This is the story of Dave and Lisa's big adventure, One way or another Concord NC or bust.
Lisa and I went to the Buick Club's national meet in Charlotte NC this year, and we drove there in the '28 Buick. Yup, we made a 400 mile trip in an 84 year old car. I know, it's crazy.
The weekend before the trip I went all over the car and down the pre-trip check list: tire pressure, oil change, coolant level, trans oil level, battery water, cache of spare parts, packed a tool box, oh and adjust the brakes. What this? the brake linings are worn paper thin. Luckily I had good brake bands with thick linings in the parts inventory. Phewf! I changed them out and adjusted everything. Ok, now we're ready.
We packed the car on the morning of June 26th for a projected departure time of 9:00am. After more than two hours of last minute running around we actually pulled out of the driveway at 11:22. It was 81 degrees, and an absolutely glorious day. Both of us were excited though with some trepidation. Who knew what lay ahead. We would be out there without escort, but we did have cell phones and we weren't crossing the Sahara Desert after all. There was no plan to leave civilization, plus we had a back up plan, a pick-up truck with a trailer on stand-by, because.... you never know.
I decided it would be best and more fun to take US route 29 all the way, with a stop mid-way in Lynchburg Va for the night. We stayed on the back roads as much as possible. This way we would break up what would normally be an 8 hour trip in a modern car into two 6 hour days in our stalwart chariot.
In order to reach Rt 29 in Gainesville Va we took the beltway and I-66. This was fairly uneventful, except for missing the exit for I-66 and the subsequent detour through beautiful Merrifield Va (he said sarcastically). The car was running along just fine, in the right lane doing 50-55 in overdrive. The driver, on the other hand had not quite settled down yet.
Gainesville past in a blur and before we knew it we were driving down Rt 29 on our way to Lynchburg. Route 29 is mostly a four lane highway with stop lights every now and again. The lights become fewer and further between as you get out into the countryside and there are sections that are limited access like an interstate. It was a lovely day and we cruised along nicely for two hours. That was until... we were on a limited access section by-passing Culpeper when something went wrong and we skidded to a stop under an overpass. I looked all around and under the car, nothing looked out of place. Hmmm? must be the overdrive. I took it out of overdrive and proceeded in regular third gear. We went to Five Guys in Culpeper for lunch. The day had warmed up by now but the air was dry and there was a fresh breeze, almost blustery. We sat outside and had our burgers and fries as the napkins swirled about in the wind under the umbrella. After lunch I called the overdrive guy and conferred. We decided it was ok to proceed but in regular top gear.
So back on the road, now traveling at 45-50 mph. Twenty minutes out of Culpeper (3:15pm) we made a stop for gas, Amazingly, we had used only 3/8 of a tank so far.
Bugs we encountered:
- A large winged bug! some kind of mutant cross between a wasp and a really fat dragon fly.
- A Japanese Beetle flew in and got stuck in Lisa's sweater, Dave plucks it off and threw it out the side of the car.
- A large bee flew against the window and ricocheted onto Lisa. It was stunned, perhaps dead. She picked up the bee and threw it out.
- A locust gets tangled up between the wiper, the windshield and the top. It rides all the way to Lynchburg.
We made it to Lynchburg about 6:00pm. The car was not happy, running a little rough, but it had been a long day for an 84 year old machine. Checked the gas, all good.
Our room at the Craddock Terry Hotel had been upgraded to a King suite with champagne on ice. Many thanks to the enthusiastic desk clerk for comping us the up-grade.
We drank most of the champagne and had a very nice nap. Followed that up with a lovely dinner a Shoemakers. The hotel had been a shoe factory back when we made things in this country. Lisa and I shared a steak and some Razors Edge red, both were very good. Later, we stumbled around the old downtown of Lynchburg peeping into windows and cracks in doors to see what was inside.
We got up early to get ready to go. Somehow after packing bags, breakfast, loading the car and checking the oil etc., it was 10 before we got on the road. The weatherman says it's going to be a hot hot day, high 90's to low 100's. Gawd!
We drove 60 miles and stopped for gas near Danville Va. A fill-up took only 12 gallons, we had a quarter tank left. Wow, not too bad, maybe 14 mpg. There was only 10% ethanol available and shortly after filling up (1:15) the car started running rough, sputtering, and backfiring. We stopped 3 times while I made adjustments to the carburetor, no help. Just as we entered NC we left the highway and pulled into a gas station on a country road, Sam's #2 in Providence NC. We were over to the side and a guy in a pickup (a duallie, natch) approached and said he has a repair shop a mile down the road, so we follow him there.
As we arrive there is a junkyard dog straining his chain, barking and carrying on. Beyond the dog is a small wood sided rambler with a wide front porch. Off to the left are some old cars, antique tractors and wood farm buildings. Nestled amongst it all is a two bay metal building that our host, Tim, operates his repair business in. Tim is sure it's that good-for-nothing ethanol gas that's causing the problem. So we siphoned the gas out of the tank and replaced it with regular gas (3:59). We make an attempt to leave but it's still running rough. I remove the float in the carb and it's half full of gas. Not good. Tim's buddy Glen and I take the float apart, empty the gas out and re-solder it. Now we're cookin'. Tim won't take anything for helping us so we give him a nice bottle of red we were saving for later. He thanked us, unscrewed the cap, took a swig and passed to Glen who did the same, grinning the whole way. Tim disappears into the house and returns with a half full mason jar of moonshine. I unscrew the cap take a swig and pass it to Lisa who does the same, grinning the whole way, and we're off! 4:42p Filling up at Sam's #2 with straight gas, Cajun chicken and potato wedges.
In this part of North Carolina RT. 29 is four lane limited access highway, pretty much an interstate highway. We're toodleling along in the right lane with huge trucks blasting by at God knows what speed, yikes! through Greensboro evening rush, then Highpoint and onto Charlotte, Concord really, home of the Charlotte International Speedway. Well not quite, outside of Kannapolis the car starts running rough..... again. It's 7:20 and we limp into Kannapolis. I see a repair shop on the side of the road with a man with his head buried under the hood of a truck. We pull in and stop the car. It has been a very hot afternoon about 100 degrees, the car is not overheating but it is hot under that hood. I lift the hood and it's almost too hot to touch. Lisa and I go in search of something cold to drink, a 20 oz. Dr Pepper in a large cup of ice is just the thing. We sit on a short concrete wall eating a big bag of chips and drinking our Dr P while we and the car cool off. It is HOT!! After about 40 minutes we take off in the dusk on the local Rt. 29 to Concord. It's a nice drive in the summer evening air past the Dairy Queen and the 7-11's. It's cooled down a bit and must be only 85 or so. We arrive at the hotel without further incident at about 9:00pm, hot, clammy, tired and hungry, but we made it! And despite all this, not a cross word between the two of us the whole way.
note to self: add "check the overdrive oil level before leaving home" to the pre-trip checklist!
Dave and Tim