“Hoofin West”

It was time again, both my sons, Matt and Dan along with one of their friends, had landed summer jobs out west in Sun Valley Idaho.  After checking the map I found Sun Valley, Idaho to be a long 2400+ miles from Tallahassee Florida.

Three summers ago my oldest son Matt and I powered his ’65 Mustang west to Grandby Colorado for his summer job there.  Our spring ’99 trip would be similar, except we would gallop two Mustangs west.  Matt’s ’65 Stang, Blue Thunder and his friend Toby’s ’96 GT nicknamed White Lightening.

Both Steeds seemed ready, Matt’s had undergone extensive rebuilding since the last trip west with a complete changeover to a 4 speed transmission, new brakes on all 4 hoofs as well as new suspension front and rear.  Toby’s low mileage GT needed only an oil change and it was ready to travel.

The boys loaded both Stangs, first the trunks then the back seats.  Those guys had to take enough supplies and necessities for 5-6 months.  I watched as they packed portable TVs, radios, pillows, shoes, jackets and other belongings.

We had planned to leave Friday afternoon after the boy’s work and college exams with our first stop in Birmingham Alabama.  It was almost as if Matt’s ’65 Stang remembered the packing and preparation of three years earlier.

As we pulled away, Blue Thunder was in the lead with Matt driving and I as co-pilot.  Toby would follow in the ’96 GT with Dan my younger son as co-pilot.

We hoofed our way through Tallahassee and turned west onto I-10.  It was still hard to believe we were making this run again.

A first generation ’65 Mustang coupe and a fourth generation ’96 Mustang GT, both running V8s and stick shifts, both loaded for 6 months, Matt’s ’65 galloping west for the second time.

As Matt and I lead the way in Blue Thunder we were mindful of the White GT in the rear view mirror.  Toby and Dan and the ’96 GT seemed to be chopping at the bit to pass us.  I guess their respect for the early Stang and our experience was keeping them at bay.

The GT followed like an impatient young colt wanting to take the lead but forced to stay behind the stallion.

Our first stop in Alabama gave us an easy 300-mile journey for the first day.  We  planned to hit the trail early on Saturday our second day out with our goal set for Kansas City, several hundred miles away.

After a hefty “all you can eat breakfast” we raced north on the interstate with Blue Thunder in the lead.  The white GT still respectful of its place.  Both Stangs were in tandem, the GT cruising off our right rear quarter.  The weather was sunny with a perfect temperature in the 60-70s.  My eyes were mindful of both the road and the ’65 instrumentation.  The temp gauge reading just in the normal range where it would remain the entire trip.

We were hoofin along when all of a sudden Blue Thunder’s hood came ajar, WO!  thanks to the safety catch we were able to pull over and close the hood with out any problems.  After a few more repeats of the problem and some adjustments to the latch mechanism we were on our way again.  We figured the high speed driving was causing some vibrations on the old hood allowing it to work loose between 75-80.

The 4 speed and 4 barrel gave the ’65 Stang plenty of cruising power as we galloped steadily between 70-80 mph.

The miles clicked by with both Stangs aimed west, destination Salt Lake City, where I had a return flight scheduled back to Florida.

Saturday was our longest day.  We let out the reins and held the pedal to the metal letting the two stallions handle the trail west.  900+ miles later we finally had enough,  and pulled into Salena, Kansas.  We had succeeded in getting west fast in order to beat the bad weather we had heard about the night before in Alabama.

As we stabled the Stangs and bedded ourselves down we could hear the rain and thunder over head.  Sunday morning gave way to sun shine and a clear Kansas sky,(little did we know that two days from now some of the worst tornados in Oklahoma and Kansas history would create havoc on some of the interstate we had just traveled.

Our destination for Sunday would be Denver Colorado, roughly 550 miles away.  MAN, Kansas seemed so long and flat, the farmlands never seem to end.

At the beginning of our trip I was the one that was dictating the trip, but now I could sense my older son Matt’s desire to start calling some of the shots.  After all he was now 22 and this was his second trip west.

We continued to switch drivers from Mustang to Mustang.  Matt had decided to drive his buddys ‘96 GT, Giving Toby a chance for some R & R (rest and rubber necking).  Dan road with me in Blue Thunder assisting with the maps.  This particular change in drivers proved to be significant.

As Matt and Toby jumped into the GT’s Saddle, they informed Dan and I, they and White Lightening would take the lead.  The GT was now the lead hoss with Blue Thunder off the right rear quarter.  I was satisfied and proud to see all three young men assume responsibility and leadership during our jaunt west.

Thinking back to the beginning of our westward run, I had started the trip in the Classic ’65 Stang, now I was witnessing the younger men taking the lead as I viewed the ’96 GT out in front.

That night we surpassed our destination  of Denver Colorado, hoofin all the way north to Cheyenne, Wyoming, we then turned west to stable our Stangs in Laramie, Wyoming.

The motel owner told us about a good restaurant we could rustle up some brew and Barbecue ribs.  After dinner we joked about the trip and then made our way back to our bunks.

Monday morning we chowed down and headed for MY final leg of the trip, Salt Lake City, Utah.

The ’96 GT darted out in front without hesitation.  I watched as Toby and Dan lead the way through the mountains with Matt,  I and Blue Thunder on their right rear quarter.  Yes, youth and technology were now in control.

I-80 west showed us some of the prettiest country yet.  During the latter morning hours bad weather was finally catching up with us.

As Toby and Dan lead the way, Matt and I discussed our driving strategy, Matt decided it was time for him to take the GT reigns giving Toby some more R&R, only this time Matt asked me to take the point in Blue Thunder.  Perhaps he sensed that experience may still out way technology!  After another fuel stop I hoofed it out in front again leading in the ’65.  As we pounded the pavement, both Dan and I watched the weather change, first to rain, then sleet, them finally to snow, yes we even saw some hail as we crested the mountain pass.

The mountain ranges were simply awesome, closing in on Utah was one of the prettiest parts of our trip.

Later that afternoon, Salt Lake City proved to be the wettest part of our trek thus far, trying both our patience and our horses.

Salt Lake City would mark our fourth night on the trail, my last before I would fly back to Florida.  Tuesday morning came fast, the Utah sky was clear and sunny, a great day for the boys to complete their trip north to Sun Valley Idaho. They should have an easy day of 300 miles or so.

I was busy taking care of business at the motel desk (this is what dads are best at) when I began thinking I had better make sure the guys check their oil and water, after all, the previous day had really tested us and our Stangs. As I started out the door I saw both Mustang hoods already open, I guess my fatherly comments would not be needed after all.

I was proud to see them taking charge of their Stangs.  We said our good-byes snapped a few pictures, then I couldn’t resist, maybe it wasn’t necessary but I did it any way.  I prodded the guys if they remembered the trail north to Idaho, The answer came back “of course dad, we’ll call you when we get there”.

Matt and his ’65 Stang lead the way followed by Toby and Dan in White lightening.  As the two steeds eased from the parking lot I could hear the 289 rev, then Matt shift into second gear.  Yes that ’96 GT was close behind like a young colt.

My flight back to Florida was uneventful, not nearly as challenging and fun as the highways I was flying over.

That was fine though, I had all summer to look forward to helping them hoof back home in the fall.