Morris Woody Trip to 48-States

BRG Woody

A friend was hosting a woody party in North Carolina, and I thought that it would be a great excuse for a road-trip in my '58 Morris Minor Woody Traveller. Then, I decided that as long as I'd be driving that far, maybe I could touch on all of the lower-48 states. My wife accepted an invitation to come along on the first half of this venture, and my brother, who just retired, joined me for the second half of the journey.

We headed out on October 6, pretty late in the year for a trip like this, starting with the northern route since winter weather would strike there first. We narrowly missed Hurricane Sandy after we started heading back west. Great adventure, but not without a few glitches. Here's a collection of the reports I sent to friends and family every few days along the way.

Woody Trip Part 1
Woody Trip Part 2
Woody Trip Part 3
Woody Trip Part 4
Woody Trip Part 5
Woody Trip Part 6
Woody Trip Part 7
Woody Trip Part 8
Woody Trip Part 9
Woody Trip - Epilog

Hope you enjoyed the trip!

LaineFamily home page...


Hello all -

I just wanted to give you a quick update on our trip to let you know what's going on. Don't hesitate to ask me to remove you from the mailing list if you prefer, I'd fully understand.

After a few frantic weeks of getting the Morris mechanically rejuvenated, things finally came together. Although it was close. On the evening before our departure I went out to do a last minute check, and found a flat tire and a gasoline pool on the ground under the engine. The flat tire was from improper seating of the bead - I had just changed wheels a short while before, so it was easy fix to break the bead and refill with air. The gas turned out to be from a failed fuel regulator, and I happened to have a spare to replace it with. Note that neither of these leaks were from British parts! Empathy amongst parts I guess.

We headed out Saturday morning, and made it to Wallace Idaho (state number two, since we are starting in Washington) with no problems.


While the main goal of the trip is to attend Tom Cotter's Woody party, our secondary goal of hitting all 48 states is off to a slow start, only making it to the second state.

Sunday morning we entered Montana (state number 3).


We're still in Montana, with a state count of only three thus far. We've gone 450 miles in Montana alone, and still have a long way to go - quite the state both in size and beauty. We're spending the night in Billings.

The Morris has a 7.5 gallon gas tank, which makes for a pretty restrictive range. So prior to the trip, I installed an extra 6 gallon boat tank in the back, vented to the outside world. So when we run out of fuel in the first tank, we pull over, run a hose from a little fuel pump I installed on the back to the main tank, and refuel ourselves. Takes but a few minutes. Here's my bride running our private gas station...


In this refill, we are in a quiet off-road area. The first time we used the boat tank, we had chugged to a stop beside I-90 as the fuel tank was completely dry. Since I had recently changed both the fuel gauge and fuel sender, I wasn't sure how low the needle goes. Turns out to be when it's reading about 1/4 tank.

About midday, we crossed the continental divide...


If you notice the details, you will see that we are only going 47 in a 75 zone. But, that's while we are still climbing steep grade, the peak is a little higher altitude. We've been cruising in most places around 65. The constant-velocity SU carburetors are good at correcting mixture for altitude changes. More good news is that since we're on the other side of the divide, the next couple thousand miles will all be down hill. Right?

That's about it thus far. We're enjoying good mechanical luck with the car, and enjoying each other's company, and some fine scenery, e.g., this shot in Montana...

Montana Mountains

Cut me a little slack on the photo quality. Not only did my camera break during the trip, my laptop doesn't have much in the way of editing/cropping software. But I figure some shabby pictures are better than none.

In any case, don't know if and when I'll send another report, but we're off to a good start!


Brian / Dad

Hello again -

Our Woody journey continues. First thing in the morning before leaving Billings, I shined the Morris all up, but after returning from getting our bags from the room, found raindrops coming down. So much for that cleaning job.

From Billings, we headed south towards Wyoming. Along the way, we visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield, famous from Custer's last stand. Quite sobering to think of the hundreds dying a terrible death in this desolate place. Here are some of the grave markers...

Little Bighorn

A few miles further south, we hit state number four:


From the refueling shot in eastern Montana, you can see how filthy the Morris has become after a long day of rain. It was made worse by dirt left on the road from all the sugar-beet trucks hauling their goods from the fields.

Eventually (did I mention that Montana is a VERY large state?), we crossed border number five:

North Dakota

If you look closely at the sign, you will see that the local shooters have been busy...

We happened by a closed weigh station to see how heavy we were. Note that today it's very hard to buy a car that weighs less than 3000 lbs. Even a very small car, such as a new Mini Cooper S with stickshift weighs 2,679 lbs with no people or luggage. They waste a lot of weight on unnecessary things like safety items, sound proofing, radios, etc. But the Morris, with Chris and I in it, all our luggage, tools, spare parts and our extra fuel tank (full), weighs in at:


Speaking of car niceties, a heater is one of them. The Morris heater puts out a pretty minimal amount of heat in the best of times, but this isn't one of them. The radiator is so good in these old cars, that only on hot days climbing hills does it ever get to medium temperature (180 degrees). It usually runs about 165, which gives little heat for the car. The only control for the heater is the fan. Problem is, that prior to the trip, I could hear a little clanging at times from the heater fan motor. I tried to find a replacement, but there wasn't time, and it wasn't too bad. But, as the trip progresses, its getting more than a little loud. I'm worried that it will totally fail as a result, and it may be really necessary later on in the trip, hence we haven't used it for the latest part of the trip. So, today we were wearing our heavy coats, gloves, and had a lap-robe we shared. It was sort of like going to a football game, but instead watching the plains go by.

The Morris designers designed the radiator so well, they didn't feel compelled to include a temperature gauge. What you get is a speedometer and fuel gauge, and that's it. Well, there's a charge light, and a light to tell you all the oil is gone too. To help this situation out, I wired in a circuit so that I can toggle a switch to make the fuel gauge read out the engine temperature. It's kind of reassuring to be able to check that.

Tonight we're in a seedy Motel 8 in Bowman ND (southwest corner of state). The good news is that it's run by a dot-Indian, so when I had a little trouble getting the internet to connect, I went straight to tech-support at the front desk, and he was good! LeeRoy tells me that his mother grew up near here.


The temperature dropped in Bowman to the high twenties, with a predicted high for the day of 34 as we headed into South Dakota (state six).

South Dakota

As we motored along, there was an unusual (at least to me) sky, which we had a hard time decoding.

Iffy Sky

It stayed cold and soon there were flurries of snow coming down and blowing across the road. Fortunately, we were only moderately cold riding there in our stadium wear. Many times we could see our breath, but we were way more comfortable than we would have been riding Gertrude.

When I stopped to refuel in a desolate spot, it was cold, windy, and the sky and landscape all appeared to be in hues of grays, no hills in sight. I was reminded of the Harrry Chapin song "Mail Order Annie," where she arrived on the train in the desolate plains, and shed a few tears. I understand.

However, much of the plains are beautiful, and it has been enjoyable seeing them once again.

We passed three places in South Dakota that claim to be the geographic center of the US. I'd like to see their math.

We noticed a lot of skunks as road-kill along the way. I remember a lot of skunks on the west coast as I was growing up, but haven't seen one for years at home. Maybe they all got run over on the west coast, but there's not enough traffic density here to do the job.

Well, that's about it for now. I'll be back with another report in a few days, hopefully further down the road.



Hello again,

You can run, but you can't hide - I'm back with another boring report! Worse yet, this one is pretty long.

After our cold day heading across South Dakota, we went into our seventh state...


We visited the state about an hour north of Mike Hamek's, but things didn't work out to get together this time. From Nebraska, we headed northeast, until we got into Minnesota, state number eight...


I found the first station I've seen that offers E85 fuel, which, as you know, is 85% alcohol, much of which is generated from the corn in this area - with Mikes help.


Note that super unleaded is 10% ethanol, but premium has no alcohol at all. If you read the fine print by the premium pump, you see this...


I suspect that this might be a State regulation to protect local commerce. Speaking of protecting local commerce, cars not made in America are pretty scarce around here. Maybe one in fifteen. Seem like half the cars are Buicks, few of which are on my short list.

Also on the subject of fuel, I've been a little disappointed that the Morris has only been getting about 30 MPG; I was expecting more. Part of this might be that we have been spending a lot of time on the interstates getting across middle-America, and often we have been at the 75 MPH speed limit. And I don't suppose the Morris breaks any aerodynamic records. With the higher gearing I installed, it's not at a very high RPM at this speed, but power is limited. If we encounter a hill or headwind, 75 is just a fond memory. You do have to pay attention to the steering at this speed as the Morris steering was designed when the car had about 30 HP so it could only go at modest speeds. Consequently, it's only a couple turns of the steering wheel lock-to-lock, so it doesn't take a lot of wheel movement at 75 to get you going another direction. The Morris does have rack and pinion steering; it took most other cars many years to gain this. As well as unibody construction and torsion bar suspension.

While we missed the world's largest ball of string roadside attraction, those of you who know my culinary sophistication will know that I wouldn't pass up this Austin Minnesota attraction...

Spam Museum

As you enter, you find this display...

Spam Entry

Each of those little brown "bricks" is a can of Spam. 3,500 as a matter of fact. Enough for a can a day for almost ten years! Interestingly, there are a lot of flavors of Spam available now - and it's main ingredient is hog-shoulders. I always figured that they just ground up whole hogs to make it.

From Spam-nirvana, we headed east to our ninth state...


We're seeing a lot of farming and manufacturing here, for example, here's the Featherlite trailer factory...


We're in Waterloo Iowa tonight, and there are four John Deere plants nearby. Great to see that things are still being made in the good old USA.

Speaking of John Deere equipment, there are a lot of HUGE John Deere tractors running down the roads with big trailers full of corn as they bring them to market. Doesn't matter what road, we passed several on four-lane highways. Going through a small town, we looked way up into the cab of one of these tractor/trailers waiting at a stop-sign, and saw what looked like the farmer's wife at the wheel. He was probably out in the field running the harvester as she hauled the produce to town.


From Iowa, we headed into Wisconsin (state number 10)...


We enjoyed some great back roads and more leisurely motoring, and the fuel mileage went right up. It's a nice feeling to be seeing more hills and folliage. From Wisconsin, we rolled into state number 11...


It was no joy motoring through the Chicago area. Lots of traffic and construction, and for some reason the GPS sent us through miles and miles of small city streets such as this...


Maybe I told it that we wanted to go through Chicago, and it chose some aribitrary point in the middle of the city.

But soon we were able to leave Illinois behind, and head into state number 12...


And then up into state number 13...


I've never gone on a long road-trip like this with a fixed time to be at a destination. Usually, when I'm on my trusty motorcycle, Gertrude, I don't even know where I'm going each day, let alone when I'll get there. In this case, I arbitrarily chose 400 miles as a daily target, and planned the trip around that. I think next time, I would plan somewhat less, maybe 350 miles, with a rest day once in a while, allowing more time for back roads and unscheduled stops to investigate things. I suspect the second half of this trip, when there isn't a fixed return time, we will log a few less miles per day.

I forgot to mention earlier, but one day in Montana, we were passed by a pickup with a dead buffalo in the back, feet sticking up in the air. That's a first for me. Would have been interesting to see how they got it into and out of the truck.

The weather has warmed some, and our heater has returned to light clanging, so our days in the Morris have been more comfortable.

We're near Notre Dame at the moment (back into Indiana from Michigan), passing the giantTire Rack building a few miles ago. Most impressive. We're having a good time, and keeping our fingers crossed that the Morris will continue to give us good service. We're about 2,600 miles from home so far.


Heading down the road, pretty soon we find ourselves in state number 14...


You're probably wondering if I'm going to bore you with 48 of these pictures. Well, I guess the answer is yes if we get to them and don't crash or get run over trying to get the pictures. But you might want to keep going through them if you want to see how we break down later on today. How's that for a teaser? And just think, you're about a third done with them anyway, it's not that bad.

Here we are with state number 15...


I wonder if there will be any renaming going on later...

Sandusky Ave

So, here's some info on the break-down. We head out in the morning, fill up with gas, and hit the turnpike. Pretty soon as we get up to cruising speed, it starts coughing and missing. As time goes on, we need to go slower and slower to keep it running. This is on the toll-way turnpike where if you break down there's no place to go, and they probably tow you off right away. So we change the GPS to avoid freeways and soon are headed into small roads. Finally we see a parts store and park out in the parking lot to investigate.


It turned out to be a plugged fuel filter. Even though I had installed this filter just recently, it was full of little rusty flakes. I guess the gas tank has rust in it, and the problem has been made worse by running it low so many times. In any case, a new filter got us going again. I suspect I better get a spare, I can see this happening again during this trip. What a relief that it was an easy fix.

Back on the road again, we headed into state number 16...

New York

We are in New York tonight, in Jamestown. Upstate New York is a nice place to be.

The last several states have been beautiful as we return to green grass and autumn leaves. This part of the country rivals New England in that regard. It's also been interesting to note that as we leave the Mid-West, the anti-abortion and Romney/Ryan signs are starting to be replaced by a smattering of Obama signs. We also see more and more foreign cars, and construction equipment other than Deere/Cat, such as Kumatsu and Kobelco. Fun to see such diversity in our lands.

I'll let you know how things are going later on!

Brian / Dad

Hello all, I'm back to waste a little more of your time, if you're willing.


We headed from Jamestown NY this morning with clear skies and ice on everything. Fortunately, the heater is still in the light-clanging mode, so we had some heat.

It's been about four thousand miles on this engine, so I figured I better do an oil change on the Morris. I used sophisticated automotive facilities to do the job...

Oil Change

Of course you can be assured that I found an ecology-friendly way to dispose of the old oil. There won't be a trace of it in a couple thousand years.

We headed across NY enjoying the beautiful scenery, stopping along the way to visit some historic towns along the way. Before we knew it, we were in state #17...


Unfortunately, it was starting to get dark as we motored to a hotel, but in a small back-road town, we came across the home of Hemmings Motor News. They have a gas station, memorabilia shop, and the publishing office at this site...



I might mention that you don't want to assume that hotel rooms will be available and cheap in Vermont this time of year, especially on weekends. While others ramp down rates after Labor Day, they probably increase them here. Surprisingly, we've run into room shortages all along the way. Maybe the economy isn't as bad is we think.


We're off in the rain this morning. But it's warm (in the 50s).

Soon we're in state number 18...

New Hampshire

and then to state number 19...


We've made it to USA corner number two! Hopefully the next corner will be Florida. Of course we couldn't leave Maine without a nice seafood meal...

Maine Foodtime

After Maine, we're off to state number 20...


Driving through Boston reminded me of the ill-fated Sprite quest that Mark and I made from here a few years back. Most of you have probably read the story on my web page. I certainly hope that being in the same area, but with a different Brit-car, doesn't trigger the same sort of problems.

Then to state 21...

Rhode Island

But wait, there's also another state (#22) in today's travels...


It's been fun rumbling along in Connecticut. Tonight, we're near Bridgeport, the birthplace of my beloved milling machine.

Another nice thing about New England is the chain "Friendly's" which makes terrific ice-cream treats. When you get into this area, give them a try. When we visited here several years ago, we decided that we would just have a Friendly's treat every day for lunch, rather than a real lunch, and it would work out that we wouldn't gain weight. Sounds good in theory, but it didn't work. Fun though.


We're a little nervous starting out today, knowing that we're going to be on busy roads headed through the New York City area. Chris has figured out a plan that will skirt some of the busiest areas of the city. As well as being good company, she's busy much of the day fine-tuning the route, figuring out where we will stay and getting reservations, and helping me navigate through the busier areas.

As we skirted the city, but not too far, we found very nice scenery on the parkway. You can see why they call it a parkway...


And soon we were in state #23...

New Jersy

Pretty soon, we came across Morristown, not far away from our planned travels. Now how could we resist that? As I tried to get near the sign at the entry of town, I was the victim of blasting car horns, so had to keep moving, but did the best I could to gather an appropriate photo or two...

Morris Museum

Morristown Fire Dept

As you can see on this next picture, the rain was picking up as we entered state number 24...


Oregon, Montana, New Hampshire, Alaska and Delaware are the five no sales-tax states.

In these smaller states, you can hit several in a day, this being our state number 25...


We've made our way across Maryland today, spending the night on its west edge, Cumberland. Beautiful city and surrounding area. It's a lot wider state than I realized, stretching over the top of West Virginia all the way to Kentucky.

So, we're still cooking along seeing new things and enjoying ourselves. Next report I'll try to fill you in on how our trusty Morris is surviving the trip, and hopefully give you a map of our route.

Until then!

Brian /Dad

Hello -

Well, by now you're probably thinking that these will never end, but I'm still typing just in case you're still reading.


We head out from our Cumberland Maryland hotel on an overcast, but dry day. Heading west, we are just astounded by the beauty of this area. The autumn colors and long views keep us telling each other "look at that!" all day. Pictures just don't begin to capture the views or brilliance of the colors...

Colorful Scene

And soon we're in state number 26...

West Virginia

We enjoy the same beauty, and some very nice folks along the way. Prices are good too, gas is now $3.50 a gallon (was about $4.10 when we left Seattle, down to about $3.80 in the middle of the country, then back up to about $4.10 in the NE). Price of meals down here are very reasonable as well.

Continuing east, the next state (#27) is...


Which is also known for...

Hatfield and McCoy

And then to state #28...


The scope of this trip prevents us from spending anywhere near the amount of time we should everywhere we are, but it's still great to spend our days taking all this in.

It seems like anywhere we stop, folks want to chat about the Morris, and we get numerous thumbs up every day from passing cars, and phones/cameras snapping pictures as they pass. This quirky old car seems to brighten a lot of people's days as they see it.

Tonight we're in Bristol VA, which spans both Virginia and Tennessee. Look for another state picture real soon! This is where one of the musicians I enjoy, David Massengill, grew up, and some of his folk songs are about this area.


As you might suspect, first thing in the morning, we cross the bridge to state #29...


I couldn't help but be reminded of my first trip to Tennessee forty some years ago when I drove Route 66 from LA (boot camp) to Memphis for Navy electronics training. I'm glad I got to take that historic highway before it was mostly gone.

As we pass through this part of the country, we see churches everywhere. In fact, I'll bet there are more churches here than there are espresso stands in the Seattle area, or taverns in Wisconsin.

The Morris is starting to have a vibration in the steering at higher speeds. I stopped at a tire store to see about rebalancing the front tires, but he shows me that the tread is starting to cup on them, and that's likely the vibration since it didn't do it earlier on the trip. He didn't have time to address it, so we headed down the road to see if we could find some new front tires. With the new rims I installed just before the trip, the front tires are also rubbing the fender lip sometimes and making bad sounds when turning and hitting a bump, so it would also be an advantage to go one size narrower. The factory tires are something like 145s, and I had mounted 185s. The first place we went by with an empty tire department was a WalMart (sorry Chief!). According to regulations, they wouldn't mount 175s on the front since I had 185s on the back - they had to match the other tires on the car. The only way I could make it work was to remove and hand-carry the old wheels/tires in. So, back on the ground I am.

Tire change

My Corvette, from the factory, has wheels an inch larger in diameter and a couple inches wider on the rear than the front. I guess I won't be getting new tires for it here. Against regulations.

But it all worked out in the end, and I was worried about them installing wheels anyway. These cars have small 3/8" studs, which are easily broken if attacked with an impact wrench typically used in tire places. Mark and I learned that in Montana on our earlier ill-fated Sprite quest.

There's still a little vibration left, but it's better. Cars that are this light can be very sensitive to tire roundness and balance. Good enough not to worry about unless it gets worse. And the fender interference is gone.

After a few hours of driving, we arrive at our destination state, which is number 30.

North Carolina


We have some time to enjoy not driving until Chris flies out tomorrow (Friday), and brother-Mark flies in later on Friday to join me for the second shift of this trip. Then Tom's Woody party is Saturday. While I'm looking forward to Mark's arrival, I'm going to miss having Chris along. Even after almost thirty-five years of being married, we can be together all day and all night without conflicts and enjoying our time - we're lucky that way.

In case you're interested, this is the journey as planned and half-way implemented...


The box with #19 (right behind #18) is Tom's Woody party, and we will have traveled a tad over 5,000 miles in the trusty old Morris. Hitting the other eighteen states and getting home should be about another 4,500 miles, so we're over half way there by both counts. The return trip could be about three hundred miles shorter, but I want to visit Jim Harrell in SC on the way. We've been good email buddies for a long time, and want to meet in person.

How's the Morris Woody doing you might wonder. Well, the answer is surprisingly well. There's a few more groans and squeaks now, particularly from the roads in the northeast. A couple of times, we hit road damage that caused the steering wheel center cap to be jarred out of place and into my lap. Poor little Morris. Otherwise, we haven't used any oil, and all is well other than the items already mentioned. The old SU carburetors still seem to be in good sync (good as when I tuned them, in any case). The speedometer has slowly been changing. When we started, it was reading about 2 MPH slower than the actual speed, now its about 10% faster. Doesn't matter much though, the GPS also reads out the speed, so we always have a cross-check. Once in a while, there's a groan from the differential that worries me some. I found a replacement on eBay and it is being shipped to Tom for pickup at the Woody party. If the original fails, I should be able to change it in a parking lot (done it several times before on my Morris'/Sprites - same diff). Good to be prepared for this, since the only way to find one is used, and it's heavy enough to be very expensive to ship fast even if you find one.

I packed a few tools along, and as spares I have a front wheel bearing, a rear wheel bearing, a spare axle, and the gaskets needed to replace it or the differential - same gaskets needed. So far so good!

You likely won't hear from me for a few days now. Probably be about next Tuesday or Wednesday before I waste more of your time. I guess you'll have to find an alternate - how about trying to find a TV channel without election ads?


Brian / Dad

Hello friends and family -

Hopefully I've given you the breather you need in order to tolerate yet another of these emails.


I'm near Charlotte, staying in Gastonia at the moment. Yesterday Chris and I rested up, toured around this very nice, modern city, and visited an antique shop in an old part of town This is a day for running errands and doing odds and ends. Chris flew out this morning. I'm sure she will find a very appreciative kitty at home that wants some company. This afternoon, I found a shady spot, and waxed and cleaned the Morris in preparation for Tom's show tomorrow. Between the bugs and the rain and mud, he was looking pretty tough.

Mark flew in tonight, and after just retiring from a long career of engineering fire sprinkler systems, a sign in our hotel room reminded him that you never stop learning...

Sprinkler Warning


Car show day at last! We did some last minute cleaning of the Morris prior to heading for the show, but first we needed to rescue a broken down car in the parking lot...

Bail out Toyota

Imagine this, a 55-year-old British car bailing out a new Toyota. Might be a first.

As we motored up through the beautiful country road to the party, first we encountered this sign...

Regular Cars

And then this sign...

Cool Cars

Tom was nice enough to save a spot in a prime location in honor of our long drive out...

Front Row

Car Show

And Tom's Woody party, well it's just almost too good to describe. We were surrounded by at least 100 cars, parked around the lawns of Tom's beautiful country estate. There were rare old Woodys, several original Cobras, a row of Shelby Mustangs, Ferraris, MGs, Jaguars, vintage motorcycles. All surrounded by a bunch of really nice people to chat with. I took so many pictures, I can't even begin to share but a fraction of the activity with you. Tom provided a full barbequed lunch and a wide variety of beverages. Admission is a case of food that is donated to a shelter, and his event generated a lot of food for the cause. I hope the the folks who get our donation like Spam.

Here are a few pictures...

Shelby Row

Triumph Silver

Woody with trailer

Green Woody



Green Woody

Was A Tree

Here's Mark next to Tom's Cobra...

Mark with Tom's Cobra

And then there was"Barn Find Row"....

Barn finds

This was lurking in an old Porsche....


Barn find row is significant, since Tom has written several books with this topic, "A Cobra in the Barn," "A Vincent in the Barn," "A Corvette in the Barn," and so on.

And I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, it was well worth the 5,000 mile drive. We were even rewarded with a round of applause as we left. In spite of being in the company of many high-roller cars, the quirky old Morris was well appreciated.


We headed south, but I'll save the story of that for later. It was a good day, but I don't want to overload you!



Hello once more. Sorry that this is late and long, but I've had some computer issues the last couple of nights.

Mark and I rolled out of Tom's area on Sunday morning, heading for Charleston - a place I've never visited.

On the way, I needed to feed my caffeine addiction, so we stopped by a Krispy Kreme for a cup of coffee. I asked the guy at the counter how he stayed thin working there. His response: "I don't eat none of this stuff." Maybe his career won't be in sales, but he's smart.

We also noticed on a sign at a gas station showing name-brand cigarettes were about $3.50 a pack. I think they are more like $6.50 a pack in Washington. Evidently, because of the tobacco industry here, there is no excise tax. Interesting to see how local economies protect themselves.

We wanted to visit Jim Harrell, who's been a friend via email for a long time, and as a person who has spent his life building award-winning cars and bikes, is someone who's opinion on all things mechanical, I take very seriously.

We crossed border number 31 on the way...

South Carolina

We met Jim and his wife Karon at their very nice home in Mt. Pleasant SC - just north of Charleston. Jim had some of his cars in the driveway that we were able to check out...

Jim in Driveway

Jim and I met from our common interest in Morris'. Jim is building a super nice Morris Woody, and also has been designing and fine-tuning a three wheeler conversion for his Harley that leans through the corners. He's one of those people who can envision a new idea and implement it with style. A friend of Jim's, who also has a Morris Woody, came to visit and chat as well. On the way to lunch, we had our own classic car tour as we followed Jim and Karon through town in their very nice Austin Healey 3000...

Drive to town

Jim and Karon took us out to a nice lunch overlooking the Atlantic and the in-land waterway, then a tour through historic Charleston. Being a history buff, Karon's description of the area was better than we could have had with any professional tour guide.

Here's where founder of Piggly Wiggly resided. While I haven't seen any in the west in the last few years, it's a major chain in the south (over 600 stores). There are ornamental pigs on each side of the entry...

Piggly Wiggly Estate

Behind Mark and I to the right (out of sight) is Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the civil war were fired. Behind us to the left is the beautiful Arthur Ravenel Bridge. This is in the historic Battery district of Charleston.

Mark and Brian

There are palatial historic homes wherever you look in this area...


And this is for you Chris. See, I think about things other than cars sometime. But the cart does have wheels. Turns out that Karon is a horse-lover too. Sorry, Jim.

Horse and buggy

We ran out of time and had to leave these very nice people who hosted us...

Jim and Karon


After leaving Charleston, we headed south towards Savannah. On the way, we hit state number 32...


We started to take some back roads, and soon we were in cotton country. This shot shows some bales and stacks of cotton in a cotton field...


I hesitate to mention this to those of you in Oregon/Washington, but it's a nice clear day with temperatures in the low eighties. We told each other that rain and a cooler temperature would be really nice. Or something like that.

And one can't forget that Georgia is the peach state, although the peach orchards didn't have any peaches this time of year. But, that doesn't mean there aren't peanuts...


We tried eating some raw, and they aren't that far from those in the store. Just a little chewy, and no salt of course.

And when you think of peanuts in Georgia, who can forget...

Plains Georgia

Here's a tractor in downtown Plains (a very small town, looks about the same when you peer the other direction), hauling a load of peanuts...

Peanut Hauling

The Carters live just down the road, but of course it's protected by the secret service, and you can't enter.

Soon we're in state number 33...


We can't help but think of My Cousin Vinny while we're here, and avoid breaking any laws in AlaF...ingBama.

The area is filled with beautiful old historic buildings...

Old Alabama Building

I appreciate how folks down here treat everyone with respect via "Sirs" and "Maams". Wish that wouldn't have disappeared from most parts of the country.


The breakfast nooks here have something we don't find in the northwest...


Before we know it, we're in state #34...


Then state #35...


We wandered down to the gulf coast in Biloxi. What could be a more fitting shot of the Woody, just needs a surf-board...

Biloxi - gulf coast

There was a small amount of oil residue from the BP spill (the dark stuff in the sand), along with a lot of bamboo by the shore that was evidently used to soak up the oil. A couple there said that the oil residue was no worse than that at Santa Barbara...

Oil Residue

Soon we were in state number #36...


And found a giant hand in the sky, saying "come this way..."

Hand in sky

Tonight we're in Baton Rouge. We've had a good day of back roads, seeing nice country, and meeting nice people.


Mark had the good idea that we should go through Alexandria Louisiana, where a reality show we both like originates, Cajun Pawn Stars.

They were filming a segment while we were there, and in spite of the no-cameras in the store policy, I took a couple. We're up in the balcony looking down at the action...

Cajun Pawn Stars

If this one gets aired, it will be about a poster they made with paint explosions and the like, and it is about to be rolled down from the balcony on the far side. The director, Brian (facing magazine rack with white shirt), provides a lot of input about how it is staged, and there are lots of retakes. Fortunately, the shop staff has lots of patience.

As we left, we find that they had discovered our Woody out in the parking lot, and loved it. Here's a very nice gal whom we had chatted with inside...

Cute Gal

Pretty soon more and more people from the shop were out enjoying looking at it.

Cajun Group

Jimmy, the shop owner (back to us, wife Peggy on his left), really twisted my arm to sell it to him. He promised he would keep it perfect, drive it to work every day and park it right out of the front door. But, no deal for me - I love it. Jimmy and I took a spin in it (he was surprised how well it drives), then he had one of the professional photographers there take a picture of he and I in front of it. Cool!

Cajun Jimmy

The car gathers interest most every where we go, and a common question down in this part of the counrty is "what that be?"

We're in Shreveport tonight, heading north towards Arkansas in the morning. Retirement is wonderful.



Hello once more.

Well, we're still at it, even though this is the eighth report. Hope this number doesn't get too big, or it will be Thanksgiving. I promise you I won't let the number exceed 10.


Today, we moved on to state #37...


Then #38...


And to #39, it's a big day for new states!


We stopped tonight in Joplin MO.

After traveling through three states today, here are the interesting things we experienced...

< This spot intentionally left blank >

Seriously though, we traveled on side roads and enjoyed nice rolling hills, getting into more trees as we headed north, and met some nice people along the way.


Didn't take long this morning before we arrived at state number 40...


When was the last time you saw this price at the pumps?

Cheap gas

Down the road, we saw regular going for $2.99. Across the country, even though gas prices changed a lot, diesel was pretty consistent at about $4.00 through $4.10 a gallon. Who would have ever thought we would think $2.99/gallon was dirt cheap?

State number 41 rolled into sight...


As the day went by, the Morris rear end started doing more and more grinding as we released the throttle. Being as we will be in the mountains soon, we figured that it would be good to do it before final failure and have to fix it in some bad place in bad weather with no parts around. Well, we couldn't change the weather, but we did find a place to park and do the job in Oklahoma City. It was cold (40s) and very windy. You can see how we used sophisticated chocks for the front wheels. It looks like a picture from "The Berenstain Bears Fix Cars."

Replacing Differential

A few hours later it was back in business with less clank and grind activity. Not perfect, but way better. Since I blindly bought the used differential on eBay, it well could have been bad.

Chris - you will be glad to know that I stopped at a GoodWill and bought a sweat shirt and jacket for this. Nice to have extra warmth and padding, as well as having a $2 jacket to get all greasy. Does this make up for dumping all my regular clothes into one load at the motel? Does the song "They call me Mister Blue" mean anything to you?

Tonight we're back in Texas, a few miles from the east side of the panhandle.


Texas is full of Christians and NRA members. When you mix these, you get bumper stickers like this...

Bumper Sticker

After a couple hundred miles of boring Texas pan-handle, we enter state #42...

New Mexico

Doesn't look all that enchanting from this view. But getting across the plains isn't very interesting where ever you cross. I've been across on them on the southern route, the northern route, and the Canadian route, and they are all about the same. Mark whiled away some time doing Sudoku and occasionally "resting his eyes."

What was kind of interesting was watching the altitude. I'd never thought of Texas/New Mexico being very high, but we spent most of the day at altitudes between 4,000 and 7,300 feet. As we headed north out of Albuquerque, we started to see trees, rock formations and beautiful mesas. Nice to be back into this kind of country. Tonight we are in a little town in northwest New Mexico, a few miles west of the continental divide.

Part of our travels today involved roads that were previously Route 66. Here's our cheery Morris by one of the better known cafes of the old route...

Route 66

When we refilled our gas tank beside the road a few miles back, we looked up to find a couple of cowboys. I think they enjoyed looking at us as much as we did them.

Herding Cows

Chris, isn't it nice of those smart cows to lead the horses and the cowboys to their destination?

You might be wondering how the Morris is doing. Really well is the answer. We're a little over 8,000 miles into the journey, and he's still humming along fine. We're getting mileage in the low thirties, not using any oil or water (not even checking them anymore), and even the heater fan has stopped clanking. Which is good, because it was 21 degrees when we left our hotel this morning, and up to about 23 by late morning. With a few extra layers of clothes, we're comfortable. I'm actually starting to get a little cocky about the reliability. Now, instead of hoping we will get to our next destination, I actually expect to get there. Today, we even made our hotel reservation from several hundred miles away. I hope that by mentioning this, our luck won't change.

In any case, all is well on the road, and we're looking forward to more time in the Rockies.



Hello once more. This is what you've all been waiting for - the last report of our venture! The end of this twaddle.


We motored north from New Mexico and soon we were in state #43...


Then, heading west, we were in state #44...


Actually, we saw a fancier sign, but it doesn't say "welcome to..." so I knew Gary would give me grief if I only showed this one...


Right next to the welcome sign is this. This reminded us to fill the gas tank in the next town.


Then on to state #45...


The list of remaining states is getting short, but there are still a lot of miles to go.

You might be able to read the elevation of 4,980 feet. We spent the day going up and down between about 3,000 feet and 8,300 feet. Our trusty Morris did fine on all the hills, but we weren't doing a lot of passing other than the odd semi. Fortunately there wasn't much wind today. Climbing the mountains earlier with heavy headwinds, our mileage dipped down into the mid 20's. Back up to the low thirties today.

As we headed across the back-roads, we spent most of the day saying "Look at that!" with scenes such as this...

Utah Scenery

Utah Scenery

Utah Scenery

This is one of the most beautiful spots in our nation, and there are few people this time of year. If you haven't traveled these parts, do it!

We had to stop at one point for a herd of cattle being herded down the road by some cowboys...

Cows in road

We ended up tonight in Delta Utah after a long but great day of motoring.


We got an early start, and headed west into state #46 (the sign is littered with stickers)...


At the line, we went in for a cup of coffee. It was about 7:30, AM and folks were still gambling. It didn't look like they were having a great time to me.

We happened across an RV park that was a big pile of sand for dune-buggies. The average dune buggy was something like this, sporting a Chevy V8. We were told that one of them cost about $125k, so this hobby can abuse about any level budget. I can imagine that this would be a lot of fun.

Dune Buggy

As we rolled past Fallon Nevada late in the day, we started hearing a noise that sounded like coarse pavement or a flat tire. We investigated, and found one rear wheel bearing had gone bad, and there was a lot of oil running out of the housing on the other side. Fortunately I had brought an extra bearing, but not a spare axle housing. The axle housing is the big welded-steel piece that runs across the back of the car, with the wheels on the end, and the differential in the middle. Not the sort of thing you carry as a spare. I installed the new bearing so that we could drive it again, although not for long since it was leaking a lot of oil from the other side, and even some from this side.

New rear bearing

While we were deciding how to deal with this, I put an ad on CraigsList asking if anyone around the area had a Morris rear axle assembly for sale, and explained we were in some trouble while traveling. We did a lot of pondering that evening about our options. It didn't look like we were going to make it far before total failure. And we were still many miles from home, with two states to go on our quest for all 48.


Someone responded to my CraigsList ad late last night, and said I should call a guy named Bruce Blair, and gave me his number. So, I waited until 7:15 this morning to call so I wouldn't wake him up. I figured that it was a long shot that he could help us. But luckily, Bruce said he worked on Morris', had about a dozen of them, and best yet, that he'd be happy to set aside other things in his life to help a fellow Morris owner in distress. He lived about 60 miles away, between Reno and Carson City. We jumped into the Morris, and headed his way, leaving two huge puddles of oil (one under each rear side), hoping that it would make it that far - things are looking grim. If we got lost, we probably could have followed our oil trail back.

When we got a couple miles down the road, we started hearing a terrible screeching sound. We tried to figure out where to pull over, and which side it was coming from. Then Mark, who can still hear some, said "Good news, it's the heater!". A few seconds later it spun its last revolution. No biggie when we have more serious problems - we have lots of clothes to wear.

We made it over to Bruce's, and he turned out to be a super guy. We were so lucky! He already had an axle housing partly stripped down for us. We spent the day working with him and did the deed. It turned out that the axle housing was seriously cracked on both ends, and actually bent as a result. The new bearing was already cracked. We were very lucky to make it as far as we did. And to think that the day before we did about 460 miles at 60-70 MPH, going through the mountains.

Here's one end of the axle housing, this is where the mounting pad should be, but its mostly rusted off, and instead there's a giant crack...

Bad axle housing

It wasn't a design flaw, it's a result of 55 years of rust destroying the spring stanchions, so the U-bolts were bearing down on the rusty round part of the axle, overstressing it. We had also hit a significant speed-bump the day before that may have contributed.

Here's Bruce, with a little disbelief as we survey the damage...

Assessing Damage

You know Bruce has serious Morris afflictions when you see the pond in front of his house...

Morris in Pond

I missed meeting him this year at the All British Field Meet in Bellevue, where he won first place with his beautifully restored Morris Million, a rare special model built to honor the millionth Morris Minor built. They only built 350 of them, with only a small fraction of that reaching the US. Bruce also has a Morris van, pickup, convertible, and several sedans. Each very interesting in the way they are restored or modified.

Here he is giving me a lesson in differential repair. I learned a lot today. In the foreground is the Jaguar XK-120 he's restoring. Major work will be required to bring this project home, but after seeing other restoration work he has done, I'm sure he's up to it.

Differential Lesson

Here's some of the collateral damage from the failed axle housing. This bearing only has 60 miles on it, but couldn't deal with the bend of the axle housing caused by the crack/rust.

Bad bearing

Not only was Bruce incredibly competent and fun to work with, he also had a bone-yard and some new spares for some of the odd bits and pieces necessary to get us going. I don't know what we would have done had we not had the stroke of luck of finding Bruce.

I didn't get a good close-up shot of Bruce, but thought that you should have one in case you're lucky enough to run into him one day, so he provided this creative shot that any Morris buff would appreciate - it's a self-portrait taken in the reflection of a black Morris van, with a Morris pick-up in the background...

Bruce Blair

=Tuesday evening =

After a long day working with Bruce, we headed out about 4:30, going through downtown Reno and up highway 395 to Susanville. Here's state #47...


Our luck continued in Susanville, as we were worried about getting a room this late. Nick Frezza had earlier told us about the webside TripAdvisor as a good way of finding decent hotels at different price levels. We pulled off the road and used TripAdvisor to find a highly rated inexpensive hotel on-line, then looked up and there it was right across the street from where we pulled over, and a VACANCY sign was lit. Our lucky day continued.

It's been a big last day and a half, and I'm ready for my evening Jack Daniels!


A quick check under the Morris this morning yielded ZERO leaks. Yahoo.

We motored off and in a couple hours we won the all-state jackpot, #48...


Shortly after reaching Oregon, the rain started, and it got colder. Our now-dead heater wasn't there to help us, so we bundled up, and pulled out some towels to clear the windshield fogging. We made it up to The Dalles tonight. It was fun going through the small eastern-Oregon towns along the way and seeing halloween trick-or-treaters.


The last leg of this fun journey began as we rolled into Wahington. I've already included Washington in our state count, but so that you have a complete, valuable collection now of the 48 "Welcome to..." signs, here it is:


We were reminded about high nice our part of the country is too, as we motored along...

Washington scenery

We've spent most of the trip away from the freeways, and we continued to do so in Washington. We saw a sign saying that Chinook Pass was still open (surprised us), so we decided to head over the mountains that way. As we drove along, the altitude went up and up until we were at about 5,400 ft. As we neared the top, we saw a snow-plow sitting beside the road, with the driver waiting to go to work. Meanwhile the GPS kept telling us to make a U-turn, with its data-base thinking that it should be closed by now. But we made it to the top...

Snow in WA

About now, we were thinking that it sure would be nice if that heater would spring back into life, but no miracle caused that.

After dropping Mark off, I rolled into our driveway late this afternoon.

Total mileage for the trip was 9,590 miles. It took 27 days, four of which weren't spent traveling (two extra days on the way saved for a repair we didn't need, the day of the woody party, and the day of "fixin" at Bruce's). So we averaged about 415 miles a day while traveling.

The mechanical issues on the trip were a plugged fuel filter (rust from tank), heater fan (it's been heating for 55 years - cut it some slack!), and the rear axle. The axle problems were from it being old and rusted in critical areas, can't blame the designers for that. It didn't help that the Traveller was heavily loaded with people, luggage, tools, and extra spare parts and gas.

After all these days on the road, I'd be happy to keep going. Makes me realize that in some ways, we haven't made all that much progress since the Morris Minor was designed in 1948. Other than missing modern air-conditioning, it was comfortable and pleasant to drive. Too bad that our legislators won't let us buy a car like this today. It could probably sell for less than $10,000 and have maintenance and operating costs that are a fraction of today's cars, yet handle 90% of our transportation needs just fine.

As you can tell, I'm as enamored with my little Morris Minor as before the trip. I'm already thinking that the 49th state isn't all that far away, but too late this year.

Thanks for taking this journey with me!




Here's some information about the mechanical issues that showed up during the trip.

The heater problem turned out to be the wires running from the fan-switch inside the heater. They were hitting the fan, and the fan eventually won the battle. Had I known that the problem was that simple, I could have fixed it along the road. But even after I fixed it once I got home, there was still a meager amount of heat, so I installed a new, more powerful heater. Details of this are on my web site.

The vibration from the front turned out to be a worn front wheel hub. There was clearance between the bearing race and the hub, allowing the wheel about 1/4" of movement at the outside diameter of the tire. A junk-yard hub replacement cured that.

The speedometer error was cured with a rebuild of the speedometer by Speedometer Intrument and Repair in Portland. I got that speedometer at a swap meet, and the previous owner probably sold it for a reason! But the repair cost was fair, $100 including shipping.

With these items taken care of, the Woody is ready for another road-trip!