My wife and I were traveling in the Phoenix, AZ area, and as is our usual custom, we looked for fellow clock and watch nerds to chat up. Some googling brought us to The Clock Doctor of Scottsdale, a family business that has been running for more than 60 years. They sell and service both clocks and watches and their inventory ranges from modern clocks and watches to vintage and antique.
In the corner of the room sits a fantastic reproduction E Howard Astronomical Regulator Model 90. In the main clock room are some high-end tall case/grandfather clocks and a variety of wall and shelf clocks. In the back room stood this guy – a French Astronomical Regulator dating to about 1820, signed by Auguste Richard.
I’m condensing a couple trips into one story. We viewed this clock on a previous trip, and on the second trip, took a closer look. The clock needed some restoration work, but had the potential to be really special. The movement at one time was fully-jeweled, though over the centuries about half of the jewels had been replaced with brass bushings, either due to damage or to the pivot shafts wearing, causing the jewels to be oversized. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive clock. The movement plates are nearly 14″ tall, and it’s very heavy.
I was able to negotiate an “unrestored” price for the clock with the owner; the challenge remained how to get a 7′ tall clock with mercury pendulum 1650 miles back to Minnesota. After exploring various options, I decided to take a road trip, and my dad graciously joined me as a companion and second driver.
We left the Minneapolis area on a Tuesday afternoon in late March 2022, driving about 7 hours through almost continuous rain to Topeka Kansas for our first night stop. After misjudging the toll road exit and collecting a $28 fine to be paid to the great state of Kansas, we ended up at a motel with questionable cleanliness, but hot water.
Eager to get started the next morning, we were on the road at about 6:00 AM and traveled all the way to Las Cruces, New Mexico, nearly 900 miles and 14 hours of driving. My normal daily driving comfort zone is about 500 miles, but with two drivers we managed an efficient trip. We had two surprises: snow in Texas, and a clock shop right on our route in Meade, Kansas! It was fun to chat with “Ma” the proprietor and share our adventure.
While leaving New Mexico, we had the fitting experience of seeing a UFO. It was a horizontal silver cylinder that looked initially like the top of an antenna tower, but traveled alongside us for nearly an hour. It could have been a blimp, but I’m not sure why a blimp would have been flying over nowhere in particular. Par for the course for any UFO sighting, we were unable to get any picture of consequence.
With the bulk of the miles out of the way, we had time to stop at the Pima Air and Space museum in Tucson, AZ for a few hours Thursday, and then finished the trip to Scottsdale to retrieve the clock.
The USA is big and diverse, and I think most people are aware of major regional and cultural differences. Occasionally though, you get surprised by something you never thought would be needed – in this case a cactus transportation service.
We arrived at The Clock Doctor on Thursday late afternoon and had a great time chatting with the staff. Thanks to careful measurements of both the clock and our vehicle before departing on the trip there were no surprises, and we were able to disassemble, wrap, and load everything safely.
The advantage of personal transportation lies in being able to have a soft ride for your precious cargo. A combination of moving blankets, a pillow, bubble wrap, and foam sheets helped us tuck the clock in for the return journey. Commercial cartage would have required building a crate for the clock with a lot of packaging material, and without being ungrateful for the many men and women who work hard to get all manner of goods across the world to me, I was not willing to risk an irreplaceable 200-year-old clock being dropped off a loading dock.
The trip back to Minneapolis began Friday morning with a delicious breakfast from our host, and then travel 600 miles to Tucumcari, New Mexico. Time changes were with us heading west; the way back was a little slower due to our tiredness and losing two time zones while traveling east.
Saturday was our long day of travel, and we made it 800 miles to Des Moines, Iowa, setting up the final leg of the journey.
Homecoming on Sunday was sweet, and the clock rode like a champ. Check out the Minnesota Clocks & Watches YouTube channel for the restoration process of this amazing clock!
The Minnesota Clocks & Watches household has two vehicles – a Ford Transit cargo van which usually serves for clock adventures, and a Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivan. With the careful measurement of both clock and vehicle alluded to previously, I was delighted to see that the Pacifica would be up to the job. Not to unduly slight the Transit’s unmatched utility, but a softer ride, better gas mileage, and adaptive cruise control made the decision to negotiate with my wife for use of the Pacifica for the trip an easy one.
The Pacifica has about 33 miles of battery-only range before the gas engine takes over. This really is a great combination for a lot of people – daily charging at home covers most normal usage of grocery runs, school drop-offs, and short commutes; but the fully-equipped gas engine means that the vehicle is equally at home on a 3500 mile horological road trip.
We began the trip with the vehicle charged, and we were able to charge at our Arizona host’s home. We did not charge at any other nightly stops, and the Pacifica is impractical to charge at charging stations along the way due to relatively insignificant battery range and slow charging speeds. Nonetheless, the hybrid functionality of the vehicle where coasting and braking recapture otherwise wasted energy gave us almost 250 miles of free driving, plus the two charges at beginning and middle of the trip (battery mileage in light blue).