Highway 50 and Route 66 Roadtrip in 2003

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Trip Reports

Final report is now online. It is in chronological order and includes some afterthoughts about what I liked and things of that nature.

The reports as posted are still available at trip reports.

Schedule and Companions

Something close to the final schedule is here. The items mentioned in the sights and interesting things were not necessarily things I did. See the trip reports for that. Here is the final companion schedule.

Brief outline of the proposed trip

Plans are underway for a trip toward the east on Highway 50 from Sacramento, perhaps going as far as Ocean City, but at least as far as Cincinnati. Then reutrn to Chicago and the beginning of Route 66. The return trip will be on as much of old Route 66 as I can find. Both of these highways are "famous", in some sense. Both roads have numerous websites devoted to them. Here are some links to Highway 50 websites, followed by some links to Route 66 websites. I'm sure there must be more, so feel free to alert me to others.

Some Highway 50 websites
Coast to Coast on US 50
Finding US 50
Highway 50 (book)
Nevada's Highway 50 The road less traveled
Nevada's lonely US Route 50 (DesertUSA)
Road Trip US-50 The Loneliest Road
Thom Anderson, Photographer - US Highway 50

Some Route 66 websites

Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona
Illinois Route 66 Association
Historic Route 66
Apparently this link is gone: Largest Route 66 Resource on the Web. Here's another one with lots of information (thanks to Gloria Mitchell for bringing this to my attention): Roots of Route 66
National Historic Route 66 Federation
Oklahoma Route 66 Association
Texas Route 66
The Route 66 Collection
Route 66 State Park - Missouri
Route 66 Museum
US Highway 66 - The Mother Road
Route 66 Enjoy the Ride!
Route 66 Association of Missouri
Route 66 Products
Route 66 Drive-Ins
Finally, there is a Route 66 Webring with many links (78 last time I looked), including many of those above.
Here is a useful website for those planning road trips: Car Lover's Guide .... (Thanks to Ashley Henderson for this link.)

Continuing ...

Since I live in Southern Oregon, there will be a non-trivial trip to the start of Highway 50, and from the end of Route 66. The trip from Talent, Oregon, to Sacramento may be over Highway 101 and Highway 1 to Timber Cove, CA, then to Sebastopol, and on to Benicia. There will be stops at those three places to see my "kids" and grandkids. Or, if we have already had our April birthday celebration, I'll just head to Benicia for a night. On the way back I will probably take Highway 1 to Monterey for a day or two, then to the usual stops in northern California before returning to Oregon.

The purpose of this website

  • First, I am able to (but barely) scrounge the time to devote to it - I expect it to evolve from now until the time the journey begins, perhaps in late April or early May 2003. If you see something you want to keep, better make note of it, because anything here may get revised or deleted. I have grandiose plans for updating it with reports along the way, but there are no promises contemplated on that.
  • Second, this is to be a leisurely trip, with stops to investigate local phenomena such as the world's biggest roll of bailing wire, or what-have-you (the latter part of this sentence explains why Amelia will go only a little bit of the way, if any). The website Roadside America has links to lots of important roadside attractions. I'm also interested in visiting automobile museums and aircraft museums. Also, if there are any Mopar (preferably slant six) meets I could attend along the way, that would be welcome information. If anyone reading this knows of a must-not-miss sight along the way, let me hear about it. Of course, I expect to eat in many diners and stay at old-time motels along the way, so pointers to the better ones of those are more than welcome. There are a number of reviews of restaurants serving road food on the web. In addition, there will be a number of detours of as much as 150 miles or so off the main route to visit with friends and family.
  • Third, I am soliciting companionship along parts of the trip. I envision a person joining me for a few days to a week or a little more, perhaps covering a distance of 500-1000 miles, or so. Final decision on whether, for what part of the trip, rest with me. That will be the end of the hard-ass stuff, though, and beyond that, I expect to be a good companion, with reciprocation. I'm not likely to have anyone join me that I don't know already, just in case you were wondering ..... This is where the idea of a leisurely, lay over when the mood strikes one, kind of a trip runs smack into the rigidity of meeting (and dropping off) someone along the way (several someones, I hope). That will require a certain flexibility for anyone that joins in the trip. I will give my best estimate of where I will be on a particular date (and vice/versa), but it still might be necessary for someone to either plan on short notice, or be willing to lay around some days waiting for me to show up. It could go the other way, but I'll probably be less flexible than I'd expect "you" to be. It's all negotiable. In general, I had thought of having such a companion ride with me, but it did occur to me that someone might want to take their own automobile and "follow" me. That probably works, too. Would simplify getting together and parting, somewhat. Plus, if you had a pickup, you could haul the spare parts (I hope that's a joke).
  • Fourth, if you have any tips for me, want to join in on part of the trip, or whatever, email me at Richard Franke - dick@richardfranke.com.
  • Preparations for the journey

    Advance preparations (in addition to this website) include the most important of all - the acquisition of a suitable piece of transportation for embarking on such a journey. I believe I have found it. It is a 1964 Dodge Dart 270 convertible (very important to have a convertible, since I plan to go top down most of the way). It has a 170 Slant Six engine, pushbutton automatic transmission, and is in very roadworthing condition (I think). I'll be making a few improvements to its mechanics and appearance over the next several months. Fortunately, there are enough Mopar nuts that many reproduction parts are not too difficult to find. Like many places, I think they cater to the muscle car trade (fyi, a 170 Slant Six is not a muscle car), but they have things for many models. I bought window seals, carpets, defroster vents, kick panels, and a few other things at Layson's Restorations in Albany, WA.
    To give an idea the car we are talking about, I've taken a number of pictures, which I post here. Note the license plate has a vanity number on the special Crater Lake plate. The 66 64 66 has special significance, of course. Anyone has enough information now to know two-thirds of it. The remaining 66 is my age when the trip begins (and ends). (Or, maybe the 666 is the devil's number, and as I told Amelia the 466 is the deviless' number. Could be. Maybe not.) To more important matters, here are some pictures of it: a left front view, a front view, a closeup front view, a right side view, a right rear quarter view, a closeup right rear quarter view, a rear view, a closeup left front cabin view, and an overhead rear view. Enough already, I'm sure you agree.

    Preparations on the car (some minor, some "prettying up", and others more serious) are underway. I have the above mentioned interior/body parts to install. I also have to relocate the speakers for the (not exactly stock) radio-cassette player. Then I have the serious business: Replacement of the original nine inch front drum brakes with ten inch drum brakes borrowed (permanently) from a '75 Valiant, including the dual master cylinder. Since this necessitates using the upper A-arm, spindles, and upper ball joint from the donor car, (see Auto Hobby Digest under A-body brakes), I'm also taking the opportunity to renew the ball joints, control arm bushings, strut rod bushings, and tie rod ends. Finally, I've obtained the electronic ignition from a later model Slant Six that I will install. This includes replacing the distributor, and by some accounts (but not all) the old alternator with a dual field alternator and an electronic voltage regulator. So, that too. I hope to soon have pictures of the brakes (old and new, for comparison), and so on.

    A little update (updates will now be added as additional paragraphs). I talked to Tom and Ray recently (yes, I'm going to be on Car Talk ). Should be on around March 8 or 9. Because of their comments I am reconsidering the electronic ignition, but not ruling it out yet.

    If you missed Car Talk you only have today (and maybe a bit of tomorrow to point your browser at Car Talk Radio Show to hear it on the web. After that, you have to buy a tape or the CD (program #310). Unfortunately, they cut out some important comments, like those on the electronic ignition, and my web address.

    The interior of the car is almost finished. New carpet, seat belts, relocate radio speakers out of the way of the ventilation doors, new kick panels, additional 12v outlet, new defroster vents and ductwork, and new window weatherstrip (well, actually, I await the backordered header seal before I can finish the window seals along the top side rails; soon I hope), and new trunk weatherstrip. Here's a shot of the interior during reassembly, with me inspecting the new rear window weatherstrip, and another of the new front weatherstrip. Finally, a shot after the rear is finished.

    Next week I will start on the rebuilding the front suspension and changing the brakes. I have received all the parts from Rock Auto. They have brand name parts at what seem to be good prices, for lots of older cars, too. Because I am a valued customer, I get a 5% discount from now until April 15, 2003. So do you, since you are my friend, relative, or other person that works on their own or other's cars. Just give them discount code ALEFEB (just curious; let me know if you use this) in the "how you heard about us" line when ordering.

    Made good progress on the front suspension this week. Here's a shot of the donor car for the brakes with the two drums, spindles, and upper control arms on the near side of the car. Back at the shop, here's a closer look at the upper control arm, spindle, and brake for the right side. Here is a shot of the old suspension and brake setup on the left of the Dart. To get an idea of how much beefier the 10x2.5 inch brakes are compared to the original 9x2.5 inch brakes, look at this comparison picture. The weights of the drums (with inner bearings) are 28 pounds vs. 16 pounds. Finally, here's a shot of the upper control arms with new ball joints and bushings, and the outer steering links with new tie rod ends. I'm awaiting a "special tool" to remove the bushing shell from the lower control arms, then I can get put the new bushings in and start to reinstall the front suspension, hopefully next week. I finally received the new header seal, so hope to finish the convertible rail weatherstrip next week, too.
    Didn't get quite as much done as I had hoped. "Finished" the convertible top rail weatherseal. Here's a shot of the left side top rail weatherseal. Turned out to seal quite well, after a lot of fiddling around with the mounting pieces and the windows. The right is less satisfactory, and I may have to rework that some. I also got the "special tool" to remove the lower control arm bushing shell (actually, just a 1.375 inch tap. Thread it in half-way, and punch it all out). Worked very well. The new bushings went in without real difficulty, and here is a shot of the entire left side suspension and steering parts laid out for a pretty picture. I also rebuilt the brake wheel cylinders from the donor car, discovered the dual master cylinder for the donor car was beyond rebuilding, and ordered a rebuilt from the local Car Quest store. Also have to have brake lines running from the distribution block to the front brakes made since the distribution block is two in/three out instead of one in/two out like the previous, mounted a bit differently, and the connectors are a different size, too. Hope to have most of this finished and installed by next weekend.
    The Dart is out of the shop! It was a tussle, what with the big snow we had on April 2 (actually, that's not a chunk of ice, just a real close snow flake). It's not quite ready for the road since I still have to have the alignment done, and I'll have them bleed the brakes, as I've had a heck of a time with that. Let me digress. Here is a shot of the lonely wheelwell while all the suspension parts were off. Then we have the suspension and new brakes installed. Finally, here it is with the brake drum installed. Another before shot shows the old single master cylinder, while here is one of the new dual master cylinder.

    Putting the suspension and brake systems back together again proved to be slightly more complicated than I had been led to believe. Turns out the lower control arm is a little different on the '73-'76 Valiant/Dart, and along with this difference the lower ball joint (incorporated with the steering arm) has a lobe to limit the amount the steering will turn by bumping against the lower control arm. Well, with the standard '64 lower control arm this meant a turning radius of (estimated) 100 feet. Since I might want to turn shorter than this, I decided to grind off part of the lobe. No big problem, but it would have been easier before I had it all put together. Why do these things always take more time that they ought? Oh well.

    Still have to install the windshield washer, decide on the electronic ignition, do some sewing repair on the rear window, and install a warning light for the brakes (lights on excessive pressure differential between front a back lines - not necesary, but useful). Still have some prettying up kinds of stuff to do. Wash and wax. Drive it around a bit and see if it's all right. Etc.

    I will have them raise the front slightly, but leave it lowered an inch from normal. Part of the reason it rides somewhat roughly is that it has gas pressurized front shocks, and adjustable air shocks in the rear. Maybe stiffer than standard torsion bars, but I haven't checked that. And the air shocks in the rear are probably necessary with the wide tires and a heavy load in the trunk (haven't done that yet). It's OK, and likely all improves handling, but I probably would not have done it (big tires, either).

    Got the front end aligned. Front is now lowered one inch compared to specified height. Drives well. Brakes are good, but pedal is low. Problem with front wheel cylinders. Will replace with new ones in a day or two. Windshield washer is in place and working. Discovered timing mark on crankshaft pulley is probably in wrong place. Current setting is about 40 degrees BTC, according to the mark. Don't think I believe that. Will try to locate proper place to make a new mark. Got a new turn signal cancel unit to install; old one didn't cancel. Gas gauge is wonky; will try replacing with another I have that "may" be better.

    I forgot to mention last week that Phonenix Auto Center did the front end alignment and brake bleeding and checking.

    I located approximate TDC and made a new mark on the crank pulley. Then I checked the ignition timing with the "new" TDC mark. Appears to be set at about 10 degrees BTC. Doesn't knock, so I guess that is OK.

    The front wheel cylinders have been replaced with new ones. I leaned the car over to bleed the front brakes since bleed hole is not quite at the top of the cylinder. Brake pedal is somewhat higher. Phoenix Auto Center took another look at the brakes and adjusted the shoes up a bit closer to the drums. Brake pedal is now acceptably high, and with a few miles on them, the shoes are wearing into the drums and the brakes are quite good, I think. We'll see coming down from Monarch Pass how well they resist fade, perhaps.

    Discovered that water leaked in around the windshield when I took it out in the rain last week. I removed windshield moldings (but not the weatherseal!) and attempted to seal between the weatherseal and the body and the weatherseal and the windshield. Seems to have worked, although I haven't yet been in heavy rain.

    I rebuilt the carburetor, and installed the electronic ignition. For the latter I relied mostly on the instructions by Lev Lowry given on allpar.com, originally printed in Slant Six News (which I believe to now be extinct). I didn't quite match up with all the wire colors noted there, but it works. Turns out the vacuum advance was just bleeding air into the carb, and the reluctor showed signs of having a bit too close of a relationship with the pickup, so I installed a new distributor. Just to be "new" about it, I installed a new control module I've had for many years, ditto a new coil, and put in a new ballast resistor. Of course, after all that I figured I might just as well go with new ignition wires, too, so there was another $20-30, with the cap. Here's the new ignition setup. I just installed the control module on the right inner wheel well, and relocated the coil there, too. According to some, electronic ignition requires an electronic voltage regulator (wow, are they pricey!) and a dual field alternator. Not sure why that makes any sense, and mine started and ran with the old setup. However, I had gotten the alternator off the electronic ignition donor car, so I went ahead and installed those things, too. Turns out the alternator didn't charge, even alternately, so I put the old one back on. Guess I should go back and trade it in at the recycling place (wrecking yard).

    I also installed a matching right side rear view mirror (I got that off a 64 Dart I bought for the engine, which I installed in my (then) 61 Dodge Lancer about 1985, but that's another story), unsymmetrically, since otherwise I wouldn't be able to see out of it. Finally, I checked the valve clearances, some of which were just a bit close.

    Last day before the journey begins! Had some last minute things to do. Tried to swap the gas gauge sending unit from my 64 Valiant. Turns out the gas pickup line was plugged, so that didn't go very far. I then cannibalized the two to make one good one (maybe). Had a problem with sealing it properly (so there will be a slight delay while I fix that in the morning). The gas gauge seems to work better now, but we'll see a bit later.

    Our friend Linda stopped by on her way to Portland. So, she got the first ride in the completed vehicle.

    Mapping out the trip

    Using Microsoft Streets and Trips 2002, I have made some maps of the journey. Don't pay any attention to the "flags" since they are purely to force the trip to go where I want it to go. Routing software always seems to think it has a better way. So, the flags get pretty dense sometimes when the software wants to take one to the Interstate while all the time one is trying to stay on the old highway. I tried several routing programs I had access to, and MS&T seems to work the best of those for my purposes.

    There are some offshoots to visit family and friends along the way. This serves as a warning to them that I'm coming, and as the time gets closer and the schedule becomes more nearly known, they can plan their vacations, either to join me or to get out of town. Some of the rest of you along the route may want to think similarly. The first maps are now revised to include the driving instructions (ignore the times). They consist of the trip from Talent to Grand Junction, CO, Grand Junction to Ransomville, KS, Ransomville to Cincinnati, OH, and Cincinnati to Chicago, IL, the latter continuing Highway 50 to Chillicothe, on to Delaware, OH, and then mostly using "blue highways" to Chicago and the beginning of Route 66. Just because I haven't ruled out going all the way to Ocean City, here is the map and instructions if I decide to go to Ocean City, MD, and then return to Chicago, IL,

    Route 66 was decommissioned many years ago, but some states have taken steps to identify its path. In certain cases the highway was a bit like a river, in that it wandered around from time to time, so it depends on what year's route one wants to take. Detailed (by state) instructions for Route 66 are available on Historic Route 66. This is an interesting site beyond that, but if you just want to get straight to the directions for the route in each state without having to fumble around or click a few times, then the following links are for you. These maps also point out nearby attractions.

    Texas, but, it's so big it needs another
    New Mexico

    I've been using MS&T and trying to follow the directions given in the accounts above. In some instances I've found that difficult to do, and in others find that "old Route 66" is sometimes labeled in MS&T, but doesn't go quite where the directions in the accounts above lead one. I've tried to lay out what looks like a reasonable compromise to get an exact set of directions for the trip from Chicago to Santa Monica. Alas, some weird things happen sometimes. In one instance (near continental divide in New Mexico), I was simply unable to get the route planner to take a certain exit to old Route 66. MS&T seems to insist on going to the next freeway exit, returning along Route 66 to the prior exit, then returning either on Route 66 or on the freeway. Or, it returns on the freeway to take the exit in the opposite direction. Zooming in shows no barrier at the exit I think it ought to take, but .... Will be interesting to see whether I can physically take that exit in perfectly obvious fashion or not when I get there.

    I have made up a set of maps for the Route 66 portion. Unfortunately, they have many-many markers needed to force the desired route, and this kind of obscures the display, but be that as it may, here are the maps, including the directions generated by MS&T appended to the bottom. Don't pay any attention to the times given for various landmarks. There are a number of maps, the first being from Chicago to St. Louis (more correctly, to the Chain of Rocks Bridge across the Mississippi from St. Louis). The next map covers the Missouri portion, from St. Louis to Kansas. Kansas only has about 11 miles of Route 66, so the next map includes Kansas and Oklahoma to Texas. While Texas rates two maps on the historic66 site, I'm only giving one map for Texas, and furthermore, I've put the map across New Mexico with it. The penultimate map covers Arizona from New Mexico to California. The final map, of course, covers California.

    Uninteresting as it might be, I then have to get home. So, here's the map that matches the tentative schedule home. More later, perhaps.

    And remember, email at Richard Franke. So far I've been underwhelmed.

  • Richard Franke
  • Initial posting: 10/30/02
  • Current update: 07/01/03
  • Minor broken link fix: 01-08-10
  • Additional road trip link: 10-01-10