Saturday, March 26, 2011


After the Pony Express Tour last summer, as we were driving back from Wyoming along with the Guzzettas, we were philosophizing about where we could go in 2011.  I suggested Death Valley, and we all agreed that would be a great destination.  And so the seed was planted.  We figured March might be about the right time for wildflowers and we knew we would have to make reservations early since winter is the tourist season in Death Valley.  We talked about it some more after we got back and decided to go for it last November.  Guzzettas volunteered to make a logo and Patti started looking into room reservations and I started laying out an itinerary.  We figured maybe 4 to 6 people in the club would be interested.  Imagine our surprise when we ended with 19 cars signed up.  Wow! 

When the departure date rolled around, 15 A’s rolled out, accompanied by three moderns, and one A on a trailer. 

We did have some mechanical glitches:  One broken axle (Lancaster); Two flat tires (Guzzetta and Bratt); One major engine failure (Kafer); One stuck valve repaired in the parking lot and maybe another one getting ready to stick (Wildman); One blown head gasket and head stuck too tight to be removed (Polland); One suspected blown head gasket that finally turned out to be a plugged Gano filter which was promptly removed (Griffin); One fan into the radiator and a side trip on a flatbed to Pahrump (Beaman); One throttle rod worn and fell off (Spear); One leaking radiator seam repaired in Ridgecrest (Elderton); One ignition wire failure solved with alligator jumpers (Beaman); One partial carburetor failure on 101 nursed home with a partial choke (Beaman); One rattling fan which was simply removed as excess parts (Nicholson).  My only contribution to this list was a lost manifold nut which masqueraded as a rich running carburetor making lots of exhaust fumes.

We must say that Mother Nature threw us a few curves. We had lots of rain the first two days and a few snowflakes on Towne Pass going into the Valley.  In the Valley, the weather was changeable but good for the most part and the mountains all around had snow on them the whole time.  There were a few wind blasts here and there with blowing dust and muddy raindrops, but they missed us for the most part.   Sunrises were spectacular if you are an early riser like me.

Now you might ask, why would anyone subject themselves to all the above?  Did anyone have a good time?  Strangely enough, I think everyone in the group had a great time. Just ask them. The vistas were vast and the scenery was spectacular, the camaraderie was great and the mechanical glitches were just little challenges that afforded these Model A guys the opportunity to apply good old American ingenuity.  And gave the ladies a time to chat and rest.

Here are some statistics.  My odometer showed 1374 miles.  I averaged 18.5 mpg.  I added 1 quart of oil and no water.  After Glenn’s stuck valve, I kept adding a splash of Marvel Mystery oil just in case.  Estimated total mileage for all the A’s has to be at least  17000 miles.  15 A’s wheeled out, 12 returned under their own power.  That is probably a higher attrition rate than we normally encounter.

TFurnace Creek -Bob Meneely - Death Valley 3 22 11

Supposedly what happens in Death Valley is supposed to stay in Death Valley, but  we have too many people talking which is why Patti made me post this picture.  This is why I got kicked out of the saloon at Furnace Creek.  And don’t forget to ask Beamans about the gentlemens club in Pahrump. Also, seems that some drivers do not listen to their wives warnings. Rodger ran out of gas. He’s not talking but N is.

Thank you to all of the wonderful people who participated in this tour. You are the ones who made it great. Of course we would never have made it without the modern car tail gunners this time, thanks.

Would we do it again?  You bet!!!  Where are we going next? 


Click on any pic for a larger version, actually didn’t take many pictures today. Today was the final day and the dash for home, Bakersfield to San Jose.  Everyone was out early and champing at the bit.  It had rained overnight and everything was sopping wet this morning, but that did give us all an opportunity to finish the job and wipe all the grime off of the cars.We were all lined up and ready to go and Rodger Griffin found his car would not start.  After poking around under the hood, Pat Lovejoy spotted a trail of water down the firewall onto the coil.  Closer inspection revealed that the rubber cap on the coil wire was full of water, so the spark just took the easy way out and the heck with the plugs.  A couple swipes with a towel and she fired right off.  We headed out with 12 A’s on the road.

Considering the dismal weather forecast for today, we were a little worried and figured we would spend the day driving in the rain.  As it turned out, it was a lovely day, all the predicted rain just turned into fluffy white clouds in a blue sky.  We did hit one rain shower just outside of Hollister, but it did not lasTDSC04343t very long. 

It was a great drive up route 33 to Coalinga, and no wind this time, just nice and  green and lots of yellow flowers.  After lunch in Coalinga, we hopped over the hills to Priest Valley and drove up route 25 through the cattle country to Hollister.  That road is so pretty this time of year, green hills, lotTDSC04348s of flowers, and

lots of cattle to oogah at.  They get this real quizzical look and put their ears straight out as though they can’t believe this mutant cow sound. 




We gassed up in Hollister, found ice cream and then we pretty much disbursed as  we got on the freeway (everyone getting anxious to get home) and headed for the barn.

Now just in case you think the day was totally boring from a mechanical standpoint, the A’s threw in a couple things to liven it up. Besides the water drowned coil in the morning,  Bill Bratt had a flat tire in Priest Valley, and as we approached Hollister, Bill Nicholsons fan started making noise.  He removed it, and proved that a Model A will run cool with a thermo-siphon cooling system as long as you keep your speed up.  In San Martin, Beamans went to the side of the road, the carburetor was definitely not happy.  But Bob found that with a deft touch on the choke, he could keep it running, and limped on home.

So, 12 A’s started out this morning, and 12 A’s made it home.  Whew!!  And here is the irony, we got a call from John Polland in Hollister, and with his A on a AAA flatbed, he was already home.  And of course, Wildmans also beat us home trailering their A.  Ahhh, but we got to drive on all those Model A roads with all that pretty scenery.   Stay tuned for the Epilogue tomorrow.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Day 6 Thursday, March 24, 2011  Click on any pic for a larger version.



Our last sunrise in Death Valley





All the A’s turned out way before departure time and all pointed towards home.


12 Model A’s and 4 modern cars said good bye to Death Valley at 9 this morning  after we sang Happy Birthday to Lee DalCanto.   John and Lizanne Polland waved as they had to wait for the AAA truck to tow them to Bakersfield. It is always hard to leave a Model A friend behind. But we knew that we would meet them in Bakersfield in time for dinner.  Everyone was instructed to go up the 8 1/2% grade to Towne Pass (engine eater) in second gear and 20 mph.  No lugging the engines and no high rpms, and everyone made it just fine.

The weather was beautiful with bright blue sky and white fluffy clouds. Our tail gunners in the modern cars have done a fantastic job keeping us on the road and not leaving anyone behind. Thank you bunches.

We headed to Ridgecrest for lunch. By the time we arrived Charlotte the yellow phaeton was getting more and more unhappy. Chuck Elderton kept adding water but finally decided he needed to get the radiator repaired. He found a radiator shop in town so they stayed behind for repairs. Ted and Susan Kafer headed to San Jose in their rental car because they needed to get home so they could return to Bakersfield to pick up their Model A with the blown engine. More good byes. While we ate lunch, we checked the Caltrans 800 number for road conditions over Walker Pass, especially since we could see a lot of snow in the distance.  The Caltrans recording advised that chains were required.  Drat!!  We kind of felt that the recording was wrong so what we did was proceed to the turnoff for Walker Pass and flagged down the first car we saw.  He informed us that thTDSC04329e pass was absolutely clear, which was great for us because this was definitely the shortest route to Bakersfield.

So we took route 178 over Walker Pass, past Lake Isabella and down the canyon  along the Kern River. This was a beautiful drive with wild flowers, boulders, rushing water and mountains with some snow.   Here is a little video in the canyon.

Arrived in BakersTDSC04340field just in time to browse through a 3 story antique store housed in an old 5 & 10 store.  Hurried back to the motel to rest up for a Basque  dinner. John and Lizanne were waiting for us. Followed John and Judy to Noreiga’s on Sumner St. which is kind of an industrial area and makes you wonder how a restaurant can survive there in what has to be the worst location in Bakersfield.  We had 30 people at a long longTDSC04341 table and the food and wine were very good. Of course we ate too much. On the way back we stopped at a Pep Boy Club for a few essential things for the A’s. When we came out Bob Beaman tried to start his car but kept blowing a fuse.  It had something to do with the headlights so finally we disconnected a few wires and jury rigged the ignition with some alligator jumpers and sandwiched him without any lights between two little black coupes that did have lights and led him back to the motel. And yes, our tail gunner Wilkinsons stayed with us.

The parking lot seminar went on until 10:00. The problem isn’t really solved but he doesn’t need lights tomorrow, and the jury rig jumpers will get him home.  And we thought we were going to have a day with no problems.  Just one more day to the barn.



Is that Bob Meneely surreptiously taking his carburetor apart?

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Click on any picture for a larger version.  8:30  Wednesday morning and every one still laughing and ready to follow the little black coupe  out across Death Valley and hopefully back again. This is an incredible group.  We have had so many break downs and delays and yet everyone is still in a great traveling mood, and don’t want to miss a thing.

Joe D. headed back to the Bay Area today. Guess he had enough fun for one trip, actually business calls fTDSC04246or him.  We departed the parking lot at Stovepipe Wells at 9 AM with 10 Model A’s and 4 modern cars. Stopped at Mesquite  Flat Sand Dunes and still had 10 A’s. The sand was so fine that it was difficult to hold in your hand. Bill N. took off on a hike and was never to be seen again, just kidding. We waited for him because he has the snacks for tonight! 


All day I faced the barren waste,,,,,,,,,

Off to Stovepipe Well and took several pics. Abby and Buckaroo loved the fine sand and tried to find critters for us. Departed with only 9 A’s. Rodger G. still losing water even after a major overhaul the night before. He returned to the TDSC04264motel and rode with Joyce and Fred in a modern. Oh no, Ewart stopped. Patrick and Bill pulled over with him and used baling wire to reattach the throttle rod.  Actually we were glad to have a problem so minor.  On down the road to Ubehebe Crater where the wind never stops blowing. Everyone is a comedian. They were all standing on the edge of the crater with arms out and jackets like a sail. Luckily no one was blown over the edge.

On to Scotty’s Castle which of course never was Scotty’s Castle. We were supposed to have lunch here but due to a power outage on Monday all food was spoiled and thrown out. Now for the Model A Food Club this is a major glitch, engines, axles, head gaskets all seem to be minor problems compared to this.  But, nothing daunts this group, we ate our car snacks  and then went on tours. A very unusual “castle” down to the leather drapes and pipe organ.TDSC04273TDSC04269






Scotty’s castle.                                                            Neat sundial and right on. 

Back to Stovepipe Wells and thank goodness the Beamans had returned and what a tale they had to share. If I didn’t hear the story first hand, I wouldn’t believe it.  You know they were towed to Pahrump to a radiator shop.  When it was time to find a room in this town of 35000 people, they found that there were no vacancies because a convention was in town.  The only place available was a room at a “gentlemens club”.  Even though the rooms were supposed to be very nice and not rented by the hour, Mary declined vigorously.  And now what happens in Death Valley stays in Death Valley.  You’ll have to ask them, what a tale.

We ended the day on a better mechanical note.  Rodger remembered that he had a Gano filter in his radiator hose and upon removal found it completely plugged.  Further test runs up and down the hill were conducted and the car is ready to head for home.  The only one we cannot solve is the head removal on John Pollands car, it will not come loose, so John is going to invoke his AAA plus and get trucked to Bakersfield tomorrow.

Just before dinner, and incredible wind came up from the West, looked like the whole valley was moving East.  After dinner, I walked out and it was much calmer and the wind was now coming from the East.  Good Lord!!  Hope it keeps blowing from the east for tomorrows departure to home.TDSC04292


Rehashing the day around the pool, which incidentally had whitecaps.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Click on any picture for a larger version.  The saga continues.  Such an innocent beginning this morning, with a beautiful sunrise and bright blue sky. All the A’s tweaked up and running, away we went, first stop was Salt Creek, home of the Death Valley pupfish.   And we found them alive and well by the thousands.

Then we headed up to the Keene Wonder Mine,  which has now joined the ranks of the Lost Dutchman mine and others of the same category.   We could not find the turnoff for it,  turns out the road has been closed because the mine area has been declared unsafe.  We found that out when we arrived at Hellsgate.   And I might mention that it is a good hard climb up to Hellsgate where we found that we have two more blown head gaskets.  John Polland’s car was blown between 1 and 2, and Rodger Griffins car was pushing the water out the overflow because the gasket was leaking into the cooling system.  Beaman’s fuel filter was leaking, probably from too much washboard, and Chuck Elderton’s radiator had sprung a little leak. John managed to drive back to Stovepipe Wells, Rodger soldiered on to Beatty but eventually went back to Stovepipe on a flatbed because he was getting about 1 mile to the gallon of water. Stopleak and wrenching fixed everything else.  Oh, yeah, Wildman didn’t get up to Hellsgate. He turned back to Stove Pipe Wells because he wasn’t climbing very well.

The surviving Model A’s  pressed on to Beatty, NV where we had lunch at KC’s Cafe.  This hungry mob trooped in and we asked if she (KC, I think) could handle a crowd this big.  The reply was “sure, I am really fast.”   And she was, sandwiches on homemade rolls started flying out of that kitchen, we were all served in no time at all.  And dessert in the form of a piece of delicious red velvet cake came with each sandwich.  We knew we were in the right place when the locals started lining up for lunch and filled it to capacity. Of course it could have been all those Model A’s parked outside because everyone knows that Model A’s only go to great places to eat.

We then waddled out and went down to the Beatty Museum, where we admired all the artifacts and old photos.  Next stop was Rhyolite, a ghost town which was a major Nevada city until the gold boom went bust in about 1908. We looked at the ruins and listened to a spiel on the bottle house and then moved on.  We saw 8 burros in a group and 2 more up the mountain, neat.

When we stopped at Hellsgate on the way back, fate struck again. We found that we had lost Beamans back there somewhere.  For some reason, the cell phone worked (the only redeeming feature of Hellsgate).  We got a call and their water pump shaft had broken off at the threaded end and the fan wiped out the radiator.   They were now stranded with the cell phone going dead, and we are all on the other side of the mountain.  Ted Kafer volunteered to zip back in his rented modern and deliver them a cell phone with a charger. Thank you Ted!!!!  So tonight, Beamans are in Pahrump, NV which was the nearest radiator shop.  They found a repair guy who will have them a repaired radiator by 9 tomorrow morning, how about that?  They hope to be back to Stovepipe by noon.   

And more good news, Rodger has replaced his head gasket and is ready to go again.  But temper that with some not so good news, the repair crew is unable to get John Polland’s head off, Model A engine head that is.   All the nuts have been removed and the engine started in an effort to pop it loose and it runs without popping the head. Can you believe it?  More good news, Wildman discovered that his brakes were just hot and dragging.  He loosened them and lo and behold his car seems to be OK. Thank heavens. What will tomorrow hold?

Patti says that the ladies of these broken down cars deserve a medal because they have been so patient with the stressed out guys and limping cars. A reward would be a special shopping excursion.  Bob says that the guys deserve a special reward for getting them all back up and running every morning.








The excellent road into Salt Creek                 Hiking the boardwalks at Salt Creek

Notice the cars on both sides of the

road trying to find a smooth spot.








A school of pupfish learning their ABC’s      The parking lot at Salt Creek.


After the climb to Hellsgate, everybody had their hood open.  I think they called it Hellsgate for a reason.












Welcome to Nevada!                                          The ladies all became high kickers in NV.








Only 30000 bottles of beer and you too          Wooo-oooo

could have a bottle house.








Desert tree huggers have to be very careful.   Local residents looking at the

                                                                                                          funny cars.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


At last, a sunrise, blue sky, even though there are lingering clouds hTDSC04114anging on the mountains all around.   Snow on the mountains all around down to about the 5000 ft level.  

Tour today was to the south part of the valley.  And you guessed it, the ever present wind was out of the south and blowing good.  Slowed the A’s down a bit whenever a good gust came along. 

Here is what we saw today, and I will throw a bunch of pictures and some videos in at the end of the text.  In order, Badwater, Natural Bridge, Devils Golf Course, Lunch, Zabriskie Point, 20 Mule Team Canyon, and the Harmony Borax works.

The mechanical problem of the day was Glenn Wildmans car, lost power, and started pushing water out the overflow.  It was determined that #4 cylinder was not making power, so a parking lot seminar on head gaskets was scheduled and almost everyone showed up for it, the men that is. Imagine our surprise when we pulled the head and the gasket was intact.  Turns out the #4 exhaust valve was stuck open, with a capital O.  Past experience indicates that a tap with the hammer and a little Marvel Mystery oil usually solves the problem.  No dice, stuck incredibly tight.  Finally necessitated taking the side plate off, removing the valve keepers and springs, and wrestling for about 45 minutes to get the valve out.  Now we did not have a valve spring lifter tool and this engine has Chevrolet valves (bad bad bad engine!!!)   Do you know how high you have to lift the spring to get them damn little Chevrolet keepers out?   Finally worked the valve and the guide over with our limited tool resources, invented a valve spring tool, and got the blasted thing back in.  Total elapsed time from start to finish was 3 1/2 hours, and finished with flashlights and starlight.  








Snow all around this morning.                         At Badwater looking at Telescope Peak

Here is a little video at Badwater: 








Trekking up to the Natural Bridge.                These hardy folks made it up the canyon.











Oh waa, taa goo, siam.                    Buckaroo and Abby waiting patiently.









The devil’s golf course is luring you.             Lots of hands available.




6 hands required to put those dang Chevy keepers in.




And one more video in 20 Mule Team Canyon.

Patti is at the front of the pack, driving the A, I am riding on Beamans running board.


Sunday, March 20, 2011


What a day.  Click on any picture for a larger version.   Here is the mechanical stuff.  In the parking lot this morning, we found out that Will Lancaster broke an axle last night.   Just outside of Boron on route 58, Ted Kafer threw a rod.  At the Tehachapi Loop Overlook, Joe Davis stepped out of his car, left the engine running and closed the door.  You do know what happened, don’t you, the smarter-than-thou car locked the doors.  20 miles from Death Valley, John Polland’s coupe just suddenly stopped.  10 miles from Death Valley on the last really long, really steep climb up to the pass into Death Valley, Rogers A overheated, even though we were getting snowflakes coming down.  He might be looking for a radiator.  The first three incidents were all rescued by the good old AAA plus memberships.  John’s TDSC04112 problem was solved with a roadside fix of resetting the points, which had apparently slipped. Roger just stopped, let it cool and added water, while we all  waited at the top of the hill.

And it rained and the wind blew and it rained and the wind blew.  We seemed to be at the leading edge of a storm front all day.  Poured on us up and over the Tehachapis.   We drove out of it at Mojave, but as we were stopped at the Borax pit in Boron,  the front overtook us and started to rain again.   And the wind was huge, motorhomes were leaning to the north, and our poor little A’s were buffeted all over the road.  All the way to the 58-395 junction, we had an incredible buffeting crosswind from the right.   When we made the turn onto 395, it was definitely a raise in pay, everything got real quiet, and we  barely had to touch the gas pedal.   On down the road, enormous clouds of dust filled the air at Trona.  When we got up and over and down to Stovepipe Wells, it was so nice and calm and peaceful, so nice.







Hmm, looking a little wet up ahead.                         Suspicions confirmed, Gotta get an

                                                                                                                 electric wiper.







Holy Crap, is that a dust cloud?

The sights we saw today, we visited the Tehachapi loop and watched a freight train climb the grade passing over itself,  3 engines in the front and 3 more in the middle.  This was a big hit with the touring folk.

Then we stopped  at the Apple Shed in Tehachapi and cleaned them out of apple turnovers.  Onward to the open pit borax mine in Boron, one of the largest in the world, impossible to capture in a single picture.  So we took a video of it and panned back and forth.








And here is what a yellow paint job will get you, a model from England draped all over your Model A.  Is this pickup a pickup?


Saturday, March 19, 2011


The group gathered early, folks were champing at the bit, at the Walmart parking lot in San Jose.   It was really looking like rain, so we passed out the goodie bags assembled by Guzzettas, had a quick drivers meeting and hit the road at 9 o’clock on the dot in a pouring rain.  Half a dozen Model A club members came to see us off and most accompanied us all the way to Tiffany Ford in Hollister.Down  The rain tapered off and stopped by the time we got to Tiffany Ford.   Bob Tiffany treated us all to donuts and coffee.  We did a formation park in front of the building for a photo op. Click on any picture for a bigger version.


Fueled up and headed south on 25 for Coalinga.  It started to rain and did not stop until we were on the outskirts of Coalinga.  We discovered that even a coupe can leak, water somehow found its way through the top hinge in the windshield and ran down the inside.  Tech tip: When in a rainstorm, don’t talk and breath as little as possible, we couldn’t find a defrost button to unfog everything.  TDSC04066 Even in the rain, it was a gorgeous drive, green green hills, lots of mustard, and cherry blossoms.  But, 100 miles is a long long way without finding a pit stop before Coalinga.  We could tell that folks were getting anxious about this because the four cars that had been trailing behind us in the distance got closer and closer as we approached Coalinga,  we were definitely encouraged to pick up the pace. 

It was in this stretch that the trouble gremlin struck.  John Guzzetta picked up a horseshoe nail out there in the country and used up his only spare.  He is looking for a patch kit as we speak.

We had burgers for lunch at the Yahoo recommended Campus Drive-Inn, big burgers, lots of fries.  We refueled and then stopped at the restored Richfield gas station in Coalinga for some vintage pictures.  The docent came along and opened the gate so we could park by the pumps.TDSC04069










Onward to Blackwells Corner, where the claim to fame is that James Dean stopped here and bought gas just before his tragic death on Hwy 46.  Check out the picture of Pat and Carla sitting by James Dean at the soda fountain.TDSC04076


Made it into Bakersfield at about 4:30.  We were the last ones in, I guess since we seem to do the most stopping and sightseeing.  Tonight, dinner for about half the group was at the Buck Owens Crystal Palace, for some good Merican food and loud music.