By Jodee Scott & Harm van der Veen
October 15 – 25, 2013
The object of the exercise was to move vehicles for Bill Putnam, the gentleman who gave me my Ambassador: two 1969 Rebel SST’s from Ada, OK to Yerington, NV; bring a 1985 Eagle Station Wagon back from Ada, OK for Harm, to Wyevale – AND to meet Bill Putman! To this end, Harm had purchased a 2-car goose-neck trailer and modified it to be a hitch trailer. He measured out the wheel base of my Ambassador to estimate the positioning of the trailer accessories to tie down the cars. The only unknown was how much car stuck out in front and behind of the wheels of each car. So he took a model car (that should be scale to the real thing) and estimated that length and placed the tie-down rings where he estimated they should be! Harm also installed a rear-mounted camera with video display in the cab of the truck – to monitor the end of the trailer – which worked great, especially when passing other traffic.
We hit the road Tuesday morning at 6am, leaving behind a wonderfully supportive sister/wife (Barb) and the two labs. Harm had tested the trailer with and without a vehicle on it and it pulled well so we weren’t too concerned about that. The test would come later when we loaded the Rebels. We were sharing driving duties until Ada, so it gave Harm a chance to relax and enjoy the scenery when it was my turn. We had agreed that Harm would do the driving when the Rebels were loaded as he had much more experience with this than me.
The border crossing at Sarnia was uneventful and in fact the US border guard was quite pleasant. We had set plans loosely in place for driving distances per day and where we might stop at night. We got a second wind shortly after stopping for supper and decided to pull thru to St. Louis. The weather wasn’t great, rainy and cold. Just outside Vandalia, Missouri, the trailer lights and the rear camera went out! We decided to push on anyway and got in to Troy, just outside of St Louis around 8pm.
Wednesday, we were up early again and Harm fixed the trailer lights and camera and off we went. We got into Ada about 3pm and by 8 we had both Rebels loaded and tied down. Fortunately, Bill had extra tires in the trunks as 3 of the tires (2 on one and 1 on the other) wouldn’t hold air so we were able to swap them out. Harm had packed EVERYTHING he could think of to make the loading possible so with the help of the come-along, we got them up and positioned, nose to nose – with about 6 inches between them! The end of the trailer had about 6 inches of clearance from the ground! We checked into a hotel there, ordered a pizza and hit the sack. What a day!
Thursday, up and on the road before 7am. We had decided to take some of the minor highways from Ada, cutting across lower Oklahoma and working our way up to Amarillo, TX where we hooked into US 40. Somewhere along the road, I decided to name the cars Bert and Ernie. Bert of course was the 4-door, family-type Rebel and Ernie was the 2-door,fast-backish Rebel. Harm just shook his head and laughed. The countryside was amazing. For one thing, I didn’t realize this area of the country was into cotton farming! Miles and miles of cotton fields with little pieces of cotton blowing across the road.
In places the earth was so red it looked like it was bleeding – weird! The trailer was pulling well and the plan was to pull to Holbrook, NM. However, Microsoft Streets and Trips let me down! There is no way we could have made it that far – given that we were traveling about 60 mph and making frequent stops for fuel (don’t say gas cause Harm gets real peculiar about that term – driving a diesel and all) and food. So we set our goal for Albuquerque, NM. Well, there’s a set of mountains east of Albuquerque. Going up was no problem but when we crested the top and started to make our way down the winding (with mountain on one side and valley on the other) highway, the trailer decided it wanted to go first! It started to fish-tail and pulled the truck across into the next lane. Fortunately, there wasn’t any traffic there! My heart was in my mouth and I am thinking: “We are going to dieeeeeee!!!” Harm tried speeding up to pull the trailer back in place but you can’t really do that on the downgrade of a winding highway so he touched the trailer breaks and the trailer settled down. When we could breathe again, he says: “Well, that got my attention!” REALLY?!?!?
We got into Albuquerque and headed for a hotel. Right on the corner near the hotel, a local café was having a cruise night! We went over after we got checked in, took a few pictures (by then it was about 8:30 local time and many cars had left), and had a bite to eat. Harm spent a little time explaining to me what had happened with the trailer and, although, contrary to what he knew about handling trailers in that situation, applying breaks was the way to control this particular trailer. He said that if he were planning to keep the trailer, he would have moved the axles back about a foot and that would have resolved the issue. We had also been having issues with the rear camera off and on that day so Harm picked up an F81 connector to fix the wiring. Then back to the hotel and bed.
Friday, up early and on the road by 8 with the next stop to be Las Vegas (or just outside of it). We passed thru such amazing country. Deserts, wastelands, forests, flatlands – miles and miles of flatlands where you could see the highway straight ahead of you for ‘who knows’ – 20 miles!?! Lots of freight trains moving across the country. Driving past Flagstaff, AZ, you feel like you are in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies with the forests and the “beware of the long horned sheep” signs. We got into Henderson, NV (just outside of Vegas) around 6:30, grabbed a bite, called Bill to confirm details and hit the sack.
Saturday, our last leg of this portion of the trip saw us up early as usual and on the road – heading for Yerington where Bill has a storage building (his 1970 Rebel and 1967 Ambassador are stored there already). Bill had warned us that this last part of the trip was up a long valley that was mostly desert and boring. Being this was our first trip up thru there, it was very interesting to us but you knew if you had to do the trip a few times, it would definitely get boring! We saw sand dunes, salt flats, Death Valley National Park and a lovely lake called Walker Lake where the army has a munitions dump – miles and miles of bunkers for storing munitions. We could also see some snow-covered mountains off in the distance.
We arrived in Yerington around 2:20. Bill and his brother-in-law Jack arrived at 2:45. The look on Bill’s face when he finally saw his two Rebels after 7 years was more than worth the long trip! We off-loaded the cars and moved them into the storage building where he also had his 1970 “Iowa Rat Infested Rust-bucket” Rebel (a disappoint to him although Harm assured him it was in good shape for a restoration project) and his 1967 Ambassador, affectionately known as San Jose (cause that’s where it came from). We left Yerington and headed to Carson City at about 6:15. What we noticed along this part of the trip was the strikingly yellow leaves on the trees. This part of the valley has more water and the surrounding lands were lovely in their fall coverage. Some nice farms and many horses! We got into Carson City, got settled in, had a drink and then headed off for supper at a lovely restaurant that Bill and his wife, Sue enjoy. Sue joined us there and we enjoyed a great meal and conversation – getting to know each other better and exchanging stories. This continued on back at their home until we all had to call it quits for the night.
Sunday, Sue had to work so Bill took us up to Lake Tahoe for breakfast. Jack joined us and we had a great feast at Heidi’s, a local favourite. We found out that we were actually in California – so we added that state to our travelogue! We wandered around a bit taking pictures of the lake, etc. and then headed back to Carson City.
Bill and Harm worked on the paperwork necessary for bringing the Eagle Station Wagon across the border. Interestingly enough, this vehicle was built in Canada so it was coming home! Harm emailed all the necessary documents to the US Customs office and found out that their office actually closes on Fridays at 12 noon and is not open over the weekend. So, that changed our plans drastically. We knew we had to hit the road the next day.
My Uncle Dave and Auntie Kay live about 20 minutes away so we arranged to visit and take them out for supper. We had a great visit with them and caught up on family stuff. Amazingly, they wanted to go to the local casino! It was noisy and we had to wait for our food which wasn’t so great, but they seemed to enjoy the outing, so that made us happy. We finished off the evening with a visit with Bill, Sue and Jack, re-packed and headed to bed early. We said “good-bye” to Sue and Jack as they weren’t getting up with us in the morning.
Monday, we were up early (yet again) and Bill, bless him! – had gone out to McDonald’s to get breakfast sandwiches and coffee. So with many hugs and fond fair-wells, we departed Carson City. The skies were clear and the temperature was +2c. As we made our way back down the long valley, the temperatures rose until we hit +30c at Vegas! On the trip up, our music sources had quit one by one so we had to resort to local radio stations – some of which only stayed with us for 20 minutes or so. One particularly memorable station (KGFN) was at Goldfield, NV. Country and Western with the announcer having the most pronounced ‘old western’ twang that we found hilarious. We heard a song about a man, a bottle, an old airplane and parachute – and his first skydiving experience. We laughed and laughed!
We pulled thru Las Vegas with no mishaps and stopped at the Hoover Dam around 3pm. Harm says the water must have dropped about 12 feet since that last time he was there! Vehicles are not allowed to drive right thru anymore. There are security check-stops where armed guards check your vehicle, trailer, etc. for explosive devices. This is a post-9/11 procedure. They explained that blowing up the dam would have more of a psychological impact, although the death-toll would be great so it is one of the places that are watched. We continued on until we reached Holbrook, AZ at about 8:30pm.
Tuesday, as usual, up early and away by 7:45am. We stopped at the Navajo Trading Plaza in Gallup, NM and picked up some wonderful gifts and souvenirs. They had a couple of classic vehicles parked inside the building. One was an old pickup with a load of Coca Cola – neat marketing idea!
We were headed for the Bisiti Badlands of New Mexico. I had seen pictures of the place in 1996 and it went on my bucket list! It’s the home of some of the strangest rock formations and if you are interested, “Google” Paul Luis Chavez and Bisti Badlands. He photographed this area and his pictures are amazing! We drove up a pretty rustic highway, turned onto a gravel, washboard road and drove for 8 miles to get to this place. We didn’t have much time but we wandered around for an hour and took pictures. We saw 2 beetles and 1 ant – that was it in terms of living things – other than 2 other people checking out the place. Talk about desolate!!!
Rather than back-track on “that” highway, we continued up to Farmington and headed south and east. The country along this leg of the trip is different – wide open stretches of farmland, then desert, canyons, dry creek beds and snow-covered mountains way off to the north. We pushed on to Santa Rosa, NM where we stopped for the night.
Wednesday, we were up and away by 6am. Just inside the New Mexico/Texas border, we encountered a traffic jam. We could see couple of miles up the road where it appeared a tractor trailer had jack-knifed across the east-bound lanes of the highway. We were stopped for a couple of hours. We saw a helicopter arrive and leave and assumed it was transporting an accident victim. Then another arrived which we assumed was the investigation team. When we finally got moving and passed the accident, we saw that the driver’s side of the cab was totally destroyed. Harm didn’t think that the driver made it.
We passed thru Oklahoma City around 3:30pm. We noted the temperature was about +28! We arrived in Ada at 5pm. Loading the Eagle took considerably less time and we were out of there at 6:15pm. The trailer towed very well with the Eagle – no fish-tailing! We arrived in Joplin at 10pm. We were exhausted but we knew we had to keep to our agenda to make the border crossing before 12 noon on Friday.
Thursday morning we were up and away by 7:15. The temperature was +4 – a little nippy. We passed thru Indianapolis at 5:45 – where it was trying to snow!!! We got into Lansing at 9:40pm. We checked into the Days Inn there and Harm thinks this is where one of the International Shows was held. I tried looking this up and it may have been in 2003. He said it looked very familiar.
Our final day on the road saw us on the road at 7am. The temperature was +5 and there were on an off snow flurries – are we getting close to Canada?!? We got to Port Huron at about 8:30 but again the GPS steered us wrong – took us right into town!! Grrr! We got heading in the right direction and ended up at the foot of the on-ramp to the bridge – but the US customs office was on the other side of a barricade!! Harm parked against it and went to talk to a guard who said he could leave the truck there and do his business in the office. He was in and out in 10 minutes!! Fastest time ever! No one even came out to verify the VIN!! Over the bridge and thru Canadian Customs – and thru by 9:29am! Amazing! We found a Tim Hortons’ in Sarnia, took a picture of the Eagle on the trailer in front of Tim’s and emailed it to Bill – to show we had crossed safe, sound and with no issues – in front of his favourite Canadian Coffee stop. We fueled up – truck and us – at Cambridge and arrived in Wyevale at 2:45pm.
The total trip from Wyevale to Wyevale was 9801 km’s and about $1700.00 in fuel. Total experience – PRICELESS!
Here are some pictures of some of the unusual 'vehicles' we saw on the trip.