Keith’s rides, Part 4: Cross-country trip in a Caprice Classic, lunch in Wichita Falls and breaking down in New Mexico

[This is the fourth of several blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]

I was at Chico State for a couple of years and always was able to make due without a car, either walking to where I needed to be, riding a bicycle or hitching a ride with friends.

 I was nearing graduation when my mother decided to replace her Chevrolet Caprice Classic. For the time, it was a fairly stylish car with quite a bit under the hood. In other words, in today’s climate it would be considered a grandma gas-guzzler.

My girlfriend at the time and I flew out to meet my family in Portland, Maine, to pick up the Caprice Classic with the idea of driving back to California where I would use the car. My father had hired a local teen to give the car a once-over; unfortunately, the kid failed to clean out the air filter and the car died in a dusty town in New Mexico. Several years later, while helping a friend move from Indiana to California, we broke down in the very same town. Go figure!

Except for breaking down and some long days driving, motoring across the country was an exceptional experience and I recommend it highly. We headed down the East Coast for a time and cut through Virginia and Tennessee, both incredibly beautiful states. We then cut down to meet up with friends in the Dallas suburb of Denton where we spent a few days.

We did all the touristy things in Dallas – clubs, rotating restaurant, parks, Book Depository.

We then left Denton and stopped for lunch in Wichita Falls, Texas. Wichita Falls is the kind of place where everyone wears a Stetson or a cap carrying the name of a farm machinery manufacturer. We went into the restaurant, me wearing typical California wear – a tank top T-shirt, surfer shorts and flip-flops – and my girlfriend wearing something equally inappropriate.

Well, inappropriate for that particular diner in that particular Texas town, apparently. I quickly grew uncomfortable when the good ol’ boys at the counter turned in their vinyl-cover stools too peer at us – in an unapproving way – from under the brims of their Stetsons and John Deere caps.

I told my girlfriend we would be eating and leaving as quickly as possible.

And we did.

And we were doing fine moving westward until we broke down. I had to call home for help on that one since the mechanic found about an inch of Maine dust around the air filter and it took a couple of hundred dollars to fix the problem.

Out of New Mexico and into Arizona. We stopped off at Meteor Crater and then spent the night in Flagstaff before continuing on to the Grand Canyon. Awesome! Simply awesome! If you haven’t been, go before they pave it and put in a parking lot!

We then made it to Fresno, California, to visit briefly with my girlfriend’s sister and brother-in-law and we were off to Chico. We might have taken a detour to Napa where her parents lived, but I don’t recall that.

Tip: Every American should take at least one cross-country trip in their lives. Eat Maine lobster, see Boston Commons and take in a Red Sox game, see New York, drive the Jersey Turnpike, see the lush, lush green of states like Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, drive the interstate in an Arkansas hailstorm, see old windmills in the vastness of Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma, see the Grand Canyon, marvel at the Rocky Mountains, be impressed by the productivity of California’s Central Valley, and dip a toe in the Pacific Ocean. Say what you will about the people in politics or on Wall Street, this is one impressive country, from sea to shining sea.

Once back in California I drove the Caprice Classic for a while, until I was pulled over in Chico for having expired tags on Maine plates in California.

Knowing that it wouldn’t pass California emissions tests – my father years earlier had removed the catalytic converter – I sold the car for junk and moved onto the first vehicle that I personally purchased for myself, a Nissan pickup.

Rides of My Life … so far

Part 1: Jeep Commando

Part 2: VW Bug

Part 3: Dodge Duster

Part 4: Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Part 5: Nissan pickup

Part 6: Suzuki Sidekick

Part 7: Isuzu Rodeo

Part 8: Honda CRV

7 responses to “Keith’s rides, Part 4: Cross-country trip in a Caprice Classic, lunch in Wichita Falls and breaking down in New Mexico

  1. Pingback: Keith’s rides Part 5: Driving a Nissan pickup into the ground to end up with a Sidekick « Letters From Away

  2. Pingback: Keith’s rides, Part 6: Riding a golf cart and being splattered by pig doo « Letters From Away

  3. Pingback: Keith’s rides, Part 1: My first ‘status symbol’ was a Jeep Commando « Letters From Away

  4. Pingback: Keith’s rides Part 2: Um, there’s water splashing through the floorboards « Letters From Away

  5. Pingback: Keith’s rides Part 3: Getting stuck in the Duster while getting a box of sand « Letters From Away

  6. Pingback: Keith’s ride, Part 7: V-6 under the hood and ready to ride « Letters From Away

  7. Pingback: Keith’s ride, Part 8: So far, the road ends with a Honda CRV « Letters From Away

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