Discover America

Discover America

“Suddenly, a light shined down from the heavens when a very unassuming old man approached me and asked what year the car was and where we were from. We talked and I told him our story and our current situation. It was then that he introduced himself as Jim, the owner of the Four Winds Motel. Jim told me that he loved the car and the journey we were on; so much that he offered me the keys to his pickup so I could drive to get the part I needed. I was astonished and incredibly thankful.” This is a Facebook post from Stuart Krueger who is currently making a cross country trip, sometimes on badly rutted dirt roads, in a stock Model A Ford.

Unless you have been living under a rock the past year or so, you are most likely aware that politicians in general have honed the divisive skills that are their stock in trade to a fine art. Everything has become a crisis that requires immediate action. And only one party has the solution. America is doomed unless we acknowledge that the opposing party, and anyone who votes for members of that party, are a threat to our very existence.

Mr. Krueger’s post this morning was refreshing. And it again confirmed several beliefs. One. Not everyone is out to get us. Two. Slowing the pace, living life and savoring the adventure of the road trip is the best way to reinvigorate optimism and quicken the spirit. And most importantly, to  it illustrated the importance of avoiding immersion in an endless stream of news stories, especially from sources that masquerade as journalists, if we are to enjoy life.

And the very best way to slow the pace and rediscover the simple pleasure of the Great American road trip is to drive a vintage car. Not a hot rod but an honest to God vintage vehicle. A time machine with its limitations and mechanical shortcomings that force the driver to learn the skills needed in 1970, 1960 or even 1930.

In 1930 a potential customer had a staggering array of options when it came time to buy a new car or truck. There was a car for every budget and every need. If money was not a consideration, and there was no fear of appearing ostentatious there the mighty SJ Duesenberg that could set the buyer back ten or twenty thousand dollars. At the other end of the spectrum was the lowly but stylish Ford Model A with a price tag in the $500 range. In between were vehicles built by Studebaker, Chevrolet, Nash, Hudson, Lincoln, Buick, Pierce Arrow, Chrysler, De Soto, Plymouth, Dodge, and other companies.

Most of the cars had more advanced features than the Ford that lacked a fuel pump, hydraulic brakes and other components that were increasingly being accepted as industry standards. Few, however, were designed to be maintained and repaired by the average person, even if they lacked mechanical aptitude.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Survivors from all of these automobile manufacturers survive. Well preserved or restored examples can be purchased for $15,000 or less. And their owners often drive these cars albeit on a limited basis. Most, however, choose to trailer the vehicles to an event and then drive a bit with fellow enthusiasts.

Model A owners are different. They know the limitations of the cars and they know how to keep them on the road. They are an extended family always willing to lend a hand. And they drive their cars. I mean they really drive their cars.

Last year a young fellow that goes by the name of Tebo Barnes on Facebook, set out on an adventure from New Hampshire. In his three week odyssey in a ’29 Ford, he drove to Chicago, followed Route 66 to the California coast, up the coast and back home via South Dakota. As I type these words several members of the Model A Ford Club are preparing to drive their cars home from a Model A event in New Hampshire.

Another long held belief is that if we are out of style, and we are patient, with the passing of time we will be in style. I am still waiting. But there are glimmers that my time is coming, and soon.

Several years ago I began noticing a trend. Increasingly there were posts on the Model A Club of America Facebook page from younger folk (at my age anyone under 50 years of age is a youngster). People were posting questions about everything from how to change the oil to overheating issues.

These were from first time owners. Some were as young as 16. Most often the questions were answered with patience, another indication that Model A Ford owners are an extended family. But I noticed another trend.

Young people were driving these cars. They were learning to repair these cars. They were simplifying life. They were having adventures. They were discovering that life is to be lived and to live life to its fullest we must step from our comfort zone, be willing to be challenged, and be open to meeting fascinating strangers.

Well, I was recently told that I drive a vintage vehicle as our old Jeep is now 23 years old. But until quite recently I simply drive old vehicles because even with my limited mechanical skills they could be kept on the road. When my wife and I were courting my daily driver was a battered ’46 GMC, and we double dated in a ’26 Ford. In the first 20 years of marriage, the pick up truck that I drove daily was often 20, 40, and even 50 years old.

But I was always intrigued by the Model A. I never owned one. Well, I think it is time to address that shortcoming. A plan is afoot to acquire a Model A, and to drive it home to Arizona from wherever it is found. Hopefully along Route 66. And that leads me to a hypothetical question.

If I step off the pier and actually do this, who would like to join a convoy along Route 66 to Kingman, Arizona? Obviously I would like to see a parade of Model A’s as surely some of them would have more knowledge about repairs than I do. But I am thinking anything with wheels. Thoughts?