I know you have crazy ideas clawing at the back of your mind, waiting to burst into reality. You can find so many reasons to not listen to them. It’s so easy to not do that one insane thing that’s been haunting you for ages.
But what would happen if you did? — Alice Pye
Three things compelled me to write the story of Alice and her Travels with Betsy: One, her name is Alice Pye and we all know how much I love pie (plus, coolest name EVER). Two, she’s a fellow Ford truck girl and lover of Route 66. And three, she’s doing something few people have the guts to do…
Take a chance.
Alice perfectly articulates this on her blog, Travels with Betsy:
Maybe we get a little too scared to go after those crazy dreams we all have. It’s terrifying to put so much of your money, time, blood, sweat, and tears into something that doesn’t make any sense. It won’t move you forward in your career, it’s not going to get you a raise, it’s not going to help you buy a house or start a family. What it will do is help improve you as a human being.
But the spark began long before, after someone gave her a shirt.
This shirt was like the cheesiest Route 66 souvenir possible, it was the map of the US with Route 66 and it said “Get your kicks on Route 66!” And for some weird reason I fell in love with that damn shirt. I wore it until I was in High School and my mom had to throw it out I think because it had holes in the arm pits. What can I say, teenagers make weird fashion choices.
Alice’s crazy dream isn’t just a route 66 vacation, though. She is leaving California. Packing up her few belongings, and making a trek across the country. Alice is no stranger to moving. she was born in Moscow, Russia, moved to Toronto when she was 7, and then to Ottawa. At 15, she moved to Los Angeles, and then to Long Beach for college. Now, at twenty-seven she’s ready for a change, someplace that reflects her love of swing dancing and jazz music. The Ultimate mecca. New Orleans.
There were times there where I was really having a hard time. I was doubting that it would ever happen. Lots and lots of tears. However, I was also really really scared of having this be another project that I started and told everyone about and didn’t finish.
She wanted a classic. Something with personality. A life of its own.
I guess maybe I’ve always been just in love with anything that’s old and crusty and forgotten and left to die. I honestly don’t know what primal part of my brain this need to be surrounded with old things comes from, but it’s really real and I’m just fully surrendering to it at this point.
She also wanted something she could sleep in along the way, and so began her search for the perfect truck.
I was just in love with every old truck I saw. I had no idea what I was doing. … I actually got some great advice from the owner of that 1970’s Ford Truck I fell in love with originally. He told me to look for a straight 6 because they were easy to work on and would eat less gas than a V8.
She didn’t care so much about the looks, she cared about what went on underneath. Betsy–the oldest truck she looked at–seemed to perfectly fit the bill: Crusty on the outside, cared for on the inside.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the beginning of it all. I thought I’d do a basic tune up and be on my way! And that’s definitely not how that turned out…
On April 1, 2017, Alice Pye brought Betsy, a 1963 Ford F100, home.
Betsy is like that one Johnny Cash song, “One Piece at a Time” about how he built a Cadillac by swiping a part at a time from the factory.
Betsy is a fourth generation Ford, a mid-year redesign in response to complaints about the unibody trucks flexing with heavy cargo in the bed, causing doors to pop open or jam. The Ford engineers–panicked to have an alternative truck for ’63 and no time to redesign–tossed on a third generation bed that didn’t quite match up with the lines of the modern cab. Even so, the non-integrated style-side pickups outsold the unibodies two-to-one.
The disparate design didn’t bother Alice in the least.
I kind of… really loved that she’s… this ugly duckling of the Ford truck world.
Alice had no experience working on vehicles. She’d never so much as changed a tire. And yet she took on the challenge of buying a fifty-four-year-old truck and getting it ready for a journey across several State lines. Help came in many forms, from many people, all excited about her plans to make this trip.
Turns out, Betsy wasn’t so cared for on the inside. Amongst other things, she needed a new engine. Alice’s “truck dad” Evan helped her find a rebuilt 223 from a Ford Galaxie, and together, they gave Betsy another shot at life.
If one more bolt had broken while I was trying to torque something to spec I might have given up on the whole thing. That’s how close it felt like I was to totally calling it quits. It felt like it took everything I have in me to see this through. But I guess my stubbornness came through and wouldn’t give up on her. Or maybe she didn’t give up on me.
You can read the full engine swap story, here, on Alice’s blog.
Alice and Betsy Hit the Road
On November third, just eight months after the dream took hold, Alice got behind the wheel and headed out of Long Beach toward the open road.
One week in, this was her summary:
- Miles traveled: 539
- Top speed: 70 mph
- Lowest speed: 6 mph
- Highest elevation: 4,613 ft at Sheep Hole Pass
- Times burst out crying uncontrollably out of happiness: 5
- States traveled: 2
- Sunsets seen that were too beautiful to capture: 5
- Mornings I’ve woken up to watch the sunrise: 4
- Times I’ve felt alone: 0
That last one… a girl and her truck. That one gets me.
Go do something weird! Go buy a car for $500 on craigslist and see how far it takes you!
On the Road
Last I spoke with Alice she was in Albuquerque, 800 miles from where she started. The trip hasn’t been without hiccups, though.
Travels with Betsy
But hiccups aren’t always bad. The challenges along the way have only brought more interesting people into Alice’s life, like David, who stopped in his C10 pickup to help her when she lost oil pressure outside of Flagstaff.
While Alice may not have known much about vehicles and the odd quirks of classic cars prior to this adventure, six months after buying Betsy she has grown leaps and bounds, making new friends along the road, and finding an inner-confidence that before eluded her.
I’ve been trying to do all these things that other people tell me to do to be happy, but I’m not really that happy, so let’s just try listening to the crazy voices inside your own head for a bit and see what happens. And so far, I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. Granted I’ve also probably cried and banged my head on the wall more times then ever before, but you gotta take the good with the bad. You can’t fall in love if you don’t open yourself up to getting hurt. I just happened to fall in love with a truck who’s name is Betsy.
- Follow Alice’s journey across Route 66 toward her new home in New Orleans on her website, Travels With Betsy
- More of a visual person? Check out her Travels with Betsy Instagram feed!
If you haven’t done a Route 66 journey, do it. In 2012 my feller and I hopped on our Sportsters and rode the full length, from Los Angeles to Chicago, and then up to Milwaukee. I’ve been around the world, but this was by far my most memorable adventure. Here’s a link to my posts about the trip.
Until next time…
P.S. I’m still rebuilding the site after the great crash of 2017, so if you click a post and find pictures missing, that’s why. Also rebuilding the subscriber list, so if you’d like to get notified with each new post, subscribe below.