Drive Report: Califlorio 2019

[M O R N I N G R E P O S T]

California is terrible. Infested with bears, mountain lions, lawmakers, wealthy retirees, pointy mountains, drought, Silicon Valley, earthquakes, hippies, fires, tourists, techbros, traffic, the Los Angeles Dodgers, $3 avocados, HOAs, $5.00 91-octane gas, Tesla zealots and great white sharks, it is a foreboding place. The roads are terrible too, especially when you seek escape from all of the above, which is why we set out to check just how bad they are on the inaugural running of the Califlorio rally!

On the flanks of Mt. Pinos
Photo: TF (me)
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After some last minute prep after work on Friday night after work, I boogied down to New Cuyama and the Buckhorn, a famed old watering hole and inn to bed down for the night. But not before catching up with the friends already there over beer and fire.

This picture looks better small, I promise
Photo: TF (me)
Beer. Fire. Good.
Photo: TF (me)

Newly remodeled on the inn side, the Cuyama Buckhorn is really a cool place, with a great old feel. If you need a stop or stay between the valley and the coast om Highway 166, I highly recommend it. There’s now talk of a semi-regular “meet in the middle” for cars & food, which I’ll be sure to share details of here. Starting with solid breakfast burritos and coffee bright and early on Saturday at the cafe, we had a brief driver’s meeting once the same-day arrivals rolled in. This doubled our count of white Mk1 VWs, Datsuns, and E30 M3s.

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The totally bitchin’ V8 Z at the Buckhorn. Nice thing to wake up to.
Photo: TF (me)
Those M3s! The one in front is a 2.7 stroker, both from SoCal.
Photo: TF (me)
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Nathan’s minty GTI, owned since new. Love this car.
Photo: TF (me)
CaptDale, reflecting how how good the Miata’s answer always is.
Photo: TF (me)
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‘61 Falcon, sleeper 510, and general morning glory
Photo: TF (me)

Following the meeting we set off East on Highway 166 before hanging a right up into the hills towards 8848-foot Mount Pinos, more specifically the small town on its flank, Pine Mountain Club. It was a beautiful, crisp morning and we all enjoyed an open road as it flowed into the mountains. A couple of regroups for photos, coffee, and tire rubbing issues took place along the way (my 911 took on a little freight to reduce the burden on organizer Frank’s Scirocco as his new tires hit). A beautiful place, with ever changing topography and flora as we climbed from desert to foothills and forested mountains.

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going up... the central valley and high desert is obscured below.
Photo: TF (me)
Smoke visible in background from northern fires hundreds of miles away. Two of my favorite cars.
Photo: TF (me)
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dat longroof
Photo: TF (me)
Photo: TF (me)
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The view down into the valley we would eventually circle down into, seeking 33.
Photo: TF (me)
The 510 is a road trip champion with a solid L20 and 5-speed, the Z an LS beast. Climbing to Pinos.
Photo: TF (me)
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After the regroup at Pine Mountain Club (see lead photo), we headed down the other side a bit to pickup Lockwood Valley Road, which then winds its way over to the best part of Highway 33, the climb up and over the Transverse Ranges to Ojai.

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regroup at the intersection with 33
Photo: TF (me)
Photo: TF (me)
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Photo: TF (me)
On the backside of 33, which drops into the canyon below. I paused here and watched the rest of the group descend.
Photo: TF (me)
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Photo: TF (me)

That last shot above was at the gas stop in Ojai, where we all eventually found each other. Except for our own CaptDale, who frigged right off into the hills ahead (wink). You will note, dear reader, that from this point forth there are very few pictures of other people’s cars. This is because I, your intrepid Beetle pilot, got terribly, ridiculously, comically lost. Last to leave the Shell in Ojai after deciding to clean my windshield at the last second, I lost sight of buddy Nathan’s Mk1 GTI, proceeded to catch every red light, and missed a critical turn onto SR-150, the road around Lake Casitas. By the time I recognized my error and found a spot to turn around, I was hosed. Eventually I found 150, and it was great. Apparently there was a green bridge which was to be a regroup point, but I never saw it. Closer to the coast SR-192 was next, which is comprised of various surface streets as it climbs into the Montecito hills. This is where my lostness became complete. It seemed that in millionaire mountain hell, every turn I took led to a dead end. CaptDale valiantly tried to communicate a reroute from his position well ahead, but I blew that between poor service and directional ineptitude. Three more dead ends later, hope was lost and temperatures were rising. Where I was going, there were no roads, because the hillsides were missing and took the roads with them. Turns out, we were running right into the area of the 2018 mudslides. Rather sobering on reflection, though I was more frustrated by my own inability to follow the route at the time. I wish I’d paused for a photo to demonstrate the power of the destruction, but as my car was quite hot at the time, the exhaust very low, and surrounding brush very dry, I didn’t dare pull over on the narrow roads. Life in wildfire country. I did take a picture once on the right path, when I pulled over to cool car and driver well up the mountain towards Camino Cielo. There were parasails in the sky, the Pacific was placid, and there was smoke visible north and south from the still-raging fires. Beautiful, hot and lost...

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Photo: TF (me)

For the reasons mentioned above, I didn’t pull over any more once underway atop the ridge, but focused on driving, managing oil temp, and taking in the incredible views down both sides of the mountains as I wound down towards Stagecoach Road and Highway 154, which was just stunning. Once back in phone service my hand terminal blew up with a pile of “where are you? We’re at XYZ!” messages. When I hit 154, I headed down towards Lake Cachuma and met up with my lifelong friend Shawn, owner of that awesome 1961 Falcon wagon, who graciously waited for me at the first available rest stop on 154 and flagged me down.

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Photo: TF (me)

We enjoyed some cold waters from his well-stocked and traveled cooler and sat for a bit, deciding to forego the rest of the off-highway route with hopes of catching the rest of the group at Firestone’s Barrelworks in Buellton. This turns out to have been a good plan, as everyone else was already well into post-run beers and conversation by the time we rolled up.

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Sweaty backs after a hot day of driving in non-AC machines
Photo: TF (me)
Great group of friends, new and old
Photo: TF (me)
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A great day with great people, cars, and roads, Califlorio 2019 was a great follow-up to the Targa 805, where most of us met earlier this year. It was the first group run I’ve done with the 911, though I’ve been driving it more and farther as I’ve sorted more out. It runs like a champ, and though it still has loads of issues, I’m now confident enough to drive it anywhere. We can’t wait for the next run, and I’m really looking forward to continue piling miles onto the old 911. Next time perhaps we’ll grow the group and get some more Oppos along!

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