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NutmegCT

Coast To Coast 1950S

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Good morning all.

 

If things go my way ... I hope to make a coast to coast trip (Connecticut to California) in my 1958 Mercedes-Benz. A "retirement" trip to visit family, friends, and former students.

 

I just learned of this forum, and hope I can get some ideas on planning the trip. So far I've been using the National Geographic "Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways", and Jensen's "Road Trip USA", plus several web sources.

 

The goal is to make the journey that was originally planned by my parents back in the 1970s in their own old Mercedes-Benz:

 

http://nutmegflyer.wordpress.com/

 

I've been restoring a 1958 Mercedes-Benz over the last year or so.

 

blueangel.jpg

 

Very similar to the one my parents owned, and that I learned to drive on.

 

Starting and ending in Connecticut, the target areas on the trip are: Annapolis MD, Clarksville TN, Fort Worth TX, Tucson AZ, San Jose CA, Yakima WA, Edmonton AB, Appleton WI, Metamora IL, Athens OH, Allentown PA, Glens Falls NY. And points in between.

 

About 50/50 interstate and "two lane blacktop".

 

Any suggestions on planning the trip, and "what to watch out for", gratefully accepted!

 

Thanks.

Tom M.

Connecticut

Edited by NutmegCT

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What a terrific plan!!

 

I know we can help. I for one know the western states very well, and have made a couple of cross country runs in the past couple of years. Others here are even better prepared to help. I see, for example, that Dave Reese has already commented on your blog.

 

One of our typical questions before we begin to babble is to ask a bit about your interests. Are you a history buff, a "trails west" fan, a "best eats" seeker, a "roadside architecture" aficionado" and so on? (I have already figured, classic cars, vintage aircraft, and history) And what kinds of things would mom and dad have stopped to see?

 

How about your preferred road type? By the 1970's the interstate system was pretty well developed. But I have traveled across the entire US corner to corner (see Hypotenuse Trail trip on this forum) without setting rubber on an interstate, and loved every minute of it. But some enjoy the smell of diesel fumes, the blur of vistas flashing past faster than the eye can behold, the "no stopping allowed" signs, and the ambiance of the occasional roadside rest stop.

 

Let me be a little more specific. I haven't tried to map your likely route, but my guess is that you could do all, or the vast majority, of the trip on roads befitting a 1958 Mercedes, and I don't mean freeways. Or if you like interstates, you could take them and occasionally along the way pick up a more leisurely two laner.

 

What are your preferences and interests?

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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That is indeed that sort of trip that tends to make some of the folks around here, me included, drool. I live in Ohio and I see that Athens is on your itinerary so maybe I can help with that section of your trip. Or maybe somewhere else. I also see that KtSotR has already asked some questions to help focus things. I'll probably have more to say after your response. For now, welcome to the forum. You certainly have a great adventure in front of you and I hope we can help.

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Thanks all. Guess I have to admit my interests are in the "history" area. So far my thinking has been along this line: If I travel in the Spring, I'll take the southern route first (down to Texas and then across to California), then up the Pacific Coast highway to Washington and up to Alberta, then eastward back to Connecticut. If I start in the Fall, it'll be the opposite circuit: first across the Northern states, then south through California, then back home through the South.

 

In the old Mercedes I don't mind driving on Interstates, but I sure do mind heavy congested Interstate traffic (like cities at rush hour). So it'll be a 50/50 mix of Interstate and other roads.

 

Maybe I should also have a "sag wagon" trailing me, picking up the pieces of the car that come loose. Need a bumper sticker: "All parts falling off this car are of the finest German quality."

 

Tom

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Tom,

 

One initial suggestion is that you pick up the WPA guide books for at least a few states. As you may know, these were published in the late 30's and very early 1940's and would have been contemporary with your parents' youth. They portray a very different America, and one which you can visit at times on the road. They are organized along then popular highways, and offer a view before there was a McDonalds in every village.

 

A second suggest might be to hang out on Ebay and look for period travel brochures. I'm thinking of examples like the redwood highway, the coast highway, booklets about parks, forts, etc. They are usually fairly inexpensive if they don't predate the 1950's, and may give you descriptions of travel sites your parents might have visited, had they made the trip.

 

I would definitely peruse the available back issues of American Road Magazine on the website as they highlight sites of historical interest.

 

In the 1950's through the 70's and later Sunset Magazine published a series of travel guides for the western states, by state. The earlier editions are the best (in my view). They focused on historical sites and reflected the road travel style of the period in which they were published. Look on ABEBOOKS.COM.

 

I can certainly suggest routes between Tucson and San Jose, San Jose and Yakima, and points east as far as almost Chicago. Eastbound (if in the Spring), do you plan to stay north of the border or drop back down into Montana from Alberta?

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road.

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Tom,

First I must say I am so glad to see you are posting here.

 

I have known Tom for a few years when we both joined the British Car Forum concerning our Triumph TR3's. My wife Peg and I got to meet Tom in person in November of 2009 when we went to Old Sturbridge Village for Thanksgiving where Tom has been a serving as a farmer raising crops in a historical fashion. He also introduced us to the New England Air Museum where he volunteers in research. So you know that Tom is interested in much of the history of any region.

 

As you work out your details Tom, I am sure that Denny, Dave, and others will be able to give you lots of great advice. Keep posting here, and at the BCF. Peg and I await your visit for her Bread Pudding and much more.

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That is indeed that sort of trip that tends to make some of the folks around here, me included, drool.

 

Oh

My

Yes.

 

 

Tom ... WELCOME to the forum. I look forward to following along as you take the trip.

 

Have you thought about traveling any portions of the Lincoln Highway or Route 66? Your vehicle of choice and "history" interests would be a perfect fit for either....

 

 

 

Cort | 37.m.IL.pigValve.pacemaker | 5 Monte Carlos + 1 Caprice Classic | * meet_04.16.11_Dwight.IL *

MCs.CC + CHD.models.HO.legos.RadioShows + RoadTrips.us66 = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort

"Tell them we're survivors" __ Rascal Flatts __ 'Life Is A Highway'

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These are all great ideas. Thanks for all the suggestions.

 

One thing I have to keep in mind: don't kill myself trying to do and see everything that's out there. The cities I listed form a loosely circular route, and I'm itching to add things like Lincoln Hwy and Rt 66, Canyonlands, Going to the Sun Road, etc., when they're "within reach". What I need to do now is to read as much as possible about what's near to my route.

 

I'm dealing with some health issues at present, so unfortunately I can't commit myself to a departure date. Probably the earliest now is next fall, or spring 2012.

 

What's that old expression? When man makes plans, the gods just laugh.

 

Tom

Edited by NutmegCT

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These are all great ideas. Thanks for all the suggestions.

 

One thing I have to keep in mind: don't kill myself trying to do and see everything that's out there. The cities I listed form a loosely circular route, and I'm itching to add things like Lincoln Hwy and Rt 66, Canyonlands, Going to the Sun Road, etc., when they're "within reach". What I need to do now is to read as much as possible about what's near to my route.

 

I'm dealing with some health issues at present, so unfortunately I can't commit myself to a departure date. Probably the earliest now is next fall, or spring 2012.

 

What's that old expression? When man makes plans, the gods just laugh.

 

Tom

 

Tom,

 

Sorry to hear of the health issues. Being in my early 70's I know how it is to have to plan my travels between doctors' appointments, or the doctor visits of family members. But assuming that you will be "road worthy" by this Fall, the extra planning and researching time can be helpful.

 

Your interest in history is a great advantage. I know personally that I "see" a great deal more if I am familiar with the "context" of what I'm visiting......something I know you know, but I know there are others who will also read this. Looking at deep wagon ruts on the Oregon Trail has much more meaning when you understand the western migrations, and can see, in your mind's eye the travelers.

 

Again, I suggest as a starting point in your background research, the WPA series. There is also a more modern Roadside History series by state that I have found excellent, especially for identifying fascinating, but lesser known sites. They sell for $1 to $5 used, and used history is as good as new!

 

I am with you in not trying to see "everything." I feel a bit intrusive in offering suggestions....but that has never stopped me in the past. So I will offer up a thought that you might consider. Choose a theme. Obviously you have your parents trip as a primary theme, but consider one or two others. For example local music, or forts, or trails west, steam trains, air museums, or best burgers.

 

Last spring I followed the early National Parks Highway between here and Chicago, which was my primary theme. But I also visited, viewed, and stayed at as many period hotels as I could. I met unbelievably interesting people. You might plot out auto or air museums on your route, or maybe horticulture experiments. You get the point.

 

You mentioned following the Lincoln Highway or Route 66 some of the way. Great, I enjoy and recommend both. And there are wonderful guide books you might follow. And you might enjoy "owning" an auto trail. There are transcontinental auto trails that are virtually "lost," but which you could rediscover, and follow in part. The Trail to Sunset mapped by Westgard in about 1911 comes to mind. And every state had scores of named trails no one claims today. Pick a state of any size on your route and I will provide you with a dozen or more prospects for you to claim as your own. You will become the "national expert" on that historic blazed auto trail.

 

And I would add the named byways as another way to get familiar with an area. In fact, American Road has some great links to some great byways

 

Well, that's enough babble!

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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When I first read "to make the journey that was originally planned by my parents back in the 1970s" in the first post of this thread, I thought that a specific route may have been plotted but never followed. I figured the idea was to follow that route as faithfully as possible on current roads. Then, when I read the first entry in the "Mac and Phyllis take a trip" blog, I realized that "planned" didn't refer to a single vacation outing but a hoped for extended period of driving about the country. (See the USA in your Mercedet.)

 

That's a whole lot different but maybe you can still follow some of their likely/possible routes. Did they talk of specific places they wanted to see? If so, maybe you can include some of them. What landmarks would have existed and been popular during their '70s planning and their '80s driving? I'm certainly in favor of some of the other suggestions about learning the even older history of areas and I'm a big fan of named auto trails but, having spent significant effort and money duplicating your parents ride why not try to duplicate part of their route. Get a 1982 road atlas ('82s are a lot cheaper than '28s) and try following the roads it contains as much as possible. Most, but not all, expressways existed by then so it won't be radically different from a current map ('82s are a lot easier to follow than '28s, too) but it may give you a better feel for their planning process. It probably won't alter your final route much at all but it might alter your perception.

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Probably should have clarified: back in 1982 my parents retired and planned to "see the USA".

 

As they had never really had a vacation in their lives, they first rented a small travel trailer and took a "practice" trip from their home in Laredo, to go camping in central Texas Hill Country. On the first morning, Mom hung a mirror on a tree before washing her face, and discovered a discoloration on her neck; a few weeks later it was diagnosed as cancer. She died within a year, and they were never able to make that long-hoped for trip.

 

So I'm just trying to do the trip for them. Certain places in my itinerary are directly related to them: Mom was born in Annapolis MD, Dad in Glens Falls NY, and they met in California.

 

Interesting coincidence: now that I've been planning the trip for over a year, and restoring that old Mercedes, I've been diagnosed with cancer. Now going through radiation treatment and hoping for the best.

 

Men make plans, and the gods just laugh.

 

Tom

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With the exception of some of the details, that's essentially the impression I had from your blog and your posts here. Three decades of medical advances should really help in seeing that the "interesting coincidence" doesn't go much farther.

 

Since Athens, Ohio, is the target area closest to me, I'm curious about its connection with your parents.

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With the exception of some of the details, that's essentially the impression I had from your blog and your posts here. Three decades of medical advances should really help in seeing that the "interesting coincidence" doesn't go much farther.

 

Since Athens, Ohio, is the target area closest to me, I'm curious about its connection with your parents.

 

Bummer on the cancer thing. I understand the trip might be delayed, but planning is half the fun.

 

We get our kicks, at least in good part, from enjoying and responding to the travels of others. That means we want to know what your are planning, and we also want to share the travel experience when you take the trip.

 

So, when the mood moves you, offer up some more initial thoughts, tentative plans, questions, and the like, and we'll have at it.

 

BTW, how are you at photography? This could be the place to establish your reputation, good or bad. And we all enjoy a good picture.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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Just to get things started ... if you were driving a "slightly used" car (i.e. 1958) across the USA, what tools/spares would you bring along?

 

Other than a healthy credit card and your AAA telephone number.

 

Plus, one thing I've always wondered about: when you're traveling, do you do anything special to keep your car safe in parking lots (motel, sight seeing, restaurant, etc.)?

 

Thanks.

Tom

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Just to get things started ... if you were driving a "slightly used" car (i.e. 1958) across the USA, what tools/spares would you bring along?

 

Other than a healthy credit card and your AAA telephone number.

 

Plus, one thing I've always wondered about: when you're traveling, do you do anything special to keep your car safe in parking lots (motel, sight seeing, restaurant, etc.)?

 

Thanks.

Tom

 

Tom,

In 1958 I am not even sure if we locked the car. We normally stayed at motels that had one space in front of each motel room, and you parked right outside your room. Our family never traveled with tools as my Dad had no clue, and passed on his do-it-yourself knowledge to me, which is why I do have a credit card and AAA card when traveling. With a trunk like your MB, you should have everything of value well hidden from prying eyes.

 

Now I would carry the spare tire and jack, and some flares and reflectors to make a broken down car visible. My cell phone would be my next tool to use to call AAA.

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I was making long trips in my 1951 Chevrolet in 1958, and by 1960, in my 1958 MGA. I knew enough about cars (worked in a service station) to do most minor and roadside repairs...and it was practical in those days.. My tool kit included a spanner wrench, a screwdriver, pliers, sparkplug wrench and gap gauge, a spare distributor rotor and cap, and a can of 30 weight oil. I carried flares and a ground cloth, a tire pressure gauge, and flashlight with fresh batteries. I always checked my spare for air regularly, and of course the standard equipment included a jack. I usually also carried a X type lug wrench.

 

As for protecting my car, I have yet to have it broken into or damaged in a motel lot, but I park near a light and by the window of the room I'm occupying. I take anything valuable into the room, and never leave anything of value visible in the car. If the opportunity is available, I park closer to motel doors and foot traffic areas, but avoid parking close to the street.

 

I just reread your post..Oh, what tools today....!!! Add cell phone, AAA card, and GPS.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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Dave - I envy you that 1958 MGA. I had been looking for one of those for about five years. Finally found a nice 1959 TR3, which I restored and now enjoy driving in good weather on our two lane country roads here in New England. Not sure I'd do a cross country trip in it tho'!

 

MinatorsOriginal.jpg

 

 

Let's say I want to drive from eastern Connecticut down to the Annapolis MD area. I do NOT want to find myself in my 1958 Mercedes-Benz on congested interstates around cities, and/or in rush hour. But I don't really see any good "blue highway" routes along the way, unless it's detouring every ten or twenty miles.

 

Any suggestions on how to deal with the issue of avoiding congestion on that route? When I get beyond the east coast, I don't have a problem using interstates if necessary. But I have definite anxiety about the I-95 corridor.

 

Thanks.

Tom

Edited by NutmegCT

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Let's say I want to drive from eastern Connecticut down to the Annapolis MD area. I do NOT want to find myself in my 1958 Mercedes-Benz on congested interstates around cities, and/or in rush hour. But I don't really see any good "blue highway" routes along the way, unless it's detouring every ten or twenty miles.

 

Any suggestions on how to deal with the issue of avoiding congestion on that route? When I get beyond the east coast, I don't have a problem using interstates if necessary. But I have definite anxiety about the I-95 corridor.

 

Thanks.

Tom

 

My guess is you'd have to get away from the coast a bit, and you'd probably want to do your Allentown stop on the way. From eastern CT to Allentown you could do a combination of US 44 and US 209. I've driven all of 44 and parts of 209. You may want to pick up 44 west of Hartford or even Winsted since it goes through some pre-gentrification neighborhoods in Hartford and depending on time of day can be a bit busy. There are plenty of other 2-lanes across northern CT to get you near Winsted, but like you said you'll be changing route numbers every few miles to follow them. I've only been on parts of 209, so can't personally speak for all of it, but from the map the parts I haven't been on look pretty good. 209 crosses the Penna Turnpike just a bit north of Allentown.

 

Allentown to Annapolis is a bit more challenging. If it were me I'd do something like PA-100, PA-23, PA-10, PA-896, DE-896, US 301, but I'm basing most of that on maps.

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Tom,

When I have made the Allentown to Annapolis run, I have gone I-78 to Harrisburg, and pick up I-83 till I get close to Baltimore. From that area it does get congested. You can also take US 15 towards Gettsyburg instead of going directly south through York. There are parallel roads that you can follow for most of the stretches until Baltimore comes into play. I often end up jumping off and taking an earlier road until we decide we need to make up some time, and then I return to the Interstate. I too avoid I-95 like the plague most of the time...

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Didn't want you guys to think I've been purposefully neglecting this. Last Monday I had emergency surgery for detached retina. Not fun! Now I have to keep my head bowed down for two weeks while it heals. This on top of the cancer situation is getting a bit overwhelming (not to say gol'dern ridiculous). I swear there's a hidden expiration date on my birth certificate - and the clock it ticking.

 

In a weird way, it's making me lose patience and start thinking of just piling into the old Mercedes and heading out on the highway. Not smart, but it would be a great break from the craziness I'm going through here. Minor detail that I have only one usable eye at present, and no depth perception.

 

Details details.

Tom in CT

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Didn't want you guys to think I've been purposefully neglecting this. Last Monday I had emergency surgery for detached retina. Not fun! Now I have to keep my head bowed down for two weeks while it heals. This on top of the cancer situation is getting a bit overwhelming (not to say gol'dern ridiculous). I swear there's a hidden expiration date on my birth certificate - and the clock it ticking.

 

In a weird way, it's making me lose patience and start thinking of just piling into the old Mercedes and heading out on the highway. Not smart, but it would be a great break from the craziness I'm going through here. Minor detail that I have only one usable eye at present, and no depth perception.

 

Details details.

Tom in CT

 

Tom,

 

You sound to me like a guy who intends to use what he's got, not bemoan what he hasn't. And BTW one of our most active road pros here gets by with one eye. It p***** me off because he can't fully appreciate my great 3D photos! :rolleyes:

 

I have tried to imagine the trip as your parents might have taken it. Obviously they would have visited the big attractions along the way, and those haven't changed much. They are still there. The problem is what about the less important sights and places, the cafes, motels, and service stations.

 

I confess my road history interests go back to considerably before 1982, but I can envision a trip where you stayed at 1980's motels, ate at 1980's cafes, and the like. What you need are a few resources to identify them.

 

It should be easy to get a 1982 Rand McNally Atlas (as Denny suggested) and early 1980's AAA Tour Books on eBay or ABE. That would give you the 1982's routes and the names of motels, and even some restaurants from the period. I have some Duncan Hines guides and some Travelmat guides (they did those place mats you may recall) but they predate the 1980's (but not the 1960's). I have also seen several Best Western guides on eBay from the period. I bet with a little research you could plan a trip staying only in motels built before 1982, and often eat in restaurants of the period.

 

I just bid on some Reader's Disgust Driving America maps and guide books from the early 1980's. You can have then for free if I win them, and if I don't they should come up often in eBay.

 

Here is a possible organizing construct. Using the places you know your folks planned to visit, identify the connecting routes on a 1982 Rand McNally Atlas. Turn to the Readers Disgust maps and books for sights, and to the 1980's AAA Tour books to identify motels and restaurants. Use the internet to check if they still exist.

 

With some effort you could just about recreate the experience as they would have done, had they done it. All you have to do then is find service stations that sell gas at 1982 prices! :blink:

 

Just a few free thoughts which are worth every penny they cost!

 

(Oh, one last comment. Do keep the head down or they will have to install a buckle in the eye, and that can be no fun at all.)

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road

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Men make plans, and the gods just laugh.

 

Yes, indeed.

 

Very sorry about your emergency surgery and the cancer. Thoughts/prayers coming your way.

 

I, too, have a few health issues going on ... and that's just another reason why I "forge ahead" and plan trips ... and act on them NOW, while I still can. I sure hope you are able to take this trip; it sounds great. Not sure what more assistance/points I can offer, as most everyone else here is farther "seasoned" than I am. :) But, I definitely recommend traveling as much of Route 66 and/or the Lincoln Highway as you can.

 

Please keep us posted ... about your health issues and your trip as the plans continue to evolve.

 

 

 

Cort | 37.m.IL.pigValve.pacemaker | 5 Monte Carlos + 1 Caprice Classic | * RT_06.2011_us66+NW USA

MCs.CC + CHD.models.HO.legos.RadioShows + RoadTrips.us66 = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort

"Enough is enough, I can't take anymore" __ Alabama __ 'Can't Keep A Good Man Down'

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I just bid on some Reader's Disgust Driving America maps and guide books from the early 1980's. You can have then for free if I win them, and if I don't they should come up often in eBay.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road

 

Tom,

 

I nailed the 1981 Readers Disgust materials. I'll look them over and pass them on if you send your address to my e-mail on file here. They were practically free, so skip any thoughts of reimbursement. I'll just be pleased if they prove useful.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road.

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Dave - that is a *great* idea. Thank you very much. I didn't know about those old Drive America materials; they could be very useful in recreating the route.

 

I'll certainly take you up on your very kind offer. And if you're located anywhere along the eventual route, I might drop by in my 1958 Mercedes-Benz and buy you a Coke (or something stronger).

 

Tom

 

Tom,

 

I nailed the 1981 Readers Disgust materials. I'll look them over and pass them on if you send your address to my e-mail on file here. They were practically free, so skip any thoughts of reimbursement. I'll just be pleased if they prove useful.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road.

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Dave - that is a *great* idea. Thank you very much. I didn't know about those old Drive America materials; they could be very useful in recreating the route.

 

I'll certainly take you up on your very kind offer. And if you're located anywhere along the eventual route, I might drop by in my 1958 Mercedes-Benz and buy you a Coke (or something stronger).

 

Tom

 

Tom,

 

I got the Readers Digest material today and I am seriously disappointed. It is almost laughable.

 

I was hoping it would provide some insights into road trips in 1982, but what it contains is standard road maps copied and cut into smaller pages. They took H. M. Gousha road maps available at your corned service station and reprinted them in an 8.5 by 11 format.

 

And believe it or not, it includes a "traveler's Guide" booklet that will help you to identify such fascinating roadside interests as cows and horses. :blink: In case you didn't know, there are three types of roadside horses; ponies, light horses, and draft horses. :o Pictures are provided to aid in identification. :huh: There are more kinds of cows, and they are grouped into dairy cows and steers. ;) There is also a primer on how cars work. :unsure:

 

I know I have seen some well done Reader's Digest travel books, but these aren't them. If you can imagine a use for these, send me your mailing address via the message system here on the forum. If I don't hear from you in a week, I'll dump them, and renew my search for something useful from 1982.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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