Dave Dudley’s song "Six days on the Road" and I’m gonna make it home tonight was a major hit in 1963.
Fifty years later Blaine Dehmlow pushed that a little further, 13 days and more than 3400 miles on a cross country trip. One line of Dudley’s song "Well my rigs a little old," Dehmlow topped that too, crossing the country in a 1931 Chevy Special Sedan.
Dehmlow left Boston on his solo trip headed for his home near San Francisco, but didn’t take the shortest route. Much like the song, leaving Pittsburgh and heading south, Dehmlow left Boston and headed south until it got warmer, then turned west and headed for home.
Along the route he received calls with offers of help from complete strangers. One of those calls came from Ed Vann, a sales representative with Hug Chevrolet in Charleston. After visiting with Ed on the phone, Dehmlow, who was in Brinkley at the time, altered his route slightly from a planned trip down Highway 64 to Highway 22, coming through Charleston with a stop at Hug Chevrolet. The local Chevrolet dealership was actually in business when the 1931 Chevy Sedan first hit the roads. The Chevrolet dealership began in Charleston in 1926 and has been in the Hug family since the 1930’s.
While in Charleston, Dehmlow visited with and went to lunch with fellow Chevrolet collectors, Frank "Buddy" Hug, Ed Vann, Jack Schwartz and Bob Strattan, who had came from Tulsa to meet with Dehmlow. It was an "epic" lunch Dehmlow said.
We were honored that Mr. Dehmlow stopped by our dealership and certainly enjoyed the visit immensely, Buddy Hug, "a serious restorer/collector" as Dehmlow put it, said. Visiting with Blaine was very interesting, Ed Vann, also a collector, said. He was having a "once in a lifetime trip," and it was a pleasure to meet up with him, Ed said.
"Blaine is a great fellow to meet and is truly enjoying his adventure. He has one solid and reliable Chevy that is performing like a champ. He’s doing what we all desire to do - seeing the USA in his Chevrolet, Bob Strattan, said.
Before leaving Boston, Dehmlow said he read every post on the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America’s (VCCA) web site for about three weeks in preparation for his trip. What a great resource and collection of knowledge, he said. During the trip he exchanged information with other Chevrolet collectors, meeting a lot of fellow enthusiasts along the way.
Vintage Chevrolet Club of America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of all years of Chevrolets. For more information see http://www.vcca.org/
The 1931 4 door, 2 owner car, had 48,000 miles on it when Dehmlow bought it in Boston while he was working there. The engine was refurbished but not completely rebuilt about 20 years ago. Dehmlow installed a new top, it did not have one, redone the interior, installed a new clutch, a new aluminum radiator, water pump, hoses, all new brake linings, new tires, tubes, serviced the wheel bearings, rebuilt the steering box and put in all new wiring, among other things to get ready for his trip.
On the trip there were minor repairs such as repairing a valve cover gasket, changing the oil, and installing the rear view mirror and sometimes a few obstacles such as just waiting for some of snow to melt. A broken axle in Lexington, Kentucky slowed him down, but he found one from a VCCA member in Ohio. He took a trip to Ohio in a rental car to retrieve the axle, which he installed the next day under the cover in a parking garage.
Once the trip started he was a bit more nervous than he thought he would be. "When I was 20 I did things like this all the time with little or no prep, no mechanical experience, and no money - and it was glorious and horrific, and I loved it. Now I have a bit more resource and experience, especially with the power of this forum behind me, but I have grown a little squeamish about laying in the slush at night under the car in big city. I am not that worried about having problems in the middle of nowhere, that has less variables in it for me."
As a kid I remember watching a TV movie that later became the Waltons TV series about trying to get home for Christmas, he said. "Even then I wanted an old truck like the ones they were driving through those dark snowy nights." "Now I was on my own holiday homecoming quest, missing my two girls and wife intensely already, but feeling equally drawn to being alone on the road in the old Independence."
Offers of assistance and encouragement came in from other VCCA members, which he appreciated. I would recommend a VCCA membership to all the readers of these forums, he said. During the trip he used the forum to ask questions and get tips on various problems, as well as advice about traffic problems. "It was great to hear from so many people while traveling – it’s the most unique thing to have complete strangers call me up and talk like we have been friends forever," he said.
During a stop at the Kentucky Arts and Craft center he wondered around looking for something to bring his two girls at home, which lead to a pretty good bout of homesickness. He had been away working since August, and while having a great time on the road, he was eager to be with the family as well.
I had some great experiences on the trip, Dehmlow said. "Meeting other club members, talking cars, and seeing workshops has been incredible."
The 8 to 12 hours of driving alone each day was fun, necessary, insightful, and sometimes emotional, Dehmlow said. When I think of "road trip", I am not drawn to it for just the roadside snacks, or even the mechanical charm of an old Chevrolet. It’s also a time to be reflective, sometimes deeply lost in deep thoughts for as long as I want to be with no one changing the subject."
To read more about his trip see, http://vcca.org/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/295414/5.
Some statistics about the trip.
Total miles – 3418.
13 days - 1 of those down for axle repair.
27 bottles of diet coke consumed, one bottle of Peach Soda at Pops.
Average moving speed - 37.1 mph.
Highest recorded speed - 54 mph, 68 mph on the tow truck.
Ate 9 hot dogs, and one corn dog.
116 video clips taken.
$687 in fuel consumed.
3 major winter storm days 5 days rain or overcast, 5 days clear and sunny.
7 complete strangers called me just to talk while I was driving.
14 quarts of oil consumed.
ZERO flat tires.
1 roadside toilet emergency.
2 times I got lost - Albuquerque and Phoenix.
4 sunsets made me think deep thoughts.
1 axle replaced.
68,000 Wyndam reward points redeemed for free hotels.