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Hot August Nights…and Three Crazy Days

It's Not About Where You Go; It's About How You Get There

Photography by Car Craft Staff

If something works the first time, it’s damn sure worth another shot. So after the unexpected success of last year’s Car Craft Anti-Tour, we were jazzed to do it all again, not necessarily bigger, but better. So how do you top a road trip that consists of drag racing, car-show spectating, and cruising with a great group of people in cool old cars? Well, you keep the drag racing and hit a bigger car show. And you, er, change the name, to the “Car Craft West Coast Road Trip” so as not to offend the sensitive collective ego of our sister publication. Our 2001 plan was set: We’d convene at Los Angeles County Raceway (LACR) and race to our hearts’ content or until severe engine knock—whichever came first. In the early afternoon, we’d head out up US-14, then US-395, and spend the night in Bishop, California. We’d arrive in Reno the next afternoon to check out gearhead nirvana, a.k.a. Hot August Nights, and Sunday we’d make the return trip to SoCal. And that was pretty much the extent of our trip planning. No formal invitations, except for the blurb in the Aug. ’01 issue. No celebrity guests, just the Car Craft crew. No trick tuner cars or corporate-sponsored courtesy cars, just our own beaters and the readers’ rides. No fancy tow-truck for roadside rescues, just the FNG’s AAA Plus card.

But these plans were made to be broken, or at least delayed, ’cause any Car Craft-related event seems particularly prone to disaster. The first omen came as we were leaving LACR and Randy Henniger’s ’67 Ranchero wouldn’t start. Deep-fried battery terminals and a visibly cooked starter solenoid pointed to a heat-soaked starter. Editor Matt “I don’t need no stinking starter” King happily swapped out a good solenoid from his four-speed ’65 Falcon and the ’Chero fired right up. Problem solved—we push-started the Falcon and steered the group onto US-14 toward Bishop.

There ain’t much to see on US-14, and by the time we hit US-395, the area had become totally desolate. On a chance gas stop, we stumbled across a cool junkyard—“Pearson’s Salvage Yard and Hubcap City”—and scoped out some cool old tin and some really strange old junk. Again, King Matt led the group out and back onto the highway, and appointed Henry and the FNG as tail-gunners in the Buick. Say, Henry, where’d Randy’s Ranchero go? We found Randy and his buddy Earl peering under the hood amid the stench of burnt electrical parts, just as we heard the last of our crew buzzing down the highway into oblivion. And we thought only Chevys got heat-soaked starters. Out came the FNG’s AAA Plus card, and in drove Mr. James Brown (really!) with a flatbed tow truck. Mr. Brown assessed the problem, walked to his truck, returned with a dripping-wet iced rag, threw it over the starter for a minute, and fired up the Ford on the first try. There you have it: James Brown, the hardest working man in the tow business. That got us working on a “Tech Tips from Tow Truck Drivers” article. We rolled into Bishop way late, but Amigos Restaurant stayed open after closing for us, thanks to owner Neil Zakar. He’s a serious car guy with a ’64 428CJ-powered Galaxy, which makes him even cooler in our eyes.

The next day didn’t go so bad except for a minor accident that put Matt’s Falcon out of commission. Check the sidebar. Oh yeah, and we eventually made it to Reno for Hot August Nights. But after spending the better part of Saturday afternoon banging and stretching Matt’s Falcon back into useable shape, the only cars we were up for seeing were the few in the hotel parking lot. We kicked back with a few drinks, lost some money on the hotel’s blackjack tables, and called it a night. Believe it or not, we didn’t get a single photo of the Reno event. We did get an enthusiastic recap of the cruising and car show action while we drove back the following day, so we figure you’d have had a good time. We did, too. ’Cause a road trip isn’t about where you go, it’s about how you get there.

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