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“I am planning to leave Southbury for a 3,652-mile drive to Bishop, California. I plan to start this Sunday,” said Newtown native David Egee in an e-mail to The Newtown Bee on Thursday, August 17. A day later, a 1929 Ford Model A Roadster parked outside The Bee office at 5 Church Hill Road, and Mr Egee stepped out from behind the wheel — he intended to take that car along Route 6 across the country.
Route 6 runs from Provincetown, Mass., to Bishop. The road runs through Newtown, up Church Hill Road and turns right onto Main Street. Signs for Route 6 appear in town, including near the flagpole intersection.
He “had this dream of crossing the country” in that car, Mr Egee said. His mechanic had unwittingly fueled that dream after an initial false start from Provincetown, when Mr Egee got only as far as Rhode Island before breaking down. That first start was mid-June, when he had to have his car transported back to Southbury for repairs.
“Seriously broke down; $4,500 serious,” Mr Egee said. “I had a front axle bent. Radiator and cooling systems failed, the head cracked. It’s the original 87-year-old motor, and I had to replace that with another.” He had to find a company “that will manufacture spare parts for classic cars — you’ve got to be lucky, and that takes time.”
He found both parts and a mechanic. “There are people who specialize in repairing classic cars; by accident I found someone in New Milford and $4,500 later I am starting off again and hoping to get to Iowa before mid-October.”
While repairing the car, “My mechanic said, joking, that I’ll be able to take this on Route 6” to California.
He added, “When I was 16, my first car was a 1929 Model A Roadster, and 60 years later I bought another one, two years ago. And now I am going to California.”
The trip is “a challenge. A doable challenge. And probably what one would call part of a bucket list,” he said. “I think all old men must look back on their lives and try to remember all the things they wanted to do but never got around to.”
As of noon on Wednesday, September 6, Mr Egee had not returned a call inquiring if he was close to Iowa, where he planned next month to store the car, return home, and resume his trip in the spring. After leaving the car in Iowa, he had said, “I’ll go off to London for the winter and come back to Southbury, then take the Greyhound bus back to Iowa.”
Originally from Newtown, Mr Egee left after high school, eventually living in London. He and his late wife, Dale, had returned in past years and settled in Southbury, spending time there and London.
Unable to get on a highway, “because the car is not fast enough, so I stick to secondary roads,” Mr Egee is traveling Route 6 only. His car’s average speed is 30-35 miles an hour. It is a four-cylinder flathead engine, he said.
One Long Road To California
Considering his trip and potential stops, Mr Egee said, “I have only one person that I will stop and see, and it’s an old friend from when I was in Lebanon in 1968.” He was director of the American University of Beirut Hospital at the time.
His friend, Ruth Tracy, “was from Beirut and now lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and had heard I was going to California, and she asked if I was going through Ohio. She said Route 6 goes past her front door.” Thinking of stopping to see her, Mr Egee said, “I’ll stay for coffee with her and go on.”
His trip reminds him of John Steinbeck, who wrote a book called Travels with Charley.
“He went around the country in a leisure car,” Mr Egee explained. According to Wikipedia, “Travels with Charley: In Search of America is a travelog written by American author John Steinbeck. It depicts a 1960 road trip around the United States made by Steinbeck, in the company of his standard poodle, Charley.”
Mentioning “another fellow in New Milford who walked Route 6 all the way from Provincetown to California,” Mr Egee said, “So, I am following in his footsteps, you might say.” Beside him on the car’s bench seat was the book, Ten Million Steps On Route 6, by Joe Hurley and Travis Lindhorst.
Traveling Route 6 could reveal “Hundreds of things of interest along the way.” Whether or not Mr Egee lingers in one town or another “depends on my mood. If I feel like sightseeing, I will. I am told there is not much scenery going through Nebraska.”
Apprehensions? “Breakdowns,” he said. “My brother Paul owns an antique [automobile] and thinks I am crazy.”
His brother had told Mr Egee, “It’s not a case of will you break down, it’s just a question of where. Not question of if, but where and when.”
Did he have any thoughts before leaving? Mr Egee considered this “a philosophical question: I think I am going to surprise myself if I succeed. I will be surprised.”
Or he may not be. “I might get fed up with it.”
He asked himself, “How long can I keep this up? The driving could be difficult. The car’s windshield wiper is cranked by hand, no motor, so you work your wiper by hand.” The Ford has no heat, he said, just a speedometer and a gas gauge. “That’s all, as far as instruments are concerned.”
What has Mr Egee packed for his travels? “Probably too much,” he said. He had five gallons of water, five gallons of gasoline, and four quarts of oil. “Those are the essentials — oil, gas, and water. Anything else after that is luxury,” he said.
“I’ll be keeping a journal, and my dream is to write a book of this trip. I’ll take photographs along the way,” he said.
Already, Mr Egee is the author of Wake Up Running, a story about his life growing up in Newtown, and his work, travel, and life abroad, published in 2014.
“I am following Route 6, not 66,” he said. “Route 6 was made in the early years of the Civil War to move troops,” Mr Egee said. Now the road carries travelers all the way to California, “That’s where I am headed.”
According to a Wikipedia search, “US Route 6 (US 6), also called the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, honoring the American Civil War veterans association, is a main route of the US Highway system. While it currently runs east-northeast from Bishop, California to Provincetown, Massachusetts, the route has been modified several times. The highway’s longest-lasting routing, from 1936 to 1964, had its western terminus at Long Beach, California. During this time, US 6 was the longest highway in the country.”