Creative Characters and Century Old Automobiles – The 2019 Hudson International Meet

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

A few weekends ago, I found my way to Bettendorf, Iowa with a close friend of mine and fellow traveler of the Open Road, Alan, to take in the event that is known as the Hudson International Meet. While I was only able to make two days of this event, which was held this year at the same time as the yearly function of the regional club of Hudson enthusiasts, the Big Country, I was able to take in many of the sights, the sounds, and the happenings of the Internationals. As I have been a frequent visitor of this event over the years, I was pleased to see many old friends and spend some time catching up. As with every journey, I was also lucky enough to encounter some new characters along the way and learn some of their particular stories.

This year was much like many of the ones previous, with quite the variety of events taking place over the course of the two days I was lucky enough to have in Bettendorf, which is located along the Mississippi River in Eastern Iowa. After having quite a few days of rain, it was a welcome sight to see the sun shining down, hot and bright, on the event. Every year at the Hudson Internationals, the H-E-T (Hudson Essex Terraplane) Club features a certain car model. This year, the spotlight was shined on the Essex, which I was happy to see a few of about the grounds.

As that first day went on, I found myself under the shade of an old oak tree to escape the heat. Taking a seat, I found myself in front of a 1919 Essex Roadster. As the sun was not going anywhere this day, I put to paper this automobile, hardly believing that it was 100 years old. It is an odd feeling to describe any auto on the road now at that age, as it does not seem all that long ago that you could not find one such antique that could be called a century old.

My rendition of the 1919 Essex Roadster

After leaving my shady spot, I found my way over to the swap meet before the evening’s activities were set to begin. As luck would have it, I found a couple more antique license plates to add to my collection, both originating from the East Coast – Massachusetts and New York. After loading up these finds, it was time to find my way to the evening events located nearby. As I journeyed on, many folks were hitting the parking lot to enjoy the cooler temperatures and enjoy the many fine models of antique automobiles on display. I must say, as I took in these sights, that the Hudsons of all varieties do have a style of beauty that is exciting and a joy to draw.

There were two activities that took place inside the Isles Casino Conference Center, where the Internationals were being held. The first event on that Friday evening was always one of a kind, as it was the Costume Contest/Fashion Show. It is quite the sight to see what folks come up with each year. This year those who participated dressed up as Hudson mechanics from the bygone era. There were quite a few characters who created their own interpretations of the theme and paraded across the stage for all to see.

There was one such character who stood out among the rest. A fellow by the name of Chuck, who hailed from Iowa, dressed himself as a mechanic, with his wife coming along, dressed as his service manager or his boss. As they entered, the room came alive with laughter, as his “boss” wife was leading Chuck around the room by his ear. Chuck had no choice but to go where his boss led him, as he played up the scene by wincing and acting like a man, or a mechanic, being led straight to the doghouse. One of the fellows near me added to the commentary of the scene by stating she must have caught him trying to change “a muffler bearing,” which for those who are not as versed in the automobile world, is not a part that exists. Such a scene deserved to be remembered, so I did a quick illustration of Chuck and his Boss.

No more “muffler bearings” for Chuck to change in the doghouse

The second activity in the Conference Center was the auction for Hudson memorabilia and beyond. I must say that if my pockets stretched a bit further, I would have had plenty of items coming back to Boom Town with me. However, since I did not want to end up like Chuck, I figured it was in my best interest to sit back, watch, and listen as these antiques found a new home.

Speaking of Chuck, he must have had some sense to him after all. Good ol’ Chuck, with his poor stretched ear, must have figured a way out of the doghouse as he came to bid that day. As I watched block after block come up and be sold to a deserving character, I heard Chuck come forward with the winning bid on quite the beautiful automobile to behold. His ticket out of the doghouse was an original 1957 Hudson 4-Door, or what some of us in the know call the “Hash.” Back in 1956, Hudson went in with Nash and this beauty came about, nickname and all. I could not let this moment, of Chuck and his Hash, go without a drawing to memorialize one interesting character making his triumphant return.

Saturday brought the 2019 Hudson International Meet to a close. I visited once more with many an old friend, bidding a fond journey down the road until we might cross paths again. New characters I had met also came along to give their best as I watched the parking lot grow empty as the fine automobiles found their way to trailer and to the Open Road. Before all had departed, I had the good fortune to get in a drawing of a real rare beauty, a Hudson Jet Convertible. It is said that this rarity was the only one to have ever been created. A fellow from Indiana brought this unique antique to the meet and I am grateful that he was able to bring it along for all of us to have the opportunity to see such a rare delight.

Truly One of a Kind

As I look back on my weekend filled with all things Hudson Essex Terraplane, I find myself quite pleased to have had the opportunity to visit with old characters from journeys before and to have met so many new folks at such an event. I must say that it still holds true that I have yet to meet a Hudson owner who I have not liked. The automobiles are truly a sight to behold, but the characters who own and love these antiques are equally a grand part of each journey I make along the Open Road. I hope you remember, my fellow travelers, to always make each journey its own and to live life, and meet plenty of interesting characters, by taking your own trip out on the Open Road.

From the Open Road, 

Lincoln Highway Johnny

Unbelievable Endeavors that “Steel” Our Imagination

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

I have been along the Great Road many times in my journeys, traversing in all manners  of transport and even walking along it a few times. I have not, however, done anything quite like the story I bring to you today.

The Lincoln Highway runs along the heart of this great country from East to West, as you all are well aware. From San Francisco to New York City, the terrain is as varying as the people you meet along the long road, ranging from deserts to mountains to everything in between. Now back when the Great Road was new, there were many people who wanted to leave their imprint on the history of the road. Some people went for a long walk, others chose to grab a bicycle and set out. Now one gentleman, a Mr. Gustave Petzel, decided he wanted to stand out among these fellow travelers. In 1915, Mr. Petzel built himself a metal ball to roll from California to New York. This ball was four and a half feet in diameter, weighed 180 pounds, and made of steel. Gustave did do himself the favor of making it a hollow globe, with the steel rim measuring at a thickness a sixteenth of an inch . His goal was to make it to New York in six months time, where he would be rewarded with a thousand dollars from some folks in San Francisco.gus petzel with ball

While I have spoken before about the state of the Lincoln Highway in those early days, where parts of the road were little more than a nice dirt path. I do not know about you, but it is hard for me to imagine pushing a ball that large along not only along the nicer parts of the road, but up and then back down the Sierra Nevadas, the Rockies, and the Appalachians. After the mountains, Mr. Petzel would also have the joy of pushing that great steel globe across the open deserts and plains under the hot summer sun. One thousand dollars was a large amount back in 1915, but I cannot say whether that would be incentive enough for me to undertake such a journey.

Mr. Gustave Petzel set out with his great steel ball on June 3, 1915, with the goal to work his ball and his way along the road to arrive in New York in six months. While I have looked far and wide for more details of this impressive journey, I have not been able to find any word that Mr. Petzel accomplished his lofty goal. Whether the mountains, the ball or or the journey defeated his steely resolve, Mr Petzel disappears for a time to resurface with details of another attempt of crossing the country along the Lincoln Highway ten years later.

gus petzel with baby car

As we know, Gustave was quite the skilled craftsman after building that great steel ball. In 1925, Mr. Petzel decided to make his journey again, but since I would assume he had enough of large balls, he built himself a baby car, touted at the time as the “smallest car in the world.” Gustave and his four cylinder, 560 pound little car set out along the road, travelling the Lincoln Highway by way of Yosemite National Park. Instead of working his way along the Great Road, this time Mr. Petzel sold postcards to fund his trip. This trip was a successful one, as Mr. Petzel is recorded to have made his way to Washington, D.C. in February of 1926, where he showed off his baby car’s ability to go 52 miles on a single gallon of gas and speed up to 80mph.

Mr. Gustave Petzel was a fellow traveler who set his sights on leaving his name in the history of the Lincoln Highway. While I cannot say I would be one to make such a trip as his first attempt, I do admire his resolve to set out along that journey when the road was young.

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If you find yourself making the same journey one day, keep Mr. Petzel and his great globe in mind as you drive from the shining coast into the great mountains of our county. Perhaps you may even spot the ball somewhere along the way, maybe standing as relic along the road in the Truckee River.

From the Open Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny

Pringle’s Jalopy for Lefty’s Truck – A History of Dirt Tracks in Iowa

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

I bring to you a story of a fellow lover of the old days, who celebrates those vehicles built for speed and the dirt track of days gone by and, though not as common, days still to come. While I do enjoy the open road, I certainly respect the desire of Mr. Marty Pringle to keep these jalopies around.

Marty Drawing

Marty Pringle and his Dad’s original dirt track racer

I first met Mr. Marty Pringle when he stopped by my own hamlet, Boomtown, Iowa. While I showed him around my many relics, his eye lingered on an antique gas pump. While I do not often part with my pumps, Mr. Pringle offered me a 1950’s standing Coca-Cola machine as a trade. After a moment, I agreed to part with my gas pump and looked forward to the trade to come. This would not be our only trade, as we would soon both discover in the near future.

A short time down the road, I was lucky enough to find a pristine 1938 One-Ton International Truck. Not only was the condition of this truck, which had been in storage for over 35 years, an amazing find, the history was a tale to discover as well. This truck had owned by the legend himself, Mr. Richard “Lefty” Robinson, an Iowa native who raced the dirt tracks of the past. While he and his family were promoters of the dirt, his daughter, Shauna Robinson, became a fan of the pavement and raced with NASCAR for many years.

Now this truck had been used by Lefty for his used truck and equipment business located in the capital of Iowa itself, Des Moines. I knew I could not pass up the opportunity to own this beautiful vehicle, and, as the folks who owned it were ready to part with it to a good home, I hired a gentleman to bring this International over to Boomtown. This driver very much enjoyed the look of the truck, and as a dirt track lover, I allowed him to take a photo of it and post it on the worldwide web. I soon learned that there were plenty of folks out there who wanted to own this piece of Iowa racing history, including my old trade partner, Mr. Marty Pringle.

Eight months later, it was my turn to be ready to offer a trade, as I was looking for a new home for Lefty’s truck. While I did consider a few other locations, I decided to head up to Otho, Iowa and talk to Mr. Pringle first. After a bit of conversation, we agreed that Marty would head over to look over the truck and, if it was in the cards, he would bring the International to his own museum the Iowa Hall of Fame and Racing.

As soon as Mr. Pringle looked over the truck, I knew it was time to make our second trade. I offered to give Marty the International if he would be willing to part with one of his prize racing jalopies, which still race around the track to this day. After a pause, Mr. Pringle accepted my terms and our second trade was set. A few weeks later, Mr. Pringle brought down the 7UP racing jalopy and took back this relic of an Iowa dirt track racing icon.

Marty and Car

Mr. Marty Pringle and the 7UP jalopy, built in the memory of his uncle

The International Truck is currently on a rotating display, currently visiting the Knoxville Racing Museum in Knoxville, Iowa. If you care to take a peek at a piece of racing and Iowa history, stop on by Knoxville, or better yet, visit Mr. Pringle up in Otho, Iowa at the Iowa Hall of Fame and Racing Museum.

From the Open Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny

Mom & Pop’s and One-Stop Shops – A Service for the Weary Traveler

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

While on one of my recent journeys in Central Missouri, heading to the great river of Mark Twain, I happened across a quaint, rare piece of our nation’s past. This treasure was called a “One-Stop,” a place for the weary traveler to rest, have a bite to eat, and clean off after a long day on the road. This particular One-Stop is located on Highway 36, just to the east of Meadville in Missouri. As I viewed this historic site, I had to wonder why this One-Stop was here, when the larger town of Chillicothe was just a drive to the west. However, as I continued heading toward the Great Mississippi River, I found my answer as I found myself surrounded by Pershing State Park. Thanks to the interest of a fellow traveler like myself, this unique glimpse into the past has stood the test of the ages and continues to serve as a reminder of the bygone years.

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Unlike the One-Stop of above, one of my favorite stops along the Great Road no longer exists. Many years ago, as I was traveling west on the Lincoln Highway, I found a reminder of the bygone era, a Mom & Pop’s cafe. As we were to the east of North Platte, the cafe had been named the North Platte Cafe and would have been a perfect stop for a bite to eat for the weary traveler.

Now these cafes not only served the travelers, but also their surrounding communities. Folks would gather on a certain night of the week, meet up with their neighbors, and escape the demands of the kitchen for at least a little while. Unfortunately this little cafe went the way of many other old stops along the road, but you can take a look here and glimpse how this relic looked back when I beheld it for the first time.

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My fellow travelers, while you find yourself out on the open road, make sure to take a look around as you never know what relic may show up along the way. As with the cafe above, sometimes if you stop and stay a while, you may even still smell the chicken frying for the folks to gather for dinner.

From the Open Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny