Reno or Bust. That's what we probably should have put on the side of the Dodge Van.
This is a true tale of two guys going to Hot August Nights, my buddy Ron and I.
We left early with Mapquest directions from Southern California to take I-5 north to Stockton, then California 88 to 395 to Reno. To get the jump on traffic, we left early in the morning and got to the Grapevine at about 7:00 a.m.
At the Bakersfield split of I-5 and 99, we decided that I-5 was a pretty boring drive and 99 might be better. We were also getting hungry and knew of many fine restaurants in Bakersfield: Denny's, Coco's, and McDonald's.
Trying to decide in Bakersfield on our first deluxe meal, we remembered the truckstop out by the Famoso Drag Strip near Shafter. That's right, the name of the town was Shafter, pronounced "shaft-her."
The truckstop could have been named "shaft-them." It was a run down truckstop with bad buffet food, not what we remembered at all.
This is where I began telling my buddy about all the old cars that I had heard were hidden away in the Central Valley. Ron had heard some of the same stories. We decided we would go on a mission to locate old auto treasures.
Our first stop was at a Pick A Part near Tulare. It gets pretty hot in Tulare in August, especially in a junk yard. I located a '63 Dodge and removed the AM radio (it works great!) and a pair of vintage Anco stainless wiper arms. It was a huge score for $12.
The bad part was even dressed with a t-shirt and shorts we were a mess leaving Tulare.
The guy in the junkyard told us that Visalia had more old car treasures. We found the yard but it was closed on Mondays.
Up by Kingsburg, just south of Fresno, we found a Pull Your Part and another Dodge, this time a 1964. This Dodge was picked pretty clean but it did have a vintage — almost perfect — set of Anco wiper arms. These were just like the ones we picked up in Tulare, only nicer.
Did I mention it was hot? This is really the test of the all-day protection from Right Guard.
I now had four wiper arms and a radio for a '63 Dodge.
At our next stop, in Madera, we found a great old yard with lots of stuff and guys drinking beer for lunch. They spoke of a guy in Chowchilla that had a ton of old cars but seldom sold anything. They didn't know much but he was the old car king of the area.
Hearing we were on a road trip, they tried hard to call their buddies who might have the information we needed but they couldn't get us the number of the "king." That was a bit disappointing.
I did find a vintage Chrysler module that the guys gave me.
We are now hot, greasy, filthy dirty, and are beginning to smell. But now we have an electronic ignition module, four Anco wiper arms and a radio for a '63 Dodge.
It was lunchtime in Stockton and we were a mess. We looked for a nicer restaurant than the truckstop in Famoso — but not too nice as we were greasy, sweaty, filthy dirty and smelly.
Our choice was Baja Fresh. Time for some healthy food to fuel us on our journey. The Baja Fresh, located at Route 4 and Route 99, is in an office area. It was pretty obvious to us that our appearance upset some of the Yuppie lunch bunch.
We took turns cleaning up in the rest room and moved on. Reno or Bust.
We found one more old car place but all that was discovered was a 1962/1963 dome light surround for $1.00.
Now we have a dome light surround, an electronic ignition module, four Anco wiper arms and a radio for a '63 Dodge.
If you haven't been on Route 88 from Stockton, California to Minden, Nevada you have really missed the boat. Sutter Creek, Jackson, Pine Grove, and Pioneer are extremely pretty. When you get past Crooks Station you're in the El Dorado National Forest. The vistas at Carson Pass at 9,000 feet are terrific.
It was about 6:00 p.m. and we had just stopped for a restroom break and a cold beverage when it happened. We spotted a red car parked by the side of the road.
There is not too much traffic on Route 88 at that hour on a Monday. We noticed a man opening the hood. Being Good Samaritans we drove up and asked if we could be of help.
It was a 2002 Lincoln four-door with the guy's wife and two young girls in the car. It was easy to notice that the Lincoln had lost almost all the oil from the engine. You could see the oil trail and the trunk and back bumper were sprayed with oil. The car also was developing a nice pool of oil underneath it. We checked it out and could not locate the source of the problem.
The guy's wife and two girls did not get out of the car. The guy would occasionally say something to them. I guess it was like this: we were dirty, greasy, and smelly. We probably looked like people that the little family had heard tales about and we were on a lonely road late at night.
None of our cell phones would work at that location. We convinced the family that they should get somewhere where they could call AAA for the car. Reluctantly, they agreed.
Now we had one husband, one wife, two young girls, miscellaneous family luggage, a dome light surround, an electronic ignition module, four Anco wiper arms and a radio for a '63 Dodge.
We found a ski resort. Closed. Then we found a bar and restaurant where all the cell phones showed three bars. The AAA was called and they indicated that South Lake Tahoe had a Lincoln dealership.
Now the problem was how to get the little family to Lake Tahoe and their hotel, Harrah's.
The guy's wife (after several glasses of wine) loosened up and after the tow truck arrived she became quite chatty. They bought us dinner and, being the Good Samaritans, we drove them to Harrah's Lake Tahoe.
On the way our new friend called the hotel and told them he was arriving. When we pulled up to the hotel, the bellman looked as us like we were trash. However, when the guy mentioned his name, the head bellman became extremely friendly.
We got the guy's card and the next day when we looked at it we noticed he was president of a company in San Francisco.
We had a wonderful week at Hot August Nights in Reno. We went junkyarding out by the brothel, hit the Auto Swap Meet, checked out the thousands of cars on display and cruising the streets, and went to the Silver Auction.
We came back on Highway 395 and visited no junkyards. We saw a trout farm, drove around June Lake, and saw a herd of elk outside of Bishop.
When I got back I unloaded side windows from a '65 Impala, four 11" rear Chrysler brake drums, an NOS three-speed push button controller, a chrome air cleaner, a dome light surround, an electronic ignition module, four Anco wiper arms and a radio for a '63 Dodge.
On a personal note, this column is dedicated to the memory of Ted McKinley, formerly of Orange County Speed. I will always remember our time together.
Originally published in the October 2005 Automotive
Copyright 2005 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.