With the high price of fuel Barney is in a state of semi retirement. Still, when there is work to done or adventure to be had Barny is a willing and faithful partner. Saturday was the first morning the day started without the need for a light jacket. I gave Barney a few minutes to warm up and then backed the old truck to the gate. By the time the sun was cresting over the distant mountains I had the brush and assorted junk that accumulated over the months of winter piled high above the bed sides. Next came a hearty breakfast of oatmeal with wheat germ and flax seed, toast with a touch of butter and strawberry preserves, and a cup of hot mint tea. After a quick shower, shave, and a hug and smooch from my wife it was off to the office. On the way I stopped by the rodeo grounds, the site for the city clean up collection point. Trustees from the local jail had Barney emptied in half the time it took me to load it so I made it to the office with ten minutes to spare. Saturday is a short one so by 12:30, after lunch, we were on the road. I worked in the yard cutting the brush (they were weeds when my wife cut them a few weeks ago) with a hoe and Barney was again put to work. By 3:30, after a fuel stop, $20.00, we were ready for the next project. This time it was back to the office and moving trailers to the back of the lot. Supper at five and then it was light duty for Barney. My wife and I made a trip to Walmart for a weeks worth of supplies so the really challenging part for the old truck was to get us back alive, not an easy task with heavy traffic. The next morning there was church, a quick check of Barney’s vitals (oil, water, etc.), and then off into the Cerbat Mountains to experiment with the camera before the Fun Run this coming weekend. These mountains present the quintessential portrait of an Arizona landscape. As such they give the golf course in Kingman a unique setting. Since my last trip into this section of the mountains a gate has been added along with paved streets, curbs, and bladed lots. It is times like these that I struggle with depression as some of the finest real estate on Earth is used for growing houses. After wandering back toward Beale Springs, Johnson Canyon, and a few other favorite spots, it became obvious these to were not longer havens and oases from the urban desert. So, I wandered back to town, followed the new road along the golf course into the canyons near the old Stockton Hill Road, broke out the camera and the tripod. These are the results. Barney in all his glory – mud spattered and worn. As you can see this old truck is not in danger of being lost in a crowded parking lot. Until next week –
April is almost over, the bright colors of desert wildflowers are quickly fading, spring has been delightful, and there is a hint of the summer temperatures that are just around the corner. The Laughlin River Run with tens of thousands of Harley Davidson’s and other bikes is over, the classic Route 66 Fun Run is on the Horizon.
As to weather, Kingman is a near perfect blend. The winters are relatively mild. Spring and fall are really quite nice but often can be very short. The winds that blow most every day in spring can become tiresome but we don’t have tornadoes, earthquakes are relatively rare, and to the best of my knowledge devastating hurricanes have never been a problem.
Summer is my favorite time of year though the temperatures often climb to 110 degrees. Its a dry heat, sort of like the oven.
This is one of many things my wife and I have in common. Another is we stay away from the Colorado River Valley, Phoenix, and Las Vegas during the months of summer. Even a dry roasted nut, a desert rat such as I, have limitations. Traffic, higher temperatures, and humidity don’t mix.
My dear wife loves the warm days of summer and even though her car is the only one in the family with air conditioning this an option seldom used. Still, it is asking way to much of her to travel the deserts without it and I will be the first to admit it is really a nice luxury on a trip. Its really great to visit the past but really don’t want to live there.
Spring, fall, and winter are the best times for exploring the desert back roads of Arizona as the temperatures are cooler and snakes are of no concern. During summer my explorations are generally confined to the high country.
So, here we sit with summer on one side and April on the other. Two plans are afoot to close out April, welcome summer, and say howdy to the ripe old age of 50.
Plan A would be a trip to Kanab, Utah, and a visit with a dear friend and his wife, a delightful lady Bill met when living in Germany. This would combine a little desert with a little high country.
Plan B seems to be taking the upper hand. This plan includes a quiet drive along Route 66 back roads to Prescott and into the ghost town of Crown King. A new restaurant there, The Mill, has grabbed my interest. An added plus is this is a place I really want to share with my wife, a good idea since there is a plan percolating in my mind about living in Crown King someday.
Next week is the annual Route 66 Fun Run, an event I will be covering for Cars & Parts. My next post may delayed a bit but I promise lots of photos from the event.
These photos are from a Buick press kit. As we battle to adjust in a changing world it can be helpful to remember there was a time when the changes were coming even faster and, perhaps, in an even more dramatic fashion.
It is the context and background in these photos that I found of interest. Imagine a time when flight was only a slightly more recent marvel than the automobile.
The sound of distant thunder was the first thing I heard this morning. A minute after rolling from bed, with the sound of thunder still rumbling in the distance, it dawned on me this was the weekend for the annual Laughlin River Run and this was the price paid for buying a home one block and a vacant field away from I40.
As I was eating breakfast with the ebbs and flows of the thunder in the background, meditation on all things Harley Davidson began to dominate my thoughts. As this happens every River Run I wasn’t surprised by this turn of thoughts. I was, however, surprised by the direction of those thoughts.
Harley Davidson is truly an American icon. Its cornerstone is the spirit of the infancy of the American automobile industry. The company is also a modern success story used as an example at the Harvard business school.
The story begins in 1868 when Sylvester Roper unveiled his steam powered motorized bike. In 1869 an improved version with hand grip throttle made its debut but these cycles were seen as little more than circus curiosities. The next foundational stone was laid in 1885 by Gottlieb Daimler.
By the turn of the century the bicycle craze that had swept the world entered a new faze as daring and innovative individuals began attaching gasoline engines to their cycles. As with the automobile, numerous companies were created to meet the need. Two of these would become American icons and one would spawn an entire subculture.
In 1901, William Harley and Arthur Davidson began experimenting with a variety of engine/bicycle configurations. By 1903 the partnership initiated production for sale of their motorcycle. The rest, as they say, is history.
My exposure to the legacy of Harley Davidson and the cult like following of many enthusiasts is a long one. My step father loved motorcycles and purchased his first one, a 1929 Harley Davidson, in 1936. This was the bike he rode from Iowa to California in 1937. His love for motorcycles paralleled his fascination with automobiles and airplanes.
His interest with airplanes faded as his hearing problems prevented flying. The passion for vintage vehicles waned with budget constraints. The enjoyment he derived from motorcycles continued well into the early 1990s.
In spite of this I never learned to ride. When I was a youngster the excuse was they were unsafe. Few who knew me when I was at the height of my short lived career as a cowboy bought that one.
From the vantage point of age I see now it was a fear of being seen as a conformist, something I worked hard to avoid, that kept me from learning to ride. I am not a man of regrets but will make a few trips down the road of what if on occasion.
I have known many riders, those who were the role model for the outlaw biker, met a few who were legendary, such as a fellow named Sonny, and more than a few who just loved the freedom of the open road after a long week of working nine to five. I have lost a few friends and more than a few acquaintances to bike accidents.
In spite of these associations and my fascination for automotive history the Harley Davidson story is largely a blank slate. With that in mind I selected these titles that to further my education.
One thing I bet isn’t found on these pages is a reasonable excuse for why so many owners do everything possible to make the bikes so damn loud!
Judging by a few of my posts in recent weeks it would seem the big 5 0 is really kicking up the memories. This week as I was driving to work in Barney the wonder truck, down streets driven for more than a quarter century and east along Route 66, the thoughts turned to the trucks owned over the years. This in turn led to the revelation if my life was to have a common thread that tied it all together it would most likely be the truck.
The first association with a truck that I can remember was about 1962 or 1963. We lived in Port Huron, Michigan, at that time so you fill in the blanks as to how rusty my dads Ford was.
I don’t know the exact year of the truck but it was about a 1950 model, much like the one in this photo of a radiator flow test. Dad built a wooden camper for the back that always reminded me of the out house at my aunt’s house in Alabama.
Our first adventure in the truck was a weekend trip to Mammoth Cave Kentucky. We made it deep into Ohio before being brougt up short. Even a kid could tell something was big time wrong by the cussing, the steam, and the smoke.
So, we stayed in a motel for two days and ate World War II K rations, while Dad gathered used parts from the local wrecking yard. Riding in the back of the truck on the way home gave us kids a first rate view of a country side being sprayed for mosquito’s. I can only guess how many gallons of oil we used on the return trip.
The “Gypsy Wagon” was used on a number of trips down US 127 to Chattanooga and then in to north Alabama as the tin worm transfomed it into Swiss cheese. The truck was put out to pasture at Troltz Auto Wrecking in Jackson, Michigan, in about 1965.
The next adventure with trucks came in the summer of 1966. This epic trek, a post war Grapes of Wrath if you will, centered around a 1949 Chevy COE and a modified farm trailer.
We (mom, dad, my older sister, by baby sister, me, and a parakeet) piled in this rusty old truck on a delightfully muggy June day in Port Huron, Michigan, for our relocation to Arizona. The parakeet was the first casualty checking out before we arrived at grandmother’s house in Jackson, Michigan.
The trailer was the next casualty. Somewhere south of Indianapolis the tongue broke and it went ass end over tea kettle down into a ditch.
So, while we gathered the remains of our possessions from the ditch dad drove into town for a replacement trailer, one that had most recently been used for the transport of livestock.
For reasons unknown we drove through the mountains of Missouri, across the Kansas plains, down US 54, and picked up US 66 at Tucumcari. I do not know what speed we made but I do know there were a lot of unhappy folks behind us on the entire trip. I also know that with roadside repairs ranging from flats to a water pump replacement it seemed longer than the two weeks it took to reach our destination.
My dad had purchased Arizona property sight unseen. After our arrival in Kingman and a search for the property it still remained unseen so we rented a place in town.
Dad was undaunted in his quest to transform the family into desert rates and to this end bought an unfinished “model” home on the original alignment of Route 66 at the bottom of the Sacramento Valley in the shadow of the Black Mountains.
The next step in the families return to the glory days of the Great Depression was in trading the COE for a war surplus 2 1/2 ton Dodge truck that dad converted to a water truck as we would have to haul water. In addition, we added a 1949 Studebaker 3/4 ton stake bed to the family fleet for the hauling of lumber as well as supplies.
A short time later, after the Fairlane died a horrible death, the result of an accident near Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, a 1953 Chevy 1/2 ton was added.
All of these trucks would play pivotal roles in my life and would contribute to an association with old trucks that continues to this day.
In time hauling water became my job. As I was but a kid, and a short one at that, dad removed the doors and added blocks of wood to the pedals.
There were two roads to the water station, old Route 66 or a narrow dirt track that forded two sandy washes. My dad insisted I take the latter route though traffic was almost nonexistent on the old highway.
Getting water was always an adventure. If the truck had been sitting for more than a couple of days dad would have to crank start it. Once it was running I would slip it into low, pull out the throttle, and hang on for dear life as I pointed it across the desert.
One of my first real driving adventures involved the Studebaker. We were hauling hay back from Mohave Valley, up old Route 66 through Oatman and over the Black Mountains, in the middle of summer, when we lost the water pump in a cloud of steam and to the tune of a screaming fan belt between Oatman and Gold Road.
The long and short of the story is we walked and hitched our way home. The next day we drove into Kingman in the Chevy, dad got a water pump, we installed it along the highway, and then he said, “see you at home”, and drove off.
To this day I don’t know how I got that truck back to the house. I am not even sure if the trip was made with clean shorts. Suffice to say a few days later I received my first lesson in clutch installation.
As the years passed the Dodge and Studebaker fell by the way side. The old Chevy became a member of the family that served us well for many years and set in stone my conviction that the Advance Design Chevrolet trucks are some of the best ever built.
We used it when we moved to Silver City, New Mexico. We used it for my dad’s scrap metal business there hauling innumerable loads of old radiators and such to Tucson and Phoenix. We used it to move back to Michigan. We used it there for the delivery truck when dad opened an appliance and furniture store. We used it when we moved back to Arizona in 1976.
I acquired my first truck in late 1976. It was a very battered 1942 Chevy 1/2 ton. This thing had so many dents they overlapped. The crank open windshield was stuck in the open position. The entire truck suffered desert sun burn and showed no visible trace of paint. The back window was gone and the door latches had been replaced with household slide bolts. The rear fenders had been cut back in a crude manner and when I acquired it there was a family of field mice living in the seat.
In spite of these apparent shortcomings this truck ran and ran well. In the middle of an Arizona summer I hauled a pool table to Lake Havasu, Arizona. I hauled fence post to a ranch near Dolan Springs, a trip where I discovered that an open windshield and cloud of flying ants will lead to the worlds fastest strip tease.
On one trip I lost a front u-joint causing the drive shaft to dip into the pavement. This resulted in the rear end lifting off the ground and the truck being spun 180 degrees. This in turn led to a bizarre and foolish tow back into Kingman.
It was another foolish escapade that ended the adventures of the old Chevy. This time it was a roll over that smashed the cab and twisted the frame.
Next came a 1962 International with a slant four cylinder engine. This truck was as sturdy as a mule but not quite as fast.
My next truck was much faster, an attribute that proved to be its downfall, a one owner 1956 Ford. For this truck I traded a 1964 Pontiac Catalina, which I had acquired by trading a Winchester and ten speed bike.
This truck had the 292 c.i.d. V8, factory automatic transmission and the big back glass. I can only imagine its value today.
The truck served me well on a number of wild and woolly adventures into the Arizona back country. However, it too proved to be a poor match for youthful foolishness.
The next truck was a bit of a disappointment, largely because I was spoiled by the adventures with dads 1953 Chevy. This one was acquired from Busby Chevrolet in Silver City, New Mexico, for the princely sum of $2800.
This 1978 Chevy 1/2 ton was a pretty truck, yellow and white, lots of chrome and all the toys. Simply put, it was good for going down the highway at a pretty good clip, looking nice when parked, and sucking gas.
Shortly after the closing of the mine and the starting of new job near Drake, Arizona, this truck was traded for a 1946 GMC 1/2 that had been given a full mechanical restoration. This was a real truck in every sense of the word. Axle deep mud, deep snow, heavy loads, pulling trailers, Arizona heat, steep grades, rough roads – it handled them all and never once let me down.
This and another GMC were to figure prominently in the courting of my wife. This truck was used on our first dates. The other GMC was a 1949 3/4 stake bed that belonged to friend.
If it was just Judy and I on a date we used my truck or her 1970 Charger. If it was a double date with Helen and Wayne, such as a trip to the drive in or to the hot springs near Burro Creek we drove his stake bed and added furniture from his house to the back!
In time the GMC was replaced by a sturdy but slightly under powered 1964 Dodge with a slant six and three speed transmission. This was followed by a 1949 Chevy panel truck, a 1970 Chevy 1/2 ton, a 1950 Chevy 1/2 ton, a 1953 Chevy 1/2 ton, a 1951 Chevy 1/2 ton, 1983 Ford F150 4×4, and a 1975 Ford F100 that proved to be one of the best trucks I have ever owned. That takes us to the present day and Barney the Wonder Truck.
In retrospect it would seem the lowly pick up truck, a vehicle as American as apple pie, has been more than a common thread in my life.
It has been said you can tell a man by what he chooses to drive. On that note I will let my old trucks speak on my behalf.