There is nothing quite as therapeutic and invigorating as a good, old-fashioned road trip. And if you’ve been hanging out at Curbside Classic over the last several weeks, you likely noticed the planning (and reporting) of the first-ever Curbside Classic get-together. However, this tale extends on both sides of that most delightful and memorable shindig.
So thus did I think, to the tune of The Beverly Hillbillies theme, “I’m loading up the Buick and headin’ to Iowee. City that is. Rolling hills. Groovy old cars.”
Dancing in my head all the while were visions of such delightful chariots as this Thunderbird, which I saw 30 minutes into my trip.
Amidst all the planning I finally (after a mere 20 months on the market) negotiated a deal for the sale of my house in Hannibal, Missouri. Upon receiving the inspection report on the Thursday evening before the get together, I had a few things to do at the house, like…
…replace a bunch of electrical outlets with these damn GCFI outlets. Ten are done, with three to go; the one under the kitchen sink will be a bitch.
Also on tap was fixing what was claimed to be a bad ground,
and altering the overflow of my water heater. Since Hannibal is about midway through Google’s route from Jefferson City to Iowa City, I left on Friday afternoon to get some work done on my house. Thankfully I was alone, as while working on these various items I used words learned from Redd Foxx and Eddie Murphy, and not good for little ears!
The upside of needing to address these various items is that the Loafer’s Car Club, in Hannibal, holds its annual car show the day before Mother’s Day. Prior to heading out for Iowa, I went downtown to look around, and while I won’t go into great detail (I’ll be sharing some goodies over the next few weeks), I did do a double-take at one point. Why?
It looked like the Niedermeyers had taken a side trip–oh wait. This is a ’72, not a ’71.
This camper might be more up Paul’s alley. Even better, the ’53 Ford is equipped with a three-speed and overdrive.
As I was leaving the show, I found a true Curbside Classic for later consumption–here is a sneak peek. Intrigued?
The driving distance from Hannibal to Iowa City is right at 150 miles, all of them on four-lane highway. Having lived in Hannibal for five years, I am quite familiar with the surrounding area. When I got to the little town of LaGrange, I did veer off US 61 and took old US 61 (now marked as Route B) north to Canton. Route B is within spitting distance of the Mississippi River for a good portion of the eight-mile trek. The river finally dropped below flood stage a few weeks ago and signs of the flooding were still quite evident, but it had not touched anything you are about to see.
So, why did I veer off the regular path? Here’s a reason or three.
Let’s take a closer look at the nearest one…
…and at another. The red Falcon is quite complete. Discovered while editing, was the round decal on the door of the VW. Might it read “53”?
The Edsels just keep coming, don’t they? This person also has an affinity for Cadillacs.
Here’s the only Edsel front that could be seen. Today, both the Chevrolet Celebrity of this vintage and the VW wagon are rarities, at least in this part of the Midwest.
But this person has more than just Edsels–he does like his B-Body wagons as well. These were sandwiched between a circa-1990 Crown Vic wagon and a mid-80s Celebrity wagon.
His big cars feature more variety than just B-bodies and Edsels.
After getting back on US 61 at Canton, I continued north, headed for Keokuk, Iowa, and continued on MO 27 and then Iowa 27 to Iowa City and straight to the car museum in Coralville. I parked and went into the lobby.
As the first one there, I started talking to the young girl working behind the counter and collecting money. Soon thereafter, Ed Stembridge arrived; he knew I was there thanks to the Buick parked out front. Soon thereafter, Tom Klockau arrived with his uncle, followed by JP Cavanaugh and lastly, the one-and-only Herr Niedermeyer.
Meeting each of these fine gentlemen was a lot like the experience of meeting a pen-pal, except on steroids. Reading a person’s work and brief email exchanges can give you a good insight into their personality, but meeting them certainly brings a new dimension, as you finally have a voice to put to their words and a physical presence to correlate to their actions.
So what about the museum? It was phenomenal. It was the first time I’ve ever been to a car museum without being rushed along, and we spent almost four hours there! Each of us was looking in windows, looking at undercarriages and discussing the (de)merits of every car there.
Each of these four gentlemen is like a walking and talking encyclopedia.
Paul, JP, and Ed decided that a ’58 Ford retractable looks best with the roof halfway up, which is why you always see them displayed in that manner. We also concluded they only look good in a very dark-red color, and that the luggage container looks like a galvanized watering tank purchased from the Farm & Home store.
It was also discussed how a ’62 Mercury is more memorable than a ’53 Plymouth, and how Chrysler, when they introduced the Airflow before it was ready for prime time, had set an example that GM would perfect later.
Here JP, Ed, Paul and Tom (left to right in the background, with Tom’s uncle in the foreground) were discussing how a dark-red vinyl top can look so good on a caramel-color Studebaker, and why the State of Illinois used lilac-colored license plates in the 1960s. Those are just two snippets; actually, the entire automotive spectrum was fully covered by both us and the museum.
After leaving the museum, we went to downtown Iowa City for something to drink. JP rode with me, and after buzzing past a Lincoln Mark VI we discussed just how many CCs escape us due either to time constraints or just not being able to grab a camera quickly enough. Another issue we barely grazed was having the right confluence of time and inspiration.
Heading back to the parking garage after drinks, I looked around to see what I could scope out. Often, car manufacturers will sell a particular vehicle in a regional trim level (think “California Special” Mustang). Granted, Iowa isn’t that far from me, but you never know what can be found–there might be a Cornfield Custom F-150 or Prairie Schooner Dodge Caravan. Then I saw it:
Volvo offered a “Brougham” edition of their wagons, which have to be even rarer than wood-grained ’68 Chrysler Newport convertibles. The owner had better hold on to this one for posterity.
There were two white VW’s in our caravan across town: Paul had one as a rental, and Ed had driven Herbie to our soiree. Having the only non European-based car (and the only non-white one) put me in a sort of minority status!
After snapping Ed in his VW, we left the parking garage to eat at The House of Lords (it would occur to me that the name was quite fitting, given my former pen-name). As I rounded a corner, what to my wandering eye should appear? A fecal brown Cordoba, showing us its rear!
With the car still moving, JP jumped out, saying something about having wanting one of them for 30 years; Tom, already parked crosswise in the garage, scared a couple of old ladies in an Accord as he jumped out with camera in hand.
Let me tell you, it was a feeding frenzy that had to be documented to be believed. Even Ed (who has color-coordinated his iPhone with his VW) got in on the action.
During dinner we were able to meet Mrs. Niedermeyer and Mrs. Cavanaugh; indeed, Paul and JP married quite well. We all had a grand time, but the clock was running, and since both Ed and I had an over two-hour drive back, we parted ways.
It was truly one of the best evenings I’ve had in years. As I drove back to Hannibal, listening to lots of Pat Benatar, REO Speedwagon and Fat Bottomed Girls, by Queen–all courtesy of the oldies station in Keokuk, Iowa–I began thinking of what I have in store over the next few weeks. Now that my house finally has sold, I’m able to expand my usable vehicular fleet.
This coming Friday, I will be pulling my old Galaxie out of hibernation and starting the process of her resurrection.
At the museum, I had mentioned something about getting her going again soon, and later at dinner, both Paul and JP were inquisitive and seemed to share my excitement about the project. Paul was quite happy to learn that she has no power steering, no power brakes, no air conditioning, and that her 352 V8 is mated to a three-speed with overdrive.
My holdup hasn’t been due to having a house on the market for nearly 5% of my life, but to the lack of storage–and an engine with five bent pushrods and another one missing in action. That situation will be remedied soon!
Before I left Hannibal, I did have to make a quick swing downtown. Stephanie Niedermeyer told me that she and Paul have seen very little of Missouri, and would like to visit the Mark Twain Museum as well as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home. This ’63 was parked at the nearby Mark Twain Dinette (that’s the Joe Blankenship / Huckleberry Finn home directly behind the Galaxie)…
…these two were down a side street from the museum…
…and this Packard was parked directly across the street. I wrote about it here.
Here are two more automobiles I found within two blocks of the museum. First, there’s the only Volvo wagon in Northeast Missouri (sadly, it isn’t a brougham),
and this most nifty little Pontiac, which someday will get its own CC.
If you’ve made it this far, I want to thank you.; you have read almost 1,700 words. But I do want to toss out one last thought as a coffee-shop topic of discussion: If you’ve ever thought about sharing your finds, don’t be shy–just do it! Writing is like any other exercise; the more of it you do, the easier it becomes. Paul has been awesome when it comes to accepting submissions, and everyone here is eager to see your discoveries. Your audience is like-minded readers who come here for the same reasons you do. Give it a shot; after all, writing about something you enjoy is the easiest kind of writing you can do.