If your Ford had a Matthew McConaughey, it would be a Lincoln

That time we did Top Gear - Part 2

As I covered in Part 1, two friends and I had just bought cheap wheels in San Diego and were intending to drive them 2200 miles up the Pacific Coast to Seattle, and then sell them when we got there.

I’m going to spare the details of everything we did and focus on the funnier moments, particularly those not covered in the video that absolutely doesn’t exist, so please don’t go looking for it.

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With much fear, we set off from San Diego. Our first day’s goal was modest: Valencia, just north of LA. We would hop on the 5 and head to the southern origin of Highway 1, and take it as far as we could before splitting onto main highways out of necessity.

For cinematic reasons, we decided to go to Balboa Park for our “official” road trip starting point. What is funny about this is we promptly got lost. Apparently Taylor thought I was leading, even though I was in the middle. Somehow we ended up at a golf course and while generally heading in the right direction, the Truck got hit with a golf ball. Not joking. It was amazing. I wish we had video of it but the camera were not rolling yet.

Eventually we found Balboa Park, locked up, and headed in. Or not. What actually happened is when George went to lock up the bumblebee the key got stuck in the door. On the street. In traffic.

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The next 45 minutes were spent watching George fiddle with his lock/door/car while warning him to dodge oncoming traffic. It was glorious, hilarious, and, again, inauspicious. By the time he got the damn thing fixed we were running very short on time, breezed through the garden, and then hit the road.

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The following drive was very special. We stopped at the beach for dinner and then cruised up the 1 in our crapcans. Up until this point I didn’t really understand the Alfa. It wasn’t especially pretty, or fast, or practical. That all changed driving along this little highway though beach resorts, top down, ocean to the left. There it felt incredibly special. The transmission was also starting to whine alarmingly. So there was that too.

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The next day was spent trying to address the faults with our cars. I looked into my electrical problem enough to determine it was unlikely to be a fault with the battery or alternator and was probably a bad ground. The car would make it, so I stopped worrying. I also hit a Jiffy lube and two quarts of gear oil later my transmission and diff were topped off and ready to face the rest of the trip!

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George and our friend Eric swapped out the Bumblebee’s starter, which, as it turns out, refused to start when the car was hot. Apparently a common problem with this vintage car in an automatic, which, of course, his was.

Taylor did nothing because his car was neither ambitious, nor rubbish. It will probably outlive us all.

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The next couple days were actually pretty worry free. We had a little incident on our way out of wine country wherein the Alfa LOOKED like it was leaking coolant… but it was actually washer fluid.

And that was the thing, after a rocky start we expected disaster. Every start, stop, turn, and fuel fill was done with baited breath. Were the cars going to start? When is the other shoe going to drop?

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The only problems we encountered weren’t from our cars, but other drivers. As it turns out Big Sur is CLOGGED with tourists in convertible Mustangs, absolutely terrified of literally everything. The day was spent tailgating Mustangs, willing them to drive off a cliff into the sea. But alas, it was not so.

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By the time we got to SF it was dark and we were treated to some weird misty sea spray that played havoc without crappy headlights and poorly cleaned windshields. Through some trick of fate we made it through that, only to be faced with the greatest threat yet: San Francisco.

Finding parking in SF was not an easy feat. We ended up at the shadiest of shady garages. It had one sign, the attendant spoke neither English nor Spanish, and if we had cars in the morning I would be shocked.

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But there they were. We can only assume that no one wanted them.

It was gradually becoming apparent there was something wrong with the truck. Following being neglected in Valencia, it had become hard to start. Then it started blowing white smoke. Then it stated to idle poorly. And backfire on start. Given the truck had a new radiator, water pump, hoses, and thermostat, George and I privately feared a head gasket failure. We decided not to tell Taylor, as there was no reason to worry him unnecessarily.

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We soldiered on towards the roads north of SF, which were far superior. On the way out, we tried to avoid hills (not an easy feat in SF) to save Taylor and the Truck’s clutch, but we were somewhat unsuccessful. We took the Embarcadero through SF thinking that would avoid the worst of it and it mostly worked. The traffic was appalling and I lost at least a quarter tank doing nothing. (Turns out I had a fuel leak, but that is a story for another time). But as it turns out our big plan had a flaw. The Embarcadero is at sea level. The Golden Gate Bridge is not. Taylor lost much dignity that day. His clutch will likely never be the same.

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However, as a reward for surviving LA, SF, and the onslaught of convertible mustangs, were treated to the best roads of the trip. I hesitate to even say anything because it feels like some sort of secret. Seriously, the road between Hardy Creek and Legett, the last leg of the 1, is phenomenal. Twisty, windy, hills, trees, streams, hairpins, and no traffic. It was made even better by driving MY Alfa Spider with my two friends following in their own loves. It defined the road trip in so many ways.

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And then we were on a section of road that winds through the California Redwoods known as the Avenue of the Giants. Of course one can’t be there in your own crapcans without driving through a tree! And so we did just that. It was a tight squeeze, even in our little cars. Furthermore, Taylor’s clutch took further damage when someone walked out in front of his car as he was exiting the tree. This caused Taylor to have to do, by far, his most ambitious hill start of the trip. In fact, it was so bad, especially as tourists looked on and took pictures, this became the only time during the trip I had to rescue him, jumping in the driver’s seat and parking it for him.

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To further our touristing we hit the touristiest (totally a word) tourist destination of them all: THE TREE OF MYSTERY!!!!!! (It sounds great with reverb) Complete with gondola ride and a “challenging” hike, which just meant it didn’t have a hand rail, that ended in the gift shop. It was a pretty cool thing.

Onward and upward, we finally came across something we honestly didn’t dare hope to see: The Oregon border. We fucking made it through California!

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