…and only one pair of shoes.
“Hello, my name is Rex. Oh! Next to me is my “cup holder,” Jeanine, wife of 49 years—plus three years of dating in high school.”
That is how we started out a letter to the mayoral offices of the sixteen cities. We were hopefully spending one night and part of one day at each of those cities during our trek from Santa Monica, CA, to Jacksonville Beach, FL, and back again in our 1962 MGA.
In this letter we asked two questions: What is the one place we should visit, and where is the one place we should enjoy our evening meal? We wanted to make our short stay a memorable one. To our amazement 13 of the 16 responded.
We dined on burgers, steaks, chops, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. We ate fried food, baked food, steamed food, bar-b-que food, and even “Shut the Cluck-up” spicy chicken. Some of the food was good, some of it great, and some of it so-so. Our rating had nothing to do with the quality; it was about what we liked, didn’t like and what foods we were raised on. If they took the time to respond to us then we dined where they suggested. We ate in a diner, beside a river, under the stars while listening to live Cajun music, pizza in our hotel room, at a historic Harvey House and at a 150-year-old steak house. None were better, none were worse, and all were different.
We saw a gun that killed an outlaw member of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. Toured an experiment in extended space travel that included a one million gallon ocean with a living reef. We climbed into caverns. We visited memorials to fallen heroes and innocent victims, both bringing tears to our eyes. We saw historical places and locations, sandy white beaches and blue/green oceans. Walked into buildings dating back to the 1700’s. We strolled trails and famous streets. We saw blue sky, swamps, deserts, tree lined freeways, and snow topped mountains to rolling green hills. We gathered Route 66 memories and witnessed places that inspired the “Cars” movie. We saw wealthy neighborhoods and humble abodes. We went from sea level to over 7,500 feet. (If your SU carburetors are tuned for sea level they don’t like 7,000 feet.)
We did all this with the top down and at 60 MPH. You can see, but you can’t hear with the top down. With the top up the results are the same. Plus, it still leaks in the rain as others will no doubt also attest. Did you know putting in the side windows succeeds in making the inside of the car hot and steamy, while fogging the windscreen?
During our planning we used the internet to contact as many British car clubs as we could, prepared to request for assistance should a major issue arise. This had minimal and limited success, as many of the published lists are outdated, obsolete, incomplete, or had web addresses that were nonexistent. Those that we were able to reach were very receptive (what a relief). Thankfully we never needed help. [Please do check your club listing here. If updates are needed, fill out this form. Thank you! ~Ed.]
We also contacted parts suppliers and publications. One of them, Jim Howe of Hemmings Motor News, gave us this advice, “If it goes around, moves up and down, or in and out, it is subject to failure.” So we filled the trunk up with parts and tools.
Not sure if it was dumb luck or if my limited mechanical abilities are better than I think, but we only had one issue. I lost a nut on a bolt holding one air cleaner on, letting the thing fall down and thus choking out the engine. This happened less than 100 miles out on our first day. Bad omen, we thought. This led us to find what must be the only auto parts store in the world that not only didn’t have a 5/16” nut, but also no ¼” nut and bolt about one and a half inches long. Thank you zip ties. We had a rock (out of nowhere) put a chip in the windshield on day two. And at some point a rear brake cylinder started to leak. We used 1 quart of oil, ½ pint transmission oil, and about 1/3 of a pint of brake fluid. Also topped off the carbs twice with oil. All-in-all, we felt pretty darn good about all that. Joseph Lucas smiled down on us.
Planning this voyage took over a year of research and discussion. Along with arguing, routing, planning—and plenty of doubts and questions regarding my sanity on the part of my “cup holder.” But, once she saw the silliness of her trying to confuse the issue with facts, she got on board and there was more discussion, routing, arguing and planning where to spend the night, places for gasoline, side trips, pee stops. As far as hotels, we opted for a chain that offered free (right!) breakfasts with your stay. That way it saved one argument a day. Our route east pretty much followed interstate 10, exiting when we could find a side road. And west we followed 40, again getting off to see the sites.
I must admit, Jeanine did all of the route planning. I washed the car. She arranged all the hotel bookings, called restaurants for dress standards, and asked if reservations were needed. She checked if museums were open the day when we were passing by. She used internet map sites, AAA and their “Trip Tik” service and called friends and family of friends that knew people along our trip. She discovered which hotels had laundry service and made sure we had change and detergent to wash clothes every fourth day. Tip money for the maid and breakfast staff she also handled. (Don’t forget those people, they work very hard for not much money). I put gas in the car.
And that brings us back to that One Pair of Shoes. Now you don’t have to be a car lover to know MGs are small. And if that small car’s trunk is full of unneeded parts and tools, that leaves you only the luggage rack for clothing. On a trip like this you are not going to attend any gala balls or theater houses. Fancy late night dining will not be an option, because you need to get up early the next morning to stay on schedule. The people (women) that see you in that outfit and SHOES today will be a memory tomorrow, so don’t worry about them. We packed five pair of socks, five pair of underwear, five t-shirts (hers depicting her work, mine depicting California sites that would make the locals we encountered envious), and two pair of pants. One swimming suit. And yes. Only ONE pair of shoes…..or so I thought. Upon arrival at our first stop, and after a needed large glass of wine, we were dressing for a quick dip in the pool when out popped thongs. Really! We had agreed to only one pair of shoes. The female of us had reluctantly agreed on this, but she agreed nonetheless. She had lied. But, “No,” she protests, “thongs are not shoes.” Really? Thongs are shoes, I argue, just like those other thongs I bought you years ago were underwear. I lost that long ago argument also.
Here are some random thoughts about our trip:
No matter what state you drive through you are going to encounter the twits in their monster trucks with oversized knobby tires that want to race past you at 100-plus MPH. MORONS!
Like “The 59th Street Bridge” song says, “Slow down, you’re movin’ too fast. You got to make the Morning Last.” This is not a race, this is not a rally and you may never be this way again. Can’t stress enough about enjoying a slow pace, the sound of your engine and “getting off the beaten path.”
Take time to appreciate all the attention you and your car get. Listen to each and every story from each and every person. Even when they run-on about their past “drives.” They do envy what you are doing and just want to be part of your ride.
Go with someone you LIKE, as least as much as you love. You are going to be together 24 hours every day, except for that 10 minutes of alone time in the facilities each morning. Your mate will probably be pounding on the door because they want in. So you’ll still be hearing their voice. And if you’re in a two seater, you will be touching body parts all day long.
When driving down a freeway, even at 60 MPH the navigator should only use the word “right” as a direction. Any other usage may take you down an unfamiliar (like everything else isn’t) road. Also, when telling the driver to exit at “Exit 15C”, remember B, C, D, & E sound alike with the roar of diesel trucks whizzing past. Again offering the possibility of exploring sites you had not planned to see.
When you leave your neighborhood you will now be the one with the funny accent. They all speak normal.
The South is humid and your medications will stick together, trust me!
There are places you can’t buy wine on Sunday, and there are gas stations with tubs full of 32oz canned beer iced down. Really!!!
By Rex Wanless
Mayors and Our Recommendations
Santa Monica, CA – Eats: Blue Plate Taco, Blue Plate Oysterette, Site: Santa Monica Pier.
TEMPE, AZ – Eats: House of Tricks, Site: Tempe Town Lake, (ours) Biosphere2, Oracle, AZ.
LAS CRUSES, NM Eats: La Posta de Mesilla, Site: Old Town Mesilla.
Sonora, TX – Eats: Sutton County Steakhouse, Site: Sonora Caverns, The Ice House Ranch Museum.
San Antonio, TX – (ours) Eats: County Line on the Riverwalk, Site: Alamo, Riverwalk
Lafayette, LA) Eats: Café Vermilion Courtyard, The Blue Moon, Site: Atchafalya Basin Swamp Tour.
New Orleans LA – Eats: Deanie’s Seafood, Gumbo Shop, Site: WWII Museum.
Panama City Beach, FL Eats: Uncle Ernie’s in St. Andrews, Site: Beach, St. Andrews Marina.
Jacksonville Beach, FL – (ours) Eats: Blind Rabbit, Site: Beach
McDonough, GA – Eats: anywhere downtown, Site: Downtown (known as the Geranium City)
Nashville, TN Eats: Hattie B’s Hot Ck, Site: The Hermitage, Music City, downtown Nashville.
Little Rock, AR – (ours) Clinton Library and grounds.
Oklahoma City, OK – Eats: Cattlemen’s Restaurant, Mahogany Prime Steak House, Mickey Mantle Steak House, Cheevers Café, Site: Oklahoma National Memorial and Museum.
Winslow AZ, – Eats: Turquoise Room (La Posada Hotel), Site: Standin’ on the Corner Park.
Kingman, AZ – Eats: Mattina’s Ristorante Italiano, DamCafe, Site: Historic Kingman Powerhouse.