Studebaker Stories:

TranStar Trek: A Truck Returns To Its Birthplace

by StudeBob Kabchef

Stude farming in CA

I'd like to preface this account by saying how much I appreciate the sacrifices of the folks in uniform (members of the U.S. Armed Forces and the law enforcers who keep us safe) who serve to make frivolous journeys, such as this one, possible. May we never take ANYTHING they protect and preserve for granted!

This account was written in July of '97 after I had returned home from the SDC International meet in South Bend. Around about June of '96, I had developed the idea of driving our Transtar truck to one of the meets in South Bend. At that time the truck was still in many pieces after the accident that had totaled it in June of '95. In typical Kabchefian fashion, the reconstruction of the truck came right down to the wire as far as being ready to go to South Bend in June of '97.

Anyway, me an' the wife an' the Transtar truck all survived the trek to South Bend and back. There was adventure, there was delight, there was genuine arduous effort, but there was no boredom.

Elise did not do too much of the over-the-road traveling. Actually, she and I would have liked for her to have done more of the trip in the truck. The deterring factor though, was our pet birds. We just didn't relish the thought of leaving them in someone else's care for three weeks or more. So, in arranging for our travels, we set it up so she'd fly to the meet on the day of the concours, and then fly back to Fresno after we'd spent some time together visiting family in Michigan. This minimized the time the birds spent in the care of caretaker. (Actually, a co-worker of Elise's) But of course, this left me to do the biggest part of the trip alone in the Studebaker.

Elise hasn't said anything, but I think she was as worried about letting me cruise the highways, alone, in a sexy-lookin' truck as much as she was concerned about foster care for birds. She needn't worry. I was a good boy. (That's my line and I'm stickin' to it.)

Elise has never had to, and consequently, never has mastered a stick shift transmission. If she'd made the whole road trip though, I'd have seen to it that such a talent was mastered. I really could've used a relief pilot along some of the seemingly endless miles of interstate.

As I said a few lines ago, I was never bored, but I was extremely fatigued during some of the return trip. There was one point at which I found myself on the verge of drifting off to dreamland while at the wheel. I pulled off at the first exit and took a sleep break.That was the one and only time I came close to losing control of the Transtar.

I can very honestly tell you that one of the things that kept me amused and enthused thru the whole adventure was the way the Studebaker was received and revered. It just did not stop. I'd have to guess that 80% of the other people on the hiways at least gave the Transtar a second look as we passed one another.

Lots of times eye contact was not made with the occupants of other vehicles. Still, there was no mistaking their interest in the vintage Studebaker. Other times acknowledgment was less restrained. There'd be big waves, horn honks, exaggerated positive head nodding, thumbs up, pointing at the truck followed by OK signs, some folks even mouthed in exaggerated fashion LOOKS GOOD!.

Somewhere in Arizona, I passed a burgundy-colored Toyota Camry that was just entering the freeway. It ultimately caught up with the Stude. As it came alongside the truck, four young gals all leaned out the Toyota's windows and screamed WE LOVE YOUR STUDEBAKER !!! Yup. That kind of incident kept the whole darn trip interesting - from start to finish.

Prior to leaving for South Bend, the old Stude had only gotten to go about 200 miles since it's restoration had brought it back from a scattered bunch of parts. And, at that, it had shown me some boo-boos that needed fixing before I could hope to get to Indiana. I need to say' here that I am not even going to receive honorable mention at a Most Organized Person awards! Anyone who's ever seen my garage can readily grasp why I missed out on any honors in that realm! I'm well aware that this lack of alignment was the main reason that I found myself pulling out for South Bend fully 4 days later than I would have liked.

Anyway, I addressed the little glitches that had revealed themselves thru limited road testing. While I was content that I'd addressed the first batch of fixes, I was almost counting on being confronted with more once I got underway. So, toting some of the truck's finishing trim parts, yet to be installed, I finally backed out of our driveway on the 18th of June. My first real stop of the trip would be at my buddy Mike Kozicki's house in Whittier CA. I figured since it was late in the day that I was getting away (5PM), I'd spend the night there and head East, semi-rested, the next morning.

I'd installed cruise control on the truck at the last minute before leaving. Since I've been cursed for some years with a recurring leg infection, I figured the Cruise control was a worthy investment towards giving my vulnerable limbs an easier time.

Fact is, I was experiencing a bout with this infection as I was doing the final preparation to leave. My right leg was turning red and starting to expand. I was counter-attacking with the well-proven antibiotic that I've used a number of times before. Since I was on my feet all the time in getting ready to depart, there was good reason for concern about jeopardizing my health. This bug that attacks me from time to time could result in loss of leg or worse if it ever gets the upper hand! My wife was giving me less than approving looks when I refused to scuttle the trip and nurse my reddening leg. But- Hey!... This was the Nationals, this was South Bend, this was the moment the truck was meant for. I'd have to have been unable to walk before I'd have even thought about not going. The Cruise Control would be my appeasement of this concern. Whether it would be sufficient relief was yet to be seen. The Cruise control itself had worked on the first test run the day before. I was elated. It was really easy to install and I'd recommend it to anyone who has ever considered adding it to their Studebaker.

Of course, if your Stude never does more than go across town at best then it's not very practical. But, since this ol' truck is gonna spend LOTS of hours on the road in time to come, it was a worthy addition.

So - After a quick discing of the property to try and retain the upper hand on the weeds, I kissed the wife and backed the Transtar out of the driveway. There was a stop to top off the gas tank and buy some batteries for a camera before I finally turned onto hiway 99 and headed south for Los Angeles. I had my ears attuned to every little sound that came from the truck. So far, so good. Then I turned on the Cruise control and engaged it with the truck doing about 65. Bingo! It worked like a charm. Hey, this is alright! I uttered to myself.

The only known, glaring malfunction I'd set out with was an erratic gas gauge. I'd not taken time to fix it and had decided that if I just watched my mileage and filled up after every 200 miles or so I wouldn't have a problem. This proved to be a successful strategy overall.

I progressed no further than Tulare, CA (about 17 miles) before getting off and checking under and around the truck. This revealed that nothing was leaking or visibly out of whack. So back on the road and southward we went. The truck was in seemingly good spirits and it went without complaint. I did the next inspection stop just north of Bakersfield (about 75 miles). Again, most everything looked OK. There was a trail of coolant along the right frame rail that bad obviously come from the radiator overflow tube. I wasn't too concerned about this. The temp gauge had settled in just shy of the halfway mark and had set there ever since I'd gotten onto 99. 1 figured that the coolant level would stabilize after a bit of driving and that would be the end of that.

Back onto 99 we went and I set the cruise control for 70 this time. After passing Bakersfield, I noticed the temp gauge had moved up by half a needle width. It was hot out and so I didn't think too much of this development. But as I progressed towards the infamous mountain pass known as The Grapevine, the needle of that temp gauge slowly and unnervingly crept slightly upwards.

The next check stop was made at the big T&A truck stop located just before you abruptly start the climb over the Grapevine. Here I saw that the radiator overflow tube was now making a mess of the whole right corner of the truck. Ol' gremlins, Worry and Doubt were starting to voice their unwelcome chants in the back of my head. I was not feeling very positive at this point.

Now here, I need to back things up a bit to explain this cooling problem. Just a few months before this truck had been totaled, in June of 1995, I'd spent 400 and some dollars to get the existing radiator rebuilt. Unfortunately, the wreck saw to it that the radiator was severely smashed. I'd put off having it redone again as a cost-saving measure. And a local Stude guy, Dick Boone, had given me a usable radiator from an earlier vintage Stude truck. It had come from a big 2-ton truck but said truck had been equipped with a 6 cylinder engine, not a V-8 like our truck has. Physically it was of lesser size with fewer cooling tubes than the one I'd had rebuilt. And I would learn the hard way - it was not constructed to take the higher coolant pressures that the later trucks ran.

Thing is though, it fit the radiator frame and the outlets hooked right up to the 289 V-8. So I initially put it in the Transtar just to have something I could use to test run the engine. However, with the thought of another $400+ rebuild eating at me, I decided to see if I could get by with this older style unit in place of the correct one. I grew more confident of it as through the test drives and the eventual run to Fresno and back, it seemed to cool very well.

OK, back to the trek. So here I am at this truck stop trying to decide if this whole thing is just a risky, stupid idea. I'm always preaching about driving Studes but even my zealousness was tempered by the thought of driving a relatively unproven one on a 5,000 mile trip!

As I stood next to the truck, weighing my chances and options as best I could figure them, I glanced at the far corner of the parking lot. It was about 4 years before that I'd pulled into that corner with the truck while returning from Los Angeles. While coming down the steep grade of Grapevine that night, I'd heard a scraping, screeching sound start to come from the right front wheel. I'd got off Interstate-5 OK and pulled into that comer of the truck stop to check things out. After I pulled the right front brake drum off, a broken brake return spring fell onto the ground. After removing all the broken pieces and reassembling everything, I drove on home without incident.

My conscience snapped back to the problem at hand. I finally decided to continue on to Los Angeles on the strength of my desire to make this trip work. I knew that if I turned for home at this point I'd never get away again. A resolve overcame me that since I wasn't broke down with a blown engine and none of the wheels had fallen off, I could figure things out as I went. ONWARD!!!

I topped off the radiator and managed to stick a plastic pop bottle over the end of the overflow tube to try and catch any more fluid that seeped out. I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed out for the challenge, of the Grapevine. The temp needle went right for center gauge and seemed to stabilize a bit. As we climbed up and up though the needle started to edge up too. I sternly told myself that I wasn't going to panic until it really got hot. And thankfully, I never did have to panic. The truck did run a bit warmer on the climb to 4400 feet but once I started back downhill towards L.A.- the needle seemed to back off a bit. I breezed on to my friend's house without further incident.

Next morning I was bent on gettin' back on the road as soon as possible. My pal, however, had different ideas. Since we hadn't seen each other in a while he wanted to show me this and that. Mostly Rambler-related stuff, like I could care about a clunky ol' Rambler! (Just kiddin' Mike.) He insisted on helping me finish putting on the trim pieces I'd brought along. This required some layout and drilling and rounding up some hardware. And too, although I did have a radio to install I'd not done so. It rode in the toolbox and awaited attention. Well, we ended up doing that too.

The, engine cooling glitch was still nagging at me and I'd been thinking that the radiator cap seemed to have an awfully weak spring on it. I'd not replaced it because the cap from the smashed radiator would not interchange. Now, on closer inspection I started to realize that this cap was unlike anything I'd seen of late. Turns out that the neck of the relatively vintage radiator was much deeper than later radiators used. I began to think of ways I could increase the tension on the original cap as a fix. Mike though, insisted that we try several different auto parts sources to see if we could get lucky and find a genuine replacement with a higher pressure rating. In spite or that sounding like a good thing to do, the day seemed to be fading as well as my hopes of getting to South Bend in timely fashion.

The first few parts stores we hit, we reasoned to be the ones most likely to yield a cap like I needed. Alas, t'was not to be. My mind was still weighing the feasibility of modifying the original cap to make it work. The day's clock had wound its way around to 2 PM and I was nowhere near departure from LA yet. We drove to one last place that held promise to produce a vintage cap like the Stude needed.

When we walked in to this parts place, a middle-aged gal asked us how she could help. Now, I must confess that years of influence by societal, sexual stereotyping immediately made me suspect that our parts person would not be up to the task at hand. I was waiting for her to look at it and say What is this thing called? Hah! Instead, she looked at it, turned and disappeared down one of the aisles without saying a thing. Moments later she reemerged with a small box and shook out the contents onto the counter.

Does this look like the right one? she said.

I took it and compared it to the original. The spring seemed just as weak as the old one. I looked at the gal and offered that while it did seem to be a twin to mine, I had hoped it would have a stronger tension to the spring. Aha she sighed. You need one with a higher pressure rating?

You see, I could have told her that right from the start but between her being of the fair sex and the fact that I had my doubts that we'd find one at all, I was dumbfounded that she even knew there might be a difference! Like I said though, the stereotypes ingrained into my brain are as old as the truck. I am aware that the times have changed but sometimes I can't help it when my instincts get in the way. So after another brief moment the savvy lady came back to the counter with a different box,

Try this one. she said, and handed me the box. I looked at the box flap. It read - 7 pound rating. The old cap had 4lb rating on it. The new cap definitely had a stronger spring in it as well. HOPE! There was hope !

So, a few minutes later we installed the cap, said our goodbyes and shot a few photos of Mike and family with the truck. Somewhere around 4:30, on June 19th, I finally merged the Transtar back onto the confused pretzel that passes for the interstate tangle of Los Angeles. In the back of my mind was a nagging thought that with three days left until the start of the meet I was only one tenth of the way there. Most of my mental capacities were concentrated with the task at hand though. The rush hour crescendo was already rising and I was hoping to get away from the concentration of it before it reached critical mass. Fortunately, the traffic moved pretty well as I made my way towards the high desert and beyond. Before I knew it I was done with dinner in Barstow and was pressing on.

Was it hot? You'd better believe it! The air temperature had been 104 that day and predictions were for 105 the next day. When the air is that hot even the ol' 460 A/C'(4 windows open at 60 MPH) doesn't do much. It's akin to having giant hair dryers blowing at you from both sides! But, given the choice of windows down or up, I'd rather endure the swirling, hot air than stagnant, hot air! And, other than the whirlwind heat factor, the biggest irritation was that my eyes kept drying out. Every half hour or so I'd have to squeeze some Visine into my peepers for relief.

Like I said, I stopped in Barstow for some dinner and to refill my two sports bottles with ice water. After finishing eating and tanking up the truck, I retrieved the road atlas from the glove box. I looked at my intended route and how little of it I'd already done. Despair and doubt started to raise their ugly little heads once more. It wasn't so much a matter of the drive OR the vehicle. It was the shrinking time factor that spawned doubts. I stood, looking east, across the shimmering desert and wondered as to the folly of my endeavor. With this virtually untested vehicle I hoped to creep towards the International Meet which was closing fast on the calendar. It wouldn't take too much of a glitch to douse the whole thing for me.

Of course, whether the Transtar and me made it or not would be of little impact on the meet either way. In essence, it was my prerogative. Go or stay, the decision was mine alone to make. This moment in Barstow was to be the last where I considered the choice of turning back. The engine temp problem seemed to have been cured by the new radiator cap. That was a premier point of reassurance. The rest of the truck was purring right along with the exception of the fact that the Cruise control had mysteriously disengaged one time. I'd reset it as soon as it happened and it gave no more trouble. It wasn't a make or break point anyway. I turned the key and headed out for the interstate.

Not too far out of Barstow, I saw a sign that told of a stretch of old Route 66. Without hesitation I exited Interstate 40 and drove north a mile to 66. 1 wanted to be able to say that I'd driven this vintage vehicle on that famous road. I know the words to the song that Nat King Cole established as a classic some years ago. So when I finally turned right onto route 66, I was already halfway thru the first verse in my best Nat King Cole rendition.

Just as the era of Route 66's importance is in it's twilight, so was the day. Long gray shadows stretched eastward from everything that was tall enough to intrude the sun's last, orange rays. The particular length of 66 that I was on undulated towards the horizon like the back of a sea serpent.

What a kick! I drove cautiously at first, up an' down, up an' down, like a ship cresting oncoming waves. Then as the realization-hit home that I was alone on this stretch of blacktop, I started to push the gas pedal down more and more. Now the sensation was more like a carnival rollercoaster... one that seemed to have no end. It was a bit of road I'll not soon forget. Eventually it did level out and the weed-bedecked roadsides were punctuated with an occasional old house or failed-motel. Lots of rusting, dilapidated, old cars and trucks sat in the yards along with junk of other sorts. Less than a mile away, I could see heavy traffic on the lifeline that is I-40. Progress and prosperity have just barely inched away form Route 66 but it's a near-fatal inching to be sure.

Eventually, I turned back onto I-40 and picked up the pace of the prevailing traffic. Darkness was starting to take over and I was anxious to make a few more miles before I threw in the towel for the day. I wanted to at least get over the Arizona border before I stopped to rest. Call it fooling myself' if you will but I wanted to be able to feel that I'd at least gotten out of California by the end of the second day!

By now, I'd had a chance to check gas mileage and I wasn't really happy with what I'd calculated. It looked like I was getting about 15 MPG at best. I'd always gotten about 18 to a gallon before the truck had been refurbished. Now it was worse, what was wrong?

Eventually I made Needles, California. I stopped for a cup of caffeine-bearing coffee and asked a fella at the counter where the best gas prices were. Without blinking, he replied: Over in Arizona.

So with the information that gas was about .20 cents less in Arizona I decided to do like the Taco Bell ad and Run for the border! It was only a couple of miles away. After a few more minutes of driving, I was in the state known for Horney Toads, a distinct resistance to daylight savings time and some big ol' gap in the ground .... Arid-zona!

Now, I love this state as it's chock full of beautacious sights. And, even though it was night-time, a full moon made limited viewing possible. I could see a rough-cut horizon off in the distance. Discernible, in the blue-gray light, were fences near the hiway and the occasional patch of vegetation as well. Little twinkles in the distance bore evidence of human habitation here and there.

Preceded by only faint skylight, the town of Kingman was formally announced by a sign at the city limits. I let a few exits pass by before I finally chose one and turned off the interstate. I scanned the price signs at a couple of competing stations at that exit and decided to buy from one whose unleaded was $1.08 a gallon. I hadn't seen gas at this price in years!

I filled up the truck and went inside with coffee cup and sports bottle in hand. I topped off the containers with their respective drinkables and paid up. Back in the cab of the truck, I dug out my calculator and figured gas mileage. 17 MPG is what I came up with. Not too bad, but still not I used to get two years before. Ah - one MPG difference, big deal.

Though it had been working well, as I'd gotten close to Arizona, the cruise control had disengaged a few more times. It was irksome to have to reset it only to do a few more miles before it dropped out again. And once back on the road outta Kingman, it started to drop out on a regular basis. Sure, I could continue on without it. After all, I reminded myself, Cruise Control was NOT an option in 1957.

From here, the road started an unrelenting climb towards Flagstaff. Up an' up an' up an the damn cruise got to where it flat refused to do it's thing. I did stop several times and look at the various components of the system with a flashlight. Trouble is, I was tired, it was dark and I was starting to get a bit frustrated. Those two factors work against good troubleshooting. I finally resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to use my foot.

I'd had grand visions of making it all the way across Arizona before stopping to rest. As my waking hours piled up, those visions quickly eroded even though I tried vainly to prop them up with many ounces of caffeine-bearing black brew. I knew I was going to have to stop soon if I were to avoid having a sandman (with no driving experience!) take the wheel. I finally gave in as I came upon the exit for Williams, Arizona. This place is the tourist center for those wishing to spend time in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. My arrival here is not hailed by anyone other than a few rhythmically flashing traffic lights. It's 3 AM and the place could pass for a ghost town. I'm so tired at this point that I have a hard time picking out a parking lot to camp in. I finally find one though and shut off the truck's engine. Silence grabs my ears real hard. There's nothing to make noise here.

At first I think of curling up in the truck bed with my sleeping bag. But as soon as I open the door I realize that option is not to be. Even though it's late June, it's cold here! I grab the sleeping bag out of the back, jump back in the cab and try to figure what alternatives I have. Truth is, there aren't any. Aside from renting a motel room, if I could find one, there's the truck's cab - which isn't very accommodating unless you're about 5'1 in height. But hey, it's 3AM. I'm tired, cranky, and anxious to press on as soon as I can refresh my personal batteries. Sure, I'd have loved a bed about then, but I figured to be on my way in a few hours. I'm too cheap to pay for just a few winks. I decide to scrunch myself up in the cab and snooze.

Hah! I ain't the limber little string bean that I was 30 or even 15 years ago! With much adjusting of this arm and that leg and then that foot and this hand, not to mention my head and neck, I finally found compromise long enough for exhaustion to take over. I did, however, have to get out and disconnect the battery before I found that final, magic position. It was obvious that one leg was going to have to rest across the steering wheel and I could just see myself waking up to my knee playing with the horn!

Next thing I knew, the sun was creeping over the dash and onto my face. It was a shade past 6 AM and some evil demon had injected my neck and hip with epoxy while I slumbered, or so it felt anyway!

With effort, I righted myself and blinked at the incredibly bright day that had dawned. The elevated, non-urban, atmospheric element does make for truly vivid daylight there. As consciousness slowly bled out from it's hiding place, I finally found presence of mind enough to fumble around for my sunglasses. Whew! That was a relief!

I sat there trying to master mental awareness once again and taking account of what little progress I'd made so far. I stepped out of the truck and stretched this way 'n that, trying to get the kinks out. I felt anything but rested even though I'd managed to sleep a bit in the torture chamber that masquerades as a truck cab. I did not try that stunt again on the whole journey. Not voluntarily anyway!

I was still tired but I was hungry now too. I knew that I was not too many miles from Flagstaff and so decided to go there for breakfast. As I cruised back thru Williams there were many stares and high signs directed at the truck. I tried to be appreciative and at least acknowledge each gesture but I was too tired really. Back out on the interstate the truck wanted to go alright but I was bugged that the cruise control was still on the blink. Of course, now it was light and I might get a better idea of what the problem was. Not far from Williams, I pulled off at a campsite exit and crawled under the truck.

This time I saw the problem right off. A link that connects a switch to the clutch pedal had gotten some slack in it. This caused the switch to open up every time the truck jiggled a bit. Consequently, the cruise control's brain would shut off the system. Quickly remedied, I was back on the road and cruisin' again. This really lifted my spirits. It was, of course, no fault of the Studebaker itself. However, it had become apparent early on that this system could do a lot to making the trip much more pleasurable provided it worked right.

Anyway, I soon found myself at a restaurant counter in Flagstaff. I ordered some breakfast but before it could be served, some fella came up and asked if that was my Studebaker outside. This sort of encounter was to be the norm throughout the whole trip. This guy proceeded to tell me about all the Studes he'd owned over the years and then started in in detail about a 57 Ford he was restoring. Like I really care about the ins and outs of a 57 Brand X at this moment! I just sat there shaking my head yes, while working down mouthfuls of big, syrupy flapjacks. I think the constant head shaking helped my stiff neck though.

While my newfound friend was droning along, a waitress kept coming back to ask questions about the truck under the guise of wanting to keep my coffee cup filled to the brim. The combination of this fella's monotone chanting about Fords and the increasingly satisfying flapjacks started my body to thinking about trying to rest again. Maybe this time more successfully than in the cab of the truck.

As I work down the last bite of my food, the car-friend says to me: Well, I'll leave you alone so you can eat your breakfast........... Uh-huh. Thanks a bunch.

I then paid my bill and got the waitress to tell me of a public park that was just a few blocks away. I found the place in short order and climbed into my sleeping bag in the bed of the Stude. Oh man!... it felt good to stretch out! As I drifted off to dreamland, mine was the only vehicle in the whole parking lot.

What seemed like the passing of two minutes proved, on checking the clock, to be 3 hours of napping. I awoke to a hot glaring sun and the woeful serenade of some little, darling boy trying to make his point that he wasn't ready to leave the park. I set there gathering my thoughts and watched as his mom stuffed his squirming, defiant body into the back seat and strapped it down. Even though Mom had seen me as I sat up at first, she hadn't let on like I was even there. After she got Junior strapped in though, she turned and said Nice truck! I thanked her and managed to get up on my feet as she drove off .

I felt a bit rested and was anxious to get back on the road East. Everything secured again, I headed out for I-40. The rush of fresh mountain air smelled and felt good. It started to refresh my enthusiasm again. Another promising point was that the cruise control was behaving like it ought to as well. South Bend - here I come!

The pine trees that set the tone around Flagstaff quickly gave way to scrub brush and the grasses as we lost altitude. Open desert prevails on into New Mexico. The signs promising Winslow Arizona would come to pass, kept Nat King Cole's rendition of Route 66 replaying in my head. I needed some music in the worst way. Unfortunately, the worst way is just how my hastily installed radio delivered any sort of music. It sounded terrible. Fidelity was non-existent. To make matters even worse, the few stations you can get in the vast wilds of Arizona are all Country music. I hate country music. That considered though, I'd have listened to some if that worthless radio had been able to make it bearable to the ears. I turned it off in disgust and never tried it again the rest of the trip. I figured, I knew a few songs and there's no one with me to protest, so....

It was developing into a truly beautiful, if hot, day. Visibility had to have been 60 or 70 miles in any direction. The road led straight into the distance and ended in a shimmering, blurry wiggle at the horizon. Except for the occasional turnoff for gas, food or auto repair, there were miles and miles of nothing punctuated by decrepit remnants of deserted old homesteads. Mostly it was patchy scrub brush and prickly-type plants.

When I wasn't singing, and even when I was, I found amusement in watching others watch the Studebaker. I'd look at faces in the Westbound lanes. You could see them fix their gaze on my truck and follow it 'til we passed one another. Then there were the other cars eastbound that would inch past me at a few miles per hour faster. If there were two or more persons in a car, the sight of the Transtar usually provoked conversation amongst them. Sometimes there'd be Mom 'n Dad, with a number of kiddies in the back seat. All would gaze and maybe gesture kindly as they slid past and then they'd settle back their seats and start to chat. I dearly would'a loved to hear some of the ersatz Studebaker facts that were being dispensed in the wake of seeing our truck.: Yup kids, Studebakers was built by Chrysler....'er was it Kaiser ?? Anyway, they're still makin' 'em up in Canada only now they calls 'em Evantis. -(or maybe): Kids, them Studebakers had Ford engines and Chevy transmissions. 'er wuz it vise-versa? Welp,....don't matter no how. Most of them was ugly too! (or)

Well, if you own a Studebaker you quickly learn that the facts, as espoused by non-Stude persons, usually get the same respect that rocks do from a 10 lb sledgehammer. So you can see how I fancifully surmised that much of what was said, after having passed my truck, was probably a fair stretch of the truth. And while there's really no sense in worrying about how Studebaker is remembered, I was taking pride in proving that Studes can still ply the roads alongside what's supposed to be vastly superior machinery.

Thus I amused myself as I buzzed along eastward. No radio, voice growing hoarse with the dry air, and a state line that seemed as far off as the Moon. In fact, my friend Kozicki's words were echoing in my ear as I tried to reach New Mexico: Bob, that stretch of I-40 east of Flagstaff makes you think you're never gonna leave Arizona. He was right about that!

Figuring with numbers taken form the odometer caused me to conclude that it was time for gas. I got off at the song-famous town of Winslow Arizona to refuel and take a shower at a big truck stop there. Since the day was really heating up now, the shower was a welcome refresher. And though most of my body didn't have trouble tolerating the heat that swirled in thru the cab of the truck, my recuperating leg was beginning to feel real uncomfortable. One of the details I'd not addressed before leaving home was to install some sort of floor covering and underlying insulation. The combination of the mounting outside temps along with the heat from the engine being conducted thru the metal floor was getting to be miserable for my ill leg. So I bought a household spray bottle at this truck stop and filled it with cold water. I'd spray my leg occasionally when it got too hot. Maybe that would offer a bit of relief.

Back out on the road, my improvised A/C proved itself right away. A few squirts on my leg and on the floor pan and I was good for 1O miles or so. It was getting very hot now. The predictions were for 107. As the truck poured on down the road, I was searching for words to describe how truly boring the landscape was there. With barren, heat-drenched vistas on either side, it seemed like I'd never escape Arizona. I could'a sworn highway crews were out there somewhere pulling the state border farther East. There was the occasional Hawk to gawk at. Unfortunately, these hawks sported feathers instead of chrome trim.

At one point, the car in front of me blew a tire. With the disintegrating tire wobbling crazily around, the driver nursed his old car to the shoulder of the highway. I thought about the 4 new tires on the truck and hoped they would not give out on me. Especially in this hellish place.

As the trip progressed, I would stop more often than one might perceive from reading this. I rarely went more than 70 or 80 miles without a stop for a drink or just to stretch and walk around a bit. Rarely could I stop without someone commenting an the Transtar though. It got so that I'd park at a rest stop and then walk away fast so I could escape the interrogations. Sometimes folks would chase me down to chat, other times they'd just walk around the truck several times, step back and reminisce.

At one rest stop in New Mexico (yes I finally made it out of Arizona) I walked over to the rest rooms and returned to find a bunch of teenage students taking turns posing in front of the Studebaker. I walked up to the truck and they asked to take my picture with it as well. The one boy, who asked the most questions, I honored with a chance to have his photo taken while sitting behind the wheel. He was thrilled and thanked me repeatedly.

Back on the road, the truck was humming along OK but calculations showed that gas mileage had gone down a bit. I was concerned but I was also determined to make good time towards the meet. I pressed on without trying to figure out why mileage was dropping.

As I passed thru Albuquerque the sun was sinking low. Traffic was heavy and due to some roadwork and detours, I got turned around a bit and found myself headed North. I stopped and figured out where I needed to go to get headed east again. The temporary road signs were not very helpful and I overshot my intended route yet again before I realized it. I would have to turn around again! So, just as I chose an exit to use, the windshield wipers mysteriously came on by themselves. It was a distraction I didn't need right then. I fiddled with the wiper switch but that had no effect on the runaway wipers. Even though I had new blades on the wipers, they, running dry on a dirty windshield, could cause scratches. I'd have to address the problem now!

I pulled into an empty industrial parking lot and shut the truck off. With the key off the wipers quit their dance. It was nearly dark now and I had to use a flashlight to see anything. I raised the hood and poked at the wiper motor a few times. No glaring problem presented itself. I then turned the key back on and the wipers went back into action. With them moving I again tapped on the wiper motor. They stopped just long enough for me to say hmmmm.. Then they started going again. I tapped again at the motor and this time saw a tiny spark between two wires that go to the unit. Ah-ha! I bent the wires apart so they couldn't touch and that was the end of the wiper problem.

I finally got out of Albuquerque and even crossed the continental divide. With coffee and determination, I made it to just shy of the Texas state line. The moon was coming up and my alertness was going down. I stopped in a public rest stop and crawled into the back of the truck. I lay there in my sleeping bag for a few minutes - taking in the night sky, which was spectacular. I spotted two satellites and then a beautiful meteor flashed over with a sparkling wake! Yes, I did make a wish. I wished that I'd get to South Bend soon!

About 5 hours later, I was behind the wheel again, heading into Texas. The truck seemed to be doing fine at highway speeds. However, when I'd stop for a break or a coffee refill, the idle seemed a bit rough. It was a bit unnerving but I was determined to put some miles behind me as it was Saturday and I was yet to reach the halfway point. I plowed thru the Texas border and didn't even stop to celebrate. The sky was looking like someone had tipped over a bottle of honey. The golden puddle widened upward with the oncoming sunrise. I started to get my first views of the Lone Star state's panhandle. Pretty unremarkable actually. And once again, the interstate was reduced to one lane each way. I say once again because I'd already encountered numerous sections of road work ever since Los Angeles. Traffic just naturally slows to whatever speed the slowest truck is doing and so you just follow along.

I'd been keeping track of my mileage and felt confident that I had 80 to 100 miles worth of gas left. Further, I wanted to make it to Amarillo before I stopped that morning. So .... Imagine my surprise when the engine chugged a few times and went dead! I coasted off to the right, dodged a few marker cones and rolled to a stop. Now what?!?!

The 18-wheelers kept whizzin' right on by. There were no exits in sight either way. Not quite 5AM and here I sat in the middle of nowhere... out of gas. I wasn't panicky but I was discouraged. I had a portable CB unit with me that I'd borrowed from my friend. I dug it out and tried calling passing Semi trucks. The buggars wouldn't even answer me most of the time. And when I did get one to answer me, I couldn't hold too much of a talk as they'd get out of range too fast. I was just about resigned to the fact that I might have to wait for a patrolman to come along when I saw a truck closing fast, off along the shoulder of the roadwork. I waved like crazy as it looked like it was going to zoom right past me. At the last second though, the truck slid to a halt.

What's wrong? the young driver asked.

Out of gas I replied. You got any?

Nope .... but we got a can at the work station.

Well, any chance I can buy some from ya??

Nope but I can just give ya some if ya want.

Hey! Great. What I gotta do to get some?

You just wait here 'bout half an hour 'er so.

Ok I said. I sure ain't going anywhere.

Out of gas (or so it seemed), I sat there, waiting for the kindhearted highway worker to return with a can of gas as he'd promised. South Bend seemed yet so far away and here I sat, a victim of my own gambling. That is to say, I'd bet against an erroneous fuel gage and lost.

While I sat there waiting, I was letting little irksome thoughts creep in and nag me. It was the classic standoff wherein self-doubt and the adventurous side of me duked it out inside my head. On one hand there were echoes of the cautionary sorts that had assured me it was folly to try to go, hell bent for leather, 2000+ miles in a relatively unproven antique vehicle. Then, of course, the other contestant, adventure, would counter that this gas shortage was but a minor distraction in the overall scheme of things. And so it went until I was able to discern the road-maintenance truck headed my way again.

The young fella drivin' this truck had seemed a lad of few words when he'd first stopped to help. As he got out of the truck this time, I was blabberin' away about how thankful I was and how I was tryin' to get to a Stude meet in Indiana. Ta-da, ta-da,-ta-da. I was fast becoming a bit uneasy though. For all my jabberin' there was not one word from my rescuer. He just grabbed can and funnel from the back of his truck and headed for the Transtar's filler.

Finally, he said something. How much you wanna put in here?

I was struck by his seemingly terse attitude. And, not wanting to sound greedy, I said, Oh just a couple of gallons should do.

The five-gallon can was obviously full as he tipped it up and started to pour. There was still no idle chatter from this kid as we stood there. I was beginning to feel like his helping me was a real pain for him. Half the can had glugged into the Transtar and he spoke again. You thank that's enuf??

Sure I replied that should do just fine! But he just kept pouring. Again I spoke- Gee, that should be plenty pal. To which he tipped the can up even more.

Staring intently at the funnel, he came back- Just wanna be sure you got enuf.

It was at that point when I realized that this fella was not irked by anything. He was just a bit slow. In fact, after the last dribble of gas had been coaxed from the can, he stepped back and looked at the truck from front to rear. With a sort of ponderous cadence he said- Boy, this is a nice-lookin' old truck. What kind of truck is it?

Well, I tried to explain Studebakers an' all in as condensed a fashion as possible. I was in the truck and ready to crank it as I explained what I was tryin' to accomplish. He just kept staring at the truck and shaking his head - yes.

I finally turned the key and the engine started to spin. It spun, and spun, and spun way longer than it should have to start. Even considering that it had sucked the gas tank dry earlier, it was just too reluctant to fire. Damn!

My newfound friend stood back, gas can in hand, and watched me lift and look under the hood. I removed the air cleaner from the carb and looked down the throat. I pumped the carb a couple of times and discerned that there was no gas in the thing. What the heck?

My gas-man finally commented on the situation, Maybe we didn't put enough gas in it.

Instinctively, I started to counter with a cutesy, sarcastic reply but stopped myself as I figured the humor of it would be lost on him. I just assured him that 5 gallons should be plenty to get it going again.

I tried cranking it again to no avail. I then went around to the front and dropped to one knee. I looked under the front of the engine at the in-line fuel filter, a plastic, see-thru type. No gas was visible. Now I was beginning to think fuel pump. Maybe I wasn't out of gas after all! Wouldn't that be a stink!

I was carrying a spare pump and they are easy to change but to think that I'd set there for an hour when I could've been getting on my way.......

I got up muttering something about no fuel in the filter. I was not happy at that moment. Then my gas friend offered a bit of his advice - Maybe you just ain't cranked it enough.

Now, being steamed as I was, I could have easily countered with something less than complimentary about this-guy's opinion. BUT... He had been nice enough to bring me some gas and I did feel like I owed it to him to honor his assessment of the situation even if I KNEW it was futile.

To humor him a bit, I got back in the truck, turned the key and held it for 15 or 20 seconds. The motor obediently spun but it refused to fire off. The young man stood next to the left fender and looked at the engine and me as I cranked away. When I finally let up on the key, I said- Yah, it's just not gettin' gas up to the carburetor.

His reply was, Try it again.

Well, I'd concluded by now, even if the gas tank had been mounted 30 feet back from where it was, it should have drawn gas up. Still, here I was trying to placate this guy's willingness to help. I thought to myself - One more time I'll crank it. Then I'll thank him, set about replacing the fuel pump, and get back under way.

As I reached for the key again, I made mental note of being thankful for a brand new battery. I'd really cranked on this thing and it still had lots of life in it. The engine started to spin again and I held it for a good bit to be sure of convincing my pal that it was more than low gas that plagued me. Hah! It took off and ran! I was dumbfounded. I waited to see if it was gonna die on me but it just kept purring away. I let it go to idle and got out to shut the hood.

As I lowered the hood I was trying to defend myself to my observer. I said something to the effect that I should not have had to crank it anywhere near that long to get it started again. As had been with most of our encounter that morning, he said nothing while I jabbered on. And at some point, I stopped for a moment and reflected out loud. I said Boy, I just DO NOT understand.

Then, like some old sage. This guy, who'd not known what a Studebaker was 20 minutes earlier, says in typical Texas drawl: Well... with these ol' Studee-bakers you just never know!

I had to laugh out loud. And I even forced a grin out my stone-faced assistant as well. Laughter is infectious.

I tried to pay him for the gas and his help. He refused. I said Look, gas is expensive, at least let me replace it!

He replied Tain't my gas. It belongs to the state.

OK then, how 'bout something for your trouble and time?

That's OK, they's a-payin' me to be here.

Welp, I tried several angles to get this fella to take some cash but he resisted all efforts to do so. I finally assured him that I'd pass on the favor to someone else on his behalf. He just smiled and got back in his truck.

I did a walk-around of the Stude as it sat there idling. Everything looked OK and so it was back into traffic and back to thoughts of the meet.

I finally made it to Amarillo and filled up the truck's tank. I was at an old truck stop and it featured a big-windowed diner that was brimming with blue-collar and cowboy types having eggs and flapjacks an' such. The smell from the grille drifted across to where I stood pumping gas and got my attention. As I looked over towards the diner I realized that every head in the place was checkin' out the Stude. And when they saw I was lookin' their way, they started givin' me the thumbs up and OK sign. Made my pride button just about burst. Also made the fiasco of earlier that morning seem like a distant memory.

I was tempted by the smell of the diner and an empty stomach, to go in and have a nice, big breakfast. Trouble is, I was nagged by the thought that I'd wasted over an hour on the side of the road earlier. And, what's more, I knew if I went in amongst all those admirers, it'd be another hour before I got away. I chose to pay for my gas and leave.,

Out on the road and cruisin', I could once again take note of the landscape. My main impression of the turf east of Amarillo? ... Flat.

It was greener now but vastly more open and flat. Not much for diversion save for the occasional few beef roasts on the hoof. Maybe 70 or 80 miles east of Amarillo I decide to stop and stretch a bit, might even try to fill my coffee cup. There was a sign that told of the upcoming town of Shamrock. I decided I'd find my coffee in Shamrock. The lay of the land was a bit more rolling by now.

The exit to this Shamrock went off to the right and abruptly dropped onto Main Street. My curiosity had been teased a bit by a sign that proclaimed the existence of a historical museum in town. I thought that might be a neat place to stroll a bit and loosen up. I didn't have to go far though to realize that Shamrock was not the town it once had been. Vacant and boarded up buildings made up half the structures along Main Street. The rest looked old and tired. I crept along until I realized that I was leaving town at the other end. Hey, where was that museum?

I turned around and started back towards the freeway, now intent on just finding a place to fill my coffee mug. Glancing at what was left of the town's businesses rewarded me with a glimpse of a Studebaker! I pulled to the curb and backed up for a better look. There, in what looked like an old dealership, sat a 1952 Commander hardtop. Well! Here was my cue to get out and walk a bit. The place was caged on both sides with chain link fence that guarded a whole bunch of old cars. I noted that a lot of them looked beat. And I mean literally beat. The gate to one side was open and I cautiously ventured in. Two old, fat dogs, which I'd fully expected would jump to fend me off, didn't even move as I eased by them. Their attitude was in keeping with the condition of Shamrock. I stopped just inside a service bay on the side of the old building. Anybody here? my voice echoed. I waited against the silence that responded and tried again. Hello? I could see from where I stood into the front showroom. The Studee sat under a thick layer of dust with a 1960 Edsel convertible for company. Talk about a Dynamic duo!

A portly gent appeared from the back somewhere. The grease on his hands contrasted with the shirt and tie he wore. Hi, my name is Clay, can I help you?

Oh, I just saw this Studebaker here and decided to have a look.

Oh yeah, well it's a 1952 Comman...

I stopped him short and made it clear that I knew all that and more about Studebakers. I asked him to tell me what the story was about the one we were looking at.

Oh, I sold that one new in '53. After the '53s were introduced there were a fair number of '52s to clear out and this was one of the last ones I got my hands on. I was a Studebaker dealer here for a few years. So anyway, after some years, I took it back in trade for a Rambler. I was a Rambler dealer by then. Heck, I've sold Hudsons, Kaisers, all them.

Anyhow, my daughter drove it for a while and then it just set around until I decided one day that I would restore it. So I rebuilt everything and painted it back the exact colors it was when it was new.

I had a hard time holding my tongue at that point! Believe me, either this fine gent had eye problems or the folks that mixed the paint had been sniffin' the fumes too long! While the old Stude appeared to fairly stock in form, it's two shades of pearlescent green would have ruined anyone's lunch. Still, I did not want to be confrontational so I just kept my critiquing to myself.

Curiously, one odd thing I'd noticed about this little, dying town was that there seemed an inordinate number of signs around advertising Roof Repair service. Well, further conversation with ol' Clay shed light on this roof repair boom. We walked outside as Clay told of his days selling new cars. We finally stopped next to a 55 Packard Patrician sedan. While the car seemed to be reasonably straight-and solid, all it's glass and stainless trim was so destroyed that it would have cost a fortune just to replace it.

Damn shame. Clay muttered.

What the heck,...vandals? I asked.

Clay then motioned me over about 10 feet to where a late model Jeep Cherokee sat. It looked even worse than the Packard! All glass was shattered and the roof and hood looked like they'd been assaulted by baseball bats. Holy smokes! I let out.

Then I looked around and saw that a bunch of cars in the lot were suffering similar bruises. Patting the Jeeps hood, Clay offered, This was my wife's daily ride...

He then held up his big fist. Imagine, if you can, 30 minutes of hailstones this big! Look at the roof of my building! It wasn't even 10 months old.

It was then that all the Roof Repair signs suddenly made sense. Clay's new shop roof looked as though it'd been in a war zone. You could tell it had been galvanized, corrugated metal at one time, but just barely.

I gotta confess, I reflexively shot my gaze straight to the heavens. Uh-oh, clouds! Now my focus was on getting out of this conversation and this little, ill-charmed town! I did cruise thru town and try to see a Stude truck that Clay assured me was readily visible, but only 'cause it was on my way back toI-40 east. I stopped at a gas station for a few snacks and left before the next hailstorm had a chance to blow in.

And speaking of blowing! It was now about 11AM and the wind across the interstate could have fooled you into thinking that there was something wrong with your vehicle's steering. The giveaway was the weeds and trees along the roadside that were visibly bending almost sideways in the gale.

So, it was on to Oklahoma and whatever trials it held for the Transtar and me. As always, while cruising along, I was constantly being given signs of acknowledgement towards the beautiful red and white truck I was driving. I was still loving every high sign even if the corners of my mouth were beginning to get sore from smiling so often. There were lots of swoopy, new Ford F-150s and shiny red Dodge Rams but I saw no one waving at them or making appreciative gestures. No, it was my 40year-old, two-tone Transtar that was the star that day .... hands down .... er, up.

The next leg-stretch town was Clinton, Oklahoma. Coming up to it there were signs telling of it's new Route 66 museum. In fact, as you start into town it's right there. It sports pseudo-57 Chevy fins from it's roof (Where's those big hailstones when you want 'em??) Of course, I stopped and shot a couple of photos in front of the place. And as I did so, a fella came out and started checking out the truck. He offered some flattering comments and asked if he could have a picture for the museum. So I waited while he took a couple shots and then went back to the freeway.

I'd noticed when I started the truck at the museum that the idle was really rough now. I should have stopped and tried to fix it but all I could think about was getting more miles behind me. And, truth be told, at speed the engine seemed pretty smooth and willing. I set the cruise control and pressed on.

Oklahoma City would be the next big dot on the map to pass thru. I really don't remember too much from this part of the journey. I was getting fairly worn out from a marathon driving effort. While I could keep myself alert to the task at hand, I didn't make too much of the sights alongside the hiway. I do remember craning my neck to see if I could discern where the bombed out Federal building had stood in Oklahoma City but I was determined not to stop until I really had to. Saturday was now on the wane and there was still a lot of map between me and South Bend. It was at Oklahoma City that I swung my course off of I-40 and took up a Nor' easterly course towards the Great Lakes. I was gonna breeze thru Joplin and Springfield Missouri, on up thru St. Louis and Springfield Illinois, follow 44 right up to 1-80 and then home in on South Bend.

So I finally ended up stopping for gas and something to eat in Tulsa. When I finally filled and restarted the truck it did not sound good at all. Gas mileage had gotten worse and I had to admit to myself that something was far enough amiss that it warranted investigation. I left the Gas station and looked for a parking lot big enough that I could work on the truck and not be bothered. Preferably a lot with good lighting.

After driving around a bit, I settled on a big Kmart store's parking lot as my make-shift shop. I would park far out from the store's entrance and have a look-see under the hood. The thing I suspected was that I had some junk in the fuel system that was clogging some of the fuel circuits in the carb. I first checked the fuel filter that I had looked at on the side of the road in Texas. It did look dirty. Maybe something had gotten thru it and was causing my troubles. I had a new filter in my toolbox so it would be just a few minutes and I'd have it swapped. I gathered what tools I'd need, took an old towel I had to lay on and dropped down in front of the truck. I removed the old filter first and then rolled out from under the front of the truck to inspect it. Whoa! Look at that. Stuck in the narrow neck of the filter's incoming side was a long-dead Lady Bug. Immediately I recalled how I'd been forced to crank the engine for so long to get any gas up to it. Heck, this bug had to be the reason. In fact, maybe she was what cut off the fuel supply in the first place!

I rapped the filter's end on the blacktop really hard. The Lady would not budge. Surely she played a role in at least part of my aggravations. I went and installed the new filter and tried the truck. It still was clearly missing a few beats. Well then, I'd have to take the carb apart and clean it out. There's gotta be some trash in it. To make a long story a few paragraphs shorter, I did just that and the truck still ran rough at idle.

OK, now what??? I've covered my bases as far as fuel was concerned. What was left? Ignition?

Understand, when I rebuilt this engine a year before, I went thru everything. Furthermore, when I'd first fired it up back about March, I thought I'd set the timing and point dwell (the gap). Yet, by flickering flashlight, I came to realize that the points had closed up! Two screwdrivers and 5 minutes later, the truck was purring again. I knew that I'd found the reason for my deteriorating gas mileage and crappy idle. I was revitalized by this bit of repair and wanted to have at the roads once again. The last rays of twilight were fading as I left Tulsa behind me.

The ol' truck ran so much better now. It even seemed more willing out on the hiway. With strong coffee and determination I pushed as far as some little town along 1-44. It was 2 or 3 in the morning and my body was telling me it would no longer go along with this trek until it got some rest-time. There was a thick overcast above and I thought about all the mosquitoes that were just praying for some idiot to take to his sleeping bag and help foster their next generation. OK! I'll spend the night in a motel. Dang the expense!

(Moments later) Sir, I'm sorry but all our rooms are filled. You might try the place across the way. I think they have a few rooms open.

(Across the way) 'Well yes, we still have 2 of our Ambassador suites available. Since you're by yourself I can put you in there for $95+tax.

Good golly hon! I only want to rent the damn bed, not BUY IT!

So, back out to the truck I went, sleepy and as angry as I can remember being in a long, long time. I curled up in the front seat to foil the insects and used a bag of dirty clothes as a pillow. I was out in a blink. It never did rain that night and the bugs never got me and I was 95 bucks better off than I might have been.

Next morning I woke up, stretched and cussed away some of the kinks and got back on the road. I drove a ways before the notion to eat something took hold. I came upon the town of Rolla, Missouri. There, just off the freeway, I spotted one of the Icons of southern eating: a Waffle House restaurant. From years of living in Georgia I'd come to appreciate the great waffles I'd always had at Waffle House. So with great anticipation I ordered up a waffle and sausage. Hah! What was delivered to me was a real letdown. I can't describe just how that thing was bad, but it was unpalatable. I asked for another and they served one up that was dark brown and rivaled any food you can think of for crispness. I got up and walked out. The waitress looked at me and at my plate as I went out. I guess she got the message. I bought a package of mini-donuts and started driving again.

By golly, the Stude was running fine now and I could not wait to get to South Bend. It was here that I spotted the only other Stude headed for the meet. Just as I was pulling back onto I-44 I saw a silver-gray bullet-nose coupe getting off behind me. I slowed a bit and waved wildly while watching him in my rear-view mirror. He must've spotted the truck as his headlights blinked a few times before I lost sight of him. One thing I do remember about this stretch of interstate was that there were a large number of old cars sitting in yards along the way. Lots of them had For Sale and price figures written on the windshields. The only Stude I spotted was a 50 sedan sitting nosed up to a tree. It was covered with pine needles and mildew.

As I skirted St. Louis I was intent on just getting around it withoughut getting caught up in traffic if at all possible. Once on the north side of town I felt like a milestone had been passed. It was during this part that I saw a bent drive shaft laying along the edge of the road. Ouch! I thought to myself. Bet that was a rude surprise. I was still musing as to how that must've sounded when a little further on I came upon the vehicle that had obviously shed the drive shaft. It was one of those loooong, shiny, white limos that one might rent for an evenings outing. My twisted sense of humor quickly developed several possible scenarios.

Darling, I've planned an intimate night for the two of us .... on the side of the interstate!

OR: OK driver, here's an extra C-note. Now when I give you the sign, you cut the drive shaft loose. Of course, your phone will be affected and you'll have to leave us alone for a while....... Oh well, it seemed funny at the time. Maybe 'cause I was so tired.

The road seemed as though it was teasing me sometimes. Signs would promise some point of progress that took forever to attain and yet some things were behind me before I knew it. It had to be my somewhat exhausted mental state. Sunday was ticking away and South Bend was within striking distance.

By 1PM I was starting to get drowsy again. I finally surrendered to some little town named Odell in Illinois. With the exception of the new cars in driveways, you'd been hard-pressed to think you weren't back in the 50s as you cruised thru this quiet, well-groomed little burg. It was immaculately clean, quaint and peaceful. I eased to the far end of town and found a park to nap in. I woke up and found myself posing as a meal for several Deer flies. They left some nasty welts on my ankles. How rude of them!

I'd napped about two hours and felt somewhat rejuvenated. I got back on the road and swore there'd be no more stops until my goal was reached! And so it played out.

I can't tell you what a joy it was to finally see the exit for South Bend from 1-80. I got there just about 8:30 in the evening. It had been almost exactly 74 hours since I'd pulled away from Los Angeles. Even though I had a room reserved at a local motel, I parked near the Century center and browsed amongst the Studes in the parking lot. I was still keyed up from the mad-dash run. It was well after midnight before I felt relaxed enough to sleep.

If I had any regrets about the drive - it was that I hadn't started it about 7 days earlier so I could have enjoyed it more. In spite of being a bit unsure of an untested new vehicle at first, I was right happy in the end. Except for a bug in the fuel system and a problem with the newfangled cruise control - the ol' Transtar had proven it was well capable of what I'd asked of it. And I sure was proud to see it gleaming amongst all its brethren in the town of it's birth.

I lay in bed late that evening and mentally noted the highlights of the trek as I tried to embrace slumber. I thought of the daredevil drivers of the 20s and 30s that had gone farther (in less time even!) on WAY less capable roadways than I had dealt with!!! How the hell did they DO that???

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