Turning Over Moss Miles

Organized by Moss Motors, the Challenge was a contest, a scavenger hunt for places and things.

A Challenge Guide had a hunting list of cities, counties, States, Provinces, Moss facilities, specific destinations, National Forests, National Parks, Car Shows and Bonus Points. Points, one or more were earned for each photo showing car (fitted with Moss parts), driver, Guide Cover and proof (signs or landmarks) the hunt was successful. The Challenger submitting photos earning the most points would win and most points for States and Provinces given recognition.

My Challenge car, a red 1961 Triumph TR3A was acquired in May 2013 and improved upon. Challenge preparations: changing polarity, an alternator, LED stop/turn/tail lights, sway bars, shoulder belts, thorough check of brakes, running gear, full tune-up and a much used cruise control. I also equipped a GPS tracker in case the car and driver became seriously separated.

Total Challenge miles driven: 20,930. I started trip heading east, odometer at 88388, turned over to 00000 near Dobson, NC. Took on 800 gallons of gas during 79 fill-ups, an average of 26.1 mpg.

I traveled solo. 68 years old, a retired association executive, 39 years with same organization, living in Sacramento, CA. Going back a long way, I previously owned six TRs, the last one 20 years ago. A MGA, Miata and Honda S2000 were also in the mix. Yes, a long-standing pursuit of the fun and joy of driving roadsters, top up or down, mostly down.

I carried a Samsung Galaxy smart camera, tripod, cell phone and a Rand McNally U.S. Road Atlas. Before learning about the Challenge I already had a trip to Lyme, CT and Dobson, NC already in mind. I also had a TR that I believed was up for the hunt. Travel was a free-wheeling, day-to-day driving adventure. For freedom, no lodging reservations were made. There was a room at the first inn most of the time. Evenings were typically spent reviewing photos taken, emailing the best home, planning the next path and wondering what new sights would emerge. I was rarely disappointed. Early on, watching weather forecasts became a must-do. Learning to read thunderstorms, when to seek an underpass or get off the road for shelter was helpful throughout the hunt.

Challenge Hunt – Five Parts

First part: trips in Sacramento area gathering points, getting used to a new camera and practicing the “set up.” Was soon apparent, the hunt was going to be as Moss advertised—a challenge. Finding the destination, a safe place for car and driver, dealing with lighting conditions—some good, most poor—setting the scene, car, driver, guide cover and proof, taking photos, review, shoot again, often several more, became a routine repeated hundreds of times. For ease of set up, durability and back-up, two Challenge Guide covers were laminated. One made it all the way, the other left at the entrance to Yellowstone. And yes, I did have to backtrack a few times for the survivor.

Second part: the longest. Sacramento to Lyme, a northern route, saw 27 States and 9 Canadian Provinces. Crossed the Continental Divide six times. Thunderstorms, blazing hot days, long reaches through high mountains, flat land prairie, great expanses of forests, a multitude of rivers and lakes was the order of the day, for days at a time. Saw few boring sights, the majority were scenic and were as the song America the Beautiful aptly describes.

Ten border crossings, into and back from Canada, traffic quicker going in than coming out. Soon had the answers to customs questions down pat, “No drugs, no weapons, in for a short time, no pepper spray and little cash.” Thought a less traveled customs port would speed things along. The Canadian sign said “U.S. Customs Port 78 miles, closes at 9 pm, road – no services”. It’s 6:45 pm, tank half-full, sun still up, two lanes, so get going. Only three oncoming cars, pass only one, mostly good surface, curves, down to one lane, crossing narrow bridges, over hills, sun is down, back to two lanes, over higher hills, more twist and turns than a pretzel factory and then flattens out, it’s dark, no moon, In the far distance the glow of lights, the port, pull up, it’s 8:50 pm. Wait at the staging line, see movement in window, know someone’s there, wait some more. Motioned forward, show passport, know the answers. Waved through and see the port’s lights in the mirror go dark. Another 20 miles to city lights. Worth it all!

Third part: a stay in Lyme, helping my son and his wife work on their recently purchased house, built in 1835. There were excursions gathering photos and crossing things off the Challenge list. Electrical problems began, the car was growing a Medusa head, with wires instead of snakes. A spark plug wire failure, pushed to start at times, gas gauge and turn signals quitting on occasion caused some worry. Friday, before Labor Day weekend, ordered a starter from Moss for next day delivery, which they did. Fiddling with wires in meantime yielded a seemingly consistent start, new starter not needed, would return it to Moss in VA on the way to NC.

Fourth part: Lyme to Sacramento then to Santa Maria CA, a southern route added 20 States. More thunderstorms and humidity, very long stretches—three nights just to get through Texas, where for the first time since Lyme, the starter wouldn’t at times. Time to head home as quickly as possible and get the problems fixed.

The Challenge Guide list had gotten much shorter. At home, Dan Kelly, British Car Service, the car’s trusted caretaker came to the rescue. A connection to the starter relay was tightened and a wire from the ignition switch to the wrong terminal rerouted. Not a problem since. Then on to Triumphfest in Santa Maria and a loop back to catch the “R” county, Nevada, and a ski resort without snow.

Fifth part: a hunt for Utah. The state had somehow been missed. I discovered this when assembling photos for final submission. After removing, repairing a leaking radiator, and putting it back in, the last and final road trip completed all that was going to be hunted for the Challenge. Thus, the lower 48 were complete and 174 photos submitted. Points for the remaining two States and four Provinces were not pursued due high risk of damage from rough roads and very expensive costs for portage to hunt extremely remote locations. Not sure the other point, “X” county, even exists.

A Few Experiences and Observations

Motel keys can talk. If it’s metal, no fob, room number written in pencil on a small paper stick-on, it doesn’t bode well. A plastic card with graphic designs, in a folded printed holder says you may have arrived. A key with a large long stick says you are headed to a rest room. In West Texas I found myself in a “brand named” room—a plastic key with an embossed fob—facing empty plowed fields and crickets have no shelter from the oppressing heat. The motel grounds are inviting and they accept. The application is working, but slow, some are dead or dying outside and in. Some in desperate frenzy are flying around the room. Desk clerk said, “We are doing our best.” Too tired to pack and move, pulled covers over head, shoes on, uneasy sleep. In AZ, same brand, but with cockroaches, big, didn’t fly. Tore up rewards card, never been back. In all, I spent 54 room nights during the hunt.

Ask, May Receive

Freeway ended, construction everywhere, dumped onto a street, it’s 9 pm, pulled over, asked a young couple, how do I get to Texarkana? They said, “You are in it!” Then they led the way to the road to Texas. Ask, the barn doors are opened for the photo. Ask, the official says, yes, pull in front of the big, colorful Nova Scotia sign. Ask, fire chief says yes, and stands alongside for the picture of the truck. The policeman asks, “What’s going on?” Respond, in a contest taking a picture, he says, “There’s a better sign over there.” Lost, amid Charlotte, NC’s inner, outer, parkways, get off, no stores or services around. See a man going to his car, ask, how do you catch the 85 to Gastonia. He begins explaining, gives up, says, “Follow me, I use it on my way home.”

For bonus points, ask to see “Maggie”, a MGB, which with owner Bryan Hutchinson won the 2013 Challenge. He not only says yes, he brings it to the motel for the photo. Kind and helpful, he asks, has the National Monument destination been reached? Yes, been to DC. Think again he says. Some research, got to a real one later. Turns out the Washington Monument in DC is not technically National.

Ask Mr. Robert Goldman, at a TR Convention dinner in Dobson, NC, where to find a good wire wheel balancing company. Wheels had been balanced a few days earlier. Poor job, at speed, more shaking than grass skirts at a hula contest. Allen Hendrix, Hendrix Wire Wheel is introduced, need to be on the road soon explained. Nudging by Mr. Goldman prompts action. Normally closed, Allen opens his doors Sunday morning, he and right hand man Ben go to work. Tires shaved till round, splined hubs checked for true, rear shocks attended, spokes tightened/tuned and balanced to three digit tolerances. With Allen, a test drive yields the smoothest ride ever in a TR3 and a lesson on using the overdrive. Proud of their work, and they should be, their magic touch and the ultra smooth ride remains to this day.

I was fortunate to have met Mr. Goldman a few weeks earlier in VA while returning the starter. Unassuming, on the customer side of the counter said, someone will help you shortly. He asked to see the car driven from CA, returned, extended his business card. It was then realized, oh, Chairman of Moss Motors. He said, see you at VTR in Dobson. There, he mentioned to the judges of the daily driver award, the car had been driven from California. The award followed.

126. Fire Truck - 1pt 103. NS Province - 1pt

Car Shows

One point each up to ten, hard earned, each takes most of a day, some two or three. If serious and in the running need to stay to the end, when winners are announced. Three were marque, British or Triumph. United British Sports Car Club Show in Dixon, CA, Vintage Triumph Register Convention, Dobson, NC and Triumphfest, Santa Maria, CA. The other seven were a mix: antiques, vintage, hot rods, muscle, classics, etc., some fundraisers. Three shows Labor Day weekend, car appreciated at two, not so much the third (except by attendees). Car won 11 awards/trophies at 8 shows. As on the road, people interested in it, gave thumbs up, took pictures, and were one of three kinds—had one or relative had one, knew someone who had one or “what is it?”

Service and Maintenance

Carried extra oil as the TR is still not housebroken, would stock up before an oil change, not much call for 20w – 50 in the Rockies and east. Searched for service—brand service centers would not touch the car, not even for a simple oil and filter change. Finding high octane, no problem, kept an eye on ethanol and gas station attendants as some wanted to unscrew the pop up filler cap, one did. Was thankful for specialty suppliers such as Moss Motors and delivery service. Correct parts such as spark plug wires can be a wait at mainstream stores. An ignition switch with key, impossible without Moss. Had left the gas cap open, discovered after 30 miles, in rain, closed it and pressed on. If it quit running then I would know too much water had gotten in, time for a service anyway. In addition to those repairs noted, removed a leaking oil cooling radiator and replacing a failed speedometer cable. Came close, but never once did the TR leave me stranded.

The Challenge hunt was truly an adventure, an unmatched driving experience—people, places and things. One that was a memory maker indeed!

Thanks Moss Motors, for the motivation to get in, take a chance and go turning over many, many Moss Miles in pursuit of a near perfect Challenge drive.

By Ed Yates


yates map25 Y City - 1pt 50. Y County - 1pt 92. TX State - 1pt 145. Full Moon - 1pt

'Turning Over Moss Miles' have 3 comments

  1. March 8, 2015 @ 6:17 pm Sandia

    Thanks for sharing your story. Framing that full moon photo – inspiring!


  2. March 8, 2015 @ 8:02 pm Ken Mohlman

    my hat is off to you, what a great effort, and single handed driving. I too find that solo trips and unplanned night stops to heighten the experiences. Restaurants and fuel seem to show up when needed and the food mostly is better than expected. The back roads are so much more fun the the interstates and the scenery never stops. Last week insanity has hit a high mark when I cleaned, retouched the paint , then waxed the underside of my Bugeye. Wishing you many more happy miles. Ken M.


  3. August 28, 2015 @ 10:07 pm Patrick

    What a fantastic experience. Thank you so much for sharing this story, it certainly gives me the inspiration to get out on my own adventures with my Triumph. Absolutely no excuses.


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