Part 2: Virginia To Tampa
As told by Jim Campisano: We woke up to some serious fog and light misting rain on our Sunday departure day, but there was nothing that was going to stop us. After getting a couple of coffees to go, we hit Route 1 south from Dinwiddie. We saluted Virginia Motorsports Park as we drove by and enjoyed the road as it wound through the countryside. After an hour or so, we cut east across Route 40 to I-95. We were both still a little groggy when a bird committed suicide by flying directly into the path of our speeding Nova. Neither of us saw it, but we sure heard the loud bang as it hit the grille. The explosion of feathers was a dead giveaway.
As Jackie Gleason said in Smokey & The Bandit, "That was an attention getter!"
Now fully awake, we made our first gas stop at a country Sunoco station. Not only did we top the fuel cell with 93-octane, but sampled perhaps the best homemade sausage and egg biscuit ever. It was also here we learned the $590 million Powerball jackpot went to a single winner in Hillsborough County, Florida—just where Circle Track magazine editor and Powerball partner Rob Fisher was supposed to buy our weekly ticket the day before. Geez, if ever I needed "correct, matching numbers," this was it.
We checked the oil, ATF, etc., and as it had been since Dan left Jersey, everything was still full. After our quick break, we hit the road, visions of a new Powerball-fueled car collection dancing in my head. We were happy to see the drones were still sleeping in. The interstate was pretty much ours and ours alone. Despite the fact the car was mechanically perfect, we never calibrated the Auto Meter speedometer, so it read exactly zero the whole trip. No speedo? No problem! We dialed up the free Speed Box iPhone app I'd downloaded a while back. It uses a GPS signal to give you your exact speed, and there's even an odometer.
Naturally, the rain followed us on and off for most of the roll south. Could have lived without that. The once-shiny Nova and Weld wheels were becoming a mess. We were also dismayed by the lack of cool cars on there. Except for a fifth-gen Camaro once in a while and a late-model Vette or two, the trip was depressingly short of eye candy. Where's Warren Oates and that GTO from the film?
As we motored on down I-95, we planned at some point to exit and hit more of the scenic back roads through the Carolinas. But a funny thing happened along the way. Suddenly the trip became less and less about seeing the countryside and enjoying some twisting-turning back roads, and more about two old friends enjoying a common bond. North Carolina turned to South Carolina, then to Georgia, and we just kept B.S.ing, finding different driving tunes on the iPod (which we played through the car stereo), popping in different CDs, and, in general, just having a heck of a time.
It'd been over four years since I moved from the Garden State, and while you can keep in touch with family and friends via email, Facebook, telephones, etc., there's really no substitute to seeing people in person. I met Dan in 1991 when I was photographing his '67 Dodge R/T for MuscleCars magazine. I bought an old winter beater from him shortly thereafter, and we've been friends ever since. Anytime you can buy a used car from someone and become lifelong buddies, well, it tells you a lot about the person you bought it from.
We hit Daytona just around dinnertime (which coincided with our 41st or 50th fuel stop), so we took pictures outside the Speedway. Finally, the sun was out. We were going to hit either the local Hooters or Wing House (a Hooters-type breastaurant), but we were only a few hours from our destination, and frankly, neither of us wanted to stop. Except for its insatiable appetite for premium, the Nova behaved like a champ. Rolling with the windows up most of the trip, there was absolutely no wind noise in the car. The kick panel vents kept us relatively cool, and the sound of the 3-inch exhaust wasn't unbearable, despite the fact that we cruised at around 3,500 rpm most of the time.
Realistically, we filled up eight times between Virginia and Tampa—shades of 1969—but never really let the fuel cell go below a quarter of a tank. Just an old habit. You never knew when you'd hit unexpected traffic and that could've emptied the tank faster than a hole in it. Our mpg for the journey came in at a low of 8.1 mpg and a high of 9.1. Given how flat the SS bucket seats were, the fuel stops gave us a good excuse to stop and stretch our legs. All things considered, I don't think the mpg for a 509-inch, 10-second Nova that weighed over two-tons loaded is all that bad.
We finally pulled into my driveway 15 hours and 15 minutes after we began our odyssey. Seeing the Nova in my driveway for the first time was an absolute rush. The reaction on my kids' faces was priceless. Rattling the neighbors' windows the next morning when I fired it up was worth every penny I've spent on it.
I may not have seen the whole U.S.A. in my Chevrolet, but I had a fine time seeing what I did. I hope this story serves as an inspiration to everyone who has an old car and has been thinking of taking it for little—or not so little—spin.
(For more on our journey, check out the blogs section of superchevy.com).