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HCCA 75th Anniversary Tour, or
Pikes Peak and the Purple Rain
July 1-6, 2012

Annie at Pikes Peak Summit
Lynn (seated) and Jeanne pose with Annie at the summit of Pikes Peak.

In the week before the international Horseless Carriage Club of America tour in Colorado Springs July 1-6, the catastrophic Waldo Canyon wildfire is sweeping through the area and making national headlines. Roads leading to some of the planned tour destinations are closed. The historic Flying W Ranch at which a BBQ dinner had been planned is reported to have “burned to the ground.” Hundreds of private homes have been destroyed. Flames are at its borders and the Air Force Academy, one of the destinations, is being evacuated. The images coming from the area look like they could be used as illustrations for Dante’s Inferno.

“To go or not to go” is the question on the minds of all 150 parties that had signed up for the tour. Indeed, many elect to stay away but fortunately some are persuaded by the idea that the lost tourism, a major source of income for this area of the country, will make the Waldo Canyon wildfire a fire that burns twice. As anticipated, two weeks later, local politicians and business leaders are pleading for people not to cancel their vacations to Colorado.

It takes a palpable leap of faith for San Francisco Bay Area participants Karen and Ed Archer, Donna Jones with son Donald and friend Nicole, Jeanne and Lynn Kissel, Tony Wollesen and Danny Erceg to head for Colorado Springs at the end of June. They are not sure what to expect but are hoping for the best while preparing for the worst.

flat #1 changing flat new tires Utah wildfire
Getting there is half the fun... After two flats and seeing a third tire with a damaged sidewall, the Kissels replace all five load-range-D tires on their trailer with new load-range-E tires. Yikes! That's going to leave a mark! A wildfire in Utah (right).

As luck would have it, firefighters catch a break on the days immediately before the start of the tour. Upon arrival in Colorado Springs, the air is smoky for a day or so. Some thin columns of smoke can be seen in the distance, and firefighters in uniform and displaced residents are initially seen in the hotel. But after a couple of days, rain clears the air, roads are reopened and life seems to return to something closer to normal for those not directly impacted by the fire.

Running from July 1-6 (Sun-Fri), the 75th anniversary event features a series of delightful day tours. In quick summary: Sunday – Colorado Springs area including the El Pomar Carriage Museum and the Broadmoor Hotel (magnificent); Monday – the Air Force Academy Chapel and the Mining Museum; Tuesday – Royal Gorge; Wednesday – Cripple Creek; Thursday – Rambler Ranch (hundreds of cars, 1960s kitchen, old gas station) followed by a fun public display of horseless carriages in the parking lot and dinner at Culver’s (home of the butter burger); Friday – Pikes Peak climb and banquet. The following paragraphs note some of the personal impressions that remain after the tour.

Annie at Seven Falls Park Annie in flagging Lynn with Annie
Annie at some stops along the tour.

It was something of a surprise that three or more parties attend the tour from far-away Australia. Graham Porter (Brisbane, Queensland) with grandsons Grant and Jared, and Merv and Margaret Thompson (Waterford, Queensland) accept the offer of the Kissels' back seat on separate days. Their company is a welcome way to learn some more about the lands down under. The Kissels discover that Graham and they have a mutual friend in Brisbane, John Lewis, also a Kissel owner, who has helped Lynn multiple times with his restoration of Bugsby.

Graham and grandsons The Thompsons
Australians on tour... Graham Porter (Capalaba, Queensland) and grandsons Grant and Jared ride with the Kissels, who are surprised to learn that they have John Lewis (Brisbane, Queensland) as a mutual friend (left). Merv and Margaret Thompson (Waterford, Queensland) are also back seat guests of the Kissels and own a carriage business in Australia.

On another day national HCCA director Bill Balduff and wife Marilyn are the Kissels' passengers. They are also fortunate to have John C. Meyer III (editor of the HCCA Horseless Carriage Gazette) and wife Pat ride with them one day. It is great fun to see John as he works to chronicle the event through the lens of his camera. The day that John and Pat are their passengers, they encounter an unexpected phenomenon that has since come to be known as the Purple Rain.

Jeanne with soda Lynn with float
Jeanne and Lynn stop at an old-fashioned soda fountain in Florence for some refreshment.

In the weeks before the tour, Lynn dyes Annie's faded cloth top black. After applying the dye with a paint brush, he wipes the top down with an acrylic leather finish that seems to do a great job of sealing the job. He lifts some color from the top while applying the first coat of sealer, but gets much less when applying a second coat. He is quite pleased with the dramatic improvement in the car’s appearance.

Everything appears right with the world in California where it doesn't rain in the summer, but Colorado is a different matter. Annie and her passengers are caught in an afternoon thunderstorm while touring the Air Force Academy. As the top becomes saturated Lynn begins to notice that drips off the edges are a rich dark purple in color. With a growing sense of alarm, it becomes evident to Lynn that some of the dye is washing out of the fabric and dripping down around him. Jeanne and Pat were quite unhappy with Lynn when the purple rain splatters onto their light-colored blouses. Lynn receives the brunt of the colored rain as he works outside the car to try and keep it off his passengers.

Purple rain  
This is Lynn's white shirt after he battles with the purple rain.

Over the next several days, the car is repeatedly caught in afternoon thunderstorms, but the intensity of the purple rain lessens with every washing. Is there a moral to this story? Yes, be sure to wash your top after you dye it!

Altitude is a constant challenge on this tour to both people and machinery. The altitude of their base in Colorado Springs at about 6,000 feet is already as high as their car has ever been. On the drive to Cripple Creek (one of Lynn's favorite stops on the tour), they cross passes at 10,000 feet. The granddaddy of all altitude tests is the climb to the top of Pikes Peak (14,110 feet). Lynn fiddles with the carburetor adjustments on multiple occasions during the week. Although the car seems to lack power (as compared with her behavior at sea level), she runs all week and completes every task that is asked of her. Good girl, Annie!

Jeanne & Lynn Jeanne & Lynn Jeanne  
Some of the outfits that the Kissels wear.
the banquet
At the tour banquet, participants from the San Francisco Bay Area stand for a photo. Left-to-right: Donna Jones, Ed and Karen Archer, Jeanne and Lynn Kissel, Tony Wollesen and Danny Erceg.

Many horseless carriages (maybe 15 or more) make it to the top of Pikes Peak, but it is a real challenge for the vehicles and drivers. Many cars need to stop to replace boiled-off water; multiple Ford Model Ts loose their low bands (low gear); some cars turn back part way up the mountain.

On the initial portion of the climb, Annie gets warm and the Kissels stop to let the car cool. This is the first time that Lynn ever remembers the car getting hot. As the climb progresses, the car starts boiling water and they stop along with other cars at a midpoint and add about a gallon of water to the radiator. As they continue to gain altitude the air temperature drops and Annie's water temperature returns to normal for the rest of the climb.

boiling radiators stained radiator field repairs  
The Kissels and others stop at Glen Cove to add water to their radiators (left). There is evidence of overheating cars as the water stains are visible on many radiator shells (center). This 1912 Ford has lost its low band (low gear) and field repairs are underway (right).
Annie arrives at the summit Ed arrives at Pikes Peak Pikes Peak repairs Pikes Peak repairs
Annie arrives at the summit (left). Ed flashes a big smile as he arrives in his 1906 Locomobile (left-center). Soon Ed is affecting a repair of a split fuel line as Danny and Tony look on (center-right, right).

Lynn is happy that his 1914 KisselKar makes it to the top. Also seen at the top is Tony Wollesen with Danny Erceg in his 1915 Pierce-Arrow, and Ed Archer in his 1906 Locomobile. You should see the grin on Ed’s face when he jumps down from his car upon completing the climb. It is clearly evident that he is pleased with this accomplishment.

The summit of Pikes Peak is not only stressful on the horseless carriages. With just the smallest of climbs while walking Lynn feels dizzy. Many people from the tour are seen with blue lips and pale faces. During their brief time at the summit, three individuals have to be air lifted off the mountain to a hospital because of problems brought on by the altitude.

Cowboy Ed Cripple Creek buckeroos Lynn & Jeanne in Cripple Creek  
In Cripple Creek... Ed, our cowboy troubadour, entertains us with some ballads during lunch (left). Tony, Danny and Ed, in period garb, wait for the rain to stop (center). Lynn and Jeanne stand next to Annie (right).

One of the most poignant moments occurrs during the tour lunch in Cripple Creek. Tony Wollesen, Danny Erceg and Ed Archer are dressed in outrageous western suits complete with period accessories, big hats and boots; they look simply magnificent. After our lunch, Ed produces a ukulele and begins to strike some chords. With a little encouragement from us, Ed starts singing some wonderful country songs. Using his cell phone, Lynn captures fragments of three of his ballads as videos. Lynn hopes to obtain Ed’s permission to play these at a future general meeting of the Bay Area Horseless Carriage Club. Particularly touching is the emotional richness of the stories of people that unfolds as they listen to Ed's songs. They are transported to another time and place.

All week Annie is plagued by persistent fuel percolation problems. Her Stromberg G-2 carburetor has a glass-sided fuel bowl so it is easy to observe the problem. Lynn takes two videos of the boiling gasoline that he calls “soft boil” and “hard boil.” While it often makes the car run rough, there are only several times that they need to stop and let the car cool for 15 minutes before they can continue touring. One evening Lynn changes the (modern) fuel filter in the hotel parking lot and that seems to improve Annie's performance the next day.

Lynn takes the opportunity to discuss the percolation issue with other owners and to read more about it on the AACA Forums from the hotel room in the evening. Following advice from others, he tries adding varying quantities of diesel fuel and Marvel Mystery Oil to Annie's fuel. Eventually he adds so much diesel that the car smokes from the tail pipe, but the additives seem to have *no* effect on the boiling of the fuel.

Royal Gorge The Archers At the Broadmore
Friends on tour... Karen, Danny, Ed and Tony enjoy lunch at Royal Gorge (left). Ed and Karen next to their 1906 Locomobile (center). Danny and Tony in his 1915 Piece-Arrow in the gardens outside the Broadmore Hotel (right).

Many owners experience a variety of other issues. On one car the tire locking ring pops off and gets lost in the weeds by the side of the road; after a long search, the ring is found high up on a hill far from the car. An Overland catches fire and some of the occupants were severely burned, very badly damaging the car, too. One of the several Packards looses a rear wheel which results in extensive damage to the brakes, taking it out of the tour. Cracks in radiators are reported and Ed has some issues with his radiator that he apparently resolves or somehow mitigates to stay on the tour. At the summit of Pikes Peak, Ed’s fuel line decides to split and he spends some uncomfortable time on his back under the car making field repairs. The wooden wheels on one car are so loose that the owner takes the wheels off the car and soaks them overnight in plastic bags filled with water; the hope is that the water swells the wood and tightens the wheels.

1907 Packard 1909 EMF 1911 Rolls Royce 1911 Valie
1912 Packard 1912 EMF 1913 Rolls-Royce 1913 Rolls-Royce
1913 Pope Hardford 1913 Rambler 1914 Ford 1914 Case
1914 Ford 1914 Cadillac 1914 Cadillac 1914 Cadillac
1914 Hudson 1914 Hudson 1915 Pierce-Arrow 1915 White
Some of the 50 or so horseless carriages that participated in the tour.
Row 1, left-to-right: 1907 Packard; 1909 E-M-F; 1911 Rolls-Royce; 1911 Valie; .
Row 2, left-to-right: 1912 Packard; 1912 E-M-F; 1913 Rolls-Royce (two views).
Row 3, left-to-right: 1913 Pope-Hardford; 1913 Rambler; 1914 Ford; 1914 Case;.
Row 4, left-to-right: 1914 Ford Speedster; 1914 Cadillac (three views).
Row 5, left-to-right: 1914 Hudson (two views); 1915 Pierce-Arrow; 1915 White.

In spite of the variety of problems individuals experience on the tour and the Waldo Canyon Wildfire that devastates the Colorado Springs area before their arrival, Jeanne and Lynn have a fabulous time. They offer their heartfelt thanks to their Colorado hosts, who spent a year or more planning the tour, then a frantic last-minute scramble to save the tour after the fire. They're glad that they made that leap of faith and participated in the HCCA 75th Anniversary Tour. It was simply marvelous!

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Last updated: July 30, 2012