Monday, December 31, 2012

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

This is not the column I wanted to write. My Dad passed away on Friday, 28 December after fighting Pulmonary Fibrosis for more than a year. The steady decline was painful to watch. The irony is that, unlike most respiratory ailment sufferers, he never smoked. Odd for his generation. He was a WWII vet, managed to earn a Bronze Star and four battle stars on his European Campaign Ribbon, was involved in the Battle of the Bulge and was never wounded, yet couldn’t beat this one.

So, why am I dedicating this column to him? Two simple reasons. First, he too was a writer. He earned a degree in Journalism from UC Berkeley and seemed to pass some of his skill with words on to me. Without those skills, I wouldn’t be inflicting my musings on you.
Second, he’s the guy who got me started Road Trippin’. I grew up in the 50s and the Sunday Drive was an institution then. We’d “Go for a Drive”, wander all over, and when the whole family KNEW we were hopelessly lost, there would be Henry’s Rite Spot, Home of Chicken in the Rough, about two blocks from home. Naturally, he never stopped for directions.
We’d make long trips at first from Sacramento to some new place out in the middle of a sea of orange trees called Disneyland, then spend a week at the Balboa Inn, playing SkeeBall and trying like hell to beat my Mom. When we moved down here to Pasadena, we reversed the process to visit my Grandparents in Sacramento for Christmas.
Back then, there was only US 99. The Grapevine had been upgraded from the Spilled Bowl of Pasta of the  original Ridge Route, but still, it took skill and a strong radiator to negotiate it in a 1953 Buick, or later, the ’56 Dodge Two Tone Green Station Wagon. My sister and I would each have our cubbyhole wedged with “stuff”, my little brother would be in one of those loop-over-the-back-of-the-front-seat-car-seats with the plastic steering wheel. The only safety device was Mom’s arm.
Back then, 99 went through the whole litany of California Agricultural Towns. Lodi, Stockton, Modesto (Water, Wealth, Contentment, Heath!), Fresno, Lindsey, Shafter, Pixley, Bakersfield and all the rest. “Progress” was judged by which towns were bypassed when, condemning their Mainstreets to oblivion and creating a tectonic shift of the whole town to center on the offramps.
We only stopped for gas, the cornucopia of the picnic basket and the red plaid thermos bottles all the sustenance we needed. Even my sister learned to “hold it”.
We sang “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” and the “Wiffenpoof Song” because AM radio didn’t reach beyond the towns and only played cowboy music.
We made up a car counting game. Every car we passed, earned us one point. Every car that passed us, lost us a point. Pick ups were worth three points and Big Trucks were valued at five. We’d rack up hundreds of points by the time we got home. My Mom would take her shift at driving too. She’d often rack up more points than Dad.  Neither hung about, the Holy Mantra was “We Gotta Make Time.”
We never went Back East. Never drove Route 66. We were all California bred and raised. All the family was here in NoCal or SoCal, so our orientation was always North-South. The furthest East we’d go was either Riverside to see my Dad’s folks, of Palm Springs to see my Mom’s aunt and uncle.
So, Thanks Dad for setting me off on the Road Trip of Life. I know you’ve finally found a shady rest stop, and are eating where all the truckers eat, ‘casue we all know, that’s where the best food is.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Road Trippin’ 
with Steve McCarthy

Road Trip Movies

A few years ago, I wrote a column on Road Trip TV, in particular, the show Route 66. I also did one on the best Road Trip Music. So how about Road Trip Movies. I planned a poll on the topic, and in putting it together, I was actually surprised at how long a list it could be. It seems Hollywood figured out early on that Road Trips made for good movies, and most made either good box office or became cult classics. Some managed to be both.
Part of my problem too, was defining what exactly a Road Trip Movie was. Did the Road Trip itself have to be the central theme? Did it have to be by car? Did it have to be only here in the USofA? So, I solved it by simply being arbitrary and picking some of my favorites.
I was a bit surprised at the movies that got no votes. I thought Easy Rider was a shoe in. Same with Thelma and Louise, Zabriske Point, and Smokey and the Bandit. I maybe wasn’t so surprised that Lost in America and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert didn’t get any votes. Still, these non-vote getters are worth seeing.
Obviously, the idea here is to help you with your Christmas Wish List. Or maybe, someone else’s wish list. Some of them are at Autobooks and I’ll bet you Tina will find away to order the others for you. Try her first instead of the Big A. Small business needs more support!
So, what about the winners?
First up is National Lampoon’s Vacation. It’s a 1983 film directed by Harold Ramis, starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall. There are great cameos by John Candy and Imogene Coca, model Christie Brinkley, and Jane Krakowski. It’s the quintessential cross country trip by the Griswold Family, from Chicago to “Wally World” (a thinly disguised Dizzyland) and Chase is at his bumbling Saturday Night Live best. From getting up sold to the Family Truckster Wagon (a true parody of the pre-SUV station wagon) to the dog on the bumper, it’s one of the funniest movies ever.

Two-Lane Blacktop is a 1971 road movie that was directed by Monte Hellman and starred singer-songwriter James Taylor, Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, Warren Oates, and Laurie Bird. It wasn’t a big hit but is still a cult classic. It even inspired Brock Yates to create his Cannonball Baker, Sea to Shining Sea Trophy Dash. Two-Lane Blacktop is notable as a time capsule film of U.S. Route 66 during the pre-Interstate Highway era, and for its stark footage and minimal dialogue. As such, it has become popular with fans of Route 66. Two-Lane Blacktop has been compared to similar road movies with an existentialist message from the era, such as Vanishing Point, Easy Rider, and Electra Glide in Blue.

The next vote getter was actually a series. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby teamed up int he 1940s for a string of movies best know as “The Road To” movies. Hope and Crosby team with Dorothy Lamour in what could be formulaic, but actually always entertaining set of hijinx and snappy dialog that is unmatched. The best part is when you understand that much of the repartee was ad libbed on the spot. Drove directors and continuity girls crazy. They are decidedly Must Haves. Here’s a list. I know the first four, and probably the best, are available together as a boxed set.
Road to Singapore (1940)
Road to Zanzibar (1941)
Road to Morocco (1942)
Road to Utopia (1946)
Road to Rio (1947)
Road to Bali (1952)
The Road to Hong Kong (1962)

It Happened One Night is a 1934 romantic/screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite (Claudette Colbert) tries to get out from under her father's thumb, and falls in love with a roguish reporter (Clark Gable). It was the first, and until recently, the only film to win all four of the top Oscars. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress. It is perhaps Capra at his best.

Back to more modern movies, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 1987, was written, produced and directed by John Hughs Starring Steve Martin as Neal Page, a high-strung advertising executive, who meets Del Griffith, played by John Candy, a good hearted, eternally optimistic, overly talkative, well-meaning, but clumsy shower curtain ring salesman who seems to live in a world governed by a different set of rules. They share a three-day odyssey of misadventures trying to get Neal home to Chicago from New York City in time for Thanksgiving dinner with his family. The bit with the Polka Band is priceless. So is Candy at his best as the Sad Sack Clown.

One of the newest in our genre is Little Miss Sunshine, a 2006 American comedy-drama road film, was the directorial film debut of the husband-wife team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. The screenplay was written by first-time writer Michael Arndt. The movie stars Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin,. In it, Sheryl Hoover (Toni Collette) is an overworked mother of two children who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her brother Frank (Steve Carell) is a gay scholar of French author Marcel Proust, temporarily living at home with the family after a suicide attempt. Her husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) is striving to build a career as a motivational speaker and life coach. Dwayne (Paul Dano), Sheryl's son from a previous marriage, is an unhappy sixteen year old who has taken a vow of silence until he can accomplish his dream of getting into the US Air Force Academy in order to become a test pilot. Richard's foul-mouthed father, Edwin (Alan Arkin), a World War II veteran recently evicted from a retirement home for using heroin, lives with the family. He is close with his seven-year-old granddaughter, Olive (Abigail Breslin).
Little Miss Sunshine received critical acclaimThe film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won two: Best Original Screenplay for Michael Arndt and Best Supporting Actor for Alan Arkin. It also won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature and received numerous other accolades.

So, there you have it. A list of flix that should keep you warm and inspire you to Hit the Road as soon as the weather will let you.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Road Trippin-Drive or Fly?
with Steve McCarthy

That is indeed the question. I could continue in the admittedly trite direction about whether it’s nobler to bear the slings and arrows  (or is that pats and gooses) of the TSA, but that would be cheap, so I won’t. I will raise the question though, since I’m faced with this dilemma.
Daughter Meaghan and I are about to head to Olympia to see my dad. Sadly, it might be for the last time. Of course, when Marianne and I went up there last summer, it easily could have been the last time. He has pulmonary fibrosis. There is no cure. He wasn’t supposed to see his birthday in July or his 64th wedding anniversary in September. So, this trip is a bonus in many ways.
It will take us two days up and two days back, no matter how you cut it. Driving the eighteen plus hours (not including stops) straight through is now high on my “Murtaugh List.” Still, fly or drive?
Economically, it’s pretty close. Almost $400 each round trip verses $700 for gas and another $200 for a motel. Add say $200 more for food, maybe. That’s $800 verses $1100. But remember, air fare isn’t all the cost. On Southwest, you don’t have to pay for a bag, but you do have to have someone schlep you to and from each airport. Twice. At less than convenient times. Ontario isn’t too bad a drive for us, but Olympia to SeaTac is a bit of a haul. The airport shuttles will add enough to make the expenses even closer. If you rent a car, forget it!
Then there’s the intangibles. Like comfort. Airlines have made it pretty much impossible for someone of my size (mostly it’s my height, but yeah, I could lose a pound or two or fifty) to fly. If I have a window seat, my head is crammed over to my shoulder. If I have an aisle seat, I keep getting bashed by the waitress and her damn cart or half the passengers that have to use the potty for a two hour flight. In addition, my knees are jammed into the back of the seat in front of me and if the SOB in front of me reclines his/her seat...then there’s the incessant noise of the engines and the airstream. If I don’t wear earplugs or an iPod (which they yell at you about if you have it in use during take off or landings-like we’re REALLY gonna survive a crash to hear their Holy Chants of Emergency Instructions) it’s down right painful. Believe it or not, the drive in the TR last summer was in many ways more comfortable. The Mustang will be palatial by comparison. In the car, I can stretch out my legs, listen to music, be as warm or as cool as I like, stop and stretch, eat a decent meal and relax.

If that isn’t enough, there’s our ever friendly guardians agains terror, the TSA. Now, I don’t hate them. Too much. The fact that NO planes have been blown up or commandeered since 9/11 indicates that despite the enormity of the job, they’ve done a pretty good job in protecting us. I applaud them for that. However (isn’t there always a large “however?), the constant surveillance, the lack of common sense, the feeling of criminality, the all around intrusiveness of the entire experience is offensive and draconian. Lemme tell ya, in the early 70s, I travelled to the good ol’ USSR AND through Check Point Charlie into East Berlin. Height of the  Cold War stuff. They had guys with LOADED AK47s all around. Even had a German guard say “May I zee your papers, pliz?” That was not as de-humanizing as the TSA. Having one’s crotch grabbed, and one’s naked silhouette scanned and displayed is so far beyond the pale of what we expect in a Free Country as to be unacceptable (if I fly again, I’ll wear my kilt. Grope THAT my friend!). And we get the honor of paying extra for the privilege. And don’t dare complain. The waitresses on the planes can treat us like cattle, but if you complain too much, you’ve broken the law. Violate any of the myriad rules and you can get arrested. The assumption is that you are wrong and guilty. Somehow, that doesn’t seem “American.” The worst that happens while driving is the Highway Patrol and the Fruit Inspection. A radar detector takes care of the first, the second takes care of its self.
So, we’ll be driving. More or less the same money, more comfort, something to see out the window, good food when WE want it, and as much as we want to bring along. The opportunity to spend out money to help some small mom and pop business. Music as loud as we want, and of our choice, the ability to make cell phone calls, the ability to have an actual conversation at something other than shouting, and all of the other freedoms that driving brings. As we pass Kettleman City, I’ll wave at the next bunch of passengers waiting to board.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Organizing a Group Drive

Road Trippin’-Organizing a Club Drive
by Steve McCarthy
Author of Road Trippin’- A Guide to Absolutely the Best West Coast Road Trips, Ever!

It’s September, kiddies (if you are so blessed) are in school and you’re starting to think about which bit on the Auld Crate you’re going to dive into during the Winter Months. If you have a club or just a group of Auld Car Folks that like to Hit the Road in the spring, this is also when you need to start planning said trip.
Really? Now? What, you all were just going to meet up and drive somewhere? Well, maybe not so  right. Somebody has to do some kind of planning. Where are you headed? North? South? The other two directions? Mountains? Deserts? Where are you gonna eat? Is this an overnighter? Where ya gonna stay? How about gas? Is there anything cool to see on the way? If you’re on your own, you can just let the road lead where you feel like. If there’s others driving along, Follow the Leader just isn’t that practicable. Like I said, some kind of planning has to be done.
Now I don’t know about you, but an obsessively pre-planned, micro managed tours of the “If This is Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium” ilk are not for me. We’ll leave such compulsiveness to German car owners! It’s really just not practical to expect everyone to drive along in a caravan. Let’s face it, there’s a wide variety of comfort levels when driving challenging twisty back roads. (We are talking about back roads, right? ‘Cause if you think a Road Trip in an Auld Crate is done on the Dreaded Interstate, you are reading the wrong stuff. Stick with Westways.) It’s best to let people go at their own pace. Let the hard chargers go and the more leisurely folk do their thing. I’ve been on both kinds and believe me, the caravan is a lot less fun. There’s too much compromising that has to be done to make every one happy.

Still, back to the issue of planning. Even if you want a low key event, there are a number of other reasons why it’s a good idea to do some planning. Obviously, charting out a route in advance means that everyone knows where you’re all going. This is especially good considering that our cars have at times, shall we say, inconsistent reliability. If someone doesn’t show at a pre-planned stop, you can send out the search dogs. Also, having planned spots to eat or gas up, allows people a chance the check in with one another, stand around and stretch and generally socialize. More importantly, if you’re eating together, restaurants really appreciate a heads up if a group is invading. Every eatery I’ve used has been more than happy to accommodate your group, they want the business, but for them to serve you with anything approaching efficiency, they may need to lay on some extra staff or cook a few extra slabs of ribs. Same is true of motels. I’ll cover food and sleep stops in a bit more detail later.
So, how then do you put all this together and not feel like a tour director trying to herd cats? After all, I’m betting you want to enjoy yourself too! Here’s what I’ve found works after planning group trips over the past five years:

1) KISS! Keep It Simple Stupid! Presumably, every one going along is a reasonably sentient adult. Don’t try to lead them by the hand, and let them know you have no intention of doing so. Make everyone responsible for their own expenses. Sure, you’re happy to set up the motel and restaurants, but do so so you’re not on the hook financially!

2) Route Planing: I use Google Maps and a well detailed map book of the area we’re headed to. Google Maps is excellent, but it doesn’t always alert you to seasonally closed roads or unpaved byways. Three hundred miles in a day of backroads is a lot! Keep each day at about that distance or less, and people will be tired but happy at the end of the day. Use as little freeway/Interstate as possible. Here in the LA area, some short hop on the freeway is inevitable. Same is true of heavily populated areas. It’s just not much fun to cruise in stop and go traffic or through residential neighborhoods, now is it? Decide on a general area you want to explore. Mountain roads are great but sometimes the climbs can tax ancient “cooling” systems. Desert roads tend to be long and straight. Rolling hills are the best. What roads you pick depends on where you live. Here in SoCal, we have it all. Lucky us!
Now if you’ve never used Google Maps, here’s some tips: Pick your start point (a good breakfast place is ideal, people can get a good load of pancakes in them for the day’s fun and there’s a decent potty) and pick your lunch stop, then either your overnight stop or re-enter your start point. Google will of course send you the shortest route. This is where the map book comes in handy. Find the roads that are squiggly lines. On the Google map, when you zoom in, you’ll see them there too. Click on the blue route line and drag it to the road you want. You’ll probably have to do this in several places to get the route right. Each time, Google will reset the directions and the distances for you. Practice a bit until you understand how it works, then print out the results. Listen, if even this Neo-Luddite Scribe can do this, so can you.
Another great feature of Google Maps is that of you zoom in close enough, you can find where the gas stations are. There are even sites that will tell you current gas prices! I try to plan a route that has gas at  100-150 mile intervals. Sure, you can go further, but…

3) Restaurants: For the love of all that is good, please stay away from the usual fast food joints. Yeah, they are convenient, but it’s a whole lot more fun to eat at some family run joint. The food is better, the people are always happy to see you, and you get to support real people. It’s a good idea to get some kind of local knowledge about a place. The obvious best bet is to eat there yourself well before the trip. If that’s not possible, there are several websites that rate places. Read the reviews. Remember, there is always someone with an axe to grind. If there is only one super negative comment and a hoard of good reviews, you can probably discount the bad one. About a month before your drive, call the place and talk to the owner/manager. Explain what you’re planning. In all probability, you will not be arriving en masse, so make it clear that you don’t necessarily need to sit together and that everyone is responsible for their own bills. What I’ve found is that in a group of, say, twenty cars, people will arrive in maybe three waves, more or less. They will overlap. Let the manager know this, and let them plan as they see fit. This is important: Make sure everyone in the group understands that they pay their own bills! You might want to remind people to tip heavily as a thank you.

4) Motels: This one can be tricky. The groups I plan for tend to prefer the slightly funky kind of place, not the luxury five star. It kind of depends on the resources of your particular bunch. Group drives like the California Mille charge entrants some $5000 and set up luxury meals and hotels. The rest of us would rather spend that money on a new set of Webers or a sway bar. Again, either use a place you’ve stayed in, or rely on reviews. Please understand that negative reviews that say the place wasn’t the Ritz don’t count. OK, maybe the towels are a bit thin, maybe finding extra pillows was hard to do, or the ice machine is noisy. Big Deal! Look, if the place is clean, rodent and roach free, has a working AC/Heater and basic cable, you’ll survive. Besides, what are you doing in your room? Why aren’t you outside bench racing with the group?

Now setting up the hotel is obviously an important step. At least two months in advance, call them and set things up. Explain that your group will be making their own financial arrangements, but that you’d like to set up a group rate. Ask them to set aside maybe ten rooms (this is usually the minimum to get any kind of a deal) under the group name. If more register, the motel will normally accommodate them at the same rate. Make sure of this before hand!  Ask what kind of rate you can get. They probably have a website so you can check what their normal rates are. Typically, the +/- $60/night is the ball park you’re looking for. If possible, do your drive on at least one week night and you’ll get a better deal, and the motel is more willing to work with you. Peak tourist season is not going to get you much of a deal.
When you make the deal, reserve your room right away. That shows good faith on your part.  Do not, ever reserve all the rooms on your credit card! If the motel insists, find another place! Let everyone in the group know what the arrangements are and what group name you’re using. Make sure they understand that they are paying for their own digs, and that they need to reserve as soon as possible. Once the  block of rooms is taken, the motel is under no obligation to hold more, so some may have to stay elsewhere. That’s their problem (remember our odd assumption is that we’re dealing with adults?).
It’s a good idea to check in with the motel on a regular basis to monitor how many rooms are reserved and then prod the group to get going. There are always those who wait for the last minute, but again, that’s their problem.

5) Liability: This is an ugly term, and not always understood. We like to think that our friends would never sue us. We’d like to think that people will step up and take responsibility for their own actions. We also know that this isn’t always the way of things. Can you, as the organizer protect yourself? That’s debatable. You can get sued for anything. Doesn’t mean you’ll lose, but it can cost you. Can you mitigate this? Does a liability waiver really mean anything? We’ve all heard both sides of that one. To that end I talked with:
Mo Khanzada, J.D.
Follow him on twitter @mokhanzada
Read my blog

I’ll paraphrase what he told me. First, It must make it plain the neither he not I, in anyway are  private injury lawyers. Mo is currently studying for the California Bar but neither of us is licensed to practice law in California, or anywhere else. This should not be taken as legal advice. Having said that as a disclaimer, I’ll have to say his ideas make sense. If you are truly concerned, you should get definitive advice from an attorney in your area who specializes in personal injury cases. There are also a number of websites that can give you a prefab waiver. I'd make sure to modify it specifically to fit your particular activity.
As I understand it (and please remember the above disclaimers), In order for someone to be liable for in a lawsuit, they must be either be directly or indirectly (vicariously) liable. This is because liability can be imposed, even though another person (the organizer), has not done anything to aid or encourage and even done everything possible to prevent the act. Vicarious liability is based on a special relationship between the person committing the act and the person to whom the activity is ultimately associated with, here the organizer. Vicarious liability can be imposed in the employer/employee relationship, independent contractor relationship, partnerships (for profit) and joint ventures, automobile owners for drivers situations, bailor/bailee relationships, parent child relationships and on tavernkeepers. In short, if you have any kind of business relationship with the participants of your drive, you could be on the hook. This is a major reason I do not charge money to participate in the drives I organize. They are not “joint ventures” and as such, liability is far more limited.
The next area is liability waivers. We all hate to burden ourselves with such legal mumbo jumbo, BUT that same LMJ can save you as the organizer a lot of grief. I haven’t used them in the past, but I will from now one. It’s sad, but we all need the CYA!
Generally, waivers, in order to to be legally effective, need to include assumption of the risk language. Assumption of the risk is a legal principle in tort law that provides a defense to negligence based torts such as auto collisions. The legal concept behind Assumption of the Risk holds that a plaintiff may be denied any recovery if she/he assumed the risk of any damage caused by plaintiffs act as long as 1) the plaintiff knew of the risk and and 2) voluntarily proceeded in the face of the risk. This may be accomplished through an express agreement such as a liability waiver. On of the key phrases that I learned as a teacher taking kids on filed trips is to start the waiver with the phrase “I request that join…” This simple phrase puts far more burden on the participant, because they are ASKING to join in the fun. It therefore becomes a conscious decision on their part to go on the drive and assume the associated risks.
If the waiver is drafted correctly, it: 1) describes the activity, 2) states that signer has full understanding of the nature of the document, 3) signer knows of the specified risks, 4) signer voluntarily chooses to assume the risk and 5) agrees not to hold the organizer liable for the consequences of his or her participation in the described activity, among other things) an event participant will unsuccessfully maintain an action against the organizer of the event if they are even able to overcome the bar of vicarious liability. (discussed above) In the organizer's case, it would be advisable to obtain liability waivers that include assumption of the risk elements noted above to shield from possible liability. It is essential that passengers as well as drivers sign the waiver.
This should take care of participants pursuing action against you, but what if a participant hits (or is hit by) a “civilian”, a non-participant? This is an area where much more care must be taken. The best course with regards to 3rd parties is to avoid money, keep it tight with regards to procedure of the trip so as not to engage liability and to have clear rules disclaiming liability in the waiver agreement (discussed above) and require the event participants to have insurance. It would be a good idea to make them present their driver’s license and proof of insurance when they sign the waiver. It would be even better to ask for a copy of the insurance card in advance.
If liability does occur, the court will probably first look to see if there was a special relationship between the organizer and the participant (described above) that might otherwise invoke vicarious liability. If a special relationship is found, the court will look for negligent behavior   - Did  that organizer have a duty? Was that duty was breached? Was there causation that led to overall damages?
What it comes down to is at least making sure that the drivers in the group understand their responsibilities. If they have a crash, they take care of it. Have a driver’s meeting before hand and remind them of their responsibility to keep it safe, to drive within their abilities and the road conditions. To obey the law. For more on this, I cover the Rules of Engagement  in my book, Road Trippin’. You can get a copy from Autobooks. Again, huge thanks to Mo for his thoughts on this issue.
Again, Mo and I must stress that neither of us in a PI attorney and that this is a mere review of the law that Mo has learned in the last 4 years of law school and studying for the California bar exam and specifically researching this issue. As a result, this should not be taken as legal advice. WHEW! What a lot of heavy duty verbiage. Still, it's important stuff.
This is also why I don’t have any interest in organizing a drive for more than about twenty cars. At that number, you’re going to know everyone. You have a chance to meet and greet everyone. So does everyone else. The last run of the Late Lamented Iron Bottom had over 100 cars. What happens is people break into cliques. There is less interaction, less fun and more stress and more of a possibility of idiocy. It’s what ended the Iron Bottom. A clique of wanna be open road racers invaded and created nothing but problems, driving at speeds of 130 mph+, passing over the double yellow line on mountain roads, and even taking out some fencing and not stopping. One resident found out who we were and where we were staying and came after the disorganizers. It wasn’t pretty. Theye shut it down after that, a victim of their own success.

Now I don’t want to scare anyone away from putting on a Drive with that last bit.  It really is a lot of fun. Really! I mean what’s not to love? Exploring twisty back roads and great scenery in an Auld Crate, wind in the face, smell of wild flowers and leaking oil in your nose, unknown eateries, funky motels, and most of all, like minded good friends to share it with. How can you go wrong?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Back from Oly

Well, we made it home. What a ride, 2,554 miles round trip, only three quarts of oil, and about 22 MPG. Not bad for the old blue Meanie. The only malfunction was the overdrive linkage disconnected, so from about Paso Robles to home, we kept it at about 3200 rpm (about the dreaded double nickel) from there, just to not put any extra work on the engine. THAT was hard, headed for the barn, I get like ol’ Doc Watson, ‘Our Father” at Embree Buses. He usually just pooted along, until it was time to head home. Then it was ‘Where’d Sam go?” He’d be fueling up by the time we got back. Anyway, it was a great trip. Lots of good times with the family (which was the real point of the exercise) and a few extras thrown in to boot. Let’s talk about the trip home.
Tuesday we headed out about 6AM (up there, it’s already light out!) and steered for the 101 and the Coast. This is such a great drive, even though the weather could have been better. We took the I-5 down to Chehalis, then west on WA 6 (a really neat road, dotted with SMALL towns of the kind you don’t think exist except on old TV shows) and hooked up with the 101 near Astoria. One of these small towns was little more than the general store/post office that we used for a quick pee break. Place had an honest to God outhouse, and the lady inside called Marianne “dearie”. Yep, right out of Andy Griffith! 
Over the Astoria Bridge (which is REALLY up there!) and into Oregon, we were starting to look for food. We found it in South Bend. Now, I don’t know who names towns in Oregon, but somebody needs to get them a map and a compass. Bend, OR is WAY off the the east, near the center of Oregon. This was right up at the Washington border. That’s north last time I looked. To further confuse things, we came across a “North Bend, OR” and yep, it’s almost to California! 
We did of course find a great place. Probably the best breakfast of the whole trip, and that’s really saying something! Place was called “Chen’s” and is a diner and motel in the area of Seaside, OR. Typical roadside diner, but pancakes that fell over the edge of the dinner plate! Bacon that was smokey and tasty, great stuff! 

       From there, it was off into the fog. Oregon’s coast line is punctuated by a number of rivers that flow into the Pacific. Where they reach the shore, they of course do so at sea level. In between are mountains, so the coast road is a series of ups and downs that go up into the clouds/fog and then down to the clearer (usually) coast. That’s not to say that it wasn’t overcast! At least it wasn’t rain, but it was pretty chilly. The Blue Meanie of course, loved it. She thought she was in home on the coast of Devon or some such other English resort set aside for those in need of a Fog Tan. I’ll tell ya, those giant Super  Oscar Cibie fog lamps earned their keep! We both really hate the fog and twisty roads and fog are no fun at all. 

About lunch time, we hit Tillamook, Cheese Central for Oregon. It’s of course home to what is probably the biggest cheese maker on the West Coast, Tillamook Cheese. It’s huge, it’s jammed with people and it’s pretty commercialized. We skipped it for the slightly smaller (but still touristy) Blue Heron French Cheese place. We sampled and settled on a very nice smoked brie that we proceeded to eat much of with some salami for lunch. By the way, if you are a Mac & Cheese fan, this place has what looks like the killer M&C ever made! We just weren’t that hungry. The car got the usual oohs and ahhs and double takes when we told them we were headed BACK to LA. “In THAT?” was the usual incredulous comment, along with expressions of doubt about the TR’s reliability and out sanity. 
Just out of town, good ol’ St. You Know Who guided us on another adventure. Did you know that at one time, the US NAvy maintained a series of Airship Bases up and down the coast? Yeah, air ships, as in blimps. Blimps that made the Goodyear one look like a carnival balloon. The idea was to patrol for the invading Japanese fleet. Actually, they were useful in WWII for submarine patrol. Well, just south (real south, not Oregon south) is one of these blimp barns. They are HUGE. You may have seen the one’s at El Toro Marine base. Yeah, THAT big. Emblazoned on the side was “Tillamook Air Museum.” Well, why the heck not! This is what a Road Trip is for, isn’t it?

This place is wonderful! Parked outside is a “Mini-Guppy” transport plane that looks like a pregnant DC7. It’s a big plane. The blimp hanger made it look like a toy! Inside was a collection of war birds from a replica Newport XI from WWI to an F-15 Tomcat. Lots of WWII stuff of course, including the obligatory Mustang and Corsair. In addition, a Japanese “Oscar” (think a bit bigger than a Zero) and a Mig 17! A  couple of seaplanes and other oddities round out the collection. Did I mention that many of these FLY! That is to me the coolest part. Just like our Auld Crates that we get out and hit the backroads with, these guys take even a bigger risk and fly the damn things! 

Back on the road again, it was back to the now familiar routine of hill climbing/ descending and tiny seaport towns. This dive is indeed a throw back. As you get closer to the California border, the towns get bigger, mostly because the seaports for both the lumber trade and the fishing become more important. Tillamook and the fog had slowed us down (not to mention the ubiquitous slow poke in a Pious, determined to make me save the planet by not allowing me to drive at the TR’s optimum pace) and we pulled into Bandon, OR to our motel, the La Kris Inn, just out of the old seaport town. This was a TINY little room, but very comfortable for the night. Since we haul ALL of our stuff indoors, it was kinda cramped, but hey, the price was reasonable and it was comfy. At the gas station (the TR was running on fumes into town, a small miscalculation by me) we splashed in some gas and asked about a good place to eat. The attendant told us “The Wheelhouse” without any hesitation. She was right. This place has thick clam chowder and nice crispy fish and chips (halibut no less!) at a reasonable price. 

       The next morning we were of course off early and in about two hours we were looking for food in Brookings. Found it! “Matties Pancake House!” Another stellar breakfast with a whole crowd of locals who all wanted to hear about the car. Good waffles with FRESH Oregon blueberries. UM GOOD! From there it was another stop at the Tress of Mystery and guess what? Marianne found some turquoise! ToM has a typical gift shop with the typical touristy crappola AND, because the family that has owned the Mysterious Forest is part Native American. a very good museum of artifacts from a variety of local and not so local tribes. This alone is worth the stop. Naturally, there are also crafts for sale. Marianne found a pair of earrings that match a neckless that she found on another Road Trip in San Juan Bautisa! Naturally! Oh, and that neat reversable fleece/waterproof jacket I bought on the way up? The pocket had torn. The didn’t have a replacement, but one of the women at the counter, after searching high and low for a new jacket, got out her SEWING KIT and made the repairs herself! Can’t ask for better service than that! 

We stopped for lunch in Legget at the Drive Through Tree, and by now, the weather was warming up. FINALLY! I’m telling you, it was actually good to be away from the coast. I was feeling like Von Schlieffen’s northernmost soldier invading Belgium in the Great War. OK, that’s an obscure history reference that most of you will not get. My students will (they’d better!) but you can look it up if you’re so inclined. We did a slow roll through the Avenue of the Giants (in a open car or on a motorcycle or waking or on a bicycle is the ONLY was to really appreciate these monsters) and were all kinds of awed. 
By the way, DANGER! ALERT! Write the morons in Sacramento! There is a push to carve through the narrow sections of 101 in what’s called Richardson Grove because the truckers have a hard time of it. Yeah, I get their point, but we CANNOT allow this to happen. This area is too magnificent to ruin. As much as many of us hate to admit it, THIS is why the Sierra Club has a job to do. I’m serious about this. Do Not Let This Happen! 
OK, back to your regular program. The Redwood Highway into Willits is one of the truly great drives. At the bottom, in Ukiah, We gassed up and girded our loins for Frisco Rush hour. If you thought the TR was unhappy in Portland, it was furious in Frisco. I’ll tell ya, the 405 in Sepulveda Pass ain’t got nothing on the Bay Area. Tired and hungry, we let the GPS find us a place for dinner. It was in Newark, near Fremont and was OK, but not great enough to recommend or tell you to avoid. As for lodging, the places we found looked either sketchy in and of themselves, or it looked like too much opportunity from the neighborhood. We hit the freeway. Gilroy was only a half hour down the road, it was dark (my biggest regret of the trip was that we had to go through San Jose with our LA KINGS: Stanley Cup Champions flag flying in the dark. Maybe that was a good thing. NoCal fans are not the most tolerant bunch!) 
Just off the freeway in Gilroy is the America’s Best Value President’s Inn. OK, it’s harder to say than Motel 6, but was only $60 and had probably the most comfortable bed of the trip. That and FREE do it yourself waffles in the morning. This is a good place to stop! 
From there, it was just down the 101, a stop in Santa Maria to see my cousin, Pam (who we hadn’t seen since out wedding! WAY too long!0 and a great lunch at an Irish Pub in Orcutt. Orcutt is a neat little town! Old Timey Western look to it, and the “Piggy Burger” at Rooney’s Irish Pub was terrific! Imagine, a ground PORK and Chorizo patty topped with cheese and BACON! OOOOH BABY! 
After that, it was gas up and get home. Thankfully, the Santa Barbara Crawl was minimal, but of course rush hour through Pasadena was it’s usual wonderful self. Then Home at Last! Thank God Almighty, we were Home At Last! 
So, let’s sum it up. 2500+ miles in a TR3. It was fun, it beat us up. Frankly, we pushed it too hard. Not so much the car, but us. Four days would have been a much more reasonable pace. The buffeting and the cold do take a toll on you. We slept all day Friday. Would we do it again? Sure. At an easier pace? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Need you ask? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

The LeMay Museum-America's Car Museum

     As part of our on going Tour De PacNW,  we headed to the newest Car museum in the country, the LeMay. The whole WA Family went along to see what was new.

     This is a really neat museum. We'll start with the building. It's beautiful! The outer shell is covered in corrugated metal and the shape is reminiscent (at least to me) of a hood scoop. It also looks a lot like the fender of an late 30s luxury car. Take your pick. Inside is all curved wood beams and high arching ceilling with enormous windows that give a great panorama of Tacoma. The set up is a great idea. Essentially, it's a four story parking stucture. There are up and down ramps on each side and level center areas. All are filled with one of the most eclectic car colections you've ever seen. This layout makes it easy to display the cars and obviously easy to move them about. It also means there is plenty of space to view the cars and take photos. I particularly appreciated the very low ropes that didn't block the shot. My one complaint is that the lighting could be better, especially in the center areas. That's why some of the shots are a bit dim.

     As to the collection, eclectic is indeed the word. There is something for every one. Early brass encrusted Horseless Carriages, Classic Era grand limos and cars for Everyman, 50s and 60s fin mobiles, muscle cars and a few exotics. There is also a whole row of alternative energy vehicles from a Baker Electric to a Stanley Steamer to a new Chevy Volt. Much of the collection is exceptional, some is "Why is THAT in a museum." The last is a value judgement each person will make, depending on taste. Renee Crist, Collection Manager has done a great job of setting up her babies in an effective arrangemnt. Since the museum has only been open for two months, one can expect that things will be tweaked to make things even better. All in all, it's a worthwhile place to see in the PacNW.

     If I may be so bold as to offer some suggestions, I have a few. First, the lighting in the center aisles needs improbing. These areas look too much like a parking garage. Second, the arrangment of the cars in these areas lacks cohesion. cars from the 60s are mixed with cars from the 30s. Maybe a theme for each level? A history of everyday cars for everyday people on one level, the Grand Dames on another? The side aisles ARE arranged this way with very effective and informative signage, why not do the same for the center sections? I'd also suggest that the floors get a nicer covering than bare concrete. This is a tough call, especially on the sloping ramps, as traction for visitors and wheel chair accessability  are at war with aesthetics. I'm betting one of the companies that specialize in florr covering for Garage Mahals would be willing to come up with a good solution and donate it for the publicity and write off. The last suggestion would be some kind of signage that directs the traffic flow and lets you know just where you are. Even Renee commented to us that in the beginning, before the cars were in place, she got lost more than once!
     The ancillary necessities are very nice. The gift shop is well stocked and the staff are friendly (as are all the people involved, from the volunteers who man stations around the museum without being officious, to the people at the admissions, everyone is smiling and genuinely happy to be there! There is no sense of stogieness that you get in some places), same is true of the restaurant. The food was good and not outragously priced and the seating up on a mezzanine overlooking the main concours is well designed.

     My dad had to be in a wheel chair, and access for him was exceptional. Not just the expected government mandated stuff like rest rooms, but the view of the cars was unobstructed and easy for his to see. There was plenty of space to navigate. The up ramps were a bit of a chore for us, but hey, suck it up!

     Overall, I'd rate this a winner. The collection has some real gems in it that make it worth the admission fee. How many Crane-Simplexes or Hudson Torpedos or V12 Caddies are you likely to see? I think that as they tweak things around, things will only get better. The LeMay is worth a trip to the PacNW all alone, let alone all the other great places to see and great roads to drive up there.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Old Dinosaurs Never Die

     Well, THAT was fun! I'm sore, my feet ache, my back hurts, but that was fun. OK, I promised that I would write about the LeMay Car Museum, but something came up. I'll get to the museum down the line,have no fear about that. St. Serendipity happened to strike and dragged me off on an unplanned Adventure, and as usual, St. S was right.

      Whilst meandering about Marin looking for Cheese, friend Steve Bedillion mentioned that he thought Jay Lamm (self billed as Chief Perpetrator) was unleashing one of his Automotive Extravagansas on the PacNW. This bit of motorized mayhem and madness is called the 24 Hours of LeMons. Allegedly $500 cars racing for fame and glory for 24 hours, most hoping more for survival than victory.
     I filed this bit of info away, and Saturday AM, I was up early and thought to my self, "Self, let's see if Other Steve had the right info." Off to my folks' cranky PC (PLEASE let them get a Mac some day!) and Hey Presto, there it was. AND at the PacNW's brand spanking new race track. Sweet!
     Now, we all  know that new race tracks are only built in the boonies, hours away from allegedly civilized folk for whom the sound of race cars filling the air is anathema. Silly civilized folk! I couldn't be off for such a jaunt, but I'd heard the place was close. Off to Google Maps and what do you know? The Ridge Motor Sports Park is maybe 45 minutes from Oly, just outside of Shelton. WOW! I grabbed the camera, packed a few Cokes, rolled the TR out of the garage, told the Fam that "I'll Be Baack" and took off.
     OK, you'd think that St. Serendipity had done his job. A cool, wacky race, a brand new track under an hour away, what more could I ask for? Well, St. S had more for me. I got there in time to see a gathering of white clad, scruffy, holloweyed folk, all listening to what could only be instructions. Now, I'm an old Flag Team member from a WAY back. I can spot a Race Workers' Meeting a mile away! I sidled on up, and sho'nuff, my instincts were right on the money. I hung at the fringes and when the meeting was over, went up the the Flag Chief and asked if they could use another worker (knowing full well that ALL races save the Big Ones ALWAYS need more workers), told her I used to flag for Cal Club (at which I could see a flash of instant respect) and she said she'd be happy to have me.
      I DID tell her that I'd need to leave 3ish because of family commitments, but I'd be happy to fill in as needed. She said that I could work Pit Entry/Turn 16 as it was the only place accessable from the paddock area. Cool! I wandered about a bit, got a few pictures of the cars and headed for my turn.
      The others were there, I inroduced myself to Robin, the Turn Marshall and she put me to work, Just like old times. Mostly. A lot of things have changed since I last flagged : NO ONE goes out on the track for ANY reason unless you are a Trained Responder! We didn't even have a fire bottle except for this giant thing no one was ever going to lug to an incident. We were using "simplified flagging (noBlue Flags-bummer) and a standing yellow before AND after a waving yellow! Huh? Well, ok.
     I got busy with some crowd control (Robin has a voice that can cut glass and she'd mostly intimidated the hell out of all the spectators) by scrounging up some yellow tape and making a line about 5 feer from the pit wall, then swept up the crap in the pit entry, chased a few folk off the other walls, normal stuff. Robin was pleased.

     The next sign of my growing acceptance was being approached by Dave Johnson, driver of one of the Emergency Trucks. Ememrgency was a bit light too, so he wanted to use me to DRIVE THE TRUCK ON THE TRACK for oil clean up! I guess that once word spreads that there's a Cal Club Flagger who worked F1, he must be able to do ANYTHING! Talk about a real compliment!
     Sadly, the only serious oil we had to take care of was from a big ol' Mercedes Diesel that spread a nice line all through Pit Entry. All that required was a lline of oil dry and me scrubbing with the broom. Darn. given the thrown together nature of most of the "race cars" I thought sure that several of them would puke their guts SOMEWHERE, but alas, it was not to be. Still, it was nice to be asked!
     Now, if you've never heard of the 24HoLM, you've got to be asking 'Just what the heck kind of race IS this?"
     The idea grew out of the fertile (or is it fetid) brain of Jay Lamm. He'd organized a Concours de LeMons as sort of an Anti-Pebble Beach event several years ago, and, as is usual in the case of off beat events (think Doo Dah Parade), he and friends were sitting around in a bar and thought a race for these same rejects of the automotive world would be a lot of fun.

     Over a few pints, they outlined the idea on bar napkins (were ALL the best ideas of modern civilization are set down) and there it was.
     Cars were to be only worth $500. Originally, I think it was to be a claiming race, but that idea went away in place of penalizing racers for cars that were too nice. Any penalties were appealable by bribery of food and drink. On track infractions are penalized by forcing the entire team to embarass the hell out of themselves buy, among other things, disco dancing the length of the pits, or wearing a mime costume (complete with white makeup) and miming their infraction. Can you imagine how much more fun NASCAR of F1 would be if Jay and his mnions were in charge?
     Cars with extra decoration and themes are stongly encouraged, so the pair of BMWs covered in tartan fabric and a crew all in kilts (just TRY and call in that! "Car 256, PLAID done spun and continued") and a giant Caddy, painted light blue and sporting a model of the Parthenon and a huge Greek flag were "normal". As was the Chrysler mini van, the Jeep Wagoneer (#43, painted bright blue and calling them selves Team Petty Cash), and my personal favorite, Team Stirling Moss, decked out with racing stripes of, well, naturally, moss. Yeah, the real vegitation. Damn stuff kept blowing off. "Control, this is 16, we have moss on the track." Well, after all it IS the PacNW. Moss covers EVERYTHING!

     Anyway, it was all in good fun, the cars are actually made to have full approved safety stuff, the racing is really pretty good (although there is a wide gap in talent), and it's all reminiscent of the Good Old Days. If you get the chance, go see one of these races! Jay is now putting them on all over the country. Check out www.24hoursof

Friday, July 20, 2012

Up to Oly, Part Tres

Well, we got here. If you follow facebook, you know this, but HOW wwe got here, that's another story. It was, shall we say, a struggle. NOT, I emphasize, becasue of car problems. Mosty becasue of the weather, the longer than planned for leg of the journey, and becasue of Oregon. I've ranted on about that benighted state enough, so Constant Readeer will know my take on driving there.

For a variety of reasons, we were wide awake about 3:30am, and after mostly just sitting around, got things packed and headed out about 5:30. The weather looked threatening so, although it looks promising, the Eel River Cafe in Garberville was not to get our biz this trip. I've heard it's pretty good, so next time though...

Good thing we headed out, because maybe a mile or two up the road, it began to rain, thunder, lightening, the whole bit. On the one hand, the Cibie Super Oscars worked great cutting through the soup, on the other, wwe were foolish enough to actually believe the weather reports and weren't as prepared for rain as we should have been. We were getting soaked.

I pulled over and got out some large trash bags I'd packed, "just in case" and we wrapped them around our legs. The suitcase on the outside rack I'd already encased in my super duty bag cover, made from of all things, a Weber BBQ cover. The thing worked great, the bag stayed drier than we did!

In Eureka, we stopped for gas and a pee and a quick "breakfast" of Fig Newtons (travel hint: these are really great for a meal on the go! Tasty and filling and reasonable nutritious, they're cheaper than fancy protien bars) I bought a new pair of gloves to replace the now soaked pair and the attendent told me if we hurried, we'd stay ahead of the storm. Mostly we did, off and on drizzle and fog the rest of the way.

In Klamath, home of perhaps the best Road Side Attraction in California: TREES OF MYSTERY, we stopped to take a pee. The Rain had at least stopped for a bit, so we hustled in, peed and I hit the massive giftr shop. My outside arm was soaked so I scouted the jackets. SCORE! A real nice "Trees of Mystery" official waterproof jacket. AHHH!

From there it was off and on rain (mostly off) to Creseent City. Past here, we scrobbed the plan of continuing up 101 through Oregon in favor of making some time by heading up the 199 to Grant's Pass and the I-Yucky-5.

The 199 IS a neat road, nice sweepers, tight twisties, and only one problem. Oregon Drivers Who Won't Pull Over! Some did, many did not. Then as a matter of course, Oregon's obsession with speed limits that are 10% lower that need be. At least. Since it had been raining, I'd put the Radar Detector away, so I had to be careful. Bummer.

Once in Grant's Pass, we had to find gas, and got sucked into the same Arco we went to last time. This place is in the middle of the dumbest parking lot in the world. It winds all over the place. And, remember, Oregon has this weird law that requires some minion with the IQ of a banana slug be on hand to spill gas in the general vicinity of your tank.

It got to be fun at this point. Gomer looks at us, looks at the car and made a wise decision. "Looks like you know how to put in your own." and left me to thankfully put in my own. The good part was the premium gas was 92 octane AND a bunch cheaper than anywhere else on the road.

We chowed down at Carls (yeah, I know, another Road Trippin' Rule broken, but hey, I wrote 'em, I can "interpret" them) as there was no viable alternative in sight and we were HUNGARY. Hell,. it was about 2PM and we only had some fig newtons in us.

After that, it was head up to the 5, wind through the Cascades to the flats of Oregon. BORING! We tanked up in Salem (same deal "Sir, can you put in yer own?") and we were off. We were STILL a good 4 hours + away from Oly, and a qick shot of "5 Hour Energy" perked us right up. I have to say, I've tried it before with no real appreciable improvement, but this time, damn, the stuff really worked.

I'd hooked the GPS and detector back up and as we closed in on Portland, it was approaving rush hour. Lemme tell ya, rush our in Portland makes you long for the 405. It's wretched. Poor old Blue Meanie was over heating like crazy. The weather had gotten warm and muggy and the standstill sent us off the freeway, Sean trying valiantly to guide us through the outskirts of P-Town and back to the 5, and more jams, and more over heating. We pulled over (again) and cooled her down, and by this time, finally got over that damn draw bridge and into Washington. One more stop at one of Washington's very nice rest stops and we finally pulled into my folks' place at almost 9PM! Nothing like 15 hours in a TR3! WHEW!

The usual hugs and kisses and a bite to eat and we were OUT. Next day we mostly did a well deserved nothing.

Next up, a full account of the LeMay, America's newest car museum.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Oly Trip Day Two-A real cheesy time!

OK, it seems that where we spent the night after Day Two had funky wifi, so I couldn't add any thing. Sorry, I know that you were all waiting with baited breath tohear of our exploits. Here's Day Two, and if I'm lucky, we'll havc Pix!

So, we were up at the usual O'Dark-Thirty to get out of Santa Cruz, had it all packed and out the door of the lovely Capri Motel as the sun came up. Well, that's not quite true. It was getting lighter, but there was no sun. We were fated in fact to not see the sun until we turned inland late in the day.

We used the GPS to find a gas station and lo and behold, it led us to the better part of town. If all we'd seen of Santa Cruz was the area around the boardwalk, frankly, we wouldn't ahve thought much of the place. In the cool crepuscular light of dawn, we discovered the neat part of town. GREAT Victorian houses by the block load. Santa Cruz has a great collection of these great old places, and there is no clue that they exist in the beach area. Seriously, we were a bit worried about the place based on what we'd seen the previous evening. Pretty sketchy to say the least.

We headed out Mission and well, look at that, tiny little Misson Santa Cruz. Not one of the better known of what was California's first chain operation, but a neat little place none the less. There's an interesting looking down town that also looks worth exploring on a return visit.

Because Santa Cruz in on the upper end of Monterey Bay, and becasuse a river runs though the middle of town, the layout is, well, strange. THe Garmin showed it's worth navigating us around town. Strange cities is a major reason GPS can be a useful tool. The down side is that we wanted to head to Marin up Hwy 1 and "Sean" (I got 007's vouce from wanted to send us via San Jose. No, I didn't want know the way to San Jose, not with an LA Kings Stanley Cup Champion flag flapping away from the luggage rack! Maybe on the way back. I don't want them laying in wait for the return trip. heeheehee

OK, so, we did figure out how to go toward Half Moon Bay and off into the drizzle we went. It was what the Irish would call a "Soft Day." At least the TR felt at home. This part of Hwy 1 was unknown to us, and I suspect that this is true of most SoCals. It's a really neat drive! Tight twisties and long sweepers, all right on the cliff edge. When you could see through the fog and mist, the scenery was great!

After a bit of this, we rolled into Half Moon Bay and were ready for breakfast. Taking a chance, we hit a place called "Joe's". Yeah, as in "Eat at..." No, not the Crab Shack Joe's, a fairly nice place that does Italian most of the time, but regular breakfast in the AM. Turned out to be a good choice. A few Old Local Guys were already there and the waitress called us all "Hon". Always a good sign. Fresh local strawberries on the waffles made it pretty much perfect.  The waitress even commented that this was the best place around. "The other places are too greasy," she said.

From there, it was up north on 1 to Frisco, through The City in rush hour with no drama (note to LA and too many other cities in SoCal: the lights were actually synchronized!) and across the Golden Gate. Off 101, we found Lucas Valley Road. Yes, THAT Lucas. Well, actually there could be TWO "That" Lucas guys, couldn't there? This was not the Prince of Darkness, it was the Prince of Flannel Shirts. George. This is a REALLY great road. Nice twisties and near Skywalker Ranch, is the famous redwood forest. Zooming through, I kept hoping I wouldn't hit an Ewok. The TR ran like one of those jet thingies from Return of the Jedi! Pretty cool I must say.

Up from there is the Marin French Cheese Company. They make Rouge et Noir camenbert. OOOHHHH GOOD! Steve Bedillion, NoCal vet of the Iron Bottom met us there to show us other neat places. The cheese was fantastic and they have a shop in the back that is a proper garage. No fancy GarageMahal, a proper garage where work gets done. The bad part was eight wheels for $20. We were loaded up at our first stop.

Next stop was the Nicasio Valley Organic Cheese Company for a taste of a variety of great stuff. We picked the San Geronimo, probably their most aged and strongest stuff. The others were good, but for us, too mild. That's not to say they were bad, they we very, very good, creamy, and tasty. The folks there were friendly and helpful. Ya gotta stop here too, it's maybe five miles from the other one.

From there, it was Pt. Reyes for Cow Girl Cheese, but sadly, they were closed. The Other Steve told us it was one of the best in the area. Gotta try and find it. From there, after getting gouged for gas in the midst of what seemed like a Game Preserve for Prius', we headed out. For a variety of reasons, we got seperated from Other Steve. We stuck with CA 1 the rest of the way, heading towards Ft. Bragg. This area is often refered to as the Lost Coast.

Why the Lost Coast? Two ideas. One, lost ships. This is a very rocky portion and clearly dangerous. The other is that nobody seems to go there. Other than Mendocino and Ft. Bragg, there just ain't much there. It's so remote, that this is about where the Russians stopped their settlements of California. RUSSIANS you ask? Yep. Not many know that the Russians (no, not the Soviets, much earlier), established several settlements along "our" part of the Pacific ocean. The best preserved part is Ft. Ross. Actually a recreation, it has the whole story of the Russinas in California. Pretty interesting stuff.

Above Ft. Bragg CA 1 twists over the Coast Range and ends at 101 in the middle of the Redwoods. In this area are such tourist musts as the Drive Thru Tree, Confusion Hill, and the Legend of Big Foot. If you can possibly make the time, stop at these places! Sadly, it was getting pretty late. We'd hoped to make at least Eureka, but we were pretty knackered.

Thankfully, we saw signs for Garberville, and there are a selection of motels there. The first one, a fairly swanky new looking Best Western was full. Good. Good, because we found the wonderfully funky Sherwood Forest Motel.

This was a very nice little place, obviously dating from the 40s or 50s at least, back to the time when the Redwood Highway went right though town. The other good thing was a good Italian place that was still open. Good burgers, good beer.

The next day was now going to be a REALLY long drive. We had to get to Olympia that day. Some 600 miles. ugh. I'll tell you about that in the next post.