Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Nuclear Age Alchemy at the Meltdown Drags

Steve's '64 Pontiac Catalina 2+2
Back in July, Joey and I took a trip to the 2013 Meltdown Drags in Byron, IL. It is a fantastic event and is a great way to experience what it might have been like to be at the races in 1965.

Taken with disposable camera.
That Thursday night, Joey set out from Novi, Michigan with his brother Andrew and their best friend Zach. They made the long jaunt to my house near St. Louis, Missouri. Our incredibly handsome (and generous) friend, Monsterflake Steve, was nice enough to let us borrow his '64 Pontiac for the adventure. We intended to leave Friday morning but some complications with sleep and leaky valve covers set us back about 1 or 8 hours. We were finally on our way after a couple trips to Part Stop in Bethalto, IL and a 2 hour round trip to Steve's for another set of valve covers.

Taken by parts guy Dustin, with Joey's camera at Part Stop in Bethalto, IL
Left to Right: Andrew, Zach, Me (Nick), and Joey

Part Stop, always coming through. Great part store and great people.

About half way between St. Louis and Byron, we ran into our friend Johnny Wishbone when we stopped for gas. We finished the Friday night drive with Johnny motoring along behind us in his steel model T hot rod. We had enough of the  road snacks, and by the time we made it to the drag strip to set up camp, it had to be midnight. With a failed attempt to find a small charcoal grill and a bottle of Jim Beam, we finally decided to dig a little hole for a campfire.

Joey relaxing by the camp fire. Taken with my disposable camera.
We didn't sleep in too late on Saturday morning. It's kind of hard to do that when it's 120 degrees in the tent and the sounds of blown small blocks and injected hemis fill the air. We all loaded up on sunscreen and soaked up as much drag racing and hot rods as humanly possible.

Zach, Andrew, and Joey getting ready for a day of racing.

Zach checking out some burnouts.

Continental John's perfect survivor '32 Ford Roadster

Bierman's "Suicide King" in the staging lanes. Taken with disposable camera.
Joey drinking out of his little pink cup
This was right before that front engined dragster hit the wall. Luckily the driver was taken to the hospital and turned out to be fairly okay.

Paul making a pass in his model A Ford coupe.
After a full day of racing and picture taking, we cooked some dinner and then headed to this quaint little ice cream shop in Byron. We hung out with our good friend Paul and a guy we just met with the neat little red Model A coupe. After that we dropped off Pauls blue coupe at the track and hopped in the Catalina to go visit some friends at their hotel, about 30 minutes away. On our way there we got pulled over for a headlight being out. We actually replaced the headlight before our trip so we knew it was working (and confirmed when we checked it later on). Paul was driving and didn't argue and the cop was nice enough and let us off with a warning. He just wanted to tell us to be safe on those dark roads. As pleasant as a traffic stop can get and good fellow just trying to keep people safe. That's admirable police work, if you ask me.
Taking a load off before cooking dinner.

Eating some dinner after watching racing all day.
Left to Right: Paul, Joey, Andrew, Zach

We hung out with Bill Bierman and his crew from Creative Customs, and the famous Aaron "Plowboy" Grote. We stood around Bill's dragster, made fun of each other and ate pork steaks until it was getting late so we decided to head back to camp. That's when we got pulled over by an Ogle County sheriff. After it took him about an hour to research and write us a bull shit ticket for improper registration, he finally let us go. We weren't happy campers at that point. By the time we got back to the drag strip/camp ground, the gates where locked. I honestly don't even remember how we got the car back in but I think Zach found a gate that was open.
Joey pretending to drive Bierman's dragster while Andrew looks on
Celebrating our $120 bogus ticket from Officer Numbskull
Left to Right: Joey, Shawna (mostly covered by Joeys sombrero), and Zach.

 Sunday morning we woke up pretty early and made ourselves some breakfast. We gathered our things, packed up camp, and loaded the Pontiac. We parked in the car show area while we made our last few rounds of talking to friends, watching vintage drag racing, and taking pictures. The drive back to St. Louis was pretty uneventful. However, I'm not sure the boys were looking forward to their long drive back to Michigan the next day.

Right before we packed up camp.

Neat little model A Ford coupe with '32 grill.
Beautiful car. Picture taken by Joey.
We all had a blast. We definitely had some issues but I think those obstacles turned our little trip into a bona fide adventure. It's pretty cool when you get the opportunity to punch life's problems square in the face and have fun anyway.
Hammer down with my eyes looking toward home. Taken by Joey.
If you want to check out more about this trip, check out Joey's story on the Jalopy Journal and the H.A.M.B. thread we updated all throughout that weekend. If you are interested in more info about the Meltdown Drags, check their website. Hope to make it back next year.
Paul's coupe at our camp site. Great view of the Nuclear reactor.


  1. Replies
    1. Steve, thanks again for letting us take the big cat! I wouldn't have went on the trip if it hadn't been for you letting us use your car. What a pal!