THE ROAD TRIP

My old ’42 Chevy was a work of art. Most of the paint applied at the factory, and the two or three coats added afterwards, had been replaced by a reddish brown patina of rust. With the weatherstripping around the doors either missing or petrified, the doors rattled so bad that to drive a gravel road was like being caught in a coffee can full of marbles spinning in a whirlpool, and the use of screen door slide bolts to keep the doors closed had happened at some point in the past so far removed from the time I was in, they too had developed a dull rusty look.
Rope held the box sides in place as the tailgate had gone missing, the wide, flowing rear fenders had been hacked off by a drunken blind man with a torch to a point just aft of the rear tires, and the rest of the sheet metal was dimpled with a wide array of dents in varying sizes that often overlapped. In the midst of this rolling wreckage was a beautiful stainless grill, most likely from a 1941 model as in the next year the nation geared for war, declared chrome an important military resource, and the manufacturers resorted to paint instead of bright work for trim.
Long before signing on with the Cedar Springs Ranch the drift from mild mannered geek to John Wayne wannabe had begun. The truck was one of the first outward manifestations.
With the exception of a trail of blue smoke when I shifted from second to third, I had a pretty decent ’64 Rambler American wagon when the decision was made that Jim Hinckley needed a truck. So, I parted with the wagon in exchange for two one hundred dollar bills, flirted with temptation in the form of a robins egg blue, with white leather interior, ’64 Lincoln convertible, and settled on the ’42 Chevy.
The owner was a strange little man by the name of Schultz who walked with a cane to mask the limp, talked like a Harvard man, and was aged to such a point it was tough to tell if he was eighty or two hundred.  He lived in a shack matted to an old trailer in Logasville east of Kingman, a little collection of junk yards, empty stations, and similar flotsam from when Route 66 was truly the undisputed Main Street of America, with a one eyed, three legged dog that appeared even older than he did.  
He must have thought the old truck was a treasure as he kept it hidden under an awning and under a tarp with a tire on the hood and another on top of the cab to keep the rotted canvas from blowing away. To be honest, so did I as it seemed to exude raw, rugged character, just what I needed to reflect the new me.
The old work horse wasn’t much to look at but it ran like a Swiss watch, unless of course you decided to exceed 45 miles per hour. The speedometer didn’t work but shortly after my acquisition of the old thing, I learned that at forty she would purr but at 45 she would clang, bang, and throw enough oil to empty the pan pretty quickly.
Old man Schulz overcame my objection to the price by making me an offer that was impossible to refuse, free parts for as long as I owned the truck and as long as he lived among the vast field of remnants representing the best Detroit had to offer in the years before December 7, 1941 transformed the world. With a handshake, the exchange of cash for title and keys, I became the proud owner of a barely legal, rolling scrap pile of vintage origin.
It was this truck that led me to describe it, and similar purchases made in the years to come, as having a junk yard camouflage paint scheme. I could park this old beast in any wrecking yard and it would blend in beautifully.
As the bargain in this purchase was the parts, and as I felt old man Schultz had most likely lived at least a couple years beyond the point of running out of time, it seemed best to adhere to dad’s advice – putting off today’s bargain doubles the cost. So, before taking off I found a sheet of weathered plywood to cover the holes in the floor of the box, gathered up a couple of carburetors, generators, starters, a spare wheel with a petrified tire, and a couple of milk crates for the parts.
For good measure I also picked up some old rope to hold the box together, some wire to keep the crates from falling out of the back, and a straw covered saddle blanket for the seat. Last but not least, I hooked up the battery cables and poured the five gallons of gas, with the exception of a cap full for the carburetor, Schultz had given me into the tank.
As I rolled toward Kingman, and a breathtaking orange sunset, on the old double six it seemed as though a bridge between the past and present had been discovered, and that I had been entrusted with the care of an ancient legacy. The euphoria over my purchase was short lived.
To borrow a line from Johnny Cash, when I pulled the headlight switch all three lights came on; one on the dash, one parking light perched atop the headlight that was perched on top of the fender, and the taillight. There were no functioning headlights and the amp gauge told me that was a blessing as the regulator or generator wasn’t working either.
Well, the police don’t take kindly to cruising through town without headlights. They didn’t then either.
Even though I was ordered to park the truck, they didn’t impound it. Another blessing is that is was the police officer, and not me, that discovered the field mice living in the seat.
Much to dad’s dismay, I was never much of a mechanic. In spite of my almost complete lack of mechanical skills, in a week or so I had the old Chevy street legal and pretty dependable, as long as you knew when to tap the carb with a wrench if the float stuck.
By the time I went to work at Cedar Springs Ranch, the old truck and I had survived some pretty interesting adventures. There was the pool table delivered to Lake Havasu City in 120 degree weather and the wait for the truck to cool down at the Honolulu Club in Yucca that ended up lasting lasted two days.
Then there was the bright idea to cruise the Las Vegas Strip. For that adventure my buddy and I took the battery out of his Chevy Impala, a work of art in its own right with leopard skin door panels and headliner, and plaid seats, direct wired his eight track tape player to the battery, and set the speakers on the seat. What better way to cruise the legendary strip and slalom with limos than in a beater escaped from the confines of the Great Depression with the sweet sounds of Foggy Mountain Breakdown blaring from the windows?
In looking back, I have a much better idea as to why my dad would look at me and that old truck, shake his head, and say, “You went where in that thing? You really are dumber than a box of rocks.”
The death of Bruno, his burial on the ranch, and the end of my job at Cedar Springs, left a pretty big hole in my life. That coupled to faith in the old truck, the near complete lack of good sense that is the hallmark of youth, a pocket full of money, and a boat load of unresolved trouble awaiting me in Kingman, made my decision to turn east rather than west at Antares Point, one that required little thought.
So, I rolled east on a Route 66 the nation no longer needed or wanted in a truck long ago discarded as junk with no destination, no goal, and no schedule. The Swiss folks at the X-Bar-1 in Hackberry had offered me a job, as had Mrs. Robinson at the old Crozier Canyon Ranch, an oasis in Crozier Canyon on the original alignment of Route 66. I was more in the market for something new and fresh, someplace where no one knew me.
Reality has a way of intruding into dreams, even obscure ones. This one lasted all the way to Seligman and a stop at the Black Cat. I didn’t know it at the time, but the dream was even shorter than that as the beginning of the end started with a stop at the Frontier Cafe in Truxton.

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jimhinckleysamerica

Jim Hinckley's America is a grand adventure on the back roads and two lane highways. It is an odyssey seasoned with fascinating people, and memory making discoveries. As made evident by the publication of fourteen books on subjects as diverse as diverse as Ghost Towns of the Southwest, The Illustrated History of the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company, Travel Route 66, Backroads of Arizona, and The Route 66 Encyclopedia, I enjoy sharing adventures and helping people plan for their own memory making journeys.

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