The Stories Write Themselves
Do you remember taking road trips as a kid? You and your siblings, maybe a cousin or two, three or four kids bouncing around in the front seat, backseat, hanging out the window, playing the hand into the wind game, begging to talk on the CB? Well, Eastbound & Down is something like that. The journey is bigger than the destination. Starting last year, a group of friends decided to make an annual road trip to Lone Star Throwdown (LST) in Texas.
It’s hardly the plan, but it’s the way these road trips work out, the hours, the days and the experiences become the story. This year was no different. Things started as far as Northern California and Reno, Nevada. Groups from both areas decided to join the adventure, and we were glad they did. The guys from the north started a day early in order to meet up with us in Phoenix on the Tuesday night before the 2018 LST. We were set to leave at daybreak the following morning.
Tuesday night was set aside for breaking bread, checking off last minute items and drinking a few barley pops. Well, you know how truck guys are; the barley pops and pizza made an appearance, but there was more work than relaxing. That was mostly because of yours truly. There’s nothing like last minute fixes and unexpected hiccups, but by the end of the end of the night, the trucks were washed and ready to go.
After three hours of sleep, we were up, and the trucks were too. Yellowstone, my ’73 crew cab, had a lighter look. Carlos Vidales from Sacramento had his ’74 crew cab, El Diablow, purring with plenty of room for John Oro to jump in. John’s truck, aka the Prom Queen, was staying put. The short of it is, we worked on his Blazer until night’s end and again that morning, but with the clock ticking, John made the decision to let his truck rest.
Phoenix to Fort Stockton, Texas
We all met up off I-10 for fuel and trip maps. We’ve picked up a few more participants since last year, and I think the road trip will continue to grow. Scott Hampton from Indianapolis even flew out for the adventure. In total, we had more than 20 people, eight classics and five in tow. It was fuel, food and figuring out who’s riding with whom. Our next fuel stop would be outside of Tucson, Arizona.
It didn’t take long until my phone rang. It was John. “Your passenger side tank is spewing fuel all over!” I pulled off at the next exit. After 20 minutes and a coating of gas to act as my new cologne, we were back on the road. Last year we probably stopped a few too many times on the first day, so this year we were determined to make better time. We intended to head south on the 10 freeway to Fort Stockton, 650 miles away.
As the morning settled in, so did the trucks. We were cruising with the sun overhead and the chapters to our story writing themselves. Crossing the Arizona state line into New Mexico, we were firing on all cylinders, and I noticed a small vibration while cruising over 70 mph. In hindsight, the old chestnut, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, applied just then. On last year’s trip, I had issues with Yellowstone’s driveline, so I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a weak link. I’d recently taken out the driveline, installed a new carrier bearing and made sure all of the U-joints were in great shape, but I needed more reassurance.
We were in a little town in western New Mexico, and somehow, we found the carrier bearing at the local automotive parts store, but we could not find a mechanic with a press to install it. Of all places, we found help at a Ford dealership in Lordsburg, New Mexico. The best part was that the mechanics were Chevy guys. Yep, Chevy tattoos and all (I told you, the story writes itself). They told us that the driveshaft was fine and there was no need to replace the carrier bearing. We rolled into town as strangers looking for a shop and left having made new friends.
After a few fuel stops, we crossed into Texas through El Paso. We were greeted to somewhat of a C-10 caravan. Alex, who runs the C/10 Club’s El Chuco chapter, and a few of his fellow club members met us as we arrived in town. Pablo Mena, another C-10 fanatic and restaurant owner, opened his doors to us, feeding the entire group amazing, authentic Mexican food. I felt like we had made an entire new set of friends in El Paso, and stopping at Pablo’s is something I hope will be an annual part of Eastbound & Down. The trucks are cool, but Alex, Pablo and the El Paso posse prove that the people are cooler.
Though a good time was had by all, we knew we still had four hours on the road before we made it to Fort Stockton, our resting place for day one. We got back on the road after dinner. When we arrived in Fort Stockton, it was late, and we had all put in a long day of driving.
Fort Stockton, Texas, to Conroe, Texas
Up early and ready to hit the road, we started the morning at a fuel station for a fill up, coffee and breakfast. We got the entire band together, including everyone we’d added along the way. While cruising somewhere in the Katy, Texas, area we encountered the steel armadillo. What is that, you might ask. Well, Alex from El Paso swerved to miss it, Carlos from NorCal straddled it, and yours truly took that armadillo head on.
We were all rolling on Hwy 99 outside of Houston when all of a sudden, a steel pipe pops up, and boom, it makes contact with Yellowstone. I thought the pipe might have popped a ’bag and was resting on my cross member. Greg hit the #3 setting on my AccuAir controller, lifted the front of the truck up and the pipe spit out. We really couldn’t pull over, so we just kept cruising. I watched my oil pressure obsessively, worried that it might have hit my oil pan. I was sure that something must have broken.
We finally pulled off the freeway and surveyed the damage. The steel armadillo, as the pipe became known, actually hit the best possible spot, the lower control arm. It bent the arm, but the airbag, steering and everything else were still intact and working fine.
Once in Conroe, we went straight to the house we planned to stay at the second night. It was an Airbnb-style rental that a few of us were staying in for the weekend. You can’t make this stuff up. Stay with me now. It was a big, beautiful, 10-acre property surrounded by lush trees, a security gate and a nicely paved 8-foot road back to the house. We all rolled onto the property like we were on our own episode of “MTV Cribs.” Trucks, trailers and pullers alike, we all drove up to the main house, walked into the unlocked the door and discovered from the barking dogs and the screams that this might be the wrong house. Hey, it was an innocent mistake.
Apparently, we’d entered the property owner’s house, and we were supposed to be in the guest house. Fortunately, we ended up getting along well with the Airbnb owner, and he invited us to his shop. Come to find out he’s one of us, just into a different style of vehicles, Ferraris and Porsches.
Day 3 & 4
Lone Star Throwdown
LST, baby! We rolled into Lone Star Throwdown pleased that we’d finally made it. It’s very satisfying to drive your classic to a show. Whether it’s 20 miles or 2,000 miles, it’s a great feeling. During the weeks leading up to the show, we all paid close attention to the forecast—rain. It really didn’t rain all that much on Friday, and there was a light drizzle on Saturday, but by Sunday we needed an ark.
One thing I always say about the truck community is that the trucks are cool, but the people are cooler. This is what LST is all about. Because it’s centrally located in the U.S., we get to see old friends from Mississippi, Nebraska, Iowa, Arkansas, Florida and, of course, Texas. People come from all over. It’s all about good people getting together to hang out and share a few brews and maybe a story or two.
We all get to make new friends as well. That is really why I enjoy covering these shows for my podcast, C10 Talk. I get to walk around, check out all of the cool rides and meet the amazing people that make up the C-10 nation. People enjoy the attention as well, getting recognized for their hard work, their vision and their accomplishments.
We woke up to the rain that had finally arrived, and it was a total downpour. We headed to the Conroe fairgrounds to clean up our vending booth and to help anyone else who might need it. You know that feeling when your clothes are all dry and you think you’re going to try and keep things that way, and then after 10 minutes you’re so damn wet you just give up and accept it? We were well into the acceptance stage at this point.
After we got all of our stuff jammed into Yellowstone’s camper shell, we did what we had to do: We took the canoe for a spin. We unhitched the Wind Splitter from the top of the camper and plopped it into the water. Kyle Oxberger, who made the trip out from Arizona, and I jumped in and floated around for a bit.
Because of the rain, the C-10 Pavilion was the happening spot on Sunday. Everyone crowded under the huge covered area and the party kept going. A little rain wasn’t going to stop us from having a good time.
Then we loaded up and got ready to leave. We said our goodbyes and essentially started the boomerang back to Phoenix that night. Our plan was to drive to San Antonio on Sunday night for a family-style dinner. Talk about lucky! Joe Yezzi of Squarebody Syndicate has family in San Antonio, and they heard Joe and the group would be in town, so they decided to host a dinner for all of us. Did they even know what they were getting into? Talk about hitting the spot. When you’ve been on the road for five days, a home-cooked meal is priceless.
“That’s the beauty of it really, going with the flow. Grab a few friends, your trucks and sit back to see what stories unfold for you.”
Joe’s family was a perfect fit. They are Italian and used to cooking for a large group. They served incredible food, drinks and dessert to all of us. It was the perfect atmosphere to cap off Sunday night. Joe and I have since talked about it, and I think we just might have another tradition brewing.
We got on the road early because we wanted to make it all the way home to Phoenix. One thousand miles in one day was the goal. We met up again for our morning fuel stop and coffee, but the best part was, I had some leftover coffee cake from the night before. It was so good, and yes, I shared it. Like most Mondays at work, this was a long damn day, but we soldiered on knowing that if we pushed it, we could make it home to sleep in our own beds and see our wives and kids.
Though we had a blast, the return was really uneventful. We said goodbye to friends
on the return trip. As we got close to each person’s city or town, they would roll off, honking and waving.
There’s always so much going on with these road trips, you might have expectations, but in the end, things go how they go. That’s the beauty of it really, going with the flow. Grab a few friends, your trucks and sit
back to see what stories unfold for you.