"Morgans Over America"
The Morgan World - Volume 1, Issue 4 - Page 48
When I was very young, I was given a book with a
picture of an old car driving through a Giant Redwood tree. As I grew
up it became my ambition to find that tree and drive through it. My
wife and I had always enjoyed visiting the various Morgan clubs during the
1980's but when I heard that some Morgan owners were thinking about
touring in the USA and possibly in California where the Redwoods grow,
I decided to get involved.
|I soon found out that Barry Bott from Blaby in Leicestershire was the only
other person left from the original organising committee and he was keen
to continue with the planning of what we decided to
call "Morgans Over America". Little did I realise at the time that I would
end up organising the tour and that my life would be changed for ever.
and I flew over to Washington DC and met some similarly minded USA and
Canadian Morgan Owners to organise things over there and so MOA I was
born. Soon Barry found it impossible to continue with the organisation,
but he agreed to be treasurer for the European contingent. This left a
committee of one, which is perfect for making quick decisions! Steve Roake
and Keith Cox from the
Northern California organised the coast-to-coast itinerary, hotels and
all the other essential details to make the event a success, all I had to
do was to get the Europeans and their cars to the USA and arrange their
shipping, flights and insurance.
The insurance proved to be a nightmare because we were
he first people to organise such tour in the USA and Canada. We soon found
out that no UK insurers could insure our cars over there, so after
numerous transatlantic 'phone calls to USA insurance companies all giving
us the answer "NO" and when we thought we would have to abandon the trip,
a Morgan owner from Richmond, Virginia - V.Cassel Adamson Jnr. found the
only insurance company in the USA that would help us.
I'll never forget that feeling of achievement when, one
year later, Morgans from Sweden, Germany, Denmark, the UK, Canada and the
USA were parked on 17 mile drive beside the Pacific Ocean at the start of
our coast to coast adventure.
Driving in convoy in open cars across a Continent
through deserts and over mountain ranges and enduring amazingly variable
climactic changes soon makes the participants bond and help each other in
adversity. We had numerous problems with both European and USA cars, some
funny, like the car that had three punctured tyres in one mile but
unfortunately 200 miles from the nearest garage, or the one with its
headlights held on with Band-Aids, to the more serious, like the car that
had a rear axle seize half way across the Nevada Desert! But the "A" Team,
as we became know, soon had all the cars fixed and able to continue and
eventually complete the trip.
Many cars were caught speeding, one I'm told by an
aeroplane radar operator, but none of the Europeans paid their fines
because we always seemed to be in a different State the next day. However
the locals had to pay on the spot, Pam Baker from Idaho was caught three
times in one day and with fines nearing $1000 she created an MOA record!
A second group of Europeans, the "B" Team who had been
shipped to Baltimore and who had driven up the East Coast, met up with us
at the appropriately named, Morgantown. We then all drove to Niagara Falls
and met the Canadian Morgan Owners for a farewell bash.
years later, having learnt a lot, we did MOA II, "The Western Adventure".
This was a big loop of the West side of the USA and Canada, starting in
San Francisco and hugging the coast all the way up to Canada. We then
drove over to Lake Louise, walked on the Athabaska Glacier and many of us
saw bears near Banff. Then it was back to the USA via Glacier National
Park and the Going To The Sun Hiway, arguably one of the most scenic
drives in the World, followed by the highest road in the USA Trail Ridge
Road at 12183 feet above sea level. We then went to Bryce Canyon and Zion
National Parks on our way to Las Vegas. Next morning we drove through
Death Valley on the lowest road in the USA, about 200 feet below sea
level, where we saw the sun rise at Zabriski Point. A few days later, we
finished the trip back in San Francisco.
We had more than our usual share of car problems on
this trip. One of the Californian Morgans was totalled on the Interstate,
outside Seattle, by a Jimmy Jeep, but fortunately the all girl crew, Marj.
Scooros and Janet Koupal, were un-hurt and were able to continue with us
by taking over the driving of the back-up van, which we had provided for
just such an occurrence. Another Californian, Steve Roake, had his head
gasket fail in Death Valley and with the temperature approaching 125oF,
and having no spare, I towed him out with my +8 over two 5000 foot
mountain passes to our next Hotel where we fixed the engine the next day.
During this repair we did manage to set his car on fire on two occasions,
but that's another story! Henry Tutton's UK car was gradually re-built as
we drove along and Pamala Baker's propane fuelled car gave us many moments
of mirth on the trip.
We had learned on MOA I that split groups didn't work
and we also agreed not to ship out any very old cars because they had
caused us so many problems last time. We knew how to cope with extremes of
temperature but being over 9000 feet for almost three weeks did give us a
few problems with the cars and ourselves, but that's all part of the fun!
This was a superbly scenic tour, which we knew would be difficult to beat
on MOA III.
year 2000 was looming and it was time for MOA III. We decided that a drive
from New Orleans up to Nova Scotia would be the most appropriate way to
celebrate. Plans were under way for this "Eastern Adventure" when one of
the Californian organisers, Keith Cox, died, so we decided to re-name the
event, "The Keith Cox Memorial MOA III" in his honour. Elaine Fisher and
Kathy Tollworthy stepped in at this difficult time to help Steve Roake
with the organisation and they saved the day!
All the European cars were shipped to New Orleans while
the USA and Canadian cars were either driven or transported down to the
Deep South. The itinerary was another triumph of organisation by the MSCC
Northern California members who once again had provided all the entrants
with detailed 3 page documents and maps for each day of the event, quite a
feat considering they live almost as far away from the East Coast as we
This was a trip of contrasts, from the high temperatures and humidity of
the Deep South, to snow, heavy rain and cold as the group toured up
towards Canada. Fortunately, the weather cleared by the time we arrived in
Canada, so we were able to enjoy the magnificent scenery that Nova Scotia
and Cape Breton Island have to offer. Once again we had some dramas with
the cars. I had agreed to share driving the support vehicle, the Isuzu 4
wheel drive and trailer, with Vern Dale-Johnson, President of the MSCC
Canada, but unfortunately, between Montreal and Quebec City, his other
car, a Morgan +4 had its oil cooler hose detach and he lost all his engine
oil ruining the main and big-end bearings. We decided that rather than tow
the stricken car round on the trailer for the rest of the trip it would be
better to drive the 700 miles back to his home in Toronto and swap the
Morgan for a Lotus 7. So while the others continued towards Nova Scotia,
we were seeing Montreal again.
As we got to Toronto, the mobile phone was ringing telling us of a
catastrophic engine failure to Henry Tutton’s engine. It appeared that the
oil pump had seized causing the camshaft worm-drive teeth to be broken off
together with the distributor drive. We explained that we were nearly 1000
miles in the wrong direction, but we would get up early and make all speed
to help him the next day. It took us seventeen and a half hours to drive
that 954 miles and taking out the stops, we had averaged 65 mph towing the
Lotus on the trailer!
During our trans-Canada drive, Vern had made contact with an English car
enthusiast in Halifax NS which was another 300 miles further on from where
Henry was. We put the Morgan on the trailer and I towed it to Halifax
where Jerry Elliot had his garage. He races a Ford Cortina and a Lotus 7
and his engine man was waiting for us. While Henry’s engine was being
machined and rebuilt, Jerry’s wife, Myrna, put him up for the 3 days it
took. This is typical of the help and camaraderie found on MOA events.
Jerry is not a Morgan man, but he helped us out of a most
difficult situation, and wouldn’t hear of Henry
paying for the necessary parts, however Henry made a generous contribution
to Jerry’s racing fund. While this was going on, the rest of us drove the
Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, eventually meeting up with Henry again
when we returned to Nova Scotia and visited Halifax.
All “MOA” events will, in future, be organised by “Morgans Over America
Ltd” a company formed after MOA
III, with directors in both the UK and the USA. This is a
non-profit making company formed solely to protect our good name.
MOA trips are very special events, which bring like-minded Morgan people
from all parts of the World together and lifelong friendships are forged,
indeed we’ve even had a wedding! It really is laughter all the way! Unique
regalia are always designed for the participants and each MOA event has
had a new car badge made in different colours to identify the participants
from the badge collectors.
We are already planning MOA IV in 2005. It
will be a much more leisurely tour this time
because we hope to be staying at various hotels for several days at a
time. This will enable the adventurers to unpack their suitcases for the
first time on an MOA event and should make it one not to miss!