Touring in our hot rod

With 3 angels on their shoulders, couple finds adventure on hot rod trip


A year ago Tom and I went on our first Hot Rod Power Tour and loved it despite the very hot temperatures. When we returned Tom said, “Next year we are going to have a car with more room, it will be an automatic instead of a stick shift and will have air conditioning.” 

He enjoyed looking online for several months and bought a 1972 Dodge Charger in Columbus, Ohio. It was a driver, he thought, and just needed a few changes to make the car more comfortable. A radio and air conditioning were easy installs, and it was ready to go. Little did he know.

Easy and simple is not in Tom’s vocabulary. After very close examination of the car he found several problems, some of which were hidden by body putty, and not noticeable till put on a lift. A complete engine rebuild later and with no useable radio or air conditioning, Tom finally stopped working on the car five minutes before we left. 

Without the help and advice of several car people, our angels back here, we would not have left the driveway in Jezebel, the name our friend Tim gave the car. Without the help of three angels we met on the 2,450-mile trip, we would not have made it back.

We met the first angel Monday, the second day of our tour going from Chattanooga, Tenn. to Hoover, Ala. We had already put on more than 500 miles and were pleased with how things were going. The detailed directions said to turn right at the Auto Zone in Piedmont, Ala., and get on U.S. Route 278. 

The Auto Zone parking lot was full of tour drivers, and Tom said we could use some new wiper blades, so we pulled in. When the store manager Kenneth asked if we wanted him to install the blades we said, “Yes, please.”  

Kenneth was happy to be outside, looking at the multitude of different cars and when he put on the wiper blades he thought our car had an odd smell. He said to lift up the hood and realized there was a serious battery problem. It needed replaced or it could explode. We’re so thankful our angel Kenneth had a good sense of smell and detected the problem. A new battery and wipers, and we were on our way to Hoover, Ala.

On Wednesday, things seemed to be going very well as we made our way to Darlington, S.C. The distance was almost 100 miles farther than any of the other days.  Our plan was to find I-20 after spending a few miles on the scenic back roads, which the very detailed map tour likes to take you on, and then drive quickly on the Interstate to get out of the heat.  While we, and others, were stopped and waiting at a serious road construction site, Tom lifted up the hood and found we were again having battery problems. Needing to get to a garage as soon as possible, we decided to get to I-20, now, and took Georgia 15 north ending up in White Plains, Ga. 

White Plains is the birthplace of former President Jimmy Carter, but he was not our second angel. Instead, it was the people at the Coleman Store. They had a huge repair shop for keeping their seven logging crews up and working and offered to help us. I learned MOPAR parts are not as easy to find as Chevy or Ford and this place had a 1970 Road Runner new regulator still in the box, which was essential for battery regulation.  

In a town of this size, it was a miracle. Another new battery and this time, with a proper regulator installed, we made it to Darlington, S.C. God truly was watching over us when we came across our second angels, Richard and Kenny.

Saturday morning, after completing the long haul, which means you have made it to each of the six stops on the tour, we were finally on our way home. Both of us were ready to be there and we decided to spend the night in Louisville, Ky., rather than go the entire 700 miles home. 

We left Charlotte, N.C., early and were making good time when the car started having steering issues. About 3 p.m. just outside of Lexington, Ky., the cause of the steering problem became

evident. It was caused by the left front tire, which bubbled and lost some tread. The tread looked good when we left for the tour but pieces of it were now missing. We were stopped and unable to continue. 

Our third angel, Chad, and his date Katie could have driven by and continued enjoying their last few minutes together before Chad went to work at 5 p.m. at Lowe’s. Instead, he stopped to help, just in the nick of time. Tire stores were closing at 4 p.m., and the tire we needed was for a 14-inch rim. Apparently, it is rather difficult to get a 14-inch tire, and we managed to get to the store just before it closed. Luckily they had one in stock. One of the stores we stopped at said they could not get a tire of that size till Monday. Again God was helping us, I truly believe.

You may be wondering if I need my head examined for making this trip. No air conditioning, temperatures in the 90s, humidity in the 70s, no radio, various car issues every few days and no spare tire. 

We had tools in the trunk to fix everything. We had a huge first aid kit, lawn chairs, umbrella, flashlights, plenty of clothes, cooler for cold drinks, etc., along with four kinds of mapping devices. What was Tom thinking?  No spare tire. What was I thinking? I did it because I love Tom, and I love adventure. 

All this brings me to the last part of my story. I’m beginning to love Trip Advisor as it provided two memorable places to eat at along the way. It truly is a good sight to visit. 

Tom is always saying to check Trip Advisor for restaurants, and we did while in Russellville, Ky., where we stayed before leaving on the tour from Bowling Green, Ky. Trip Advisor’s number one choice in Russellville was Roy’s BBQ. The food was very tasty but what I loved most was the atmosphere. 

We walked in on a Saturday night, and I got tears in my eyes as I heard the music being played by a band of old timers. I felt like I was truly home. The music they were playing sounded just like the music sessions I hear at family gatherings at my brother Leonard’s house, where I go for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners. It was exactly what I needed. 

I ordered pulled pork, which was served with cornbread, cooked flat like a pancake so you can make a wrap. The place was filled with friendly people who just smiled when they watched me swaying to the music.

Another Trip Advisor find was in Griffin, Ga., where we came across the number two restaurant of choice. In my opinion, it should have been number one. Waiting for a seat on a Tuesday night had to mean the place was good, and it was. 

In downtown Griffin at the Corner Café, as advertised the food is homemade and delicious. We chose to split a main entrée so we would have room for dessert. The meal we shared was a spaghetti dish made with Andouille sausage and shrimp, with wonderful grilled mushrooms and red peppers. I did not get the recipe, but will experiment when I purchase some Andouille sausage and see if I can try to duplicate. It was that good.  

The dessert case was filled with five and six-layer cakes at least six inches tall from an Atlanta Bakery. The cheesecakes, which were at least 4 inches tall, were made in house. Because we could not decide, we split a piece of triple chocolate milky-way cake and then took along a piece of red velvet cake since our room had a refrigerator, and we thought we could eat it for breakfast. 

If I am ever within 100 miles of Griffin, Ga., it will be worth a side trip just to eat there again.  

Speaking of trip advising here is my advice:

-Start by thanking God for all the blessings he provides and ask him to watch over your travels. 

-Do not take a trip to the south in a car without air conditioning when temperatures and humidity are extreme. Two-sixty air (two windows down and driving 60 mph) does not work.

-A few problems make for a memorable trip, so laugh when you can. 

-Enjoy the beauty of the back roads. 

-Appreciate all the good people you meet and be an angel to others along the way.  

-Short trips or long, always take a spare tire.