Driver repeating youthful journey

BLUE EARTH – There was an impromptu addition to the Faribault County Fair on Tuesday – an exhibit that’s been 50 years in the making.

Russ Mowry came back to Blue Earth, retracing the route he took in 1963 during a coast-to-coast trip. This time, he’s got a greater goal in mind, raising money and awareness for wounded veterans.

After graduating from high school, Mowry’s father bought him a yellow 1959 Elva Courier.

“The deal was, I’d work for him for nothing until it was paid off,” Mowry said Tuesday.

It took a while but Mowry made good, then hopped in the car and drove it from New Jersey to California.

“I think it took a week and a half,” he said.

“I wanted to go to art school in San Francisco and live with my aunt and uncle,” he said.

He kept a log of the journey. His entry for Oct. 10, 1963, reads: “Gassed Blue Earth $2.50. All o.k.”

It takes a lot more to fill the tank these days and the scenery is different.

“No interstate then,” Mowry remembered. “I think I was on [County Road] 16 here.”

He made it to California safely and into art school. Then Mowry settled down, sold the Courier, and “went to real school,” as he says.

“I went to Vietnam and flew helicopters and came back,” he said.

He kept flying helicopters, including for WNBC-TV on the East Coast.

But that Courier stayed on his mind.

“This is a very rare and desirable sports car,” he said.

He kept searching and finally struck gold.

“I found it in 2001,” Mowry said.

He paid $1,500 for the car the first time and sold it for $500. The second time, he paid $5,000 and it wasn’t in good condition at all.

“I bought it in complete and total wreck; no engine, no transmission,” he said. “I was buying mostly memories.”

He figures he has put $80,000 in the car.

“It’s not about the money. It’ll stay in the family,” he vowed, planning to give it to his kids. “I’m not gonna get rid of it again.”

He had the car and the memories, so why make the trip?

“Because you have to,” Mowry said. “If it’s the 50th anniversary, how could you not?”

He hit the road again in that yellow Courier, leaving New Jersey a week ago Saturday. His slogan is “Same Driver … Same Car … Same Route.”

One difference: Dick Kydd has been following Mowry in a trailer and recording the journey on the blog for friends, family and admirers to keep up with them. Mowry said he wouldn’t be able to do it with Kydd.

The trip hasn’t been easy. A wheel has come off the trailer, and the brakes went out on the car.

“Part of the adventure,” Kydd said.

They found folks to help put the vehicles back together and keep them on the road.

When they stopped in Blue Earth this time, unbeknownst to them, it was opening day of the Faribault County Fair, so they set up the car in the middle of all the food vendors.

The red stripe down the car’s center is decorated with signatures. Mowry has been charging $5 for folks to sign it. Proud of being a Vietnam vet, Mowry said proceeds will benefit the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and related afflictions.

When their stay at the fair is done, Mowry plans to take County Road 16 west. One reason is nostalgia to see the old road, but he also likes taking the backroads.

“No windshield, no roof,” he pointed out, adding that he has ear plugs to protect his hearing from big, loud vehicles.

Overall, Mowry has enjoyed the ride in the area.

“Sure is a nice part of the world,” he said.