Some notes Jeff and Beth Took During the Tour

For most of the Tumbleweed Region Early Ford V8 club members who joined the 2013 National Tour the tour started at 9:00am on Monday October 14 at the McDonalds on San Mateo and Academy in Albuquerque.  Jay Hertz and Helen (2002 Thunderbird), Bob Payne and Vi (1953 Ford Convertible), Bob’s brother Keith and wife from Vermont in their modern car, Frank Corey (1953 four door sedan), Joe Abbin (1949 Mercury), Marvin and Neva Coffee (1935 coupe), and Jeff and Beth Jackson (1940 coupe) were joined by Richard and Mary Jo Kellogg (1953 Convertible) from Colorado for the drive to Chama.   Jim, Joyce and Will Clements (1949 ford 2 door sedan) had gone up on Sunday to check everything out.

The drive to Chama was relatively uneventful.   Jeff and Beth's coupe had about 20 miles on the engine.  That car kept seeking its own radiator fill level on the way up to Chama but once it was comfortable no more burps the rest of the trip. We stopped after going about 30 miles just to check that everything was ok and to remind Bob to stop for gas in Española,  Our leader, Bob Payne, evoked interesting comments when he passed all but the very last gas station in Española. We made the gas stop and launched again as a happy group.

Our goal was to reach Chama in time to join the Colorado contingent for a 2:00pm tour of the Chama rail yard.   Speed varied as we traversed the hills and back roads to Chama but we all pulled into the Elkhorn Lodge in Chama at 1:30pm, in time to grab some food and join the rail yard tour.

At 3:00pm we had our welcome tables set up in the pavilion area of the Elkhorn Lodge.  This was an outside pavilion and it was a "brisk" Monday afternoon in Chama.   It seems as though everyone who came to register stayed until our planned 6:00pm shut down time.  This was undoubtedly due to the excellent stories and friendship shared, but was also influenced by the plentiful wine and cheese and crackers available!  By 6:00 pm all but one couple had been to the welcome party and we were all ready for supper.

The one couple that did not make the welcome party called about 8pm Monday evening to collect their tour bag and to let us know they had switched to a modern car.   Unfortunately their '52 truck was hobbled outside of Santa Fe on their way to Chama.  Like real troupers they left the truck and joined the tour in a rented car.   Later, after having some difficulty finding a suitable pickup spindle they called a relative to bring up a trailer to pick up 'Blue' and trailer him home.

Not unexpectedly many car hoods were popped on Monday afternoon.   One1949 two door had experienced drive train vibrations and ended up jacked up with several members giving opinions and staring at universal joints until nearly dark.  The car was back together and running shortly thereafter.

Tuesday morning arrived too soon as we gathered for discussion of our first tour day.  Jeff Jackson welcomed everyone and introduced Jay Hertz who overviewed the day.  Jay's knowledge of the Cumbres and Toltec railroad allowed him to provide a complete and very interesting description of the train trip we were preparing to make.  Most of the tour group took the train from Chama, New Mexico to Osier, Colorado and back.   Some of the tourers took an alternative route and rode a bus one way and took the longer train trip from Antonito, Colorado back to Chama.   Either route delivered excellent scenery and ample time for discussions with fellow tourers on the train.   Both routes had a lunch stop in Osier, Colorado with fine food at the Osier train station.



Cars at the Cumbres Toltec Parking Lot on Tuesday Morning

The fall colors were wonderful!   Many of the tourers took advantage of the open cars at some point during the trip to get the real smell and sound of the train and the open beauty of Northern New Mexico.   It was cool in the open car, well actually cold in the open car if you were outside when we crossed the Cumbres Pass with light snow on the ground.  Those with a sharp eye saw deer on the train ride and some of us saw deer across the street from the motel Tuesday evening.




View from the train in route to Osier, Colorado

Arrived back at the hotel around 5pm and another round of examining each other's cars ensued. A power steering belt was scraping the lower radiator hose on one of the many 1953 cars at the event.   The simple fix was removing the fan belt, the radiator hose damage was minor.   Most folks gassed up and checked fluid levels Tuesday afternoon before dark.

Gail Bangiola and others instigated a second wine and cheese party on Tuesday evening.  Frank Corey and Joe Abbin had one of the largest rooms so that's where the wine and cheese and story telling progressed on Tuesday.   The weather had us a little concerned because there was a forecast for snow in Chama on Wednesday.

Lo and behold on Wednesday we awoke to find 3" of snow on our cars.   Luckily this is New Mexico and the snow was already melted on the road at this elevation of about 7300'.   Many of the cars had their first taste of snow in many, many years.   Richard Fell had the foresight to cover his convertible with a tarp while many others went a naturale.  It was a chilly drivers meeting on Wednesday as Joyce Clements discussed the day's plans.  Everyone opted to take the higher elevation road, which was also the shorter route, to Taos.   Little did we know what was up ahead.




Lining up at the Elkhorn Lodge in Chama

You know many of these older cars do not have heaters and many with vacuum wipers admit the wipers are more for show than function.   Within 20 miles of leaving Chama we had snow covered ground but only moist roads.  Another twenty miles and we had climbed above 9000' elevation and the snow and slush was on the road.   Another few miles and we were crossing the peak at over 10,000 feet elevation and the road had a light but solid snow cover.   Every driver on this trip admitted sliding at least one time during this crossing.    And, every driver said it was a great experience to drive over snow covered roads.   But in their next breath said that driving a snow covered road was now crossed off their 'bucket list' and they probably did not need to do it again.



Crossing the Mountain on Hyway 64 between Chama and Taos

On the downhill side of this mountain crossing we all stopped at an abandoned gas station to rest and swap stories before driving on to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge crossing and view of the Rio Grande then on into Taos.

The Rio Grande Gorge crossing is a bridge across the Rio Grande at a point where the river flows through a canyon 565 feet below the bridge.   It is like a mini Grand Canyon.  This bridge is the seventh highest bridge in the United States.  We stopped here and took pictures and admired the scenery.  The scenery included a small herd of big horn sheep on the side of the road at the Gorge.  These sheep were not inhibited at all by our old cars crossing the bridge.  Mary Harcourt took pictures of many cars crossing the bridge.




Joe Abbin in his supercharged flathead 1950 Mercury crossing the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

It was only a short drive into Taos from the Gorge.    Everyone went their own way in Taos to pick a favorite eating place for lunch, or to begin shopping, or to visit museums or do sight seeing.   Many of the drivers, but not all, found cars washes and cleaned their babies.   A small group regathered at about 2pm and made the drive around the 'Enchanted Circle' through Angel Fire back to Taos.   That drive was uneventful with no snow covered grounds but the scenery was wonderful.


One 1935 Coupe needed some distributor work, seems one set of points had closed.  Out popped the tools and more hands than could fit in the engine bay.  The car was back running great in a short time.

The hotel where most people stayed in Taos had a free soup buffet in the evening and many tourers found the soup sufficient after a hearty lunch.   The soup dining area served as a gathering point all Wednesday evening.   There was talk of purchases made and not made.  It was widely agreed that jewelry in Taos was expensive but very high quality and gorgeous.  At many tables people were still discussing their snow driving experience.  It was agreed this was the first tour in memory that had three seasons in three days.   There was also considerable talk comparing bias ply tires to radial ply, and reviewing the pro's and con's of 12 volt vs. 6 volt electric systems, and pontificating on the benefits or failings of the Columbia and Mitchell overdrive systems.    Each of these mighty important topics had ample support on each side.   Being a good natured group the consensus decision was to do what you as a driver liked because it is your car.   Good thing we all avoided politics and religion because there was no shortage of opinions!

Thursday we awoke to a beautiful New Mexico fall morning.  It was brisk in the shade while a step into the sun warmed one quickly.   The morning briefing was given by Joe Abbin.  He said the trip through Chimayo to Santa Fe was less than 100 miles but packed full of interesting stopping places, beautiful scenery, and good food.



Typical Morning Briefing

After the morning briefing and before hitting the road the cars were all lined up for a group picture.   Len and Mary Harcourt arranged the cars and took the pictures.  There should be some outstanding pictures of Ford flathead powered cars (and some fine pictures of flatheads standing beside their cars).


The first suggested stop was 'The Classical Gas Museum’ operated by Johnny Meiers.  Most of the touring cars stopped and spent nearly an hour snooping around.   Johnny has an eclectic collection of memorabilia surrounded by junk.  Most of the memorabilia and junk was not for sale.  There were several signs that pointed out 'this is damned fine junk'.   The inside museum was stuffed with old garage business stuff.   He had many old gas pumps and some he had restored for sale.   Prices reflected the scarcity of this type memorabilia.  

After  'The Classical Gas Museum’ it was on to Chimayo for weaving, jewelry, sculptures, the santuario and a big lunch at the world famous Rancho de Chimayo.    Great lunch at Rancho de Chimayo and we were looking forward to another Mexican dinner at the Blue Corn Cafe in Santa Fe that night. With so many things to do in Chimayo there was no attempt to keep everyone together for the short drive to Santa Fe.

Getting from Chimayo to Santa Fe was not difficult, but Santa Fe is a very old city with crooked roads that change name every other intersection.  It took some effort to get to our hotels in downtown Santa Fe.   Others stayed a little further from the city center.  Nearly everyone on the tour made it to the Blue Corn Cafe for dinner and appeared to enjoy the food and drink judging by the lively conversations and overall noise level in our part of the restaurant.

The conversations continued later in the hotel common areas.

Friday morning promised another beautiful New Mexico sun filled day.  The morning briefing included introducing Larry Azevedo as host for the trip to Los Alamos via Bandelier.