Life Over 56  


    Kade and Carla had been married for 15 years. Her parents moved her to Phoenix, AZ when she was 6 years old, because she had mild COPD and Asthma. She grew up in Phoenix and they were married November 10, 1980 shortly after she turned 19.

    Kade was a Door and Hardware Sales person and she was a stay-at-home mom. They had two boys Mark who was 7 and Zack who was 13. Each year when Kade was having financial problems, around Christmas time, he would promise to take Carla back east so she could be near where she was born in Decatur, IL. He absolutely refused to move her to Decatur, but was willing to locate her close to her home town. Little did she know, he had plans too. He had such a hard life and wanted to move to West Lafayette, IN to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing at Purdue University so he could write about it.

    Christmas morning, December, 25 1994, he again promised to take her back east. She did not speak to him for a week. Then things smoothed over when Kade got a big bonus check shortly after the first of the year. Everything was fine until school let out for the summer. She was feeling left out and when she told Kade to keep his promise to take her back east. "I want to go home right now," she said. Kade went into his usual "We can't afford to move just now." She blew up and almost screamed at him, "You will never take me back home. You're Married to Phoenix." That did it. Kade said, I want you to realize our financial situation I have been keeping quiet about. It is true we own this little trailer, but we have been slowly going further in debt since I got injured working for that construction company and had to take my sales job because I can no longer lift over 45 pounds. We owe over 16,000 thousand dollars on our credit cards. And I only can charge a little over 900 hundred dollars before our credit cards are maxed out. All we can get for our trailer is about 2,000 dollars. Do you want to chance going broke to get there?

    The next morning Kade went to the Arizona Republic news paper and placed an ad to sell their trailer for 1,900 dollars. By the end of the week the ad produced no potential buyers, so he told Carla it looks like we cannot sell the trailer. Carla said in a stern voice, "You promised!" "So be it," He said. On the way to work he again stopped by the newspaper and placed an ad to sell the trailer for 900 dollars. Within hours after the paper came out they had a buyer for the trailer. Carla was ecstatic. She gave him a big hug and thanked him for acting so soon. But Kade said he had to see the doctor before they went. Two days later he saw the doctor who did an EKG because his father had a heart attack and died so young. When the EKG was read the doctor handed him a little bottle of nitroglycerin heart pills and said he had a bad heart. After instructing him on how to use them, he went back to share the bad news with Carla. "I am going to keep my promise, but God help you if I die on the way there. Do you want to take that chance? "YES! YOU PROMISED! Besides my mother died and my father went traipsing off to who knows where so he can gamble, I will be alone anyway."

    After the deal was closed and Kade handed the new owner the title, he went to get a U-Haul trailer and began loading it up. It was almost 9:00 pm when he finished. She got the kids in the car and got in herself. Kade sat down in the drivers seat of their heavily overloaded 1983 Mercury Zephyr and started the engine. He said to Carla, "No matter what happens, I love you." He started to back the car out of the driveway and it hesitated. He had worked on cars most of his life and knew there was very little chance the car would be able to pull such a heavily loaded trailer because the car was only a mid-sized sedan and had a 6 cylinder engine. But it soon started to roll better than he expected. He continued out of Phoenix to Apache Junction which marked the end of the Phoenix area. He stopped the car and got out to check for problems. Everything looked good.

    After he got going again, the acid test for the car lay ahead. They continued east to Superior, AZ. Kade told Carla the terrain was about to get rough as they started up the grades. He did not believe the car could climb the grades with such a load. Superior was in the rearview mirror halfway to Miami, AZ. The car was running well. When the car started up the first steep grade going to Miami, Kade said to Carla, "Do you smell that oily smell. That is our transmission burning up. We have only one chance to get up the grade. I will have to slow down until I can shift into low gear and hold the gas peddle on the floorboard. The engine was screaming and then stated to slow down. The grade was putting an awful strain on his little engine and transmission but it faithfully went up the grade. In Miami, he saw a gas station that had 93 high-octane gas. The Zephyr used over half a tank of gas getting to Miami. He filled it up and was surprised at how much more power it had when they started off again. By then it was after midnight and Kade was exhausted; however, he new he had to go on bad heart or not or be stuck there.

    When he drove into Globe, AZ he tanked up with gas and checked the tires and oil. Then he got a bunch of food for the long run from Globe to Duncan,AZ. It was dark and he was glad Carla could not see what the high desert landscape looked like. Hours went by before they drove into Duncan. He could go no farther, he was numb from head to toe and hoped after he slept he would wake in the morning. He went into a convivence store and asked if it was OK for him to park for the night. They said yes. After buying a lot of food and some drinks they ate a quick meal and went to sleep for the night.

    In the morning Carla got a glimpse of where they were and Kade knew it scared her, but she said nothing about it. There was nothing but rocks and more rocks with an occasional dry looking cactus. The car was running fine, but soon the air was getting hotter and hotter. Kade thought the high desert did not get all that hot. By 11 o'clock the car engine was starting to heat up. He told Carla he had to shut off the air conditioner to keep the engine from burring up. Fortunately his Zephyr had wing door windows that could be turned backwards to let in a little cooler air.

    They continued on to Lordsburg, NM then got on Interstate 10 going toward Fort Bliss until they got to the junction of Interstate 10 and Interstate 20. He pointed the car toward Pecos, Texas. He had an altercation in Pecos years ago and wanted to get out of Reeves County as soon as possible. It was late in the afternoon when they entered Abilene, Texas. They got out and got some food, drinks and filled up with gas. He checked the oil and water before they were again on their way. It was dark and 141 miles to Fort Worth, TX. At 7:30 they drove to the outskirts of Fort Worth and stopped at a motel where he rented a room for the night. They had something to eat and drink and bedded down for the night.

    In the morning the Zephyr's battery was dead. He told Cara it was a good thing he did not check out before he tried to start the car. He went digging through the U-Haul trailer to find his Schumacher battery charger. It was over 35 years old but still worked good. He put the charger on the car and waited in hopes it was only a dead battery. Two hours later he started the car after they all got in. As they drove off Kade told Carla if the engine dies on us we may be stuck here for a long time. He drove to an auto parts place and they checked the battery and it was bad. They put a new battery in the car for him after he paid for it. Then they were off again. When he got to the junction of Interstate 20 and Interstate 35 he turned north on 35. They arrived in Oklahoma City at 2:30 pm.

    Kade felt good and decided to drive to Springfield, MO before trying to find a place to pull over and sleep. He knew their money was running out faster than a leaky faucet and had to be careful or get stranded without any money. Just on the other side of Springfield he found a nice roadside park to sleep in. At least it had vending machines and bathrooms. In the morning he decided to drive all the way to Lebanon, IN. His plan was to look for a place to stay in Lebanon because it was close to his dream Purdue, University. All went well and they arrived in Lebanon when it was almost dark. They found a place where they could get some sleep after they stopped and got something to eat.

    He had chosen Lebanon because it apparently had low priced rental apartments in a county setting. In the morning he got a wake up call. It was a high-traffic small city. And he could not find anything even close to his price range. He asked an apartment manager why the prices were so high. The manager said it in two words "Purdue University" is only a few miles from here. Half choked up in defeat, Kade told Carla, we are going to Lexington, KY. It is under 200 miles from here and is much smaller than Louisville, KY. After they got gassed up and headed toward Lexington, he was somber. His plan to go to Purdue was way out of his price range and he had to face that reality. By the time they drove into Lexington Kade accidentally drove to US 60 and ended up in Winchester, KY. He was scared and did not feel safe there. They were in a Kroger store getting some food, when he spotted several fireman. He told the fireman he had just come from Arizona and wanted to know if he would recommend a place they could get an apartment in a safe area. He said, "Versailles is a real nice place." So, he drove to Versailles and went to another Kroger store to get some groceries before looking for a place to stay. As they were walking around, he heard an announcement on the store's intercom that they were hiring people to work in the Deli. He went up to the service desk and asked about the job. They gave him an application and an interview with the Deli manager. He got the job and would start to work in the morning. He knew the pay was not all that good but he had no choice. After the interview was over and he was hired, they went to look for a place to stay. He found a fleabag motel that rented rooms by the week. It was a steep price at 60 dollars a week; however, he knew it was the best he was going to do on such short notice. After the first week he went to apply for food stamps because he was almost out of money. Within two days they awarded him a little over 600 dollars in stamps for the second half of the month and the following month. And they told him he might qualify for government housing. Three weeks had passed - he had a job and got an apartment in the government housing. Deep down he knew he had no choice but to leave Phoenix Purdue or no Purdue since it was impossible for him to do constructions work ever again.

    To make this story have a happy ending. Years later, I found out the doctor's EKG machine was faulty and I did attend Purdue University at IPFW, the Fort Wayne, Indiana Campus, where I was on the semester honor roll. And most of all my wife, who desperately wanted to live in a house, got to live in a house and not an apartment or trailer for two years until I got Pancreatic Cancer which was successfully removed in 2014 and we had to move back close to our son in case I passed away.


    Kai was 22 years old and had been working as a foreign car mechanic at an import used car dealer in Phoenix, Arizona as a mechanic. He longed to be back in Denver near Lowry Air Force Base where he was stationed in 1963. The base allowed him to escape his father's violent temper.

    The owner offered to sell him a 1950 Dodge Sedan in mint condition. He bought it for a hundred a ten dollars. Now he could go back to what he called home. That Friday he told the dealer he was going back to his dream city, Denver Colorado. The dealer wished him luck. "At least you now have a car to get you there," He said.

    Monday morning bright and early he started toward Denver with no idea of what was about to happen. The Dodge purred up the grade on Black Canyon Highway, (US 89), going north out of Phoenix. His mind wandered as he relived his father, Herman, dragging the family from their home to move to Phoenix. Kai couldn't understand why he picked such dry parched desert to roost in. In 1964 Phoenix had what are called "swamp coolers" and even motels had signs that read, "Air Conditioned, which was a half-truth." But, they didn't cool much at all unless the humidity was low. He was tired of suffering through the heat summer after summer. By October he was more than ready to leave Phoenix.

    When he arrived in Flagstaff, AZ, he drove into a gas station to get some gas. Flagstaff did not impress him, he wanted mountains and trees like in Northern Colorado. Kai felt like he was in a fantastic dream as he continued north toward Tuba City, AZ on US 89. So far so, good he muttered to himself. Shortly after passing Tuba City he noticed the engine temperature stated to rise. He knew the dealer he worked for would pour a bottle of liquid in the radiator to stop leaks in car radiators and if the car had a cracked cylinder block it would seal it, that is, until it got hot again. Kai began to worry that his car engine had been doctored up to stop it from leaking water. He shrugged his shoulders and drove on hoping the engine would not be one of the dealers victims. He thought, I will check the car out when I get to Keyenta, AZ. Unfortunately a little over half way there the engine temperature was rising again. He was now sure the engine had been doctored. Here he was in the middle of a high desert area with virtually nothing living in sight and an engine that was getting critically hot. It was only 23 miles to Keyenta where he could try to find a head gasket to replace when he took the cylinder head off to maybe find out what was wrong with the engine. When he got to Keyenta, he found a garage that had a head gasket and some gasket shellac to seal the smaller parts to keep them from leaking. Kai parked his car where he could work on it. After he removed the head gasket and did a careful inspection, he found nothing out of the ordinarily. He put the engine back together using the new gasket.

    Everything is fine he thought. So he got some food and continued northeast on US 160. The engine was getting hotter and hotter. He had a desert water bag he had filled up in Keyenta. It had rained that morning and there were puddles of water alongside the road. So he got a hub cap and filled the radiator as much as he could. By the time he arrived at Teec Nos Pos he knew his car was running on borrowed time. But he was as stubborn as his father. He was going to finish the trip. Thoughts of returning to Phoenix were off the table.

    Suddenly there was a loud explosion under the hood, but the engine still sounded good. Kai got out and lifted the hood. The whole engine compartment was soaked. It was a good thing it did not get enough water on the spark plugs to drown out the engine. He looked at the radiator in disbelief. The tank at the top had blown nearly off the radiator. So he took the radiator out and put it in the trunk and then drove the car for a mile or two and got some more water from the rock puddles and poured it threw the open radiator hose. He continued to do this until he came to a place where he could pull off the road. Several Indians where in a homemade horse-drawn cart made from a car chassis with tires coming toward him. They saw the steam pouring from the car and asked him if he needed help. Kai did not know where he was. One Indian said, "This is the UTE Mountain Reservation." Kai told them if they wanted the car they could have it. They said yes and Kai signed over the title and gave it to them. One of them said, "Would you like us to take you To Cortez, Colorado?" They went to get a truck to get the car and take Kai with his personal items to Cortez.

    In Cortez Kai tried to get the bus to send his belongings to Denver paid on delivery. They would only send his tools and not his clothes. So he paid for his clothes and sent the tools pay-on-delivery. Now he started walking to Denver with his water-bag on his shoulder and his winter coat he could not fit in his suitcase. The first day he walked from Cortez, CO toward Durango where he got some crackers and a tin of Vienna Sausage before continuing toward Pagosa Springs, CO. (About 53 miles from Cortez). When he arrived in Pagosa Springs, it was freezing cold and he did not think he would make the night in the cold so he checked into a low-dollar room. The second day was going a lot better, but his feet were starting to get sore and his shoes were wearing out a lot faster than he thought. He continued toward Denver. By the time he got to South Fork Del Norte, he knew there was no way he would be able to walk the rest of the way to Denver. His shoes were already so thin he could see his socks through holes in the soles.

    A while later a Police officer stopped and asked him where he was going, Kai said, "Just walking to Denver." The police office said in a gruff tone "Well! Walk on the other side of the road!" Kai's father was a Hobo and sternly warned him that whenever he traveled he always needed to tell the police a specific destination or they could take him to jail for being a vagrant. They were building a new 4 lane highway and the pavement was a lot easier on his feet. Several miles further, he saw a great big semi-tractor-trailer-tanker truck coming toward him. It came to a stop near him. The driver asked where he was headed. Kai said, "Denver." The driver said, "I saw you with that desert water bag and figured you were in trouble. This is your lucky day, I am going to Denver, would you like a ride?" The truck was huge to him. He had never been in any vehicle that big. The driver started talking and said Kai was welcome. "I make this run five times a week to bring road oil from Denver for the new highway that I picked you up from. It gets lonesome in this truck cab. It is nice to have someone to talk to."The driver told Kai the truck is a 1949 Kenworth with a 1952 Cummins Diesel engine and had over 3 million miles logged on it.

    The truck was soon going up steep grades and when it went around a curve, Kai expected it to slow down, but it kept the same speed. Kai figured it needed the speed to get up the grades. They talked and talked. Finally the truck pulled off the side of the road just outside Denver and the driver said, "This is a far as I can take you. I have to turn north to go to the oil storage facility and pick up a another load of road oil for tomorrow. Good luck."

    Kai was standing there in the near freezing weather with his water bag over his shoulder. Suddenly he heard the roar of a hopped-up car. Then the car pulled up beside Kai. "Are you in trouble," He said?
"My car burned up near Cortez, Colorado."
"Want a ride into town."
"Yes." Kai got in and the driver said, "I'm going to help you get a place to stay for a couple of days." My mother and I are living in the basement of my Grandmother's house in Aurora on E. Arapahoe Road. I'll tell my mom you are one of my old Army buddies."

    When they got to his mother's place, it was a converted garage with one room. He was grateful for a place to stay. The next morning Kai took a bus into Denver and went to the employment office and ask for a job. The interviewer said they have a dish washing job at the Brown Palace Hotel. Kai said, "I'll take it." Little did Kai know that the Brown Palace Hotel was a high dollar hotel. When he got there in the morning he was shocked at how fancy it was. He got the job in the sanitation department. Then he was given a meal before he stated to work. Kai really liked the place, but the clouds of gloom still lingered in his head while he was renting a flop in Denver.

    For now, he was content to have a job in a nice place and had a full tummy. But he now knew that being on his own, was a lot more difficult than he had ever imagined.

TRAVEL in the 1930s

During the early 1930's cars were rapidly becoming a necessary part of life. Owning a luxury car like the Packard Super 8 or a big car with a big engine was the distant dream of many people. The reality of gas mileage and cost often took a back seat to luxury cars.

This page is about those days when the roads were almost devoid of traffic, especially on hot summer days and during bad winter weather. One could not just get in their car and be sure it would start. Batteries were 6 volt and the weather took its toll on them. Long distance travel had its risks. For instance, traveling across the deserts of the American Southwest in summer could lead to being stranded in 100 degree plus weather with little or no water to drink or put in an overheated car engine. Some Car radiators would boil over or their tires blew out in the intense heat. Older car engines usually had a lot of *blowby because their piston rings were worn out.

Some engines were not cared for properly and occasionally they did not last even 50,000 miles before a major overhaul, if the engine could be repaired at all. Car engines often would gum up with gooey sludge. Bulk oil was cheap and was often pumped from a tank into an oil can with an adjustable pouring spout.

  1. Oil Drip Guard
  2. Hand Operated Oil Pump
  3. Oil Tank, Filler Cap & Drip Screen Cover

Back then many people did not take proper care of their vehicles, which still happens.

Finding gas and oil was not a given like today. The difference is one could encounter a sign that read, "Next Gas 50 Miles." That was a problem if one had less than a quarter of a tank of gasoline in a car that only got 10 - 15 miles to the gallon. And, gas could cost a lot more than in a big city. Today many tend to think in terms of dollars per gallon, but then many tended to think, do I have the money to buy enough gas to get us to the next town? There were no credit cards and banks usually did not have branches. Checks were hard to cash or pay for goods with.

The consequences of believing one could make it 50 or more miles to a "cut rate" gas station before their car's engine choked out on its last drop of gasoline were very, very real.

*From Merriam-Webster online "Definition of blowby : leakage of combustion gases between a piston and the cylinder wall into the crankcase in an automobile"

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