Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hot Rod Power Tour 2015: The Sunny Days

Monday morning, we woke up to see the skies starting to clear and hot rods all over the parking lot.  I felt a little bad for the guy with the Cobra kit car, but he said his cover held most of it out.  We packed up and headed out for Madison, IL (just across the river from St. Louis).  We stayed with the main group for a while, but it started getting thin, and we wound up taking a wrong turn and following a sweet '74 Dart with a slant 6 and homemade seat A/C.  The route basically cut he corner, and we both stopped for gas at a Casey's where we also found a few cars from one of the booths laid up for some roadside checks and tweaks.

It was interesting to talk to the guy with the Dart because he was riding solo.  He was also doing Power Tour the fun way.  He had bought a $1200 wrong motor, wrong year Dart and messed with the paint a little, built cool suit-style seat A/C, threw on some rims and tires, and went on a road trip.  After a few minutes of talking, his tank was full, and we went to check out the booth cars.  We got back on the road, and he went straight while we hit the interstate to meet back up with the group and Brad, whom we hadn't met on Tour yet.

Shot that evening at Gateway Motorsports Park
Back on track, we found the group in full force.  It was about another 45 minutes before we found Brad on the roadside waiting for us.  He apparently had stopped to fix some wiring on the shoulder and just stayed there until we met up with him.  We drove the rest of the day in tandem to Gateway Motorsports Park in not St. Louis.  It was a fun cruise through the back roads and Americana of southern Illinois, but I was a little bummed when his car was on the website and mine wasn't the next day.

I went to upload the shot, and found I didn't have it on the computer, so I went to look online.  I didn't find it, but I found another one.  Brad: 2  Me: 0.  (Well, 1, if you count Summer Nats.)
It was a much better show in not St. Louis than in Champagne.  It was sunny and nice and there was a huge turn out.  The drive to get there was shorter too which meant we got there earlier.  They had drag racing going on, and afterward, they had a sweet burnout contest.  We had an awesome view for that.  As the sun began to set, we drove our cars onto the oval track and took some pictures at the start/finish line and in the winner's circle.  Happy and hungry, we left the venue and began the hunt for dinner.

The only time this will ever happen...

We saw the arch as we drove across the river and through downtown.  We also same some Power Tour vehicles including the Short Bus.  Slowly but surely, we found a nice little pub to eat at, and after some good food and good socializing, we parted ways.  Brad would go on to Memphis with the group and eventually Long Haul (do the whole trip), but being cheap, my brother and I had to head back to work the day after the next day, so we went home the next day.

We left the bar, about a mile south of downtown St. Louis, and went to our motel for the night.  Our previous night's accommodations were quite nice both in amenities and price, but I learned after we had gotten back that my brother decided, since it was just him and me, that we didn't need anything special as far as hotels were concerned.  His method for choosing our places to stay can be summed up in three clicks on an online search: town we were in, sort by price low to high, top listing.  He is now banned from booking housing for future trips.

I almost didn't see it when we drove there.
His method landed us in the De Lux Motel in Alorton, IL.  I just looked it up on Google Maps to see what town it was in, and when it came up as an option on the map, it literally showed "Delux Motel $37."  We drove through the night air as the city turned to industrial which gave way to abandoned which in turn faded into residential (whether or not the residential was abandoned is still unsure).  I kept thinking about how I finally had my car together and working well, and now someone is gonna steal it or my fancy wheels while I sleep.  We drove past a cable company who has a fence with barbed wire and key-code access for their fleet of work vans, and I really hoped our hotel would look the same.  We got there, and I was happy to see a wall.

Office side
I drove in and saw it was a drive-up motel.  I didn't know our room number, so I turned around and parked in the no parking area in front of the office door.  We went inside to check in, and as we came in the door, the worker was joking with us that he thought we were going to drive through the door (because, apparently, this must be a common occurrence in his neighborhood).  We couldn't understand him at first because he was a bit muffled... by bulletproof glass.  This seemed to lend credibility to the previous statement.  We had some confusion with the payment of the room at first, but eventually, we got it squared away, and he slid our metal key under the window.  A metal key.  We started to walk toward the door when he called us back and put two bottles of orange juice in the pass-through next to the bulletproof glass.  As we walked to our room outside, we realized that they were our continental breakfast.

Our room side
We opened the door to a hideously painted room that smelled like old, stuffy house and smoke.  Our no smoking room had cigarette burns in the sheets and the bathroom smelled like pot.  I asked how much he paid for this room, and he told me "$45, but $3 of that is tax, and $5 is a refundable key deposit" to which we laughed again at the metal key.  I made a point of going to bed sooner rather than later because the less I knew I was there, the better my mind would be.  Meanwhile, my brother looked at our intended route for the next day (follow the Mississippi as much as we could until we turned for home.  He noticed just how close we were to Ferguson, MO, in my black, police-ish-looking Crown Vic only a short while from when they were having all the riots and protests about the cops killing somebody for some reason that I never really paid attention to.  He just went ahead and told me about that realization the next week.

On a side note, my friend Brad had a similar experience the following night in Memphis.  He told me a few weeks later that he got to his motel and realized he was the only white guy in probably five miles.  He always carries concealed, so he wasn't concerned about his safety, but his pieced together ragtop Firebird was a different story.  He was brighter than I was, though.  Knowing his car could easily be entered with a simple knife, he unplugged the ignition coil and removed the fuse for the fuel pump.  This and 15 9mm rounds on his nightstand gave him a good night's sleep while his car waited patiently six feet outside his door.  I, on the other hand, kept picturing my car with no wheels and tires (my brand new tires at $150/ea and another $140/ea to replace my wheels) and hood open with no coil packs ($60/ea and held on by one screw).

I love small towns.
Great view from the windshield

Morning came with no incident, thankfully, and we shoved off Milwaukee bound.  We had a great drive along the river and through some back country with beautiful scenes and fun, twisty roads.  I was enjoying the day so much, I didn't even pull out my camera, except for my phone for a couple cool cars for sale on the roadside.  In the end, I dropped my brother off and got home happy as can be, hooked on Power Tour and wondering when I'd be able to do it again.  Sadly, this year I was short on cash and I had conflicts on the nearby days, and if all goes as planned, next Summer I'll be in the Great White North, but I have a plan.  My goal is for their 25th anniversary (in three years), I want to abscond with my '64 Fairlane wagon (currently owned by my mechanic) and take that on Tour, preferably with a fresh overdrive automatic, new floor, and some taller gears out back.  There's some more maintenance things that will need to happen because it only ever sits, but I have faith that in two years of tinkering, we'll be able to get it done.  Fingers crossed.

Bought this when I was 17 for $500!
My mechanic got it in a crap deal when I wrecked my daily and had no money to pay for repairs.
See more pictures here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hot Rod Power Tour 2015: Everything You Hoped It Would Be... Plus Tornados!

This week was Hot Rod Power Tour 2016.  Billed as "the world's largest road trip," Hot Rod Magazine sponsors this giant week-long drive from town to town with big car shows at the destination for each day.  This year was the 22nd running of the Power Tour, and the route went from last year's ending spot in Gulfport, MS, to Kansas City (where they'll start next year).  It's an awesome experience to see all these hordes of classic cars on the road together, but I didn't have enough money to go this year.  I did, however, go last year, and since I never told you about that, I'll reminisce this year on how much fun we had last year.

In Madison, IL
Power Tour was one of my two big highlights for the summer of 2015 (which I dubbed "Charlie's Automotive Summer").  I had planned it out so I could do the most car-related things and the coolest car related things over the course of the summer.  There were several cool shows that I attended, but my favorites were Power Tour and Car Craft Summer Nationals.

A good grouping in Madison, WI
I had been looking forward to Power Tour and Summer Nats for quite some time, and I did a lot to prepare for it.  My brother tagged along for Power Tour, and within the first 50 miles, we were both hooked.  Through the four days we drove, he kept asking me what my ultimate Power Tour car would be.  The deal was, I paid for registration and gas, and he'd cover hotels.  Food would be dutch.  This wasn't the best call...

Day one was a day-long kickoff party in Madison, WI.  There were tons of cars to see and vendors with products and project cars to wander through.  There was also an autocross course which I really wanted to partake in, but they all told me I shouldn't do it on the first day.  (We had met up with some friends who couldn't go on the driving portion.)  We all went for a drive in my friend's '48 Plymouth and then found some amazing pizza.  We parted ways and went home for the night.  We had a great day seeing everything in the lot up close, but we really wanted to see them on the highway, and tomorrow, we drive!

Madison was fun, and a taste of what Summer Nats would be.
We got up really early the next morning.  With our Power Tour and Roadkill stickers installed, we headed out into a rainy day of two-lane and suburb driving.  We got close to the starting point about the time they were supposed to be setting off, so we decided to stay on the road and meet them in route.  Already we had started seeing cool cars on the road.  Once we got off the interstate and onto the true route, they were everywhere.  I was blown away by the vast number and high variety of cars on Tour.

Displayed outside of Heidt's Performance.
You can see signs of the burnout from the day before all the way up to the body line!

This was a participant sitting outside of Heidt's
We stopped at the morning's hospitality and lunch stop at Heidt's Performance.  We actually were in the same shop tour group as Freiberger and Finnegan.  That was pretty cool.  That night we saw the Hot Rod Staff Suburban.  Sadly, Heidt's is a bit too far into the greater Chicagoland area, so we wound up driving a good two hours through Chicago suburb traffic before we were released back into country two-lanes.  The views were flat but beautiful.

Saw this on the side of the road.

The closer we got to the night's show I'm Champagne, IL, the more menacing the clouds looked.  They had been chasing us all day, but as we got to the venue, it seemed like a repeat of the previous year's trip to Indiana.  Threat of tornado, flash floods, major rain, and possible hail had the vendors packing up early.  We did see Elana Scherr and Wes Allison from Hot Rod snapping pics for the magazine.  We retreated soon afterward with everyone else and got some food.  There was a nearby Texas Roadhouse, and it was the perfect choice for dinner then off to our hotel.

Things in boothes in Madison, WI 

The Blasphemy
Soon to be Autocrossed
The Draguar
There were a couple of sweet Vettes outside the Texas Roadhouse.

Might've only taken them with my phone, but they look good.
My friend, Brad, had also gone on Power Tour with his '91 Firebird convertible, and he had been working for quite a while to make it Tour-worthy as well.  One of the things he had done was new floor pans, but he didn't have time to finish all the welds before leaving.  Like us, he found some pretty nasty puddles on the way to his hotel that night.  Under one bridge inparticular, there was so much water that he was unsure if he should or would be able to cross it.  He waded in looking for sink holes, but with the holes in the floor and his pcm on the floor temporarily, when he felt the car start to float half-way through, he gunned it to get out and still be drivable.  For how wet it was that night, it was beautiful and sunny for the next two days we were on Tour.  Those days will come next time.

Cars from Champagne

I love this wagon.

This is a guy who Ice Races locally about 8 miles from my house... and I saw him in Champagne, IL
This guy built this thing himself, all custom!