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Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 198
Wrench Fetcher
This posting is one in a series. If you have not yet read the earlier postings in the series, youll need to, as this posting wont make much sense without having done so! Just do a search using the word SLURP.

In my last posting, I introduced you to Red, the brash 1955 5-window pickup that Carter Gresham bought from the original family that owned it almost literally 50 years, and that I bought from Carter in December.

In this posting, I am going to simply post, with only minor explanatory and content edits, Carters own text description of his trip to Colorado, with his wife Debbie accompanying him, to take possession of the truck and drive it home 850 miles to Texas!

Driving a 50 year old vehicle home, 850 miles, with NO prep or getting to know you time? You KNOW this is going to be good . . .

Heres Carter:

In late summer of 2003, I started looking for an old truck to use as a full time part time driver for tinkering and driving. In August of 2004, there was a listing for a 55 Chevrolet 1st series pick up that caught my eye. The truck was one of those unusual 5-windows with a factory hydra-matic. During the bidding process, I queried the owner about the drivability and overall condition of the truck. I soon convinced myself that this truck fit my vehicle parameters; relatively in-expensive, good overall condition with little rust, complete and running, current registration and rare enough to warrant my attention.

The truck was in Durango, Colorado and fortunately, I had traveled the northwestern part of New Mexico during my working career (Jim G note: Carter lives in metro Dallas, Texas, about 850 miles from Durango). I made my wife an offer I thought she would surely decline, come with me to Durango and well stop in Santa Fe and you can shop. Well Deb sure fooled me and accepted the offer. I bought the truck, bought tickets on Southwest airlines and flew to Albuquerque; bought tickets on Mesa Airways and flew to Farmington, NM and waited for the truck to arrive.

After claiming our overnight baggage and my basic hand tool set (you can overhaul a Chevrolet 235 with a one-half and nine-sixteenth wrench, a 6 crescent wrench and a good screwdriver), and my basic parts supply (upper and lower radiator hose, fan belt, assorted bungee cords, duct tape and WD-40) we sat on the curb and waited. All the while Debbie was being very patient and helpful by asking if I was sure that fool was going to show, was I sure this thing was going to make it home and all of the other supportive questions she could muster.

Finally, I caught sight of the truck coming through the parking lot. I picked out the distinctive roofline and started to grin like the demented soul my wife was now convinced I was. After a cursory inspection, we piled into the truck and headed for Durango. (Jim G note: Remember how I said that these AD trucks can seat THREE?). You might not believe it but Farmington/Durango has less public transportation than Dallas. Naturally, this gave me time to question the seller (agent for the owner) about the truck. Not much good information was forthcoming but I did find out the truck was being driven daily, the fuel gauge didnt work (more on this later), the driver side headlight was out and it was getting cooler (August in Texas is hot so all we had were shorts, tee shirts and tennis shoes). After the 40-minute drive to Durango, I felt very comfortable with the way the truck ran and was ready to hit the road home.

Did I mention that my wife said I was grinning like a certifiable fool?

First things first, stop at Wal-Mart and bought a headlight, cooler, case of bottled water, six-pack of diet Dr. Pepper (Deb is addicted), 5 gallon gas can, flash light, small floor jack and a four-way lug wrench. Change the headlight in the parking lot and head out of town toward the nearest service station. I had seen a station on the way in and by the time, we passed it on the left hand side of the road all of the traffic in Durango was there so we headed for the next stop. A mile out of Durango and it was DARK, you could see every star in the Milky Way and not a light in sight. Another couple of miles and I could see the lights of a convenience store across a valley, just when the engine coughed the first time.

Debbie looked over at me, eyes wide open and asked, engine problem or are we out of gas? I calmly replied, gas, Im pretty sure as we coasted to a stop looking at the glow of the stores lights over the crest on the hill about a mike away. I turned to Debbie and said, Im really sorry as the temperature in the cab dropped about 20 degrees. Little did I know this degree of coolness would last all the way to Arlington, Texas. I volunteered that I was taking the gas can and going for gas and she could wait. I was told Im not sittin here in the dark, by myself in the middle of ****** nowhere.

I was loading everything into the cab of the truck when a car came out of nowhere and stopped to see if we needed help. Say amen, say hallelujah, all was right in the world. A really nice Native American couple in a 1978 Buick Electra offered us a ride to the convenience store. As I was finishing locking the truck, Deb jumped in the car and waited. The strangers, Thomas and Nava, completely filled the front of the Buick and turned out to be big Dallas Cowboy fans instead of the ax murderers Debbie had assumed them to be.

The convenience store turned out to be four miles away (about a mile as the crow flies) so it could have been a long hike. Thomas and Nava insisted on waiting and took us back and the Buick provided enough light to let me get most of the gas in the truck (by then I was shivering cold and Debbie was inside not making out much better). I thanked our saviors and offered to buy dinner but they were headed home and only wished us good luck. My faith in humanity was no longer in doubt. We get back to the convenience just in time to fill the truck up, check the oil and water and check the tires before they locked up at 9:00. Hot dog, back on the road.

I noted the odometer and made the unilateral decision to stop every 100 miles to get gas. Debbie stamped her approval of my plan by growling You darn well better. At least she was back to talking. The heater motor in the truck was running but there was a distinct lack of warm air. A quick check of the water lines and I discovered the heater core was by-passed. A DARK and COLD hour and a half later and we arrived in Pagosa Springs. At least our room reservation held, we were able to get a snack in the lounge and cold beer was available. Debbie defrosted slightly. I was still grinning and day one ended. .

Friday morning was clear, cool sunny and looked to be a perfect day for cruising on to Santa Fe and shopping. I stopped at an auto parts store, bought enough heater hose, re-plumbed the heater, and was pleasantly surprised find out that it worked. The country was beautiful and you get to see a lot more of it at 55 (Jim G note: Carter was unaware at this time that the speedometer had some built in error. A lot actually. Like 55 mph indicated is actually well north of 60, as youll see in later postings).

Unfortunately, there were a great number of people who were in a much bigger hurry than we were. It was fun that everyone that passed us waved (and I mean everyone passed us). We were making great time when about seven miles out of Santa Fe we ran into road construction. We crept along at less that 5 miles per hour and the temperature gauge crept up. I had to put the truck in neutral and keep the rpm up lest we vapor lock. At one point, I thought we were going to blow a radiator hose when an opening appeared and we got up enough speed to cool things off. It was then apparent the Debbie was no longer cold but heating up also. What the hell are we going to do if this thing quits? I assured her that was not going to happen (I was hoping St. Christopher still had enough influence to get this grinning idiot home).

Sure enough just as I thought we were going to have to stop, things opened up and we got to Santa Fe, only two and one-half hours behind my schedule. Lunch in the old square, more stuff than my budget could stand and we headed for Amarillo. We stopped in Clines Corner, NM, got gas and visited with a couple in a 52 Chevrolet with a home built teardrop trailer headed for Santa Fe. I thought the trailer was too cool but was told, dont even think about it!

I-40, 55 mph, more trucks than I knew are in the world and it is warming up. Windows down, fresh air vent open and here we are cruising. We can barely carry on a conversation with the wind noise, trucks passing with a whoosh and a pinion bearing starting to make a little bit of noise. I truly am blessed with a wife that can still laugh at my foolhardy adventures. Debbie has a degenerative audial nerve and is very protective of her hearing. At this point, she has removed her hearing aid because we cant carry on a conversation for the noise (it cant be because she isnt speaking to me, can it?).

Debbie reads and I drive not much in the way of scenery and Im trying to get to Tucumcari. Another fuel stop in Tucumcari and I am faced with the biggest mechanical problem of the trip. While fueling the truck Debbie optimistically pointed out that, the rear end of the truck was falling off.

Luckily, I found one of the bolts mounting the license plate bracket had come loose and fallen out. Two quarter inch bolts and nuts at the truck stop (and they thought Jessie James was dead) and we were headed for Amarillo. Debbie was starting to tire but I was anxious to press on. The further we drive the warmer we get (good thing I fixed that heater hose), Debbie has by now read this months Southern Living and War and Peace, and she cant nap because of the noise from the passing trucks and Im humming to keep myself from hearing that pinion bearing.

Near the Texas New Mexico state line we stop at a convenience store for potty stop and since we are close, I pick up a few adult beverages for the sprint into Amarillo. This Debbie decides is the only good idea Ive had so far. We are both hot and tired when we check into the hotel in Amarillo and we are considering a light snack and turning in early when the manager said they had live music and good food. We barely got through dinner and a beer before we were both yawning our heads off. Day two done.

Saturday morning came early and I was determined to sleep in my bed that night. We fuel up and head off down Hwy 287, man we were glad to get off the Interstate. Well we thought we were glad, until we figured out that all the traffic got off with us. At least 287 offered us a lot of small towns, a slightly slower pace and noise levels that allowed us some conversation during the last 8 hours of travel.

At about Childress, Texas Debbie asked if I heard that noise. Of course, I had to ask what noise and her reply was that noise that sounds like a siren every time you slow down. Oh, that noise, I replied. I told her the noise (the pinion) had been with us since Clines Corner and that I knew what it was and we would be OK. By this time, we were both tired and wanted to be home. No dilly-dallying around, a constant 55 mph and before you know it, eight and half-hours later and we are home.

You have got to be a darn fool to buy a 50 year old truck sight unseen and drive the better part of a thousand miles in three days. Debbie and I are still speaking and the more I think about the trip home the bigger the grin gets.

Hey guys and gals, does Carter have a terrific wife or what! And, note how even after 50 years, Red was perfectly drivable and reliable for this cross-country trip.

Next posting, well hear all about the second big, although not nearly AS big, trip home, when I picked up Red for the drive home to Jim Gs garage!

Jim G

Joined: Apr 2005
Posts: 276
Shop Shark
Great Story! My kinda Man! thanks for sharing. Doug

Joined: Jul 2006
Posts: 243
Shop Shark
now THATS COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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