August 9th. With butterflies in my stomach, I make the 3 hour drive to
the Minneapolis Airport. Here I am going to meet, for the 1st time, The
M715 Zone's Vice President, Rollie Raper and his son Aaron. I'm hyped,
the Field Exercise is coming soon and I have 'The Fever'. I am hoping
pick Rollie and Aaron up at 3:15 PM and be home to my house by 7 or 8,
so we can get a good night sleep and finish the tasks I have left
we leave on our journey.
When I get to the airport, I look at the arrival screen and all of a sudden I feel as if I have been kicked in the chest. The screen says," Seattle-Tacoma to Minneapolis-----CANCELLED".
What now.....phone my house, "Any calls from Rollie?", my wife answers no. I get Rollies phone number and call his house, no answer. I call my wife back and tell her what is going on. Finally, I decide to ask an airline person for information. I tell her the story and she asks the passengers name. I don't believe she will actually give me info on Rollie this way, will she, nah, they never do. "He will be arriving from Spokane this evening at 9:30" she tells me and gives me the flight number. I'm impressed and thank her very much. Then I realize I have about 6 hours to kill. It's 3 hours home, that won't work, I don't know Minneapolis well.....I drive around town and tour the airport thinking all the while, Rollie has to make it in, he just has to.
Finally it is about time for his plane to arrive, the board says so, and I make my way to the gate area. At the scheduled time, another plane is given the gate Rollies flight is supposed to deplane from and there are no more gates open at this area of the terminal. I have been told they are on the ground but are waiting for these planes to empty to get up here.
I wait.....nervously.....and finally one of the planes leaves.....I wait some more.....a little after 10:30, the plane makes its way up to the gate. After several minutes, the passengers start to come into the terminal. I wait crouched by the ramp for sight of Rollie. He had emailed me a picture of his family, so I had some idea who to look for. There he is, he looks at me, then past me. Just then, the camera flashes. He looks back and I say "Hi Rollie!!"
We shake hands and make our way to the baggage area. He tells me their plane had been hit by lightning before they got on it and they were delayed onto another flight through Spokane. There baggage had arrived many hours earlier, however, hopefully.... They had been on the ground here for an hour and had to sit in the plane on the other side if the runway....that must have been a fun way to arrive.... Aaron told me he wanted to just get out and run across..... (Maybe Rollie will fill in more details here).
Well we did manage to find the luggage and get it together and make it home to my house about 2 AM....so much for a good nights sleep.
I did learn very quickly that Rollie is a very intelligent man and that he is much more than what I had expected through our correspondences online and by phone. Here is a quiet and patient person who is just as excited as I am and is giving me ideas I hadn't even thought of for the club and the FE. His son Aaron is full of energy, even after a long day of traveling, and between the 3 of us, it truly seems like the FE has begun!!!
On Tuesday, after a few hours sleep, we get to work, packing up tools and spare parts, camping gear and coolers, CB's and gas cans, etc. Aaron graciously greases the entire truck for me, and helps Rollie and I with packing and loading BRUTE FORCE. A long day is concluded about 11 PM and we go to bed.
Wednesday morning 2 AM: the alarm clock rings. I arise and wake Rollie and Aaron. We get in the truck and one of my cars, also heavily loaded, and hit the road. Driving south in 50 degree weather and, at times, heavy fog, we can maintain 60 all the way to Portage, Wi., about 100 miles, where WI715 lives. We are going to convoy the next 550 miles or so with him. We find his house no problem and he is waiting for us. It was a neat meeting, another milestone for the FE. Although we had never met him before, he allows us to leave my car at his house for the next 4 or 5 days and we then load the tons of stuff from my car into his truck and mine. He has a Diesel Ford towing his M715 on a trailer. I find out shortly why this may be a very wise option....
We leave around 6 AM and head south and soon the sun rises. Running at 60 MPH, we find that after 60-65 miles, the t-case temp is getting kinda high, like 240 degrees. I slow down to 55, then 50 to try to cool it. It only gets hotter and we are forced to stop for an hour to cool it. I think we are all wondering if BRUTE FORCE is really up to such a trip. We head out and are able to cover about 70 miles again before we must stop for cooling off. We talk about the situation and discuss what limited options there are. We decide to keep going. Another 70 miles or so, same mess. Off the road and sit. We want to get there sometime today, hopefully before the sun goes down....I'm getting a bit depressed. I wonder if WI715 is thinking I'm a schmuck or something. I feel bad as I am holding him up from getting there. And what happens if the t-case goes.......
It is now midday and it is HOT!! The cab is even hotter. Rollie and I are sitting against the side of a gas station drinking bottled water, trying to figure out what to do. WI715 also is offering advice and says not to worry about the time we are taking, just to keep things going as best we can. Rollie remembers Moose saying that he "puts it at 50 on the highway and drives all day". I thank him for reminding me of this. What would I do without him, I think. We head out into the heat....
Sweating is now mandatory in the truck. The floor is too hot to touch. We head out at 50 and cross our fingers.....It seems to work....so far...... We cover over 100 miles and the truck isn't overheating. On hills we slow down to 45 or a little less, but keep on rolling. We stop at a little gas station in southern Illinois, and fill up and have some chow. My Coleman camp stove is accidentally left on the trailer when we hit the road. Rollie and I are looking for WI715 but we don't see him behind us. Call on the CB, he has turned back to find the stove as it fell off. Well, he found it, in the road, and while he and Aaron wait for traffic to clear to retrieve it, a dump truck nails it dead on. So much for that..... After he catches up, we resume our convoy.
About 4:30 PM, we stop for supper. We have made it to southern Illinois, but still have quite a ways to go. A new camp stove is purchased and, after dinner, we decide we will call Kaiser Kid. He is going to meet us in the town near his home, Princeton, KY. We pull out the papers and call. Number disconnected.....oh yeah and the new number is unlisted. Who else would have it, maybe Bump_r. No answer there, he is probably on his way too. We decide to press on and get directions when we arrive in Princeton.
We have been on secondary roads for a while, now we head onto the interstate.....at 50 or less mind you.... Temps are staying in the acceptable range and we are coming up for a gas stop. Its been 250 miles on this tank already. I pick an exit to stop at, about 15 miles ahead. 10 miles ahead, we hit road construction, and in 95-100 degree heat outside, we have to stop and crawl for 20 minutes. The cab heat is almost unbearable. It must be over 125 degrees. The gas gauge is on E and we still are barely moving. After what seems like an hour, we make it clear and run the last mile or so to the exit. BRUTE FORCE drinks heavily, 25.5 gallons. Even with the road construction, idling and crawling, we measure over 11 MPG, the worst highway tank of the trip. Heading onto the road again, we find this area to be pretty hilly and we are slowing to 45 or less on some hills. WI715 calls and says we better do at least 45 if we don't want the cops on us.....we try to keep it up to 45 minimum.... We have some soda in the truck, if you want to drink it, you have to hold it out the window for about 30 minutes to cool it enough to drink...next time a small cooler in the cab.....roger that....
Finally we cross a long bridge and have made it to Kentucky!!! Aaron is reading the map and I'm nervously watching the road and t-case temp......The outside temp is down to 80 or so, still reading 220 or better on the t-case. About 10 miles from Princeton, we are going up a long grade and the outside air temp drops 20 degrees. With that happening, the t-case cools dramatically. We speed up to 60 and finally make it to Princeton, long after dark, around 8:30 or later.
We pull into the first gas station and go in. I am tense and anxious to get there. Rollie is relaxed, just watching me go kinda nuts. Aaron looks like he is ready for anything, and WI715 is eager to go but waiting patiently. I tell the counter lady who we are looking for and that we need directions ASAP. She is a little taken a back, bunch of big guys in the evening taking up her store and the big nervous one wants directions to somebody's place. She asks if we are bounty hunters.....guess we made a good impression..... We explain what is going on and she checks her map and gives us the info.
Not too much farther, we hit the road. Going down a narrow 2 lane road, we are almost stopping at every street sign to see if this is the one. Finally we find it and turn. The house number is something like 1020. The first house is 124 and the next house is about a block down, it is 2xx, keep going, checking every mail box. Finally we pass 8xx and we see a house coming on the right. I see no mail box and the house is well off the road...."Aaron, do you see an M715 or a Camaro over there?" "Uhhh, I see.....theres someone signaling us with a flashlight!!" "And I see a Camaro!!" Having already passed the driveway, I stop and turn on the big amber beacon. WI715 has to back up his truck and trailer, which he does expertly, and then we manage to pull in the driveway.
Finally calling it a day in the truck at 9:30 PM, we have arrived. Another member to greet, the one who has done so much for The Zone to secure the LBL site and many of the items we will be needing during the FE.
Of course we look over each others trucks and talk for an hour before we even go inside, what would you expect?? Finally, a nice soft piece of furniture to sit on and enough light to see our hosts. I hope my looks don't scare their young daughter too much....
Into my lap flies a large envelope. What's this, I ask...."The M715 Zone patches, open 'em up!!", replies Kaiser Kid. Tearing in, I find them to be perfect, and start passing them around the room for everyone to see--no one has yet. We watch the M715 Video from Vintage Video and talk more. Check the club site and make a little post. It's late again, well after midnight, sleep, even though I don't want the fun to end, there is only more waiting.......
When we get up, we are off to start The M715 Zones' First Annual Field Exercise!!!!! I hope I can sleep.....
2, Thurday and Friday