When Paul mentioned a CC Meetup in Nashville, Tennessee, Mrs. Jason was able to put my biggest uncertainty to rest. It was her recommendation I take the Galaxie.
After my last real road trip just over a year ago to Tupelo, Mississippi, and the resultant suicide of my water pump, I was a bit hesitant. But life is short and I should have more fun with my car. So I aired up the tires, grabbed my spare parts and tools, and got fresh gasoline. That was pretty much the extent of my preparation. Sometimes throwing caution to the wind is somewhat uplifting.
Well, I did also buff the paint on the horizontal surfaces. With the car having been repainted in 1990, I didn’t want to be hasty and opted to wait until the paint was good and dry. It still doesn’t look great, but it is smoother to the touch and water will now bead on the surface. You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.
The route from Jefferson City to Nashville is just over 440 miles. This is the route I took.
For those outside the United States, here’s a more macroscopic view of my 440 mile drive.
The weather had been nice and warm leading up to my departure on June 18 – it had only been 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 degrees C) the day before I left. Wanting to avoid the heat, I backed out of my garage at 5:55 am. It worked out beautifully for hitting rush hour in the St. Louis area.
The old Galaxie was generally at or just above her sweet spot on the interstate at 70 to 75 mph. An online calculator reveals that for its gearing and tire size my engine speed is right at 2,000 rpm at 70 mph, an engine speed quite atypical of many 1960s era cars traveling this velocity. Despite this low engine speed, she just seems happiest at around 65 to 70 mph – or maybe its just me noticing new rattles at speeds exceeding 70 mph, primarily the one that sounded life a muffled alarm clock.
Thankfully the weather was still a cool 70 F (21.1 C) when I left. Having only the floor vents and wing window open for several hours, there were a few times I was almost chilled from the temperature of the incoming air. Perhaps I’m warm natured, but if I was moving I never got hot. Of course, I did drink 96 ounces (2.84 liters) of fluids on the way down.
St. Louis traffic was the typical rush hour I’ve experienced in most cities, where speeds yo-yo for a while with the typical summertime construction throwing a spitball at consistent progress. Therein lies my most memorable time of all.
I was hanging out in the slow lane, keeping up with traffic, seeing no need to slug it out with the cars in the other lanes. As I’m percolating along, with four filled to capacity lanes to the left of me and a concrete jersey barrier to the right, the Impala in front of me is suddenly on its brakes so hard the front bumper is nearly touching the ground.
Have you ever had multiple thoughts, all perfectly formed, blast through your mind in about three microseconds? I did. And, as I stood on the brake pedal to activate the four drum brakes in my nearly two ton chariot, all I could think of is the old comedian’s line of “in a time like this, if you say it, you’re likely to do it.” While I did say it, that was all that happened.
I keep this poor man’s console in the seat next to me. It’s great for holding my drink, my camera, my insurance card, my phone, and other miscellaneous items, such as my mini-flashlights. I spent all of about $5 for the materials and it works like a charm.
Yet, as I’m standing on the brakes, its momentum propels it onto the floor. Of course it falls onto the driver’s side of the transmission hump. The floor is suddenly covered with everything my console contained and it’s all around my feet. Quickly grabbing first gear, I take off again.
I have very little throttle. Why?
As seen in this dramatic recreation, one of my flashlights has jammed itself under the accelerator pedal. As I’m slooooooowwwwllllyyyy taking off, feeling like I’m backing up St. Louis traffic the 230 miles to Kansas City, I calmly look for an interchange. This event happened on I-64 just west of I-270 – nearly two miles later Spoede Road appears, the first interchange I can access. A quick stop allows for removal of the mischievous flashlight.
The rest of the trip was uneventful in regards such as this. And my drum brakes worked fabulously for this panic stop.
As I had left early, and wasn’t picking up Paul at the Nashville airport until 3:45 Central Time, I figured I could make an occasional stop and still stay at or just below the speed limit. Thankfully I-57 in southern Illinois has a bit more varied scenery than it does in northern Illinois. I also grew up in this area, meaning there wasn’t anything new for me to see. But it’s always good to see old friends.
Such as Superman. The town of Metropolis, Illinois, has developed quite the cottage industry in having the same name as Superman’s city of residence.
While there is a slight difference in population (Metropolis, Illinois has a population of around 6,600 people) that hasn’t stopped this Superman from being placed on the lawn of the Massac County Courthouse.
It seemed appropro; Superman and a super car. Or that’s my opinion, anyway.
Leaving Metropolis, I crossed the Ohio River on I-24, heading for Paducah, Kentucky. While it was only about fifteen minutes away, I wanted to make another stop.
White Haven is the Welcome Center to the State of Kentucky. A old mansion in Paducah, it was converted into a rest area by the state in 1983. It’s quite an impressive house.
It’s also where my alter ego Louis Broderick incinerated a few bad apples in the parking lot.
The rest of my trip to Nashville was completely uneventful. Deciding to stop for fuel just west of Nashville, at the end of the exit ramp I found myself behind a Chevrolet pickup that had been purchased at the Chevrolet dealer here in Jefferson City. Since it was so far from home, I approached the passenger after they stopped at the same station, asking if they lived in Jefferson City. I learned they live a half-hour north of me, but the wife was unbelievably rude. Oh well.
Paul’s plane was due to arrive at 3:45 and I arrived at the terminal around 3:35. Figuring I had arrived early, I aimed for a short term parking spot in the terminal. The pickup area was covered and quite dark with my eyes adjusted to the sunny outside. Thankfully, I quickly spotted Paul and his broad grin. Cutting in front of a Chrysler minivan, I pull up curbside for him. The timing was great – he had got off his plane and had been waiting all of three minutes. Quite a good sign of things to come.
That night we visited the Frist Center for Visual Arts where we got to see all kinds of good things, such as one of the few remaining Chrysler Turbine cars. This is the second one I’ve seen.
There was also this 1952 Lancia. It’s easy to see where GM got their inspiration of the rear of the 1970s era Cadillac Eldorado.
Saturday we attended the Lane Motor Museum. It defies simple description. Doing it justice is tough to do in only one article. Sensory overload was the theme for the day.
Sunday morning was like awakening with a hangover, such was the onslaught of overwhelmingly wonderful cars at the Lane. After breakfast and a spin in the Galaxie with Paul and JPC, I fired up the Galaxie for my trip back.
Taking Briley Parkway past the Grand Ole Opry, I continued toward I-24 West. Soon after JPC passed me, he veered toward I-65 while I exited for I-24. As soon as I exited I saw this blue Cadillac Eldorado convertible in the distance. With all the successful musicians coming from Nashville, seeing this Eldorado seemed natural for some reason, like seeing a time warp from forty years ago.
I followed this Cadillac to almost the Kentucky State Line.
With the interstate boring me to tears, and having decided to take a detour on the way back, I exited the interstate at Cadiz, Kentucky. I took US 68 west for some different scenery. It was a wise choice.
A few miles after getting on US 68, the old Galaxie just seemed to be happier. Being on a two-lane road is simply more her thing. She is a long-legged cruiser, but two-lane roads are her true love.
She loved the cruise along US 68 as its two lanes took us through the Land Between The Lakes National Recreational Area. Sitting between Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake, it was designated as a national recreation area by President Kennedy in 1963. Originally managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority, an entity created in 1933 that has 29 hydroelectric dams in multiple states, Land Between The Lakes is now operated by the United States Forest Service.
This area was originally formed by the narrow gap between the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.
It’s a great drive with a new bridge being built on the east side.
The bridge on the west side has been recently completed.
Going this way proved to be highly scenic – and fruitful. How so?
This 1949 Plymouth was within eyeshot of…
This 1950 Chevrolet.
In Aurora, Kentucky, I spotted this 1963 Ford.
They make quite the pair, do they not? Both have manual transmissions.
My true intent in going this way was to visit my maternal grandparents. I realize I’m quite fortunate to be forty-three years old and still have three living grandparents. However, as I told Paul and JPC, things have worked in my favor as I’m the firstborn of two firstborns and there is longevity in my family. Knowing these opportunities won’t last forever, I aimed for just south of Scott City, Missouri to visit “Iris” and “Albert”.
For whatever reason, I wanted pictures of the Scott County Courthouse where Mrs. Jason and I obtained our marriage license many moons ago.
I’ve written about my maternal grandparents numerous times but it was only during my early days of being involved with CC. I’ve hesitated about writing more as I was concerned my presentations of them could be construed in a negative light which has never been the intent. Both are quite comfortable with who they are and are quite wise in the ways of the world, even with contemporary times being so vastly different than when they came of age in the Great Depression. They also tend to be outspoken, but not in an off-putting manner.
They are like two sides of the same coin, so alike yet so different, which could explain their seventy year marriage.
My grandfather, now 92, suffers only from high blood pressure and mild loss of eyesight. My grandmother, at 89, has a pacemaker and has become quite hard of hearing. Both are as mentally sharp as ever, do not have the shaky voices many elderly people acquire, and Grandpa has a record of accurately predicting the course of both family and political events. I suspect a good portion of their mental acuity can be attributed to their constant (and good natured) verbal jousting.
As I parked the Galaxie in the driveway, my grandmother stepped out the back door to greet me – which is exactly what she has done for as long as I can remember. I suddenly felt five years old again and rather enjoyed it.
Stepping into the house, Grandpa looked out the window. “Oh, I see you drove that car again. Isn’t it the one with the bad water pump? I just told your dad I wouldn’t trust that son of a bitch to go into town.” That’s his way of saying he was impressed with what I was doing.
We talked about a whole host of things, from family to politics to my genetically arthritic hands to nighttime urination. The last item was a source of contention between them during my last visit. It seems plastic coffee cans make wonderful chamber pots since metal ones rust quickly. Grandma is not fond of this repurposing of household items; I got this impression during my last visit upon Grandpa walking outside and Grandma muttering “him and his damn piss buckets. If he sees a coffee can all he wants to do is piss in it.”
Grandpa asked me how old I am. When I disclosed the magic number, his comment was pure him. “Damn, Jason, you’re getting old.” He then waxed philosophical.
“People talk about the ‘golden years’. That’s bullshit. There is nothing golden about them. Growing old isn’t easy and not for the faint of heart. I’m 92, but people seem to forget I’m a grown adult. I’ve had to get a little bullheaded lately.”
“Uh, Grandpa,” I said, “you’ve always been bullheaded.”
“Yeah, I know but I’ve had to step it up a notch since everyone keeps wanting to tell me what to do. Maybe I don’t want to do what they are telling me – it’s still my life. I’ve lived a long life and know what I do and don’t want. I get tired of being old equating to being stupid – most forget that maybe a person might be tired of living and I’ve seen that many times. I’ll make my own decisions. I’ve been supporting myself since I was thirteen years old, so I know what works best for me and I’ll know when I can no longer do things for myself. Growing old is full of indignity. Nobody should have the rest of their dignity taken away by constantly being told what to do.”
The next morning drove this point home. Grandma asked me how I wanted my eggs and what I wanted to drink. Keeping on task, she turned away as I was answering her. Grandpa was standing nearby and called my name. Shaking his head, he said “Jason, she can’t hear you.” Losing the ability to interact with others in the manner you’ve always done is but a single assault on one’s dignity.
I thought about this a lot for my drive home. It was another reminder to enjoy the moment as today is in the midst of the good old days.
This trip also allowed me to revisit the good old days from nearly two decades ago and enjoy the landscape. It changes considerably between Scott City and Jefferson City.
The segment of US 61 I drove toward Ste. Genevieve runs parallel to the Mississippi River and has nice rolling terrain.
Ste. Genevieve was founded in 1735 and is the oldest European settlement in Missouri (plus I suspect several other states). Sitting on the Mississippi River, the oldest buildings in town, such as the Jean-Baptiste Valle house, were built during Spanish rule in the late 1700’s and are built in what has been described as a French Creole Colonial style.
Robert Moore, a Ste. Genevieve native, founded the small town of Linn City, a now extinct town in Clackamas County, Oregon. The Pacific Northwest influence sure seems to permeate so many things at CC!
Continuing further west and north, there are the old lead mines near Farmington and Park Hills.
Continuing on two-lane highways, the scenery changed again as seen here between Steelville and Cuba. The red on the road is granite.
It changes again by the time one is between Linn and Jefferson City.
This was a great trip, with a number of key observations about life, other people, and traveling in an old car.
Observation One: People in pickups tend to be more appreciative of old cars. Be it the body builder in the tank top driving a Tahoe near St. Louis, the young guys just north of Nashville in the Dodge Ram from Massachusetts, or the guy in the backseat of the Toyota Tundra who hung his top half out the window, driving the Ford generated an abundance of thumbs-up signals from those in pickups.
Observation Two: Driving an old car like the Galaxie keeps one engaged. I had no radio, no air-conditioning, and only my thoughts to keep me company. I was mentally alert the entire time. Conversely, the day after I returned I made a 150 mile trip in the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado I am assigned at work. With air, a radio, and not having to think about what gear I’m in, it is literally a point-and-shoot experience. I was drowsy within fifty miles. This is not a good thing and it makes me wonder if driving while drowsy can be attributed to vehicles currently being produced having a rather uninvolved driving experience.
Observation Three: Concrete produces louder tire noise than does asphalt. Truck tires are really loud on concrete (especially when there are flat spots on the trailer tires) with compact cars being a close second. The “monster truck” pickups that so many people gripe about were some of the quietest. With the window down, and these tires just a few feet away, it is easy to discern patterns of tire noise.
Observation Four: Old cars don’t necessarily get crummy fuel mileage. When on the road, I consistently realized 18 to 19 miles per gallon, which is very good for what this car is. Overdrive helps, as does keeping my foot out of the throttle. Driving around town or jamming the accelerator, such as when I had to blast through a rough gore point at an interchange when Paul and JPC were aboard, does take a toll at the pumps.
Observation Five: Everybody needs to make a trip (or holiday) like this, even if it’s with a friend. It is an experience that I still don’t believe has been adequately described in just over 3,000 words.
Observation Six: This trip was 1,029.5 miles. While I’m in no hurry to make a similar trip, I will eagerly do so again.
This road trip happened without drama and without incident, prompting me to think about things ranging from tire noise to life itself. For that, I am quite thankful.