Saturday, January 5, 2019

Goodbye Wally.


Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

Goodbyes are hard. Especially premature ones. Citroen Guru Wally Escherich died of massive heart failure after battling the crippling effects of the little known Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Abandoned by the health care industry, the insurance industry, and their toadies, the workman’s compensation people, his body had had enough of that shit and quit. I don’t want to turn this into a polemic about health care. This isn’t the place for it. I want to talk about Wally and remember him. 

Wally was a fixture of first the No Frills Iron Bottom Motoring Tour then the drives I hosted. Constant Reader will know what those are, the rest of you? Suffice it to say they are the Ultimate Anti-Glam Old Car Tours. Usually three days of driving California backroads, covering some thousand miles of spectacular scenery and lonely roads. Most of the cars are scruffy at best. Several break down. We stay in scruffy motels and drive too fast. At the end of the day, we share several beers. 

It was over several beers that we learned what a small world it was. In the bench racing that always followed a day’s run, I was telling tall tales about being a bus driver, and some of the back roads we had to use to haul kids to summer camps. I mentioned the most epic camp run we had, Quaker Meadows. Wally lit up. Seems not only did he go there every summer as a kid, but he now remembered me as one of the drivers! He was like ten years old and always sat up front (most kids fought for the back, as far away from adults as possible), soaking in what it took to drive a 35’ Crown Coach up roads that few would take a VW on. Like I said, small freakin’ world!

Wally often drove his Citroen D Wagon, a magnificently original beast. He also co-piloted a variety of completely inappropriate cars for narrow backroads. Cadillac Eldorados being a favorite ride. He’d fly over whoop-ti-dos with abandon, seeing if he could launch a three ton hunk of Amurican Iron, often with devastating results to the ball joints.  He was flat crazy about the tours, the people, and the cars. 

Wally was also loud. REALLY loud. On first meeting, obnoxiously so. But once you got over the initial shock, he turned out to be a great person. He cared more about cars, and especially Citroens, than anyone I have ever known. He had an encyclopedic knowledge if those stupid, odd, downright weird cars. They were a perfect match. 

Now, I’ve always been a closet lover of Citroens. Chuck Forward of Autobooks fame really introduced me to them properly, but it was Wally who reeled me in. I’d heard he was helping a widow sell off a treasure trove of Citroens from an stash out past Amboy that he called “Area 52.” And I was intrigued enough to ask if there were any decent wagons there. I should have known better. 

Indeed there was. It would need work. After all, it was last registered in 1984 and had sat outside all those years. I negotiated with my dear sweet loving wife, and as long as I sold the ’52 Dodge Pickup, I could get the Citroen. Ah, me. I bought the damn thing for two grand and Wally delivered it to my place. That was six years ago. It’s now my daily driver and is called the Yellow Submarine. 

Much of the work was done at first by me, then we hauled it out to Wally’s pride and joy, an actual shop. “Grand Central Citroen.” By this time, he could hardly work on cars himself, the pain of CRPS was so devastating that he’d black out. His assistant, Junior and a friend from Flagstaff, Garret, did most of the work while Wally was practically duct tapped to a chair in the shop. He couldn’t keep his hands off the cars. They finally got the hydraulics sorted, rebuilt the half-shafts, and sorted a few niggly bits and VOILA, a running Citroen Wagon. 

Probably Wally's proudest moment involved the Lemon Goddess. He, Junior, and Garret dragged this spectacular ratty DS out of the junk pile, put in a clutch and radiator, covered the interior in moving blankets, and plywood for the trunk floor. They sent if off on the Concours de LeMons Rallye, which STARTED in Monterey during Pebble Beach Week, ran to the Canadian Border and back, some 3000 miles. They finished second to a VW with a beer keg in the back with which to bribe the judges. Later, the thing went to the Citroen Rendezvous in Atascadero, and stole the "Bucket and Brush Award" from me. 

Through out this, Wally’s pain management was on again/off again (mostly off again-he had bad days and horrible days) as he battled the system. He gave up on the shop and I think closing it broke his heart. Marianne and I did want we could, but the distance from Monrovia to Redlands made it less than we wanted. We did manage to drive him to a CRPS conference in San Jose where he learned there were a lot of others in his boat and he was better off than many. Sadly, none of it was enough. Damn. 

At least I got to take the freshly painted Yellow Submarine out for his approval. He loved it. Enough to award it the last ever, official, Wally Seal of Approval. I'll treasure that forever. 

Wally had a good heart. He had a passion for Citroens. His booming voice and encyclopedic knowledge will be missed. It’s trite, but indeed, he’s finally free of pain. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Thanks!


It’s November, so why not say Thanks for all the Car Related Stuff that have made our lives better.  Here goes, in no particular order: 

Back Roads: These do have to be on the top of the list. I’m thankful that all the great driving roads haven’t been widened into Super Highways. I’m glad there’s still roads that they don’t bother to paint a center line on, and only occasionally pave. These are the roads we thrive on. These are the roads that our cars were made for. These are the roads that take us to something other than another Big Box Corporate Emporium that sells the same crap as all the others do. These are the roads where the wild flowers bloom in the spring and you can smell them in an open car. These are the roads that Camry, and Pious, and Motorhome divers stay away from. These roads give us Joy and Soul Sustenance. 

Sports Cars: Heck Yeah! These are the cars made for those roads. These are nimble, joyful little beasts that need a firm hand at the wheel and a brain to drive. Not operate, DRIVE! These are the cars that are loathed by the EcoNazis. These are the cars that were meant to be driven for the pure joy of driving. This idea is increasingly Frowned Upon by the mavens of Good Sense and Common Good. These are cars that 0-60 is a worthless stat. These are the cars that put us in a distinct minority. Ain’t it grand? 

People Who Actually DRIVE the Above: And more than a quick jaunt to a local car show. Trailer Queen’s Get Thee Behind Me! Cars are first and foremost, a mode of transportation. Their very existence is for the purpose of being driven. To let a car sit in a garage, to be only pampered and polished, for the owner to be in too much fear that the paint will get chipped is a Mortal Sin. The Blue Meanie will never win awards at car shows. The Auld Crate actually gets sneered at by Purists. That make us both happy. I guarantee we’ve had more pure FUN than 90% of the worriers. I’m always bemused when I tell people that we drove to, say, Olympia and back. “All that way? It made it? I don’t know if I could do that with mine.” Why the heck not? Didn’t you build it right? These things are not as fragile as popular mythology would let you believe. Built right and maintained (aye, there’s the rub), they will give you the ride of your life for thousands of miles. OK, they get Dirty. They Leak. They aren’t a living room on wheels. So what? If you own it, drive it! Thanks to those that do! Fun, isn’t it?

Mom and Pop Diners: This applies to any eatery that is owned by a sole proprietor or limited partnership. They are run with care and good humor. They are friendly because they’d like you back because this is how they make their living. This is how they’ve risked their future. Most fail and fail miserably. As my mom once said, “Owning a restaurant is a license to work.” Amen to that, and a HUGE THANK YOU to the folks who have had such a calling. The food is mostly good and always has character and is always different from the last place you stopped. They don’t have to add “Flavor Enhancers” because the bean counters at corporate haven’t dictated that food be so over processed that the taste is gone. Somewhere, in a secret mahogany paneled conference room at McBrugerJack HQ there must hang a picture of Dr. Goebbels. Beneath it his dictum: “If you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it.” For decades, these clowns have told us that we should be “Lovin’ It” and we’ve all heard it often enough that in general, we do. I’ve talked to kids who don’t like In ‘n’ Out Fries! “They taste funny, not like Mickey D”. Honey, that’s because they actually make them out of REAL POTATOES! What a novel concept. So, Eat at Joe’s (or Jane’s, or Ducky’s or Leroy’s), support your fellow citizens! 

Mom and Pop Motels: Ditto. 

A Good Honest Mechanic: OK, almost an oxymoron these days. But they are there. They don’t usually work at Double A BLEEP BLEEP (one guess what the bleeps REALLY mean), or the guys who put the Midas Touch on your wallet. They sure don’t work at the local gas station (they certainly aren’t service stations) anymore, but they are out there. Last week I heard tell of a guy in Riverside who usually works on all the mundane stuff, but LOVES it when you bring him a Citroen! Or Carburetor Carl who just retired. Man is a GENIUS with weird cards. Got a Simplex with an updraft Rochester? Just his meat! Or the shop here in Monrovia, Ward’s Service, that just celebrated 90 (NINETY) years in business. They can actually replace points and condensers and do a tune up! Or Star Auto Electric who has for some 40 years built essentially brand new Lucas generators. I’ve even found a tire guy, Rudy’s LLantas Usadas y Nuevas who can still put tubes in tires! So will Nate Jones in Signal Hill. Hell, he’ll even restring and true the wire wheels on an Austin 7 that’s just passing through town on the way to the end of the world! Or Frank Monise. That’s now Junior. He’s probably tired of the Junior, but I used to deal with the Old Man, so, Frankie, you’ll always be “Junior” to me, but out of respect. Great Respect. He literally grew up in his dad’s greasy shop in Pasadena. There isn’t much he doesn’t know about Auld English Crates. So, we all have these gems, be thankful for them and throw business their way. 

Moss Motors, the Roadster Factory, XK’s Unlimited, Western Hemispheres, British Wiring, Ol Phartz Partz, Western Hemispheres, Der Franzose, and all the others who keep making stuff for our Auld Crates. With out them, we’d be is REALLY DEEP KIMCHI! Yeah, we scream about prices but really, where would we be without them? Ever try and get ANYTHING from Poop Boys? “What kind of car is it?” They can’t help you with out that. No, you can’t just ask for a valve cover gasket for a small block Chevy. Even when they are ALL THE SAME. Doesn’t matter. I tried to get tires for the TR at one. “I need four 186/60x15 tires.” “What kind of car is it?” “Who cares, that’s the size I need.”  “I can’t look it up with out the kind of car.” “Ok, 1960, Triumph TR3.” “Uh, we have a 1965 VW…” “Well, that’s not quite it, is it?” They wound up not being able to sell me tires because the computer wouldn’t let them. So, be thankful for the suppliers who keep us on the road. Without them, we’d have really expensive planters. 

Technology: Yeah, that’s me, the reigning Neo-Luddite extolling things like GPS, Google Maps, and Radar Detectors. All for obvious reasons. High Tech has made our liver easier and more interesting, as long as we use it as a tool and not an end all, be all. Like those couples who sit in a restaurant on a date, texting other people. Sad. Or the truck driver who takes his rig over Angeles Crest and kills people. Tragic. Don’t be that guy! Smart usage helps find the neat roads. It can also find you the way home AND you don’t have to stop and ask directions. 

All My Readers. Both of You: Without someone to read my meanderings, I’d be the falling tree in the forest that makes no sound. Or does it? This also includes my family who put up with and have grown up to enjoy Road Trips. Especially my wife Marianne. She is a Goddess to all. Women shake their heads with wonder and awe over the idea of her SHARING a small suitcase for a three day drive and only bringing one other pair of shoes! She gets her hair mussed and hands greasy, doesn’t complain too much, and actually enjoys our jaunts together. 

Lastly, Chuck and Tina, Owners of Autobooks: They got me my start in writing for real with this column. From there, I’ve managed three books and have another on the way. I appreciate their support more than I can say. 
So, I hope you all had a great Turkey Day!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Salted

You set out at O’Dark-Thirty
so you can arrive at dawn
The air is still, cool
An angry sun rises through the haze of smoke that 
        drifted in from California

a burning red eye that will scorch all it sees
A breeze that will stiffen as the day progresses
wafts the tangy smell of Castrol R and Nitromethane
Your lips taste of salt
Shadowy figures hover about squat mechanical beasts
anointing
blessing
ministering ablutions and absolution
mumbling a liturgy of arcane mumbo-jumbo
in hopes of inducing just that bit more speed

At the line an engine barks its Revelry
Startled communicants stifle curses of surprise
A gentle push and a squat cannonball is off towards the blurred line of the horizon
gouts of salty rooster-tails
a pause
more noise
then in a blink
it is gone into the mist

A blue javelin follows suit
a wiggle for control
A tense gasp from the onlookers wish it God Speed and Safe Journey
A blink and it too is gone
A blink later and  the high priest intones 
“Mile Two, 326” 
Another blink, another verse
“Mile Three, 391” 
Before fingers can cross
“Mile Four, 428” 
Finally the coda
“Mile Five, FOUR HUDRED AND FIFTY POINT NINE ZERO NINE MILES PER HOUR, EXIT SPEED 459. WE HAVE A NEW WORLD RECORD” 










The hushed supplicants let out a collective sigh
then Paeans of Alleluia
This is Bonneville
The Salt Flats
The Fastest Place on Earth. 


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Scotland Part Twa


Road Trippin’ 
with Steve McCarthy

For our first full day in the Highlands, we did it up right. I found the perfect way to tour distilleries and get to properly enjoy them. Since the DUI limit in Scotland is 0.06, even a pint of beer will put you over, so, as I said before, just don’t. Here was our solution: http://www.bygonedrives.co.uk . This was an ideal way to privately tour in something other than a minibus or, worse, a big tour coach with 40 other people. Yes, a 1959 Bentley, driven by a wonderful man, called Andrew. He was a gem. Knowledgable not only of the distilleries, but of the local history. He took a few diversions to show us a variety of off the beaten path sites, such as the bridge in Cartridge that just celebrated 300 years.


As part of the tour, we hit Cragganmore, Dallas Dhu, and Benromach, whiskies that you can’t really get in the States. We also had a tutored tasting from whisky expert Penny Ellis at her Knockomie Hotel ( www.knockomie.co.uk ) where we also had a fabulous lunch. The tasting consisted of a variety of 6 very different whiskies, from Balvennie finished in rum casks, to Benromach Peat. One, Aberlour is best kept in the freezer (!!!) and as it warms, one tastes how the character changes. She did not insist, as many do, that we slightly water the whisky. I appreciate this. To me, if one has to do that to lessen the bite, then the whisky isn’t as good. She also had some great comments on the current fad of Fancy Gin. “If you normally have to add a strong mix, like Tonic, then you are trying to hide something.” To her, it's a money grab. "Distill it today, sell it tomorrow." 



For Lunch, Marianne had the tomato soup and salmon sandwiches, I had the Chicken Liver and Madeira Parfait, Red Onion Marmalade and Peppered Oatcakes. It was all fantastic, but I could have used a nice sharp cheese to go along with it. Dessert was one of the best we’d ever had! Sticky Toffee Pudding, Butterscotch Sauce, Date and Whisky Compote, Vanilla Ice Cream.
It was quite a day, giving the occasional Royal Wave from an elegant motorcar, seeing the varied scenery (from forests to glens, to vast moorlands), and having a great chat with Andrew.


The next day became a bit more local. Near Grantown on Spey, is a steam heritage railway. Now, constant reader will know we are both suckers for steam trains. This one runs 3 times a day (except Tuesdays and Thursdays) and is called the Speyside Steam Railway. We opted to not ride (we’re slated to do the Jacobite-aka Hogwarts Express) next week. This one, we wanted to just watch as it chuffed on past. We pulled off the road at Broomhill where the line terminates, and in the tradition of rail fans, waited. Turns out we’d timed it well, and into the station she came. A short wait while the engine ran around the cars, and the bus loads of passengers were off and on loaded, and off she went, pulling and smoking and whistling. Such fun.

Then it was time for lunch, and some locals we were chatting with recommended The Boat Country Inn, in Boat of Garten  
(https://www.boathotel.co.uk ). This turned out to be a great choice. Now the town gets its name from the chained ferry that was positioned there to cross the River Spey. Eventually, a bridge was built in the 1800s, but the name remained. The inn was the old station hotel and has been completely redone. It would be a great place to base oneself in for touring the area. 

The food was exceptional! As we found on our last trip, food in The Isles has moved far beyond the dismal reputation it once “enjoyed.” Marianne had a steak pie with a crust flakey enough to gain the approval of Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood (look them up if you must) and I had seared scallops on black pudding with streaky bacon, all on a smear of “Scottish Guacamole.” Marianne gets FULL credit for this one—aka mushy peas. Even that part was good!

For dinner, we walked to the Craig Bar in Grantown on Spey ( http://www.thecraigbar.co.uk ). This is off the High Street and has become one of THE best places in town to eat. They only have meat pies, but what an assortment. These are NOT the much maligned cat food pies of yore. These run from the “usual” steak pie, to the traditional steak and kidney pie to chicken and even vegetarian selections, all given great names. I had the “Deer Stalker” (venison, bacon, lentils) and Marianne had the Chicken of Aragon (chicken, asparagus, tarragon). The highlight is the wonderfully abusive barman, Robbie. He’s a well known local character, whose humor is wicked. We loved him and entered ourselves by giving back what he dished out. Our server, called Darla, I think, was much put upon by Robbie, but handled him with aplomb. She’s good people.
The bar has a huge selection of whiskies and only a few draught beers, ranging from local to “Nigerian Lager” (aka Guinness-Robbie was gobsmacked that I knew the reference-Nigerians drink more Guinness than the Irish!). Best of all, it’s a short stagger from the Ben Mohr. I highly recommend reservations or showing up early if you want a table.

So, not sure what Friday will bring, we’ll let you know!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Scotland Part One


Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy
It’s been an adventure already. But in a good way.
We hit Heathrow Airport about 11am, half an hour ahead of schedule. Air New Zealand is a not too horrible way to fly (about as good as it gets these days). The food was decent and they poured out free wine! Then, there was Heathrow. Proof that your gate is ALWAYS as far away from your baggage as possible. It HAD to have been a 2 mile trek. At least it got the kinks out after 9 hours in those things they call “seats” on today’s airplanes. Passport control was easy, and customs nonexistent. Then it got strange.

Trying to find the shuttle to the rent a cars was interesting. Very poorly marked. FINALLY we found it and was glad we didn’t have to negotiate the maze of parking lots, access roads, and diversions to get to the Enterprise lot. Following my own advice, we rented a Hyundai I-10 (clearly not designed for the San Berdoo Freeway). Took all of a half hour or more! Finally, about 2:30 pm, we managed to meander to the M25 and off to Carlisle.

Naturally, the 5 hour trip was a 6 hour slog, but since we had an automatic, Marianne shared the driving. She did really well navigating the wrong side of the road stuff, but on the motorways, it’s pretty easy, just a case of figuring out how to use the mirrors properly. Didn't take her long to get comfortable. Later, she’d get the chance of doing some 2 lane stuff in Scotland (which she handled perfectly).

We found the old County Hotel we’d stayed in before, and just as we checked in, John Morrison and his lovely wife Doreen appeared. It was after 8 pm and we were beat, but had set up dinner with them. Texts had gone off somewhere into the ether, but they timed it perfectly. They’d even checked out the Griffin Bar across the street (also a favorite from the last trip) and if we hurried, we’d get in a dinner order before the kitchen closed.

You might remember John, he was Our Hero in Carlisle when we had the “incident” last trip. I’ll not go into the painful details, but he bailed us out big time. Scroll back to “The Kindness of Strangers” entry for the story.

Anyway, we had a pleasant evening with them, chatting cars, road trips, and stuff. In fact, that previous weekend, John had been out and about with the local TR Gang on a drive up to Ft. William and Beyond, scooting about the backroads of Scotland! Finally back in the hotel, we passed out, trying to resynch ourselves past the jet lag.

The next morning, still a bit lagged out, we hit the road to The North. First Stop? Stirling Castle. WOW, what a place. Atop a hill with roads that would make Frisco proud (imagine a whole town of Lombard Streets with tour buses). The view of the surrounding countryside was spectacular, especially the Wallace Monument.

The castle itself has a great history, and is far more interesting than Edinburgh Castle. As the royal residence for much of its history, it was a pretty fancy place. One of the highlights was the bed chambers of Mary of Guise, wife of James V. He doted upon her and the walls were hung with one of the most famous set of tapestries in the world, “The Unicorn Hunt.” Copies hang there now, but it’s pretty impressive. We were in the midst of a school outing for what looked like 8 year olds, soaking in their history. Really cute bunch, with the usual world view of that age.

Anyway, from there we headed to the Castle Anthrax. Or Swamp Castle? Maybe it was Camelot. Actually known as Doune Castle, it is most famous to us from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” In fact, St. Serendipity struck again, and a nice couple asked me to take their picture. They of course had an outrageous French accent. I’m not sure they understood why I was giggling.
Finally, we left this silly place and were off to the Highlands, and Grantown on Spey, our digs for the next week. The scenery changes are remarkable. 

From the more gentle rolling hills (reminiscent of California’s Central Coast area) to the rugged glens and braes of the Highlands is spectacular. May is also a great time to visit, because the wild gorse is a bloom, covering entire hillsides with bright yellow flowers. The most amazing thing to see were wild daffodils lining the roads by the thousand. We only thing of them as garden plants, and seeing them in the wild was really neat!
We got to the Ben Mohr about dinner time, had a few pints and some decent Haddock and Chips (seems the Scots prefer haddock, the English and Irish cod) and a really good local brew called Wildcat. A proper Scottish Ale.

Finally, fully knackered, we hit the bed, hopefully ready for the next adventure.

Friday, April 13, 2018

St. Serendipity Finds a Vintage Oil Dispenser


Road Trippin' 
with
Steve McCarthy

Our Rule of Thumb for Road Trips is to let things happen. Our Patron Saint is St. Serendipity. When you let the journey unfold, when you’re able to change plans on the fly, wondrous things happen. 

A case in point. My wife, Marianne, had to go to the DMV for a new license. The only appointment was for more than a week after it would expire. In LA County, we all know what that means. You get to stand in line for hours, watching your life ooze away, trapped in the bowels of bureaucracy. The DMV office nearest us is infamous that way. Before it opens, the line stretches off into the rising sun. So, a plan was hatched. 

We’d take a Road Trip to a “foreign” office. Like Paso Robles, one of our favorite Road Trip destinations. I figured that including the drive, the time needed would be about the same. Naturally, we’d take our “new” 1969 Citroen DS Safari Wagon. Or Brake, or Estate, or whatever. This Auld Beast was resurrected from a thirty year desert nap and has been on the road for about six months. It’s our Cruisin’ Car. We have the TR3 for backroad flogging, this glides along on that famous Citroen suspension at a more stately pace.


We left at O’Dark-Thirty for breakfast in Santa Barbara at the original (and last) Sambo’s, a place of great pancakes. It’s right on the waterfront and is a Real Diner. After chow, we got back on the freeway and St. Serendipity got into the act. Right at the on ramp was the Santa Barbara DMV office! Taking it for a sign, we changed plans. They had just opened, and the wait was a mere forty-five minutes. So, DONE. 

Now, what to do next? Lots of options available of course. Solvang? Back to Carpinteria or Ventura (whose merchants need some help after the devastating fires and attendant mud slides) or further up the coast? One place we like to stop is Los Alamos. One, there is a great bakery, Bob’s Well Bread, that makes all manner of good eats such as Pain aux Lardon, that’s bread with hunks of BACON in it! There is also a great antiques barn, located in the old railroad fruit packing warehouse. So, that would be the first stop. 

This place has the usual small stuff that is always fun, a few decent re-pops, and lots and lots of Big Stuff. Furniture, armoires, dressers, tables, barber chairs, klieg lights, tools. And then St. Serendipity reached out his (or is it her?) wand and I found it. Waaaaay back in the furthest corner, a collection of Petrolania. Yeah, gas station stuff. 

Oily rag buckets, signs, tools, a truck sized hydraulic jack, and not one, but three of those highly prized bulk oil dispensers. You know the ones? The big square tank? The hand crank pump? The things they filled those drop spout oil cans with? And here I am with a Citroen Wagon, a beast with a huge space and the ability to carry 4000 pounds of Stuff and not sag or even squat in the back. 

Marianne was not too sure, but, being the good sport she is, she shrugged her acquiescence. After a bit of haggling, I got the price down $50 and it was mine. It’s a Union 76 unit, marked for “Kerosene” and is in perfect shape. It even has the two most often missing bits, the drip return spout, and the filler filter! It’s not dinged up or scratched, but is not restored, it’s all original. 

We hauled the thing out, I lowered the suspension on the Citroen, folded down the back seat, tilted my treasure in, easy-peasy. Across the road to have lunch at the aforementioned bakeery and then home in time for the afternoon crawl on the 210. 


So, the moral of the story? Let a Road Trip unfold. Look for the unexpected and let it detour you. You never know what treasures you will find! Now, should I convert it into a Keg-er-Ator? 

Monday, February 5, 2018

On Avoiding the Commercial Fest Disguised as a Football Game


Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

Constant Reader will know of my disinterest in football, and general loathing for the Stupid Bowel. When the most talked about parts of a sporting event are the commercials, there is something wrong. As usual, we go for a drive. This year was no exception. 

We didn’t leave at the butt-crack of dawn, thinking a lazy start would be just fine. About 8AM, we hit the gas station to fill the Dart (yeah, I know, we took the Modern Car) and headed out the Broken Freeway (aka 210) east, up the 215 and negotiated the tricky bit to exit at Kenwood to take Old 66 up to Cajon Station, hoping to catch a few trains along the way. To do this, you must take the Truck Route part of the Devore Cut Off, as the Automobile Lanes bypass the exit! The signage is a bit confusing, so watch for it! 

Back on the 15, we headed up to see the remnants of the old Summit Inn (sigh), then on to D St. in Victorville to pick up Old 66 to Barstow. This is always an enjoyable drive, past the Polly Gas Station, the Bottle Ranch, and a few other landmarks of a forgotten era on a forgotten road. 

In Barstow we went over to the old Harvey House, El Deserito, and the Rt. 66 Museum. They didn’t open until 11AM, neither did the Railroad Museum.  That’s OK, we still looked around the outside displays of old RR equipment. Always fun. 

From there it was out I40 to Ludlow (since this stretch of road parallels Old 66 within yards, you may as well enjoy the smoothness of the Interstate) and from Ludlow, we were off to Roy’s in Amboy. They still don’t have any meal service, so a bottle of Route 66 Beer (root=route, get it?) and a chat with a few bikers and use of the “facility” were in order. 

WARNING: A section of 66 around Cadiz is closed for bridge repair, so, back up to I40 is required. 

Back on the I40, we headed to lunch in Needles and found the Wagon Wheel. It’s a great old Rt.66 stop with good burgers and nice staff. 

From there, we kept on 66 to Old Town Needles and the newly renovated Harvey House/Train Station, El Garces. It’s not quite finished, but will be great when they’re done. Needles has a good sized rail yard and there was an impressive line up of BNSF trains, waiting to head to LA. 

The best part of the trip was the drive south on US 95 to Blythe. This is a great road, lots of high speed sweepers, whoop-ti-dos, and scenery. At Old Parker Road, we found the “town” of Vidal. Once a water stop for the ATSF, it’s almost a ghost town, weathering away into the desert heat. There’s a great old stone building the Heacock Bldg on “Main St.” that’s worth a look at. It’s boarded up and lots of “NO TRESPASSING” painted on it, so stay clear. Folks out there are often armed! 


Another pee break in Blythe, then on to Indio for dinner. And where else but the El Mexicali and those killer grilled yellow peppers stuffed with shrimp and drizzled with soy sauce! nom nom nom. 

From there it was an easy shot home, but on the Broken Freeway, the Heading Home From the Stupid Bowel Traffic caught up with us. ugh. 

Still, not enough to ruin a great day out.