A number of years ago, after finishing a trip to Gettysburg and back in my Lotus 7 and Elan, when asked if I’d ever do it again I made the comment I have now come to regret;
Would I do it again? Probably not such a big trip and probably not on such big roads. Maybe I’ll take a jaunt down the Mississippi river road from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico with lots of time and an ace Lincoln Lotus Centre riding mechanic along. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
As I get older, I realize that doing is better than having, and memories are the by far the best things we create. The fond memories of the trip out to Gettysburg with the LOUTS (That’s Lotus Owners Up To Something) and back with my wife Ann left me vulnerable when the rest of the LOUTS made their plans to come to Colorado for the 35th Lotus Owners Gathering in August 2015. Geoff Cole reminded me of my comment and said we should do that, and Rod Thonger immediately chimed in as he is a big blues music fan and thought it would be great to visit the home of the blues. When the last of the three who had been with me before, Brian Green (ace Lincoln Lotus Centre riding mechanic) said he, too, was in, it was “Game On!”
In searching maps, I found numerous ways of connecting disparate highways into a cross country network that defined a route, to and from Colorado Springs and the relatively well defined “Great River Road” . The hard part will be getting to the source of the Mississippi at Itasca, MN and returning from New Orleans across Texas and the west.
Once we reach the Mississippi though things look much better. Now we’re talking about a Lotus road. Other than getting through several major cities such as Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Memphis as well as the end point in New Orleans, all the rest is small towns and rural charm. The route is now clear, so all we need do is figure out how long it will take and when to start. Using some of the distances per day we were comfortable with on our last LOUTS trip, we thought about three weeks should do it. So the lads planned their plane reservations to be here in plenty of time for LOG 35 and allow a few days of car prep after LOG plus the three weeks plus a few recovery/delay days and the return trip dates were set and flights booked. So, Brian and Geoff and Rod arrive mid-August and go home on the first day of fall. I’ve termed it the British invasion; hopefully the colonies can withstand it!
On Day 1 and 2 we need to make steady progress across Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota so that we can reach Minnesota on the third day. While these will be long days of about 500 miles each, there isn’t much to make it worth dallying across the plains and on day 3 we will stop at Trout Lake in northern Minnesota where my relatives have an idyllic lake cabin.
On day 4 we’ll do a little boating and explore the chain of lakes then have cookout and a brew while watching the sun go down. We can then start bright and early the next day. I call this the pre-trip to get to the source of the river.
Day 1 of the Great River Road Trip, we will get to Lake Itasca step across the Mighty Mississippi and then spend the next hours to get to Grand Rapids. Dinner is at the “Big Fish Supper Club” in Bena as seen in the National Lampoon Vacation movie.
Day 2 GRRT takes us from Grand Rapids to Sartell with a stop at Charles Lindbergh’s boyhood home in Little Falls. This is a typical mileage day at about 175 miles. While that may not seem like much, we will be stopping at overlooks, scenic and historical attractions about every two hours so it will take us most of a day to do that mileage.
The Day 3 highlights will include a lunch stop to visit my 100 year old Dad in Minneapolis as we traverse the big city on our way from Sartell to Red Wing. I hope my dad will be able to understand these limey accents with his diminished hearing.
Day 4 takes us from Red Wing to Prairie Du Chien, WI as we cross to the east side of the river and drive the high bluffs of the driftless zone. This is the part of Wisconsin that the glaciers missed so the bluff tower over the river here.
Day 5 is all about driving as we do about 250 miles from Prairie Du Chien to Burlington, IA after traversing the quad cities of Rock Island, Moline, Bettendorf and Davenport. There is a Mississippi River museum which deserves a visit but that’s about it.
On Day 6 we make it to St. Louis and a stop to see Chuck Berry perhaps. Rod has made it clear we must find the music wherever we go so that is our mission!
Day 7 takes us from St. Louis to Fulton, KY. We cross several tributaries of Big Muddy including the Illinois and Ohio rivers today. Water world!
Day 8 means we make it to Beale St and Graceland…two ends of the Memphis music scene. Add in Sun records and we will need two nights to get it all in.
Day 10 take us from Graceland to Vicksburg, MS with stops in Clarksdale and Greenwood, MS where some of the greats of the Delta blues originated with a small deviation to catch a bit of the Natchez Trace Parkway just to say we did it.
The next day, day 11 we drive from Vicksburg, MS to Baton Rouge, LA after visiting a few of the antebellum mansions of the area. And maybe getting a Po’ Boy for supper!
Day 12, Baton Rouge, LA to New Orleans, brings us to the end of the Great River Road officially. Now we could go on a barge to the Gulf Coast but we’d rather spend another day (13) enjoying the French Quarter before the dash home.
Days 1-3 of the mad dash across the southwest will take us through Shreveport, LA, Fairfield, Wichita Falls and Amarillo, TX, Raton NM and on into Colorado Springs. At the end of the third day we shall rest, for we will have earned it.
At the end of the trip we will have driven over 4,200 miles in each of two cars that are almost 50 years old, which I guess translates into 420,000 old car year/miles, much as dog years are seven times that of ours. Or, looking at it another way, the combined revolutions of the two engines will be more than twenty eight million and the spark plugs will have fired over fifty six million times before we pull in the driveway. So, what could possibly go wrong? Actually, I expect both the Seven and Elan to run fine and expect no stops for anything but fuel and oil and the occasional photo opportunity. The pool for the exact time and place of the breakdown is now open at www.betonthebreakdown.com
for you cynics out there. That’s not a real website
So, we shall see you in Colorado Springs in August at LOG 35 where you can wish us well or simply shake your head at our stupidity, or, if you are along our proposed path send me a note for a meet up. Oh, and we will file a trip report after the return. Tally Ho!