By Lyle Carter
Ever thought about driving to California?
Jeff and Lori Yorke of Pleasant Valley have and this past summer they turned the dream into an unforgettable six-week trip.
In a 1929 Essex rat-rod based hotrod affectionately dubbed ratatude, no less.
"We began planning the trip last fall," Lori said. "We had travelled to New Hampshire twice but we had never made any trip as long as this one."
Jeff described their travel vehicle.
"The engine, transmission and suspension have been modernized. The car, made highway drivable, has a small-block Chev engine."
As the May 30 departure date drew closer, there were challenges.
"It was more hectic than exciting," Lori said. "Jeff had jobs in the shop that he had to finish. To be away from home for six weeks called for a lot of planning."
As owners of Jeff Yorke Auto Restoration, located beside their home, Jeff specializes in antique restoration, modification and custom painting. Lori does murals and air brushing.
Before daylight on May 30, Jeff had put the Essex in gear.
"By 7 a.m. we were at the A&W on Robie Street in Truro," Lori said. "We left Truro at 8 a.m. There were a half dozen of our friends there to see us off."
They reached Brunswick, Maine the first day and travelled through Maine and New York, a corner of Pennsylvania and into Ohio the next.
"The space inside the car is extremely limited," Jeff explained. "We had allowed room for basic tools and miscellaneous car parts. We had our clothes and room for just one suitcase."
Also aboard was an electric cooler which plugged into the cigarette lighter.
"We had salads, food, drinks and ice in the cooler," Lori said. "As we ran into dense heat we had to drink a lot of water. As the car does not have air conditioning the cooler paid for itself many times over."
A lot of rain was encountered during the first few days of the trip.
"Little did we know that this would be followed by 30 days of sunny and very hot weather," Lori said. "We chose to follow Route 66, the historic route to California. We wanted to enjoy some of the scenery. The drive and the stops and the sites along the way make the trip."
They also made some side trips along the way.
"We saw incredible sights, which included the Grand Canyon," said Jeff. "And I especially enjoyed the back roads of Arizona. Oatman was a town much like from the 1930s. Wild burros ran free around the streets."
On June 16, the Yorkes crossed the state line into California.
"It was kind of unreal," Jeff recalled. "After 18 days we had finally made it. The feeling I had is kind of hard to describe."
After a night spent in a town called Needles, the couple were on the road early the next morning.
"It was on Old Route 66 at Essex that we encountered a minor setback," Jeff said. "We broke a 4-link bracket on the rear suspension."
After babying the car for several miles they were towed to Three Dogs Garage.
"The garage owners, Jim and Sherrie Dohl, were incredible and had us back on the road that day," Jeff said.
As the trip continued, near-suffocating heat was experienced around Huntington Beach and Death Valley.
"It was something like we had never experienced," Lori said.
"Brutal is the word that comes to mind," Jeff added. "It was much like someone holding a blow torch in your face."
Several planned shop tours along the way, at places such as Socal (Southern California) Speed Shop in Pomona added to the trip.
Leaving California, the Yorkes were homeward bound and drove at speeds of 100 to 120 kilometers per hour across Nevada, Utah and Colorado.
Time was allotted to visit the Smith Museum (cars and car parts) in Lincoln, Nebraska.
"Our last night on the road was spent in Lincoln, New Hampshire," Lori said. "We crossed into Canada at Calais, Maine. After almost six weeks away, we were beating it for home."
Arriving in Truro July 10, the Yorkes had put 10,000 miles on their 1929 Essex.
"Our next hotrod is going to have air conditioning," Jeff said. "We'll never forget the heat we faced driving across California and the United States."
Lyle Carter's column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.