In my family, thanks to my dad, we have a long long long tradition of piling our everyone into the car, pointing it towards the mountains, and driving all day long. Much of this was probably due to my dad's not-very-well disguised desire to scope out new and undiscovered fishing holes in the mountains of Southwest Washington state. He had a primal compulsion to know where every creek and river started, and to fish it. He would stop at nothing to satisfy his thirst for THE perfect fishing hole at the base of THE perfect waterfall. My earliest memories of these adventures were undertaken in our Volkswagen Bus of unknown vintage. It was blue below and white up top, and had lots of windows. Other notable features were the overwhelming smell of vinyl, an engine that ran when and only if it felt like it, and a hole in the floor about the size of an eyeball that my brothers and I would stare through down to the road streaming by below us. I remember getting carsick in that van on a particularly long expedition around Mount Adams. We pulled off on the side of the road and had a family vomit session that really knit us all together with a shared sense of nausea that we still enjoy today. Later these expeditions were undertaken in various Subaru GLs and a BRAT or two, all of which my dad pretty much killed or ran within an inch of their life. (Sorry! Who knew they would be so collectable today?)
It is not surprising then, that 30 some odd years later I find myself, on Father's Day morning, looking towards the hills and cobbling together a route that would do my road trip DNA, and dad, proper justice. It is also not surprising, upon reflection, that my car of choice shares the same basic 4 cylinder engine lump with that VW van of days gone by, and that same boxer configuration of those Subarus we rallied so hard. And even though my car, The Black Pearl, has a catchier name and a prettier design, it shares much more of it's makeup with our old family haulers than it does it's more modern namesake.
Yesterday was my five year anniversary of purchasing the car. We drove down to San Fransisco and bought it from a shameless Porsche flipper in the Bay Area. We under-bid a gentleman from Germany who was trying to purchase and export it, but I won the seller over with a sob story and the idea that I would be going home to Washington empty handed if he didn't sell it to me. He relented and the car was mine. It was a Father's Day gift at the time, and a realization of a life long dream I'd had to own my own Porsche, even one that sat squarely at the bottom of every Porsche collector's bucket list.
All Aboard, and watch the paint!
Our route for the day would take us from Denver, CO out I70, to historic Georgetown, and up to the summit of Guanella Pass. The drive contained the requisite number of higher speed touring sections mixed with a suitable number of 180 degree switchbacks, and more than enough climbing to test the 4 banger's lungs at 3557 m./11,669 ft. What always shocks me about The Black Pearl is how it has no trouble at all with the high altitude freeway climbs at 65-70 mph. How that Little Engine That Could, going 40 years old, can keep up with and even overtake the modern cars is completely beyond me. Somewhere deep down I wonder if a previous owner hot-rodded it, but it may have more to do with the fact that the car itself weighs basically nothing. That in itself is a sobering thought when mixing it up with the dinosaur sized freeway mate SUVs that surrounded us on all sides.
The best part of the drive is the segment from Georgetown to Guanella Pass. The road once serviced high altitude mining towns and provides excellent access to the highway 285 on the other side. It is freshly paved and is full of steep climbing, big views, and the aforementioned switchbacks. Driving a car that isn't very fast to begin with is an excellent way to resist speeding and missing the scenery. The Pearl prefers a sporty cruise, and I think the rest of the occupants of the car were happy to avoid a repeat of the roadside vomit session I'd experienced many decades before.
After 20-ish minutes of beautiful driving, we gained the summit and piled out of the car to survey our domain. The wind was blowing and the mountain air was brisk, but we struck out on a trail toward Mt. Bierstadt (14,060').
Liberated from the small confines of the car, we explored a bit, and it occurred to me that this choice for our destination also shared something in common with my childhood drives with dad: The melting snow around us pooled into a small lake, which fed the stream, which turned into a raging creek, which at some point took on the name Clear Creek and exited the mountains in Golden, CO. In our own non-precise sort of way, we'd stumbled upon at least one of the headwaters of the Platte River.
I don't know how good the fishing was in Clear Creek, but I don't doubt that my dad would have tried to fish it 30 years ago, and would have been jailed for fishing in a wilderness.
Cold, hungry, and muddy, we returned to the car and descended in search of food. A small eatery in Georgetown fed us well and restored our spirits.
Kid's shoes were ejected at the door because even though The Black Pearl is a car meant for driving, and will therefore suffer some wear and tear, I try to at least maintain some sense of decency in the interior.
And then it was time for the long haul home, that part of the journey where everyone except for the driver gets sleepy and keeps themselves awake by arguing and slugging each other on the shoulder 'till someone cries for mercy and parental intervention. I did it with my brothers, and my kids did it yesterday. Mandatory timeouts when we arrived home!
Time will tell if the kids grown up and continue the family tradition of long mountain drives. Who knows, maybe they will be sick of cars AND the mountains when they grow up, choosing instead to move to New York and become dedicated walkers. I do hope the ritual lives on though, because if I'm honest with myself cars as objects and posessions have very little real value. We give them value by passing time and distance in them, and imbuing them with memories and shared experiences. The Black Pearl is just a machine, but it feels like a member of the family. It reminds me of my childhood, it reminds me of drives with dad, and it's a platform to take drives with the kids and create life long memories for years to come.
Reposted from my blog.