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Topless Trek To The LA Roadster Show - Part 1 of 2 • 2007

story and photos by Dennis Sammon

The LA Roadster Show on Father’s Day weekend, June 16 & 17, 2007. The monster of all roadster shows. What better way to spend Father’s Day than being in Pomona, California to see some of the best roadsters in the nation - even the world. But first we have to get there, so hold on tight for the ride of a lifetime cross-country!

June 10, 2007 had finally arrived, and we were set to leave Merritt Island, Florida in Carlos Robertson’s Tub, in all its Ford Splash Yellow glory and its striking white interior. Rolling on a brand new set of Radir wheels and wide whites that really makes the car standout. We both were ready, but the 5:00am wake up comes shockingly quick. We got over it early, in anticipation of what was in store for us.

The Black Dog Garage guys had left 5 days prior to us heading west. Tom Pesula with Gary Moore, Al Washburn, Hank Lansingkamp, and Bob Simons took a similar route going out ahead of time to partake in some notable shop tours.

Carlos and I were meeting Wray and Cindy Shaffer in Ocala with their screaming yellow ‘32 roadster, which is small block Chevy powered, Bop-Topped and rolling on Pro-Stars. This car worked so well - nothing flashy, and just as reliable as the day is long. Wray’s Garage out of Lake Helen knows how to build ‘em right, and drive ‘em straight.

On our way to meet the Shaffers in Ocala we ran into a soaker shower for a short distance on the Turnpike, but by the time we made it to Highway 40 we were dry. In fact, we were dry for the entire rest of the trip. Really!

Both yellow deuces looked great cruising on Highway 27 on our way to Tallahassee. What a great road. Need to shave off a few miles and hate I-10? Check 27 out, as it is 4 lanes, scenic and smooth. We avoided downtown Tallahassee by jumping up to I-10 at Capps. After a brief lunch at Sonny’s BBQ in ‘nole country, we had our sights set for Mobile, Alabama - which turned out to be the hottest, most humid, most uncomfortable part of the trip....both ways.

It was uneventful cruising through the bayou states on our way to Jackson, Mississippi, where we bedded for the night off I-20. That was one long day. Next we had a decent day through Louisiana onto east Texas, where we had some outstanding BBQ at Bodacious BBQ in Longview, Texas. If you get a chance, stop in for the brisket and ribs. But you’d better save room for the best coconut cream pie ever.

See, the journey to a car show across country isn’t just about the cars, it’s the scenery and chance to experience outstanding places in this great country of ours. And of course, eat.

We broke off I-20 shortly after lunch to avoid Dallas traffic on our way thru Sherman and Gainesville, Texas. Nice scenery, small towns and friendly people - but unfortunately deadly floods hit the folks in that region just a few days after we came thru. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost lives in that tragedy.

Oklahoma City was our next stop for the evening, and to hook up with F L A Roadsters members Bill Cuebas and his sidekick Butch Tebbs out of Pennsylvania, cruising in Bill’s wicked black ‘32 Clay Smith roadster. Sporting Salt Flat specials and a killer sound system to help with road noise, this black beauty was a classic addition to the pair of screaming yellow cruisers along I-40.

The drivers meeting at 6:00am in the hotel determined that THIS had to be a long day so we could get ahead of ourselves for some sightseeing. While on the road we were passed by F L A member Bart “Copper Deuce” Caliaro and some fast flyers coming from Indy. Way too fast for us, so we gladly pulled to the right.

Clinton, OK has the nicest Route 66 Museum, where we stopped for a quick tour and photo op. Then it was back thru the top of Texas to visit one of my favorite Route 66 stops, Sahmrock, Texas and the restored U-Drop Inn / Conaco gas station. We had met so many folks on motorcycle tours from all over the world, as it turned out this was one of their favorite stops too. Truly a must see on the way thru, just off I-40. The ol’ U-Drop Inn now houses a diner available for catering occasions, a music/dance hall and a gift shop in the old gas station part. Look for it on Route 66 just past the Edsel junk yard on the right.

On to Amarillo for a stop at Hooters for lunch, where we were treated to cold ice tea and hot wings. Yet another favorite stop while going cross country.

Just a short distance out of town is the famous Cadillac Ranch. Look to the left heading west and you shouldn’t miss it. Ten Caddy’s from 1949 thru 1963 buried nose first. Bring your own spray paint, it’s now a signature monument. Carlos was able to find a spot for his daughter Brooke’s name on the tail fin of a ‘60.

Our game plan was to make it to Albuquerque by the evening, but we were traveling so well we decided to make it all the way to Gallup, New Mexico. The Sleep Inn was the only thing available for us, since there was a rodeo in town. We were extremely lucky to get in. We almost froze getting there, where it was a refreshing (?) 42 degrees with a 30 mph wind. Aaaahhhh, roadster life! Up until then the temps were 90’s and 80’s thru TX and OK. Nothing like extreme temperatures on a 700-mile drive thru the plains.

On our way thru Arizona we passed the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest, neither of which we stopped to appreciate, but certainly something to check out on your next trip.

Next stop was the Meteor Crater just passed Winslow, Arizona - where yes, you can “stand on a corner”. A song and town made famous by the Eagles. The Meteor Crater is a big ol’ hole, one mile wide and 600 feet deep. The piece of iron ore that slammed into the desert some 50,000 years ago was only 100 feet in diameter and traveling at a mere 45,000 mph! They actually do Lunar astronaut training at the base of the crater. An amazing sight!

Afterwards we made our way to Flagstaff, where we peeled off north towards the Grand Canyon. The trip off I-40 is more than an hour out of the way, but totally worth it. It’s the Grand Canyon for gosh sakes! Make the trek. Another amazing sight that is well worthy of one of the eight wonders of the world.

On the way we passed the Street Rodder Road Tour out of San Antonio. They had stopped for lunch on their way back from the Canyon and then on to Laughlin, Nevada where we tried to find them, but didn’t have any luck. Seems they were stuck in a parking garage at another resort, hence the reason why we never saw them. We bedded down at the best hotel (and cheapest) of the trip - the Ramada Resort & Casino. At $39 a night for a suite on the 24th floor overlooking the Colorado River, we were truly spoiled. We even had front row parking for the hot rods with Valet security and all. After a long and killer hot day it was a welcome sight and stay. It’s the first time ever I’d seen a pool that was chilled. At 115 during the day and 95 degrees at 10:00pm you need it.

Jerry Dixie and the Road Tour mentioned they weren’t leaving Laughlin until about 8 or 9 the next morning. The thought of running thru the desert mid-morning wasn’t very appealing to us, so we bugged out at 6:00am to beat the heat.

The Three Amigos headed south to Needles, California as the next destination to catch I-40 again. We had stopped for gas and ice cream at the same station I had in 2001. I remember because I had taken a picture of the sign and the outrageous gas prices, especially for premium in the desert, at $2.59 a gallon! How times have changed, as it is now $4.09 a gallon. Ugh!

The Mojave Desert didn’t seem as scorching as it could have been. We had plenty to drink and hats the size of ‘56 Caddy hubcaps to shield us.

The best news was that we made it without incident to LA in time for a cruise night where we met up with the Black Dog Garage guys. It was great to see them on the other coast. Their resident tour guide, Norm Carter, knows all the spots, so we had a local’s idea where to go. We had a great time checking out the fine rides at the Beachside Cafe cruse night in Glendora.

The Florida boys made an impact everywhere we went. Not too many folks are crazy enough to drive 4 days to a 2 day show, then back again.

Friday rolled around and we met up with F L A members Tom Haller and Dave Skyles, where we ran into the depths of Pomona to get a tour of the Kennedy Brothers Bomb Factory. A couple of young brothers that have carved a niche’ in the nostalgic hot rod scene. They had just left for the fairgrounds before we arrived, so we went around the corner to So-Cal where their open house was to start later on that afternoon. After poking around during their set-up, we decided to head to the show grounds, and they had a ton of cars there already. The show doesn’t officially start until Saturday, but there were plenty of cars, vendors and swap meet stuff to entertain us. After a few hours at the Fairplex we headed back to So-Cal Speed Shop. Just in time, as there had to be several hundred cars double parked in the street for a quarter mile, then inside the jammed gates. In every spot available there was a sea of bitchin’ cars. They were just wrapping up a segment of Hard Shine while we were there, debuting Jimmy Shine’s truck after the redo.

The So-Cal Open House, true to tradition, served free In-n-Out burgers to everyone that wanted to stand in line. Carlos and I opted for the burrito stand on the street for a killer dinner....and killer heartburn.

Cars that I have seen before, seen on TV, and just generally have drooled over thru the years were everywhere. Florida’s own Kirk White had his Doane Spenser car there, fresh out of the So-Cal garage. A stunning black roadster that was also featured in an earlier Hard Shine TV episode.

While stumbling around in hot rod heaven we happened across more folks we knew. The North Carolina gang lead by F L A member Henry Dana drove out as well in their roadsters, while several other F L A members (the Butcher Built boys) flew out for the show and festivities. It was great to see all of the F L A members in force on the west coast.

Click here to see Part 2 of the cool coast-to-coast story.....including attending the LA Roadster Show itself....and the trip back to Florida. CN