This is page 1 of 2 pages of the original unedited journal of my 2006 Superbird Road Trip. From this journal was written the September 2007 Mopar Muscle Magazine article titled "Road Trip". To see the article, please click on the link below:
FUEL FOR THE SOUL : August 2006
Greetings. My name is Brennan R. Cook. I am 41 years of age. I chose to start a “driver” level restoration of my Superbird because I needed something, ANYTHING, to be passionate about. I needed a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I was tired of being afraid. I had worked myself into a corner mentally. It seemed that everything I tried resulted in failure. In time, I became apprehensive about doing anything given the seemingly certain negative result. Eventually I became paralyzed with fear of the negative ramifications of any act and movement ceased. This is a most unpleasant place to be. To escape, I chose to focus only on the moment at hand. I asked myself: “What do I want to do RIGHT THIS MINUTE?” And I ignored any negative thoughts that rose up to try and stop me. In February of this year, I decided to take my Superbird out of storage and try to make it drivable. It had been sitting for 22 years so a very large number of items had deteriorated from age. These, in addition to those that failed from the abuse prior to storage, made the car completely undrivable.
Reading this may contradict a number of your preconceptions about the people who own Superbirds. We are not all swimming in disposable income. We are not all established in life, stable and prosperous. Not all Superbird owners are “investors” that bought them recently as status symbols or to diversify their portfolios with material goods. At the time of this writing, I own five cars and have no fixed address other than a PO Box. I am a person of remarkable abilities but yet have not worked in a traditional capacity for over a year. Some of the people who own Superbirds, myself included, are just plain odd. It took a different kind of person to appreciate the Superbird years ago when they were not that valuable. In some cases, it took someone down right unstable to actually buy one. One of those people was me.
To start a 2006 Superbird roadtrip story at the first day of travel would leave, in my opinion, a confusing contextual void for the reader.
There is as much, or more, to this story before the actual travel began as there was to the trip itself. I will be as brief as possible in describing the events leading up to the day of departure.
The most frequent questions asked during the trip were: “How long have you had it?” and “How original is it?” I have owned the car since 1981. My mother had to co-sign the note for the partially disassembled, non-running car as I was only 16 and not of legal age to enter into a contract. Yes, my mother was probably the coolest mom in the world to co-sign a note for a Superbird. Imagine paying $2000 for a non-running 11 year old car in 1981 while making $3.35 an hour. The longblock was out and apart. The transmission and all the peripheral components were gone. The bucket seats were missing and the car had red spray paint all over it and “C and K Pet Shop” painted on the doors. My friends thought I was insane. (They were right.)
The car retains all of its original sheetmetal. It has been repainted an incorrect shade of Tor-red. The vinyl top is original. The interior is original except for the bucket seats, the carpet and the rear package tray. The engine is a standard bore correct 440 HP replaced under warranty by Chrysler early in the car’s life. The transmission and bellhousing are date correct units but not the ones that came with the car. The driveshaft and differential are original. The car had about 60,000 miles prior to the roadtrip and now it has 63,000.
I tried to make the car roadworthy in 1982 and 1983. I was only marginally successful. I became annoyed with the temperament of the car in 1984 and parked it in storage. Aside from moving it from one storage unit to another, it has not been driven since 1984. I have had many project cars and trucks since then. In a way they were all surrogates for the Superbird. I was so disappointed in how it turned out when I was in High School that I could not bring myself to work on it. Yet I wanted the satisfaction that comes from building cars so I built others.
The most recent refurbishment began in February of 2006. I have learned over the years that when I work on something – it does not work. So, I chose to take my car to a professional mechanic for the majority of the work. By coincidence, that mechanic, (Todd Kramer of Fargo, North Dakota) was with me the day I picked up the car in 1981/2. We used his father’s truck to haul it home. If anyone deserves credit for this roadtrip, Todd does. I would never have completed the work myself. The fact that the car completed a 2800 mile, two week trip without me turning a single wrench is credit to Todd’s abilities.
Riding shotgun on this trip is my girlfriend of 3 plus years, Cheryl Soscia. Cheryl is a fantasy come to life. She is 27 years old and an ex-ballet dancer with a great attitude. The fact that I am 41, marginally stable, unemployed and hail from no fixed address does not seem to bother her. Feel free to hate me now. All I can figure is that I hold the same appeal to her as those basket case rusted muscle cars hold for us. Cheryl is relocating to Las Vegas so the timing was perfect. We just moved her out of her apartment in time for the roadtrip and she will have just enough time to get to Vegas afterward to start her new job.
Tuesday, August 8th
20060808 – T minus 1 day and counting
I have done all I can do and am willing to do to prepare this car for the trip. It will either make the journey or it won’t. At some point, one just has to go. Take a cell phone, a credit card and towing insurance and forget about it.
I am a bit of a perfectionist with some things in life. A project like this is a good way to get over perfectionism. I can be pragmatic if I have to be. If I have attempted to fix something several times and it defies me, I write it off as part of the vehicle’s personality. The following are some of the personality traits of the Superbird prior to starting the trip.
1) Valvetrain noise – despite a new cam, new lifters, cleaned and inspected heads, second set of new lifters, adjustable push rods – this thing still sounds like a straight four Toyota from the early 80s. Fine, be that way. Rattle your butt off for all I care.
2) Inaccurate gauges – my instrument cluster is possessed. The needles are moved by narcoleptic, mischievous leprechauns. Sometimes a gauge will register a reading, sometimes it won’t. Almost always, what it registers has nothing to do with any reality I am aware of. The only thing known to be correct is the quartz upgraded clock. Whatever, at least the brakes work – sort-of.
3) Leaking master cylinders – this is number three. This time the front reservoir is the one leaking but I can’t tell where it is going. After a full day of driving, it is almost empty. Good enough. Mountains Shmountains – I’ll just check the fluid every day and add brake fluid as needed.
4) Drivetrain vibrations – this thing has a harmonic vibration that starts at 65 MPH. It fades in and out about once a second. It gets worse as speed increases. With the clutch in, it vanishes so I doubt it is in the rims and tires. A new continuous rumble becomes more evident with the clutch in. I think it is the differential grumbling when unloaded. Unless there is a load from acceleration or deceleration, something seems loose. We have been through the transmission, driveshaft and differential completely and can not find anything so I guess I will just live with it.
5) Exhaust leaks – Despite professionally installed, high dollar reproduction exhaust from front to back, there are still leaks. This car has always had a thing for exhaust leaks. I hate the bologna-slice-slapping-linoleum sound it makes but I am out of time and patience. If I quickly vary the RPMs I can pretend I am driving a self-returning lawn sprinkler: Tch….Tch….Tch….Tch….Tch…. tch.tch.tch.tch.tch.tch.thc.tch. Maybe I should change the decals to read “Rainbird”.
Wednesday, August 9th, 20060809 – Liftoff
Bismarck – We were going to follow David Andahl and his girlfriend Jackie to the Black Hills for the first leg of the trip but we took our time getting going and they had to leave early so we are on our own.
Mandan – We put Cheryl’s truck into my storage unit where the Superbird used to sit, grab a snack, fuel up and hit the road.
Glen Ullin – Since we can only drive about 60 MPH without vibrations, we choose to take the back roads and turn off I-94. I want to stop in Elgin, ND because the car was purchased new in 1970 by a former Elgin resident and I am hoping someone there might remember the car from days gone by.
Elgin – We stop for gas and I mention to the woman at the station that the original owner of the car used to live there. Imagine my surprise when she tells me the owner’s son still lives in Elgin. A quick call or two and I am speaking to Shawn Lince. He is very excited and comes to the gas station immediately. This is one of those weird moments like the alignment of the planets. Shawn sat on his father’s lap and steered the Superbird when it was new. Both he and I are excited at the reunion. I insist that he drive the car. What a flashback! We stopped by his house to show his wife the car and he gets his father, Bill Lince, on the phone. I had tried to contact Bill years ago through his mother but had no luck. Bill is a wealth of information. He clears up a number of mysteries surrounding the car and promises to keep in touch with information as he recalls it. As it turns out, Shawn graduated from the same High School as my older brother and in the same class. We did not connect years ago because I did not get the car until after he graduated. Both Bill and Shawn are a bit speechless as they thought the car had been totaled in an accident years ago. They thought the car did not exist anymore. I had researched Superbirds in North Dakota many years ago and had heard of another orange one being parted out. I suspect that is where the rumors started. We leave Elgin feeling great. What a fantastic start to the trip. Everyone involved has had a transfusion of life giving energy. I expected good things from the trip but I never expected anything like this.
Bowman – I was born in Bowman. I remember seeing my Superbird in Bowman when I was 9 or 10 years old. That image is etched indelibly into my memory. I remember where I was standing as it drove by. I remember being in total awe of what I saw. I had never seen a Superbird before. I didn’t realize at the time, that 6 or 7 years later I would own that exact car. I wanted to stop in Bowman and see Steve Mutschelknaus of S & B Machine as he had built a number of my engines over the years. I had promised him that I would stop by if I ever got the Superbird running again. He moved to Bowman after I had left in 1975 but he never knew the car was in town as it had been sitting disassembled for years. He did remember distinctly the day we trailered it out of town. He was in a now-defunct auto parts store and saw it go by in route to the local car wash. We wanted to clean off some of the 5 years of dust that had settled on the car.
Today, Steve brought his kids out to see the now-running Superbird and commented that this may be the only time they get to see one in real life. His comment would not make sense until later in the trip after I had heard similar comments from complete strangers. I had no idea how big a deal it is to see a Superbird driving around. I have been looking at this indolent, moody iron pile for over two decades and, apparently, I have really lost touch with how much these cars mean to people. To me it is a troublesome but fascinating car. At times, I hated this car for the contrast of the expectation I had for it and the disappointment is provided. For me, it was an obsession from my past that I had held onto like a bad habit or semi-benign cancer. To some others, it is an elixir. It gives life blood to their memories and floods them with all that was and is good. It really is amazing the differences in perspective we all have and how a common trigger can evoke different responses. We stopped for fuel on the way out of Bowman. It turns out the woman running the station cared for the previous owner of the car (Homer Corwin) when he had the car more than 25 years ago. She asked: “Is that Homer’s car?” She is working at a station I remember fondly. It used to be owned by Wendell Fix. It was a Phillips 66 station. Fix’s 66 was where my father took our 59 El Camino for service. He had a 59 Chevy 4 door as a loaner car that people could use while he worked on their cars. My pre-school logic could never make sense of how we left one car and got another that looked just like it (sort of). I wondered where all the other cars were that people got if they brought in a different make. Maybe Wendell only worked on 59 Chevies.
Redig, SD – I stopped in Redig because I have always meant to. It has a population of 1 person and about 100 cars. I have driven by Redig numerous times and meant to stop to see what was up on the hill in the way of automotive iron. The Superbird is a meal ticket to all things automotive so I stopped and asked about the cars off the highway. Redig is Edgar and Edgar is Redig. Edgar is in his 80s at least. He is tough as nails and sharp as a tack. He is a living history of the area and he shows us a photo inventory of the cars in the distance so we don’t have to drive up there. Edgar is one of the people Cheryl remembers most. When he looks at my car he asks if it has the single or double rocker assemblies. I am a bit confused thinking he means something else. Only after he uses the word “Hemi” do I realize that he is in complete control of his faculties. Apparently, he sold a hemi Plymouth several years ago. I can only hope he got what it was worth. I don’t ask. We have all met Edgar at some time in our lives. Picture a weathered but unbroken muscle of a man with an iron grip that still raises cattle in his eighties on the vast expanse that is Northwestern South Dakota. Edgar still holds the position as Postmaster of Redig so if you want to look at his cars, call ahead. He only wants to show them when he is not working.
Spearfish, SD – I find it imperative that I stop in Spearfish as that is where my Mother, Heidi, lives. Without her help, I never would have been able to buy the Superbird in the first place. I doubt it would have still been there when I turned 18. I think she only rode in it one other time for a very brief trip around town many years ago when it was running very poorly. The electric fuel pump was over-powering the carburetor and I had to run it almost wide open to use all the fuel. Today, the car is much more docile and we take a trip around Spearfish.
Thursday, August 10th, 20060810
ARRGGHH, MY BACK! I awaken semi-crippled from our drive yesterday. We have all heard someone wax nostalgically “They sure don’t make them like they used to.” In some ways that is a good thing. In particular – seats. After only one day of sitting on 1970 Plymouth bucket seats, I am having trouble raising myself to an upright position. Yikes, these seats would make the Terminator pull over for Doan’s pills. I can hear him “ouch my rotary joints”. When someone at Plymouth specified the level of lumbar support, they must have checked the box just below “hammock”. We went for a test cruise about a week ago with David and Jackie. Cheryl asked: “Who designed these back seats?” My reply: “No one”. We brought a couple of extra pillows and hopefully we can find an improved seating position by employing them. At least Plymouth was too cheap to sew the metal insignia plates into the upholstery. I think I still have the Oldsmobile symbol branded into the back of my thigh from sitting on one of those seat medallions in my Grandfather’s Vista Cruiser.
I check the fluids and find, as usual, it needs engine oil and brake fluid. I am burning about a quart of oil every 200 miles. This does not bother me because oil is cheap and I have to stop every 100 miles for gas. Otherwise, the car seems fine. Spearfish Canyon is a beautiful place and I have always wanted to take the Superbird for a drive through it. It is a short, low speed scenic drive so it is perfect for us. We stop at Cheyenne Crossing to get some coffee and, as usual, the car is a magnet for attention. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is in full swing so barbeque is going and the beer is flowing even in the morning. People are great and there are many photos taken of the car with cameras and camera phones. Some people pose by it. Everyone is respectful and no one touches the car. Honestly, I could leave it running with the windows down. We continued on into Lead and Deadwood and decided to drive through Sturgis despite the inevitable traffic jam. Rally attendance is down a little this year so our cruise through town is a little faster than we expected. All eyes are on us and all approve. There are still a few people out there that don’t know what a Superbird is but they are rare. We looped back to Spearfish by the interstate and stopped for some lunch. By coincidence, the Snap-on rep for Todd’s shop in Fargo is there. He had seen the car while it was being worked on. We still have most of the day left so we decide to drive out to Devil’s Tower.
The New York Times ran an article on the changes of NASCAR bodies over the years. The Devils Tower photo was used to open the article. The article is very informative and well done. To read it, please click on this text or cut and paste http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/automobiles/collectibles/17speed.html?_r=2&ref=automobiles&oref=slogin
As we are nearing our exit for the Tower, we see a Wyoming Highway Patrol with someone else pulled over. We take our exit about a mile later and start up the back roads to the tower. I glanced in my rear view and sure enough the HP is following me. I pulled over to look at the map and they pulled in to get a look at the car. Really great guys. One had a friend working on a Road Runner in Billings. We talked and I took some pictures. They even turned on the lights for me. I never imagined enjoying having the HP with lights on behind my car but today I did. Incidentally, they have the new blacked-out Chargers that would blow the doors off my car in any challenge except who can burn the most gas in the shortest time.
In Hulett, Wyoming we talked with a young man in his 20s. He just wanted to get a look at the car. His brother is working on a Sport Fury. This trip surprises me with the number of younger musclecar enthusiasts. These cars were built, and run down, long before they were born yet there are a lot of 20 somethings that know their musclecars. We drive up to the Tower itself where the parking lot attendant offers to valet park for us. Back at Devil’s Tower Junction, we stop for a beer and talk with more people. A few days later, I am told that Richard Petty was at the Tower the same time as we were. I wish we would have crossed paths. If not for him, the car that is so much of who I am would never have been built. The day is getting on so we decide to drive back to Spearfish for one more night before heading west. It has been a full and enjoyable day.
Friday, August 11th, 20060811
The car started well again today. Add some oil. Add some gas (later). Add some brake fluid and we are good to go. I want to make Thermopolis Wyoming today so we can sit in the hot springs. The waters are truly therapeutic . We stop for fuel in Sundance and one of the attendants comes out immediately making a bee-line for the car. For a second I thought I had parked somewhere I shouldn’t but she immediately starts to tell us about the 68 Charger she and her boyfriend are working on. She is a Mopar-girl. The 68 Charger would become the single most referenced Mopar on this trip. It seems everyone must have owned one at some time and they all thought it was a great car. More talking, photos, etc. Everyone positive.
If I had more time prior to the trip, I probably would have swapped in an overdrive transmission to make highway driving more tolerable. I am getting passed by every Geo, motorhome and loaded semi on the highway. My 3.54s put me at 3000 rpm at 60 mph. If I want to get 10 mpg, I need to keep it around 3000. Swapping out the transmission would have been a mistake, however. As it turns out, having people pass me is the best way to receive maximum exposure. Virtually everyone else is driving at or above the speed limit (75MPH). If I could drive that speed, I would either get a speeding ticket or I would be traveling with the same group of people all day. Also, my mileage would be even worse and something else would probably blow up under the strain.
Cruising at 60 on the interstate is perfect. People can take their time passing. They can linger as long as they want and then move on. Many people are leaving the Sturgis Rally and heading west today. As a general rule, bikers know cars as well as bikes and they like to see the muscle cars out on the road. The response is all positive.
We stop for lunch in Buffalo, Wyoming and the term Parking Karma comes into play. It seems that everywhere we go, we get great parking spots. In front of restaurants, below our motel windows, you name it. The rest of the day involves a scenic drive through the Ten Sleep area to Thermopolis. We are tired from the heat, noise and seats so we grab dinner and wait till Saturday to sample the hot springs.
Saturday, August 12th, 20060812
Thermopolis, Rest Area, Cody, Chief Joseph Highway, Cooke City MT
We aren’t setting records for being out of bed on this tour. I think we are sub-consciously avoiding riding in the car. We get up whenever we feel like it, eat breakfast, fuel up, check fluids, gab with people and by the time we get out of town it is 11:00 in the morning. Oh well, we really don’t have a schedule anyway. I prefer to travel this way. Pick one significant item or destination and let the rest develop as it may. Less stress that way. We had time this morning to try the hot springs. They only allow you 20 minutes. This does not seem like long but, unless you are used to it, 20 minutes is plenty. We were wobbly legged for half the day afterward. My only goal for today is to make Cooke City, MT so that we are near the entrance to Yellowstone Park. We stopped for a picnic lunch at a rest area. There was very little traffic so this seemed like a good place for Cheryl to test drive the car. Cheryl does not have much time with a clutch and this rest area has a nice loop drive in it so off we go. The Superbird is an easy car to clutch – plenty of torque, indestructible drivetrain – if in doubt, floor it. We drove around the loop a number of times trying various scenarios of starting, stopping and shifting and then it was out to the highway. She drove it the remainder of the way to Cody and did very well.
One of the most common reactions I received when I told people we were going to do this roadtrip was the concern they would have about something happening to the car. Would it get wrecked, stolen, vandalized, stripped or? I have no apprehension about letting Cheryl drive despite her limited experience with clutch cars. I really don’t care to worry about all the bad things that may happen. Worrying about potentialities only poisons the moment. Some would say that worry increases the likelihood of the unfortunate occurring. I made the decision to take the Superbird on this trip no matter what. It was going. Period. If it blew up or got wrecked or stolen, so be it. At least I tried. So far, everything has exceeded my expectations. I take this as a good sign and focus on more of the same.
We stop for fuel in Cody, Wyoming. A cherry 59 Caddy pulls in as well. I consider the 1959 cars to be, in a way, the parents of the Superbird. Fins were at their highest and most outrageous. Styling was so over the top. The Caddy is owned by Chris Jetter. Chris makes custom blown glass accessories for cars. They are stunning. He tells us that when he saw our car at the station, he decided that is where he should get gas as well.
After Cody, we drive north and take 296 toward Cooke City, Montana. This is another scenic drive with significant elevation change. The Superbird eats up the hills. All it takes is some tiny extra pressure on the gas and we roll up the mountain. No need to shift down. Nothing like a 440 for torque. The carb works well despite the elevation change. I wouldn’t rejet it even if it loaded up like a diesel. This trip is all about enjoyment, not working on cars.
We made Cooke City just in time. All the motels are full except (Karma again or maybe “Carma” again) a nice little place on the edge of town that has a couple of rooms left. The other was taken as we stood in the lobby. We had a great trout dinner and a bottle of wine and called it a day.
Sunday, August 13th, 20060813
It was a cold night for the Bird. When we get up there is ice and frost on the car. It rained a little during the night and when the temperature dropped in the early morning hours it turned to ice. We had a good breakfast and when we returned, most of the ice had melted so I wiped down the car with some old bath towels I brought with for just such a purpose. Shiny and clean, we loaded up and started the car. We did not have conditions like this to test the choke so it loaded up pretty bad and I had to give it some Rs to clean it out. There is a very slight, deep squeak in the engine while it is cold. It is hard to notice over the exhaust leaks and valve noise but it is there. I optimistically hope it is a heat shield or the like but I know it is something internal. Funny how one becomes so astute at recognizing the various sounds a vehicle can make. Most people would not even know they were there and would not care even if they did know. But not car people. We are always trying to read the vital signs of our vehicles. I will keep an ear on this but don’t think it is a short-term terminal issue. I don’t hear it when the car is warm so I accept it as part of the car’s personality….. for now.
Before leaving town we stop to look at a Plum Crazy 73 Challenger with a for sale sign in it. It is a really straight car with nice paint and appears to be a project on the verge of completion. As it turns out, it is. We meet the owner and ask a few questions about the car. Vehicle projects are all similar in some respects. There is stage one – the “I am going to fix it up someday.” stage. As we all know, most cars residing in this stage will never be fixed at all and will, in fact, continue to deteriorate until nothing is left. My car was in this stage for 22 years.
Next comes the “OK let’s do it” stage. Usually the car is disassembled, body work begins and a number of intervening issues stall it indefinitely. If a car makes it past stage two, it may reach the “Almost completed but I am burned out beyond belief stage”. This Challenger is at this stage. The owner has all the parts needed to complete the project but has hit the wall and can’t bring himself to finish it. We talked for a while and I assured him that it would be worth it if he finished the assembly. As we all know, one is never DONE with these cars. There is always something to be fixed or improved. But there is a point where the cars become a supplier of energy rather than just a vortex that saps you of money and life. That point is when they run and drive reliably. Once roadworthy, the influx of positive energy is palpable.
We needed fuel before leaving. When did we not need fuel? Cooke City had the highest prices we had seen or would see. $3.76 a gallon for premium. I did see a higher price in Yellowstone but I think that was for diesel. If I had known we would get better mileage with lower octane, I could have knocked about a hundred dollars off our gas bill for the trip as a whole. We left Cooke City late as usual. In Yellowstone we stop for a picnic lunch beside the road. I backed up too close to a rock (no passenger side mirror) and Cheryl opened her door into it. There is a tiny chip out of the bottom corner paint and she feels bad. I assure her that I couldn’t care less as this is not the original paint – once repainted, who cares how many times it is repainted is how I look at it. Besides, my car had almost no options but for some reason had the chrome door edge guards on it. They will probably cover the chip should I choose to put them back on. If I was worried about chips, bugs, dirt etc. I never would have taken the car on the trip in the first place. If something is original, I try to protect it. If not I can always buy another part.
We stopped in Mammoth Hot Springs to soak in the river. It is well worth the short walk. Hot spring water mixes in with river water to create an ever changing sensation of hot and cold. I equate it to having acute taste buds and licking a multi-flavored twist cone. Cheryl just looks at me and says I’m weird. I trust her judgment. As we are loading up to leave the hot springs, a very young and very excited boy exclaims “I know that car! I have that car. It is from the Cars movie.” I assure him that he is exactly correct. I wondered if the Cars movie would immortalize the Superbird for another generation. I have just received my answer. That movie will be watched more times by more kids than we watched Monte Python’s Holy Grail. That wing will be indelibly etched into their minds. Even pre-school boys get it. They stare, point, jump up and down and say “Look at that Car!!!”
We make reservations in Mammoth for a room at the Yellowstone Hotel on the other end of the park. The desk clerk comments that she is surprised that they still have rooms this late in the day. Carma baby. We drove through the park, stopping at various sites as we go, getting great parking and arrive at the historic Yellowstone Hotel. I have never been here and it is a living postcard. There is a string quartet playing in the lobby area and the lake is like a mirror. Other than the heat, the weather has been so good that we took no notice of it – just perfect.
Monday, August 14th, 20060814
The day begins with a fantastic breakfast at the Motel. We go for a walk along the lake and see buffalo grazing nearby. When it is time to leave I notice a Dodge mini van with the hood up. The battery ran down during the night powering a cooler and the owner is having trouble getting a jump from today’s computerized vehicles. Well there are no computers on the Bird so we loan him some electrons and all is well.
After a great drive along the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake, we head for Old Faithful. Neither Cheryl nor I have seen it before. I tried to get a parking spot in sight of the geyser for a shot with the car but for once it did not work. There are too many trees between the parking lot and geyser. A handicap stall was open near the geyser but I couldn’t bring myself to use it as my only handicaps are some of my personality traits and I don’t think those count.
The Old Faithful Lodge was under renovation so we moved on. We stopped at the Paint pots. We weren’t sure we wanted to deal with the tour bus loads of people but the parking Gods shined on us again and The parking spot opened up so we stopped and walked up the trail. The stop was worth it as the Geysers erupted on cue and we saw the boiling mud pit that is so often shown in video clips. Clearly this is an amusement park for dirt. This is where dirt goes to have fun. The thicker mud pots routinely launch handfuls of semi-liquid dirt into the air to heights of ten feet. It reminded me of watching socks through the glass laundromat dryer door – they are having way too much fun.
If you like to people watch, vacation spots are your Mecca. Getting people out of their respective elements is the best way to see their personalities bared. If there is a fixed quantity of disdain and contempt in the Universe, early teen females must have it all. The look on their faces as they are forced to tag along with their families is a riot. “Oh My God, I think I am going to die if I have to look at another hole in the ground with water in it. And my cell phone doesn’t even work out here. Is this Hell? Someone please tell me this is Hell so I can become a Nun and avoid it later.” At this moment, their pre-teen brother rushes ahead with unbridled enthusiasm at the prospect of seeing the largest pool of mud in the world – salt in the wound.
By the middle of the afternoon, both Cheryl and I were feeling a little worn out. This is day six of the trip and, as all you travelers know, there are up and down cycles to every trip. We were both overloaded with new sights and experiences and needing rest. We have traveled together enough to know that this is normal and that the other person is not the source of our impatience so we just make a point to take a different path for a day.
We decided to leave Yellowstone Park and find a motel early enough to enjoy a meal and a glass of wine before calling it a day. Tuesday will, for the most part, be a travel day to Helena where I need to check on my rear bumper at Industrial Decorative Plating. As long as we get there during business hours everything will be good.
So many people wave or give a sign of approval that I have had to start driving with my left arm out the window resting on the mirror so I can wave back. I am wearing a long sleeve shirt to cut down the sunburn. Although seemingly unlikely, bees can fly up the tiny gap between one’s wrist and shirt sleeve. I flushed him out just as he started to do his thing.
In West Yellowstone we find that many of the motels are filled but a small independent off the main drag has rooms. There is a 60 Chevy shortbox out back that is owned by the friendly young man managing the motel. His name is Gilbert. The American West Motel also has a road crew staying at it from….. North Dakota. So we talked into the evening before wandering off to find a pizza and a bottle of wine.
Tuesday, August 15th, 20060815
It is early in the morning. I awoke reasonably refreshed considering how late we stayed up and how little I slept. I stepped outside to catch the dawn - a golden glint of smoke refracted light on the low hanging clouds. The air is cool and pleasant. The car will run well today. As usual, the Bird is awake before me – its’ headlights open. Cheryl is still sleeping and I will do my best to not bother her. I put the coffee pot in the bathroom and brew up a batch of motel coffee. It is good but weak. The quality of the water here makes up for some of the lack of punch in the brew. I set up the computer so I can check my email for the first time in several days. Bruce Kepley has responded to the photo I sent of the car with Devil’s Tower. He likes the photo and is very complementary of the car. I thank him with an email and am surprised to receive another in return almost immediately. Since he is on the East coast and I am in the Mountain time zone it dawns on me that he is well into his day while I am just getting started. Bruce mentions that he has connections at Mopar Muscle Magazine and that someone there may be interested in our roadtrip for a story. I had thought about contacting several of the magazines before leaving but the details of the trip and a number of other personal issues had left little time. I knew driving a genuine Superbird around the countryside would be a peculiar experience and maybe worthy of a blurb somewhere. It appears I underestimated the potential interest just as I underestimated the response of individuals that we would meet. It would not dawn on me till later in the day that what we were doing was potentially something of larger significance. Several more emails passed back and forth and I received a phone call from Kevin Shaw at Mopar Muscle Magazine. Kevin and I both trust Bruce’s judgment implicitly when it comes to all things Mopar. We communicated well and many ideas were exchanged as to the potential of the story. I agreed to stay in touch, take as many photos as possible and document our progress.
Our departure was pleasantly delayed as usual due to conversations about the car. A Mopar parts person from Missoula named Mark saw the car from a distance and brought his son over to look at it. We talked with the Harley rider/smokejumper in our neighboring room. And Gilbert thanked us for our stay before we finished loading up.
We left West Yellowstone about noon after a good breakfast lunch. Highway 287 runs all the way to Helena so we chose it for simplicities sake. About a half hour out of town I took a call from Bruce Kepley and talked briefly about the potential for this roadtrip story and his Mopar projects.
We made Helena in time to stop by Decorative Industrial Plating. I had sent my rear bumper to them for straightening and re-chroming about a month earlier. By coincidence, our trip took us through Helena where they are located so we thought we would stop by and see the finished product. It looked fantastic. So nice that now I need to work on the rest of the car to match it. Paul showed me around his shop and explained how they do the work they do. He had pieces for cars from all over the United States and Europe.
We got a room in the Days Inn and were, as usual, immediately fielding questions about the car. TJ at the desk was very interested in the car and checked us in with a great room overlooking where the car would be parked. While unloading, another enthusiast in his 20s stopped to check it out. He told me that he was saying to himself as I came out: “I sure hope this guy isn’t an @sshole because I want to look at this car.” I assured him I wasn’t and he went on to tell me that until now, the Superbird was like some kind of “mythical beast”. He had seen pictures but never one in real life. He is a GM guy but he had to get a look at this Mopar. Once again, I am pleasantly surprised at how many enthusiasts in their 20s know what the car is. When I was driving it in 1983, most people thought I built it myself out of old barn siding.