Two weeks removed from Bakersfield and it's still hard to believe it has come and gone. Last year when I left, the dragster was in Wichita, at Corey Conyer's place getting its new skin. I have to admit, I was content with it being out of sight and mind, for the last couple years. Not that I had lost interest, more like I had no free time. Business has been taking all the time and little was left for anything else. A number of times we were supposed to bring it out for its "raw" debut. Each time had its own unique situation that kept it from appearing. After, missing the event in Salina, Kansas, I vowed it was Bakersfield or Bust.
...And that, I nearly did!
My trailer follies are practically legendary, be it procurement or transport, it's always something. This trip is the longest I have taken, driving that is. I decided I wanted no part of hitching to the 32 footer. We did that when we picked up the dragster from Corey's place back in the spring. Pulling that monster across the state of Kansas cured me of wanting to do that again! Instead, I had an 18 footer sitting in the parking lot, which has traveled many thousands of miles and survived much abuse. About 10 years ago, I used this one to move my daughter from NYC to Milwaukee. Kevin and I had built a box of sort, with bows in the top to support a vinyl cover. It served the purpose more than a few times, hauling a couple dragsters, funny cars and the set of the Nutcracker ...don't ask. At first, I was going to build a new box for the Hippo. My intent was something low profile, just enough room for the dragtser and some essentials. With a little over two weeks to go, I decided against getting creative and chose to use parts of the aforementioned box as the skeleton and would skin it with some lightweight sign panels. Time was at a premium once again and sleep...well, I could do that later. I had planned to mount a toolbox, air compressor, generator and a few other pieces of ballast in the front. The weight bias of the dragster that was pulled in nose first made it a little heavy in the back, hence, the heavy stuff up front. I had this grand plan, we would be done with this and on the road by 8 am Saturday October 13. Time, (remember that mofo called Time?) it was no friend of mine through the course of all this. At 8 am Saturday morning, you know the time I was supposed to leave...
I was still assembling the trailer, the dragster wasn't finished and I was shot. After another 12 hours, we were packed and ready to leave. I did an around the block lap to make sure the Taj Mah Trailer was going to make it. It seemed like all was well, the decision was made to grab dinner before heading out. With wife, Spencer and the driver fed and full by 9:30 pm, we pull on to Highway 44 westbound. The trailer seemed to handle the road without incident for a couple hundred miles. Rain met up with us somewhere around 1 a.m., I pulled off to fuel up, at a place where we could park and catch a nap. Sleep was nonexistent during the previous week; maybe 3-4 hours a night max. The nap was a welcome luxury, although short but enough to restore a little energy.
Daybreak brought Oklahoma, fog and a dancing trailer. Not too bad, but around 75mph, it wanted to swap ends and MY lower end was puckered up around my throat more than once. Slowing down didn't seem to be a bad idea, I kept it around 70. As I drove, I had a mental checklist I ran through in an effort to troubleshoot the dancing. My first thought, those rear tires looked more tired than I did. I recalled they were almost 10 years old. Certainly overdue and the fact I had a 5 1/2 drop hitch on the Ram meant the front tires of the trailer weren't handling much of anything. We pull into the Walmart in Oklahoma City, just as they were opening the Automotive Department. The counterman,(who had this weird looking bump on his forehead, about the size of a pin ball) seemed to be less excited than me to be there. I inquired about two tires for the trailer. "We ain't got no trailer tires." he told me gruffly. I asked if he had any truck tires that size and he informed me they didn't. I asked if he knew where I could get a set of tires, he just looked at me and said, "So... now you want me to lose a sale?" With fear an eyeball was going pop out of that bump, I just kind of backed away and went out the sporting goods department.
Google was my friend as we found a tire store that had just opened about 10 minutes earlier. I walk up to the too happy for a Sunday morning guy at the counter, tell him what I need. He informed me there were two customers ahead of me, but, he would be happy to get me a coffee if I would like. He also took an extra couple seconds to show me the tires and said, "mounted and balanced it would be about $160." He then grabbed work orders and went out to the shop. Now, I am tired, hungry and just want to get out of Oklahoma as soon as I can. I was headed out to the truck to grab my phone to find a place for breakfast. The counter guy saw the trailer on the back of the truck and asked if I built the cover. I told him I did and then out of some strange corner of my brain I asked him," ...you said those tires were $200 mounted and balanced...cash...right?" He stopped, turned and with a mischievous smile said," Mr. Buck, I think we just had an opening, can you please pull your trailer up to these doors?" In 20 minutes, I was glad handing and told to stop back by anytime I am in Oklahoma City. Damn right, the power of 40 bucks! Looking at the brand new tires, I thought maybe I need to take a walk over to Home Depot and see if they had any deeper drop hitches. Getting those front tires on the trailer, closer to the ground , seemed like a wise choice to make. I find an 8 inch drop hitch which looked substantial enough, but no 2 inch balls, dammit. What to my bleary eyes appeared, a big ass wrench with which to take the ball off the 5 1/2 inch drop hitch! Pay the man for the stuff and out to the lot we go. Now, getting the nut off the hitch ball proved to take a little more than two inches of "ball"... hahahaha. Spence and I were able to get enough ass behind it and loosened it up. We had unhooked the trailer to do this, so when the ball was securely tightened on the 8 incher , I say to Spence, what every kid his age wants to hear," You need to get in there and back it up."
"You mean drive it , Dad?"
"Well yeah, Bud."
"You bet I will!", he says. There's that first time for everything and if you have a kid you've let do that, you know that first time is indelibly etched.
We pick up the tools, stash them away in the truck and do a make shift hand wash with the baby wipes. That is why moms come in handy on these excursions. We head to the IHOP and along the way, muse at how rough the roads are in that town. After a breakfast, that probably could have been beat... we get on Hwy 40 aimed at California.
That rough road I complained about wasn't the road. It was the trailer, dropping the hitch revealed more problems with the weight bias. I think to myself, the new tires are probably better equipped to handle the 5 1/2 drop hitch. We find a parking lot, change everything back and make our way to the highway once more... California...here we come...again. Okay Skippy, maybe the idea the solution appeared was a bit hasty. The squirrelly trailer was back with a vengeance. I run through my scenarios again, doing math in my head as to how much a 392 weighs, versus what is in the front. I come up with a deficit of a few hundred pounds. Ask wife to find a Home Depot , Lowes or someplace to get concrete blocks. She finds a Tractor Supply a few exits away, Go in, no concrete blocks, only bags of mix , or, they have tube sand. Tube sand was cheaper, the bag said 60lbs but it was rain soaked, so I figure wet, its good for another 10 lbs. I grab 10 of them and throw them in the front of the trailer. Off we go, with a much firmer feel, about 6 to 700 lbs heavier. We go a few hundred miles, through the desolation of northern Texas, one more reason I dislike that place. Nothing but fog, flat land and 34 degrees with what felt like 50 mph head wind gusts. The truck was on fumes when we hit the first fuel station in what seemed about 400 miles. I fill it up and notice there is a nice skin of ice on the trailer... Oh boy.
Frozen in New Mexico
Santa Rosa, NM - Snowing in Arizona
We press on through the remainder of Texas into New Mexico. By this time we are ready to eat a buffalo. We pulled off into this little oasis on old 66 and fill up on eats and hot coffee and hit the road again. Not too far in, the one eyed nap starts kicking in. I start counting the miles to the next rest stop, which, according to the sign it is 12 miles away. I play games with myself to stay awake long enough to keep the wife and kid safe. Upon pulling in the rest stop, staking my claim on a place to park, it was maybe a couple minutes and I am out like a light. It's still cold, windy and a drizzle is falling, so I leave the truck running while I nap, no use in freezing to death. About an hour and a half later, I am awake again. My eyes adjust to the scene outside, okay, they try and then I find my glasses. An inch or so of snow has fallen, it's now midnight and in all my sleep deprived wisdom, I choose to get back on the highway. The next few hours are a continual range of light to moderate snow. We cross into Arizona and it looks like a few inches fell. Everything that is lit, is white and fluffy, even the road.
Trailers dance well on snowy pavement. Slow down dummy, we have to be in Hollywood Tuesday, no rush.
The sunrise brings us scenic views, those of which I have only seen in pictures. We are in what I suppose is the high desert. the trip is pretty much uneventful from here on out to Barstow. Lots of flat land, hills, more flat land and more hills. A quick break for some burgers and off we go with about 2 hours remaining. Next stop North Hollywood, drop the trailer off at a relative's auto auction lot for safe keeping while we play tourist. After a few near misses in traffic, we get there, drop the trailer and head to Hollywood. It's Monday night, finally get to our hotel, 45 hours after we left the shop. Our hotel is a third of a block from Hollywood Boulevard. After a quick shower, we head to see the Walk of Fame. You know the glitz and glamour of the ceremonies, dedicating their place among the other stars... it's all a lie. What a dump, smelly homeless guys sleeping on the sidewalk. We got a couple Falafels and headed back to the hotel. I actually slept, more than 2 hours...more like 8. The next day, we met up with Adam Sorokin. For the last couple years, he has graciously offered to give my son a tour of the company he works for, in the film industry. Hell, I was fascinated by it too, and it was followed by lunch. Spencer was not disappointed and Adam gained a fan for life. The friends we make through this hobby/sport are the kind that can last for a lifetime and are so unique. We stayed in Hollywood another day and did the tourist thing. Mid-day Wednesday, it was time to pick up the trailer and head north for oil saturated air of the Vag Life, as Pete Jensen so aptly calls it.
Spence scoping out the Hollywood scene - Adam Sorokin and Spence