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.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

On the way to Oly!

Ok, I'm trying this for the first time. The kid at the desk of our palatial digs for the night, the Michelin Rated (three flat tires) Capri Motel in SantaCruz, naturally had to help this hopeless Luddite figure out the wifi. It seems to be working! Any who, we actually left on time, 5AM, gassed up and headed off into the pre dawn darkness of a Sunday morning. Despite all the heat we've been having, it was a bit nippy out! About half way to Vntura, we were both wishing we'packed a sweatshirt for under the jackets. Only problem with an early Sunday start is, that's when Caltrans seems to do their construction on what ever freeway you want to take! Ugh. No huge deal, just an annoyance. We hit Carpinteria for the usual waffles at the Worker Bee. It's good to have a place out on the road where they actually recognize you!

After breakfast, we added a layer and headed up the 101. Around San Luis Obispo, we stopped for gas (9.7 gallons and 209 miles!!!)Not to shabby! That meant we wouldn't need to stop until Santa Cruz. At Morrow Bay we headed to the ONE! Up the coast all the way, baby. In Cayucos, we stopped for lunch at the Sea Shanty, another favorite place. Bummer! They still were only serving breakfast, so we "had" to eat breakfast all over again!

After eating, good ol'St. Serendipity struck again. There was a parade just about to head down the main (well, practically the only) street! It's the 100th anniversary of the local Portuguese fraternal order and they had this neat small town festival. The parade was right out of the old country. Each group had a banner and three girls dressed in gowns and crowns. Pretty neat! I guess us Irish aren't the only ones who get to have ethnic parades!

Finally, things cleared out enough for us to head "downtown" to find a sweatshirt. Marianne found a dandy, tie dye with a peace sign and emblazoned "Cayucos". I found nothin'. Naturally, by this time it had begun to warm up so we shed a layer. Mistake. The coast route is a fickle beast. It's the middle of freaking July, dammit! Why did we need the heavy jacket? We did. Ugh again. Still, Hwy One is always worth it. My only problem is that on a Sunday in July, every rubbernecking moron with either a Camry or a minivan is out there. I swear,they ought to restrict access to Hwy 1 to people who can actually drive and aren't afraid of a few turns in the road. Seriously, I wasn't wanting to haul ass, I just wanted to cruise, but damn the Pokey Joe in the suv that held up a line of at least twenty cars while he gawked! Now we all know that One is easily one of the most spectacular roads in the world. But because of Pokey Joe, the road really becomes dangerous! Ah well.

 Getting through Monterey and up toSC can be a trial. It is just not a nice drive. But, we got here, walked to the Boardwalk, found some average chowder and a good crab sandwich at Woodies on the wharf, and came back to the Capri. Did I mention that I found a Santa Cruz sweatshirt? Btw, I'll have to figger out how to do the pix on this thing!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Great Oly Trip, Prelude

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

This is going to be a short column this time. Now don’t all applaud at once! Sheesh! Two reasons. One, I gave you a bonus column last month as I ranted on about Road Trips vs. a trip to the Mouse House. Two, we’re about to set off on our usual summer Massive Road Trip, and with the aid of modern technology, we’ll be posting updates from the road via Marianne’s iPad! Oh, did I mention we’re taking the TR?
Destination will again be Olympia, WA to see my folks and sister and her husband, and this time, we’ll also take in the new LeMay Museum. I’ll give you all a full account of this exciting new place. Oly is the destination because my dad’s health isn’t so good, and we want to spend as much time up there as possible. Now you might ask why take the TR? Why not jump on the Crowd Killer (as my friend Doc Jones calls a 737) and fly? First is comfort. Have you flown lately? I’m telling ya, three days in the TR is far more comfy that 2 ½ hours riding the rack that passes for an airline seat these days. I SWEAR the last time we flew up there, the whole crew was dressed up to look like the Spanish Inquisition. I didn’t expect that!
Another is expense. Flying has really gotten to cost too damn much money. And, you get no sense of travel anymore. At one faceless generic airport, you get rammed, jammed, and crammed into a tube, like Croppies into a gun at Athlone (look up the historical allusion yourself, I’m not teaching history anymore) and then extruded like human PlayDo out the other end into another TSA dominated penal colony. Who needs it? OK, whine whine whine. Get on with it.
Sure. The first thing of course is to make sure the Blue Meanie is up to it. After the last misadventure with the wheel bearing, I need to make sure things are all good. After all, 1300+ miles one way is a lot to ask. All the usual maintenance chores need to be seen to. Radiator flushed, oil and filter changed, fresh plugs, dress the points (never EVER take a trip on brand new points. The tab that runs on the distributor will wear a bunch in the first 100 miles and you’ll have to reset them at the motel that night), and adjust the brakes. Hmmm, lookee there. Seems there’s a bolt missing from one of the rear shocks. UGH. OK,easy fix and good to do it now rather than on the road. Lube up the suspension and add air to the spare and road tires and things should be good to go.
Well, not so fast. Took a little test drive and WTF? There’s a screaming from the engine bay! OH NO! Pop the bonnet and ugh. Again. Seems the twelve year old generator has decided that it’s bearings have had enough. Still, it beats sitting in a motel waiting for Moss Motors to ship me one and seriously, TWELVE YEARS ON A LUCAS GENERATOR? That’s pretty damn good if you ask me. The secret? Star Auto Electric in Monrovia. Mike there is a friggin’ genius. A but crusty perhaps, but do what he says and electrical stuff will work right and LAST. Even Lucas!
The next bit of planning is for luggage. Normally, Marianne will put up with sharing a backpack for a three day jaunt. She’s not having it for this trip and I can’t really blame her. So, a quick rearrangement of the tools and spares into a smaller tool box and stashing the larger bits in with the spare tire and why, there’s enough room in the trunk for an actual suitcase! Then, a quick look on the internet and hey, there’s a luggage rack that will mount on the trunk, will not need hole drilled and will cost a LOT less that Moss. Got it the other day, and it works great. Holds an even bigger suitcase for Marianne! Add some leather belts from Ross and it looks pretty cool! We’ll bring some large trash bags to keep things dry as the inevitable rain comes. We ARE going the the PacNW after all.

The last bit is the route. If you think for one second that we’re taking the I-5 through the Central Valley in July you must think we’re stooopid. Crazy, sure. We ARE taking the TR. Nope, we’ll take the Coast. All of it. Hwys 101 and 1. Quite probably the most beautiful drive that there is. We’re not going to flog it, we just want to cruise and take in the beauty. First night will be in Santa Cruz, second in either Crescent City or Eureka then Olympia. Google maps says 1347 miles. We’ve already spotted a few Must Sees. The Marin French Cheese Company in Petaluma (we would have added the only place in the west that makes Fois Gras but because our lame ass legislature bowed to PETA’s idiotic onslaught this delectable bit of culinary genius is now illegal in the Golden State!) as well as the Blue Heron French Cheese Company in Tillamook, OR will be on the list. Also Fort Ross, the Samoa Cookhouse, the Drive Through Tree and a bunch of other neat stuff await us.
So, stay tuned, same time, same place and we’ll let you know From the Road!