me comfortable. The roadster made the long climb with no problem. I doubt that I am going to be in any situation where I will be lacking in power with the Gen III-built LS1 under the hood. The interstate makes a very quick descent out of the mountains and Bakersfield lies about 50 miles ahead in the flat and lush San Joaquin valley. I arrived in Bakersfield by 6 p.m. in the evening. The afternoon trip from Randy Clark's shop had taken about four hours and the weather forecast for the weekend was California perfect.
For once the weatherman was right. The NSRA Western Street Rod Nationals were held under clear blue skies at the Kern County Fairgrounds. While the central and eastern United States battled storms, wind, and hail, everyone at the event in Bakersfield enjoyed the sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s all weekend. I did keep an eye on the weather across the country, though, since I would be leaving for Knoxville, Tennessee, and the Nationals South on Sunday afternoon.
At 3 p.m. after the awards in Bakersfield it was time to head east. The great weather continued. It was a beautiful drive across Route 58 over the Tehachapi Pass, past Edwards Air Force Base, and then on to Barstow where 1-40 begins its long journey east. I got to my Sunday evening destination of Kingman, Arizona, by 9 p.m. I had dinner with NSRA friends Vernon Walker and Linda and Pat Newell, who were also traveling toward Knoxville in their street rods.
Monday's travels took me through Flagstaff, Arizona, across New Mexico, through Albuquerque and then on to Amarillo, Texas. I watched the sunset standing next to the Cadillac's at the Cadillac Ranch. It had been a good 735-mile day of great weather and a street rod that did not miss a beat. Tuesday was more of the same as I traveled through Oklahoma City and into Arkansas. I arrived at the Arkansas-Tennessee border by dusk.
On Wednesday morning I paid a visit to Walker Radiator and the National Street Rod Association headquarters, which are both located in Memphis. While the trip from Memphis to Knoxville was the shortest in terms of mileage over the past three days, it seemed like it took the longest rime. I ran into the first road construction delays of the entire trip in Nashville and again west of Knoxville. Arriving in Knoxville at rush hour did not help matters either. At any rate, I made it. The 2,200-mile trip from Bakersfield had been smooth and trouble-free. The roadster was in perfect shape and I felt great thanks to the Wise Guys bench seat that has been a savior to my body for the last 7,000 miles.
The Nationals South was a huge success in every sense of the word. From the mammoth Lokar open-house on Thursday evening to the awards on Sunday, it was a great event. By Sunday my 10-day run of wonderful weather came to an end with rain most of the day. I waited until Monday morning to head north for the nine-hour drive home to Youngstown, Ohio. Dense fog greeted me in the morning. The temperature never got above 50 degrees the entire day. I had dressed for the cold with a long sleeve shirt, parka, and roadster jacket. I even put on my foul weather gear to cut the wind. The Vintage Air heater helped, but at 50 degrees with no windows or side curtains it was a long, bitterly cold day.
I actually have three weeks off until the tour starts again
with a trip to the Mid-America Nationals in Springfield, Missouri, followed
immediately by the huge Nationals East. Then I am going to hook up with
the Hot Rod Power Tour to Green Bay. I will show them what a long-hauler
looks like after 225,000 miles! I hope to see you along the way. Be sure
to check our updates at www.streetrodderweb.com