Trip Peek #60
Trip #7
49 & Counting

This picture is from my 2002 49 & Counting trip. Unlike other national Corvette caravans that were focused on the Corvette Museum’s 1994 Labor Day opening, the 2003 caravans were focused on the first Corvette production on June 30, 1953. As a sort of warm up for the fiftieth anniversary celebration, a single caravan made up of a Corvette from each model year traveled from Detroit to St. Louis to Bowling Green. I don’t know why I picked a photograph of the 1954 model to represent the trip as a photo of the 1953 model appears right next to it in the journal. I drove to the museum on one day, hung around for another day of festivities then took a scenic route home along the Ohio River through Indiana on the third. The forty-nine cars in the caravan, or Historic Motorama, always traveled in model year sequence leading one of the driversto quip, “The view never changes… unless you’re the ’53.”


Trip 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 associated trip journal.

In You I Trust

The last few weeks have not been kind to my cars. I definitely use them (This site’s title does contain the words “road trips”.) and don’t always treat them gently but it wasn’t me this time. Both cars were violated while not moving.

On June 10, I pulled up behind a SUV that had just exited the expressway near my home then stopped at a traffic light. When the driver realized she was in the wrong lane to make a desired turn, she started backing up to switch lanes. My tiny Mazda Miata was out of sight behind her. The collision was low speed and at first glance it looked like there might be no damage but closer examination revealed a number of scratches and a fairly deep dent from a hook on the rear of the SUV. The driver was very apologetic and there was no question of fault. She would pay for all damages but would prefer to not have the police or her insurance company involved. I certainly understood that and after some conversation and an exchange of contact information I agreed. I also took some “incriminating photos”.

That was a Saturday. On Monday I got a couple of almost identical estimates and gave the driver a call. I offered to mail or email the estimates but she said there was no need and immediately sent me a check.

Just a day more than three weeks later I was waiting, in my Subaru Forester, at a traffic light in Harrisonburg, VA, when I was struck from behind. I had originally planned on driving the Miata on the Virginia trip but repairs were not quite finished when I had to leave. It was another small SUV but this time the driver was not a woman but a man with a heavy accent and a hard to pronounce name. But he was as apologetic as the lady had been and again there was no question of fault. Also, just like the other driver, he wanted to avoid police and insurance involvement. He had some connection with a body shop and initially suggested he have the car fixed there. That just was not possible, of course. My home was two states away.

I won’t pretend that I pulled out of Harrisonburg, VA, with the same confidence as when the lady and I separated in my own neighborhood and even that confidence had been kind of shaky. But, after more discussion and pictures and information exchange, I drove on with the understanding that I would call with an estimate when I got home. I’m pretty sure that my willingness to do that was aided by the fact that I had places to go and really didn’t want to hang around either. My confidence got a huge boost when, misunderstanding my schedule, he called me a few days later.

This time there was considerable difference between two estimates on the car. One shop quoted replacing a fairly big piece while the other quoted repairing it. Repairing the part made the most sense to me and I readily agreed that the lower estimate was quite acceptable. I received a check for that amount on Monday.

Some might jump to the conclusion that I believe everyone is honest and responsible. As much as I wish that were true I know it’s not and my recent trip included a couple of reminders of that as well. Just three days after the big bump in Harrisonburg I came out of a museum to find a new white stripe on the side of my car. No note under the wiper and no driver standing by to explain. Just a smear of white paint that can probably be buffed off and one gouge into metal that can’t. And three days after that I got a text message from Discover wondering if I had just made a $453 purchase from Tiffany’s. I replied ‘N’ (as in “not bloody likely”) then followed up with a phone call. Discover and other credit card operations are getting pretty good at catching this stuff. My card was deactivated immediately and a new one was in my hands in a few days.

So I’m well aware that I don’t live in a world without scoundrels and scalawags but I do live in a world where not everyone is a scoundrel or scalawag. And so do you.

My Wheels — Chapter 26
1986 Acura Legend

We were shopping for a lamp. My daughter wanted to take piano lessons and her birthday present had been a little spinet piano. A piano lamp was needed so one day she and I went shopping. We picked up a traditional looking fake brass model rather quickly and were on our way home when I decided to take a look at a recently introduced car I’d been hearing about. The new lamp arrived home in a new car.

According to a recent Curbside Classic article, Honda’s new Acura division may have actually been aimed at Buick owners. I wasn’t aware of that at the time and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the exact Buick owner they had in mind. My Buick was a bottom of the ladder 4-cylinder Century. Of course, driving a bottom rung Buick that was already showing some quality issues in the form of detaching trim made Honda’s new upscale offering look even better. The build quality reminded me of the Audi I had owned several vehicles back which was not at all like the Chevy, Renault, Buick that had followed.

New automotive divisions need need new customers and when the smoke cleared I was driving a Acura Legend LS for about the same monthly payments as the Buick. There was a catch however. I had the Legend on a lease. A five year lease. It remains the only auto lease I’ve ever signed. One of the things I disliked was the small window for ending the arrangement. I don’t recall details and it may not have been as awful as I remember but I believe that ending the lease on either side of a one month or so window would have resulted in unpleasant financial penalties. The other thing I didn’t like was the five year part. At this point, I’d owned twenty-five cars over twenty-three years or a little less than a year per car average. Five years seemed forever. Times change of course. I’m now driving a car I’ve had for just over six years with no real plans to dump it.

That first generation Acura really was an impressive car. I described it as something that, like the Audi, was built by people who thought they might have to ride in it someday. I don’t recall ever having a mechanical problem with it. However, it was once in the shop for a long time. Piano lessons were again involved.

As I drove my daughter home from her lesson one morning we encountered a long overpass covered with ice and cars in random positions. I don’t think there had been any contact but as cars started sliding everyone stopped as best they could. This included a large ambulance on my left and a little bit ahead. Drivers had gotten out of some of the cars and were trying to flag others to a stop before they reached the ice. One of the vehicles that didn’t get stopped was a large firetruck. This was behind me and in my rear view mirror the bright red fire truck turned sideways and sliding toward me looked like the biggest thing I had ever seen. My daughter and I leaned back against the seats as the truck hit a brand new Mustang, a nearly new Cadillac, the Legend, and the ambulance. Fortunately the ambulance was not carrying a patient but ladders and other equipment was scattered everywhere.

Because of laws covering municipalities and liability, my insurance company had to cover the repair. They may have eventually recovered all or part of the cost but I don’t really know. The cost was well over $5,000 and it took months. There weren’t many Acura parts in the U.S. yet.

The picture at the top of the article was taken from the internet. I do that a lot more than I like but sometimes I just don’t have my own photos. Sometimes I do. I still have the lamp.

My Wheels – Chapter 25
1985 Buick Century

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who didn’t think the 1985 Century was particularly photo worthy. Not only have I no pictures of mine but the only internet picture I found of something similar is the one at right. Mine was new so had wheel covers and all its chrome bits but it may have looked much like the picture at some point in its life.

The Century was Buick’s member of the A-Body family which included the Chevrolet Celebrity, the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, and the Pontiac 6000. I was drawn to the family by a company owned Celebrity that the service manager drove and praised. I found my car in a newspaper ad where I think it was the low-end come-on among pricier and more desirable LeSabres, Regals, and Rivieras. It had the inline 4-cylinder which was not, I’ve read, very popular. Neither was it, I soon learned, very peppy. It was hooked to a three-speed automatic. The car had power locks but not power windows. Nor did it initially have a right hand mirror.

The absent mirror is easy to remember because it was the last piece of the deal. I had come to really depend on mirrors on both sides and ended negotiations with, “I’ll take it if you include a passenger side mirror.” The factory installed mirror on the left side was flat black and in a day or so I had a matching one on the right of my new purchase.

Although it wasn’t very powerful, smooth, or quiet the 2.2 liter engine did an adequate job and delivered pretty good mileage. Actually, “adequate” is a pretty good description of the whole car. It once carried two adults and four kids, one a teenager, to and from Myrtle Beach. It wasn’t roomy or particularly comfortable. It was adequate.

The American auto industry was not known for its quality in the mid-1980s. The Century’s materials may have been slightly better than those used in the company’s Celebrity but the build quality was about the same. A couple pieces of interior trim were already falling off when I traded the car at about a year old.

My Wheels – Chapter 24
1983 Renault Alliance

There was a time when I was truly smitten with this car. Others were too. It was Motor Trend‘s “Car of the Year” and it was included in Car and Driver‘s “10 Best”. Many were the automotive writers who praised the first offering from AMC under Renault ownership. That experts praised the little car certainly influenced my opinion but I recall that I sincerely hought it was physically attractive. Yeah, that’s the kind of smitten I’m talking about.

Much of the praise that the gurus heaped on the car had to do with its economical operation and good value pricing. Recent changes in my job, living arrangements, and family size brought on the need for an efficient people hauler so maybe I just fooled myself into liking the looks to make the super practicality palatable. Whatever the full thought process was, I was quite proud of myself when I bought a shiny new dark gray four-door four-speed.

For many the shine wore off quite quickly. Mechanical problems were fairly common and rust often appeared quicker than it should. In 2009 Car and Driver actually apologized for putting the car in their “10 Best” list twenty-six years earlier. I don’t know that Motor Trend or any of the other publications that had climbed on the Alliance band wagon delivered their own apologies but neither do I know of any that actively defended their 1983 behavior.

My own problems were minor. The coil sometimes arced in wet weather until I upped the insulation by applying an ugly wad of electrical tape and a starter connection vibrated loose — twice!.

I guess I really didn’t have the car long enough to get hit with rust or any more serious mechanical issues. In their apology, Car and Driver point out that one of the first acts of Chrysler after taking over AMC in 1987 was “the mercy-killing of the Alliance”. My personal Alliance had been the target of its own mercy killing two years earlier. For the first time ever I was at the wheel of a car when it was totaled and it wasn’t even slightly my fault.

I was the last in a line of cars stopped at a light in heavy rain when I was rear-ended by a teenager driving with his mother on a learners permit. The Alliance was advertised as having reclining seats although what they really did was lean back as a unit like a rocking chair. When the other car hit, my seat completely “reclined” so that I was momentarily nearly flat on my back. Then my car was pushed into the one in front of me and I sprang upright and cracked a rib against the floor shift. I’m not sure of specifics but I understood the the boy and his mother had minor injuries of about the same severity and that there were no injuries at all in the car in front of me. I was obviously quite lucky that my injuries weren’t worse and I maybe I could even be considered lucky for being spared the pain of watching my Car of the Year rust away.

Trip Peek #50
Trip #28
Wigwams and Dixie

This picture is from my 2007 Wiqwams and Dixie trip. The trip was the result of a discussion in the then quite active American Road Magazine e-group and included folks from Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Using Cave City’s Wigwam Village #2 as home base, we traveled sections of both the Dixie Highway and the Jackson Highway in Kentucky. The picture shows the shiny nose of Pat Bremer’s Corvair coupe peeking from behind a not so shiny sign.


Trip 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 associated trip journal.

Trip Peek #47
Trip #15
Hot Rods and Lincoln

pv7This picture is from my 2003 Springfield Route 66 Festival trip. The name “Hot Rods & Lincoln” was used for the trip in a few places. It was just my fifteenth trip to be documented on the web and many conventions (like consistent names) had yet to appear. The festival was my first contact with what I now think of as the “Route 66 community” despite the fact that I had already driven Route 66 end-to-end twice. Of course, the community had already existed for many years but it took the internet for it to spread beyond the route’s physical reach. It was a three day trip with the first day spent reaching and crossing the Chain of Rocks Bridge then moving on to the festival. The second day was spent at the festival meeting a lot of people and looking at a lot of cars. I saw the pictured Rat-Mobile several times as it cruised the streets. I drove home on the third day and caught a few more interesting sights along the way.


Trip 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 associated trip journal.

My Wheels – Chapter 22
1970 Chevelle

chevelle70redUnfortunately I’ve found no photos of my 1970 Chevelle. Fortunately the internet is absolutely filled with photos of 1970 Chevelles. Unfortunately not many of those look very much like mine. The era of the Chevelle and the era of the muscle car are pretty much one and the same. As I’ll demonstrate shortly, non-muscular Chevelles existed but it’s tire smokers like the big block Super Sport at right (Tom Mullally’s Red One) that get pampered, photographed, and posted.

When I ordered the van, I anticipated reserving it for camping and other long distance trips and having the Audi around for normal daily use. All that changed with my tree encounter so I was a ready recipient when my now former mother-in-law decided on a new car. The Chevelle that replaced the Chevy II I had seen through its final days became mine for about $300.

chevelle70bluechevelle70greenMy Chevelle looked more like a composite of the two at left (also snatched from the internet) than the one at top. It was a blue 2-door hardtop but without the vinyl top. I think it had full wheel covers like the green car but I admit I’m less than certain. Like the Chevy II before it, the Chevelle had spent its life outside in an apartment complex parking lot and was seriously dinged and dinghy. It was not a rusty wreck, however, and was mechanically sound. With its 307 V8 and automatic transmission, it was neither as economical or as fun to drive as the Audi but it wasn’t bad. I suspect new shocks would have helped considerably.

I owned the car less than a year and really have no stories about it. As the number two vehicle in a one driver stable, the Chevelle became something of a loaner in my circle of friends. A semi-frequent borrower needed something long term and pushed me to sell the car. I was far from anxious to part with it but he needed the car and I didn’t. I sold the Chevelle for exactly what I had paid and told myself that the sale was better than a permanent loan.

ACDs Seen

acds01Three of America’s most revered marques of the early twentieth century were manufactured in Auburn, Indiana, and the town celebrates that fact every year. The 2016 Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival is the sixtieth. It has been going on for over a week but is almost over with the wrap-up taking place today. I have thought of attending the festival for a long time but a recent Dennis Horvath blog post reminded me of just how big the event is and got me to seriously thinking about finally making it there this year. Tentative plans for other Labor Day Weekend activities kept attendance from being a certainty but both schedule and skies were clear when the weekend actually got here so Friday morning I headed toward northern Indiana.

acds02acds03acds04I reached Auburn during staging for the Factory Test Route Tour. The pair of Cords pictured at the top of this post formed the front row and another Cord sat in the rear. I walked to just beyond the police motorcycle escort then watched the group set off to follow the twenty-eight mile course that the Auburn Automobile Company once used to test new cars.

acds07acds06acds05Of course the tour’s start point was the company’s headquarters which is now the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. Window shoppers can easily identify at least some of the cars.

acds08acds09This was my second visit to the museum where the building, the cars, and the presentation combine to make this one of the finest automobile museums I’ve ever seen. Over a hundred cars fill the museum and, while they are mostly Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs, other interesting and significant cars are also displayed. Office areas with various exhibits are also part of the museum.

acds12acds11acds10Being right next to a world class museum no doubt helps with traffic but it does expose you to some tough comparisons. My first impression of the National Automotive and Truck Museum was not helped by the fact that cars for the auctions that are an important aspect of the festival filled a significant portion of the museum. This meant that many museum vehicles were relocate and displays compressed. On the other hand, the museum’s truck collection does include some truly interesting vehicles.

acds13acds14A downtown Classic Car Cruise-In ended my first day ever at the ACD festival. There were plenty of beautiful and interesting classics parked along the streets but, after seeing all those pre-war ACDs, hot-rods, muscle cars, and ’50s & ’60s classics didn’t hold quite the attraction they might otherwise. The vehicle I found most interesting was a Corvair camper. It is not a converted van but a factory built shell mounted on a pick-up bed.

acds17acds16acds15Saturday started with a pancake breakfast at the National Military History Center. There are actually two museums here and today ten bucks got you breakfast plus admission to both.

acds18acds19acds20The day’s main attraction for me was the Parade of Classics. The 1912 Auburn Town car in the first picture was featured in this year’s festival poster. I had expected downtown to be jam packed for the parade but, except for the courthouse lawn, the area wasn’t crowded at all. There’s an awful lot going on in town this week and the parade isn’t the only place these cars can be seen but that still surprised me.

acds23acds22acds21One of the places to see the cars is around the courthouse square where they all park immediately following the parade. The cars are roped off but you can still get mighty close and all those shiny ACDs are mighty pretty.

My Wheels – Chapter 21
1979 Chevrolet G10

chevvanThere are surely better pictures of this van around but this was all I could find as I wrote this post. It was my first new vehicle and one of only two that were custom ordered. A friend who worked at a dealer in Cincinnati handled the order. It had a 305 CI V8, 3-speed automatic, air-conditioning, cruise control, and no interior. By no interior I mean it had a basic driver’s seat and nothing else. I stopped on the way home from picking up the van and bought a pair of “captain’s chairs”. I sold the single stock seat back to the dealer for a few dollars.

chevvan1I clipped that opening shot from the photo at left. I’m helping my sons with a Christmas present so it must be late December which makes the van, delivered in September, just a few months old. The “conversion” may have started but I’m sure it had not progressed very far. Fletcher did eventually solo and so did Cris.

Calling what I did to the van a conversion stretches the definition of the word a bit. I covered the floor with plywood and the walls and ceiling with cheap paneling. That paneling went over scraps of insulation retrieved from a furnace manufacturer’s dumpster. Four inches of foam on a raised platform in the back served as a bed. I never did get around to carpeting the interior but that was probably for the best. Another thing I never got around to was seat-belts. The factory seat had a belt attached that went away with the seat. Mounting belts to the replacements was not recommended. What was supposed to be used were extra long belts bolted to the floor. That never happened.

This was a recreational vehicle. It made several camping trips to the Smokies and other nearby spots. It made one trip to Missouri and another to San Diego. In 1982 it attended the Knoxville World’s Fair.

At the time of the World’s Fair trip, all three kids were living with me full time. We were going on to visit friends in Alabama after our one day at the fair so the boys’ bicycles were hung on a rack on the front and the girl’s tricycle was stowed inside. The daughter and youngest son spent the night before in the van to avoid the need to wake up for the early morning departure. We had a great time at the fair although some of us got exhausted quicker than the others. Megan and I spent the last part of the day on a bench while the brothers ran around getting stamps on their fair passports. We were all exhausted by the time we reached a campground south of Knoxville. We were also pretty dirty from the hot day and looking forward to showers. That’s when we discovered we had no towels. Well, most of us had no towels. Only Fletcher had remembered this most important item (Douglas Adams would have been proud of him.) and after he had showered and dried the rest of us did the best we could with the no longer dry Star Trek beach towel.

In 1983 or ‘4 the van entered a new phase in its life. I attended my first of thirteen consecutive Indianapolis 500s in 1981. It was with a group who had several years experience camping at the track and charging into the infield on race morning. Parts of that charge resembled a demolition derby so most of the vehicles used were confirmed beaters. From its time as camper and all purpose transporter, the Chevy van had more than its ahare of dings and scratches but was not yet a beater when it was pressed into service as an Indy car. After a few years, I fully embraced the van’s participation in the annual event and built a deck on its top. Standing atop vehicles to watch the race was standard procedure and the deck made that easier and safer. The deck was made of something like 2x8s on edge and screwed to the gutters with plywood across the top.

I think it might have been the same year that the deck went on that the ignition went sour. A friend removed the ignition switch from the dash and ran new wire to it. It dangled from the dash and worked just fine. Track officials seemed to come up with a new rule or two every year and after several years with the sturdy deck in place, they decided it had to be removed. At that point there was only one person riding with me and, with screwdrivers and a hammer, the two of us ripped the deck off as quickly as we could.

The dangling ignition switch eventually gave out and I replaced it with two wall switches. One turned on the ignition and the other operated the starter. It was a pretty good anti-theft device although the possibility of any one stealing the van at this point was awfully slim. A blown freeze plug interrupted our last drive together. I nursed it home where it sat until a trade opportunity came along.