Cruise of a Lifetime
by Terry & Kathy
is the story about the magic of the Internet, a hotrod Chevy,
a 2,700-mile cross-country trek and the girl that said ‘yes’ to
a sky-high proposal. My wife Kathy and I own a 1955 Chevrolet
Bel-Air, 2-door post with a 427 Corvette “Big Block” and
T-10 4-speed. I purchased this classic beauty in April 2004
on an Ebay auction from a couple in southern Georgia.
Our story begins with EHarmony.com, as that’s how Kathy and I met. Kathy
lived in a cute little condo in Citrus Heights close to most of her family
(she’s one of six children) and her nursing administration job in Roseville.
I was in Pleasanton were I had lived for almost 30-years.
was a single mom with three grown children, one 16-year old
teenage daughter and one 18-month old grandson. I was a recent
widower with two grown sons and two young grandsons. Kathy’s
friends at work encouraged her to try EHarmony while it was
my younger son, Mark, who pushed me into trying this 21st century
marvel of computer science.
going through the prescribed, very formatted EHarmony introduction
process and exchanging a whole string of emails, I finally
got the nerve to ask Kathy for her phone number. I think it
was during our 5th phone conversation that I suggested that
we meet for dinner. She agreed and we had our 1st Date at the
Old Spaghetti Factory in Stockton.
the time, I had a 55 Chevy big window pick-up that I had purchased
from a young man who was getting married, moving to Oklahoma
and needed cash. It was a nice ride, but not what I really
wanted - 55 Bel-Air. I kept promising Kathy that I would bring
the truck out to Sacramento and take her on a cruise up Highway
49, but before she got her ride, I sold the truck to a guy
from Hawaii. This was on Saturday.
was a little upset that she didn’t get her ride, but
what she didn’t know was that I had been tracking a beautiful
55 Bel-Air that was offered on Ebay. I called her the next
day and told her that she was going to get that ride after
all as I had just purchased a Chevy 2-door hotrod from a couple
in Georgia. At that point I think that she was beginning to
have 2nd thoughts about our budding relationship, not being
familiar with how rodder’s do things. We were talking
about how I was going to get the car shipped to California,
whether I should go with a closed or open trailer and how long
it would take. Suddenly I got the crazy idea about driving
the car from Georgia.
asked Kathy if she could get a weeks vacation and if she would
like to take the ‘Cruise of a Lifetime’ with me
in a real 50’s hotrod. She got really excited about the
idea but then her voice changed. She told me that she couldn’t
go until after the State performed the required yearly inspection
of the skilled nursing facility where she worked. She added
that the inspectors were due to arrive any day but it could
be another 2 to 4 weeks, so we agreed to table that idea and
I continued with planning the shipment of the Chevy from Georgia
to Pleasanton. This was on Sunday.
Monday morning I got an early morning phone call from a very
happy sounding Kathy. The State inspectors were at her facility
and she had already asked and received approval from her boss
to take the following week off to go to Georgia. THE TRIP WAS
following Thursday I drove to Citrus Heights to pick up Kathy
and start an adventure that lasted just a few days but one
that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. We drove back
to Pleasanton where Mark was waiting to take us to the Oakland
Airport. After stopping for dinner, he told me to be careful
driving that ‘old rickety car’, gave us both a
hug and we were off.
first leg of our flight was from Oakland to Las Vegas that
took about 90 minutes. After the usual coke and peanuts had
been served and the cabin lights were dimmed, I reached in
my jeans pocket and pulled out an engagement ring. Before Kathy
knew what hit her, I put the ring on her finger and asked her
to marry me. At that moment, Kathy and I had been dating for
just over one month. To my surprise and amazement she said, “Yes.” Needless
to say, neither of us got much sleep on our redeye flight from
Vegas to Atlanta.
landed at around 6:00 AM, rented a car and drove the 150 miles
from Atlanta to the little southern Georgia town of Aribi.
Along the way we stopped at a Waffle House for breakfast and
Kathy got her first taste of grits. This was Friday.
Chevy’s owners, Glenn and Kathy, insisted that we stay
with them instead of renting a room. They put us up in a 100-year
old hunting cabin that was next to a beautiful pond on land
that has been in Kathy’s family since before the Civil
War. Talk about southern hospitality, these folks took us to
dinner at their favorite restaurant where we had the opportunity
to meet the Governor of Georgia. After dinner, they lead us
about 40-miles to the Albany Airport to return the rental car
and then drove us back to the cabin. As it was raining hard
that night, Glenn suggested that we stay another day and offered
his pick-up for us to drive as he and his Kathy had to work
all day on Saturday.
Saturday morning it was still raining but not as hard. We had
breakfast and came back to the cabin just in time for the rain
to stop and sunshine to break through. After writing a big
thank you note to our hosts, Kathy and I took off and spent
the next 6 days driving our hotrod Chevy across this great
land. Our cross-country trek took us through the states of
Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma,
Texas, New Mexico and Arizona on our way home to California.º Along
the way we visited Elvis' birth place in Tupelo, Mississippi
and his Graceland home in Memphis; crossed the mighty Mississippi
River; was surprised with the beauty of the southern Ozarks;
purchased Indian souvenirs in Oklahoma; were serenaded by a
county band in Amarillo; climbed the majestic Rocky Mountains;
survived the Arizona desert heat (no air-conditioning); and
witnessed the dawn breaking over the Colorado River as we entered
we stopped for gas and that was a lot of stops at 10 MPH, the
Chevy drew a crowd. Kathy was amazed at how total strangers
would walk up to the car and start relating stories about how
their dad had a 55 Chevy or that they remembered getting their
first kiss in the backseat of a 55 or their brother, who was
killed in Vietnam, had a 55. To Kathy, our Chevy became a magical
mirror that allowed people to see back over the years to the
happy days and times of their youth. But regardless of their
age, where they came from or where they were going everyone
wanted to see and hear the roar of that Big Block engine.
first night out we spent in Knoxville, Alabama. While we were
eating dinner it started raining again, really hard. The Chevy
has the original vacuum windshield wipers that work OK, but
not so good in a driving rainstorm. On the way back to the
motel, 1st we hit an armadillo that caused a huge thud and
scarred us both and then a train came at us out of nowhere.
Apparently we had crossed an un-signaled set of railroad tracks
and the rear of the Chevy was only 15 or 20 feet from that
fast moving train. The combination of the rain; and not being
able to see more than a few feet in front of the car; and seeing
the train’s headlights bearing down on us; and then having
the train’s whistle going off practically in our back
seat; we both let out a scream and thought that we were dead
meat for sure. Looking back now, it’s funny … you
had to be there!
The 2nd night we spent in Russellville, Arkansas. The innkeeper
told us to eat at the bar-b-que place next door, as it was
the best food in town. As usual, Kathy ordered a glass of wine.
The waiter gave her a shocked look and said, “Miss,
this is a dry county and TODAY IS SUNDAY.” Kathy had never traveled in
the South before and was unaware of the Blue Laws that still exist down there.
She was able to get all the wine she wanted in Amarillo the next night.
a gas stop in Oklahoma, the owner of the station invited us
to take a tour of his private auto museum. This guy buys old
cars and trucks that he finds parked in barns, garages and
under trees all over Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. He tows them
back to his station and restores them to like-new condition.Â He
then puts these beauties on display in his showroom like convenience
store at his gas station.º He told me that he has restored
over 50 classics. He only buys, he never sells.
When we crossed the Colorado River and entered California, Kathy and I both
wanted to turn the Chevy around and drive back to Aribi. But Kathy had to get
back to her job and I needed to get home too. It was so hot on that Wednesday
that we had to stop in Needles until after sunset. The Chevy only had a 3-core
radiator at that time and she was really heating up. That was the only nighttime
driving that we had to do. We spent the night in Barstow and the next day drove
up Highway 99 to Citrus Heights.
Chevy did fine and passed everything on the road but numerous
gas stations. However, when we pulled into Kathy’s daughter’s
driveway, the clutch bracket broke. only a mile down the road
from Sara’s house and just around the corner from Kathy’s
March 12, 2005 Kathy and I were married at an outside ceremony
at the LOP Clubhouse. It was a crystal clear day with no wind
and the bluest sky that we had ever seen. Polished up for the
occasion, the Chevy was parked in front of the LOP clubhouse
and it drew almost as much attention as the bride and groom
did. Kathy still complains that our photographer took more
photos (27) of the car than he did of her and her attendants
(15) before the wedding started. My oldest grandson carried
a model of the Chevy with the rings carefully tied to the roof.
The top of the cake was decorated with a bride and groom riding
in a hotrod and, of course, Kathy and I drove off in our hotrod
Trek across America may have been over - but ‘our ‘Lifetime
Cruise’ is just getting started.