Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff

FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

AS I observed back in Road & Track, June 1991, “Partway across the vastness of Delaware, I realized I had made a dreadful mistake.”

The idea was simple, if not utterly simple-minded: Buy an Austin Mini Moke in New Jersey and drive the car home to California in time for Thanksgiving.

Herewith, a photo collection of that trip.

The Atlantic Ocean, two Mini Mokes and me. The red one belonged to Larry Holloway, from whom I bought mine.

Given November weather, my route was a southerly one: New Jersey, the Cape May-Lewes ferry across to Delaware, on through a corner of Maryland into Washington, D.C.

Explorers Hall had a special exhibit, “Automobilia Fact, Fun & Fantasy.” How appropriate.

In Washington, D.C., Moke was honored by primo parking at Explorers Hall of the National Geographic Society.

Accommodations along the way were modest. This is the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina.

Then on toward Virginia’s Skyline Drive and from there to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Yes, those ridges actually are blue.

It was along the Blue Ridge that matters were put in perspective by two wonderful women staffing the gift shop.

“Young man, that car of yours doesn’t have any windows.”

“No, ma’am, it doesn’t.”

“It doesn’t have doors either.”

“No, ma’am, it does not.”

“Well, what do you plan to do when it rains?”

“I guess I’ll just have to trust in the Lord.”

“Yes,” said one of them brightly, “it’s said the Good Lord looks after babies and fools.”

The Natchez Trace also made for excellent Moke motoring. And after a visit to Elvis’s birthplace in Tupolo, Moke crossed the Mississippi.

A Mighty Mississippi; a moderate Moke.

Wife Dottie joined me in Dallas for the rest of the trip. Her company was especially welcome because it took four days to get across that state.

Ft. Stockton’s Paisano Pete is the world’s largest roadrunner. Moke is one of the world’s smaller cars.

On one stretch, we encountered a guy dragging a huge cross; it had little wheels on the end.

Moke, left; cotton bale, right.

On another, we discovered the inspiration for Moke styling.

A stop at Bob Bondurant’s School of High Performance Driving in Phoenix gave me opportunity to set a Moke record on his track.

Moke’s racing line is a bit tighter than most other cars’.

This was straightforward to do, because no Moke had ever run there before.

The Colorado River. California is ahead!

Crossing the Colorado was a moving experience. Our little car was going to make it!

Proof positive that we were in California: the Cabazon Dinosaurs.

The last part of our trip was the scariest. Some Interstate travel simply could not be avoided—and 18-wheelers have really big wheels.

Moke at Newport Pier, Newport Beach, California.

Would we do it again? Well, there’s this Dellow in Rhode Island…. ds

10 comments on “FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

  1. Tom Tyson
    September 9, 2012

    But what was your time?

    • simanaitissays
      September 9, 2012

      The entire trip, coast to coast, took two weeks. A good lap at Bondurant’s took rather less.
      All in good fun. ds

  2. Lindsay Brooke
    September 12, 2012

    Dennis, I remember your original R&T story on the Moke trip, good stuff. Your car was LHD–was the Moke officially imported into the U.S. by BMC? Or, was yours a General Export model that made its way over here?

    • simanaitissays
      September 12, 2012

      Both my Mokes (a sure sign of madness, that) were LHD. There used to be a rental fleet of them on Catalina, but I believe they’ve all been rescued or gone to seed.
      My St. Thomas car was an ex-rental there. I’m not sure where Larry Holloway got my second one. ds

      • simanaitissays
        September 12, 2012

        And, by the way, my original Moke story was in R&T August 1973, when I lived in the Caribbean. A long story, it’s how I jumped from academic life to automotive journalism. ds

  3. Dean Siracusa
    September 17, 2012

    Hey Dennis! I’m really enjoying your new site!

    By the way, do you still have your Mokes?

  4. simanaitissays
    September 17, 2012

    Many thanks for your kind words.
    See above (“a sure sign of madness”) for current non-Moke status.
    The St. Thomas Moke’s next custodian was a pony-tailed chemistry prof.
    Moke 2 went to Japan to become a spec racer. They remove the loose bits and install glass fiber bodywork, a la SCCA Sports Renault. ds

  5. Pat
    September 4, 2013

    Great stuff…we drive a Moke around Newport Beach all the time but know for sure my wife would never join me to cross the USA! …but I want too!

  6. tennistom
    April 29, 2014

    If you took out the front passenger seat could you sleep in it?

    • simanaitissays
      April 29, 2014

      Hello, Thomas,
      Yes, I suppose I could have. But it would have been sleeping on a metal floor between a gasoline can and a tool box. Fortunately, I stayed in hotels.

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This entry was posted on September 9, 2012 by in Just Trippin' and tagged , , .
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