Retro Rumblings – Miles for Smiles
In the fall of 2009, Dave Schaub embarked on hot rodding’s ultimate road trip. Driving his ’32 Ford roadster, a black Brizio-prepared “reacher,” Schaub traversed all 49 continental United States in just eight days. Billed as “49 in 9,” Schaub finished the 9,856-mile journey a day earlier than predicted, making it 49 in 8. Not only did his successful trip gain national headlines, he raised more than $100,000 during his odyssey for the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford by asking friends and performance companies to donate whatever they could for each mile he traveled.
Inspired by the motorcyclists of the Iron Butt Association, a group of long-distance riders who had records of members doing 49 states in 10 days on their bikes, Schaub threw down the gauntlet and set a personal goal of 49 in 9 in his hot rod.
The scope of a trip this intense was all-consuming. Dave had to think of everything. How could he dip his wheels in all 49 states at such a rapid pace? How does one go about planning that route? Other big hurdles to overcome were sleep and rest, food, gas mileage, what parts were most likely to break and what delays might pop up via road construction, accidents or other possibilities.
After a year of training which included a practice run backwards from the East Coast to West, weight loss, physical exercise, stretching, and adjusting to a five-hour sleep cycle, Schaub took off from Needles, California at midnight Wednesday, September 9. Eight days and 49 states later, he pulled into tiny Hyder, Alaska, exhausted, hungry, and sore, but he made it and so did his hot rod. With no cell service for 500 miles, he had to wait for a phone operator to pick up and try to make a collect call to let loved ones know he made it and was OK.
To document and certify the trip, Schaub kept time-stamped receipts from a purchase in every state. He also had a tracking device in the roadster that would show a beacon on his web-site every 10 minutes as he was moving. Schaub was quick to point out that in certain spots people could watch him travel through a cluster of states in rapid succession. The day he traveled through the New England area, Schaub went through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia in a matter of a few hours. Most days he drove 18 hours, getting five hours of sleep. The other hour was spent on eight-minute gas stops. Day one was his longest drive of the entire trip – a 1,200 mile leg covering California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.
Six-and-a-half days in, Schaub faced the toughest task of the entire journey. Exhausted mentally and physically, he had clicked off 48 states. The final frontier included a 1,000-mile blitz through the entirety of British Columbia to get to the 49th and final state, Alaska. On the evening of September 18, 2009, Dave rolled into Hyder. He did it, he survived it and he accomplished what no hot rodder had ever done before.
After a blissful 10-hour slumber at the Sealaska Inn, Dave woke up and started the four-day journey back home to Los Gatos, California. A week after he landed back home, the Ronald McDonald House held a special ceremony honoring Dave’s feat and subsequent fundraising efforts, which eclipsed the six-figure mark. Interestingly, the charity was facing a $100,000 shortfall that year, but Dave literally saved the day with his herculean effort.
Looking back at the historic journey, it went relatively smooth in all phases. The only minor gremlin on the whole trip was a burned-out taillight bulb that happened in a rainstorm outside Tulsa. Not once did Dave have to go to a repair shop for a long fix – a testament to the road worthiness of a Brizio-prepped hot rod.
Dave broke his days up into six-hour segments of driving. Starting each day at midnight and ending each day around 6pm. He would make it to a pre-chosen hotel, have a nice dinner, shower and off to bed for the next five hours. That was the same routine for the entire trip. During the journey Schaub consumed 14 bags of jerky, 10 bags of trail mix, 2 pounds of nuts, 10 bananas, three apples, a few odd bags of dried fruit, and two cases of water.
As amazing as this journey was, things got even crazier two years later in 2011, when Schaub did it again. He revved back up his fundraising efforts with the Ronald McDonald House and, taking the lessons he learned from the first trip, he was able to shave a full day off his eight day time slip, finishing up his 2011 run in just seven days. One week to blast through all 49 continental United States in a ’32 Ford roadster! It’s hard to comprehend.
Now semi-retired from his famous butcher shop, Schaub’s Meat, Fish and Poultry in the Stanford Shopping Center, Schaub has time for some reflection. When we spoke recently, Schaub talked about the true meaning of both adventures.
“Growing up, my Dad was a single parent,” Schaub recalled. “He set the example and instilled in me the reasons we care for others. He taught me the importance of making someone smile. He was a giver. I could never be the man he was, but I would try to be the best I could be.
“Doing the charity drives for Ronald McDonald House taught me that even the smallest donation makes a difference,” Dave continued. “The act of giving is an act of kindness. That’s all that really matters. I believe that caring is the root that will make this world a better place for everyone. Hot rodding is literally the vehicle I used to get others involved in giving. With-out the people who cared, these charity drives would just be my way of having fun in my roadster. But it turned out to really make a difference and I thank everyone who cared for doing their part. I drove away with some great memories and great friends I met along the way.”
Schaub’s story is one of the most fascinating in hot rod history. Logging thousands of miles on the open road in a hot rod while giving back to those who need it most can only lead to a simple conclusion: Don’t ever underestimate a man with an iron butt and a passion for giving back.