Saturday we wasted no time pulling out of Ely. It wasn’t that we were not enjoying our time in Ely, we just had a time slot at Lehman Caves that we needed to make it to. Shortly out of Ely we came across the best scenery of the trip, but also the most grueling section for the cars. There were two mountain passes standing between us and Utah, we would have to cross Connors Pass that rose to an elevation of 7,729 ft with 8% grades and also Sacramento pass that was 6,720 ft. Henry (Clyde’s car) reminded us of how much he hated climbing hills at speed. The best part though was the view through the back window seeing a line of Model A’s winding through the ‘S’ curves. After navigating through the winding mountain road we pulled into the town of Baker, population 62, and then headed up to Lehman Caves.
Lehman Caves is a beautiful marble cave filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and helictites. The formations in this cave are awe inspiring and plain out amazing. They looked like something out of this world and are a real treat to see. We spent a little over an hour touring the cave and learning about some of the unique and rare features found in this cave that are not seen in any other cave. It was quite the experience and I highly recommend visiting the cave.
After the tour we hit the road again and headed for the Utah Nevada border. We could actually see the border as we descended the hill from the cave. We stopped at the border to fill up with gas as this was the last service available until we reached Delta. Here we were able to pump our gas in Utah but yet fill our tank in Nevada as the station straddled the state line. It was here that we also discovered Rich’s car was overheating, the geyser coming from his radiator kind of gave it away. It was decided that we would grab lunch here while his car cooled down. A good decision as we were getting hungry and do not know if we would have been able to make it to Delta for lunch, especially considering the events that were about to happen.
For some reason Rich’s car did not want to go home as the second it hit the pavement it stalled and would not start. We had barely crossed over the state line and it was DOA. Many heads were again under the hood trying to diagnose the problem. The conclusion was to try a new carburetor. Carburetor number two went on but there was no change. Thinking the new carb was also plugged up we tried a third carb to see if the third time really is the charm. Nope, no go! Throughout the trip and even during this current roadside seminar there was joking that most carb problems were electrical and most electrical problems were carb problems. All joking aside, it was mentioned that maybe our problem is after all an electrical problem. Sure enough, there was no spark. A new condenser went on, points were checked and connections cleaned and still no start. Clyde then noticed that the distributor cap was quite worn, he pulled a new cap from his bin of parts and brought the car back to life. We buttoned things up and threw the tools into the car and Rich shot off down the road trying to get as far as he could before there was another problem. A few miles down the road the I began wondering where Rich’s passengers ended up. He shot out of there so fast his passengers never had a chance to jump in. Seeing that he was long gone we tried our best to catch up and just hoped that there was space in the trouble truck for the abandoned passengers!
It was not long before we caught up with Rich sitting on the side of the road. I could not tell which was putting off more steam, Rich or the car. We topped off the car with water and he took off again. We also took some time to top off a couple other cars as well. Henry was getting a bit thirsty and Bill’s pickup was running hot as well. Back on the road we only made it but another forty miles before we happened across Rich again. We repeated the cycle and were on our way. By now Henry was letting us know he did not like all of the stop and go in the hot desert as vapor lock was getting to the best of him. There was a bit of sputtering, hiccuping and bucking after each stop before he would start running smoothly on all four cylinders. Surely we must be getting close to Delta right? I do not know how much more of this road I can take. I am not sure if it was because I was tired of the desert scenery or if the stretch of road to Delta is really that bad. I think everyone on this trip has learned first hand why this road has been nicknamed ‘The Loneliest Road’.
After what seemed like forever, we finally came upon a town, and unfortunately it was not Delta. As we came around the bend we found some Model A’s on the side of the road huddled under some shade. I thought for sure one of them would be Rich’s sedan, but to my surprise he was not even in the group. Someone had lost a fan belt and had been holding off for the last few miles to replace it until there was some shade to work under. One of the pickups in the group also lost his generator and was now running strictly on battery power. After getting the new belt on we were on our way again. Well, except for Clyde and I. Henry must have wanted some more time in the shade as he did not want to start. Clyde pored some water on the fuel line and carb in hopes to bring the temperature down. After waiting a few minutes for Henry to cool down he finally gave in and started up. Somehow Clyde managed to con me into getting behind the wheel so I finished driving us into Delta. It was during this part of the trip that Clyde realized that his motormeter actually did work. From the driver seat you cannot see the mercury rising in the gauge, but now that he was sitting in the passenger seat, he could see it clearly. All these years of thinking it was broken and all he needed was a different perspective.
After arriving in Delta, we learned that we had left poor Chuck stranded out in the desert as his Tudor did not want to start after our last water stop. Attempts at getting AAA on the line to get a tow truck out to him were not going well so it looked like the trouble trailer would have to come into town and drop off Troy’s huckster and go back to get Chuck. By now it was getting late and with another four or so hours of driving time still ahead it was decided that another night in a hotel would be necessary. Not trying to be rude, Clyde and I decided we would prefer to avoid another night in a hotel and since we only had about two hours drive time left we abandoned our friends in Delta and kept on heading towards home.
Granted what happened next would have probably happened regardless of whether we had of stayed the extra night or kept going, but there is always that doubt in my mind that had we have not continued on we might have been okay. Not far out of Delta Henry’s engine started chattering. At first it was not bad, but it got progressively worse. Clyde found a sweet spot that the chatter would disappear but if we went any slower or faster or encountered any load then the engine would start making a racket. We debated on turning back but decided we were going to need help sooner or later so we might as well get closer to home so that our rescue team had less distance to travel. I called my dad to see if he could come and help but was quickly reminded that his truck was out of commission. We called Joe Fazzio next to see if he could get a trailer and come save us. He inquired as to what the problem was and then instructed me on things I should try to do to get the chattering to stop (he was thinking it was just driver error due to me still being a novice to Model A’s), I would then repeat this information to Clyde. After a couple minutes of this coaching Joe asked me who I was talking to, I told him that it was Clyde and that we were driving in his car. To that Joe immediately responded, “Where are you? I will get a trailer!”. He knew that if Clyde was in need of help it must be serious.
The next couple of hours were the longest ride I have taken in my life. To me it felt like it took forever, but for Clyde it must have felt like an eternity. I could see the pain on his face as he listened to that poor old engine, every stroke it took was slowly tearing away at his heart as his baby was on the verge of self destruction. The torment of wondering how much more abuse it could take and knowing that it could give out at any moment was killing him. This engine has seen a lot of miles and he knew this day was coming, but did not think it would be today. We crawled into Eureka at a grueling 10mph and finally made it to the top of the hill on the east side of town. From here it was all down hill, we crested the hill and let gravity take its course. We coasted the next 13 miles and came to rest quietly under a lowly street light in the small town of Goshen. Thankfully we did not have much time to grieve as Joe and Pat were only about 5 minutes away in Santaquin. We loaded Henry on the trailer and finished the rest of our journey home.
All in all it was an excellent trip and we had an amazing time! We want to thank the Salty and Beehive A’s for letting us come and crash their party as well as put up with us. Also a special thanks to Joe and Pat for dropping everything in a minutes notice to come and rescue us, thank you! It is mine and Clyde’s hope that some day our club can take a similar tour. Our club has been slowly venturing out further and further on our current tours and will hopefully build up everyones confidence to tackle a large tour like this one.