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1951 Dodge POWER WAGON "Truck-Bus" with Wayne Body

Garrison, Montana to Charlotte, North Carolina

October 6 – 23, 2000

John Bitter, a.k.a. Johnny Burrito

Well everyone, this is one adventure that is out of my system for a while...

Driving a 1951 Dodge POWER WAGON with Wayne bus body 2,571 miles, 18 days, 10 states, 3 time zones makes for one weary driver !!! Trip was lots of fun, frustration, meeting nice folks & some I'd care not to see again. Just making another mile was my primary concern.

Gosh, just endless stories, here's some general ramblings...

Yankee (Tedder Dodge mechanic) & I arrived Thursday night & show up at Jerry & Jackie’s Friday morning. Jerry retired from Chrysler in 1993, as head of the MoPar Parts Division & Training - quite a collection of old MoPar iron & muscle, him & all his vehicles. "Bussie" cranked up within the hour of our arrival, then new master & wheel cylinders, new brake shoes, new lines, two turned drums, front knuckle lower bearing, drain & refill all fluids, new tires, lots of zip-ties & duct tape - but running / driving / stopping now !!!

Monday, Yankee drives 300 miles in BIG SKY country, Continental Divide (5767 ft) & we run out of gas, lose bolt in clutch linkage, blow new wheel cylinder & all lights out as switch & fuse short on something. All fixes en route as we make our way to Billings & Yankee's return flight on Tuesday. All alone now in Big Sky & the red highways of Wyoming.

Mt. Rushmore, then Thursday late night - bad water pump, blown head gasket, generator shot, twighlight zone. Broke down in Draper, SD & had to spend the night in "Bussie", down to 28 degrees - long johns, 4 shirts, 2 pairs pants, 3 pairs of socks, Johnny Burrito T-shirt turban-style on my head to retain some heat. The tow truck was a welcome sight the next day, NEGATIVE 10 miles on Friday to Murdo, SD; Murdo, SD; Murdo, SD (nicest folks ever !!!) for five days & my crash course on flatheads. John & Betty really made me feel welcome & I met many of the 800 residents during my stay.

Driving, driving, driving; at 11:00 PM an Iowa State Trooper wants to know more about me & the old bus. No tag, illegal farm triangle (slow vehicle), tail lights not visible (generator shot) & for added incentive - brake lights don't work as he pulls me over. Complete license check back to NC for tickets, warrants - all clean. Then a thorough check of temp Montana registration, title & bill of sale - everything not as bad as first appeared. Wants me off road tonight, follows me to the next exit with one gas station & is going to make me spend another night in Bussie, but finally agrees to go the next 10 miles to Clear Lake & understands the need for a farm triangle on a 1951 PW Bus. At Clear Lake motel parking lot, brake lights start to flicker & he brings me Iowa State map with a short-cut to Fairfield.

The next day - Vintage POWER WAGONS & Dave invites me to stay in the secret PW lair overlooking the entire compound. Lots of fun bugging everyone about this & that, enjoyed a great grilled chicken lunch & got emergency brake put back together & drive lines in phase. Also proud to called an honorary VPW mechanic. On way out of town, stop by Raiffe Elevators & Scales - with all fluids full & me in the seat, Bussie weighs in at 7580 lbs.

St. Louis Arch, lots more driving, climbing again Nashville to Knoxville - boy, traffic sure has picked up again. Lost my second emergency brake drum & yoke somewhere in Kentucky, no help from local junkyard man wearing stained "ARMY" T-shirt - JERK !!! Hours later, accused of stealing $28 worth of petrol after verifying I had paid for $11 worth (stop every 100 miles) - which meant I somehow jammed 25+ gallons in my 15 - 18 gallon tank (jerry cans already full). But every stop takes 30 minutes (so they thought I just had to be pumping away) to gas & check EVERY fluid level (seven places), belt tightness, overall look & then talk with the one, two or three fellas that have walked up.

Getting closer to North Carolina all the time - finally cross the border. In Asheville, see my Aunt Millie & have lunch. 80 more miles (2 hours) to Tedder Dodge in Shelby, so-described "swarm-o-bees" immediately surrounds the "Truck-Bus", hood goes up, men all around, inside & under. Drive over to show Doris, my Mother-in Law, passes muster with a "cute" comment. Last 50 miles to Charlotte, family & Johnny Burrito !!! Finally make it about 10:00 PM last Monday night - YAHOO !!! Can't believe I actually drove it all that way !!! Hugs & kisses all around. Home-cooked supper - fried pork chops, mashed potatoes, broccoli & biscuits -same as my going away supper of almost 3 weeks ago, ha-ha !!! Late shower to wash last day of grime off - going to take many more showers before the deep grease is not as noticeable. Sleep in my own bed - now that's COMFORT !!! The next day, a few hours at Johnny Burrito & home for an afternoon nap - sudden feeling of relief that it's over & I made it - body gives out.

Not something I recommend for everyone. Don't under-estimate what could go wrong - like I did, ha-ha !!! This was a tough, tough trip - but at worst it could have arrived in Charlotte on a flatbed, so I encourage folks who want an adventure to head out !!!

Fully recovered this weekend & organized some pics...

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