My Wheels – Chapter 13
1966 Suzuki

suzuki1966Dates from this period are a little fuzzy but I think it was not long after the Falcon Futura breathed its last that I acquired the Suzuki X-6 Hustler. A friend had bought it new then gave me a good deal on it when he went to New York to work his way to Europe as he had done once before. The working passage never quite came together and he returned after a few months and I offered to return the bike. He declined and I’m pretty sure part of the reason was pure kindness as he knew how much I was enjoying it.

The X-6 was a rather advanced and interesting motorcycle. The ‘6’ in the name referred to the unusual for the time 6 speed transmission. The engine produced 29 HP from only 247 CCs. It was a 2 cycle but had an oil injection system so that fuel did not have to be pre-mixed as with most 2 cycles. A top speed of 90 MPH was advertised and, while I never quite reached that, I did have mine above 80 MPH.

A friendship that continues today was started partially by this bike. John Nawrocki and I worked at the same company and he had an X-6 Scrambler. The Scrambler was an almost identical motorcycle with up-swept exhaust and a few other modifications for off-road use. It seemed natural for the two of us to ride our Suzukis together despite the fact that John’s bike was bright red and mine a sedate black.

I worked downtown and parked the Suzuki on the sidewalk in front of the building whenever I rode it. After work one day, I stepped outside to see a policeman checking parking meters or something similar. Although I had reason to duck back inside, I quickly decided it was too late and nonchalantly mounted the bike. Either helmets were not required at that time or they were and I had one. Either way, I was not in violation of a helmet law. Before I could start the bike, however, the officer approached and asked, “Where’s your eye protection?”

I don’t think I even knew about eye protection being required but I sure didn’t have any and my unsatisfactory response to that first question led immediately to another. “Let me see your license.”

The license thing was what had made me think about ducking back in the building. A law requiring a motorcycle specific endorsement on drivers license had been passed some time back and I didn’t have one. I was cited but got my endorsement before my court date. That plus a promise to wear sunglasses got me off with just court costs.

I rode the Suzuki quite a bit although the longest trips were probably several sub-100 mile rides to Darke County. One day the drive chain broke and I pushed the bike just a little over a mile to a Honda dealer. I doubt I could push a dead motorcycle much more than a yard today. I bought the needed replacement link but had no money to pay for installation. I did it on the sidewalk beside the shop with tools that a mechanic, careful not to actually hand me anything, laid just outside an open door. Kindness like that is remembered a long time. Then one day the engine just died.

This time it stayed by the side of the road while I hitched a ride home then went with the band I was in to audition an organist. Once that was over, we could pick up the bike. The audition did not go well (He was much better than us.) and we couldn’t muster the energy to unload the equipment so we could fit in the bike until the next day. By then, the bike was gone.

About a year later, at something like 2 AM, the phone rang. It was a policeman calling to tell me the Suzuki had been found. I was pretty sure that, after the bike being gone for a year, I could have waited until daylight for the news but the police were so excited about recovering a stolen motorcycle, which NEVER happens, they just had to call me immediately.

I think I got the bike started — I remember something about the coils — but I don’t think it was ever quite right again. Before long, it was one of the pieces involved in a car purchase.

Trip Pic Peek #24
Trip #44
Labor Day Loop

pv29This picture is from my 2006 Labor Day Loop trip through southern Ohio. I started out tracing the Ohio River eastward to meet some friends in Portsmouth. From there, we visited a couple of blast furnace sites from the Ohio Valley’s heyday as an iron producer. The photo is of the completely restored Buckeye Furnace. Little remains at most sites beyond a stone chimney if that.

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

My Wheels – Chapter 12
1961 Falcon

falconfutura1961The 1961 in the title is something of a guess. I know for sure it was a first generation Falcon Futura. The first generation of Falcons ran from 1960 through 1963 with the bucket-seated Futura introduced in 1961. I believe mine was a ’61 but I guess it’s possible it was a year or two newer. If, however, you judged the car’s age purely on its condition, you would be challenged to believe it was a maximum of ten years old when I bought it in 1971 for $35.

When the Dodge went off to get its transmission fixed, I needed transportation for a couple of weeks. A friend of a friend had a friend with a car for sale that might make it that long. No guarantee, of course. At some point in its life, my car must have looked like the dark blue ’61 in the photo but it wasn’t on my watch. There was no evidence of a major collision but there had obviously been plenty of small ones and rust was a major player in the color scheme. The interior was a trifecta of torn, shabby, and faded. I remember that all or most of the fancy Futura console was present but it was not actually attached to anything and sort of bounced around the drive shaft hump as it saw fit.

The first problem I had was getting the title transferred. The seller was a college student from Louisiana. He had lived in Cincinnati for a few years but, because license, taxes, or something else cost more in Ohio, had never transferred the title. When I went to a title office in Ohio, I was turned away because of some time limit. Then someone suggested that if we got the title notarized out of state, we might get away with claiming it was done while the guy was on the way to Ohio to deliver the car. We found a cooperative notary in Kentucky then got a new title in Ohio without a hiccup.

The Falcon did its job until the Dodge came back then stayed around in a part time role. At that point in my life, I knew lots of people with cars that were not 100% dependable and who might need a loaner now and then. The Falcon was almost perfect for this since it did provide the desired function but did it in such a way that no one was tempted to delay the repair of their own car any more than necessary. The car met its demise while on loan.

One of the car’s many quirks was a temperamental ignition interlock. The transmission was a column shift automatic. Like most cars of the day, the Falcon’s transmission had to be in “park” in order to start the car. More often that not, it had to be extra deep in “park”.  ‘P’ was all the way to the left; reached by pushing the lever up. When I got the car, the cast metal casing was already cracked from all the shoving on the lever to get the starter to engage. The crack grew. The car’s last driver had the lever come off in his hand as he pressed it upward. I retrieved the plates, left the signed title in the glove box, and waved goodbye to the best $35 car I ever owned.

Trip Pic Peek #23
Trip #35
SB Rendezvous

pv23This picture is from my San Bernardino Rendezvous fly-and-drive trip to the 2005 Route Festival. I flew into Phoenix then drove north through Prescott, Jerome, and Sedona to reach Historic Route 66 at Flagstaff. The photo is of the late Bob Waldmire’s 1972 VW Microbus being returned after mistakenly being towed from the authors & artists area of the festival. Bob was pretty nervous until the bus was back on the ground without damage. Following the festival, I drove through Joshua Tree National Park before picking up US-60 to the coolest named airport in the country, Phoenix’s Sky Harbor.

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

Route 66 Festival 2014

pic01bI am now on my way to the 2014 International Route 66 Festival in Kingman, Arizona. My first day ended in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is not exactly on the imaginary straight line connecting Cincinnati and Kingman. In fact, it is at least 300 miles from any such line and I’m going to get a lot farther away from it before I’m done. I’m starting out in Tennessee because I’ll be visiting my son in San Diego before the festival and I’m following the Old Spanish Trail, which starts in Saint Augustine, to San Diego. Between Chattanooga and Saint Augustine, I’ll be on the Dixie Highway which isn’t any farther off of a Cincinnati to Saint Augustine line than those fancy modern interstates. I’ll probably get on the route in the title a little before the festival and I’ll certainly drive parts of it as I head home afterwards but, if Route 66 is the only reason you’re here, you’ve got a couple of weeks to wait.

The trip journal is here. This blog entry is to make blog-only followers aware of the trip and to provide a place for comments which are very welcome and appreciated.

Hudsonly Yours

hudsonly_01People with an interest in old roads or old cars may be familiar with the phrase used in the title. It’s part of the signature of knowledgeable road fan and very knowledgeable Hudson fan Alex Burr. I’m counting on Alex being as gracious toward my borrowing of the phrase as he was in sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm with me at the Hudson Essex Terraplane International Meet in French Lick, Indiana, on Thursday.

hudsonly_02hudsonly_03I scurried along the interstate to Louisville then picked up US-150 for a very pleasant drive through southern Indiana. The meet was being held on the grounds of the impressive French Lick Springs Resort & Casino where I had to park my non-Hudson vehicle in the Brand X lot. I missed Alex sitting in one of the rocking chairs arrayed on the long porch (veranda?) across the front of the hotel but a phone call had us connected in no time.

hudsonly_05hudsonly_04Alex has spent a lot of time as something of a librarian and historian for the club which made him the perfect guide through the several lots filled with Hudsons, Essexes, and Terraplanes (HETs) of every vintage. The oldest was this brass trimmed 1909/1910 model at the corner of the first lot. The first Hudsons were built in 1909 but sold as 1910 models which is pretty much how the whole auto industry operates today.

hudsonly_06hudsonly_07HET meets are often promoted with the slogan “Come for the cars. Stay for the people.” and Alex makes a pretty good people guide, too. That’s Alex in front of a 1928 Hudson Town Car and Charlie Woodruff, one of the people he introduced me to, in front of his own 1951 Hudson Super 6 that he drove to French Lick from Schenectady, New York. That’s his “I DROVE MY HUDSON…” decal in the picture at the top of this article. Charlie has driven the car to many other meets including the one in Spokane, Washington, in 2010. That trip resulted in a book, The Long Ride, which helped me believe that I might be able to cross the country in an unrestored older vehicle myself. I did (By Mopar to the Golden Gate) though the car I drove was a dozen years newer than Charlie’s.

hudsonly_10hudsonly_09hudsonly_08The weather was just about perfect for strolling through the rows of great looking cars. The car in the third photo is one I didn’t even realize existed. For a couple of years following the merger, American Motors offered both a Nash Metropolitan and a Hudson Metropolitan before shortening the name to simply Metropolitan. I’ve seen plenty of Nash Metropolitans and just plain Metropolitans and maybe I’ve seen some Hudson Metropolitans without knowing it. They are all the same car, of course, so I guess I need to pay more attention to the badges in the future.

hudsonly_11hudsonly_12The 4 cylinder power plant on the left is in a 1932 Essex Terraplane. I don’t recall what held the 6 cylinder on the right. The dual carburetor Twin H-Power setup was initially an after market item before becoming a dealer installed option. It provided pretty good boosts to the engine’s power and to Hudson’s image as a performance car. Note that the old engine is quite capable of handling modern add-ons like air conditioning.

hudsonly_14hudsonly_13If just looking at Hudsons isn’t enough, this is also a great place for picking up the basics for starting your own Hudson collection or for acquiring the finishing touches for something currently in your fleet.

Just looking was enough for me though I think I’d like to do it again. I doubt I’ll make it to next year’s meet in Colorado Springs but the 2016 meet in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is already on my “probable” list.

Trip Pic Peek #22
Trip #86
Ohio NR Bus Tour

FOLK movie premierThis picture is from my 2010 Ohio NR Bus Tour day trip along the western half of Ohio’s portion of the National Road. Doug Smith, coauthor of A Traveler’s Guide to the Historic National Road in Ohio, acted as guide and provided much information when we stopped at several landmarks and as we rolled by others. The pictured stop is along the Ohio River to get a look at the 1849 Wheeling Suspension Bridge.

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

Old, Strong, and Fast

fpotp01Although I saw no single piece of equipment that possessed all three attributes, over the last couple of days I saw a lot of old stuff, strong stuff and fast stuff. The old stuff was primarily at the Greenville Farm Power of the Past 15th Annual Reunion with the strong stuff showing off at the day ending truck and tractor pull. That was Friday. The fast stuff blew by on Saturday at the East Coast Timing Association‘s event in Wilmington, Ohio.

A recent post told of my meeting up with an old friend after two score and seven years. That friend, Terry Wolfe, collects and restores Wheel Horse tractors and had several on display at the Greenville event. Despite my good intentions, I never did get a proper photo of the display. The shot at the top of the article, taken while the two of us, along with Terry’s brother Joe, sat and talked, is the best I can do.

fpotp02fpotp03fpotp04I had timed my arrival to take in a scheduled threshing demonstration. This is not something I haven’t seen before but it had been quite awhile and I generally enjoy seeing older equipment of any kind being used as intended. Before combined harvesters became common, wagon loads of freshly mowed grain stalks would be brought to a stationary thresher where the actual grain would be separated from the straw. As we walked toward the demonstration, Terry told me that this was where the term “straw boss” came from. The primary boss concerned himself with the machine and the grain while an assistant would head up a crew to deal with the accumulating straw. Terry also told me of the tradition of the straw boss tossing his (usually straw) hat into the thresher at the end of a job. Sometimes that hat made it through more or less intact. Sometimes not. The tradition is upheld here. There is no need for an actual “boss of the straw” during the demonstrations but the term is used, a bit incorrectly but quite respectfully, to refer to the fellow who would be the “big boss” in the field. Come Sunday, when the last demo of the year is over, a hat (Lester’s, I think) will go into the big machine.

fpotp07fpotp06fpotp05There is no shortage of big equipment on the Darke County Fairgrounds but Terry and I sort of concentrated on the smaller stuff during our walkabout. I’ve always been intrigued by “hit-and-miss” gasoline engines and the variety of mechanisms creative minds applied to to control their speed. A local connection is worth some extra points so I naturally liked the nicely restored Greenville built 1906 Wogaman in the first picture. Terry, who is under that red hat in the second picture, has exhibited here for several years but this year the Vintage Garden Tractor Club of America is holding their Ohio regional show in conjunction with Greenville Farm Power of the Past and there are even more of the smaller tractors than usual. Maybe the item in the last picture doesn’t quite fit the normal definition of “power” but I had never seen anything like it and just had to include it. A sign identified it as a MantaMower and a web search turned up the information that it was patented in 1923 and manufactured (in Grand Rapids, MI) until about 1962. There is no question of its being light and safe and I don’t doubt it was rather effective as long as you didn’t let the grass grow just a tad too tall.

fpotp08fpotp09fpotp10Here we have the strong stuff. The Darke County Tractor Pullers Association is a pretty big organization and this was one of their events. I don’t know enough about it to describe things much beyond saying there were some really big tractors dragging a bunch of weight for a pretty good distance.

fpotp12fpotp11The previously pictured tractors were clearly not stock but I do believe they were powered by engines that began their life in a tractor. These are from a class powered by transplanted and modified V8s. The announcer referred to them as “hot rods” although I have no idea whether that’s an official designation or not.

fpotp13fpotp14Trucks followed the tractors with more classes as well as more total entries. I think we made it to the beginning of the final class but left well ahead of the final pull. If you don’t count the clutches that were sacrificed getting off the line, there was very little equipment damage. Only one tractor had needed a tow and the dragging drive-shaft on the blue Ford was the only failure we witnessed among the trucks. Opportunities remained, however.

ecta_om01Calling it the “Ohio Mile”, the East Coast Timing Association holds several events each year on the former DHL facility now known as Wilmington Air Park. Speed runs take place on the runway in the background while the foreground pavement is the return lane as well as being used by spectators and other traffic.

ecta_om02ecta_om03ecta_om04We parked then walked to the starting line where a wild variety of vehicles, in no particular order, awaited their turn. It took us awhile to figure it out but we eventually realized that entrants were not timed through the mile but were clocked at its end. There is no need for jackrabbit starts or even super quick acceleration.

ecta_om07ecta_om06ecta_om05After watching a few fairly unexciting starts, we set out for the other end of the track. On the way, we paused at one of the field’s more unusual vehicles. It’s a 1951 Crosley Super Sport whose owner believes will go 110 MPH. Whether it did that today is unknown. In fact, I didn’t realize we had seen the car on course until I was home and looked at my pictures. I’ll update this when results of this meet are posted but, for now, the only performance information I have is the 56.9548 MPH it turned in during the May meet. The website promoted on the car contains little information about the car but does include a video that, along with a certain amount of “Jesus is my mechanic” flavoring, has some pictures of the car being built.

ADDENDUM 27-Aug-2014: The Run Log posted by the ECTA shows that the Crosley managed a run of 97.6987 MPH. Not quite the targeted 110 but getting closer.

ecta_om08ecta_om09ecta_om10One reason that we don’t know how the Crosley did today is that there is nothing like a scoreboard or other visual indication of speeds or anything else. Nor is there any PA in the normal sense. There is a low powered FM radio broadcast which, had we brought a pocket radio or chose to sit in the car, would have kept us informed. As it was, we picked up the occasional scrap of information only when we passed an appropriately tuned radio.

ecta_om12ecta_om11This is pure conjecture but my guess is that about one-third of ECTA  members would like more spectators to help with expenses and another third want more spectators to add some legitimacy and prestige to what they are doing. To the remaining third, spectators are probably a real aggravation. When we did hear the announcer, it was interesting and definitely added to the enjoyment. A signboard flashing a car’s speed might help but I think a few radios hanging on poles would help more and probably cost less.

Trip Pic Peek #21
Trip #93
The Sailor’s Family

X-Ray Mirror at Museum of ManThis picture is from my 2011 The Sailor’s Family fly & drive trip to visit my youngest son in San Diego, California. At that time, he was assigned to the USS Boxer and I timed my visit to coincide with a planned “family day” cruise aboard the ship. My son, oldest grandson, and I did that while the daughter-in-law and youngest grandson did safer things. The oldest grandson and I also worked in a day trip on US-80 while the rest of the family fulfilled their normal obligations. The picture was taken the day all four of us spent at Balboa Park. Inside the Museum of Man, my son and youngest grandson stopped in front of a pair of skeletons in a scene that looked like a x-ray mirror. Although the stop was an accident, the humor and coolness of the scene was immediately realized by even the youngest among us. I had flown to San Diego from Indianapolis and an ice storm back home forced me to stay in San Diego a couple of extra days. Worse things can happen in early February.

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

Trip Pic Peek #20
Trip #53
Byway to Dublin

Plain City Clock TowerThis picture is from the my 2007 Byway to Dublin road trip. The purpose of the trip was to attend the big Celtic Festival in Dublin, Ohio, and I spiced the drive up just a little by using two of Ohio’s Scenic Byways to get there. The first was the state’s shortest designated byway, the ten mile Olentangy Heritage Corridor Byway, then the slightly longer twenty-seven mile Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway. I found some rather interesting sights beside both byways and the roads in between then had a great time at the festival on the second day of the trip.

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.