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


SEVERAL FRIENDS have reminded me of other happenings along the Copperstate 1000 old car rally ( Here are three of them. Those of you who have enjoyed this annual event are encouraged to share other memories.


The 1993 Copperstate headed northeast out of Phoenix past Tuba City in the Navajo Nation and on to the wonders of Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley.


The Navajo Nation occupies all of northeast Arizona and sizeable bits of Utah and New Mexico.

On the 1993 rally, participants enjoyed Navajo high country, its open roads, spectacular scenery and—genuine—trading posts (not simply tourist attractions, but selling groceries, clothes and other goods).

Among participants that year were (yet to be Sir) Stirling Moss and his wife Susie.


Susie Moss makes a new Arizona friend at a checkpoint.

A stray puppy at Canyon de Chelly adopted Diane and Bevan Weston, jumped into their Ferrari and changed his life a whole lot. He was soon dubbed “Copper” by one and all, and clearly enjoyed the rest of the trip.

As is customary on such events, participants have helpful escorts of the state highway patrol. The Copperstate “motors,” as they’re known, are top-rank motorcycle policemen with multiple duties along the route. They coordinate communication and any breakdown aid. They act as public relations in communities through which the cars travel. And they keep us honest as to driving practices.


Skull Valley folks check out the Allard K2 of Copperstate friends John and Kathy Sanborn during the 1991 event. John and Kathy were to reward our driving honesty in the 1993 Copperstate.

Our escorts’ general rules were few—and strictly enforced: “Never exceed posted speed limits in populated areas. Never cross the Double Yellow. And, if you like, try to keep up with us on the open stretches.”

However, before entering the Navajo Nation our escorts warned that they had no particular juice in this semi-autonomous territory. We had to obey all speed limits—everywhere within the Nation.

So wife Dottie and I were motoring along in the Morgan, solo on a desolate stretch of highway. I had no eye out for Navajo policemen because we were traveling at precisely the posted 55 mph.

Then—WHOOSH—quick as can be, we were passed by a Navajo School Bus. The driver tooted and kids all waved as they blew by.

Copperstate friends John and Kathy Sanborn learned of this, with the following result.

The Sanborns

The Sanborns took special care in quoting the kids.

The 1992 Copperstate traveled to Tucson and beyond into the southeast corner of the state. One of the checkpoints was in Patagonia, where we made another good Copperstate friend, Doug Thämert.


Doug Thämert, 1941-2012, loved wagons of an earlier age. He also was a Jewett-Six enthusiast of note.

Doug ran Southwest Wagon and Wheel Works and was a world-respected authority on preservation and restoration of such things. His shop was a wonder reflecting these enthusiasms, with Doug offering his clients a choice: Would you like the wagon restored by modern means—or with tools and techniques of the era?


A fascinating source: Wagons for the Santa Fe Trade: Wheeled Vehicles and Their Makers, 1822-1880, by Mark L. Gardner, University of New Mexico Press, 2000. Doug is cited in this book. Both and list it.  

Doug’s shop had everything from a classic forge to a computer linking him with worldwide research. It was located in Patagonia’s Lopez Pool Hall, next to which, Doug would say tactfully, used to reside a “comfort house” for the area’s miners and their friends.  

I meant to ask Doug about “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top” and its “isinglass curtains y’ can roll right down, in case there’s a change in the weather.” What exactly was the era’s isinglass?

Doug would have known. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

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This entry was posted on March 23, 2013 by in Classic Bits and tagged , , , , .
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