It wasn’t supposed to go this way. All the planning and effort had almost paid off. Yet, after 1,000 miles in three days and only about 95 miles from home, trouble struck.
This was throwing a wet blanket on the fires of fun. If pressed into identifying a silver lining in this cloud, it would be having time to take forlorn looking pictures before the wrecker arrived.
In Part 1, I opined that anyone who drives their old car on such a journey is either adventuresome or masochistic. In an effort to swing the pendulum toward the adventuresome end of the spectrum, I had planned this trip to the umpteenth degree. In the trunk was a spare distributor, fuel filter, and coil along with oodles of tools. Obviously I hadn’t planned everything; I didn’t have a spare water pump.
Haven’t I had water pump troubles before?
Taking a road trip in a car unencumbered with a radio and air-conditioning – items sometimes seemingly viewed as being of equal importance to oxygen – has become an esoteric experience these days. One can easily drive while listening to the wonderful mechanical symphony that is your engine, partaking of the abundant sounds of nature, and removing yourself from all demands beyond the chore of driving.
Being free of the clutter was truly addictive.
Don’t think this rose of travel is free of thorns. While the air vents and wing windows on the Galaxie provide ample cool air, it only does so to about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond that, rolling down the window is recommended; doing so introduces you to the loudness of passing cars and trucks.
Suntan lotion is recommended for those of fairer complexion. Despite this Galaxie having been equipped with the $21.80 option of tinted glass so long ago, the trip down resulted in a moderate crimson hue upon my face and arms. The return trip, with my lotion soaked left arm resting over the window channel, yielded an arm that is now several shades darker than my right.
The desirability of the tinted glass will never eliminate the glare from the various chrome plated surfaces of the interior and wiper blades. Like ones interaction with an aging loved one, you accept their shortcomings and appreciate their talents all the more.
Talents come in many forms. Early on in my preparations, I knew the drivers seat could be an issue. Time and deterioration had set in such that the seat foam had disintegrated and I was ripping the vinyl getting in and out. The seat simply wasn’t inviting for longer duration voyages.
Half a sack of poly-fill and a tasteful seat cover remedied the discomfort so well I had to significantly adjust the seat. My low rent upholstery work was a smart move. After ten hours of driving in one day, I was full of energy upon arriving in Tupelo. Even the seat back, at a height deemed woefully unacceptable by current safety standards, was able to provide a euphoric feeling when resting my arm upon its top. Grasping a large diameter steering wheel is enjoyable, but ones arm does need a break. These seats are fantastic.
Sometimes talents can be well cloaked. Many uninformed persons might think this old Galaxie has fuel economy measured in gallons per mile. This perception could not be further from reality. Up until the time the lead picture was taken, I had purchased fuel four times with quantities of up to about twelve gallons for the Galaxie’s twenty gallon tank. My fuel economy ranged from a low of 15.5 mpg for my stressful blast through Arkansas to a high of 20.9 mpg for the entirely two-lane first leg of my trip. Several other FE Series engine owners I talked to in Tupelo weren’t surprised with this economy. I had adjusted the timing prior to my departure and the carburetor was overhauled about 18 months ago. Keep your foot out of it and it’ll pay you dividends.
A calculated engine speed of 2,100 rpm at 70 mph is certainly a help. As a cohort said, overdrive rocks.
Overdrive isn’t the only thing that rocks. Going to see the country always rocks, as does finding those interesting little slices of life such as the population center of the United States.
A road that was under six feet of water two years ago.
Stonehenge….in Missouri. With engineering students having been the craftsmen, it’s a surprise it wasn’t made from concrete.
Homes in the beautiful and historic town of Corinth, Mississippi.
Even the famous Bloody Pond from the Battle of Shiloh.
Traveling alone and without electronic detritus allows opportunity for introspection and review of ones choices in life. With great hesitation I present to you Cairo (pronounced Care-Oh), Illinois, the county seat for the county where I grew up. It’s far from what it used to be. I haven’t been here in at least fifteen years.
Cairo has a distinct literary connection. Charles Dickens visited Cairo in 1842, calling it a disease infested backwater and would be the basis for Eden in his novel Martin Chuzzlewit; Cairo was also the intended destination for Jim and Huckleberry Finn in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Perhaps Dickens’ words were overly harsh, but Cairo is a study of opportunity lost. Sitting at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, Cairo has river, rail, and interstate access yet nobody is looking at this area for any type of commercial endeavor despite its prime location.
Maybe Cairo is opportunity squandered. There is the decades old rumor either Ford or GM wanted to build a factory here just after World War II but the locals would have nothing of it. There have been repercussions of sorts as Cairo had a population of over 15,000 in 1920; when I graduated high school in 1990 it had a population of 4,800 that dwindled to 2,600 by 2013.
The reasons for its decline are many and sordid. This building once housed the third busiest post office in the United States. Times certainly change.
Yet here Cairo is in all it’s unsavory decay, with this glum looking theatre….
Sitting next door to the Chamber of Commerce. Traveling broadens ones mind and adjusts perspectives. Growing up twenty miles away I never frequented Cairo, yet it is indicative of much of Alexander County – how many other counties have had their patrol cars repossessed? I moved away in 1992 and the Galaxie left here in 1994; this was its first time back. Neither of us was happy to see what’s happened.
Life often reflects what you make of it.
All this meandering leads me back to what I made of the situation with my exceedingly annoying water pump. Having left my grandparent’s house south of Scott City, Missouri, bright and early, I opted to forego the scenic route for the interstate. Calling Mrs. Jason upon my impending departure, I told her my little internal voice was telling me to stay where there was phone reception.
Making it to St. Louis, I marveled at how well the old Ford was running. I jinxed myself; a mere half-hour later, on I-64 west of the Missouri River, the unmistakeable smell of engine coolant suddenly emerged. It was quickly accompanied by an engine with an elevated temperature and a high pitched whine. Hitting a thankfully close exit ramp, I engaged the clutch and shut off the engine. Upon stopping, steam wafted from the wheel well and from under the hood. It wasn’t much, but enough to know it was time to re-evaluate my game plan.
My collector car insurance had offered me roadside service with fifty miles of free towing and prorated it for the remainder of my term. It was $8. My first call was to Mrs. Jason’s parents, who were twenty-six miles away. They were home and had a car I could borrow. If this mechanical foible was going to happen, it couldn’t have been at a more opportune place.
When loading the Galaxie onto the rollback, coolant was dripping heavily from the bottom of the water pump. I had a good time talking to the operator, but as I told him, I had not intended to meet him.
I did learn his truck has 420,000 miles and is motivated by an untouched General Motors built 8.1 liter gasoline fueled V8.
Upon unloading the Galaxie at my in-laws house, I moved it to a better spot. It ran just fine doing so, indicating to me any engine damage is doubtful.
I had not intended for my return trip to be in my father-in-law’s 1992 Chrysler LeBaron. I showered it with attention in it’s own CC (here) sometime ago. It is powered by a 3.0 liter Mitsubishi V6 mated to one of Chrysler’s Ultradrive automatics. Other than having some rather narrow tires, the car is a blast to cruise in.
Call me lucky. And call this saga unfinished.