I just got back from a super cool road trip adventure in The 55.
My goal was to make it out to Colorado in time to watch my 10-year-old niece compete in the State Jiu-Jitsu Championships and I wanted to hit a few National Parks along the way.
Here’s the story:
I had just gotten back from hosting the inaugural C-10 Nationals at the Texas Motor Speedway on a Sunday.
I’ll post that story soon.
I had to work on Monday and I wanted to be in Colorado on Saturday to watch my niece.
After work I went to REI and bought the America the Beautiful National Parks annual pass.
For $80 you get an annual pass that lets you into all of the National Parks and lots of other BLM parks without having to pay again.
With my pass in hand, I went home, packed up The 55 and hit the sack.
I got up at 3:15am, showered and hit the road.
My odometer read 18,238 miles.
This was the perfect time of day to get some miles in, the road was wide open.
My first stop has always been Barstow to top off my gas tank before I hit the high desert.
The 76 station there was closed so I filled up at a Chevron.
After this road-trip I’ve learned that Barstow will no longer be a stop unless I need a Double-Double Animal Style.
The odometer in Barstow read 18,366 miles.
From Barstow I got on I-40 and headed East towards Kingman, AZ.
I was humming along when I saw a sign that read: “Historic Old Route 66 Next Exit” so I turned off.
The sun was just coming up over the horizon and we were the only ones out on the road.
The “Mother Road” – Route 66 – in my 1955 Chevy.
When I got to the end of Goffs Road I took 95 North into Nevada where I was so into my road-trip I forgot to “take the time to stop and smell the roses.”
We were eating up the road and I forgot to stop to take a picture of the “Welcome to Nevada” sign.
Oh well – I can always get the Nevada sign on the way back.
I cut across the bottom of Nevada and through Laughlin before I refueled at a 76 in Golden Valley, AZ.
Speaking of refueling, I always schedule my road trips on about how far I can go in between fuel stops.
My intention was to build The 55 to be able to go pretty much anywhere.
So years ago when I learned that CPP had a 29-gallon gas tank I ordered one and installed it.
It’s no fun running out of gas in the middle of nowhere, and 29 gallons gives me a pretty good range.
As I was looking for my first planned fuel stop at a 76 station in Golden Valley, AZ I got to thinking why do I go to 76 gas stations in the first place?
Here’s the answer, then I’ll continue my road trip story.
I’ve been a reader of Hot Rod Magazine since the 4thgrade and I’ve been a subscriber for almost as long.
I remember way back when Hot Rod used to do engine tests they’d always use Unocal 76 gasoline as the equalizer.
Where I grew up in Colorado we didn’t have any 76 stations around so I just went with what was the cheapest or most convenient.
When I moved to LA there were 76 stations everywhere and I thought if it’s good enough for Hot Rod Magazine to use in their test engines, it’s good enough for me to use in my engine, so I started using 76 gasoline.
I still do.
I got their credit card where I can earn a discount every month.
And a few weeks before my trip I got their app where it’ll help you locate one of their gas stations.
On the app I learned that it’s not only 76 stations that accept the credit card – it’s accepted at Phillips 66 and Conoco stations too.
Because of Hot Rod Magazine I use 76 gasoline – and Phillips 66 and Conoco.
And now I schedule my road trips around those gas stations that are accepted by the 76 credit card.
And, just so ya know, I’m not sponsored by 76 for writing any of this nor is anyone else paying me to write this, but I think it’s pretty nuts how I was influenced all those years ago.
Now back to my trip.
With a full tank of fuel we headed out onto The Old Route 66.
From Kingman to Seligman, AZ is Historic Old Route 66 – and I had never driven it.
I was just planning on driving it, but I was amazed at the reaction we got everywhere we went.
It started with this couple on a motorcycle.
The man driving gives me the thumbs up and the woman on the back is turned around in her seat pointing a selfie stick at me taking pictures and waving.
And they both had GoPro’s attached to their helmets.
Then the cars coming the other direction started waving and giving us thumbs up.
If you’re an old sap like me you’ll love Historic Old Route 66.
It’s sad to see all of the abandoned old businesses shuttered up and left for dead on the side of the road.
But they’re great for taking cool pictures.
The Frontier Motel in Peach Springs, AZ:
Seligman, Arizona – The Birthplace Of Historic Route 66.
I finished up in Ash Fork.
After Ash Fork you’re forced back on Interstate 40 for about 20 miles before you can exit again at Williams and pick up the 64 North up to the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park.
And because I had the America the Beautiful Pass, the $35 entrance fee was waived.
National Park number 1 – The Grand Canyon south rim.
I took Highway 64 all the way thru the south rim of the Grand Canyon stopping here and there for some photo ops.
From Highway 64 I went north on Highway 89 north to Page but not before I hit Horseshoe Bend.
It’s about a half a mile walk out to Horseshoe Bend.
And it’s worth it.
There’s no guard rails either so you can as close to the edge as you dare.
That little white spec in the water to my right is a boat!
After Horseshoe Bend, I found a Conoco station in Page and figured if I was heading out into the Arizona/Utah desert I might as well ‘er fill up.
And I did.
The odometer read 18,905 miles and I put in just under 21 gallons of gas.
That’s over 16 mpg.
The Holley Sniper EFI system was working great and giving me great fuel mileage.
You know you’re a Hot Rodder when 16mpg is good mpg.
After I cleaned the dead bugs off the windshield again I was on my way.
Bugs love The 55.
If all went as planned I’d make it through Monument Valley, Utah and on to Cortez, Colorado where I’d stop for the night.
Ever since I started driving I’ve always watched the temperature gauge.
And at nine miles outside of Page, AZ I noticed my analog coolant temperature gauge was running a little hotter than normal.
So I checked the LCD screen on my Holley Sniper EFI System and it was reading just a little warmer than normal too.
I figured it was just because we were going up a little grade.
So I pushed on it a little bit – you know, that faster you go the more air through the radiator, right?
Then I got a little whiff of coolant and noticed the analog gauge was 230 and the LCD was at 200.
That’s when I knew I had a problem.
I found a safe place, pulled over and popped the hood.
There was hissing and white smoke and coolant everywhere under the hood.
It was 4:45pm – there was no way I was gonna make it to Cortez, CO before sunset now.
Even the NAPA store in Page closed at 5pm.
Looks like it was time to stop and smell the roses.
After it cooled down enough to look things over I uncapped the radiator and added the three bottles of water I had just filled up at the Conoco station in Page.
The radiator took all three and showed no signs of being full.
It still started which was good, but I wasn’t sure what was wrong.
Funny thing is, the job I had on Monday was a voice-over for AAA.
I’m the AAA Spokesman for Northern California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Alaska.
Not only am I the spokesman for AAA in Arizona, but I’m also a member.
I gave ‘em a call and within an hour there was a guy with a flatbed wrecker who hooked me up and carried us back into town.
He dropped us off at the B&L Automotive parking lot which didn’t open again until 8:30am.
The sun was just going down and it was 80 degrees.
It was hot out but the tow truck driver told me where to find cold margaritas within walking distance from the parking lot I’d be staying at for the night.
I used some blankets and towels to cover up the windows.
After a quick once-over I crawled into the back of The 55 and shut the door.
I was surprised at how much room there was back there.
Even with all of my stuff I could still stretch all the way out without touching either end of the wagon.
I took a piece of cheap mattress foam I use as a sound deadener from my little make-shift voice-over studio at home and threw it in the back of The 55 to sleep on.
It’s actually pretty comfortable.
It was a beautiful, warm Arizona night.
I think the overnight low was 69 degrees.
I woke up with the sun, set up my folding chair next to the passanger side door and started looking over my proposed route on my AAA Road Atlas.
Just before B&L opened I heard a big-ass military looking K5 Blazer come roaring in and park next to the shop.
It’s a 79 Blazer with an 86 front clip, it’s painted a desert sand color, has a 572 under the hood and is riding on some big-ass tires.
It is a beast.
The owner is Chad who built the thing from the ground up and drives the heck out of it.
Turns out B&L was the right place to go – they even have Hot Rod Magazines in the waiting room.
After going over Chad’s Blazer I had to show him pictures of my old 72 K-5 Blazer.
After talking about cars for awhile, Chad filled The 55’s radiator with water and I started it up.
Almost immediately we saw water leaking out from the heater hose that goes into the intake manifold.
The leak was hidden by the AC Compressor and the hose had split right at the hose clamp.
I had never replaced the heater hoses since I owned the car.
I guess it’s a good idea to replace ’em every so often – especially if you drive your car a lot like I do.
Now I carry some spare 3/4 inch heater hose in the back of The 55.
After replacing the heater hose I was on my way.
I drove from Page to Kayenta then took the 163 north to Utah.
If it looks familiar it’s because 163 is where they shot scenes for the movies “Easy Rider” and “Forrest Gump.”
Aside from the movie references, it’s stunningly beautiful.
At one point I stopped taking pictures.
No one else was around.
It was silent.
Not a sound.
Aside from the occasional car driving by it was silent out there in the Utah desert.
From the reds of Monument Valley I made my way into colorful Colorado…
…And on to New Mexico and the Four Corners.
Ther Four Corners is the only place where four states come together – Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
After the Four Corners I drove up thru Cortez, Colorado and made my way to Mesa Verde National Park.
National Park number 2 – Mesa Verde.
If you’re a car-guy like me, the drive into Mesa Verde alone is worth the price of admission.
Oh yeah and I didn’t have to pay $35 to get into Mesa Verde because of my pass.
The Cliff Palace:
And check out this next shot.
I got The 55 and some ancient Indian ruins in the same shot!
If you look closely above the Hood-Bird you can see the House of Many Windows.
Mesa Verde is beautiful, but I had to get moving if I was going to make it to Durango before sunset.
When I got there I found a Conoco station to refuel The 55.
The odometer read 19,266.
I’d gone just over 361 miles on my last tank of fuel and over 1000 miles since the start of my road trip adventure.
After a burger and a few beers at the Animas Brewing Company I spent the night in Durango in a station wagon down by the river.
I covered up the windows again, crawled into the back of The 55 and I fell asleep to the sound of the Animas River.
The next morning I awoke to the sound of the river, the bright Colorado sunshine and a 43 degree temperature.
Compared to 69 degrees in Arizona the previous morning – 43 degrees was a little cool.
Today I was gonna the “Million Dollar Highway” – 550 – north from Durango over Molas Pass to Silverton.
Then onto Ouray, Ridgeway and Montrose.
Some say it’s called the “Million Dollar Highway” because that’s what it cost to build and some say it’s because of the million dollar views.
Either way, it’s spectacular!!
At Montrose I made a right on the 50 and headed toward National Park Number 3 – the Black Canyon of the Gunnision.
Since this is my third National Park I’m already in the money on my America the Beautiful annual pass.
After The Black Canyon of the Gunnision I went west towards Gunnision where I turned off at Colorado Highway 92 – it’s one of the most spectacular roads I’ve ever been on.
It parallels the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and it’s a great drive.
Definately a Top 5 of All Time Roads.
At Hotchkiss we turned onto the 133 and headed towards Carbondale.
I was in boogie-mode and drove right by this local little burger joint.
I hit the Wilwood’s, made a U-turn and stopped into 133 Burger for lunch where I got the best seat in the hose with an amazing view.
After filling my belly I was on my way to Carbondale.
Up and over McClure Pass and down into Redstone I came across these things.
Turns out they’re “beehive” coke ovens.
They were constructed in the late 1890’s to carbonize or “coke” the coal mined in the nearby Coal Basin mines for the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.
Pretty cool huh?
Carbondale was a stop on my road-trip adventure because my brothers’ in-laws live there and I was planning on meeting them for lunch.
But they went Jeeping.
So I took a picture on their driveway in front of Mt. Sopris.
Then I filled up my tank and headed west to Denver.
My odometer read 19,616 and I’d put 349.1 miles on The 55 since Durango.
And we were getting over 17mpg!
Scott said he was waiting for me down in Denver, but I should stop by and see Pop first in Evergreen.
I took a little detour and drove up Highway 6 through Dillon, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin which still had snow on it in May.
Then up to Loveland Pass and the Continental Divide at 11,990ft. above sea level.
After cresting Loveland Pass it was all downhill from there.
We made it through Loveland Ski Area, Georgetown and Idaho Springs before I stopped into say hi to my Pop in Evergreen.
Then we went down Floyd Hill past the “Sleeper House” in Genesse and finally into Denver.
We made it.
The icing on the cake???
My niece took 3rd Place in the Colorado State Jiu-Jutisu Championships!!!
For looking so sweet, the kids got one hell of an arm-bar.
She told me her classmates call her the “Arm-Bar Queen.”
So my trip has been a great success.
The states I’ve hit on my road trip adventure so far:
California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
And National Parks I’ve hit so far: the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, Mesa Verde National Park and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
In the next installmet I’ll cover my trip back to LA, some maintence issues with The 55 and more National Parks.
Thanks for reading.
And if I don’t see you out on the road at least go out and drive what ya got.