Have you ever driven 1900+ miles in a near 45+ year old vehicle in 2.5 days? If you have, you know that once you complete that drive without incident you are a legend…. Well, in your own mind.
That is exactly what Sam Milam, and I did. We drove my newly acquired 1972 Chevrolet Suburban, 3-door and ¾ ton, from Boise, ID to Bowling Green, KY this past April.
You know how sometimes deals just fall in your lap? Well, this was one of those deals. A longtime friend and customer Adam Pitale, founder of Adam’s Premium Car Care Products called me up to chat about cars, life, and family as friends do. I mentioned that my son, Owen (11), approached me about wanting to build an engine and as a father, that was music to my ears! I mentioned that we were building a 383ci engine and needed something to put it in. Adam, being the friend he is, quickly said “I have the perfect vehicle for that motor!” Well…one thing led to another, and we struck a deal on this Ochre over White 3-Door Suburban.
Now, a Suburban was not even on my radar. I was thinking more like a Chevelle or Nova, but there was something special about this truck. It spoke to me...
To be honest, I was not ready to buy a vehicle. I made a couple of phone calls, put together a case for my wife and then committed to buying it. One of my negotiation tactics for my wife, Kelly, was that we own a 1969 Corvette, but nothing for us to enjoy as a family. No vehicle for us to share and enjoy the rolling hills of Kentucky in, together. This has plenty of room, so much so, that we all can take a row (3 rows) and just go for a drive.
Buying the vehicle from Adam was a dream and he was more than generous with making sure the truck was in great shape. I went back and forth on whether I was going to ship the vehicle back to Kentucky or drive it. After getting numerous quotes for transporting, I just could not justify the expense. It was clear that I was going to drive it back…. all nineteen hundred and thirty-four miles.
Sam and I were scheduled to be in Phoenix, AZ for an insurance industry conference. From there we would fly to Boise, ID to pick up the Suburban. The plan was coming together. We loaded up our camera equipment to vlog the journey and even ordered social media decals to see if anyone would see the truck and follow the journey.
We were well equipped in the event of a breakdown. I read every article I could find on what to bring on a cross-country trip in an old vehicle. I contacted friends and insureds along the route to see if they would be available in the event, we needed help.
My tool kit included:
- Sockets, vise-grips, wrenches, screw drivers, wire crimpers, pliers, electrical wire, crimp connectors, electrical tape, hand-held electronic test gauge, duct tape, zip ties, bailing wire, tire gauge, tire puncture kit, multi-tool, gloves and a first aid kit.
My spare parts kit included:
- Ignition coil, 2 fan belts, upper and lower radiator hoses, various size hose clamps, vacuum hoses, fuel pump, spare fuses and bulbs, jumper cables, jumper box to power our electronics, bearing grease, thermostat, spark plugs, and a few other miscellaneous items.
In the end, all of this was unnecessary, but my moto was to be prepared for the worse and hope for the best…. And the best won!
We left the desert heat of Phoenix at 7:00am that Sunday and flew to Boise. When we arrived in Idaho it was snowing. Clearly, the ideal conditions for buying an old truck. Nevertheless, we hopped in the F-350 that Adam had left for us at the airport (in true Adam Pitale fashion) and b-lined for the auto-parts store. We bought the essentials, antifreeze, oil, glass cleaner and a gas can.
I am sure Adam could sense my anticipation and excitement when we met his friends and family for lunch. I was obviously eager and excited; you all know the feeling I'm talking about. After lunch, we pulled up to his garage and when the door rose, I thought “man, this is better in person!” We went over the truck with Adam, and then began the 30-hour drive.
Day 1: Boise, ID – Evanston, WY.
With this being a “new to me” vehicle, we started our road trip with caution. This first leg was around 6.5 hours, our goal was getting into Wyoming on Day 1. Mission accomplished. The truck performed flawlessly!
Day 2: Evanston, WY – Nebraska City, NE
This was our longest leg, 12 hours and 845 miles. Sam and I were getting more comfortable with the truck with every mile. She purred from 6:15am – 12:00am. We only stopped for fuel, photo ops and food. I was amazed at how it hummed down the interstate. One small problem occurred with the speedometer cable, but we quickly disconnected it from the back of the gauge, and we were set.
Day 3: Nebraska City, NE – Bowling Green, KY
Our final day! We were ready to get home. This leg was 11 hours and 663 miles. As we got more comfortable, the truck started to remind us that she was no spring chicken! Sam was at the wheel and noticed that the oil pressure had dropped. Additionally, it started to develop a lifter tap. We quickly pulled off at the next exit and checked the oil. 1500 miles (about half the width of the United States) in an old vehicle will burn through oil! We topped it off, and she was back to that beautiful purr!
While we were getting fuel at our very last stop, I was too focused on getting a photo of our gas guzzler and the group of Tesla’s at the charging station, that I left the gas cap on the pump. 10 minutes later I smelt a strong gas odor, and I immediately knew what I did. We were close to an auto parts store; we swung in to see if they had one instead of going back. We stopped at two stores and spent a combined hour at both. We should have gone back for it...
Throughout the trip we met many people at gas stations who reminisced about when they had “one just like it” or just giving a thumbs up along the way. To me, that was a highlight I was not expecting. This was a bucket list item crossed off my list that I will soon not forget. Before anyone asks, this is insured by NCM Insurance!
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