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See the USA

In 1979 my Aunt Wilma and Uncle Mitch Geiger drove cross-country from Merced, California to visit their hometown of Watsontown. Little did I know that visit would change my life forever. The promise of sun, no snow, warmer temperatures, new employment opportunities, and rust free cars was all it took for my Uncle to “stake

In 1979 my Aunt Wilma and Uncle Mitch Geiger drove cross-country from Merced, California to visit their hometown of Watsontown. Little did I know that visit would change my life forever. The promise of sun, no snow, warmer temperatures, new employment opportunities, and rust free cars was all it took for my Uncle to “stake his claim” in CA. It was during that visit in 1979 that Mitch went to the trailer he was pulling and retrieved a 1979 GM Promotional sales model — a Red 1979 Corvette — and gave it to me in the backyard of my grandmothers home. For an eight-year-old boy growing up on Elm Street in Watsontown, this immediately became one of my most valuable possessions and started me down a path that led me to a love for automobiles, motorcycles and anything with an engine.

Almost 40 years later, that very same mint condition 1979 Corvette model sits in the center of my desk in my home office and parked nearby are several classic cars of my own. For that model to have survived 40 years, college, the army, and four moves says a lot for my love of that 8” plastic car. It isn’t so much the car but what the car represented to me personally. That car gave me goals and allowed me a chance to “See the USA” and so much more. Even before I was really able to fully understand all of that, as an 8-year-old child, I knew that someday I was going out west to visit my aunt and uncle. I was going to see the place where it all began, where the rust free cars lived, the sun always shined, and the car shows never end.

In April of 2007, I finally took the time, and most of all had the financial means to start visiting them a few times a year. By 2007 they had already been living in Idaho for over 15 years, and the “high desert” of Idaho provides a climate with little rain, humidity, and snow. This is perfect for the preservation of vehicles left outside as well as the storage and upkeep of already restored cars. I got my first look at Mitch’s car collection, something I dreamed of for 30 years and explained to him that I would like to purchase a classic car someday. I had been searching for other investments. Given the uncertainty of the stock market and low rates on savings accounts, it seemed like a stable investment. After mentioning my thoughts on buying a classic someday it did not take long until I was in their driveway peering into an enclosed trailer at a car he would be willing to sell. Inside that trailer was a 1970, Gobi Beige, vinyl top, Chevrolet Nova, two door with 59,000 original miles on the odometer.

Further inspection proved it to be the original paint, glass, interior, wheels — everything number matching like it left the Chevy dealership but 37 years later! I could hardly think straight long enough to formulate a complete sentence when my Uncle gave me his asking price and I stated without hesitation or consulting my wife “I’ll take it”! He was more than happy to have not only planted the “car” seed 28 years earlier but to have also sold me my very first classic.

At this point, the excitement, joy and numerous emotions suddenly came to a halt, and all the real work began. I not only had to tell my wife I bought a car almost four decades old, 2,300 miles from our home — I had to figure out how to get it home and most of all how I was going to pay for it. Since there were very few lending institutions back, then that gave loans for “old” cars my first hurdle was avoided when Mitch offered to set up a payment schedule and allow me to make payments to them. For two years I was never so happy to write that check and send it off to Idaho in care of my Aunt Wilma.

Next came the point when my wife arrived back from shopping with my Aunt the day I bought it, and I proudly exclaimed how I bought “our” first classic car. Needless to say, she wasn’t as excited as I was, but she at least was a good sport about it. After talking with Mitch, it was decided I would drive the car back to Pennsylvania, what better way to “See the USA,” he explained. At the time I had no clue this was an advertising slogan GM used in the 60s and 70s, but that sparked my second passion of mine — travel. I formed a plan to fly back out in June on a Friday, attend a car show and picnic Saturday and start back to Pennsylvania on Sunday. Once home I secured the help of my friend Scott as a travel companion for the June Trip, someone to not only share the journey with but to keep me awake, help change tires, engines — who knows what — as I had never done anything like this, let alone in a 37-year-old car. To say I was a bit worried is an understatement — my AAA Plus plan was not going to fix any major issues on this trip. Little did I know, Mitch went over the car top to bottom in the months leading up to the trip, replaced the tires, battery, shocks, plugs, wires, and all the fluids and filters as well as checked all the brakes.

When Scottie and I arrived in June, Wilma picked us up at the Boise Airport, and within an hour we were at their home. The next day started with Scottie and I taking the Nova to a car show in Emmett, parked next to my Nova was my Uncle’s Canso — a Canadian GM version of the Chevy 2. At that moment things seemed to have come full circle in a span of about 28 years, I got the Red Corvette model and now was the proud owner of my own classic. That afternoon, my Aunt Wilma put on a picnic at their home for about 50 people from the show as well as other local friends, everyone came in classic cars, their driveway was filled with cars from the 30s to the 70s. It was at the “car show picnic” that I got the idea to hold my own “Hot Rod Party” — this year was the 9th annual. Sunday I got up, packed my bag and prepared to leave, Mitch already had the Nova gassed up and detailed — ready to go. We said our goodbyes and set off on the 2,300-mile odyssey. Passing the Great Salt Lake I thought of someday setting a land speed record and what it would have been like to talk to some of the greats like Mickey Thompson or Burt Munro. Two days later, after one night in a motel and another day of driving for 24 hours straight, without a single mechanical issue, we were back in Pennsylvania, fully understanding the true meaning of “See the USA.”

The places and people I have met on my 11-year journey to reconnect with my aunt and uncle could fill a book, war heroes, farmers, ranchers, business owners and more, all part of my personal life story and my love for my country and the automobile.

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2 Comments

  • Bev Macinnes
    January 3, 2019, 6:49 am

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, hope there will be more stories to follow.

    REPLY
  • Verna Fisher
    January 3, 2019, 6:40 pm

    A beautiful story written by a super guy. Andy is one of the best! Well written.

    REPLY

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