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 Westbound and down, loaded up and truckin'



Monday 17 July 2006

Start time: 10:14am       Mileage:  80,396          Place:  West Knoxville, Tennessee,

Stop time: 6:30pm         Mileage:  80,802          Place:  Scott Air Force Base, St. Louis, MO

Today’s Mileage:  406  Total:    1,193

Average mpg:  19 – 22


Today was the  push to get to the Mother Road - Route 66!  Shortly after leaving we found the previously-sought Cumberland State Park.  This was a day of interstates of every number and we even passed a truck while going uphill!


We stopped in Carbondale, Illinois to visit William’s mom, Helen.  Her “place” just happened to be on the way to Scott AFB, so we stopped on her doorstep – almost unannounced.  William (aka LCDR Deniston) is one of the folks I work with  in the Navy’s Human Research Protection Program .  Helen shared stories, listened to our anecdotes, and cooled us with iced tea.  Then we were on our way.  I reported back to William – he has a ‘neat’ mom.


Our first night camping was at Scott AFB.  A lovely quiet, wooded area.  We set up camp then went for a long walk around the flight line.  It was calming and reassuring to hear TAPS and know that our service men are always “at the ready” keeping us safe and free.


As we settled in for the night, turned off the light, and sighed, it occurred to me that I had forgotten something, so I said, “I wonder if we should have put chocks under the wheels?” To which we laughed until we almost cried. In the flatlands of Illinois? How absurd!


The air-conditioning atop the Vair-VW was most welcome -  in fact, it got a bit chilly and I had to turn it off.  



Tuesday18 July 2006

Start time: 12.30pm     Mileage:  80,802          Place:  Scott Air Force Base, St. Louis, MO

Stop time: 6:00pm       Mileage:  80,976          Place:  Rolla, MO – Hampton Inn

Today’s Mileage:  174  Total:    1,367

Average mpg:  18 – 19            


After a late start with breakfast, touring the base, a trip to the BX, filling up, checking things, and chatting with a guy driving a ’78 VW squash orange camper just shipped from Alaska – we start Route 66 in earnest after bypassing city of St. Louis at 2:27pm with odometer reading of 80,883.


We stop along the way numerous Verdana for pictures of the usual and the unusual. The Antique Toy Museum is a great stop and the owners spend lots of time talking with us.  I looked for a Corvair Rampside amongst this 40 year collection – but no luck.


Not wanting to chance getting a place too late, we roll into another Hampton Inn after supper at a Denny’s with a million-dollar view of the mountains.

 Bill- Big antique auto museum in Rolla. Marianne reports a vintage VW bus on a trailer where they are staying... I had to confirm it wasn't hers... ;-)

Day #5

Wednesday 19  July

Start time: 9:30am                     Mileage:  80,976          Place:  Rolla, MO – Hampton Inn

Stop time: ~6:00pm                   Mileage:  81,240          Place:   Joplin, MO  Zan’s Creekside

Today’s Mileage:          265      Total:    1,632

Average mpg:  19 – 20 Added 1st Qt oil


Headed out of Rolla, MO and tackled the turns and twists of Route 66.  The Vair-VW is doing just great.  Just added a quart of oil though perhaps could have waited a bit; using the 'expresso' of petro and actually pulled out of two places that didn't carry the good stuff.  (Bill- despite having the compression dropped slightly, the Corvair engine is still happiest with 91-93 octane fuel.)  The fan belt is looking good...  just wondering when. Heads staying 'cool' and the mileage running between 19 - 20mpg today. 

Folks smile and wave as we go by.. we even passed a 'short bus' going up hill!  Several gear heads have stopped by to check out the 'pancake' and were in awe of the work that John Moody and Bill have done.  Of course, i give any one who will listen the full story of the car - and if there is time - of our trip.  Not sure which they think is more amusing.


We stopped at the usual  tourist stops - Devil's Elbow, Munger Moss Motel, Route 66 Drive-in that was showing Superman, John's Modern Cabins - and did the photo-thing.  The irony of Superman is more than amusing - just ask Bill about the Supercow.  (Bill: both the girls love "Smallville" and Marianne has cows decorating the

However, we are also finding the 'uncommon' more interesting.  Like a great place to buy tires,  interesting architecture, and the I-44 speedway - a dirt oval!   Driving on the original Portland concrete with the flared edges is most interesting... may need some alignment work?! (Or more likely an uprated steering damper...)


Had been carrying Katherine's friend's birthday present - the one we were supposed to deliver or mail the day we left -  so we found the busiest post office in Missouri and mailed it from there. Ok, slight exaggeration - but can you saw you have gotten mail from Devil's Elbow????


After missing  a turn (have only missed a couple and back tracked only a few miles), we stumbled on a great family restaurant in the middle of now-where - the Rocking Chair Restaurant.;jsessionid=NO01PPDO0N0EVQFI4A1BNWQ?id=57233926&q=Family%20Restaurants

The best BLT and sweet tea i have had in long time.  Then we hustled down the road to the campground where we are staying tonight - Zan's Creekside. We have a creekside spot - complete with the big 'e' so the AC is ON!  It was 106 tonight but has cooled down to 96 now.  The water felt so nice on my toe-seys.  Apparently 'sitting in the river' is a southern thing as we have seen more folks just sitting  - on beach chairs with drinks in their hands - in the river.  I must have missed this somewhere in my travels.


We have been using the Route 66 maps (paper), but when we tried to connect that with the cryptic directions to the campground I resorted to using the GPS-thing.  (Bill- Garmin Streetpilot C330)  And, yes, it worked although i think we took the scenic route!  We also got desperate a one point while looking for a gas station (bathroom) and used it.  SO nice when it gives you places you passed 10 miles back!  Yes, I CAN DO technology - i just don't want to much.



Day #6

Thursday 20 July

Start time: 8:11am            Mileage:  81,240          Place:  Joplin, MO  Zan’s Creekside

Stop time:  8:00pm           Mileage:  81,563          Place:   Tinker Air Force Base,

                                                                                    Oklahoma City, OK

Today’s Mileage:          323      Total:    1,954

Average mpg:  17 – 18


Following Route 66 is a challenge in many aspects.  While the “heads” of the Vair have remained cool; the “heads” inside the VW has been hot – both temperature –wise and temperament-wise. With the oppressive heat and the quirks of map-reading – especially “66” maps with all the drawings and the long-winded paragraphs that require re-reading a few Verdana to be sure one can follow what is written versus what is meant versus what the road actually looks like. The 13-mile stretch  through Kansas was “interesting” and the few sights there remain illusive despite several attempts.  All the construction and road changes remind me of the moving staircases in Harry Potter.


It is also at this point that we “can” the plug-in cooler than is not working.  We unplug it, use it for storing dry good and buy a plain old cooler and fill it with ice and bottles of water.  Technology is still lacking when it comes to portable refrigeration.  And we are much happier with cold water.

(Bill- The original Westy refrigerators here heavy, inefficient, and could really suck down a battery quickly, so John had removed the one in the Bus after it failed and used the space for storage. I agreed with his modification and decided not to reinstall one. Instead, they carried with them one of the modern hot/cold 12V fridges. While this worked well in initial testing, it's really designed just to cool the contents about 25-30 degrees below ambient. Great in 70 degree weather, not so great at 105 ambient temps...)


In Claremore, OK we stop a some “Whale – washing” at a Route 66 car wash. This is where we discover the ‘wounded wiper.’   Other than that, the Whale enjoys the suds and de-bugging.  The windscreen and the front piece were covered in bug-parts.

(Bill- we did get a black "bra" with the Whale for exactly this reason, but it really made the van look ugly so the girls decided they'd rather clean the front regularly...)


While we stopped taking pictures of a neat 66 flower shop in Davenport, OK, a lady was calling to us and walking over to talk.  She asked if we were traveling Route 66. Turns out, Ms.  Cletus Simpson, is an Oklahoma Route 66 Association Member. She welcomed us to Route 66 and recommended we go back to Stroud to visit the Rock Café and Sally (from “Cars”).  Every Route 66 Association should have a member like Cletus – that way Route 66 would surely stay alive.


We backtracked to Stroud to the Rock Café.  When we first past it the painted sign  on the building itself noted was closed, however, the ‘real’ open sign was hiding in plain sight.  We had a great lunch although we did not get a chance to talk Dawn Welch (Bill- Marianne first said "Dawn Wells"... I said "MaryAnn from Gilligan's Island??")  the owner and about the Rock Café and Sally (voiced by Bonnie Hunt). It seems the new freezer-refrigerator unit had failed and they were implementing ‘plan B’ to keep the food cold, then the AC died. Meanwhile the folks kept coming in for lunch and the service kept up its tradition. So Dawn had much more important things to do than talk with a couple tourists.

Old Railroad tracks




The clock- thermometer in downtown Chandler, OK informed us that it was 108 degrees at 4:15pm. Was not sure whether this data was useful or not, but gave us  some thing to talk about.


The drive through eastern Oklahoma was easy, fun, and we took lots of pictures. Tinker AFB was a wonderful place to camp. Situated on a lake with nice walking-running trails.  The Camp Host – William Love – was a delight and made us feel right at home.  Our ‘Whale” sure looks like a little fish when lined up with those huge RVs.  But she holds her own with the best of them!



Bill- First mechanical failure... meeting huge rigs on two lane roads with a combined speed of likely over 130mph are lifting the wipers off the windshield and twisting them. The driver's wiper arm has slipped on the shaft. Hopefully it will be an easy repair (just tightening the single nut attaching the arm), but they've now put a bottle of Rain-X on their shopping list (just in case). We are already using Rain-X anti-fog wipes on the inside of the windscreen due to the defogger... or rather the effective lack of one.

The other interesting "issue" is that the cheap 12V outlet strip that is attached to the auxiliary/secondary battery does not appear to work when the hard-wired battery charger is plugged in. My opinion is a loose wire with the charger use being coincidental. The only other possibility is an "intelligent" outlet strip that shuts down when the voltage is out of spec. In hardwiring these in, I did discover that it shuts down when wired backwards (giving it a higher level of technology than I anticipated) so some other safeguard built in would not completely shock me. They will further investigate and report back... more of a curiosity than anything that really bothers them since the second battery is automatically charged while driving.

TAPS and then REVEILLE reminded us again of our great country and its people.


Day #7

Friday 21 July

Start time: 9:32am                     Mileage:  81,563          Place:   Tinker Air Force Base,

                                                                                                Oklahoma City, OK

Stop time:  7:00pm                   Mileage:  81,877          Place:   Amarillo RV Park, Amarillo, TX

Today’s Mileage:          314      Total:    2,268

Average mpg:  18 – 19


Bill- Wiper fixed by simply repositioning and retightening. Tests out fine.  Outlet strip turned out to be loose 12V plug-in on the extension between the battery and the outlet strip. Also fixed.

We head out knowing that this section of 66 is more complicated and that we will “pick and choose” what we want to see as we have to move on.  The choices were the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK and the Historical Route 66 Museum  in Elk City, OK.  We spent a good deal of time  in both places – both worth it.  Gives a real sense of what 66 was like and how its fate is entwined  in history.


There is an amusing story associated with a manual feed toll booth that I will let Katherine explain.  And, for the record, I will admit that I missed a stop sign – one where a yield and stop are together on a curve.  However, I got a second chance as we backtracked to find the turn we missed.


A surprise find is that McDonald’s has SWEET TEA – 32 oz for $1.00!!!  Frequent stops ahead!


We roll into Amarillo RV Park where the folks are a nice as can be and the facilities are great.  As an aside; I am a pretty low maintenance kind of gal – I think Bill would agree – how many of you look for homes with the criteria of garage space for cars as the first consideration rather than the style or number of bedrooms?  However, I judge a campground by simple things – like functioning hot showers.  Whenever I call a campground  I ask two questions – whether they have electrical hookup and whether they have hot showers. So far, so good on both.


Day #8

Saturday 22 July

Start time: 8:45am     Mileage:  81,877     Place:   Amarillo RV Park, Amarillo, TX

Stop time:  3:53pm    Mileage:  82,183     Place:   Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, NM

Today’s Mileage:          306      Total:    2,573

Average mpg:  18 – 19 Added 2nd Qt oil


We plan a short day today and choose only two sights to visit – the Cadillac Ranch and the Midpoint Café.  We find the Cadillac Ranch after a short diversion.  What a hoot. The morning air is still cool, there are only a few people, and there is a singer recording a music video with the “ranch” in the background. Katherine and I both take pictures – hersdigital, mine 35mm. It is a bit of friendly competition.  Hers look great; mine remain to be seen.


Hustling down the road we get to the Midpoint Café.  Outside there a few classics and Katherine wants me to stop (quickly no less) so she can take pictures.  I explain that we will get gas first and come right back. Of course, they are gone by the time we get back.


The Midpoint Café adventure overshadows the disappointment. The Café is worth every minute of the stop – the food is great; it is decorated in period; the small gift shop have neat stuff – burma shave soap etc. – and the owner, Fran, and Lelia, our waitress, made us feel right at home.  They both sign our quilt and we signed Fran’s truck.  You have to see the pictures!


Side bar:  The “idiot buzzer” – as I call it – has broken off from under the dash. 

(Bill- so much for my "non-intrusive" mounting solutions.. whatever I've done to the VW, I've tried not to alter anything permanently, drill any holes, etc... even the entire Corvair drivetrain bolts in with adapters... the basic vehicle could readily be returned to stock... guess this attachment was not as successful, but it's not critical as it's resting on the parcel shelf about 1" below where it was mounted.)

So… duct tape to the rescue. However, the roll of duct tape that Bill tossed to me to bring along was the non-silver (black) type. (WalMart "Duck" tape")  While it seemed nice that the tape would match the dash, I soon discovered that  black duct tape is useless.  Either this roll is so old it has no “stick” left or it never had nay to begin with.  Lesson learned here: don’t ever substitute for the real silver thing. The “idiot buzzer” is just lying there until I can remember to buy some “real” duct tape. The “idiot buzzer”  is to alert me to things like low idling/stalling and a fan belt problem.  It needs to be silenced (momentary switch for reliability instead of the more sophisticated circuit I had planned) when stating the VW otherwise it waked the neighborhood hounds.


We stop at Kirtland Air Force Base just in  time to watch a rain-thunder-lightening storm come in. It was short and refreshing – not much rain.  Things are cool and life is good.


Day #9

Sunday 23 July

Start time: 8:38am        Mileage:  82,183          Place:   Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, NM

Stop time:  3:30pm        Mileage:  82,543          Place:  Fort Tuthill Campground, Luke Air Force Base, Flagstaff, AZ

Today’s Mileage:          360      Total:    2,934

Average mpg:  19 - 20


Much of Route 66 through is really not Route 66 – it is either replaced by I40 or abandoned as undrivable, so we decide to visit Gallup and Holbrook.  As usual, we are diverted by other interesting “sidebars” and “photo-ops” that we take more time than we have. 


We stop at the Rio Perco Truss Bridge for a short walk and top admire the structure that will soon be preserved.  The truss bridge is quite amazing.  Our pictures are worth more than these words.

After a long night of planning, phone calls, and ‘journaling,’ I found that the time on our cell phones, my clock, and the map did not match so I was not sure what time or time zone was correct.  The law of averages would result in taking 2 out 3… that would be the clock and the time zone map as they matched. However, the cell phones are set by the phone system. The only explanation would be that Flagstaff does not observe daylight savings time and thus we are actually in PST.  All of this would not be a big deal, except we were supposed to meet Katherine’s Dad for breakfast at 9am in Williams, AZ, about 30 miles away.  No one was around to verify the time.  So I presumed the worst and went with the time on the cell phone and set my clock to the same.  Sounds like a “time warp” to me (Rocky Horror Picture Show).


Second night without AC!  Yippee! The cool nights are refreshing.

 A salute to the Air Force is in order. The four Air Force campgrounds were all great places to stay, though Fort Tuthill and Tinker stand out.


Day #10

Monday 24 July

Start time:  8:10am      Mileage:  82,543          Place:   Fort Tuthill Campground, Luke Air Force Base, Flagstaff, AZ     

Stop time:   7:00pm     Mileage: 82,845           Place:  Hotel Brunswick, Kingman, AZ

Today’s Mileage:  302  Total:    3,236

Average mpg:  19 – 20; once on 6.7 gallons - 25


At 6am the sun is already shinning brightly and I am even more unsure about the time. Luckily, I found a fellow camper sipping his morning coffee. He verified the time – 6am – and informed me that Arizona is the only state that does not observe daylight savings time. What a break – Katherine gets another hour of sleep – nothing worse than a sleep-shorted teenager – and I get an hour to done the extra car checks!  Weather is cool – a welcome change.

At one of our WM stops we bought a foam pad for the times we need to lay under the Whale to check things.  Unlike Bill, who spends hours lying on his back on hot asphalt, cold concrete, gravel, and dirt while under various vehicles, we have a limited supply of clothes and no one other than ourselves to wash them separately.  And yes, he has an under car rolly-thing and gets offers of towels to lie on. So we roll out the pad and slide under to check the axle bolts, the accelerator cable, the oil pan, and things in general.  All looks good, all bolts tight, except there is a drip of oil on a bolt under the oil pan. (Bill- the drip is actually on the diff where the four bolts that would typically be attached to the lower strut bars hang there unused. There is always just a tad of seepage out of the diff which pools on the lower of these 4 bolts...)  I know that corvairs “mark their territory” just like British cars and our dog, Toby, because our driveway and garage floors are always spotted. However, in the “crash course of corvair mechanicals” the weekend before the trip there was no oil drip, so this concerned me a bit.  Katherine assured me this was normal. A call to Bill later in the day verified the “normalcy” of the drip. 


We head out towards Williams, AZ where we met Katherine’s Dad and his wife, Lisa, for breakfast at the Grand Canyon Railroad Hotel. They are taking the train to the canyon. We depart and drive to the Grand Canyon.

 Slight rain while going through the entrance line.  During the wait a Park Ranger comes to the VW and said that he had to talk to us because we had the coolest vehicle in the line.  He asked who serviced the VW and we informed him that it is Corvair-powered and we serviced it ourselves.  He was stunned.  He is from Arlington, VA and will be park there in September.  Thanks to his advice, we got a National Parks pass for the year, especially since we will likely visit more parks during our road trip.


The canyon is GRAND!!!  We took about a 2 miles hike on the south rim trail and Katherine took MANY pictures.  On the way back down we ran into lots of rain, thunder, and lightening.  It was cool and refreshing.  And the wipers worked just fine, No rain-x needed – it is in the glove box just in case.


We took the “historic 66 loop” in Williams, AZ and then stopped in the Route 66 diner for lunch. 

Then back to the road in search of the next section of 66 in Seligman, AZ.  This section was well maintained, traveled, and straight.  Some amusing sights  and signs – The Roadkill Café is a favorite.


On a particularly long, untraveled section, Katherine became Maryland “road kill” – you have to see the picture to understand this.  While the Irish may kiss the blarney stone, Katherine kisses the Mother Road. 


We arrive in Kingman, AZ and settle in at the 1909 historic Hotel Brunswick across the street from the railroad.  They provide ear plugs in case the frequent train traffic gets annoying.

Hotel Brunswick

We called Ed Norris to let him know we arrived and were looking forward to the remainder of Route 66.  Ed had sent Bill an email stating he lived in Kingman, AZ so we chatted earlier for Route 66 advice.  Many thanks!


Day #11

Tuesday 25 July

Start time:   8:10am      Mileage:  82,845          Place:   Hotel Brunswick, Kingman, AZ           

Stop time:   5:45pm       Mileage:  83,267          Place:   Port Hueneme, CA  Navy Base, Fairway Campground  

Today’s Mileage:  422  Total:   3,658   

Average mpg:  18 – 22


The trains with their whistles and rhythmic wheels going by all evening, night, and morning were an added treat.  Makes one really think about how far (?) we have come and what we have lost in the process.  Trains have a special place in history and the present. Was nice to be reminded and to be a small part of it.


Hotel Brunswick

We do our routine checks, load up our gear, and head for gas station to fill ‘er up with gas and ice before we trek out across the desert.  The station attendant looks at the VW and the map of our journal we have in the window.  He asks if the map is where we are going or where we have been. Silly question it seems considering the Maryland tags!  Truthfully, I sometimes wonder if we are coming or going, but that is quite another matter.  As we are getting ready to leave, another gentleman comes to the passenger window and tells us about his ’71 and ’78 VW he toured in and asks marvels that we are going so far with a VW engine. I quickly informed him that this VW is ‘vair powered and will move right along.  He smiles and says, “Hmmm, a sleeper.” He tells us to stop at Cool Springs Camp and visit the store.


The last stretch of Route 66 that we travel is from Kingman, AZ to just past Oatman, AZ is awesome! 

 From a driving perspective one really gets the look and feel of how it might have been when 66 first opened.  Narrow winding road that rolls through the ‘washs,’ hairpins up and down the mountains.  We go in 1st all the way  and the ‘heads’ stay about 220!  (Bill- with a Powerglide, there are only two gears... "1st" and "Drive".. 1st may sound low, but it's good past 55mph! The Corvair engine is MUCH happier (and much cooler) wound up to 55mph in 1st than lugging along at the same speed in high gear.)


It is still cool temperature-wise and we enjoy the road itself – stopping to take pictures and take in the views. We pass a total of  6 cars – all going east. . No burros; no cattle, elk, or stay dogs in sight. We end our “kicks on Route 66” in Topocock – about 82,889 on the odometer.


The trek across the desert is awful and boring. The heat is oppressive and the road straight as an arrow. We use the ‘slow truck’ lanes and 1st gear to climb – no problems.  The truckers are most considerate of the Whale.. or maybe it is my Rookie driver sticker in the back window that gives me wide berth!  It is there for Katherine’s benefit however she has driven less than about am hour. She is not comfortable with the Whale (though before the trip, she had more hours driving it than Marianne did... she put in a lot of time behind the wheel to get the necessary 60 hours of experience necessary to get her Maryland Driver's License, which she obtained just before the trip began. She actually handles the Whale very well, but would likely rather sightsee!)


With luck we make it to Ludlow, CA – one a a very few places for gas etc. in the desert. Although we still had miles and gas to go, I was already rehearsing how to hook up the reserve tank (on the rooftop) into the fuel pump.. lets see, run the hose though the air vent; remove the clamp from the short hose….but, alas, not necessary.    I have a copy of Corvair Basics, Autos for Dummies,  Corvair tech manuals, etc. in tow, however, I think my hand drawn, handwritten notes from “Bill’s Car Clinic Day” will be my first resource, if needed.  The Whale turned 83,000 in the middle of the Mohave!


Just when I though the WORST of the today’s trip was over we hit the 6 and 7 degree grades before San Bernardino.  With heavy traffic and trucks everywhere I had a death grip on the steering wheel with sweaty palms.  Got buffeted a few Verdana between two trucks roaring by… felt like jello-jigglers!  Then we hit THE 10, THE 15, THE 101 and I was wondering why I picked this route!  Oh, yes, because Katherine wanted to visit University of California Santa Barbara.  I keep telling myself that the traffic and heat will all be worth it – even though I would have preferred skipping all of southern California.


We cruise into Port Hueneme and the weather is decidedly cooler.  We find the campground on the Navy base – home of the Seabees!  My close neighbor friend from high school, Keith Barrett, was a Seabee and one of Bill’s family was one of the original Seabees!  We feel at home here. It is a great location and we do not even need the AC!  We settle in to read email, microwave some dinner and Katherine has some hot cocoa.,_California


Although we have not put our toes into the Pacific Ocean, we have arrived on the left coast.

Location of Port Hueneme, California

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