A Bit Like Rip Van Winkle

A Bit Like Rip Van Winkle

“The gap between the breaker points is set at .015 to 0.18 in. The gap should occasionally be checked to see that the points are properly adjusted. If the points are burnt or pitted, they should be dressed down with an oil stone. DO NOT USE A FILE.” This is from a 1930 Ford repair manual. This is the world that I am most familiar with (ma said that I was born ninety and never aged).

As I work on the schedule and travel arrangements for the upcoming fall tour it is almost impossible to avoid reflecting on how much this has changed in recent years. The owner of a new 1930 Ford would have groused about the folding of a map. My pa did the same thing in 1960. So did I on my first solo cross country trip in 1976. It was a family tradition. It was a right of passage. Now I complain about setting up the Garmin, a devise that is already an antiquated relic in the age of smart phones and apps.

Motel reservations were something that the rich and famous did. The rest of us drove until we were tired and a neon lit sign that served as a lighthouse lured us from the road. Often we would drive along a strip of motels in search of a room, and on occasion we simply slept in the car along the highway. Imagine doing that today!

If we had a car with a radio, we would count the miles by the fading stations that were replaced by ones that had a stronger signal. As air conditioning was a luxury savored in a theater, at the occasional motel, or in a diner, summer desert travel was done at night. Did you know that many motels in the desert country offered special day rates as many people were on the road after dark?

“Needles, California, Saturday July 17, 1915 – Started west at 6:15 P.M. in procession of eight cars – a Jeffery, two Fords, two Chalmers, two Stutz, and a Cadillac. Thirty miles out Chalmers broke a spring. Roads in desert were fair. Stopped for midnight lunch. Played phonograph, fixed a tire, Stopped at Ludlow for gas, had to wake up the Desert Queen to get it. Arrived in Barstow at 7:00 P.M., sunrise very fine.” Journal of Edsel Ford. Paved roads across the desert like US 66 made the travel a bit easier but this was til the way we traveled in the 1960’s.

This faded relic along Route 66 in the Ozark Mountains hearkens to an earlier time.

I, for one, can’t say that I really miss the “good old days.” Still, especially after a frustrating week spent working on the website, with moderate success, the audio podcast, setting up the shop on the Facebook page to sell books, including my latest, Murder & Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66, I am eager to get on the road. And to be honest, I would n’t mind doing the trip in a 1930 Ford. After all, today I would have the option of visiting the past, not having to live in it. Jim Hinckley’s America strives to keep history alive and relevant, but we also want the modern traveler to enjoy the adventure.