Tin Can Tourists Lincoln Highway Tour, 2013. It’s just a memory now.

Posted: July 10, 2013 in Diamond T truck, Tin Can Tourists, travel, Uncategorized, Vintage trailers, Vintage trucks
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Canners giving the secret sign at Kearny, NB.

Canners giving the secret sign at Kearny, NB.

We’ve done it again.  Fifty  people, nine dogs, with 2 veteran RV’s, one ex-Dead-Head hippie bus, two hot-rodded trucks, a bone stock “survivor” ’53 Buick and 21 vintage trailers, headed out across the Midwest on a 2400 mile tour of Americas Heartland.

Here’s a re-cap of the highlights of the trip for us.  It’s not a mile by mile accounting, just some pictures of the good memories we made with our TCT family.

We gathered in Ashland, OH, on the third weekend of June to start our journey, coming from Florida to the south, and Ontario to the north.  The first stop was (in retrospect) maybe the nicest, on the grounds of a Vo-Ed center.  We had shade, grass, ample electric hook up, and port-o-johns.  While we lacked showers, water hook-ups or a dump station, it would prove to be, thanks to our hosts, the most relaxing stay we made.  The beautiful rolling green hills of eastern Ohio were a great background for the vintage trailers, trucks and RV’s.  The hospitality and enthusiasm of the people who attended the open house was welcoming.  For me, maybe the best stop of the entire trip.

Sandy and Helen's Cree, Dawns '66 Nova and Scotty, Matt and Brians "Stanely".

Sandy and Helen’s Frolic, Dawns ’66 Nova and Scotty, Matt and Brians “Stanley”.

Brian and Kim's Diamond T and Spartan Manor.

Brian and Kim’s Diamond T and Spartan Manor.

Coincidentally, the ATHS was having a regional truck show in town, so on Saturday morning Kirk, Craig and I all jammed into the tiny cab of the Diamond T and headed for the fairgrounds.  Lets suffice to say that the three of us were “cozy” for the trip!  It was a fun diversion, with not one but THREE other Diamond T trucks.  Two 201 pickups, and a bigger 509 with a grain mill on the back.

Kissin Cousins.

Kissin Cousins.

Unrestored 201

Unrestored 201

I will leave out details of our stop in Mansfield, OH, and the visit to the penitentiary there.  Suffice it to say, it wasn’t my favorite part of the tour.  Lets just say I wouldn’t do well in prison…DSCF2248Image

Goshen Indiana is a prosperous looking town just east of Elkhart, and Kim and I stopped for a soda and mid-day rest.  In the town square is a little fortress, supposedly built to dissuade crooks in the bootlegger days of the roaring 20’s from enjoying a soda or robbing the bank across the street.  It looked imposing, and by report had a 50 caliber machine gun mounted in the turret at the top.  We did not attempt any heist, but paid for the sodas instead.

Police fort in Goshen IN

Police fort in Goshen IN

Lunch-counter in Goshen, IN.

Lunch-counter in Goshen, IN.


At the RV Heritage Museum in Elkhart, I was tempted to search for a veteran heavy truck to build my own version of Mae Wests housecar, but that thought faded after we left.  Strong storms through the night shook the campers in the parking lot behind the museum where we were encamped, and had us leaving in cloudy, rainy skies the next morning.  A couple of the rigs got a little “cranky”, requiring some impromptu  repairs, that ended up needing professional intervention.  Thank goodness our pal Mike Greene was there, his shop close by with expert help, advice, and specialized service.  One Onan generator, one fridge that didn’t cool, and one leaky door, all better thanks to Mike and his crew.  Thanks, buddy!

Mike Greene, watching me cobble a weatherstrip job.  He did offer me a job...

Mike Greene, watching me cobble a weatherstrip job. He did not offer me a job…

RV Heritage Museum, Elkhart, IN

RV Heritage Museum, Elkhart, IN

"Behula, peel me a grape."

“I can fix this.”

As always, the visit to the museum collection left me wanting to build something, but since I have no place to store a vintage house-car, that isn’t going to happen.  Besides, we already have 4 vintage campers, how many do two people need?

Pierce Arrow house-car.

Pierce Arrow house-car.

"Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"

“Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to se me?”  Mae West’s studio house-car.

Then, it was on to Elgin IL.  We’d made an attempt at Mike’s shop, to staunch a leaky entry door, and were a little late leaving, so chose to take I-80 through Chicago-land.  A good choice of routes, as Rt. 30 through Joliet is evidently not the quickest way to get around the Windy City…

From there, things sort of blended together for me.  Perhaps if we lived in a big city, the drive through the mid-west would have been more entertaining.  Living in rural America, it was mostly like driving around our neighborhood.   That, combined with my lack of keeping a daily journal, makes it hard now to remember where everything I took pictures of was, and what town was where.  So, here are some random interesting things we saw along the way, somewhere in Illinois and Iowa…

Mike and Frank were not there.

Mike and Frank were not there.

Preston's station, Belle Isle, IA

Preston’s station, Belle Isle, IA

DSC05152 (1024x768)

Lincoln Highway bridge, Tama, IA

Lincoln Highway bridge, Tama, IA

King Tower Café, Tama, IA

King Tower Café, Tama, IA

Somewhere in Iowa...

Somewhere in Iowa…

Crossing the Mississippi in Clinton, IADSCF2340

DSC05186 (1024x768)

Kate Shelly Bridge.

Kate Shelly Bridge.

Closed traffic bridge just upstream from Kate Shelly bridge.  Kim did not jump off this one...

Closed traffic bridge just upstream from Kate Shelly bridge. Kim did not jump off this one…

Mile high Trestle

Mile high Trestle

Regan's boyhood home.

One of the many murals along the way.

One of the many murals along the way.

Once in Kearny, we were fortunate to find ourselves in what was, for that part of the country, a little “cold spell”.  Temps were in the low 80’s rather than the usual high 90’s to 100’s, and we were (relatively) comfortable at the fairgrounds camping area.  One thing the fairgrounds did provide was a 360 degree view of the constant fireworks around the city on Saturday night.  It looked like everybody in town bought a thousand dollars worth of fireworks, and started setting them off all around us.  It was quite a show.

Coke sing in Kearny

Coke sign in Kearny

"Camping" in Kearny, NB


Miss Nebraska.  Really.

Miss Nebraska. Really.

Kirk and I took a side trip to Marquette NE to visit a guy from the HAMB (Hokey Assed Message Board).  His shop/man-cave is a 1911 Ford dealership, and after we found the place (his directions were, well, let’s just say “sketchy”) we had a great time and a nice visit.  He has a great collection of cars and automobilia, and hands down, the coolest work bench on the planet.  Thanks, Mayor Dennis!IMG_0707


Coolest work bench ever

Coolest work bench ever

Back in Kearny, we found a repair shop with a beautiful neon sign out front of the art deco facade, and a vintage fire truck inside they were restoring.  The owner, Dan, was very friendly and happy to let us climb all over the fire truck and make siren noises…

Vroom!  Vroom!

Vroom! Vroom!

Kim and I had been given a Spartan trailer brochure from the 1950 Spartanette by a local guy, whose Aunt had bought it new in 1950 and lived in it untill her death just a few years ago.  When he brought it to us, he’d told us that the trailer was still in town, and right where his aunt had lived.  The property was bought by a landscape nursery, he didn’t know what they were doing with the trailer, but it was still on the property.  We had no trouble finding it, it was just down the street from Bill’s Liquor Store  (a place we visited often during our stay!).

The trailer indeed was still there, and looked like it did the last time that lady had shut the door.  Mailbox still out front, electric cord still plugged in, propane tanks out front.  It looked very cool, but it was Sunday, the store was closed so no one to talk to, and, even if they gave it away, it was $2,000 away from home.  Fun find though, and the brochure and owners manual from it are AWESOME!

Imperial Spartanette

Imperial Spartanette


Let's just hitch it up and go!

Let’s just hitch it up and go!


A visit to Kearny isn’t complete without a visit to the Classic Auto Museum, located in the Cabela’s complex, and we took it in as a group with the rest of the TCT travelers. It seems I have good taste in cars, because a twin of our ’48 Pontiac convert was there, along with a ringer for the only car I’ve ever regretted selling, a white ’59 Ford Skyliner Retractable, and a ’71 Ford Country Squire exactly like the one Kim’s folks had when we were in high school.

'48 Pontiac 'vert.  Same color as ours.

’48 Pontiac ‘vert. Same color as ours.

'71 Country Squire.

’71 Country Squire.

Friday, it was time to pack up and go.  We caravanned with Kirk and Beth, and stopped in Lincoln NB to see Speedy Bill’s “Museum of American Speed”.  For me, this was the highlight of the trip, it was amazing.  Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to publish pictures  of the collection, so you, gentle reader, will have to take my word that it’s a collection of race cars, speed equipment, toys, pedal cars, Indy cars, sprint cars, midgets, and Miller engines the likes of which you’ll never see in one place, anywhere.  I can show you a picture of us at the parts counter buying $60 worth of T-shirts and signs to save $20 admission to the collection.  Speedy Bill is a smart business man!

Image 3From there, it was on (almost) to Des Moines, where Kim and Beth were able to score us sites in a REAL campground on a the 4th of July weekend, with shade, grass, water, and electric.  It was a nice stop, a great place to kick back and reflect on the trip, and get ready for the 500 mile trek home the next day.  Good job ladies!

Look at those big smiles!  Those are some happy campers, right there.

We headed out early in the morning on Saturday, we’d initially planned going to Peru Indiana, and visiting Dan Pipers “Vintage Campers.com”, but when we looked at the map, it was as far there as it was to just go on home from Des Moines.  So, after a brief discussion, we all decided we’d been on the road long enough, and headed for Chicago-land.  We blew through in the afternoon with no trouble, no traffic, no problems.  At the Michigan Welcome Center, we stopped and bade good-by to our friends, and headed on home.Image 1

It was a good trip.  The Diamond T performed flawlessly, on what was basically a shake-down run.  Well, other than an initial low power steering fluid leak, which magically stopped after adding a little fluid.  We got an average of 12 mpg, which was a little less than I initially thought we were getting, but pretty good considering we were towing our house on back roads, into the wind.  No troubles, other than I admit it is a little loud, and A/C would be nice.

Image 2Would we do it over?  I’d have to say yes.  The journey was not the trip itself, but the experience of doing it with our Tin Can Tourist family.  As with all families, there are occasional disagreements, conflicts and minor aggravations, but in the end, it’s still family.  We met some new folks, got better acquainted with some people we didn’t know very well before, and became close friends  with some.  Certainly I wouldn’t have picked central Nebraska in July for a vacation destination, in a parking lot, but it was fun.  We ate some killer barbecue, got to meet Miss Nebraska (who seemed to be every bit as nice as all the other Nebraskans we met), and saw some really cool old stuff.  I even began to like the trains.

Happy Trails!

Happy Trails!

  1. paula says:

    Were/are you a journalist? You are a very good writer. Sounds like a very interesting trip.

  2. What an interesting trip!! Were you always on back roads? No expressways? I’ll ask Kim when I see her. Loved the ‘house car’ and Spartanette.

  3. Debbie says:

    First paragraph alone gave me goose bumps…so much nostalgia and enthusiasm for a worthwhile trip. So glad your group had such a great time.

  4. flynbrian48 says:

    Thanks! We did I-80 home, we’d both seen enough 2 lane, small town, stop and go action. So, we were able to easily drive 500 miles home as opposed to the 150-200 miles a day we did on the way out. I’m no journalist, and I rely heavily upon spell-check, and my wife Kim for editing!

  5. Al Fox (BIG AL) & linda says:

    Hi this is Big Al in California, I’m a TCT member. I just wanted you to know that I really like your trailer and truck. My Wife is retiring next year, and we have been looking into maybe a Sparten trailer and a chevy surburband the same year (1950 or ??) Again thanks for sharing.
    Have a 1950 Willys Panel and 1970 Havasu right now.

  6. Rod Kiser says:


    I enjoy your blog. I guess I am living vicariously through your adventure.

    How you and Kim find the time to enjoy life the way you do AND complete the projects you complete is amazing.

    Rod K

  7. Teri Speck says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog and also follow TCT on Facebook. The night your group camped in Arlington Nebraska, we made the drive up from Council Bluffs Iowa to see the campers. We were amazed and in awe of what we saw! I wanted to share with you that the ’48 Pontiac convertible from the Kearney museum you mention in your blog once belonged to my dad. Thank you for the smile when I saw the pic!! Two other cars in the museum were his as well, a ’54 Pontiac (it is orange and the last time I was at the museum it was in a gas station display) And a ’33Chevy. I am not sure if that one is displayed yet or not, we were told it was going to be put on a turn table display. My father passed away almost 9 years ago and the majority of his collection of antique cars were eventually sold. I am grateful that a few of the cars are in a place where they can be enjoyed by others!

    By the way- It sounds like your Lincoln Highway tour was a trip of a lifetime!!

    • flynbrian48 says:

      Teri, Thank-you for the kind words, and for driving all that way just to see our rigs. We both truly did a double take seeing the Pontiac convert in the mueum, it is EXACTLY the same color as ours and was a real treat to see. I sort of wish now we’d driven ours rather than the Diamond T on the trip, just so you could’ve seen it. Not to mention we’d have probably been more comfortable… We have used it towing the Spartan, taking it to Maine on vacation a few years ago. The TCT is a wonderful group, it has been very enriching for Kim and I being a part of it for the past 10 years or so. Keep following, maybe we’ll have a chance to meet sometime, somewhere!


  8. Hi – The gas station pictured as “somewhere in Iowa” is the Reed Station at the Reed-Niland Corner in Colo. We enjoyed your visit at Niland’s Café and hope to see you again!

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