AMC Road a Cavalier.....ewwwww (2004)

Last week I got a call from a old AMC friend he wanted to sell a load of
stuff in Waco, TX, and I decided to buy it and partially trade too. I really
didn't know how to get it all back, so decided to rent a car instead of
using one of my AMCs for the road trip.

I rented a Chevy Cavalier for the gas mileage, and it would have no problem
holding the parts either. For some odd reason we had three 'cool fronts' in
Texas here in August, unheard of, with temps in the 60s at night and 80s in
the day, and a north wind. Quite a change from the usual upper 90s in
Aug/Sept. This morning got up at 7:30 and headed over to pick up the rental
car, driving my 69 SC/Rambler wago, which I parked on I-10 in front of the
Hertz place, prominently facing I-10. I was surprised at the amount of
pickup the little Chevy had, and a quick drive thru Burger King and a stop
for a map and I was gone.

It was a great day for a road trip too, nice north wind and temps in the
upper 60s, windows down as I headed up 290 towards 6, which would take me
past Texas A&M and thru Bryan/College Station, lots of new road work up
there, could not believe the explosion of housing and buildings. Before
hitting BCS, I passed thru Navasota, which has a nice little country drag
strip. The Chevy hummed at 70-80mph and if you have ever been thru some of
the 'hill country'
this time of year, it's really nice, lots of antique shops, tons of old cars
sitting in people's barns, or behind their houses, old abandoned gas rustic
gas stations, and lots of pecan trees heavy with paper thin pecans ready to

Houston was 1 1.2 hours behind me now as I sailed along this route, which I
had not been thru before, but looked like on the map it was the shortest
distance between Houston and Waco. It's sad to see some small towns left
behind by time like Calvert, north of Hearne. Hearne still has a railroad
going thru the middle of it and appears that has kept it going. No so for
Calvert, with many old buildings long since forgotten, every now and then
you would see one someone had decided to take a chance on and open a antique
shop or sell fresh picked fruits, vegetables, but most appears to have been
used in some form for agriculture, which is huge business here in Texas,
especially so close to A&M.

My next stop was a town called Marlin, TX. It's at the junction of Hiway 6
and Hiway 7. Nice little town with some good looking buildings that were
probably built around the turn of the century, some Victorian houses too,
like what you see a lot of in Galveston. I stopped at a small Exxon minimart
and bought a Coke and well, a Lotto, figuring I was in a AMC town headed to
pick up AMC parts. I'll let everyone know how I did tonight with that
ticket. I thought for just a moment that maybe I should have driven my 68
Rebel convertible 'Machine' on such a nice day. But gas mileage would have
killed me, and well, last time I did a road trip like that I ended up with a
nasty sunburn, insisting on keeping the top down.

Something I have gotten really good at thru the years is spotting old cars.
Just west of Marlin headed towards Chilton was a rare 77 Pontiac Grand Am,
you know, the ones witht he 455cid and Pontiac quit making them when the
spoiler machine broke, so only 1200 or so cars made. Past Chilton, guess
what, another same car sitting in high weeds near some old Ford trucks whose
hard work on the rolling acres had long since ground to a halt. All could
have been restored, maybe great parts car, but who do you ask about the cars
as there was no house, gate, anything. I see a lot of cars like this on back
roads of Texas.

There was a tiny town called Mooreville I barely had time to know it was
there except the speed limit dropped from 70, to 55, to 40 thru it, and then
it was in the rear view mirror. Ahead was a pleasant surprise too, another
small town called Eddy. There was several old houses with what looked like
40s/50s Buicks, maybe Plymouths sitting up, the houses appeared to have not
been lived in for decades with vines, trees and fallen down rooftops. I-35
appeared out of nowhere and I had to turn right towards Waco. Nice place on
the right there in Bruceville with tons of cement statues, I thought about
stopping to pick up a St. Francis De Assisi for my garden in back where my
dog Max, who died May 1st at 7 years of age, is buried, but I didn't want to
go several miles up I-35 to turn around either, so I'll have to wait and get
a statue here in Houston.

After a quick visit with my AMC buddy, I was back on the road within 30
minutes. I had driven from Houston to Waco in only 3 hours, not bad. For
those of you who have ever driven I-35 between Dallas and San Antonio it is
a real crappy interstate, tons of big trucks, headed to and from the Mexican
border. Hard to spot cars as you have to keep your eyes on the road, but
darned if you don't still pick some stuff out like in Lorena, a whole nest
of Volkswagens, at least 2 dozen of them, most in real nice shape at some
shop. Further down, in Troy, before you hit Temple, a sad Barracuda almost
covered in weeds, this is the type that had the huge back window, possibly
65-66. My dad used to tell me when those were new the rear glass was $600
then. In 1960s money. So here was one sitting there, I'm surprised some kids
hadn't chunked something thru it as kids are prone to do with old cars,
seems old cars sitting up are brick magnets for kids.

A small town named Prairie Dell was just a small sign with a few small
houses and buildings. Some were busy, seems that there are some dry counties
in that area, which don't sell alcohol, and so small places pop up right
over the county line and do a boom bang business to those who want a cold
one. A few miles down there was a sense of sadness as I drove thru Jarrell.
A couple of years ago there was a monster tornado which hit Jarrell, TX, it
was a F5, and winds were estimated at over 250mph, and it was wide. If you
ever remember the tv footage of it on the ground, traffic was stopping on
I-35 as people didn't know what to do with this monster looming miles away.
It was so strong it ripped up asphalt from the road and tore up foundations,
yes, cement foundations, pulled them up from the ground. I don't remember
how many people died, it was many however, and some stories you remember
like the dad and son who rushed to find his wife, then the whole family of 5
was killed. Not sure a community ever recovers from something like that. Sad
is that I remember Jarrell for one of the biggest tornados ever to hit
Texas. Looks like some development there which is good, maybe that will help
heal the wounds of what happened a few years ago. Not that anyone will ever
forget, who could forget a mile wide funnel of death.

Maybe it was a mistake to head back to Houston this way, but I have not been
thru here for awhile, and knew traffic would be tough, unlike the cruise up
there on backroads. Williamson county norht of Austin is one of the fastest
growing counties in Texas. Tons of roadwork, there were several big "Y"
already in place where soon the road would be dropped upon it, but in the
meantime, looked like some martian sculpture. Sure had been a lot of
development in that area, many malls, stores, and every feeder road was
jammed on I-35. My ex wife, the Blair Witch, lives in Round Rock, maybe I
should drop in and say hi. I would rather pick fleas off a camel's butt.
This area, immediately north of Austin, seesm to be growing the fastest. So
I headed south on 183, towards Bergstrom Airport on Austin's east side,
figuring I would avoid all that traffic on I-35 Austin is known for in the
central city. They have nothign on Houston it is a mess there. Looks like it
has been a mess for years and looks like it will be a mess for years to
come. I knew right then that the time I saved headed up on Hiway 6 would not
happen here. Down hiway 71 east of Austin there were a number of old car
specialty shops, and also old cars sitting up, and junkyards, my favorite.
But no time to stop either as I had to get the rental car back to Houston by
6:00pm, and traffic around Austin was no co operating either, especially at
many folk's lunchtime.

Lunchtime, boy, I wished I could have stopped at many of the small places,
diners, some even in original train cars, I saw, those places have the most
awesome chicken fried steak. And bar b que. You don't survive lon in Texas
in a small mom and pop place like that if you don't have good graze. Into
Bastrop and well, more traffic. Darn it, someone from Houston should go over
there and synchronize those traffic lights for those backwoods country folks
who aren't used to electricity much less cars much less boxes with red,
yellow and green lights in them. Eventuall there will be a bypass thru
there, which is good, so I don't have to look at their trailer parks. Over
more hills was Smithville, which was not much, a few gas stations and some
car dealerships. Car dealerships. I saw a number of smaller ones, mostly
with less than 200 cars on the lot. There a Dodge/Jeep sign, yes, red, white
and blue, you could tell they had altered it to remove the Eagle portion of
it years ago, and put a Mopar pentagram instead. These smaller dealerships
is what made American Motors so attractive to Renault in the late 1970's as
they wanted a foothold in the lucrative American car market. Too bad they
had crappy French cars to sell. But if you click on my website under "parts"
then click on "AMC Dealerships" I have a really nice array of dealerships
from all 50 states there and tons of photos of many dealerships from the 40s
thru 80s. But AMC had many dealerships just like this which might have sold
less than a dozen cars per calender year, but did good in servicing their,
and other models.

I wanted to go thru Business/71 into La Grange, many of you remember the ZZ
Top sone in the early 70s about it, where there was a whorehouse named The
Chicken Ranch many people frequented. This is a really nice town, beautiful
hills, some cliffs with red earth protruding from them, and every time I
have stopped there, really friendly people, but you will find that anywhere
in Texas, which is our motto 'the friendship state' not sure who or when
that was introduced. Elinger was a sign and a tree for a town, and then the
bypass thru Columbus and onto the I-10 East ramp towards Houston. It was on
this stretch of hiway 71 between Austin and Columbus that I saw at least a
dozen of those neat looking Dodge Magnum wagons. One sparkling new red one I
passed slowly and gave the thumbs up sign to had a small, maybe 3 inch long
'hemi' emblem on the fender. I wonder why Mopar didn't put a billboard on
them like some Barracuda and challengers that covered up the whole side,
that would be cool and you would know to back off in your rental Chevy

I-10 was less congested than I-35 which surprised me. I knew that from Sealy
ahead to well, that hurricane state on the east coast that I-10 is usually
under construction and there are barrels to hit. I joke with my wife Paige
all the time about those as they are actually called Paige Barrels, at least
that is what is stamped on them in Houston where we are no strangers to
those barrels. I hit one in my Rebel one night and knocked it at least 15
yards, a personal record. As you go thru Sealy, everyone remember that some
of the best pecan smoked bar b que I personally have ever eaten is at
Hinze's, which has only 2 locations, the other is in Wharton headed towards
Corpus Christi about 50 miles away. But this place has about 50 fixings like
potato salad, to green beans with ham hocks. What is funny to see is the
Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific engines will park on the tracks behind
the place while the crew goes into the place to eat. So if you think you can
judge a place's food by the amount of truckers parked there try a number of
massive diesel trains parked out back. When going thru this area, there is a
small town called San Felipe you need to watch out for, it's a speed trap
and everyone knows about it, they have no source of revenue so they simply
pop people on I-10.

I blew thru Brookshire, then Katy, and stopped at Eldridge in Houston to top
off the tank. It was a 459 mile trip and I had covered it in 6 hours, and
that included the 3 quick stops to buy a lotto and drink in Marlin, to pick
up the parts in Waco, and the quick stop in some nameless place on hiway 71
to buy another soda. Not bad I figured it would be at least 8 or so hours. I
had plenty of time to load up the 69 SC/Rambler wagon with all the stuff I
had lugged back. And had beat the rush hour traffic, even though I was only
headed inbound, I-10 is notorious on the Katy Freeway for backing up
something like 12-14 hours per day. You flush a toilet and it will back up.
So as I'm sitting at the corner of Kirkwood and I-10 on the eastbound feeder
road, I'm 3rd in line to turn left, towards Old Katy Road and well, only 1.5
miles from home. Some dumb lady in a new monte Carlo with big "3" decals on
the side of the car and some NASCAR decals ran the light and plowed into a
fellow with a smaller Jeep Cherokee. Both then hit the stop light pole. The
poor Jeep guy was bloodied up, and the lady was frantic, pointing towards
the light, probably trying to blame the poor Jeep guy. That is common. But
there were more than enough people there who stopped to help and were
witnesses who pulled into the Chevron and Shell to call 911 and see if
everyone aas ok, the Jeep looked totalled, the Monte Carlo was bent in
front, probably frame damage, it sure made a horrible sound when it
happened. Welcome to Houston. I turned to corner to head home and could not
believe what a nice road trip it had been. Paige was a little upset when I
opened the door, telling me that one of our kittens had died, and Noah had
taken off hsi diaper and threw in at the wall, of which there was poo poo in
it, so I made him clean up the room and I'll have to repaint the kid's room
north wall, looks something like those elephants paint at the Houston zoo
though, or a Andy Warhol painting. Hmmm...maybe I can let it dry and sell it
on ebay. I just buried the kitty too, but it had been sick. I told Paige to
go grab a beer as she obviously had a rough day, and I put the boys down for
a quick nap. Amazingly it will probably take me more than 6 hours to try to
even attempt to refold this road map. All in all, it was a really nice AMC
day, even in the 459 miles never saw not one AMC on the road or sitting up.