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S&H Torino Drives the USA Coast to Coast!
Well, not all at once - but we still think this is pretty cool.
Page 3 of 3
Grand Canyon and Route 66 to Home

Tuesday, June 12, and Wednesday, June 13, 2007 - Days 13 and 14

Tuesday
was not the best day of the trip. I guess I was not happy to be leaving California and heading back toward my normal life. We did have a nice walk on the beach, and we had really good ice cream at the Lighthouse ice cream place after breakfast (yes, we had ice cream for breakfast - we're on vacation). The ride out of California was sunny and hot, but the air conditioning kept the temperature in the car bearable - until "the Ludlow Incident."

We had just passed the site of a small plane crash (can't find any info on the Web about it) and were approaching Ludlow, California. While passing a big truck, a very fine mist of liquid sprayed across our windshield. I thought it was a light rain, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Penny thought maybe the truck was washing his windshield at the time. We turned the wipers on for a minute and thought nothing more about it. We stopped in Ludlow a few minutes later to get gas and to get off the interstate to begin traveling on Historic Route 66. When we got back in the car, the air conditioning wouldn't blow cold air. I pulled off the road under the canopy of an abandoned gas station to check the fuses and such, and realized the compressor wasn't kicking in at all. Since the compressor didn't have a fuse of its own and the fan was still blowing, I decided there was nothing we could do but keep driving and try to fix it later. As soon as we hit the road, a revelation hit me - the liquid that sprayed on our windshield must have been refrigerant from the A/C system, and the compressor wouldn't kick in anymore because the refrigerant had all leaked out and the pressure in the system was too low (a safety switch prevents the compressor from running when the pressure is too low or too high). I assumed a hose had ruptured, a fitting had broken loose, or something else had gone wrong that I wouldn't be able to fix.

So we drove about 5 hours through the
Mojave Desert in California (past 29 Palms, another USMC base where my dad was stationed in 1964) and Arizona.

The Mojave Desert. No air conditioning. Little insulation in the car. Not a cloud in the sky.

I was not happy. Not after about 4 hours, anyway. At first I didn't care. I was so excited to be driving on "the Mother Road" that the air situation didn't bother me a bit. But after baking in the car for 4 hours (it wasn't so bad after 8:00 pm) the excitement had been cooked off! But the trip home from the east coast in 2005 (before we had functioning A/C) was much worse - the desert heat really is a "dry" heat and is much, much more bearable than humid heat.

We arrived in Kingman, Arizona at about 9:00 pm and stopped for gas. At the gas station, I inspected the A/C hoses and everything and couldn't find a problem! So we went to an Autozone (thanks for the info, Biker Dudes!) and bought a special UV light and yellow safety glasses that helped me find the leak because of a special dye that had conveniently been put in the system when it was charged. Refrigerant had squirted out a fitting (at the POA valve), which I promptly tightened. We went back into the store and bought a can of refrigerant with a gauge on it, thinking we'd have to refill the system - but, in fact, the system had more than enough pressure in it according to our $29 gauge, so we didn't need to do anything at that point.

So what I assume happened is this (but I don't know for sure): it got SO HOT in the engine compartment that the pressure in the A/C system got too high and POP went the weakest link - a slightly loose fitting. SOME refrigerant squirted out. The safety switch on the system shut off the compressor (which is exactly what it is supposed to do - to prevent damage to the compressor) and we had no A/C until the whole thing cooled down (towards night) and the pressure dropped to almost normal again. After leaving Autozone, we actually had working A/C the rest of the night. If I had tried turning it on earlier in the middle of the desert, it might have worked. Technically, there was nothing permanently "wrong" with the system.

We reached our hotel near the Grand Canyon at MIDNIGHT Arizona time. I was so exhausted, I could barely walk to the room carrying my bags and such. The last two hours of the drive were very hairy - it was pitch black dark, and dozens of elk and giant rabbits (hares?) were running all over the road. It was just like that scene in "
Pee Wee's Big Adventure" when Pee Wee is driving at night and all the animals are running in front of him.

Wednesday got off to a rough start for me because I spent two hours on the computer trying to get some problems fixed at my job - my office has such a lousy Internet connection that I could barely do anything by remote control. There were some things going on back home at the office (beyond my control) that should not have happened, but I eventually got them straightened out with the help of Travis and Jay back in Stevens Point. Penny spent the morning relaxing in the pool!

The rest of the day, though, was very nice. We spent the day at the
Grand Canyon, first hiking on trails and later riding the shuttles. If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, you should go sometime. It's amazing! The pictures here won't do it justice, and I can't think of any way to describe it with words.

Anyway, we left at a reasonable time to avoid another terribly long day, and got to a nice hotel in Flagstaff where we swam in the (outdoor) pool and then ordered a pizza - the best Pizza Hut pizza I've ever had. Then Penny went to sleep, I did a lot of office work via remote control (office Internet is still slow, but only half as slow at night as it is during the day), and I wrote this.


Old garage on Route 66, Ludlow, CA

 


Not sure what this was once


Road Runner's Retreat - CLOSED

 


The Grand Canyon, Arizona

 

 

 
 
 


Squirrels are so cute when they eat

 


Unless they're eating LIZARDS - Yuck!


Yes, I'm kicking myself for not setting my camera to "wide angle" at the beginning
of the trip. Technically, this is not wider Left to Right, it's shorter Top to Bottom.
But this "aspect ratio" is better than the typical "square." Oh well, live and learn.
I guess we'll have to visit all these places again sometime and re-take the photos!

Thursday, June 14, 2007 - Day 15

Today was one of the most scenically (I think I made that word up) beautiful days of the whole trip. Maybe the best. I think "Sedona" is an old Hopi Indian word that loosely translates "this is the most beautiful place YOU'LL ever see, white man from Wisconsin" or something similar.

First, though, for our motorhead friends, let me say we tweaked the
Air Conditioning a couple of times today and it ran great, which we're thankful for because it was over 90 degrees outside, and would have been well over 100 in the car without the A/C. Right away at 10:30 this morning, after driving around town just about 20 minutes, the compressor stopped running because the pressure in the system was too high. As I said yesterday, this is exactly what is supposed to happen - it prevents damage to the compressor.

So we tweaked the system again and everything worked fine for the rest of the day. We did have to turn the A/C off for about 20 minutes when we were climbing some incredibly long, steep hills and the engine temperature got really, really, really high. These were the steepest hills we've seen on the whole trip - even steeper than the rocky mountains! We were going 30 mph in 1st gear for a long time. We never had to drive in 1st gear through the mountains in Wyoming or California!

Okay, enough tech talk. We left Flagstaff in the morning and took the scenic route to
Sedona and red rock country. "Wow" is about all I can say. It was beautiful. We stopped for about an hour at Slide Rock state park and played in an au-natural (no, I don't mean "nudist," I mean, "not man-made") water park. I'm not sure what the name of the river is, but it cuts through some rocks and makes a natural waterslide and deep pools. We wished we could have spent a whole day there. Check out the pictures (below).

Our scenic route (for those of you who might want to make the trip someday) was 89A south out of Flagstaff to 260 east near Camp Verde, then 87 north to Winslow. It was quite a diverse drive. 89A went through the beautiful red rock area, 260 went up some very, very steep hills to 7,000 feet, then 87 went through a beautiful wooded area (
Coconino National Forest) and finally to the desert near Winslow. It was like visiting three planets in one day!

At Winslow, we turned west again on Hwy. 40 to what I call the Starman Crater (because it was featured in the movie "
Starman") but others call the Meteor Crater National Monument. As the name suggests, it's a huge crater caused by a meteorite striking the earth at some insane speed. It was pretty cool. It doesn't look very big, but the floor is big enough to hold 20 football fields! That's 4,000 feet across and about 550 feet deep to you and me, kids (yes, I'm feeling like Chevy Chase in "National Lampoon's Vacation").

We barely made it there before they closed at 7 pm, then we cruised out of the area at sunset, and arrived in Winslow just in time to get a hotel room, grab some grub on historic Route 66, relax in the hotel pool and hot-tub, and write this.

I really don't know WHAT to expect in the next 3 days other than long hours of driving. We have to be home Sunday night. I have nothing else on my itinerary from this point on. Although I'm sure we'll see some interesting things along the way, we've seen everything we wanted to see when we left home.


Just a part of Slide Rock state park

 


Slide Rock state park


John after jumping off a cliff

 


Penny almost didn't do this


Typical cool Sedona sight

 


I like bridges, and I don't know why

 

 
 


"Starman" crater - yet another movie site visited on this trip!

Friday, June 15, an Saturday, June 16, 2007 - Days 16 & 17

Hello Again! We've done a lot of driving the last couple of days. Car was running okay but engine is making a lot of noise when accelerating, like a sticky lifter, but also sortof like a high-pitched exhaust leak up front [that's what it turned out to be when we got home and had it checked]. Air conditioner is working, and we really appreciate it because it's hot AND humid here in the Midwest, but I'm pretty sure it is icing up on us sometimes, just like a window unit we used to have at home. But we just shut it off for 2 minutes to let it defrost every once in a while and then it's fine again.

So yesterday morning I was standin' on a
corner in Winslow, Arizona, and there was such a fine sight to see - a girl, my lord, in a red and white Ford, travelin' 'cross the country with me (see picture below). From Winslow, we drove east through Arizona to New Mexico and on to Texas where we finally spent the night in a town called Shamrock. We drove many portions of Historic Route 66 that day, spending as much time OFF of the freeway as we could. I thought it was very cool. I guess I'm just nostalgic about traveling the country by car, and it was fascinating to see all the empty and otherwise old businesses - gas stations, cafes, hotels, stores, etc. We were often riding within sight of the freeway, and I kept saying, "those people out there on the freeway aren't having ANY fun - they have no idea what they're missing!" on the other hand, they were probably looking at us thinking, "look at those crazy people driving so slow on that bumpy, old, two-lane road!" Yes, we are really relating to the fantastic animated movie "Cars" out here. We even ran into "Mater" today (see below)!

Saturday we drove out of Texas and through Oklahoma (which is ok) and into Kansas just for a bit and then into Missouri. (Did you get that joke? Oklahoma was OK. See, that's the abbrevia- oh, nevermind.) Again, we spent a lot of time driving on "the Mother Road," a.k.a. historic or "old"
Route 66. Sometimes we were on really, really, really old pieces that are not only off the freeway but also off the posted Route 66. They are barely labeled "Old Hwy. 66" and are nothing more than short stretches of frontage road alongside the main road. They sometimes go just from one house to another, then are blocked off for a while, then are accessible again farther down the line. They are not maintained and even have trees and grass growing up through them. I thought they were wonderful. I was actually driving past them for a while and had to turn around and go back to drive on them once I realized what I was seeing.

We saw some wildlife in the last 2 days: antelope, elk, armadillos, jackrabbits, a tortoise, and a bunch of bikers in Miami, Oklahoma (party on, dudes!) We also stopped somewhere in New Mexico Friday and explored some areas covered with black volcanic rock and pretty blooming cacti, which was pretty neat.

Oh, by the way, do you have that "Standin' on the Corner" song stuck in your head now? Ha! We've had it stuck in ours for two days!


Statue of a guy standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.
Note the girl in the flatbed Ford reflected in the "window,"
and the eagle on the upper window ledge. Very clever.


Bloomin' cactus

 


Volcanic rock


Former Whiting Bros. gas station

 


Motel & grocery are gone


Texaco still in business

 


Texaco out of business


Glenrio - a small ghost town

 


Near Glenrio


Shamrock Conoco at night

 


I Love America!


Two maters - one striped (reflection)

 


Real-life Tow Mater


THE mother road

 


Portions closed to traffic


Typical site, especially in Arizona and New Mexico, on Historic Route 66.
This was once a gas station, store, and hotel (there are tee pees behind the fence).

Sunday, June 17, 2007 - (Final) Day 18

Today we arrived home, safe and sound. Since we left here on Thursday, May 31, we drove 6,569.6 miles through 15 states. We changed three time zones four times, and went from elevations as low as 50 feet below sea level to 9,500 feet high. We slept in 17 different locations. We met 9 other S&H Torino Owners and saw 10 S&H Torinos besides our own. The car's new A/C gave us a little trouble that we quickly overcame, and the car developed an exhaust leak a few days ago, but it ran fine overall (I have not calculated our gas mileage yet). Our Audiovox CCS100 Cruise Control worked flawlessly, as always!

In those
18 days, we crossed the Mississippi River, saw the SPAM Museum, stopped in 1880 Town (home of Kevin Costner's horse from the movie "Dances with Wolves"), got a free glass of ice water at Wall Drug, toured the South Dakota Badlands, and spent the night at Devil's Tower (from "Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind").

We drove over the Bighorn Mountains, through Yellowstone Park, saw sulfur springs, a mud volcano, and Old Faithful. We drove by the Grand Teton mountains, the Rocky mountains, crossed the Continental Divide, saw houses and other sites from "Napoleon Dynamite," and saw the Salt Lake Desert.

We drove among the Giant Redwoods of Northern California, even drove through one of them, we saw the Pacific Ocean, and we drove all of California's Hwy. 1 (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, the Cabrillo Highway, and the San Juan Bautista Highway).

We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, toured the Monterey Aquarium, watched elephant seals and sea otters in the wild, swam in mountain streams, attended a S&H Torino Owners Reunion which included a TV Show Torino and a Movie Torino, cruised Hollywood Boulevard, and slept on board the Queen Mary which doubled as the "Titanic" and the "Poseidon" in movies.

We visited the Marine Corps Command Museum at the MCRD in San Diego, drove over the "Simon and Simon" bridge to Coronado, we hiked the Grand Canyon, saw the Red Rocks of Sedona, we slid down natural waterslides, saw the "Starman" Meteor Crater and even the guy standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.

We crossed the Continental Divide again, drove through many different Native American (Indian) nations, walked on volcanic rocks, saw the Gateway Arch in St. Louis (photos are below), crossed the Mississippi River again, and we got off the freeway and drove on portions of the original "Mother Road," Historic US Rt. 66, through each of the 7 states that it runs through.

We saw a lot of wondrous things God created, and some interesting things man created. We met old friends, some for the first time, and we made new friends whom we look forward to seeing again!

We thank our friends and family who prayed for us as we prepared for the trip and as we traveled, and who took care of our pets while we were away. We thank the people we met along the way, especially those who opened up their homes to us, and we thank God for keeping us safe and meeting all of our needs. We didn't deserve such a great vacation, but we're glad we had it!

An explanation of some of the pictures (below) from our very last day on the road: We met S&H Torino Owner Ray S. in Springfield, Illinois this morning. Interesting note - our car and his have gotten together before. Follow the link to it and you'll see what I mean. Thanks for the visit and the cool keychain, Ray!

"The Launching Pad" is a small restaurant in Wilmington, Illinois that my family and I went to occasionally when I was a kid. The "rocket man" (actually named the "Gemini Giant" for some reason) in its parking lot is a fond memory of mine. Follow the link below his picture for an explanation of his origins (you've probably seen relatives of his). Also, I grew up in Joliet, Illinois, and if you've seen the TV show "Prison Break," or the movie, "The Blues Brothers," you've seen Joliet State Penitentiary. My High School is not too far from there, and is made from the same kind of limestone and has similar architecture.

Finally, Penny spent most of the trip with a computer on her lap running
Microsoft Streets and Trips software with GPS tracking, but this afternoon we picked up one of our dogs, Ginger, from our friends and dog-sitters (thank you!), and Ginger rode the rest of the way home on Penny's lap because there was no other room in the car for her (or for our other dog, Sadie, who was staying with other friends).

Thanks for reading this Travelogue! If you didn't click the links to the various places, go back and check them out.
We hope you'll take time out of your busy life sometime to get in your car (S&H Torino or not) and travel the country - there is a lot to see here in the USA!

Now that we've seen almost everything here, I guess we need to start thinking about putting our S&H Torino on a ship and driving it around Europe - we've got
S&H Torino owners to visit there, too!


The Gateway Arch

 


The Gateway Arch


John and Ray S.

 


Ray's S&H Torino


The Mother Road

 


The Launching Pad


Gemini Giant - Friend or Foe?

 


Joliet Prison - I mean, High School


Laptop

 


Lap dog


I've been waiting years to get this picture.
The
Muffler Man at the Launching Pad, Wilmington, IL


Standard Oil Gas Station, Old Rt. 66, Odell, Illinois
Beautifully restored to original condition inside and out.

 

If you missed it, or want to start again,
See Page 1 - Wisconsin to California
(including Devil's Tower, Yellowstone, and Giant Redwoods)

 

Or, if you missed page 2 and came straight to this page,
See Page 2 - Driving Down the California Coast
(including our S&H Torino Owners Reunion in LA)

 

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