With all the work I did on the truck, my goal was to be have a reliable road cruiser. In the Spring of 2003, my friend Rob and I started to think about driving to the ATHS Show in Syracuse, New York. It was going to be about a 300 mile one way poke for us. The question was whether to venture out on to the interstates or stay on the secondary roads.
We decided to start out on the big roads with the idea that we could always bail out on to Route 20, a secondary road. On the way to Syracuse, we planned a stop in Cooperstown, New York to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.
As it turned out, we had no problems. After a tour of the Hall of Fame, we cruised into Syracuse and arrived late in the afternoon.
This was the first time I had attended a national show and was impressed by the organization. Registration and picture taking went quickly. There was even a wash area to clean off the road grime. Rob and Leon had a few laughs and got the trucks ready for the weekend.
When you start to talk about driving your old truck on a 600 mile trip you can encounters lots of doubters. Some of them are even in your own household. I arrived home to find this card from my daughter. She must have been amazed that " It made it to New York ! " To be honest, I was a little amazed, too.
Macungie, Pennsylvania 2004
The ATHS Show was in California in 2004. Even with our new found boldness, that was too far to travel. Rob and I decided to take in the ATCA Show in Macungie, PA. The travel distance would be about the same as our trip to Syracuse.
We headed out early knowing that our route of travel would bring us into New York City and over the George Washington Bridge. Traveling over the GW was fun, but there was no break down lane hence nowhere to hide in case of any mechanical trouble. There was nothing to worry about, we cruised through The Big Apple in fine shape.
While in Macungie, I took a tour of the Mack Truck Assembly Plant. For such a huge facility, it was clean, neat, and well organized. I enjoyed the plant, it was fun to see what began as a frame and axles drive off the end of the line as a finished work horse.
On the ride home, Rob had the idea to stop at Statue of Liberty Park in New Jersey. The flags were at half staff to honor the passing of President Ronald Reagan. Security Police at the park were gracious enough to let us get a nice shot of the trucks, the flags, and the Statue of Liberty in the background.
Auburn, Indiana 2005
The drive to the ATHS Show in Auburn would be our longest stretch by far, it was about 850 miles in one direction. In previous trips Rob and would meet up with one or two friends at these shows. As a result of Rob starting the Discussion Boards at oldgmctrucks.com our group was slowly growing.
I loaded up about every spare part and tool I could fit in my big toolbox. As always, Rob and I hit the highway early in the morning. By 10 am we were sailing through Syracuse. It felt funny to be driving through there, it was only two years earlier that Syracuse seemed at the end of the earth for our old trucks. We were now on to bigger and better things.
Near Rochester, NY we met up with our friend Tony and his tan '51 Chevy Truck.
With Rob leading the way, we zigged and zagged our way through Cleveland's rush hour traffic. It was a harrowing ride on straight axle, high bodied trucks. As you can see above, it is in Cleveland that Route 90 makes a sharp left. Hang on tight...
After an overnight stay, we arrived in Auburn about 11 am... My road partners, Tony and Rob, and I cleaned up our trucks at a local car wash.
The folks at the Auburn Inn were gracious hosts, doing everything they could to make our stay enjoyable.
On the ride home, we passed through Cleveland once again. The square light towers illuminate Jacobs Field, the home of the Cleveland Indians.
For long noisy trips in old trucks, I am a firm believer in Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones. Hooked to my I Pod, they provide a great way to eliminate the roar of the engine. You can see the reflection of Rob's '51 GMC Huckster in the side of my truck.
We made the 850 mile trip home all in one day. Leaving at 5 am, we rolled home into Massachusetts about 10 pm. Other than fighting with a pesky exhaust flange leak, I had no mechanical issues.
Up the Side of Mount Washington
The entrance to the Mount Washington Auto Road is only a few miles from my in-laws driveway. In July of 2007 my son and I were visiting them with my GMC. As long as we were close by, we thought we would take a ride up the side of the mountain.
Mount Washington is home of the highest recorded wind at 230 or so miles per hour. At 6288 feet, the weather on top can be quite different that the conditions at the base. The forecast called for the summit to be socked in the clouds, but that is the case 60 per cent of the time. Connor and I decided to head up anyway.
As we left the house this morning, my sister in law was a bit surprised that we were taking "that old truck" up there. As we left, she told us to be careful. I asked her what could possibly go wrong driving a 54 year old truck up the side of Mt Washington ?
We entered and stopped at the toll booth at the bottom. We were glad to hear that any vehicle over 25 years old is admitted free of charge, not subject to the normal 20 dollar fee. The attendant handed us a sheet of cautions about ascending and descending in a low gear, being careful to guard against overheating the brakes, etc.
Fearless, Connor and I and the '53 started up. We started at a 1576 foot elevation and had to climb to the 6288 foot summit. The road is about 8 miles long.
It took me a few tries to find a good gearshift position for the Hydra-Matic. If I started in 1-4 then shifted to 1-2 the climb in second gear seemed to keep the engine revving with enough power. There are plenty of turnouts where vehicles can take a break to cool radiators or brakes.
As we motored up, the asphalt road surface turned to gravel and became quite narrow, especially for two way traffic. The cloud cover was thick at the bottom but opened up after awhile. The truck usually runs just under 180. As we climbed, the gauge ran just over 180 but nothing to really worry about.
We made three stops on the way up. Connor took a shot with his outfield arm tossing a rock to Mt Mansfield.
Shortly before the summit, we found the weather forecasters had it right. With the blowing fog and clouds it was sometimes hard to see ten feet.
I put the camera on the ground with the mini tripod for the summit shot.
After taking a look around the summit weather station and observatory, it was time to start back. I put the Hydra-Matic in 1-2 and we started down. With the engine acting with some braking force, it ran a little hotter than the ride up.
There are some spots on the Auto Road that demand a driver's attention, especially in an old truck. I was very focused on the road, the temperature gauge, and the use of the brakes (Thanks again Ken Brown). I had flashbacks of garage moments wondering, Are those U joint clips folded over ? I did put cotter pins in those tie rod end nuts, didn't I ??
After a couple of rest stops on the way down to rest the truck and the occupants, we arrived at the base in one piece.