Kevin Staveley and Dan Gruer set off on the adventure of a lifetime on July 29 of last year. They had been invited in February by a photojournalist friend of Gruer’s to a special event going on at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Gruer says that although they didn’t have many details about the itinerary and were “a little skeptical,” they said to themselves, “Let’s not worry about it and go with the flow.”
The “flow” down to the salt flats was a road run organized by Rolling Bones Racing out of Greenfield, New York, and the vehicles were far from everyday cars. Staveley and Gruer took to the road in Staveley’s 1954 International pickup truck, and they were in good company, with many of the vehicles in the road run dating back as far as the early 1930s and all of them being vintage vehicles.
As they made their way southward, Staveley says there were as many as “a half-mile of us in a row, maybe more,” with the total number of participants ebbing and flowing over the journey. There were car enthusiasts from across the world, from places like Australia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The pace was blistering, with the group covering some 1000 kilometres on each of the first three days of driving. Speaking of blistering, Staveley’s truck had black vinyl seats and no air conditioning, which became even more of an issue as they got further south – “Nebraska was brutal!” Staveley says.
When they stopped for the night, they say it was like “The circus was coming to town” as an unofficial car show materialized each evening. The group was also invited to stop along the way at various vintage car workshops. Gruer says there was a lot of “hanging around and talking about cars” at every stage, and a lot of wonderfully kind people. He says, “I was really amazed at the people and how welcoming they were.”
When you get to Bonneville, Gruer says there is just “a truck stop and then a bend in the road,” and then you drive off the pavement and onto the flats. Staveley says that after five and a half days of shouting at each other over the noise of the engine and the wind, “By the time we got to Bonneville, I didn’t have a voice left,” but one could imagine that the views as they pulled onto the flats might have rendered them speechless in any case.
Gruer says they “had two really cool, though actually really hot, days” of helping to set up for racing on the flats. Unfortunately, the evening before the racing was scheduled, Staveley says “The sky burst … and that ended it right there,” explaining that the following morning there were eight inches of water on the salt.
Staveley and Gruer saw a few more sights and many more cars when the remainder of their trip; which was to have included a trip further south to El Mirage, California; was cancelled. Soon, though, they found they were ready to head back home. When they arrived back in the Valley on August 14, “That was the longest I’d ever been away from home,” Staveley says, and the longest he had been away from his wife, Shannon. He says if he were to make the trek to the salt flats again, “I’d like to do it at a slower pace,” but he certainly doesn’t seem daunted by the experience, saying with a laugh, “I’d like to go back and actually see some racing!”