1997 Centennial Celebration of Oldsmobile

The Road to Lansing (The story of our adventures on the road)
by Debbie Hirsch, 1997

We had been preparing for our trip to Lansing to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Oldsmobile in 1997 ever since we got back from the 1996 Oldsmobile Nationals in Atlanta.  As the date of departure grew closer, our excitement increased.  Our car had been selected to represent 1965 in the "100 Years of Oldsmobile" Showcase.  I had completed my packing list and kept monitoring the weather in Lansing on the Internet.  Could be warm – or very cool.  So I packed for both.  The trip was mapped out, cameras and film packed and a check cashed for spending money.  For this special trip a full box of rarely smoked cigars was packed for Richard.

My husband, Richard, has always been into preventive maintenance, so before we took our trip to Lansing he gave our 1965 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser a "once over."  The hood pad was dirty from a leaking compressor seal and leaking power steering pump.  A new hood pad was ordered and repairs were started.  First – off to the air conditioning shop where the system was checked, repaired, and charged.  Second – the rear end had been making a little bit of noise so Richard had a local shop go through the differential for a check over and replacement of any worn parts.  Third – we needed a new power steering pump.  The pump was ordered and finally received and installed two days before we were to leave.  To make sure everything on the car was okay my husband drove it the day before we planned to leave.  Late that afternoon the power steering pump began making a lot of noise – bad pump.  We had planned to leave early Saturday morning to stay with our friends (Anne and Randy Alderfer) in Fort Worth, but we delayed our departure to locate another steering pump.  One was located on the far side of town, they warranted the other pump, and Richard installed it.  Since we were quite late we decided not to install the new hood pad until we got to Lansing.

We left Austin and headed for Fort Worth around 3:00 p.m.  We were about 60 miles out of Austin when the power steering pump failed.  Richard pulled the power steering belt off and we drove on to Fort Worth without power steering (like steering a battleship on a pond).  We called ahead and asked Randy to seek out a new pump for us.  In about 30 minutes he had located one.  When we arrived Anne prepared us a wonderful stir-fry dinner and then Randy and Richard headed out to get the pump.  The parts store wouldn't honor the warranty on the pump we had bought that morning (same national chain) so we paid for it and decided to deal with the warranty after we got home.  Randy and Richard spent the rest of the evening changing out the pump and christening Randy's new concrete drive with power steering fluid.  All fixed and the cigars were passed around.

Sunday morning John Schumacher met us at Anne and Randy's to start the trek together.  Most of our other club members were either taking alternate routes, leaving early to get in some extra sightseeing trips, visiting relatives along the way, or flying to Lansing.  That left John and us to "caravan" to Lansing.  We left a couple of cigars with Randy and headed out.  We got about two hours out of Fort Worth and the temperatures began to cool making the trip much more pleasant.  That day was uneventful and we stopped for an overnight stay in Springfield, Missouri.  We saw Bruce Dement's Oldsmobile on a trailer at one hotel and Jim and Judy Beck's Oldsmobile on a trailer at another nearby hotel.  We checked in at the Red Roof Inn and called both hotels where we had seen their cars but were told neither party was registered.  Both vehicles and trailers were gone when we headed out the next morning.  Richard and John were both "Simpsons" fans and noted that Springfield was where Homer and Bart lived.  Doh!

We started Monday morning at a leisurely pace (John's low gears guaranteed we would not be speeding).  We stopped in Rolla, Missouri to visit Yesteryear's Memories.  There was a fascinating little museum that included some Beverly Hillbillies memorabilia, collection of antique cars, and an auto restoration shop.  Worth the stop.  Richard handed John a cigar and we headed out.

We continued on to Springfield, Illinois.  Could this be the actual Springfield where Homer and Bart lived?  Doh!  The day had been trouble free.  We checked in at another Red Roof Inn for the night.  It was beginning to rain and we had plenty of time to get to Tinley Park, Illinois to join the rest of the cars gathering there to drive to Lansing together.  We plotted the drive on the map and John called Tinley Park to reserve a room for us.  All seemed well.  We were ahead of schedule.  No power steering problems had returned.  We headed over to Auto Zone to get a few supplies – some oil for John's car and extra power steering fluid for us in case we developed another power steering leak.  We were amazed at the treatment we received – we thought we had entered "Parts Heaven."  The employees came from behind the counter and walked right up to us and offered help in finding whatever we needed.  Red carpet treatment at an auto parts store – not accustomed to that.  At this point we were having a wonderful trip and meeting lots of friendly people.

The next morning as we packed the cars it began to rain steadily.  Temperatures had cooled to the 60s during the night but we weren't complaining – we had left behind 100-degree temperatures in Texas.  We checked out, Richard made sure John had cigars, and we pulled onto US 55 heading north for Tinley Park, Illinois.  We were going to be there early and that would give us lots of time to shine up the cars.  Or so we thought.  We were only two miles up the road when all hell broke loose – or rather the rear axle broke loose and was trying to exit the right side of the cruiser.  I screamed stop and Richard quickly slowed and maneuvered the car to the side of the road.  John pulled in behind us thinking we had blown a tire (wishful thinking).  We called Roadside Assistance and got the name and phone of the local Oldsmobile dealer – Charlie Sattler Oldsmobile.  We then called AAA for the tow – specifically requesting a rollback wrecker to avoid damage to the car.  It was beginning to rain a little heavier and AAA said it would be about an hour for the wrecker.

We stood away from the roadway  (in rain and 60 degree weather) in case an errant driver couldn't see our cars on the side of the road.  We had been there about 30 minutes when a pickup pulled in behind us and the driver came toward us.  He told us he had seen the Oldsmobiles and had to stop.  He worked on a bridge construction crew and the bridge his crew was working on the previous day had collapsed, injuring a couple of the crew.  Because of the rain that day he had the day off.  Turned out he has a 1968 442 hardtop.  His name was John Stout and he turned out to be one of the angels we met on this trip.  He stood in the rain with us talking cars for about half an hour, proudly showing us a picture of his Oldsmobile.  We exchanged phone numbers and continued our wait for the wrecker. 

The wrecker finally arrived but now there was another problem.  No rollback.  The driver became very rude when we told him we had requested a slider and he told us we would just have to wait – they were busy.  So we called AAA back.  We repeated our original request and they said they would dispatch the call again but it would probably be an hour before the wrecker would be there (another hour's wait).  We were starting to get hungry so John and I took his car up to McDonalds.  We just got back and settled in to eat when the rollback wrecker arrived as well as the wrecker driver's supervisor in another wrecker (same company as the original wrecker that had come and gone).  The wrecker driver called our car an "old dog" and he didn't see why we didn't allow the other driver to tow us since it was “just an old car.”   He didn't want to load it on the slider.  While he was being rude, his supervisor was looking under our car and came back up remarking that this was a really, really nice car and turned to his driver and told him to get it loaded.  It only took about 5 minutes to load and we were on our way to the Oldsmobile dealer.  The wrecker driver offered to take our car to their shop and fix it but we passed, considering his "dog" comment.  (No cigar for this guy.)

We told him we had already made arrangements with the Oldsmobile dealer and they were waiting for us.  As we circled back on the access road and headed to the dealer we passed the wrecker driver's place of business (less than 2 miles from where we had broken down on the highway) and on to the dealer (another mile).  We suggested that John go on without us, but he was positive things would be okay (another angel).  He said he wouldn’t abandon us.  The wrecker driver quickly unloaded and zoomed away.  I thought this was strange since we had not even been asked to sign a wrecker bill.  I checked at the cashier's office and she said he had not left an invoice.

Unfortunately, we had finally arrived at the dealership just as everyone was going to lunch so we left in John's car to find something to keep us occupied.  With the continuing cold rain we found something to do.  John's car had no heater or defroster and the windows were fogging up.  We headed back to the Auto Zone where we had been the night before and picked up some Rain-X and Rain-X anti-fog.  We got the same red carpet treatment again!  (How nice.)  We pulled into a nearby car wash to get out of the rain and went to work on John's windows.  He discovered his windshield wipers were worn so he walked back to Auto Zone for a set.  With the windows clear (these products really work well) and the new wiper refills installed, John's car was set to go.  We headed back to the dealership and were delighted to find the mechanic assigned to our car, Harold Whitenall, had already pulled down the rear end and had ordered a new bearing.  We were thrilled and anxious to be getting back on the road soon.  We talked with the mechanics in the shop - a pleasantly friendly group of guys.  The bearing had arrived – wrong bearing.  The damaged BCA bearing in the car was an old number and this was supposed to be the replacement bearing but it wasn't the same size.  The parts guy headed back to the bearing store.  But we have to back up a little bit here.

During the fall of 1996 our club was invited to set up a display at the State Fair in Dallas.  We had driven the Vista Cruiser and that was the first time we started to hear noise in the rear end.  When we got to the fair we noticed that the wheel was very hot.  To be sure we wouldn't have trouble on the trip home we asked Gene Crowdis to take the car home with him and we would come back later in the week to fix it.  It wasn't until we got back to Austin that we found out Gene had barely left the fairgrounds when the rear axle bearing failed and he had it towed to his house.  Richard took our truck and trailer to Dallas the next week and picked up the cruiser.  (Gene – we probably still owe you and Betty a dinner for this.)  Then we began the hunt for bearings.  The bearing listed in all the parts books in town was not right – wrong size.  We searched high and low and each time came to a dead end until we called Olcar Bearing Company.  The owner, George Bachleda, knew exactly what we needed.  The bearing was made by New Departure and he shipped us what we needed.  Richard replaced the bearings and we had no further problems and no noise in the rear end.  We even took the car to the Buick-Olds-Pontiac show in Dallas. 

But the mechanic in Springfield was telling us the bearing that was in the car was a BCA bearing, not the New Departure brand we had installed.  The only other person who had touched the rear end was the mechanic who rebuilt the differential – we figured he must have replaced the bearings in the axles when he worked on it.  Either the bearings were not properly pressed into position or the old retainers had been re-used, causing the bearing to fail and the rear axle to pull away.  Or they may have put the wrong size bearings in.  We would have to check this out with him on our return from Lansing.

Back to fixing the problem.  We were approaching closing time at the dealership and a bearing was yet to be located.  We had spent the whole day on the phone calling wrecking yards looking for a rear end if necessary.  The parts guys at Charlie Sattler Oldsmobile had spent most of their day trying to locate a bearing.  We called Olcar Bearing Company.  George had the right bearings we needed but we were in the middle of the UPS strike and there was no way he could get the part to us the next day.  He was 80 miles from the nearest airport so he couldn't air freight it and Federal Express was already closed.  If he shipped it we wouldn't get it until Thursday morning.  We asked him not to do anything until he heard back from us.  We spent the rest of the day trying to find a truck and trailer to rent to take the car on to Lansing.  We kept telling John to go on to Tinley Park but he refused to leave us alone with our problems.  Great guy!  Richard gave him another cigar.

In the meantime, the dealership was closing for the evening.  Norman "Woody" Woods, one of the mechanics, asked us if we needed a place to stay for the night because he could make room for us at his house (what an angel).  We assured him we would be okay – we would head back to the Red Roof Inn and check back in.  Richard passed out cigars to anyone who wanted one and John carried us back to the Red Roof Inn and announced to the same desk clerk as we checked in:  "Mom, we're home."  We explained what had happened to us since we had left that morning and she was very sympathetic.  We checked in and settled in our rooms to plan our strategy.

We ordered a couple of pizzas to be delivered and decided the only way to handle the problem would be to haul the car to Lansing and have George from Olcar Bearing bring the parts with him to Lansing (he was planning to be at the swap meet there).  We called George and asked him to bring the parts with him and we would pick them up at the swap meet.  We called Art Fuller (one of our club members already in Lansing) and told him what was going on.  He called back to say that Murphy Walker was offering to unload his exquisite 1937 Oldsmobile "Miss Lucy" and come pick us up.  We said we would consider that as our last resort – we didn't want anyone to have to drive 800 miles round trip to pick us up. 

We knew we could fix the car in Lansing and then drive it back to Texas after the meet.  Now we just had to find a way to get to Lansing.  All the rental places were now closed and we were only able to call the national phone number of UHaul.  They thought there might be a truck and maybe a car trailer in Decatur, Illinois (about 30 miles away), but wouldn't know until the next day when the place opened for business.  They asked for a credit card to hold the unit for us.

Then I suggested we call the nice young man we had met by the side of the road – John Stout.  He had an Oldsmobile and maybe he would know where we could get a rear end or find the parts to fix the car.  Richard called him to leave word.  He called us back in short order – his friend, Marty Fairchild, had a rear end out of a 1971 442.  Did we know if it would work?  We didn't know and called Art.  Without access to parts books he wasn't really sure.  We called John back and asked him if he knew what Marty wanted for the rear end.  He said Marty wanted to make a donation to the cause (another angel).  Marty didn't have a way to haul it to us so John offered to deliver it to our room and brought Marty to meet us.

We inhaled our pizzas and tried to relax enough to get some sleep.  We were frustrated and tired.  The room in Tinley Park was cancelled.  The UHaul "possibility of a truck with trailer" was cancelled since we would have to drive to Decatur and pick up the truck and if they didn't have the trailer we would need to find one in Springfield (which might prove difficult during the UPS strike).  Unfortunately, we were going to miss the caravan in Tinley Park but maybe we had a chance to make the photo shoot of the "100 Years of Oldsmobile".

John Schumacher's constant positive attitude and jokes kept us from "losing it" through this ordeal.  Though it was hard to struggle with our sense of helplessness over getting the car fixed and get to Lansing none of us had "lost our cool" even though we were 15s on the 1-10 stress scale.  We told lots of jokes and just kept smiling and laughing over it all.  As we got ready for bed I noticed Richard looked exhausted as he sat on the end of the bed brushing his teeth.  He complained about the toothpaste tasting "funny" and not foaming up like usual.  When I looked next to the sink I saw he had pulled out a tube of Cortisone 10 instead of toothpaste.  After several minutes rolling on the floor with laughter we went to bed with hope that we may have a chance – if the rear end did work we would be driving to Lansing the next day. 

We got up early and headed to the dealership to be there when it opened.  We shared the Cortisone 10 story with John, starting the day with laughter and a positive note.  The parts manager loaned us the parts truck to pick up the rear end that was in our room and we quickly began assessing its usefulness.  The rear end was in good shape.  The gears looked good.  The problem was it wouldn't interchange – slightly too wide.  Steve Painter in the parts department informed us they were going back to one of the bearing stores to see if they could match up the bearing with anything they had in stock.

We got back on the phone to search for a truck and trailer.  We found a trailer but no truck.  They agreed to hold the trailer until noon to give us time to find a truck.  We called every truck rental place listed.  Ford and Dodge both rented trucks but wouldn't let us pull a trailer with them.  UHaul and Ryder had no trucks available.  Ryder had a dolly but wouldn't rent it to us unless we rented one of their trucks which they didn't have available.  We even called all the motor home rentals in the book – nothing was available.  Marty stopped by the dealership to see how we were doing and look our car over.  We thanked him for the rear end but told him it wouldn't work.  The parts guy came back from the bearing store – no luck.  A lot of Catch 22s and dead ends.  It was close to noon and I told Richard if we were going to get there at all we needed to call Murphy before it was too late for him to come get us.  He agreed and called Art and asked him to look for Murphy.  Harold carefully pressed the old bearings back on the cruiser axles as tight as possible so the wagon would roll.

We were feeling pretty low at this point when someone in the body shop said he knew someone who had just bought a new rollback the week before and thought maybe he would be willing to haul us to Lansing.  He called Bob Hayes who said he would take us to Lansing on his rollback if he could find someone to fill in for him at work.  He was at the dealership in 30 minutes and we were loaded and ready to go in short order (another angel).  We called Art back, told him we didn't need Murphy to come get us after all, and gathered everyone around the rollback to take a picture of all the angels who had tried so hard to help us fix the car.  They were so disappointed that they had not been able to help us.  Richard reassured them he was just grateful for all they had done - and he passed out the remaining cigars.  We appreciate all the efforts everyone made on our behalf.  We left with a respect for these strangers who had worked so hard to help us (they were a whole flock of angels).  We were on our way – Lansing or bust!

We were finally leaving Springfield, Illinois around 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday.  Richard and I rode with John in his 442 and the Vista Cruiser rode in style with Bob and his son, Bobby, on a beautiful new rollback wrecker.  We listened to the truckers on John's CB and headed north.  It rained sporadically and finally quit as we neared Chicago.  John's car was developing some problems – oil was leaking from the oil breather and the valve cover.  The truckers let us know when they saw the heavy smoke.  We made several rest stops (Bobby was pleased about this) and monitored the oil use in John's car.  Unfortunately the oil was leaking on his beautifully refinished exhaust headers and burning.  As we got closer to Lansing the oil leak seemed to be getting bigger.

We finally rolled into Lansing just before 10:00 p.m. and drove up to our hotel, unloaded our belongings from the wagon, and took off in search of Lansing Center and the Showcase lot.  We finally got there via a few side trips through several parts of Lansing (exhaustion, darkness, lack of street signs and a poor map contributed).  We unloaded the car at about 11:30 p.m.  We paid Bob and included a little extra for helping us make it to Lansing.  He and his son Bobby were excited to be there and took time to look at all the cars.  We stopped to gas up John's car, grabbed a late meal at Denny's and headed back to the hotel.  John didn't know where his hotel was so we told him to bunk in our room since it was so late.  He assured us he didn't snore and I told him I always do when I am tired.  Richard let us both know he had to listen to "stereo" throughout the night.

The registration desk didn't open until 8:30 a.m. so we had to wait to get our registration packets.  As soon as we did we headed for Lansing Center to find out where to go for the 9:00 a.m. photo shoot of the Showcase cars.  Turned out the night before the Centennial planners had changed the location and time of the shoot.  They had moved it to an earlier time and it was too far away to make it.  Most of the car owners in the Showcase weren't informed.  So much for getting to Lansing in time for the picture.  We went out to the show field to begin cleaning our car.  There were thousands of pieces of tire rubber stuck to the rear quarter because the tire had shredded apart as it rubbed on the wheel opening.  As I would wipe the spots, they grew larger as the rubber dissolved in the wax.  This was really hard to get off.  And while we were waxing and cleaning the car it was raining.  We decided not to bother trying to glue in the new hood insulation.

We decided to go ahead and get the car repaired before the Centennial activities got into full swing.  We had called Story Olds in Lansing the day before and told them about our problem so they were expecting us.  Richard headed for the swap meet to pick up the bearings and then slowly and carefully drove the car to Story Olds to be repaired.  We spent the day visiting the swap meet, running into friends from our club and from the previous nationals in Atlanta.  We took photos and video of the cars.  This was indeed a sight to behold.  A long bridge nearby was covered with cars parked side by side and these were only 68 and 69 model 442s.  Parks, lots, and blocked off streets in the downtown area were filled with cars from every era of Oldsmobile production.  The Showcase cars were in a beautiful park by the river that ran through Lansing.  A beautiful setting for these gorgeous Oldsmobiles.  We ran into quite a few of the folks from Texas – we heard that John had a potential buyer in line for his car.

The weather was unpredictable.  Temperatures were comfortable – mid 60s – but the ever-present dark clouds would occasionally dump a brief rainstorm.  We decided to head for lunch and got a call from Story Oldsmobile – the bearing was not the right one.  Kirk Ginther, a Service Consultant for Story Olds, brought it back to the hotel right away and Richard took it to the swap meet.  George had handed him the wrong bearing earlier.  Richard bought an extra one just in case and Kirk took the parts back to the dealership.  Anne and Randy Alderfer had flown in so we went to lunch with them at the Nut House (this became a popular eating place with its location in the middle of all the action).  After lunch we got a call from Story Olds (thanks to the convenience of cell phones) saying the car was ready and did we need to pick it up today?  We said we would come to  the dealership the next morning and went back to the hotel to freshen up and review the lineup of activities for the next few days.  We discovered that the cruise around Lansing was the very next morning and we would need the car very early to get there on time.  We really had to pick the car up that night.  We called Story Olds back – no problem.  The service department was already closed but they would get the car out for us.  They parked it next to the showroom and waited for us to come.  What great people!

We and the Alderfers decided to go to the Michigan Festival that evening to enjoy the Steve Miller band.  The transit system was marvelous and we rode the bus through the beautiful campus at Michigan State to arrive at the festival.  There had been a heavy downpour prior to our arrival and we hadn't been told we needed to bring something to sit on so after about an hour of walking around and standing in the mud and Steve Miller promised in "another 45 minutes" we decided to go back to Lansing Center.

The next morning we picked up the Alderfers and headed for the cruise.  We were to meet at the Oldsmobile plant to line up for the 38-mile cruise around Lansing.  What a sight – 2300 Oldsmobiles showed up to cruise that morning.  A local radio station was broadcasting "oldies" music from the plant and a huge inflatable birthday cake sat atop the building.  We were all presented with a window flag with the 100th anniversary logo on it.  We passed out fliers for our 1999 Oldsmobile Nationals in Dallas and enjoyed the crowd.  There was even an Elvis lookalike in the group (driving a beautiful black and red 1964 Starfire.  When the president of Oldsmobile came out to speak to the crowd he was greeted with the sound of 2300 Oldsmobile owners honking their horns.  Then the announcement came to start our engines and we began filing out of the lots to begin the cruise.  Nothing compares to the rumble of an Oldsmobile – except for the rumble of 2300 Oldsmobiles.

Cameras rolled and Randy yelled "Hi, Mom" to everyone in the crowd.  The first overpass was covered with people waving to us as we filed out to begin the cruise.  What a drive.  Other drivers had pulled off the highway to watch us go by.  People were sitting in their back yards and on the side of the road in lawn chairs waving as we went by.  Oldsmobile banners were draped from some of the overpasses, which were covered with spectators.  We especially enjoyed the elderly man standing behind his house waving his cane as we came by.  The crowd waved and we waved back.  Later that day we heard that the very last car in line had been rear ended by a truck.  Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the car was totaled.  The poor driver had borrowed his brother's Oldsmobile to take his family for a day's outing to the Centennial celebration.  There was actually someone having worse luck than we were.

That evening most of the members of our North Texas Oldsmobile Club met for dinner at the Nut House.  (About 35 members of the club were attending the Centennial.)  We had a wonderful time and all posed for Jim Beck to take a group picture of us wearing club shirts.  Can't wait to see how it turned out.  It was good to see Bill and Mary Szelag in Lansing.  Since they moved to Michigan we sure miss seeing them at our club events in Texas. 

Saturday was the first full day of sunshine and temperatures crept up to the mid 70s.  Beautiful weather for a parade.  And what a parade.  Stepped off by the Michigan State Band, the parade lasted for three hours with 10 decades of Oldsmobiles represented.  Period costumes were worn by many of the car occupants.  The parade included politicians and celebrities riding in pace cars and other convertibles:  Rosie the Riveter, Randy Travis, Tammy Wynette, Oldsmobile executives, a hundred-year-old war veteran, Linda Vaughn (Miss Hurst Olds for eternity), and many more.  The loudest cheers and longest applause was for the war veteran followed by a truckload of veterans.  Perfect weather, marching bands, floats, riders on high-wheeled bicycles, clowns, pedal cars, miniature cars, miniature wheeled airplanes reenacting a "dogfight" on the streets, giant balloons including "Uncle Sam" and the "Cow Jumping Over the Moon," and fresh roasted peanuts all made for an enjoyable day.  The crowd shouted their approval each time a car would lay rubber (highly discouraged by the Lansing police patrolling the parade route).  The parade marked the grand finale of the Centennial celebration.   Oldsmobile birthday cakes were in seven locations around town for everyone in Lansing to enjoy.  We spent the rest of the afternoon looking at cars and taking four rolls of pictures.

That last evening we were too tired to attend the Michigan Festival finale so we decided to go to Oldsmobile Park (home of the Lansing Lugnuts) with the Alderfers.  A showing of Days of Thunder was scheduled for the big screen set up in the outfield.  We sat there waiting for over an hour.  Pictures kept flashing on the screen – fuzzy pictures of kittens and puppies.  We kept waiting.  We had all been to the restroom and I commented on the beautiful marble sinks in the bathrooms.  They were large round fountains with water cascading out of the top.  When I mentioned this Richard blushed red and said he had seen them as he walked in and didn't realize they were sinks.  After he relieved himself he was horrified to see the urinals lined up on the opposite wall.  He told us that was the reason the two couples seated in the bleachers below us kept pointing at him and laughing.  We all nearly died of laughter.  Then the announcement came that the film equipment was out of order and the movie was cancelled for the evening.  We gave away our rainchecks to some locals and dropped Anne and Randy off at their hotel and headed back to our room.

We departed Sunday morning for the drive back to Texas.  Although John had three different people interested in buying his car no one had stepped up with the money so we would be traveling home together.  We headed south in the rain.  We stopped several times to check the oil level in John's car – the oil leak at the back of the valve cover was getting worse.  We decided we would fix this problem that night when we stopped.  We called John Stout to see if he and Marty could join us for a "late lunch-early dinner" when we got to Springfield.  Marty was out of pocket but John joined us.  As we sat in the restaurant John Stout said hello to the people at the next table and told us they were actually his parents and they had once lived in Austin. (Small world.)  We shared stories of Austin with them.  We took pictures and video of John's car as he laid down rubber departing the parking lot.  We loaded up and headed out to get through St. Louis so we wouldn't be there during Monday morning rush hour.  We continued our regular stops to check the oil in John's car and stopped for the night in St. Clair, Missouri.

We picked a Budget Inn that was beautifully landscaped.  It was not part of the national chain but a small privately owned motel.  The flowerbeds were filled with statuary and abundant with flowers.  A very cute place.  Our room was furnished more like a home with extra rugs on the carpeted floors and a cozy recliner to watch television from.  The Bible was opened to a highlighted verse blessing the traveler on his journey.  A calendar hung on the wall and a pot of flowers sat in a window that had lace curtains behind the drapes.   A blessing for travelers was framed and hanging on the wall and we felt at home.  If we ever come this way again we will be sure to stay here again.

John and Richard headed out the next morning for the parts store.   John planned to put a new valve cover gasket on his car to stop the leaks.  We stopped to fill up with gas at a nostalgic Sinclair station (they even had the large plastic dinosaur outside).  With repairs done and the cars fueled the trip resumed – for about 10 minutes.  A big cloud of black smoke came from John's car as oil gushed onto the headers.  We pulled into Bourbon, Missouri and John pulled the valve cover off again.  It must have been warped and was not forming a seal at the rear.  We went into a homey place called the Hen House to have breakfast and bought one of their homemade apple pies to go.  The nearest parts store was down the road about 8 miles.  They recommended a wrecking yard back in the direction we had come from so we turned around.  We met a couple of friendly pet guard goats there and quickly located a valve cover.  John felt terrible about his car causing trouble but we assured him that he had been there for us when we had trouble and the problem with his car was very fixable.  We would stick together.  He put a new gasket on his $5.00 valve cover and installed it and we drove on.  No more leaking oil.  Problem solved.

We waved goodbye to John at the split in Denton and headed to the Alderfer's house in Fort Worth.  We didn't arrive until after 10:00 p.m. but they had stayed up for us and shared the apple pie we brought.  We got an early start the next morning and arrived in Austin before noon.  Home at last and the Vista Cruiser didn't miss a beat all the way home.  When we got home we had a letter waiting from AAA – apologizing for the delay in service.  We also found that UHaul was billing us a for a truck rental we had cancelled but this was straightened out quickly and credit issued to our card.  We still need to discuss the rear end with the shop that worked on it before we left.  We got a credit from that national chain parts store for the defective power steering pump.

Thanks to all the angels that made our trip great despite the hardships.  Thanks to everyone at Charlie Sattler Oldsmobile and Story Oldsmobile.  A special thanks to John Schumacher.  His constant display of good humor, and his impressions of Homer Simpson and Beavis and Butthead, kept us smiling and laughing throughout the rough times. Another special thanks goes to the friendly people of Lansing.  They were constantly thanking us for coming to their city.  A city doesn't often have 50,000 visitors show up for a week's stay.  But we should thank them – their entire population of 50,000 gave up their cars to keep the roads in Lansing free of traffic during our stay and the transit system there provided an ample supply of free busses to make sure we, and the residents of Lansing, could get around town with ease.  Huge thanks to my mom and dad, Betty and Emmett, who took excellent care of our house, dog, cats, and plants (I know you spoiled the dog with doughnuts and chicken).

Although we experienced some trouble on this trip, we were able to laugh at our problems and enjoy one of the most wonderful vacations we've ever been on.  We met some of the nicest people (angels) who went out of their way to help.  We have lots of pictures and home movies to share with our friends and family so they can get a small glimpse of the glorious Oldsmobile Centennial Celebration we were part of.  Can't wait until next year's Oldsmobile Nationals in Springfield, Illinois.  We will get to see some of the friends we met on our way to Lansing.  And there are rumors of holding an event in Lansing every five years……………………..

Follow-up, July 2005

We still own our Vista Cruiser and it is still one of our favorite cars.  We made it to the Nationals in Springfield the next year and got to see John Stout and his car there.  The following year our club hosted the Nationals and it turned out to be a great event – one we are proud to have been a part of.  We showed the Vista Cruiser there. We also attended the Nationals in Denver in 2001 but only took the 1964 442.  Since then family events have kept us from participating as often as we would like with our Oldsmobile friends. We plan to be back in Dallas in 2006 to help the club in whatever capacity we can as our club once again hosts the Nationals. 

Follow-up, February 2009

We did make the Nationals in 2006 but the Vista Cruiser stayed home so we could take the 1964 Oldsmobile 442.  Had another great time.  We always have a great time with Oldsmobile people.