The Hendersons A six-week driving trip in the U.S. with TTS
Six Weeks with the Top Down
June 24 - Thursday - The start of the sprint to Gainesville
Tom the son (TTS) had finished his graduate studies in May and was now Dr. Tom. His apartment lease ran until the end of June, so he had stayed on working on research for his advisor. We had decided to take a road trip on his way home, so I packed my bags, got Sophia ready to go, and hit the road. I was essentially retracing the route the two of us had taken when he went to Gainesville to start his studies. We took five days driving from home in Lakewood, WA to Gainesville at that time. I took five days on this trip, but I didn't have a second driver. Fortunately, Sophia is very comfortable and made the trip quite easy. I got into Gainesville early in the afternoon on the 28th. TTS and I spent the next two days packing and shipping his belongings and cleaning his apartment. On July 1st we left Gainesville headed north. I had made reservations for us to attend MOG 34, a large gathering of Morgan owners. It was a two-day drive to Shepherdstown, WV.
July 2 - Friday - Arrival in Shepherdstown
Our drive up through the Carolinas and Virginia had been quite pleasant. It is a beautiful part of the country. We got to Shepherdstown and found our way to the Clarion, where the Morgan gathering was being held. Once checked in, we took Sophia around to the back of the hotel to give her a much-needed bath. The Morgan owners were very gracious about having a Jaguar in their midst and I wanted her to look her best, which is pretty stunning. There was a reception that evening and we had the opportunity to meet a number of folks. The schedule for the gathering called for a concours on Saturday morning, with a gymkhana in the afternoon. On Sunday there was to be a rally and picnic, and on Monday an autocross. I was looking forward to all of the events.
July 3 - Saturday - The concours and gymkhana
I could not enter Sophia in the concours, but wanted to attend and see all the Morgans. TTS was not interested and stayed at the hotel. Being a spare hand with nothing to do, I was recruited to help entrants find their way onto the field. It was great to see so many Morgans in one place. There were trikes, 4/4s, Plus 4s, Plus 8s, and even a few Aero 8s. They still haven't grown on me and I doubt that they ever will.
I went back to the hotel and picked up TTS and we went off in search of lunch. We returned to the field where the concours had been held, because the gymkhana was to be held in the same area. A lot of creative thought had gone into planning for the gymkhana and everyone had a great time. The theme was the midnight ride of Paul Revere, and several people were dressed in period costume. Each car had a driver and a passenger. Both were given two tea bags at the starting line. Those tea bags were to be thrown into pails at the first station. As the tea bags were tossed into the pails the driver and passenger were to shout, "The British are coming, the British are coming!" They were then given string mops (their horses) and went to the next station. There were pails of water there as well and the mops were to be dunked into the pails (watering the horses). All along the course there were places to water the horses and opportunities for a good deal of shouting about the British. We couldn't win anything, but they let us enter anyway - great sports.
July 4 - Sunday - The rally and picnic
Again without the ability to win any prize, we entered the rally. It was fun for a while, but we sort of lost interest. The picnic was great! There was a whole roast pig and a lot of other food. We had a good meal and decided to skip the second stage of the rally.
Instead we went to the Antietam National Battle Field. The ranger at the desk noticed my silver hair and moustache and inquired about my age. He told us about the Golden Age Passport. It is a lifetime card that provides free admission to National Park Service and a number of other facilities and is available to persons 62 and older - cost $10. What a deal! A ranger-guided tour was about to start, so we joined in. We all assembled outside the ticket office and the ranger pointed out the field of flags. There was one flag for each of the victims of the September 11th terrorist attack.
The ranger then introduced us to the circumstances surrounding the Civil War battle that had occurred there. Then we got into our cars and followed the ranger around the area. At various places he stopped and we all got out of our cars to listen to his description of the action that took place at that spot. He was incredibly knowledgeable and made the events come alive in their grizzly detail. I don't know if all the National Park rangers are as good as he was, but we were very impressed. We then took a wrong turn leaving Antietam. We saw a sign for Harper's Ferry and headed that way. Then there was a sign for the Harper's Ferry Road detour. The signs seemed to steer us around in circles and we got hopelessly lost. We never did find Harper's Ferry, but eventually, after a good deal of laughter, we found our way back to the hotel.
July 5 - Monday - The autocross
The autocross was being held some distance away, so we got an early start. We found the area with no problem, but finding a suitable place to have breakfast was almost impossible. We did finally find something adequate and went to the parking lot behind an out-of-business home improvement store - the site of the autocross. We arrived just as they were finishing setting out the course, and watched John Sheally test the course in a crew-cab pickup truck. For those of you unfamiliar with autocross, as I was, it is a short, closed course driven by one car at a time. The course is laid out with cones and the driver must stay on the course. In most cases this involves driving between cones that mark both sides of the course, but in some cases there are single cones through which the driver must slalom, passing cones on alternative sides. If the driver goes off course the run does not count. If any cones are knocked over, there is a penalty. The basic idea is to run the course as fast as possible without going off course and without knocking over any cones. Each driver got three runs with two laps around the course on each run. The fastest lap (adjusted for cones knocked over) was used to determine places.
Once again, I was not eligible to win as I was not driving a Morgan. But I was very tempted to try the event. John Sheally was very encouraging and told me to just be as smooth as possible. On my first run I was somewhat tentative. I had never driven autocross before and had never had the opportunity to push Sophia that hard. I had a clean run with a time just over 30 seconds. What a hoot! Now I was much more confident. My second run was also clean and faster, with a lap between 29 and 30 seconds. My final run was again clean, and my best time was about 28.25 seconds. Was I ever pumped! John's winning lap was under 23 seconds, and the fastest lap by a stock Plus 8 was under 25 seconds. So my time looked pretty good for a newbie driving a grand touring convertible. And I had a blast!
July 6 - Tuesday - A few days after MOG 34
I had been communicating with Bob Coviello, another Morgan owner, for some time by email. We had never met and he had moved from Washington to New Jersey. So TTS and I drove to New Jersey and to Bob's home. What a strange state! In some places there are left turn lanes and you make a left turn in the normal way. In other places they have created mini-cloverleafs (sometimes they seem to go through parking lots) and you make a left turn by making a right turn onto the mini-cloverleaf and waiting for the light to change. And they usually don't give you any warning which type of left turn you will be making!!! So you don't know if you should be in the left lane or the right lane. Anyway, we found Bob's place and had a very pleasant afternoon and evening. Bob took us for a ride in the Pine Barrens and the three of us went to dinner together.
We had arranged for Mel to fly back and join us for several days each in Washington D.C., New York and Boston. But we had a couple of days to kill. So we headed back south and spent those days sightseeing. One of our stops was Monticello. What a fascinating person Jefferson was. The house is beautiful, but some aspects are different and very interesting. There is a weathervane atop the front portico. It is connected to a dial on the underside that permits one to see the wind direction without leaving the protection of the portico. There is also a clock, but it shows the hour only. Workers on the plantation had no need to know the minutes.
July 9 - Friday - Mel to Washington D.C.
Mel flew into D.C. and we spent the next week and a half touring together. On the moves from D.C. to New York and then to Boston, Mel and TTS took the train and I drove the sag wagon. We did a lot of walking in D.C. in the heat and in New York in the rain. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island were fascinating, weather not withstanding. Oddly, we took no photos during that time.
July 18 - Sunday - Mel flew home and TTS and I headed north
We took Mel to the airport in Boston and TTS and I headed for Quebec. We had arranged to visit Lorne and Audrey Goldman at their home north of Montreal. Along the way we encountered the construction area shown below.
Lorne is a fine cook and introduced us to confit de canard - duck legs preserved in their own fat. They were served atop a salad and were delicious. It was a delightful visit in a lovely setting on a lake.
We then drove across Quebec into Ontario on our way to Niagara Falls. What a spectacular sight!
Back in the U.S. our route took us into Ohio where we visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. We also saw a wonderful collection of airplanes at the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
From there we headed into Indiana to Rockville, where they have quite a collection of old covered bridges. These bridges are quite picturesque and you can still drive through some of them. Four of the bridges we saw were built by J. A. Britton. The oldest was built in 1882 and the most 'recent' in 1913. The interior structure looked the same in all four, but he did change the appearance of the end of the bridge after the first one.
The other bridge in Parke County was built by a different builder. TTS was parked in the bridge waiting for me to take the photo when an ambulance came along from the other direction. He had to back out to make way for the ambulance.
We continued our journey westward into Iowa. I had seen the movie The Bridges of Madison County and had learned that the little town of Winterset was where the bridges are located. Winterset's other claim to fame is that John Wayne was born there. There were fewer covered bridges around Winterset than there had been near Rockville, IN. Roseman Bridge, pictured below, had a prominent role in the movie.
We were now in the corn belt, and it was never so obvious as when we got to Omaha, NE and found that as we drove along the Interstate around Omaha, the city was on one side and the other side was corn fields as far as the eye could see. In this part of the country you drive for mile after flat mile wondering if it will ever end. It's great that this huge fertile plain exists, but it sure is boring driving through it. We interrupted our travels long enough to stop at the Strategic Air Command Museum.
We finally crossed into Colorado on our way to Denver to visit one of TTS' friends from college. Our joy at leaving Nebraska was short-lived, as the eastern part of Colorado is no improvement. While in Denver, we took a day trip out to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive was interesting enough, but the park was a bit of a surprise. You are so high up that the surrounding mountains seem like rolling hills. There are no jagged peaks in that area.
The drive through western Colorado was much more interesting than the eastern part of the state had been. We were on our way to St. George, UT. We wouldn't have enough time to see all there is to see in that area, but a day trip to the Grand Canyon was essential. And it is spectacular!
We were now only a few days from home. We drove through Nevada into the Los Angeles area where we stopped to see Matt. He and TTS don't get to see each other very often. We continued up to the San Francisco area and stopped to visit another of TTS' college friends in Oakland. Another day's drive and we were in southern Oregon for a visit with my sister. Fran is another family member who TTS doesn't see often.
Finally, after six weeks on the road and far too many evenings when the choice for dinner seemed to be the Outback Steakhouse, the Olive Garden, or the Red Lobster, we pulled into our driveway. I had put 11,600 miles on Sophia and she had performed flawlessly. TTS had had the long-awaited opportunity to drive her and had thoroughly enjoyed himself. And most important of all, he and I had shared five of those weeks together. It was an experience that neither of us will forget.