By Jerry Dixey
There was a slight break in the hectic PPG/ STREET RODDER Road Tour schedule during the month of May. Then, as the Memorial Day weekend approached, it was time to saddle up and head back out on the highway.
The schedule involved three events in three weeks. The Hot Rods & Custom Stuff-built roadster proved to be a dependable and very comfortable mount during the first leg of the tour. I felt very confident as I headed towards Springfield, Missouri, and the NSRA Mid-America Nationals with 7,713 miles registered on the Dakota Digital odometer.
From my home in Youngstown, Ohio, Springfield, Missouri, is 780 miles southwest. With an early start, no car problems, and good weather, it is a distance I can usually cover in a long but fairly comfortable day. It would turn out that two out of three of these factors is not good enough. The weather reports were calling for scattered thunderstorms across the entire region. It is the most used term in the Midwest during the spring. For roadster drivers it means one eye on the road and one eye on the sky.
The early morning hours went fine. Sun and blue skies greeted me across Ohio and into Indiana. Then as I approached Indianapolis, the big black clouds rolled in. It started to rain just east of Indy. I stopped for gas and suited up. My foul weather gear equates to a waterproof motorcycle ride suit, which works very well. I rolled out of the station ready for the downpour ahead and, of course, the sun came out. This is what they mean by scattered thunderstorms. I elected to keep the gear on, as I did not think that I'd seen the last of the rain for the day. I was right.
After some rain showers just east of St. Louis I made the loop around the city and got to I-44. Then things got serious. The sky turned very black and the ceiling dropped down. I had seen this happen before and knew it wasn't good. Springfield was 200 miles ahead and it was 6 p.m. I jumped off the freeway to find some shelter. I pulled under the canopy of a motel and Walked inside. There were about eight guests and employees all staring at the TV in the lobby. The local weatherman was pointing at a map covered with red and explaining where the tornadoes were expected to touch down. I asked where we were on the map and they looked at me and said, "Right in the middle." I got a room. I could get to Springfield tomorrow.
The rain was very heavy that evening but we were spared any tornadoes. I rolled into Springfidd by noon. It was perfect weather all three days at the Mid-America Nationals. This event has grown tremendously over the past few years and a record 2,243 rods were registered for the 2004 edition. The great weather of the weekend turned very ugly Sunday afternoon. With severe storms on the horizon the awards were started early. I elected to take my chances and headed out at 3 p.m. under very threatening skies. The storms and I crossed paths again in St. Louis and by 8 p.m. I was ready to call it a day. I was about 40 miles east of St. Louis and home was about nine hours away.
Monday was Memorial Day and the weather had changed for the better. The skies were sunny and blue. It was great to finally get a full day of good weather in. I rolled into my driveway at 7 p.m. I would not be here very long. The East Coast Nationals were in York, Pennsylvania, the following weekend and I would have to head out on Thursday morning for the 300-mile trip.
The weather forecast was positive for a change. With Mary Ann riding with me to York, it was a very pleasant drive across I-80 and south through Harrisburg into York. We rolled onto the fairgrounds by mid-afternoon. It was nice to have a dry drive for a change. The East Coast Nationals always ranks as the largest of the regional events on the NSRA schedule. This year was no exception with 4,858 registered street rods. Friday's weather was beautiful but Saturday brought showers that continued into Sunday morning. The skies cleared by noon. After the awards at 3 p.m. on Sunday, it was picture-perfect for the five-hour drive home across the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The roadster was running perfectly and that fact makes my travels much more comfortable in all respects.
With two days at home to do the laundry, repack the bags, and give the roadster a quick check, it was time to head west yet again. This time I was going to meet up with a few folks who were also traveling across the country that week. The Hot Rod Power Tour was headed to Green Bay, Wisconsin, and I had been invited to spend an afternoon and evening with them in Chicago on Thursday.
The trip across across and Indiana went fine on Wednesday. Things were in full swing when I arrived at Rad Rides by Troy in the mid-afternoon. Folks from across the country had dropped by, including Andy Brizio and his riding buddy, Cub Barnett. Also on hand was Primedia's Tom Vogele driving the 1997 Road Tour McMullen-clone roadster. STREET RODDER Tech Editor Ron Ceridono and Web site guru Nick Licata were driving last year's Road Tour '33 fuIl-fendered roadster. With Memphis George Poteet providing some great barbecue, it was a tremendous evening of camaraderie with rodders and street rods.
Thursday morning brought showers. The Power Tour stop was in Arlington Heights, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. While it was only 75 miles north of Manteno, the infamous Chicago traffic turned the trip into a three-hour grind. As I arrived at Arlington Raceway Park, the Power Tour lot was beginning to fill and rods rolled in all day long. It was an incredible turnout and the huge parking area soon filled to capacity.
By late afternoon the showers started and I made a decision. I decided to make a run for it. If I left then, I could be through the Chicago area that night and not get caught in the morning traffic. I rolled out at 6 p.m. and had a very dicey ride in heavy rain, heavy traffic, and lots of construction. By 11 p.m. I was on the Indiana-Michigan border about four hours from Detroit. The forecast called for rain all day Friday so I decided to stop at one of my favorite spots, the Henry Ford Museum. After another rain-soaked morning I spent Friday afternoon at the Henry Ford and then went to the new Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills. It was a day of culture and dry clothes.
I headed home Saturday morning and of course it rained a little. I arrived in Youngstown at 3 p.m. on Saturday. In less than three weeks I had logged (or should I say water-logged) 3,471 miles on the roadster with no mechanical problems. I am home for a week then it is out west to Pueblo, Colorado, and the Rocky Mountain Nationals. I don't even care if it rains this time, I am used to it now.
Visit www.streetrodderweb.com for more info and check in here next month. I will give you the weather report. SR