Friday, December 11, 2015

Road Trippin' to the Isles-More Preparations

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

Road Trippin to the Isles: More Preparation

This is really getting complicated. Finding air fares for six people in this Brave New World of internet everything is a pain in the butt. Remember when, before deregulation, the air fare was the air fare. Because airlines couldn’t really compete on price, they competed on SERVICE! Yeah, not so much anymore. And who knew that Dublin was such an out of the way place to get to? I’ve had a crash course over the past few months on internet air fare and hotel sites. Here’s some of what I learned.
As confusing as the myriad options are, they are actually quite similar. Kayak and Orbitz were the easiest to use. Trip Advisor, Hotels.com, and Travelocity were decent. What’s important is to check them all. Each seems to promote different options, especially for hotels. Check them all, check the reviews, and make sure to check the airline or hotel websites directly. For the most part, the deals offered are similar, but occasionally, one will have a killer deal. It’s worth checking into. 
Beware of promises of “cheap flights.” Check this video on youtube, it’s SO true: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAg0lUYHHFc  Kayak in particular will entice you to cheap fares on the likes of Ethiopian Air, Turkish Air, Norwegian Air, and some planes out of Uzbekistan. A quick perusal of the reviews of these carriers should disabuse you of any idea of “saving” money. For some, it seems the only thing that goes with your ticket is the air inside the plane. I kid you not! We got tickets through Aer Lingus, the only one to fly direct from LAX to Dublin. At least they offer one free checked bag/customer (50 pound limit), and a meal. We flew them before and it was a decent trip. 
Now, once you’ve found your flight, BEFORE you choose your seat (most airlines allow that), go to www.seatguru.com and find the airline and plane you’re flying on. This will let you know which are the acceptable seats and which are the crap ones (usually located near the potties-NEVER voluntarily take one of those. Especially on a long flight. Not only is there a passing parade of people, six or so hours into a 12 hour flight, the bogs get a bit ripe. Airlines have also figured out which are the best seats, and by golly, they now charge extra for them! BASTARDS! Well, if you are a large fellow, like me, plunk down the extra $60/person/flight for the leg room. It’s worth it. And, if you’re on a plane that has four across seating in the middle, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PICK ONE OF THESE. They are meant for skinny short people only. 
Now, hotels. It’s amazing the deals the above websites will give you if you package up your hotel with your flight! The hotel is almost free! Almost. To get the swingin’ deal, you have to stay at least a week. This may or may not suit your plans. In a tiny place like Ireland, you can rent a car and drive about from your hotel base and easily see most everything. Hell, the Auld Sod is only 150 miles, coast to coast! Clearly, this was not for us, but we did plan on staying a week with the kids in Dublin and tour with local bus tours. 
Then, things got really interesting. Meaghan, daughter #2 and the family expert of travel, suggested AirBnB (www.airbnb.com) . Yeah, the outfit that is causing a ruckus in Frisco, Anaheim, and Santa Monica. What they do is, for a fee, connect you with people who have either a spare room or an entire house/condo that they will rent you. I’m telling you, this is a great way to go, especially for an extended stay. We snagged what looks like a nice place near public transportation and only a short walk from several of the key sites in Dublin for about a grand. FOR SIX OF US! FOR SEVEN DAYS! A hotel would have needed three rooms and cost considerably more. More than double, on average. The process is interesting. You contact the renter through AirBnB and REQUEST the dates you want. To do this, you set up a profile and tell them a bit about yourself and your proposed trip. Then, it’s up to them to accept you or not. Each renter sets parameters for guests, such as minimum stay, cancellation policy (some are quite strict, no cancellations, no refunds; some will be more flexible), and tell you what they offer. If you strike a deal, AirBnB takes your money and a handling charge (about $100 in our case) and hey, presto, you have digs. 
Now, for other places, we used three different options, and we probably should have stuck with one. For one place, we used Hotels.com, another we used the hotel’s website, and a third, we used Travelocity. If we’d stuck with one provider, we could build up points and discounts. We’ll probably pick one to reserve rooms a day or two ahead as we travel. We did run into an interesting snag in all of this. Most places won’t let you reserve more than 11 months or so in advance. Not quite sure why, but that’s they way of it. So, some patience is required. If you are traveling in the High Tourist Season, if there are “must be at...on...” places, book in advance. 
Now, my biggest piece of advice is to do as little advance booking as you can. We are only locked into four specific places. Dublin for the week with the kids, Portsmouth for the four nights for the Goodwood Revival, Edinburgh, and Portmerion (the resort where The Prisoner TV series was filmed). Dublin is obvious. We needed a large place for a week for six people. A hotel for Goodwood way in advance is essential. Remember when I said they won’t book you more than 11 months in advance? Well, it seems the hotels nearest Goodwood WILL iNDEED do that. It’s like trying for a room in Monterey for Pebble Beach. As people leave, they reserve for the next year. Other large festivals might do the same to you. Edinburg and Portmerion were places I figured might just fill up if we waited, so we’re locked in to them. The rest? We’ll let St. Serendipity guide us. 
Now, that’s not to say we’re going into this without any preparations. In each town we plan on staying in, using both Google and Trip Advisor (don’t use Yelp, they seem to extort ad revenues from businesses!) we could identify decent places in our price range. A day or so before we plan to get there, we’ll call up and book a room. If there’s no room at the inn, we can find an alternate easily enough. Most towns have a local tourist office that can hook you up with a BnB or just look for places that have a “BnB” sign in their window. What this really does is give you a lot of flexibility. You’re not racing from one place to another, you don’t have to cut a stay short in a place you fell in love with, or stay an extra day in a place you didn’t like. 

Next month, I’ll give you some advice on stuff to take and niggly little details that if you do some planing ahead, will make your Massive Road Trip more pleasant. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Planning, Planning, Planning
 Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

This is already becoming quite an adventure. The stuff I’ve learned! Oh, wait, let me back up a bit. We are planning a Mega Road Trip. Not so much when it comes to driving miles (more on that later) but clearly in terms of logistics. Back in ’06, we took a two week trip to Ireland. A dream vacation. A second honeymoon that was in a lot of ways, better than the first! That one was a whole four days. At the time, I was managing a BAP/Geon store in Long Beach and they would only give me that much time off. Hell, the buggers even had the unmitigated gall to ask (a few weeks before the wedding, mind you) if we could change the date because of store inventory!!! That was in 1980. Flash forward to 2006, and we were off for two weeks in Ireland, and the longest trip we’d ever taken alone together! Up until then, the only longish vacations involved trips with the kids to Washington to visit my folks and my sister! What’s that they say about life being what happens while you’re busy making plans?
Anyhow, while we were over there, the one thing that kept running through my mind was ‘DAMN, I wish I was driving the Blue Meanie on these roads!!! So, that’s what we’re going to do! Yep, gonna pack the Auld Crate into a container, ship it to Dublin, drive around for a month, then ship ‘er home! Crazy, ya think?



Not as much as you might think. Yasee, Ireland and the UK are NOT very big. The UK (England, Scotland, and Wales) is about the size of Idaho. Ireland is about the size of Indiana. That’s it. No Kidding! And all of it is filled with some of the neatest roads you can imagine. I did a few preliminary routes to see just how feasible it all might be. Turns out, a lap of Ireland, crossing to Scotland, up into the Highlands, down to Liverpool, then London, over to Cornwall, and out through Wales is a whopping 2800 miles. That’s it. To put it in perspective, our round trips to Olympia and back, in the TR, using 1 and 101 were 2500 miles. That’s it. The Oly trips we’d do in 3 days up and 3 days back. That’s like 400+ miles/day. On this trip, we’d be doing under 200 miles/day and spending an entire MONTH! Granted, Most roads in The Isles are more like Hwy 1 than 101, but that just suits us just fine! So, yes, the whole idea isn’t as nuts as one might think!

Having cleared up the major question, it now came down to time of year. Seems, late August, early September is the least crappy weather. Do you know what happens in September? THE GOODWOOD REVIVAL! THE coolest vintage race weekend on the planet! Well, that sealed THAT deal. The one small fly in the ointment, is that Goodwood doesn’t announce future dates until a MONTH after that year’s festivities. So, it came down to some guesswork. When Goodwood ’15 was announced, I looked at the calendar and figured what would be the probable dates and planned from there.

I must have spent hours on Google Maps (who changed their bloody format half way through and made it worse, thank you very much!) figuring backwards from Goodwood. About half way along, I realized that on the beginning end of things was daughter Meaghan’s 30th B-Day. Oops, can’t be away for that! So, back to the drawing board. Again, sigh. Finally, I had a basic plan. Marianne and I’d been talking about things we REALLY wanted to see along the way. Since she’s never been to the UK and my trips there involved London for a few days and Scotland over a long weekend with relatives (Mormon ones at that!) we developed a pretty good list of “givens and druthers”.

Givens are the Absolutely, Must see or drop dead stuff:
Goodwood (of course)
Stonehenge
Bromley (where some of Marianne’s family hails from)
Lock Ness
Liverpool (for Marianne’s Beatles Fix)
Our friends in Cornwall who drove their Austin 7 to Argentina (and in some ways, inspired this trip)
The Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry, both of which we missed in ’06
Cong, Ireland (where the “Quiet Man” was filmed)

The Druthers. Stuff we’d love to see but if it didn’t work out, well, that’s life, like:
The Whisky Trail in Scotland
The York Railway Museum
The Village (from the TV show The Prisoner)
The Lake District
Dartmoor
The old TR factory in Coventry
Robert Burns Cottage
And a bunch of other stuff.

Surprisingly, this wasn’t too hard to figure out. Much of the stuff we wanted to see was, more or less, on the way. We also planned plenty of flexibility. One of the things we learned last trip over was to not lock yourself into too many room reservations. St. Serendipity should still rule the day! The other logistical challenge was to keep the drives fairly short each day, and plan in some non-driving days as well. This forced me into an entire mind shift.
Now, you all know me by now, I’m all about 300 miles+ in a day. Heck 500 mile day trips are not uncommon. A lot of that has to do with living in SoCal. In the West, we are REALLY spread out! To get anywhere in a limited amount of time means some massive days in the saddle. I really had to wrench myself away from that mindset. In talking to people who know driving over there, I settled on a cap of 200 miles in a day. That, ladies and germs, is from here to about San Luis Obispo. That’s it. Given our past experiences, this should be very doable, especially with rest days every 3 or 4 days. This will also give us a chance to stop and see “Stuff” along the way. There is a LOT of Stuff over there, believe me.
So, I thought I had a pretty good handle on things. I was even using the internetwebthing to find possible hotels/B&Bs along the way. Then, as Burns said, “The best laid plans o’mice an’ men gang aft aglee.”
Goodwood announced the dates for 2016. A WEEK EARLIER THAN I’D SUPPOSED! Back to the drawing board! Since this was the centerpiece of the whole trip, the one Drop Dead Date That May Not Be Changed, I had to do some serious re-thinking. And then, the beauty of touring small countries hit me. I could simply head to Scotland a week earlier, then do the stuff in Ireland after Goodwood. So, here’s the basic trip:

Fly to Dublin 8/20, arrive 8/21
8/27 Dublin to Mullaghamore, Ireland
8/28 Bushmills and the Giants’ Causeway
8/29 Ayr, Scotland
8/30 Loch Ness and Inverness
8/31 Whisky Trail (rest day)
9/1 Aberdeen
9/2 Edinburgh
9/3 REST DAY
9/4 Lake Country
9/5 Southport
9/6 train to Liverpool for the day
9/7 Coventry
9/8-9/11 Goodwood
9/12 Hastings/Bromley
9/13 Train into London
9/14 Salisbury/Stonehenge
9/15 Cornwall
9/16 Wales
9/17 The Village
9/18 Ferry to Dublin
9/19 Cong
9/20 Doolin
9/21 Boat tour of Aran Isles
9/22 Ring of Kerry
9/23 Ring of Kerry
9/24 Clonmel
9/25 Dublin
9/28 fly home!

WHEW!
So, next month, I’ll talk some about some specific logistical planning, using the web to search hotels, and a host of other details. And yes, there WILL be a Road Trippin’ Book about all of this and yes, there will be regular updates as we travel!

Have a great Turkey Day, all you Turkeys out there!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sometimes, a little fiction, based on a little truth is fun. With any luck, this little missive might be included in an anthology for the Coffee House Writers' Group I belong to. Enjoy:

Mad Couples In English Sports Cars 
Need All the Help They Can Get
by
Stephen McCarthy

Jeeze it was dark. Dark as the Earl of Hell’s riding boots, as the English would say. That darkness that only comes at 3AM in the moonless desert. The galaxy spread above us and winked through the cloud cover that promised thunderstorms. As we rocketed along, the cold, crisp air stung our cheeks, while a dry dusty smell, overlaid with the scent of sage blossoms hit our noses, and the thunky-splat of the occasional bug ended its life on our helmets. It all made us feel alive in ways that no sanctimonious Prius driver could ever understand.

We’d loaded up the Auld Crate an hour earlier at the Cameron Trading Post where we’d spent far too little of the night, and rumbled off into the darkness. The raspy flatulence of the exhaust stretched out behind us, splitting the utter silence of a world where there was no one to waken. The long, straight, two lane light tunnel arrowed out ahead of us into an infinite sea of black velvet. I turned the wick up to about 80 and we thundered on towards our date with the dawn.

Off in the distance, shining like a lone star was the oasis of Tuba City. We stopped for a pee, some coffee, and a splash of gas and were off. In Kayenta, we turned north and could see the barest hint of dawn oozing from the east, turning the inky black to a deep purple. We’d just have time to set up the cameras in expectation of a glorious sunrise in Monument Valley.

Half an hour later, or so, we found our spot. We’d discovered it on our first expedition through the area years ago. In Arizona and New Mexico, there are these abandoned looking stands on the sides of the roads. In California, we’d think they were fruit stands, selling strawberries, oranges, lemons. Here, they sold turquoise jewelry, handmade by a variety of local craftsmen and women. This one was located well into the valley, about where John Wayne’s cavalry troop met it’s doom.

In the growing half-light, we set up tripods and cameras, our fumble-fingers still numb with the cold of the drive and waited for Nature’s glorious light show. We were not disappointed. As the sun made its command appearance, the sky shifted from purple to violet to dark azure and revealed red and yellow tinged  dark gray clouds. Then massive rock formations silhouetted first in stark flat black began to make an entrance.  

Wordlessly, we klatched off frame after frame of film, knowing that each shot would be different from all the others, as the light changed and we entered the Golden Hour, that time of long shadows, yellow and red highlights, and changing clouds filled with the promise of a new day. Most people shoot sunsets here. Give me the Dawn every time.
In two hours, we shot about four rolls of film each, both color and black and white, then, satisfied and hungry, we loaded the Triumph and set off into the gloriously mundane full daylight to find breakfast. Somewhere, anywhere that didn’t have golden arches.

As we trundled along, feeling wonderfully minute against the giant volcanic plinths, we exalted at being alive. There really is no feeling like an open sports car or motorcycle in such a place. The down side was the loneliness of it all. Although beautiful, it meant that there were no warm and friendly diners to feed the hungry traveller. Not anymore. There were just remnants. Monuments to broken dreams as the Interstates siphoned off all the traffic and the business that went with it.
As our stomachs began to shout for pancakes or waffles, we rounded a bend as the road navigated a split in two formations. Marianne spotted a sign: “EAT”, and an arrow. That’s it, just “EAT”. She pounded on my leg and pointed to the turnoff. The coffee we’d had in Tuba City had worked its way through and I knew she was getting desperate. Women have it rough out in the back of beyond.
I nodded and turned off onto a deeply potholed road that soon turned to rutted dirt and washboard. Great. Fearing for the underside of the low slung sports car, I cringed at every bump and oil pan threatening rock. After a good ten minutes of this, I was ready to turn back.

“Go on,” Marianne shouted, “the place can’t be too far.”

I shook my head and soldiered on. Deeper and deeper we bumped between rocks that rose higher and higher around us. In the full daylight, they’d taken on a deep rust red color that was highlighted with streaks of blue, yellow, and orange. Then it happened. A mighty THUNK of a rock shook the car. I looked in the mirror, and Oh Horror, a streak of black began to follow us. Damn, we’d holed the oil pan.

I shut off the engine and began to swear. We were totally screwed. Literally in the middle of nowhere with a broken car. I spewed out a blue cloud of obscenity that is probably still hanging somewhere over Mexican Hat, Utah. Marianne had the good sense to keep silent.
We got out and I crawled around, assessing the damage.

“She’s done. Toast.” I could just see the gaping hole that was dripping the last drops of the Triumph’s most vital bodily fluid.

“OK, I’ll walk ahead to see if that diner place is just up ahead,” Marianne said quietly, “you go back to the main road and maybe you can flag someone down.”

“Did you...”

“Yeah, no bars. Haven’t been any since Kayenta.”

“Figgers,” I mumbled sullenly. “Take some water, you never know.”

She nodded and set off up the road as I trudged back to the highway. Within a minute, I heard her shouting.

“Steve, STEVE, Come here. There’s a town!”

A wave of elation spread through me as I jog-trotted up the road.
I rounded a bend, and there, squeezed in among the towering rocks that only let in light at midday, was a collection of shacks. It looked like what Knotts Berry Farm wished it looked like. Weathered, paintless wood buildings, mostly roofless. A sagging sign said “Beggars’ Corner-Welcoming Weary Wanderers Since 1854”.
In the center of “town” was a stone building made of the local rock. A sign with a huge arrow sputtered to life as we approached. “EAT” it flashed as a generator roared to life and the sound of a jukebox spilled into the street, Fats Domino moaning about Maybeline.

“Well, I’ll be damned!” I muttered. Marianne was beaming with relief.

We pushed our way into the dusty darkness of the place and saw a long stainless steel counter with tattered fixed stools that oozed dirty stuffing. Several bare tables were spread around, some with rickety chairs that didn’t look capable of their once intended use. The jukebox glowed in the corner and shifted to “Blue Suede Shoes.” The Carl Perkins original, of course.

We sidled up to the counter and sat, the cushions sagging beneath us, giving off puffs of filling. An old bent man dressed in stained white shirt and overalls, with the longest white beard I’d ever seen came out of the back, bearing two cups, one smelling of coffee, the other, piled high with whipped cream. Silently he set them down, the coffee for Marianne, the hot chocolate for me, his pale blue eyes shining wetly and returned to the back.
“How’d he know?” she whispered.

“I dunno, I guess we wait. How’s the coffee?”

She sipped and sighed the grateful sigh of the true coffee addict sampling the perfect cup of Joe. I plunged my mustache into the cream and tasted deep rich chocolate with a hint of cinnamon and ground chilis. I smiled through my creamy mustache.

“Damn,” I said, “that is good!” Marianne just nodded and kept sipping.

A clatter of plates and the old man reappeared bearing plates stacked with mammoth sized pancakes  dripping with syrup and rashers of thick smokey bacon. Only Marianne’s had a sunny-side up egg. Again, silently, he set the food in front of us, the silverware clattering on the worn and scratched steel counter. We dug in.

Wordlessly, we scarfed down the best breakfast we’d ever had. As if on cue, the old man now supported by a well worn and highly decorated cane came back to clear the plates. Silently but for the clink of forks and knives on plates, he cleared the counter and shambled through the swinging door.

I looked down at my cup of chocolate, and noticed that it had been refilled.
“How’d he do that?” I asked Marianne.

“Mine’s full too. Didn’t even notice him doing it.” She sounded a bit worried, thought a bit, and accepted it.

Sitting there, sipping the cocoa, I looked more carefully around the room. It was filled with an odd assortment of stuff. Anywhere else, I’d think it was an antiques store. All around the walls, shelves were overflowing with stuff. Old candlestick phones, rusted wrenches, cracked Depression Era Green Glass bowls and goblets, walking sticks, weird women’s hats, even a kitchen sink. The swinging door creaked again and the old bent man hobbled back in.

“Wow, that was great!” Marianne said. He merely shrugged.

“Thanks,” I added, “what do we owe you.” He shrugged again. I didn’t know what to do. I fished out my wallet and pulled out a twenty. He shrugged yet again. I pulled out another and dropped the $40 on the counter. He smiled a gap toothed grin behind his nicotine stained beard.

“Have you got a phone?” I asked, “Our car broke down just down the road.”

He slowly shook his head. I detected a hint of a smile behind the beard. I sighed with frustration. I’d have to walk back to the main road and flag someone down. It would be a long wait, I was sure.

“Well, thanks again for the great meal,” Marianne said as we turned towards the door.
I was about to push the ancient sagging screen door open when Marianne elbowed me in the ribs, then pointed to a sign.

Leaving something behind is the surest way home,
Leaving a part of you will aid you as you roam,
Leaving a token
Something not broken
Will mend things in ways surely unknown.

I read the doggerel twice, and not really knowing why, I took off my wristwatch and placed it on a shelf next to a battered celluloid Kewpie Doll. Marianne followed my lead and removed a pair of silver hair clips and set them next to my watch. I looked back and the old bent man with the white beard was nodding and unsteadily managed a tremulous wave. First up and down, then, side to side.

I pushed open the door for Marianne as the generator hum ceased, the sign sputtered out and Chubby Checker was cut off in mid-Twist.

We trudged back to the car. My poor dead beast, unsure of our next step. As we rounded the bend, I stopped short. The pool of oil had disappeared. I shook it off, figuring it had simply been absorbed by the desert sand. As I got closer, the car looked, well, different. For one thing, it was shining clean. Not a bug splatter to be seen. We’d left it covered in dust, now it gleamed, as if freshly washed and waxed. Looking inside, even the clutter of long travel was neat and organized.

“What the hell?” I whispered to Marianne.

“Yeah, really, what the hell?” she whispered back. “Look underneath.”

“Why?”

“Just because. Look underneath.”

I got down on all fours and peered under the car. There was no hole in the oil pan. No hint of oil on the ground. Everything looked shiny and new. I opened the bonnet to reveal a gleaming engine, sun winking off the polished valve cover. It had never looked that good.

Slowly, I got behind the wheel, put it it neutral, turned the key, and pushed the starter button. It roared to life with one touch. Even on a good day, it never did that. Never. I looked over at Marianne. She was as stunned as I was. After thirty-five years of marriage, she’d endured this car. Helped me more than once push start it, gotten rained on, sun bleached in, and generally had a great time. But this...

I nodded to her to get in. We buckled up the racing harnesses, I snicked it into gear, got the Auld Crate turned around and back to the road.

We drove quietly on to the Farmington, the closest big town, all the time wondering what had happened. Believing indeed that Mad Couples in English Sports Cars are protected by a Higher Power. They need it. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Long Day in the Saddle!


Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

Sometimes, we just get carried away. But, there are SO many neat things to see, SO many neat roads to drive, SO much good food to eat...But, 530 miles? In a day? Yeah, I know, sometimes, we just get carried away. sigh. Of course, if you’re not as crazy as we are, there are plenty of places to stay the night along the way. If you’ve read enough of these columns, you’ll know a few. If not, Cambria has great places, as do Atascadero or Paso Robles.

It started innocently enough. “Let’s go to breakfast!” I was up early and restless. Marianne got up too, groggily got herself ready, was happy to have a coffee at the AM/PM and we headed out. Nothing fancy, not as yet. Up the 210 to the 5, across the 126 to Ventura and our new favorite breakfast place, The Busy Bee in  Ventura. The old Worker Bee in Carpinteria is ok, but they don’t open early and with the new owners, it just doesn’t have the same funky charm.



From there it was up 101, just relaxing and letting the ocean views calm us. About Atascadero we gassed up (just on general principles, we took the Dart, so that 38+mpg gets us a LONG way), then over the 46 to Cambria and Lunch. There are so many good places there, it’s pick one that tickles your fancy and chow down. We’ve never had a bad meal there.

We did a brief walk about town, hit one of our favorite antiques stores and damn if Marianne didn’t find a turquoise ring! S’OK, I found some cool TR3 magazine ads. We headed out of town, back over 46, down the 101 and east on the 58.


California 58 is a fascinating road. It starts amid the coastal oaks around Santa Marguerita, then hits the vastness of the Carrizo Plain, it’s desert moonscape is amazing. In Bakersfield, we continued up through the Tehachapis and low and behold, Marianne spotted an old GM 4104 bus cruising along! I used to drive them for Embree’s back in the 70s. They were old then. this one was, well scruffy, but seemed to be running well. Glad to see one of these Auld Crates still on the road.


In Tehachapi, we tried the Redhouse BBQ for dinner. It was OK, but not the best we’ve had. The people were nice, the service quick, and the atmosphere appropriate. I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars.

After dinner, it was east on the 58 again, then south on the 14, up over Angeles Crest and home. Yep, 520 miles, three good meals, and lots of great scenery. Beats hell out of the Tragic Kingdom any day and cheaper too, even when you buy a turquoise ring along the way!


Driving directions

9 h 43 min
530 miles
United Artists La Canada 8
1919 Verdugo Boulevard, La CaƱada Flintridge, CA 91011

1. Head west on Verdugo Blvd toward Hilldale Dr 0.4 mi
2. Turn right onto Montrose Ave 0.4 mi
3. Turn right onto Ocean View Blvd 0.2 mi
4. Turn left to merge onto I-210 W 0.3 mi
5. Merge onto I-210 W 17.4 mi
6. I-5 N/Golden State Fwy toward Sacramento 0.6 mi
7. merge onto I-5 N/Golden State Fwy
Continue to follow I-5 N 10.9 mi
8. West 126/Newhall Ranch Road toward Ventura 0.3 mi
9. Continue to follow CA-126 W/State Hwy 126 W 40.8 mi
10. Continue onto US-101 N 3.2 mi
11. Take exit 70A for California St 0.2 mi
12. turn right onto S California St 0.2 mi
13. Turn left at the 3rd cross street onto E Main St
Destination will be on the left 115 ft

1 h 19 min (75.0 mi)
Busy Bee Cafe
478 East Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001

14. Head west on E Main St toward S Oak St 358 ft
15. Turn left at the 1st cross street onto S Oak St 0.2 mi
16. Turn right to merge onto US-101 N toward Santa Barbara 0.1 mi
17. Merge onto US-101 154 mi
18. Take exit 224 for Vineyard Dr 0.2 mi
19. Turn left onto Vineyard Dr 3.2 mi
20. Turn left onto CA-46 W 17.2 mi
21. Turn right onto CA-1 N 2.3 mi
22. Turn right onto Main St 0.2 mi
23. Turn left onto Eton Rd 0.4 mi
24. Slight right onto Burton Dr 0.4 mi
25. Turn right to stay on Burton Dr
Destination will be on the left 0.1 mi

2 h 49 min (178 mi)
Robin's Restaurant
4095 Burton Drive, Cambria, CA 93428

26. Head south on Burton Dr toward Rodeo Grounds Rd 0.5 mi
27. Continue straight onto Eton Rd 0.4 mi
28. Turn right onto Main St 0.2 mi
29. Turn left onto CA-1 S 2.3 mi
30. Turn left onto CA-46 E 17.3 mi
31. Turn right onto Vineyard Dr 3.1 mi
32. Turn right to merge onto US-101 S 0.2 mi
33. Merge onto US-101 S 8.0 mi
34. Take exit 216 for Santa Barbara Rd 0.2 mi
35. Turn left onto Santa Barbara Rd 0.4 mi
36. Turn right onto El Camino Real 4.6 mi
35. Turn left onto CA-58 E 1.5 mi
36. Turn left to stay on CA-58 E 68.8 mi
37. Turn left onto 2nd St 0.8 mi
38. Continue straight onto CA-58 W 9.3 mi
39/ Get on CA-99 S 27.5 mi
40. Turn left onto Corn Camp Rd 3.0 mi
41. Turn right onto 7th Standard Rd 24.3 mi
42. Use the right lane to take the ramp onto CA-99 S 0.3 mi
43. Merge onto CA-99 S 3.0 mi
44. Keep left to stay on CA-99 S 3.3 mi
45. Keep right at the fork to continue on CA-58 E, 39.4 mi
46. Take exit 149 for Mill St 0.3 mi
47. Turn right onto N Mill St 0.3 mi
48. Continue onto W H St 0.3 mi
49. Turn right onto N Green St 305 ft
50. Turn left at the 1st cross street onto E Tehachapi Blvd
Destination will be on the right 0.3 mi

3 h 36 min (192 mi)
Redhouse BBQ
426 East Tehachapi Boulevard, Tehachapi, CA 93561

51. Head east on E Tehachapi Blvd toward S Hayes St 1.7 mi
52. Turn right to merge onto CA-58 E toward Mojave 0.5 mi
53. Merge onto CA-58 E 13.4 mi
54, Take exit 165 toward Mojave 0.4 mi
55. Turn right onto CA-58 BUS E 4.6 mi
56. Continue onto CA-14 S/Midland Trail
Continue to follow CA-14 S 38.4 mi
57. Take exit 30 toward Angeles Forest Hwy 0.4 mi
58. Sharp right onto Sierra Hwy (signs for Angeles Forest Hwy) 0.2 mi
59. Keep left to continue on Angeles Forest Hwy 16.2 mi
60. Turn left onto Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Rd 9.1 mi
61. Turn right onto CA-2 W/Angeles Crest Hwy
Continue to follow Angeles Crest Hwy 18.3 mi

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Makin' Lemonade

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

Makin’ Lemonade

You know the old saying, right? Given lemons, one should make lemonade. Turn a sour experience into a delightful one. That clearly goes with Road Trips. Even when you’re the one who created the lemons in the first place.

One problem with retirement, calendars and clocks lose their meaning. Mostly, that’s a good thing. Sometimes? not so much. We thought the annual Rat Fink Reunion would be a lot of fun. The Blue Meanie is the sporty car version of a Rat Rod. At least that’s what I’ve been told. I’m not sure if it was meant to be a compliment. Probably not. So, off we went. To Acton and the KOA campground. Yeah, in SO many ways, the Rat Fink crowd are pretty campy.

This meant of course, Angeles Crest, the Angeles Forest Hwy, then Aliso Canyon. Now, most people don’t do Aliso Canyon. If you don’t, you are missing a real gem. Nice fast sweepers and some tight bits to keep you honest. At 7AMish, it’s pretty neat. Too early for the crotch rockets or the Chippies.

We zipped right along, and just before eight, hit the KOA on Sand Canyon. Nobody there. “You here for the car show? It was yesterday!” OK, so date reading isn’t my current forte. The good part was that the previous day, it POURED RAIN there. Serious gully washing, flash flood inducing tropical downpour. For most of the day! And did I mention the lightening? The lightening that made them leave early? So, all in all, a good mistake to have made.

That left what to do for the rest of the day. Luckily, I remembered that the annual Central Coast British Car Club meet was happening. In Oxnard. Hell, we were halfway there, so...

We had a delightful time, people ooohed and ahhhhed over the Blue Meanie and about 2 PM, we decided to head home.












“Can we stay on the Coast on the way home?” asked Marianne.

So, we trundled along Hwy 1. Through Malibu. On a warm Sunday. In August. DAMN I’m glad I installed the 6 vane water pump and the aluminium radiator! Got a bit warm in a couple of places. Enough to remind me of why I REALLY hate anything west of the 405. Posers in Lambos and Ferraris and even a Veyron, morons who don’t understand that entering an intersection when there’s no room on the other side is not just Illegal, but Immoral. Still, we got a nice tan out of it and made it home about 45 minuted before the next thunderstorm hit Monrovia. So, all in all, not a bad day!

From the UA 8 in La Canada:

1. Turn right onto Foothill Blvd 0.3 mi
2. turn left onto Angeles Crest Hwy 9.5 mi
3. Turn left onto Angeles Forest Hwy 17.5 mi
4. Turn left onto Aliso Canyon Rd 7.3 mi
5. Turn left onto Soledad Canyon Rd
Destination will be on the right 7.8 mi
1 h 7 min (43.1 mi)

6. Head northwest on Soledad Canyon Rd 7.3 mi
7. Turn left to merge onto CA-14 S toward Los Angeles 10.5 mi

Use the 2nd from the right lane to take exit 1A for I-5 S
toward Golden State Fwy/Los Angeles 351 ft
Use the right lane to keep right at the fork and
continue toward San Fernando Rd. 0.5 mi
Keep right to continue on Exit 161B,
follow signs for Balboa Boulevard/San Fernado Road 0.5 mi
11. Turn right onto San Fernando Rd 0.5 mi
12. Turn right onto Balboa Rd 0.1 mi
13. Slight right onto Balboa Blvd 2.9 mi
14. Turn right onto the State Route 118 W ramp 0.2 mi
15. Merge onto CA-118 W 21.8 mi
Take exit 18B for CA-23 N/CA-118 W/Los Angeles Ave 0.2 mi
17. Keep right at the fork and merge onto Los Angeles Ave
Continue to follow CA-118 W/E Los Angeles Ave 7.7 mi
14. Turn left onto CA-34 W 4.9 mi
15. Turn right onto CA-34 W/Pleasant Valley Rd 0.4 mi
16. Turn left onto CA-34 W/E 5th St
Continue to follow E 5th St 10.7 mi
17. Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto S Victoria Ave 1.5 mi
18. Turn right onto W Channel Islands Blvd 0.5 mi
19, Use the left lane to turn left onto
W Channel Islands Blvd/S Harbor Blvd 453 ft
20. Slight left onto S Harbor Blvd 0.9 mi
3900 S Harbor Blvd
Oxnard, CA 93035
OR
you could go to the glorious Mullin Museum in Oxnard!
Mullin Automotive Museum
1421 Emerson Ave
Oxnard, CA 93033

From 5th St. (CA 34)
Turn left on S. Rose Ave.
then Right on Emerson
It will be on the right.

21. Head northwest on S Harbor Blvd toward Bluefin Cir 0.9 mi
22. Slight right onto W Channel Islands Blvd 4.1 mi
23, Use the left lane to take the California 1 S ramp 0.1 mi
24. Merge onto CA-1 S/S Oxnard Blvd
Continue to follow CA-1 S

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Solvang Revisited
Road Trippin’
With Steve McCarthy

It’s always good to get back to basics. This time, with a twist. Time. We actually took our time. A major reason is our planned Oddessey to Ireland next summer. We’ll be doing 150-200 miles a day with a rest day every 3 or 4 days. For a month. WHEW! That is a bigger challenge than most would think. Partly, it’s a challenge to me to take my bloody time! I’m so used to hammering along, doing 300-500 miles in a day that just a plain tootle of 150 miles is a foreign idea. So, that’s what we did.



We didn’t leave at O’Dark-Thirty, we didn’t eat breakfast as the sun came up, we didn’t even haul ass. We cruised. To one of our favorite Tourist Places, Solvang. Yes, that ersatz Danish town, filled with happy crappy shops, bakeries, and diners that are only open until 3pm. And, we spent the night!
In all the times we’ve gone there, it’s been long enough for a stroll around town, some of Arnie’s Aebllskiver and off for other parts. This time, we stayed to watch the sidewalks roll up.

We found digs at the King Frederick Motel on Mission (Hwy 246) for a reasonable price given that it was High Summer Tourist Time. Nice place, clean rooms, and reasonably quiet. Since we’d hit town about 2, we had an hour to kill, so we strolled, scrarfed the aforementioned aebelskiver and had a pint of Guinness at a pub called Fitzgeralds.
After a brief nap (yeah, I know, but still, the REALLY civilized world naps you know) we wandered about again, and hit on the Red Viking for dinner. This place has about as close to real Danish cooking as you’ll find in America. Lots of pork, lots of red cabbage and odd, no, really odd sandwiches. We weren’t really looking for a huge meal, so we split the sandwich assortment.

A hoard of memories of the semester I spent in Denmark flooded in. Roasted pork slices with cucumber, a great pate with bacon and cucumbers, Hvarti cheese with, you guessed it, cucumbers. All on really good pumpernickle bread. Along with a good beer, it was an excellent meal.
After dinner, we strolled, had an ice cream cone and watched the town go to sleep. And the sun hadn’t quite set. Solvang is an odd little town that does not seem to encourage much of a night life. With an Indian Casino just down the road, why bother.
We were up in the morning for a proper breakfast of Danish pastries (and don’t think that crap that come from the super market is ANYTHING like the real deal), met a Norwegian couple who had ridden a Harley from Eureka for a nice chat, then headed off.
We knew the wineries wouldn’t be open, and wine tasting at 10AM isn’t that great an idea. We instead headed for one of THE great roads. Foxen Canyon Road. Because of the Yuppie Wine Snobs, it’s not a road to drive on a weekend. Nine on a Wednesday morning? GREAT STUFF! Bill Morgan and I “discovered” it some 40 years ago in an article in Road & Track. Decades later, it’s STILL a great road, you just have to pick your time.



We wandered along and I was working to keep the speed down. I was practicing Irish Pace for our Big Tour. It was pleasant. The sun had popped out, there were fluffy clouds, the vineyards smelled of ripening grapes. What more could you want?
Finally we headed south to home, tried to find parking in Ventura for lunch and settled finally on In ‘n’ Out. Never a bad choice except for the hoard of teens that thronged the place. We even got home before the worst of the 210 PM clog. All in all, a very pleasant escape, even in the middle of July.



I-210 W 8.3 mi
Keep left and merge onto I-210 W 30 mi.
Continue onto CA-118 W 30 mi.
Take exit 18B for CA-23 N/CA-118 W/Los Angeles Ave 0.2 mi

Continue West on CA-118 W/CA-23 N/E Los Angeles Ave 14.4 mi
Turn right onto CA-118 W 2.0 mi
Merge onto US-101 N 5.0 mi
Keep left to stay on US-101 N 19.4 mi
Take exit 86 for Casitas Pass Road 0.2 mi
Turn left onto Casitas Pass Rd 0.2 mi
Turn right onto Carpinteria Ave 0.2 mi
Turn left onto Linden Ave
Destination will be on the right

2 h 2 min (108 mi)
The Spot Restaurant
389 Linden Avenue, Carpinteria, CA 93013

Head northeast on Linden Ave toward 5th St 0.6 mi
Turn right toward US-101 N 312 ft
Turn right to merge onto US-101 N 390 ft
Merge onto US-101 N 14.8 mi
Take exit 101B for State Street toward California 154/Cachuma Lake 0.2 mi
Continue straight onto Calle Real 0.3 mi
Turn right onto CA-154 W/San Marcos Pass Rd 23.9 mi
At the traffic circle, take the 3rd exit onto CA-246 W/Mission Dr

Destination will be on the left 5.2 mi
54 min (45.1 mi)
King Frederik Inn
1617 Copenhagen Drive, Solvang, CA 93463

East Hwy 246
Turn left onto Alamo Pintado Rd 4.0 mi
Continue straight onto Santa Barbara Ave 0.9 mi
Turn left onto Alamo Pintado Ave 0.2 mi
Alamo Pintado Ave turns slightly right and becomes Steele St 0.2 mi
Turn right onto Foxen Canyon Rd 4.3 mi
Turn right to stay on Foxen Canyon Rd 17.2 mi
Turn left onto Palmer Rd 6.5 mi
Turn left onto US-101 S 4.8 mi
Take exit 154 for CA-135 toward Los Alamos/Vandenberg AFB 0.1 mi
Turn right onto CA-135 N/Foxen Ln
Continue to follow CA-135 N 0.4 m
Turn right onto Helena St 240 ft
Turn left onto Leslie St 154 ft
1 h 6 min (39.5 mi)
Los Alamos, CA
Head east on Leslie St toward Helena St 154 ft
Turn right onto Helena St 240 ft
Turn left at the 1st cross street onto Bell St 0.4 mi
Turn left onto Foxen Ln 79 ft
Turn right to merge onto US-101 S 0.2 mi
Merge onto US-101 S 86.9 mi
Keep right at the fork to continue on CA-126 E,
follow signs for State Route 126 E/Santa Clarita 5.3 mi
Take exit 5 for Wells Rd/CA-118 toward Saticoy 0.2 mi
Turn right onto CA-118 E/S Wells Rd
Continue to follow CA-118 E 18.1 mi
Use any lane to take the CA-118 E ramp 0.2 mi
Continue onto CA-118 E 23.5 mi
Keep left to stay on CA-118 E 1.9 mi
Keep left to stay on CA-118 E 2.3 mi
I-210 E toward Pasadena 18.9 mi



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ah, Yosemite!

Without a doubt, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL, AWE INSPIRING PLACE THERE IS. OK, I admit, I haven’t been EVERYWHERE. But still, it’s hard to imagine a place more filled with the Glory of Nature!
The getting there wasn’t without it’s perils. That part of the world is rife with roads that make no sense. Even a CHP, talking to Rob Walker and his buddy Jimmy admitted that they don’t use road names, they use landmarks. Eric and his buddy wound up in Kernville of all places after a missed turn and a need for gas, and poor Armin in his Interceptor was last spotted headed south on 99. In other words, a great time.
Dinuba is a funky little town with a good burger joint (Big Boys, no, not Bob’s) and a decent “fine dining” place, The Safari. Our motel, the El Monte was livable, and the owner was working hard to upgrade things.
The hills were brown, tan, and brown, and only in the eternally shady places did wild flowers grow. The weather was good to threatening, leading some to forgo the glories of Yosemite and opt for Mariposa. Silly them. It didn’t rain in The Valley, but it POURED in Mariposa. The Gods were NOT amused that someone could resist the siren call of Half Dome and El Capitan.
The usual paeans and hosannas of Glory hit us as we burst out of the tunnel at Inspiration Point. Bridal Veil Falls were a glorious sight, despite the drought. The clouds shrouded El Cap and Half Dome, but let them peek through like a shy virgin on her wedding night, teasing us with promised glory. One guy got back and said it was his first time and he cried.
We snacked on salami and cheese in Yosemite Village, headed out the bottom along the river and more awe and the brutal force of nature. It’s as if the Gods had peeled back mountains of granite with Titan finger tips, leaving gouge marks and broken pieces the size of office buildings along the way.
Headed for home, we found more twisties and the long straight Hwy 65 through the heart of agriculture. The scent of fresh plowed earth was everywhere. Back over the Tehachapis, lunch at the Apple Shed and home. Sights that will live in memories forever.
THIS IS WHY WE ROAD TRIP IN AN OPEN CAR!!!!!