Still working, but I just quit my job….

So I haven’t been writing as much lately. And this was bound to happen – but here is really good news: I have been making some really good progress working hard on the car.

The front of the Mustang nearly all disassembled

Passenger's side disassembled

I’ve completed quite a bit since the last post – removed the fenders, the splash shields, disassembled the door panels and kick panels (which I had to remove to get to the last fender bolt – THAT was an adventure, haha).

I don’t have a disassembly book yet, and I am thinking that I need one. Make that, I definitely need one. I spent a good half hour trying to figure out the location of that last fender bolt. It was fun, but it took too long.

I have been taking a LOT of pictures, and one thing I did do, per my father’s suggestion, is I have posted them – but not on this blog. I will post some of them on the blog, but like I said – I take A LOT of pictures. Have a look at them in my Picasa album that I created for the blog.

I am getting closer and closer to removing the engine – but I need to get a “cherry picker” to Toms River. In the mean time I am going to continue the disassembly. I want to make the blog better, too. I want to get a cheap laptop to bring to the garage so that I can update some of the blog real time. Also, I am going to have much more time. On Friday I handed in my resignation at my job.

Among other things, I am hoping that I might have more time to work on the car and this blog. I am starting my own business, so I fear not…. We’ll see.

Ti-i-i-ime is on my side (or is it?)

It’s funny how time just rolls on. Sometimes slower than is bearable, but most times these days time passes so fast I can hardly keep up with what is going on. I spent a great deal of time a few weekends before my trip with my young Niece and Nephews. Watching thier insane play reminded me how much I wanted the time to pass sometimes.

Wow - this one brings back memories.

Time was the enemy – especially at school. I was a clock watcher. I would watch the clock, try to pass the time by replaying the previous night’s Happy Days episode in my mind, by pretending to read a text book, or by passing the time with daydreams. My teacher would get pissed and scold me when she caught me watching the clock, so I became a pro at being discreet about it, and the scoldings stopped – or maybe the teacher just gave up?

Regardless, as I sneaked glances at the black-rimmed, white-faced clock I often swore that the red second hand was standing still – or worse, moving backwards. To this day I am certain it did. The daydreams never seemed to drown out the white noise of teachers droning on about all of the homework we were going to get that night – homework I would never do, EVER. The only thing that mattered was getting the heck out of school and getting to the business of youthful insanity, and that couldn’t happen fast enough.

You can actually buy this clock - click to see!

So watching my niece and nephews as my trip to San Antonio and then over to Fort Myers to pick up the Mustang approached, the days crawled. I’m not watching the clock per se, and it’s not the teachers droning I hear – but I do have a boss (actually multiple bosses) and some coworkers who provide a consistent low hum rather than that ear ripping drone, thank God – but it’s a drone nonetheless.

None of that matters in the scheme of things, though. It’s taken my whole life to learn about what really matters. I am reminded of it on a daily basis.

That Sunday, at my Nephew Ryan’s communion party, there were three generations of family accounted for starting with my Father and his sister, Aunt Frances, along with my Mother and her brother and sister-in-law, Uncle Jim and Aunt Laura. Rounding out the trifecta of generations was my Aunt Frances’ children and grandchildren and my Father’s and Mother’s children and grandchildren.

This is from a '67 Mustang

At the party, as I was telling my family about what I planned to do with Uncle Pete’s Mustang, I started to wonder if the connection would continue? I mean, I was around Ryan’s age when I started realizing who my Uncle Pete really was – Ranger Fan, War Veteran, Mailman…. I had questions, and my Dad always answered them – and if Uncle Pete was around, he most certainly would answer them, too. Now that I am an Uncle I wonder if my Neice and Nephews like to have me around as I did my Uncles. They have gotten to know me – I am Uncle Denny, the Uncle with the long hair (sometimes), the 3 cats, the red Mustang, the Yankees tickets, Ranger Fan, etc.

The nephews are Michael – the oldest, and who was ironically born on the same day as My Uncles Mustang was just over three decades before; Ryan, Michael’s younger brother. He’s the middle son of my middle sister and he – is – a – goof – ball. He’ll be a comedian for sure; Christopher, my Godson, and the youngest brother of Michael and Ryan and the youngest one that calls me Uncle. It would never surprise me if he turns out to be the toughest of the three boys. . Then there is Katie, second in age to Michael, and she is my baby sister’s daughter. If I had to predict who would follow the path of restoring their Uncle Denny’s 96 Mustang GT Convertible in 20 years, it would not be any of the boys – it would be Katie. I’ll try to keep it in good condition for her just in case :-).

I love all of the kids very much and I often brag about them to friends and acquaintances. I know Uncle Pete felt the same way about my cousins and I. I can only hope that at least one of them feels about me the way I felt about Uncle Pete and the rest of my Uncles and Aunts.

How do I measure the pride I have for these kids? My cup overfloweth. My heart fills with pride and joy as I watch them, sometimes with complete amazement. It’s at those times that I want to slow the clock down. I have come to realize how valuable my time with them and my family is. As I watch the next generation enjoy their youth, working hard on chaotic play, I realize that the red second hand standing still, even just for a moment, wouldn’t be so bad. These days when time is flying by lickety-split, its astonishing – even unnerving. I’ll take the slow days with family and friends – those are the days when, yep, time is on my side.

The Last Leg – Part 4 – The end, the beginning….


The Mustang approached New Jersey long before schedule, thanks to a bit of help/luck and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. My sense of satisfaction evolved into a sense of anticipation as I thought about showing the car to my Parents.

I pulled out of the boat and I had mixed emotions about the trip close to being finished.

And then I got lost in Cape May.

On the Beach in Cape May

Yep, one of the smallest towns in New Jersey, the Garden State Parkway signs are on every corner, and I got lost. How? Well, I called my wife on the phone and was bragging to her about how cool the boat ride was, the people on the boat, the dolphins, and before I knew it I was on the Beach Avenue on the southeastern shore. Please don’t ask how, I just looked at a map and I can’t figure it out.

The houses were very nice, though. Getting lost wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I just turned left and started up Beach Avenue. I stopped for a bit and relaxed. I took the picture to the left from across the wide Beach Ave, and posted it on Facebook to let folks know I was nearly home from my trip. Then I got back in the car and made my way to my parents house. I smiled as I contemplated that if I had gone the long route via I-95 through DC and the New Jersey Turnpike, I would still be in Delaware.

Mom and Pop and the Mustang

The ride to Little Egg Harbor from Cape May was a quick one. As I pulled up my Parent’s street and approached their house, my Dad peeked out from his front porch. He no doubt heard the clinking and the clunking of the truck and trailer. He smiled as he walked out while I pulled the 40 foot auto apparatus in front of his house.

My Mom followed not far behind, and they both inspected the car – I think above and beyond everything else, she was glad that the car and I made it safely home.

Their next door neighbor came home and was looking over at us and my Dad said, “This is my brother’s Mustang, my son just brought it up from Florida.”

The Mustang, Pop and I in front of his house

I was hungry, and I wanted to take pictures and then eat something. I had my heart set on a PB&J and after Mom took a picture of Dad and I together in front of the Mustang, we went in to the house. I laughed because my Mom had the peanut butter and bread out on the counter all ready for me. Either it was the Mom Psychic-ness or I had mentioned that I had a hankerin for a PB&J to her from the road.

They had a lot of questions, and while I was making and inhaling I tried to answer all of them – How’s Mary and Doug? Did you see Lea? Nicky? Philly? How are the kids? How old are they now? Did you see Phil? How was the ride? Who were the people that you wrote about on the blog?

We talked a bit about the people on the blog and Pop mentioned that this was a journey. The Mustang, even though it was strapped to a trailer behind me the whole way, was taking me on this journey, and my mind started to wander through some of my other life’s journeys that I have taken – both literally and figuratively and the thought brought a smile to my face. I have much more to experience from life, I hope, but this journey with my Uncle’s Mustang has become more than just me getting it and restoring it. At least right now, it has become therapeutic, healing, and it has at the least brought family together and fueled the fire to bring them together again soon.

In front of our house

I left after about an hour because I was on a schedule. I had to get home. It was getting late, and I wanted to get the car in the garage in Toms River before 10pm. I made it home in a bit more than normal time because I had to get off of the Parkway – no trailers or trucks.

With daylight still lingering, I was able to get a few quick pictures of the car in front of our house. There is no doubt that at this point I was feeling some relief, and I wanted to keep moving. I unpacked the truck and brought my luggage and pile of garbage in the house. Eileen was waiting and was ready to go – but first she took some pictures. I took one of her in the car, me beside it, the one you see here in front of the house – I was feeling a sense of pride and building excitement that the end of my trip was near.

We battened down the Mustang (I always checked the straps and the hitch on the trip) and got back on the road. It was later now and dark, but something told me to call my Uncle Jim whom I mentioned earlier in my blog – he also had a ’66. It was his first car out of the service, so I called and my Aunt Laura answered and gave us an enthusiastic green light to stop by.

Uncle Jim was delighted as were Eileen and I. “Bringing back memories,” was the mantra, and he reflected upon every aspect of the car – so similar to his.

We had to get back on the road, though – it was late and dark now and we still had nearly an hour to drive down to Toms River.

New Home Pro Tem - Safe and Sound

After driving for what seemed like all day, the Mustang was minutes away from the end of the trip. We pulled up to the house. I unlatched the car, and within 20 minutes or so, we had the car in the garage. It took some elbow grease and Eileen’s driving prowess while a sleepy Gary and I pushed the car up the driveway into it’s new home pro tem.

The trip was over, but getting the Mustang here marked a new beginning for the car and hopefully our family.

I’m tired. I have been since I came home – and on Saturday, the path to the car’s restoration begins. A customer of mine who restores cars had a great recommendation and I am going to take it. He recommended that I try to get the engine running. I was going to just pull the engine and tranny to get the heads redone, the transmission tuned and the whole powertrain blasted and painted.

Change of plans. I am going to squirt some Marvel Mystery Oil into the cylinders, pull the carb, rebuild it, and then start the engine if for no other reason, to hear the car run. Chris, the guy who recommended I do this, does this and says that it is a great motivator to hear the engine run and in the case of the Mustang, it would be a nice start – the car hasn’t run in 10 years at least.

So while this marks the end of the trip, it marks the beginning of the restoration – and the lessons continue.

The Last Leg – Part 3 – Horizons

Welcome Aboard!

I was quite relieved when I made the ferry – and a bit amazed once again how it all was working out. Not once before the night before my last travel day did I even consider the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, and yet here I was driving onto the boat. As I drove on board, I felt a strong sense of satisfaction that soon I was going to be back in New Jersey with the Mustang – and a comedic irony that I was driving the car onto a boat. I wondered if Uncle Pete took the ferry when he drove the Mustang down to Florida from my Aunt Frances’ house in northern Jersey.

Safe in the Belly of the Boat

I started thinking about him as I pulled further into the belly of the boat. As I followed the instruction of the attendant on the Ferry, I wondered if Uncle Pete would be happy that I was bringing the car to my parent’s house for my Father, his baby brother, to see. The instructor guided me to within a foot of the car in front of me. I shut the engine down, and got out and walked to the back of the car. The Mustang was the last in line, and another attendant put a wheel chuck behind the trailer wheel to keep it from sliding back I guess.

People started to exit their cars and a number of them came over to the Mustang. The guy who scanned my ticket asked me if it was a 64 1/2. I told him it was a ’66 and he told me that he had a ’65 – I think he said it was a fastback. Then a gentleman named Ray from New Jersey came up. He complimented how good the condition of the car was.

I told him the story – My Uncle Pete was the original owner and the car has been sitting in his garage in Florida for more than a decade. I mentioned that he took good care of it with the help of his son.

“You know,” I added, “I think he’d really love all of the reaction this car has gotten from people during this trip.”

I showed him the interior and we walked around the back of the car.

“It’s really in good shape,” he said.

He then added that he had a doctor in Philadelphia that had a 64 1/2 convertible (pretty rare car!). It was gorgeous I would think, and I was shocked when he told me that they traded it in early in the ’90s for a Mercury Grand Marquis. Wow. If only they’d known.

He snapped a picture of the Mustang and I with his cell phone – my first pic with the car outside of Florida! I didn’t want to leave the car behind, but I did want to go upstairs. Before I did, I snapped one more pic from a distance:

DEEP in the Belly of the Boat LOL

I made my way up onto the deck, and relaxed. We were moving at a good clip, and then someone announced over the loudspeaker that there were dolphins playing along side the boat. I ran to take a picture – and I saw them, but they dove down before I could snap a pic. You’ll just have to believe me. I have never seen a dolphin in New Jersey waters before. This was collectively a trip of firsts – first time driving by myself from Florida, first time hauling a car, first time seeing my young cousins kids, first time on the CMLF…. On and on and on.

Delaware Disappears

The ride was nice. It was peaceful. I sat towards the front of the boat first and then made my way to the back of the boat to watch the last few days disappear beyond the horizon. I realized that as I looked back, how very special this trip had been and I was only a few short hours away from it ending.

I couldn’t help but think about how I loved this trip. I felt myself smiling as I thought about the reunion with my cousins – Lea and her daughters Emily and Mary, Nicky and her sons Nicholas and Nathan, Phil, his wife, his son Phillip Cosmo, and his newborn son, Peter – not to mention Doug and Mary.

The way it’s all worked out till now could be luck, but I believe I am blessed. There I was on a boat, just a few minutes away from being back on New Jersey soil and only an hour or so away from my Pop’s house. I couldn’t predict what my parents’ reaction was going to be when they saw the car, but I was going to find out soon….

New Jersey Appears

The last leg – Part 2 – Catching the ferry….

I was sorry I had to leave Phil’s house after only an hour, but I had to go if I was going to catch the earlier ferry – the ferry after the 2:45 was 4:30 or so. I was back on the road and moving along quickly. The GPS said that I would arrive at the CMLF by 2:14 pm – AWESOME. Right on schedule. halfway to Maryland I think, I realized I needed gas AGAIN. This damn UHAUL completely sucked – figuratively time and cash-wise as well as literally gas-wise.

Between that stop and a few slow drivers through Maryland, my arrival time was bleeding later towards 2:30. JEEZ folks drive slow here – and there were dozens of traffic lights. I was speaking to a friend on the phone to keep calm, and he suggested that I call the CMLF to reserve a spot on the ferry. I did, and the gentleman who took my reservation said that 2:30 should be fine.

Then I got to the smallest, one-light town I’ve ever seen. It had one two-lane road going through it, the speed limit was 15 mph and I was tempted to ignore that by speeding through this sleepy old town when the thought of spending the night in an East Bumblefuk jail slowed me down.

“I’ll get there,” I thought, and I meandered through the winding streets.

What town was this?? The buildings looked old as dirt, the post office was falling apart and I was driving so slow I could see the peeling paint falling from the building – and then it happened.

As I was approaching an intersection and I saw a Honda CRV stopped there. I was already risking it by driving 20 mph in a 15 zone, but I knew what was coming next and I sped up a bit. I was too late. The car pulled out in front of me which forced me to nearly a complete stop. To make matters worse, the person proceeded to drive 10 mph through the rest of this sleepy town. The speed limit was 15, “is this really happening?” I asked myself.

I glanced at the ETA on the GPS – 2:27 – CRAP.

“We’ll get on the highway and they’ll speed up,” I hoped, “PLEASE, speed up…”

We got to the highway after we moseyed through town, and they never did over 45 in a 55 mph zone.

“OK, no problem,” I tried to self assure myself, “they’ll turn off soon,” and when she didn’t I said, “No problem, the lanes will double up and I will pass them then,” and 10 miles later the GPS ETA read 2:38, I started looking for a place to haul ass by her with my tank pulling a howitzer.

No dice – every time I thought I could, a car came the other way or the passing lane just wasn’t long enough for my taste. I started to plan for the possibility that I wasn’t going to make the 2:45 ferry, and called my Dad. Then the car pulled to the side of the road to turn and I saw the woman driving – she looked like she was 100 years old. I felt bad for all of the evil thoughts I had about her for the last half hour as I was trapped behind her – but then I had to get down to business. I still had a chance, right?

In the back of my mind, I kept thinking that things have gone right till now – I am gonna make this ferry.

But then it was 2:15 real time and the ETA was 2:45, “So close,” I was thinking, “Maybe the ferry will leave late.”

No way – and I surrendered. I told Dad that I wouldn’t be to his house until two hours later, “I could have driven around to I-95,” I thought, but then I thought how cool it was gonna be to go on the Ferry. I thought about the Mustang on the boat and smiled.

I continued to talk to my Dad and was about to tell him how I got emotional with Phil, and I saw a big sign for the ferry. It was 2:27 and the ETA was 2:45, but the entrance to the ferry was staring at me.

“It’s meant to be!” I thought – “Again, it’s all working out!”

“Pop – I gotta go, I will talk to you in a bit,” I said quickly as I approached the ferry, “I can’t believe I am going to make it!!”

I hung up with my Dad and drove up to an empty toll booth. The woman there greeted me with a smile.

“Did I make it?” I asked.

“You made it,” she grinned.

Her name was Norma. I gave her my card and started explaining that I didn’t think I had a chance to make it on time. I told her I had a reservation and that I was pulling my Uncle’s Mustang. She asked me about it and when I explained what I was doing, she said, “My husband would love that story.”

“Visit,” I said.

“Wait, what was that?” she asked.

“I am documenting the whole journey and restoration on a blog –”

“Let me write this down,” she fumbled for some paper and a pen, “my husband loves this kind of thing.”

We completed the transaction, “Thanks,” I said, “Nice talking with you!”

“And you too, sir,” she grinned, “Lane 9 please.”

The Mustang in lane 9 waiting to get on the Ferry!

I caught the ferry. I still can’t believe it. Was I catching destiny? I’m not gonna go that far, yet, but one thing I know – everything fell right into place, again.

To be continued…

The last leg – Part 1 – Philly’s House….

Yesterday the Mustang and I crossed the New Jersey state line on a boat somewhere in the middle of the Delaware Bay. I love traveling by boat, and I often dream about cruises, small boats, jetskis…. Admittedly, I have been known to get sea sick a bit sometimes, but it hasn’t diminished my love for traveling by sea, and when I was mapping how long it would take to drive from my cousin Philly’s (Phil’s) house in Virginia Beach, VA to my Mom and Dad’s house in Little Egg Harbor, NJ, I wasn’t even thinking about taking Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel let alone the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. Actually, I didn’t think I could do either with the trailer.

I was wrong, it turns out. After seeing how much longer it would take to get home via backtracking to I-95 versus the CBBT and CMLF, I checked into taking the ferry. The bridge was easy – I checked online for restrictions and I was fine. I called the boat next, and found out that they based their pricing on length of the vehicle. Pricing is available online, and since I didn’t have a tape measure, I walked the yards out next to the truck and trailer and “guesstimated” it to be about 40 feet long. Cool! Well, not so cool given the price, but it was going to be worth it to save about 2 hours of travel time (no brainer) AND I was going to be traveling on a boat for about an hour – an added benefit.

The problem was I was going to have to make it by 2:15 or so for a 2:45 departure. That meant I had little time to spend with Phil. We had planned to have some coffee together and catch up on stuff, but that wasn’t gonna work. To have at least some quality time, I got up early the following morning and out on the road. If I wanted time to talk to Philly at least a little bit, I needed to hoof it – no stopping for breakfast, no stopping for coffee, gas – I couldn’t even argue for a partial refund for the stinky hotel room at the Comfort Inn I stayed at. I asked, but the desk clerk gave me a meek “no” and I reluctantly retreated without argument.

I was on the road again and speeding down route 58 towards Virginia Beach.

I made it to Philly’s in a bit more than an hour, right on schedule – he and I discussed me being there around 10 am. That would give me an hour to hang out – but Phil wasn’t there. I met his wife for the first time along with their newborn son Peter (after my Uncle) and she invited me in. Phil showed up after a few minutes. Another great moment in my travels – seeing my younger cousin and his family. He looks just like his Dad.

He really wanted to see the Mustang and as we walked over to it he gave me a big smile and said “You know how much I wanted this car?”

“I think we all did,” I agreed.

He opened the driver’s door “All of the soccer practices that Grandpa drove me to in this thing,” he recalled. The smile on his face spoke volumes. Phil grabbed his camera and started snapping quickly. We put his son Cosmo in the driver’s seat and he looked like a natural.

Phil's son Philip Cosmo - Uncle Pete's Great Grandson

Phil's son Philip Cosmo - Uncle Pete's Great Grandson

“You gonna keep it the way it is?” he asked.

“All original, Phil. I’ll need to replace stuff – but I want it looking like it did when Uncle Pete, your Grandpa, drove it out of the dealer lot.”

He smiled and nodded his approval, “Well I am glad this isn’t ending up in the hands of someone who wants to make it a hot rod or something like that.”

“No way,” I said, “All original.”

I mentioned I might put Ford factory magnum wheels on it but I’d keep the original wheels and caps.

“This is a Sunday driving car,” he asserted, “Just a cruising car.”

I couldn’t agree more.

At one point we had a moment alone next to the car. We were talking about Uncle Pete and the car and I started to explain how I felt about it all, and I got emotional for the very first time on this whole trip.

“After all that my wife and I have been through over the past few years,” I explained, “No real joy, no easy going of it,” and I felt eyes moistening, “I was looking for something, anything pull me up, and it’s like Uncle Pete, your Grandpa is helping me – rescuing me, even.” My words sounded cheap. I couldn’t explain what this meant to me and how strongly I felt that it was truly him guiding me – helping me along the way.

I held back bawling like a baby, but I felt protected; safe with Phil – and safe with the emotion. All of this felt right. I apologized for getting emotional.

“No problem, I would think something was wrong if you didn’t.”

He snapped a few more pics and then asked his wife, Christy, to take a picture of he and I next to the car. Phil – send me the pic, PLEASE!! He gave me a tour of the house (awesome!) and after some more conversation about the reunion plans, I had to go. The hour went by fast – too fast – and I regretted not being able to spend more time with him and his family.

We’ll get together again, soon, I hope. One of the things that I discovered is that most of the cousins (if not all) share my desire to get the family together. Phil took it a step further recently and started putting some real thought into organizing a family reunion. Maybe the car will be done by then? Something to shoot for….

To be continued….

Home – I’m gonna sleep!

I have arrived home safe and sound and My Uncle’s Mustang is now at it’s Restoration Headquarters. Today has been a long ride – but it was AWESOME for more reasons than one – but I am not going to write about it tonight. I am exhausted, and I’ll write about it tomorrow.

I will say that I stopped at my Cousin’s this morning in Virginia beach, my parent’s in Little Egg Harbor, NJ, my house to pick up my wife in Keyport, NJ, my uncle Jimmy’s and Aunt Laura’s not far from my house to show him the car and then back down to south central NJ (Toms River) to drop the car off at its temporary digs. All is well.

Restoration Headquarters

Down and home tomorrow!

I was going to try to make it to my cousin’s house in Virginia Beach – but it was just running too late and I stopped about an hour out of town at some Comfort Inn – which are usually no frills – and this one is too. I have no complaints – same deal, the truck and car are parked within eyeshot of my window just like last night.

The trip today was great. Before I started on my way, I put some stickers on the car that just said “Visit” I’d like as many people to know the story about the car as are interested, and it seems that there are a few – especially on the road home. Right in the hotel parking lot this morning, the woman at the desk had a look at the car and then pointed across the lot to her red 2004 Mustang Convertible. Along the way, I stopped a few times and each time someone approached me asking about the car.

Next, a gentleman in the Cracker Barrel parking lot asked me if it was a ’65. I told him it was a ’66 – they have a different grille. He told me he had a ’68 fastback – a gorgeous car in its own right – and wished me luck in my travels. He got a kick out of the fact that I was pulling it from south FL to NJ.

Later in the day, right over the South Carolina/North Carolina border at the rest stop, a guy named Billy from right in North Carolina approached and asked after seeing the sign, “I guess that’s your Uncle’s Mustang then?” We both laughed and he started ask questions about the car. The Q & A is usually the same – where’d you get it? Florida… what year is it? ’66…. And then I usually offer up that it was my Uncle’s and he was the original owner, it’s been sitting in his garage since he passed away in late 1998, and I am bringing it back to Jersey to restore it.

Billy told me he has a restored big block SS Chevelle – I think he said it was a ’65 – a true SS. Impressive vehicle. I wish I remember the year for sure. He examined the interior with an impressed look and I told him that I couldn’t open the door at the moment – the keys were packed away – but I could open hood and show him the motor. While looking at it I explained that it hadn’t been run in at least a decade, and I figured I wouldn’t try to start it. He gave me some advice on what to do to turn the engine over. Pull the coil wire and crank it to get the oil pressure up – “it’ll be alright then” he said. I’ll give it a try – and also pour some oil over the valves before I do – that suggested by my friend David.

While Bill and I were talking, Dwayne from Georgia walked up with a big smile on his face. The older gentleman asked me if it was a ’65 just like the guy at Cracker Barrel did earlier in the day. I told him it was a ’66, and about this time Billy was looking under the car at the floors – Mustangs are notorious for rusted out floors and I knew that this one has some early rot but aren’t through and through bad.

Dwayne examined the car, the engine, and had a smile on his face like a kid in a candy store. He told me a story, and if I recall from then till now (I have to start keeping notes when I talk to these folks) a friend or relative of his had a relative that owned a Ford dealer. When she graduated, that relative gave her a Mustang convertible – and he drove in it.  With a satisfied smile, he said with that it was quite a memorable ride. It was then that his wife Linda came over and said, “I see he found his car,” smiling. She asked me if I bought the car, and I explained that it was my Uncle’s. She asked about my Uncle and I gave the abridged story.

Billy, Dwayne, and his wife Linda all went on their way, as did I – but not before a biker named David came up and we talked a bit about it. He was riding from Myrtle Beach and expressed some dissatisfaction about how commercialized the place had gotten.

So tomorrow I visit my cousin and then I ride home. Right now, I am here somewhere outside of Norfolk and Virginia Beach in a Comfort Inn that is adequate, but nothing to write home about. I am ready for bed – and yes, I have already checked on the car, at least 3 times from my window.

Savannah Smiles

I was sad to leave Doug and Mary this morning. Unbeknownst to them (I hope) I again had mixed feelings about what I am doing. I need to just move on and get over it. We had breakfast at Bob Evans again (go for the bacon, it’s better than the sausage) and I finished packing up after a brief lost cellphone panic. I would lose my hand if I was able to pull it off my wrist.

Like I was saying, though – it was sad to leave Doug and Mary. If not for Doug, we would never have been able to move the car. Doug was the “idea man” the whole day yesterday and for the most part was the mastermind behind getting the car on the trailer. Mary was my encouragement. Her sweet demeanor and caring nature brought all of the cousins together yesterday which I can’t say enough how cool that was. This morning, she and I had a nice moment when we took a picture together in front of the Mustang before I hit the road. Doug and Mary – if you are reading this, please send me the pic!

My plan was to get to Savannah, and the good news is I made it. I stopped twice along the way to get gas – not only does the truck come stripped down, it drinks like a fish. Oh well….

The first time I stopped for gas, a kid came out from the garage and started to tell me about his ’67 Mustang. He had a look inside my Uncle’s and just like everyone else, he could not believe the condition it’s in. It makes me smile because it is another affirmation as to how well my Uncle and cousin took care of it.

I stopped one more time but drove straight through for the most part. The car is in one piece and the trailer held up like a champ. As we speak, I have the trailer backed up hard to a curb longways across about 6 parking spots in the Baymont Inn and Suites parking lot off of I 95 just outside Savannah. Of course, it’s parked within eyeshot of my room window. My paranoia will have me up every few hours to check on it from my hotel window. I can see the truck fine, but it’s hard to see the Mustang. It’s taking every bit of self control I have not to go out and readjust my parking job so I can see the whole car. If I could, I would put a remote IP camera in my window pointing down towards the car eyeing the area around it for any suspicious movement. The fact that three sheriff’s cars are parked in the lot gives me a bit of comfort – but I assure you I have already checked out the window on the car twice while writing this blog.

Every time I see it I am relieved – and maybe I even crack a smile. I’ll be smiling more tomorrow when I am sitting in Cracker Barrel across the street eating my eggs, bacon and grits! What? Didn’t you read the fifth scenario of what could possibly go wrong with this whole thing? I already scoped out the parking lot. Plenty of good room there for the truck and trailer – but I don’t think there are any windows in the dining room that I can sit by to keep an eye out. I guess I’ll have to deal. It’s either that or skip the grits, and how can that even be a viable option?

The Longest Day so far….

Today the plan was to go out for breakfast, pick up the U-HAUL, get the come-along to get the Mustang on the trailer, load the Mustang, pack the truck, say “hi-and-bye” to my cousins and get on the road – all by dinner time so I can make it over the FL/GA border for bed. I knew it was going to be a long day with all of the stuff that had to be done, and when I woke up in the morning, I wasn’t even sure if I was gonna be able to drive the U-HAUL without making a complete idiot of myself.

So here is how it all went down:

1) Go out for breakfast – CHECK! Nice! The day started out pretty well, right? During breakfast, one of the guys at the U-HAUL place apparently didn’t take his chill pill this morning and was calling me prodding to know when I was gonna get over to pick the damn thing up. Hence, we got up from the table at Bob Evans, the “home of homestyle,” (I’m not endorsing them – but we got some pretty nice service at the one in Cape Coral) and took the next step.

2). Pick up the U-HAUL – CHECK!!

This thing didn’t have cruise control, auto windows, nor auto locks. All would have been nice to have but at least it has air conditioning. I even had an easy time driving it back to Mary and Doug’s house. I practiced backing up and forward for a bit, after which we sat around and Mary called my cousin Lea to come over so I could see her. She called back and said she was going to bring her daughters with her. COOL – that meant that step four was gonna go down – but first,

3). Get the come along – No problems here – we had our choice between a 1-ton and 2-ton and we got the 1-ton. Things were going great – all falling into place – my spirits were high, and we made our way home.

4). Load the Mustang – It was getting later though, and we were a bit hungry. We got home and Mary had whipped up a wonderful lunch spread for us and the anticipated visit from Lea et-al. We sat a bit to wait for her and then Doug grabbed up his lunch and went outside to wait for them. When Lea arrived, and I saw her, it was like we just saw each other yesterday. She hasn’t changed a bit – but her daughters have grown into young ladies! I was kinda sad that I was only gonna be able to have lunch with them and then book, but at least I got to see them.

Now, back to loading the Mustang. Lea’s daughters brought their boyfriends, and that was great because they might be able to help with the grunt work a bit.

All good. All falling into place, but then Doug said something to the effect that the Mustang wasn’t moving anywhere. HUH??? “What do you mean?” I asked, and he informed me that the car was in neutral, the parking brake was released, but the car was frozen in place. I thought right away that the brakes were locked.

SHIT, I lamented to myself – this is not good. What if it isn’t the brakes? What if the tranny is locked? Or worse, the rear???


Doug and I got to work. I smacked the rims near the hubs with a small sledge hammer to try to loosen them up – nope.

I hammered the backing plates behind the wheels to try to loosen the brakes – nope nope.

This was a pickle – and we got the jack out from the trunk, loosened all of the lugs, jacked the right rear, pulled the wheel and worked to get the drum off. The drum was frozen solid, and even though that was actually the best case scenario, I started thinking:

“What are we going to do for brakes when we roll it out of the garage?”

“Will the parking brake be inoperable from me sledge-hammering along with Doug prying the drum off with a crowbar?”

“What the f__k am I getting myself into, should I just leave it here and go home?”

After about 20 minutes, we finally got the right rear drum off, which tore up the shoes and nearly blasted the wheel cylinder. We tore the retainer springs right off with the drums, but the good news was the axle spun freely. Things were looking up, and I was laughing at myself and the committee in my head that had me running away in a panic. Leave and go home – LOL??

I used a screwdriver to adjust the brakes on the other three wheels down (loosen them up), but not before nearly losing the car off the jack. I need to remember to be careful and take all sorts of extra precautions!

With all of the wheels loose, the car was ready to be rolled out. I checked the parking brake, and guess what? That still worked! So we were going to be able to stop it when we rolled it out of the garage, but we were going to need some brute force to roll it up onto the trailer. It was getting late, and I was a sweaty mess by this time, but we (with Emily behind the wheel) carefully rolled the Mustang out of the garage:

At the bottom of the driveway!

We got the car into sunlight for the first time in nearly 12 years! With the car in the sun, I took some other pics:

The car was ready – and my cousin Nicky showed up just in time. She had her son with her (her youngest had shown up with Lea and her daughters). All of a sudden there was 3 generations of cousins in the mix. Nicky looked great. She was all grown up! But she had the same personality that I remembered – loving and strong. She was also here to help but the first thing she did was sit in the passenger side of the Mustang as it sat in the bright Florida sun. All of us have stories of Uncle Pete (Gramps to Nicky and Lea) and the Mustang, and Nicky shared one of hers where Uncle Pete picked her up from school or something and got the car practically airborne over a pothole in the middle of the road.

BACK TO LOADING THE MUSTANG – which had become the focal point for everyone now. All of us except for Nicky’s youngest son, who was on the couch napping, was outside now. The trailer was set and with the boyfriends’, Nicky’s Doug’s and my help, and Emily behind the wheel, we rolled the car onto it’s chariot:

And there it is. On the trailer and ready for the long drive home. I was a bit tired by now, and also a tad dirty, but it felt good.

5). Pack the truck – It was a long day. The time sped by, and by now I knew I was staying the night, and I was actually relieved. I was gonna spend some time with my cousins, my “cousins once removed” and my second cousins. All good. Packing the truck would wait until tomorrow.

6). Say “hi-and-bye” to my cousins – did I really think this was how I would do it? After over 10 years just say “Hi, good to see you” and then “Bye, see you later?” Not happing – not even possible. I was in my glory. I reflected on when Lea and I were kids – we’re the same age, and over the years we seem to always catch up somehow – no matter how long it’s been. I knew I wanted to see her when I was here and I was cherishing it. Nicky – jeez – I remember when she was a baby. Now she has grown into a woman and has two beautiful babies of her own! I loved watching her mother her kids – with the compassion and the confidence that quickly eased them when they fussed. Lea’s kids Emily and Mary – Teenagers. I couldn’t help but wonder if the next time I saw them I would be seeing them as mothers themselves! I hoped that it wouldn’t be 10 years until the next encounter.

It was always Uncle Pete or my Dad that brought us together somehow – Dad bringing us to see them, Uncle Pete drawing us to Florida as kids with promises of pools and beaches…. I never complained about being around my cousins. We’re family, and today, on what seemed to be the longest day of my journey so far, we were together once again, this time because of the Mustang, and in some sense, also because of Uncle Pete.

7). Lucky seven – get on the road – all by dinner time so I can make it over the FL/GA border for bed. It’s nearly 3 am, and I am going to bed now – right here in Florida in my cousin’s house  – where I belong for at least one more night. The FL/GA border will be there tomorrow waiting for me, I am sure.

Nicky's oldest son Nicholas - My Uncle Pete's Great Grandson in the Mustang