That was a question posed by Paul on the CB radio as we drove our stock '55 and '56 Chevys back to Orange County, California, from a Chevy show in Santa Maria, California, in March 2004. It didn't take me long to respond, "You son of a gun, you're thinking of driving these cars back home?"
Home to me is Hayden, Indiana, where I left the farm for college in 1960; home for Paul is Pepperell, Massachusetts. We had both moved our families to California in the 1960s-he to Downey, and me to Anaheim. We had driven and flown back to our hometowns through the years, first following Route 66, then later the interstates, but never in vintage Chevys. After some thought, we agreed to drive back home. We began making plans to visit friends and family along the way. In the meantime, Paul traded his '55 Chevy for an original '57 Chevy convertible, had it repainted, installed a new top, and made it road-worthy.
As we told friends about our planned 40-day, 10,000-mile journey, we found that folks had one of two reactions; either, "You're crazy!" or "Man, I wish I could go with you!" Friends and Chevy car clubs started becoming sponsors, donating things such as gas cards, coffee cards, hotel rooms, Indy 500 race tickets, cash, attraction tickets, or a bed for a night in their homes along our route.
Being raised on a farm near Hayden, Indiana, with the front property line on Hwy. 50, I always had the desire to travel the full 3,000-plus miles of the highway from coast to coast. Paul and I then decided we'd drive U.S. Route 50 all the way from California to Ocean City, Maryland. Now, my dream has come true.
"How do you find enough time to take a 40-day road trip?" you might ask. As one travel writer put it, "First, you quit your job." Not being adventurous enough to do this, I simply waited through 40 years of public school teaching, and retired. When I knew my retirement date, I decided to "see the U.S.A. in my Chevrolet!"
Horatio Nelson Jackson and his mechanic completed the first transcontinental car trip in 1903-before there were any roads, which was about 100 years before Paul and I attempted it. Horatio's car-dubbed "The Vermont"-is now in the Smithsonian. His story is currently being told in a display called "America on the Move." Author John Steinbeck, from Salinas, California, also took a trip around the U.S. with his dog Charley, in a GMC pickup with a Wolverine Camper in 1960. He wrote Travels With Charley after his trip. It became a bestseller that initially sold more volumes than any of Steinbeck's other books, and won the 1963 Paperback of the Year award, according to the Steinbeck Center Web site. These men gave me the inspiration to someday donate my '56 Chevy to my hometown's own museum, the Hayden Historical Museum.