Model T American Road Trip

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June 22nd 2016
Published: July 26th 2016
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Model T Journey

I met up with Bev, and together we drove towards Chesterville, Ontario (close to Ottawa) to meet up with Fred; Beverley's Dad. He had invited us to come along with him on a road trip in the states. For months he had been working on a project to fix up one of his hot rods. We would be traveling in a white 1927 Model T. The body, hood, and the bed were all original. The car was made into a hot rod in 1965, with various components being added. The engine was a 1979 single four barrel 283 Chevy with, and had a 350 turbo automatic transmission with a Ford eight inch differential. Fred had laboriously built a roof cover made of vinyl, which had been stuffed with some sort of foam. He had hit a bit of a snag when he tried to install a roll bar and seat belts, finding out that the battery box was in the way of placing the belts. He didn't have enough time to circumvent the issue and initially the plan to travel in the Model T was at stake. We decided to say the hell with it and just go without the added safety measures. Hopefully this wouldn't be something that we would regret but we had faith in Fred's driving skills. Everyone else on the road though...well that we couldn't control. We set out in the afternoon. The three of us were crammed in the cabin; Fred at the wheel, Bev squished in the middle, and myself at the end. The sides of the cabin were left open to the elements, and the upholstered seating seemed more comfortable than I expected (I would soon change my opinion of this). The weather was hot but perfect. As long as the car was moving we'd have some natural air conditioning coming through. The rear was packed up with our gear, some spare gas canisters (the fuel gauge was nowhere near reliable) and some spare parts in case things went awry. The Model T could go up to 80 miles an hour but Fred was content with cruising at around 60 miles (100 km) on the freeway.

We took off and headed into the nearby town of Morrisburg to pick up a few last minute supplies. While Fred was in the bank, Bev and myself stood outside by the T and talked with a plethora of onlookers who curiously checked out the car. I guess it's not everyday that you see a blast from the past such as this. An excited older man, began recounting some car tales from his past. We continued on and crossed the St. Laurence seaway, arriving at the American border crossing. The border agent took a look at our ride and then asked us some questions.

"Where are you guys heading?"

"On our way to St. Louis, Missouri...hopefully," responded Fred.

We crossed into the United States without much more questioning and then headed on through the town of Ogdensburg and stopped for some gas before we hit route 37 on a westward direction. The T sounded pretty smooth. It wasn't too loud either. We were able to chat, although we had to speak up to be properly heard. Our route diverged from the St. Laurence and then headed south until we reached Interstate 81. Our journey brought us through Watertown and we continued on for another half hour before we collectively decided that a break was needed. We passed through a small town USA and stopped alongside a diner and gas station. It felt good to stretch. There was no doubt that stretching would have to become a regular part of our road trip, if nothing else but to keep morale up. We piled back into the car and headed to the city of Syracuse.

A Cracker Barrel restaurant was spotted alongside the freeway and we stopped off and had ourselves some dinner. I had some cheesy chicken broccoli and trimmings. Then we decided to call it a night and stop off at a nearby Comfort Inn suites hotel. This place was really nice. Fred was tired and settled into the room. Bev and myself decided that after having such a heavy meal, we would go for a walk. Plus being cooped up in a car for a few hours will really give you the urge to use your legs. We headed into a nearby sporting goods department store. Inside was the biggest collection of guns that either of us had ever seen. This was coming off the recent mass shooting in Orlando, and I couldn't help but realize how much more accessible guns were in this country. I guess we just don't see this as much back home. After that we spotted fireflies in a field and tried to catch them! The night ended with Bev noticing a had loads of earwax in my right ear (don't ask) and insisting on syringing out my ear until the biggest gob of earwax came out. I might add that Bev is also a nurse so she very much enjoys doing this sort of thing.

Day 2

After an amazing breakfast in the lobby of the hotel, we packed up the T and took off again. The state of New York has great interstate highways with plenty of service stops with all sorts of facilities. We would use these often since we had to stop every hour and a half to escape the confines of the car and stretch out our cramped muscles. We all knew this wouldn't be about comfort, but about the experience. We made our way past Syracuse and then past Rochester. One of the rest stops had a Tim Hortons, so we obviously had to stop and get some ice caps. A few hours later and we were past Buffalo, before heading south west and meeting up with the coast of Lake Erie. We reached the state-line of New York and then entered Pennsylvania! Only a small chunk of the state passed by the lake. We made our way passed the town of Erie. It didn't take long before Pennsylvania ended, and the populous state of Ohio began. I never realized how many famous towns and cities were in Ohio, and we would make our way past some of them. The song Ohio by Crosby, Stills, and Nash was in my head often. Route 90 continued along Lake Erie and cloudy weather made its way to us by the afternoon.

We were on a mission to reach Cleveland as soon as possible for the all important reason of getting to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! As a huge classic rock and heavy metal fan, this felt like a right of passage and a pilgrimage. Doing it in an old Model T was a bonus! Our route went right by the museum, which was smack in downtown Cleveland. The skyscrapers rose prominently in the south while enormous lake Erie was on the north. We didn't have much time before it closed, so we got tickets and got to it as fast as we could. I was so excited to finally be here! I started off by checking out the origins of rock which began with blues and gospel influences, which had worked their way north of the Mississippi. I read about and saw paraphernalia from Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. Legend has it that he sold his soul to the devil in return for incredible guitar skills. I then checked out artists that were on the forefront of rock and roll such as Elvis, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, The Who, Simon and Garfunkel, The Doors, Van Morrison, and many more of the iconic contributors of rock. Exhibits would take me through the ages and many were interactive. There was a small section dedicated to heavy metal legends like Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Black Sabbath. From there I went up a few more floors and caught whatever I could before it was closing time. I really could have stayed here for a full day, but there's always next time, hopefully. Fred ended up getting us some T-shirts from the gift shop and then we placed the Model T as close to the museum as possible for some photos. We walked around the grounds for a bit more and took photos. We took off and saw a small bit of Cleveland before getting on Route 71 down towards Columbus.

The clouds were very thick by this point. It was already the early evening but Fred wanted to get as far as possible before calling it a day. The clouds eventually opened up and rain fell in an on and off pattern. When the rain was heavy, it became very difficult to continue driving, as there was only a small wiper that had to be operated manually! We pulled off at the next exit and found a room at Super 8 Motel. We went to the Denny's next door for dinner. It felt appropriately American. After dinner we stopped at the Wal-Mart super center nearby to pick up some supplies. Bev and me played cards before it was bedtime.

Day 3

After breakfast we hit the road again. We continued down Route 71 towards Columbus. As we went along the interstate, we noticed some large winged creatures that were flying around us. Some smashed into the windshield and covered it in guts! One of them landed in car and Bev freaked out. It was still alive! I got a hold of it and tossed it out. Turned out we were in the midst of a cicada strike. These flying locust like bugs were massive and would have hurt if they hit us. Luckily we got out of their territory quickly. Not long after, Fred asked me to open his bottle of root beer. I opened it but the bottle had been irritated and exploded all over me and part of the car! We went around Columbus and pulled off at an exit right before Route 70. We stopped at Tim Hortons and noticed two large, and dead, cicadas under us. Bev got us some drinks while I cleaned up some of the root beer mess on the car. We got going but had to stop yet again when the tarp flew up and obstructed the rear view. We had to pull over at the side of the highway and then I jumped out and fixed it up. We got going again but the same thing happened so we ended up getting off at an exit and then fixed it up properly, realizing that one of the hooks securing the tarp had broken which was the reason that the tarp kept flying up. With that back under control we were ready to get back on the road for a while. We eventually left Ohio, though the "Ohio" song would stay in our heads for a while, and entered the state of Indiana. The roads were noticeably poor and the model T seemed unhappy as it bumped along. In reality it was our butts that became really unhappy. The seat was thin and low enough that I felt everything and then some. The small cushions we had weren't enough. We went right through Indianapolis and carried on out of the state without any incident.

Next up was the state of Illinois. That meant that we were now in Central time zone and had gained an hour. Near the town of Effingham we passed the country's largest cross. It rose 198 feet at the crossroads of Interstate 57 and 70. We were definitely getting deeper into Jesus country. The steel and concrete structure was impressive to see and very unexpected. As we were nearing the western edge of Illinois, everyone was becoming visibly irritated and we had to stop often for rest and stretching breaks. We were nearing close to eight hours of driving, which was no easy feat considering we were in a cramped vehicle. Still, I was having a blast so far. The sun was dipping as we reached the town of Glen Carbon. From the distance we could see the St Louis skyline. After checking into the hotel, we took a short drive into the town center, which happened to he hosting a homecoming fair. We stopped in a diner/bar for dinner and saw lots of young people dressed up for the night. Then we took a walk to the fair and enjoyed the festive atmosphere. Security seemed high and we noticed a truck with homeland security on it. Bev inquired about it with some officers and they stated that it was donated by the federal government. We headed back to the hotel as the fair began to wind down.

Day 4

Fred contacted his friend Dan the next morning and would be meeting him at the car show later that morning. I felt exhausted still, but got up and headed down to have the tasty breakfast provided. The day was already scorching as we loaded up the T and took off west. We soon crossed the mighty and storied Mississippi river and found ourselves in the state of Missouri. St Louis is just over the state line. We rode on the 270 to the district of Hazelwood. The Hazelwood Baptist Church was hosting this particular car show, as they had for the past 17 years. We arrived and found hundreds of classic cars from various eras. Fred found a spot to put the T and it began to receive attention almost immediately. Bev and I walked around and took many photos of the different cars on displays. Then we walked back and helped Fred clean up the dirty T. After that Dan came over and introduced himself. He was a middle-aged heavyset man, with a calm and kind demeanor. He gave us a little rundown about the event and then we walked over to the main gathering area where various food was being made. We met Dan's wife and two daughters there.

Bev and I stayed at the car show for a little longer and then set out to explore some sites around St Louis. We headed onto a main street and caught the bus towards town. We went though a few neighborhoods like Ferguson and then arrived at a train station about 45 minutes later. From there we caught the train towards downtown and got off at Forest Park. The park was beautiful and we headed straight for the St Louis Zoo. The zoo was free and was probably the best zoo I've ever been to. We explored many areas and saw penguins, monkeys, gorillas, various rodents, elephants, rhinos, polar bears, hippopotamus, seals, and lots more. There was some laughable moments as well like;

"Look mom! A triceratops!" (Little kid looking at a rhinoceros)

"Damn! That mothafucka look mad!" (Person commenting on the rhino that was pacing around and appreared irritated).

"Is that the painted dog?" "No, that's a chipmunk..." (There was a chipmunk with some food in its mouth wandering inside the pen)

We left the zoo after a few hours and I had a moment of low sugar as we walked back to the metro. Bev gave me some sugar tabs and we were off again. We took the metro all the way into the downtown core, and then walked towards the Mississippi river front to view the giant 600 foot stainless steel arch that this city is known for. Unfortunately there was a lot of construction happening on the grounds where the arch stood, but it was still awesome. By this point we were both starved so we headed back to the Metro and stopped to pick up some burgers from Hardees on the way. Our ride brought us to one of the airport terminal stations. Fred was nice enough to organize a lift to come and get us from there. Dan's father, Dave, and Fred picked us up in a Blue Saturn and brought us back to Hazelwood. Dave was an older man, didn't seem to talk much but we'd later find out that he was instrumental in designing airplanes for companies like Douglas and Boieng. We had several near death experiences with him at the wheel while on the drive back, and these included him going through a red light and almost crashing into an exit median. Bev was squeezing my arm in fright and had her eyes closed for most of the ride. I guess it's fair to say that Dave wasn't the safest driver. It would have been unfortunate if we had made it all this way in the '27 Model T only to perish in a blue Saturn Sedan!

We did arrive in one piece though. We would be staying at Dave and his wife Elsie's place, which was about 45 minutes west from where we were. We met Jim, who was Dan's brother, and his son Damian, a twelve year old who appeared to be a child prodigy when it came to building engines and cars. They had traveled from Cincinnati and Damian had built a miniature hot rod for this car show. He blew Fred away with his mechanical knowledge. They would be heading with us to stay at their parents/grandparents' place. Fred offered Damian a ride in the T along with Bev and I caught a ride with Jim in his truck. When we arrived at Dave and Elsie's place I was shocked. Dave had practically built the large log cabin style house on about ten acres of land. They gave us a detailed tour of their place and also shared many stories with us. They were incredibly nice and hospitable with us. Elsie showed us some dolls she made that she donated to the church and that would eventually be donated to people to help them "know Jesus" as she put it. Dave told us many tales of his airplane designing days. They were both quite old at this point and had built their home with many adaptations because they did not intend to be moved to a retirement home. They even had an elevator that went to every floor in the place! We were beyond exhausted at this point and passed out for the night in some comfortable beds.

Day 5

We woke up early and joined Dave and Elsie at the breakfast table. Dave made us some delicious omelettes. We chatted with them for a while, and then Bev and I went outside to try to view some birds in their giant backyard. The day grew hot and we began preparing to leave back towards St. Louis. Before heading out, Dave gave us a ride in his hydraulic lift that he bought to work on his house. The thing lifted us up 36 feet into the air! Fred let Damian drive the Model T for a short while before we said goodbye to everyone. We arrived back at the Hazelwood Baptist Church a short while later, and met up with Dan and his family. Fred wanted to take everyone out to lunch to thank them for the hospitality. We went to Applebees to eat and then Dan and Fred went to the airport to meet some people while the rest of us stayed near the restaurant and then went to Guitar Center. I practiced for a bit and then gave an impromptu lesson to Dan's oldest daughter who had expressed some interest in learning. Once Dan and Fred came back, we chatted for a bit more and then bid everyone goodbye and began the journey home.

We would be coming back on a different route, and set towards Chicago on Route 57. As we made our way there, plenty of people honked and gave us thumbs up as they saw the car. A cop yelled out "nice car!" as we were side by side at a traffic light. Then a crazed driver blew past us on the shoulder and was violently swerving in and out of the lanes. It gave everyone a scare. Once on the interstate, we drove along some very green farmland. Numerous billboards peppered our flanks, with messages from Donald Trump, the American Marines, and some hilarious poetry about how guns save lives (obviously pro-NRA propaganda). We stopped for the night in Bloomington, Illinois and got a room at the Comfort Suites. We then went out to a restaurant called Cousins and had some pretty good food. That night we managed to catch the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

Day 6

The journey continued along Route 57. We were driving on a portion of the classic Route 66. Route 66 originally spanned from Chicago to Santa Monica, California and we were doing the portion from St Louis to Chicago. We stopped in the town of Dwight, after seeing a classic Route 66 sign. The town welcome center was the site of an old Texaco gas station that held various mementos and antiques of Route 66 history. Inside the garage was a 1914 Model T car on display. The volunteers manning the center seemed quite enthralled when our Model T pulled into the station.

We hit some traffic as we approached Chicago, but it moved pretty well considering. Tall skyscrapers dominated the view, and we drove in along lake Michigan. The lake had a bluish hue that resembled the water around a tropical island. We parked the car near the Old Town district and then went to see the Chicago History Museum. It was a pretty good exhibit that showcased how this city came to be and also had a really good Lincoln exhibit to boot, since Lincoln is from Illinois. We spent a few hours here, before getting kicked out when the museum closed. Then we walked out and headed towards the Gold Coast part of town. We walked along Lake Michigan and got to experience some artificial beaches, joggers and bikers and of course, the beautiful Chicago skyline. We stopped and dipped our feet into the lake water and just relaxed. It was a healthy change of pace from sitting and driving all over the place in the Model T. People were jumping into the water around us. We made it down to a lakeside restaurant and got some beer and tried Chicago hot-dogs. Then we cut into the city on the way back, and walked along what seemed to be a pretty affluent area filled with bars, restaurants, stores and condos.

We went back to the car and took off with the intention of getting as far out of Chicago as possible to find a place for the night. I think everyone was impressed with the short time we had in the city. We drove through the south side of Chicago where there was heavy industry and pollution. Then we crossed into the northern part of Indiana and lost an hour because we were back in the Eastern time zone. It was already late by this point so we stopped in the town of Portage, Indiana. It was a crossroad of several interstates and had lots of accommodation options.

Day 7

It was another beautiful morning as we headed east into Michigan along Interstate 94. We put the top down and got to feel the cool air. We also got quite a bit of sun exposure in the process. We reached the town of Dearborn, right outside of Detroit, by mid afternoon. We were on our way to the Ford River Rouge Factory Complex, which houses over 90 buildings and millions of square feet of factory space. It also has the Henry Ford Museum which is what we came to check out. I noticed several people snapping photos of us as we pulled into the parking area. Maybe they were thinking we were part of the display? The museum was a fascinating showcase of automotive history, and not just about the Ford company. We saw a few Model T displays and reminded me of how awesome it was to be doing a road trip in a Model T. There was also displays about the Interstate highway system, fast food restaurants, chain hotels, and many other things that came to be because of the automotive explosion in the United States. There was also many displays with trains and airplanes, which Henry Ford had become involved in. By the time we left, it was the dinner time, and everyone was starving because we hadn't eaten since breakfast. We headed through some suburbs of Detroit and I joked that we hadn't been shot yet, since we had read about how the city is considered one of the most dangerous in the whole country.

We arrived at Hooters and I thoroughly enjoyed the food and ambience. Bev felt uncomfortable and equated the waitresses as being akin to strippers, which I assured her was not the case. She did eventually chat with our waitress as we were leaving and the waitress admitted she couldn't stand working there. We took off and headed right into the heart of Detroit. We cruised through downtown and looked for the border crossing back to Canada. We noticed the impressive GM skyscraper complex, but only 500 meters east of it were dilapidated and boarded up buildings. It's no surprise that Detroit has come under some very hard times, although we heard that it was getting better. We somehow got lost trying to find the tunnel to the crossing, and Bev and Fred began to stress and bicker but we soon found the right path. Maybe they thought we would get shot if we hung out too long here.

We easily crossed back into Canada, and found ourselves in Windsor, Ontario. It felt weird to head south from the States to cross into Canada and I think this is the only place where you can do that. The city felt very Americanized, but I guess it makes sense when you consider its proximity. We drove to the Ford plant nearby where the Model T was built. The plant was gated so we parked right in the outskirts and tried to get a photo of the Ford logo on the other side with the T. I managed to capture a few snaps, when a Mustang pulled up and two guys got out. It was alarming at first but they just wanted to get some photos of the T and seemed quite excited to do so. Then we heard some screeching and saw another car pull in, with an overweight security guy getting out and yelling about us not being allowed to take any photos or be near the factory property. He was a douche-bag, so we moved across the street and the Mustang guys joined us to take some photos with both cars together. The girl they were with seemed like she was on some sort of drug (or several) and excitedly chatted with us. She had a flight of thoughts and I had trouble understanding her by the end. We eagerly got out of there and then found a Tim Hortons along the way. Everyone agreed that the coffees taste way better across the border. We drove down to Leamington in the dark and stayed at a Holiday Inn. Shad flies were everywhere. The guy manning the check in counter was pretty excited about the Model T.

Day 8

We had to get up really early because there was lots of driving to do, plus we wanted to see Point Pelee, a national park at the most southern point of Canada. We checked out some marshes and had a close up with a giant snapper turtle that Bev was intent on exposing through the thick marshy water. There was many different birds around, although we were at the park too late in the season and missed the bird migrations. We then went to the tip of the park and stood at the 42nd parallel which is the same parallel as Barcelona and Rome. We took off around noon and began the journey eastward. It was really hot out and we were really lucky that we didn't experience much rain during the trip. We went along the 401 and reached Toronto just as rush hour traffic was brewing. We went into Toronto and took the Gardiner Express into Toronto, hoping it would be quicker. We still hit a lot of traffic and Fred had noticed that the engine fan wasn't working anymore. As we were stuck in traffic, we saw a license plate that spelled out "Buford", and although no one else reading this will agree, we thought it was hilarious and began going into laughing fits. Maybe everyone was just really tired.

Back on the 401, we kept hitting construction, and lost a lot of time. Since the car wasn't moving fast enough and the fan was no longer able to provide any circulation, the engine began overheating and steam was rising fast. We pulled over to the shoulder and turned the car off, then dumped water all over the radiator trying to help it cool. About a half hour later it seemed like the engine was a lot cooler so Fred got the car going and we raced to the nearest service station to get more radiator fluid. Fred figured that as long as the car kept going fast enough it wouldn't overheat again. We ended up stopping in the town to Trenton, which is home to a Canadian military base. We went to Boston Pizza for dinner and almost fell asleep at the table due to some serious exhaustion.

Day 9

After enjoying some of our final breakfast waffles on the trip, we packed up and stopped at Canadian tire to buy some tie wraps. Three out of the four brackets holding the fan in place had failed, so we were hoping the tie wraps would be a quick fix and work well enough to back home. We hit the 401 and drove pretty much non-stop towards Chesterville, which was the start and end point of the journey. Fred let me drive that last few kilometers and I realized how challenging it was compared to a conventional car since the steering was all manual and the car did like to wander. It was important to try not to over correct and lose control. We arrived at around noon, having completed 3468 kilometers, and finishing an epic road trip!

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27th July 2016

Very awesome trip
Wow . Its a Beautiful Road trip and also a very nice post

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