By RICK MINTER
Many a person, caught up in the fast-paced rat race of everyday living, longs for a chance to enjoy life at a slower pace.
Members of the Atlanta Region of the Horseless Carriage Club of America have found a way to do just that.
Two weeks ago, 26 club members left the small Fayette County town of Woolsey bound for Florida and a 1930s-style vacation. They drove pre-World War II vehicles, ranging from a 1914 Model T Ford roadster to a 1931 Buick sedan to a group of Model A Fords of various models. Rather than drive down I-75 as most do en route to Florida, the Friendship Tour entourage took the road less traveled.
Their 900-mile trip to Wakulla Springs, Fla., and back took them on out-of-the-way county roads, past small towns, farms, fields, woods, streams and off-the-beaten-path attractions like the Crime and Punishment Museum in Ashburn and the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie.
Kenny and Donna Wright of Woolsey, having mapped out the course ahead of time, led the way in their Buick. Gary and Deborah Eastin usually brought up the rear, so that if someone had mechanical trouble, Gary would be there with his tools and spare parts.
Unlike most tours of its type, where the participating cars are hauled on trailers to a destination then driven on day trips, the Friendship Tour group traveled the entire trip in their cars. Also unlike other old-car tours, there were no chase vehicles to pick up or assist broken-down cars. Amazingly, all 14 cars performed flawlessly.
Gary Eastin, a Fayetteville resident who works as a machinist for Delta Air Lines, was prepared for almost any mechanical malfunction, but other than a few minor hitches like flat tires and an occasional vapor lock in a fuel line, the fleet did just fine.
So is an 80-something-year-old car really that reliable?
"Gosh yes," Eastin said. "The cars are really simple. If something happens to them, you usually have whatever you need to fix it right there with you."
Deborah Eastin rode in the passenger seat on the tour, as did most drivers' spouses. She's been along for the ride, so to speak, since she first met her husband. One of their first dates was a trip to an antique engine and machinery show in Alabama.
"We spent the day listening to engines go 'pow,' " she said. "But I still married him."
In the years since, old cars and machinery have continued to occupy her husband's interests, and she's fine with that.
"When I watch TV, he studies old parts books," she said.
On the Friendship Tour, the Eastins' truck, though not one of the fanciest vehicles, drew its share of attention at nearly every stop.
"People recognize it as being like a produce truck they remember seeing," Deborah Eastin said.
For the participants on the tour, being seen was secondary to what they saw.
Traveling the backroads, at half the pace most motorists drive, the sights one normally misses become cherished memories.
Dianne Hulsey, a retired elementary school teacher from Marietta, rode with her husband, Terry, in a Model T Ford. Unlike most Model Ts, which are slower than Model As, the Hulseys' red roadster, with its auxiliary Warford transmission and Ruckstell two-speed rear axle, was the fastest car on the tour.
Still it was slow enough for Dianne Hulsey to see many things most others miss.
"Counting turtles sunning on logs in their creeks, longer times to look for grand old homes at the end of long driveways, and most especially, time to gaze into old barns looking for other elusive old cars were just some of the perks allowed by the gentle pace," she wrote in a report to the club about the trip. "The antique autos made an impressive and reminiscent sight as the group wound up and down the snake-like hills and around the curves where trees hung over the road. ... In areas of the tour where only the group was visible on the road, it was easy to forget you were in 2008."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution