I’m home late on Sunday night from the IH Nationals. I smell like exhaust, summer air, sweat, and Dairy Queen. I’m sunburned on my face, nose and scalp. My shift leg feels like rubber. I’ve got grease caked under my nails that I have to clean out before bedtime. But every mile was worth it, and I’d like to do it again next year.
My first leg was from home to West Virginia to pick up Brian. I made an early morning appointment to have the alignment done because the new wheels make the truck wander at speed and I don’t like that too much. I waited in the parking lot for about 45 minutes before the guy got her up on the rack and after that it only took about a half an hour to get it dialed in. He said everything looked good, but the wandering was still there when I got on the highway. It took about a half an hour to get used to the new handling at highway speed, but once I settled in it was OK.
In West Virginia I picked up Brian at his family’s river house and we got on the road in short order. We were both excited to be in a Scout going to Nationals, so we were smiling like idiots the whole way. The weather was beautiful for the entire day so we put the soft top down and rode like that for most of the day in cool 80˚ sunshine. As we chased the sun West it lowered into our eyes so we put the bikini top on somewhere in Ohio and stuck with that for the rest of the day.
My previous calculations on fuel consumption put the average somewhere at 10mpg, and the venting on the fuel tank is still wonky, so she only likes to take about 8-10 gallons at a time at the pump. This meant our range was somewhere around 80 miles/1 hour between fill ups, and after a couple of stops it bore out the theory. We switched off driving so Brian got some wheel time and he got to scare himself when the truck would wiggle at speed.
Along the way we were given thumbs-ups and smiles and had our pictures taken; a helpful man in a pickup also let us know one of the license plate bolts had loosened itself with all the rattling and escaped somewhere in Pennsylvania. We pulled over and Brian asked if I had a zip-tie, to which I laughed as I pulled a bagful from the console. Once it was secured we continued on our way (and when the other bolt rattled itself off in Ohio we just zip-tied the whole thing on).
We pulled into Troy at sunset, following some signs for the WACO airfield, and suddenly found ourselves passing it. I pulled a quick U-turn and we drove onto the grounds to preview the site. Most people were out at dinner so we asked some of the few people milling around about timing for the next day, shot some quick pictures, and then went to find some food and a cold beer. We had to settle for an Applebee’s but the beer was cold so we didn’t complain.
Across the street at the hotel, the parking lot was filled with people and Internationals. I found a spot next to a familiar Maryland Scout owned by a friend of ours and we put the soft top up before checking in. Then we made a drink and wandered down to talk with some people until about 10, at which time we became pumpkins.
The next morning we were up early to get cleaned up and fed, and then we made our way to the site via a Tim Horton’s closer to town. I pulled onto the field and parked in the Scout II row, put the hood up, and got her ready. As we walked in to get registered I passed a couple I follow on Instagram who have a beautiful Scout they’ve been restoring and we made introductions. They walked with us to the registration desk and we filled out the paperwork and got our swag. I decided to have Peer Pressure judged for a laugh. Once we got that sorted out, we started walking the grounds.
At Carlisle there were a lot of Scouts but this was IH Mecca. There were more shiny new Scouts than I’d ever seen in one place, and they were out on the grounds and being driven regularly. There were the requisite lifted, caged, dieseled Scouts and there were rusty old original Scout 80’s with sliding windows and no seat belts. There was a gorgeous mid-60’s Travelall pulling a vintage Airstream. There were giant IH cabover tractors lined up in a row. There was a 6-door Airport Travelall. It was overwhelming.
We started with the parts vendors first, and I scored some bolts for my door hinges, which are missing, as well as four spare bolts for the bedrail caps. We were blown away by the sheer amount of stuff for sale (and this was the second day; apparently Friday is parts day) big and small. Everything from nuts and bolts to entire NOS quarter panels is available; there were trailers stacked with axles, body shells, and a few very clean turnkey Scouts as well.
From there we started looking at the display trucks, and that took the majority of the day. There were show-ready Travelalls, pickup trucks, and Wagonmasters (the El Camino version of IH’s Travelall). There were street-rod versions of the same, many with donor engines and drivelines.
We started down the line of Scout II’s and had to stop when we got 1/3 of the way for lunch. At the table we met up with a fellow all the way from Australia, who has a gaggle of Scouts, runs a club, and has been driving them for years.
From there we continued looking at the display trucks, stopping only to put the top up on Peer Pressure when gray clouds rolled in and rain started falling. Luckily it only rained for about 20 minutes and then cleared itself up; We spent that time in a tent filled with immaculate examples of IH’s entire range of trucks and even a Q-tip ready Farmall tractor. I looked at a Midas Traveler which, minus the outside paint job, was the spitting image of my college roommate Pat’s Traveler down to the brown plaid captain’s chairs and shag rug.
Once the rain passed we finished the displays and wandered up to the hangar where we ran into a bunch of friends, including Dennis, who had been one of the main mechanics on Peer Pressure’s brakes. We mentioned the wandering issue and he told us to get a Straight Steer bar and he’d help us install it in the parking lot. Never one to turn down knowledgable help, I ran to the Super Scout barn and grabbed the last one on the table.
By 4 o’clock Brian and I were pretty walked and talked out. We hung out in the barn for a while, waiting for another shower to pass, and made plans to follow Stephen into town for burgers and shakes at an old-school diner on Main Street. K’s is right out of the 1950’s from the interior decor to the paper hat on the head of the grillman, who knew Stephen from sight. Those burgers sure did taste good.
On the way back to the hotel we made a brief stop at a Harbor Freight for some box-end wrenches and a deadblow hammer and then found a parking spot before the raffle/auction started. Taking 1/2 hour to relax and kick back in our room, we poured some drinks and checked in with families, and then headed downstairs to join the crowd.
For years, there’s been a Saturday barbecue, raffle, and auction after the main show, held in the parking lot of the hotel. People bring all sorts of things to donate, and the entire pot goes to charity. They’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars each year, and the whole thing is a lot of fun. Dennis found us pretty quickly after we came outside and ran for his tool bag; with the tools I’d bought and his ratchet, we had the steering pump loosened and the Straight Steer into place with little effort. In 20 minutes we had the whole thing buttoned back up. Once again I thanked Dennis profusely for his help. Scout people are the fucking best.
Then we settled in for the raffle and auction. I’d bought 12 tickets, 6 for cash and 6 with my entry fee, and as usual, I didn’t win anything. (I had my heart set on a $500 gift certificate from IH Parts America. Oh well). The auction was fun, but I didn’t have a whole lot of cash left after the Straight Steer purchase and anything I wanted got bid out of my range pretty quickly.
I bumped into a nice fellow who asked about the safari top on Peer Pressure and the subject turned to the tires stacked in back; I didn’t have any bites on them at the show but he seemed interested when he saw them. As the night went on he thought more about it and told be he probably couldn’t do it. We stood and drank and talked with new friends and laughed until about 11, and by that point Brian and I were pretty crispy.
In the morning we got packed up early to leave, had some hotel breakfast and said our goodbyes, hit Tim Horton’s again for real coffee, and stopped off at the showgrounds for a toy for Finnegan. On the way out we saw the nice folks from @International_Camp_Bus striking their campsite and we traded a wave as we pulled away.
The ride back was quieter than the ride in; both Brian and I were pretty tired so conversation was more subdued. Peer Pressure drove maybe a smidge tighter, but the tires are still wandery in the tractor-trailer ruts and across expansion joints. It’s really a combination of the tires and the springs: the tires want to move around and the springs like to unload at speed, so just when you need some control the weight floats about six inches above the suspension and the steering gets squirrelly. And this with two adult males and 350+ lbs. of tires in the back. Amusingly, the engine and gearing are happy at 65mph and would easily do 70+ if prodded.
The sky was overcast for the whole way out of Ohio and through Pennsylvania/Maryland; it was only when we crossed the bridge into West Virginia that we got sunshine over our shoulders. I dropped Brian off at the river and stayed for about 15 minutes to stretch my legs. They offered me a dip in the river but it was 6PM and I was itching to be home, so I got back on the road.
The sunlight stuck with me on 70 into Maryland, and I was feeling good about getting home at 7 until I came upon brake lights going up a hill. As I slowly crested it I saw why: a rainbow crossed over the valley I was dropping into, and my heart rate increased a little. As I climbed back out of the valley the road got wetter and spray started kicking up in front of me. My wipers are functional but not at highway speeds, so I rely on Rain-X to keep the windshield clear. And, the soft top was completely folded up behind me. As I crested the next hill, fortune smiled upon me: a rest stop was directly ahead. I pulled off and put the top up in a light drizzle, then looked at the weather radar to see what was overhead: a small cloudburst was directly over I-70 and following it east about 5 miles ahead of me. As I waited the rain stopped and the residual heat started drying things out.
I figured I’d be smart and wait it out, so I killed 20 minutes making notes on the trip and then nervously got back on the road (after hoisting all the electronic gear and dry goods to a high spot on a tire in the middle of the truck). Fortune smiled on me again, because the rainclouds tapered off in front of me and the only problem I had was 20 minutes of stop-and-go traffic for some bridge maintenance up ahead. Peer Pressure’s lights all work flawlessly so I wasn’t worried about a night drive. The only one that doesn’t work is the speedometer but after ten years I can gauge her speed by the sound and feel of the engine through the pedals.
I pulled into Catonsville sweating the last couple gallons of gas (I was a little over my 80 mile interval and dreading the nonexistent breakdown lanes on the Beltway), backed into the garage and shut her down after a long day’s workout.
We covered almost 1,000 miles in three days, and she ran flawlessly. That truck never ceases to impress me. I am continually amazed at how lucky I am to have made the friends that share my hobby, and how willing they are to help and share their knowledge, as well as how lucky I am that this crazy purple-and-gold-and-red truck found me when it did. And special thanks to Brian, my best friend and Scout buddy, for talking me into this trip.