Saturday, April 15, 2017

(10) Preparations, Sea Trials PART I

(1) A Ford Amongst The Packards

Palace of the Legion of Honor
Lincoln Park, San Francisco

Before setting off on this cross-country trek I decided it would be best to make a couple of trial runs. As much as I'd like to believe that "failure is not an option," it is certainly a potential outcome. But a little bit of practice can minimize the chance of failure and help in anticipating the challenges of the road. Practice may not be as important as vehicle preparation, but it will help in anticipating problems.

Ready to go
"Wait, Just 1 more picture"
For the first trial run I decided to do a tour with a group. Last September the San Diego Packard club and the California Lincoln Highway Association sponsored a tour of the Lincoln Highway in California. California is the one place that has had, since the inception of the Lincoln Highway, two routes. One route travels west from Reno, over Donner Summit and down to Sacramento. The second route travels the South Shore of Lake Tahoe and runs down what is now Highway 50. This one is often referred to as the "Pioneer Route". In all other cases it was the goal of the association to find the single most efficient route.

After leaving Lincoln Park in San Francisco, our first stop was at the Blackhawk Automobile museum in Danville in the East Bay from there we travelled to Livermore, then over Altamont Pass to Tracey. Then it was North to Stockton and Sacramento.

Western Terminus, Lincoln Highway Lincoln Park, San Francisco

Blackhawk Auto Museum, Danville, Ca

Summit Garage, Altamont, Ca

After spending the night in Sacramento, we climbed into the Sierras through Placerville and over Echo Summit, then on to Reno. The San Diego Packard Club is really a great group to tour with. They were very welcoming and didn't mind at all having an old Ford with its sometimes grumpy owner joing them. Having been to a lot of car shows where there are a lot of "trailer queens" it was nice to see people actually using their cars for an extended road trip. If I had any questions about the cars or the tour I knew that I could simply "ask the man who owns one."

Kyburz, Ca. Pioneer Route, Lincoln Highway
No one is really quite sure why there are two Lincoln Highway routes across the Sierras to Sacramento. Some say that Henry Joy, Lincoln Highway Association president, was really taken by the beauty of South Lake Tahoe and the road that would become the highway 50 corridor. My own theory is that two routes were provided because of the notorious reputation of the passes into California. When the Lincoln Highway was created, it was less than 70 years since the Donner tragedy. Even now, with modern snow removal equipment, Donner Pass is often closed by bad weather. Whatever the reason, the fact that there were two routes over the mountains meant we were able to see some beautiful scenery, but not have to back track. There are other places along The Highway where there are two routes, however these other spots are usually result of later alignments finding a more efficient route.

Echo Summit
I'm glad that I took this first trial run with a group tour. I learned some important lessons which will help on the cross country trip. I also learned some things about myself. One thing that I learned was that although I was raised in the San Francisco Bay area I really have no tolerance for heavy traffic or crowded roads. At one point I even made the snide comment that the tour should be called: "The Northern California Traffic Tour". Even US Highway 99, north of Stockton, was at times backed up. I am amazed that there are people who voluntarily subject themselves to this on a daily basis. Oh well, to each his own.

Carson City Mint, Sept. 24, 2016 We missed a ceremony held
earlier in the day observing the 150th anniversary of the setting
of the cornerstone. (Traffic cones are a later addition)
Another thing I learned was that I took the wrong car. Believe it or not I own two old Rancheros one is a 1959 that Linda and I will be driving east across America. The other Ranchero is a 1967 that my parents bought new. It is not as nice of a travel car as the 1959. The 1967 is a stripped down, basic 6 cylinder, while the 1959 has a big engine, is better insulated and has air-conditioning so that the windows can be rolled up on hot days while traveling on a crowded freeway. The crowded freeway in the hot noisy car also contributed to my ill temper. I had originally planned to take the '59, but I was still working out some issues from the rebuild. The 1967 was a sure thing. On a positive note I averaged over 20 miles to the gallon on the tour.

Nevada's grand old Statehouse

Ultimately my dislike of the heavy traffic of California urban areas caused me to leave the tour before I reached Sacramento on the return trip. I have to say there were a couple of things unique to California driving that contributed to my aggravation. One occurred after the Banquet at the Auto Museum in Reno. I had decided to drive to the cabin at Donner Lake to spend the night. No need to run up and expensive motel bill when I had a comfortable bed and more pleasant surroundings just 35 miles west of Reno. Unfortunately, I failed to take into account that Highway 80 would be closed that night. It was not closed for snow or weather, rather it was closed for a gang shooting that was taking place at the agricultural inspection station just east of Truckee. Shootings in the Sierras and in Reno are not necessarily uncommon occurrences in September. They often coincide with a Reno motorcycle event called "Thunder in the Streets" or something like that. What amazed me the most was that nobody seem to be making a big deal out of the fact that a major interstate east-west highway was closed for an active shooting. Apparently, it was just a recreational shooting. No need for alarm. The folks in Reno were just happy that the bikers had chosen to leave the city before drawing their guns. The year before the guns were drawn and the shots were fired inside of a casino in downtown Sparks.

Lincoln Highway along Donner Lake
After a partial night's sleep at Donner I joined up with the tour participants again at the Donner Memorial State Park. There, we had a tour by docent Greg Palmer. Following the tour we were also able to tour the museum at the State Park. The Donner Party tragedy is hard to comprehend. While some say the emigrants brought it on themselves by a late start, incompetence and poor leadership I find myself thinking that they were not that far out of the norm of 19th century farmers. They were in a difficult situation, they were late, they had taken a route that was untried and untested based on advice from a 19th century con artist and the snows came just a little early that year. Add to the mixture stress and short tempers it becomes easy to see how circumstances overwhelmed them.

Neil Rodrigues, Vice President, Ca. Chapter, LHA

I stayed with the tour down the western slopes of the Sierras and then as the afternoon temperatures climbed and the traffic increased I decided to peel off and return to Donner. All in all I enjoyed the tour and I'm glad that I did it. One of the chief things I learned was that my road atlases were not going to be sufficient. They required me to take my eyes off the road too often and to recall the details of the comprehensive driving instructions more often than I wanted to do. I had begun to consider a GPS even before I did this tour. I was told to save my money and to simply use my smart phone. I found out very quickly that the smart phone is inadequate for this type of touring. If you don't have a GPS that can sit on the dashboard so that you don't have to take your eyes very far off the road then you need a navigator who will be happy to hear you recount the details of the tour and what the driver saw at 60 miles an hour.

A Ford Amongst the Packards

1 comment:

  1. A Ford among the Packards. You're like the token Asian guy. Looking forward to more posts.