Before leaving on our trip, we had set up our Jeep with a bed level with the windows so that we could store our essentials under the bed. Since Olin was so tall, each night we would have to unbolt the front seats and slide them forward, place a board between the front side windows and fold the mattress out so that Olin could stretch out. It worked great.
We headed out from our home in Marshall, Okla., for Hugoton, Kan., to visit my uncle and aunt, Dick and Pauline Gregg. About 25 miles before arriving in Hugoton, we blew a head gasket in the Jeep. We made it to my relatives' home. With the assistance of my aunt, we found the parts, a crescent wrench, a pair of pliers and a screwdriver to replace the head gasket on the Jeep. We then headed for Colorado. Our goal was to go visit the Royal Gorge near Canon City, Colo., the Swinging Bridge, then on to Pike's Peak and finish our trip in Colorado Springs.
We decided to take a shortcut through the country from Canon City to Cripple Creek through Gillet, Colo., and eventually on to Pike's Peak. On our way in the isolated country with no gas stations, we were running low on gas. We would shut off the engine and coast down the hills, then start the engine to power over the next hill.
We were doing fine, navigating the gravel roads, looking down the side of the mountain and observing the beautiful countryside. All at once, the front left wheel turned out. We had broken a tie-rod end, miles from who-knows-where.
After a while, a car came by and stopped to see if we needed assistance. They were unable to help us as they were going the other direction, but told us there was a filling station about 23 miles ahead of us.
By this time, our nerves and friendship were on edge. It was my idea to take the scenic route, not Olin's. We started walking and grumbling at each other. A couple miles down the road, we came upon a ranger station.
The ranger took us back to the Jeep with a little fuel to assist us with our repairs. Being pretty good shade-tree mechanics, we jacked the tie-rod end back on the knuckle joint. We then took a hammer and penned it enough so that with a wing and a prayer, we could make it to a repair shop.
Once we found a parts shop, we installed the new tie-rod end and headed down the road. We decided to bypass Pike's Peak. We headed on to visit the Garden of the Gods and then to see the Seven Falls.
All in all, after using my dad's credit card for fuel and driving some 3,500 miles, we had a great, memorable journey that we would never forget.
I called Olin before sending in this story and was very disappointed to find out from his wife that Olin had passed away in 2002. This is one story that I am sure Olin's family, and I know my sons and grandsons, have never heard. I'm sure my wife, Bess, has heard all my stories since we have been married for 47-plus years.
I'll be sure Olin's family receives a copy of this story, and of course my wife and family will read this story in National Driller.