Our morning started fresh but overcast, as late spring clouds rolled slowly across the sky. Waiting for The Egg to warm fully before heading off, we were greeted with a sight that exemplifies the eccentric charm of Copperstate. The throaty snarl of a 1951 Cunningham C2 racecar (and 2015 Pebble Beach
winner), whose provenance includes Le Mans and Mulsanne, accompanied by the rainbow coloured sombrero and perfectly tuned maracas, modeled as a perfect driving ensemble by one of my favourite co-drivers. Other car rallies may offer more exclusive settings (Mille Miglia) or limited attendance (Race to the Sun), but none of them can beat the wonderful camaraderie and gentle eccentricity Copperstate inspires!
Today’s journey would take us south again, finishing outside the city of Tucson. The route included a stretch of road I implore anyone reading this, to consider. Fifty plus miles of sweeping bends and glorious vistas known as Lake Mary Road. The combination of tall ponderosa pines, and wind etched sandstone with dramatic cloudscapes as a backdrop, made me half expect to see Heathcliffe’s swarthy cousin ride across on our horizon. It may be April, but the colours and temperature could be mistaken for an early Autumn day.
Cars this year are, as ever, a fabulous selection of familiar and unusual. Everyone a winner, but we had the chance to watch, see, chase and be chased by some real stunners on this section. One of our younger applicants this year is an electric blue 1973 Lancia Stratos, which the owner affectionately describes as ‘barking mad’. Briefly spotted in the rear view mirror, Harry desperately tried to find, point and shoot his camera before the blue peril disappeared out of sight around the next bend.
Top of the list for me, this year, a 1968 Iso Rivolta, painted fly yellow. Gorgeous to look at in the car park, but seeing this perfect shock of colour winding along the road, interspersed against the red sandstone rocks and lush green base of a long dry lake, was breath taking. History for the marquee is almost as interesting as the vehicle’s look. Renzo Rivolta was known for building fridges before WWII and expanded (or maybe that should be shrunk) into the iconic Isetta bubble car. Wanting to add a Grand Tourer to the portfolio, he smartly took the best aspects of various international components – American muscle in the Chevy small and big block engines, timeless elegance of Italian design by Giorgetto Giugiaro and French suspension from De Dion. This model’s provenance is particularly noteworthy as it was owned by a Dutch real estate mogul who was not only kidnapped, but negotiated his own $4M ransom payment!
Our route continued through a selection of little towns, including the affectionately named Strawberry, famous for being home to the oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona.
Lunch stop by the Roosevelt Lake, and a chance to compare adoration for the morning run before heading on to our afternoon. The roads continued to offer a glorious combination of twisties, sweeping bends and gorgeous vistas across lush high desert. Recommended gas stop in Mammoth, which unlike its California cousin is small and has no sign of any skiing in the vicinity. The afternoon is usually my time to navigate ( as it’s the only way I’ve found to stop dear cousin from taking an afternoon nap) so we were actually running ahead of schedule and able to take a quick detour to check out Biosphere Two before reaching Monday night’s rest stop. Unfortunately our timing was not good enough to manage a tour, but the information centre provided enough fascinating detail to ensure we’ll be back!
95 cars filled the Tempe stadium by early Friday evening. Another great selection, with a few wonderfully idiosyncratic inclusions to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of Copperstate 1000. As we caught up with friends, and watched the sun go down across third base, the general consensus was this could only be another fantastic event.
An early start today, thanks in equal part to excitement and sun creeping through window blinds I’d forgotten to close properly. The stadium car park was equally full of interesting cars, as this event has become a great reason for all the local gear heads and enthusiasts to bring their own vehicles out for inspection. Hot rods, muscle cars, genteel vintage and tricked out modern all played happily together as mutual appreciation conversations surrounded them.
At midday, we had the first drivers meeting; and within 30 minutes all engines were running & cars began their slow procession towards the starting flags. Although the run was shorter than usual, the organizers ensured that what we lacked in mileage would be more then made up for in variety of scenery & ideal highways.
Within ten minutes we were heading away from Phoenix and out towards long sweeping bends that would take us into the Ponderosa. The Egg was more than happy to keep up with her larger engined companions, however our joint enthusiasm was slightly dampened as I noticed the temperature gauge needle climbing a little too close to the redline for comfort. As she runs so smoothly now, it’s become almost impossible to remember that she’s a middle aged lady, and there’s always a little more acceleration available it seems! However, dropping back to a slower speed, and letting her coast down the hills as we enjoyed the quickly changing scenery soon resolved the problem. Unfortunately not everyone was quite so lucky, and we saluted a few other vehicles on the side of the road as we cruised along.
I continue to be surprised by how quickly the environment changes in this small state, and today’s journey was no exception. Sandstone oranges and reds soon replaced with gorgeous shades of green and purple as we headed to higher altitudes, and through little towns like Peyson & Strawberry. This was ranch land, as proven by some really impressive log cabins, and long dirt roads that seemed to lead nowhere!
Playing chase and be chased by a variety of other entrants, we both agreed the high spot of the journey was sitting behind a 1932 Lincoln Boattail speedster. The car was immaculate, with gorgeous sweeping lines that shouted Art Deco at the top of their lungs. Chatting with the owner later in the afternoon, I discovered that the coachwork was new and had been done in the style of two renowned american custom builders, Hibbard and Darrin, who worked in Paris in the late 20’s and early 30’s. Not only was the restoration stylistically correct, all materials used were correct for the period. It really is a piece of industrial art.
As the temperature continued to slowly drop, The Egg’s mood was unmistakably exuberant. This is her type of driving conditions, and we were rewarded with smooth handling at every corner and a final bug count on the bonnet, that easily ran into triple digits.
By the time we arrived at our final destination in Flagstaff, it was a case of follow the sunlight to ensure the remaining not so warm temperatures could be appreciated. Swapping stories, I was given a simple but worthwhile tip regarding engine temperature. If you’re concerned, rather than reading the gauge, stop and see how long you can hold the dipstick. More than 3 seconds, nothing to worry about. Hopefully I won’t need to test the theory tomorrow, but it’s good to know!
With The Egg happily packed in its carton and heading to AZ by yesterday lunchtime, I didn’t have much reason to update my blog before kick-off. Until, that is, hapless cousin arrived; and bought with him yet more internet gold.
Returning home last night I found his trousers on the driveway, iPad on the deck and an otherwise quiet house. Confused, I checked the garden shed (usual location for most lost Englishmen), but still no luck. As I reached for my cellphone, he bumbled into the kitchen, munching his way through a bag of crisps (US translation: chips) and proceeded to share his woeful tale of a lost iPhone. However, before you hit the “oh no” button, dear reader; I have to mention this is actually a replay of a conversation we had when he visited a couple of years ago.
My perfectly pre-ordered super shuttle picked him up and deposited him to the final destination. Unfortunately, the excitement to actually experience sunshine first hand was so great, he didn’t notice his phone sitting on the seat as he climbed out. Desperate to change into shorts and a dubious ensemble of purple socks and checked shirt (clearly doesn’t pay any attention to the Instagram reposts of great menswear looks I share with the world), his entire focus was Vitamin D.
The only glimmer of hope on the horizon was Apple’s genius development of GPS & synching. Forlornly he stared at the iPad, now taunting him with confirmation said phone was sitting somewhere in Glendale, as I called customer service to explain “our” predicament. One extremely helpful lady, later, and we had reassurance they’d do everything possible to reach the driver and make arrangements for a later return.
Jetlag provided Harry with an early morning start, and he was horrified to realise the phone had managed a round trip to both Burbank and LAX airport before 6:30am. With a quick nod of thanks to Apple, he used another apparently useful feature and made the thing start beeping as loudly as possible.
Which is why my morning started at 6:37am, with a call from a complete stranger, informing me had my phone. An interesting statement as I’d grumpily answered the thing 5 seconds earlier until he explained there was a message flashing to inform it was lost and who to contact. An electronic version of Paddington’s label, really.
The Rally Gods were fortunately smiling on us as man, phone and super shuttle were literally (if the iPad GPS was to be trusted) now less than a mile away en route to their next pick-up before heading back to LAX. I reassured the very nice voice at the end of my phone, we could be wherever they were in under 4 minutes, if only they would wait.
Which is why by 6:45am, I was driving through my neighbourhood in my PJ’s. In no mood for red lights before my first coffee, I opted for a couple of quick U-turns and reached our destination with almost 30 seconds to spare.
Back home, coffee in progress, and dearest cousin Harry mentions he’d travelled to Atlanta in February, and had managed to do the exact same thing AGAIN before returning to London.
Before I could deafen him with my silence, he smilingly pointed out, “look on the bright side; we’ve already had a quick practice run of dodgy navigation requires quick driving reflexes, just before this year’s event”
…..Remind me again, what would we do without family?!!
I’m not the world’s worst blogger, but after seeing how long it’s been since my last post, I may deserve the title of “World’s Second Worst Blogger”
It’s not that I don’t enjoy this pastime, the complete opposite is actually true….I just feel obligated to have something exciting to report to my three regular readers (Auntie Colleen, the Cat and some very nice person in the Los Feliz area) to warrant their ongoing support.
Fortunately they are in luck (although with said cat staring at the computer as I type, there is additional pressure to make this entry both interesting and typo free (extremely difficult when feline’s head seems to be constantly moving in time to the Stereophonics track playing in the background), as the automotive updates are considerable.
In no particular order –
Copperstate 2015. We’re in!! Again!! Woohoo, I AM Penelope Pitstop!!! Navigationally challenged cousin has already booked his flight from England and I’m considering purchasing socks with L & R stitched into them to help with this year’s map reading. Or, glue the map book to my arm in a slightly McGuyver fashion whilst he recounts stories of all the really interesting things he can see out of the window that are totally irrelevant to our journey. Better still, it’s 25th anniversary for the event, so an extra driving day has been added. What more could a girl ask for?!
Talking of anniversaries – The Egg and I hit a pretty impressive milestone in the past few months, as we’re both 50. I know this to be true as I treated her to a certificate of authenticity last year, and I had a big party this past January. Happy to report that other than minor modifications for each of us (she’s been painted a couple of times since new, I now consider the hair salon a necessity rather than an option), we’re both essentially factory originals. Can’t help feeling the gap will start to widen in her favour over the next few years, but c’est la vie!
Following Copperstate 2014, I planned to start fixing some of the more cosmetic issues (after all, we are – sorry, SHE IS 50). Fortunately our Egg Doctor decided to check her in case any other problems may have appeared following the 1000 miles we added to the engine. After a thorough examination he subsequently made an executive decision to replace the kingpins, due to concern there was just a little too much play as we took the corners. Knowing enough to appreciate the importance of a round hole versus an oval where this particular car part is concerned, I was only too happy to support the plan. Once I had the keys back, I was completely overjoyed….because, I love The Egg; and have forced my closer friends to suffer the song I wrote to celebrate this particular fact.
It’s a simple song, consisting of that one line repeated over and over, at the top of my voice with no discernible note in tune and clearly I should not be giving up my day job anytime soon. On the drive back from Torrence, I not only sang this catchy little number, but had added enough choruses to justify a 12″ extended remix with possibly a second version from Mark Ronson chucked in for good measure…the difference was INCREDIBLE.
Faster, more responsive, no slight wandering irrespective of speed or road surface, she now glides round the corners better than I could ever have imagined. It’s as if I have my own Outlaw – a brand new car in a vintage body. The Egg Doctor assured me she was now bullet proof, and with every additional mile I’ve added since; he’s been proven 110% correct. The only thing stopping me from considering more road trips is finding people to join me, as this car is unstoppable!!!
Additional highlights of the past few months also included a couple of fantastic driving events by the most exciting addition to the automotive magazine world; Petrolicious. If you are not familiar, please check them out at http://www.petrolicious.com – as the variety of articles, information and fabulous car photos are superb. Better still, they not only like to write about driving, they’re happy to organize it for the rest of us! I’ll expand on both events in future posts, but in the meantime – please give them some support.
Maximus Felines is now sitting asleep next to me, so I’m tentatively hopeful he considers my return to the digital age worthwhile. Auntie Colleen is currently asleep in England (& ” you know how much I hate those computer things, so don’t forget to post me a copy”), so thanks in advance my dear Los Feliz reader and I hope this made you smile.
…..due to this year’s Copperstate being so much fun, with longer driving days and more conversational nights, my plan to blog during the event disappeared almost as soon as we arrived at the Tempe stadium on Saturday afternoon. However, knowing the cat and Auntie Colleen are still expecting an update, I’ll be playing apologetic catch-up over the upcoming days!
Familiar faces, another collection of impressive cars eager to hit the road, smiles, handshakes and welcomes to the newbies. As this year’s rally number was added to the Egg, my cousin and I found ourselves enjoying the realization of what was to come. We spent the afternoon wandering the field and taking in the combination of vehicles we’d be sharing the roads with; before heading off to dinner.
Yet again, the event started with a wonderful evening at the Phoenix Art museum, where the successful exhibition “Hollywood Costume” was on display and available for us to enjoy at a leisurely pace; before dinner and happy reconnections with fellow Copperstaters. Although I’ve worked in the film business for over two decades, I still appreciate the elements involved to create that wonderful make-believe world, and the selection of costumes on show bought back some great cinematic memories.
Our co-chairmen for this year’s event gave an overview of the upcoming few days. As ever, the driving routes promised to give us plenty of switchbacks, undulating curves, spectacular scenery and FUN! The Highway Patrol officers who keep a quiet eye on us and the roads we’ll be enjoying were introduced, and I could sense everyone slipping into Copperstate mode as smiles grew more apparent. It was going to be another great event.
The team involved to give us this amazing opportunity, are truly fantastic. The Men’s Arts Council pulls together an extraordinary group of volunteers – mechanics, luggage transport & tow drivers – some at least we all hope we’re not going to need the support of, but are so grateful to have! A team of enthusiasts, who help to remind all of us how lucky we are to be able to enjoy Arizona in such a unique way.
With a week to go, the Copperstate excitement is inevitably mounting. I collected the Egg last Saturday, following her quick once/twice maybe thrice over to ensure that all aspects of the Safety check would be passed, and enjoyed a glorious drive back from Klasse 356 (more of that in another post!)
Wanting as much driving as possible before the event, I pulled her out again for a quick jaunt over the hill, today. Traffic reasonable, weather idyllic, it was almost possible to forget we had another earthquake here a couple of days ago! Waiting to pull away from an intersection, I was suddenly overtaken by a really unattractive, big, black, thing. Unfortunately for the car, I then spotted the unmistakable prancing horse in the middle of the boot….and mild amusement was immediately replaced with abject horror. THAT was a Ferrari??
In less than a couple of blocks, I found myself sitting behind this automotive mistake. The tail lights glared accusingly as I mouthed “UG-ER-LEE” in response. Clearly the designer had been quietly and unsuccessfully breeding BMW Z4’s with Jaguar F Type’s in his garden shed. And then I saw it…the worst angle of all!
Car and driver turned left and, for a moment, I had a perfect shot of the three quarter, haunch to nose. Except, the length and rather odd curves immediately made me think of a low rider jeans and muffin tops….probably not the image one should attach to a $300k plus price-tag. I realized I was looking at their contribution to the family hatchback four door market, which is supposed to take you from grocery shopping to racetrack without breaking a sweat; but this thing seemed as uncomfortable as middle aged men still trying to pull of skinny jeans when they are not fit, thin or in a really successful rock band (and even then, it’s a stretch). Worse still, it’s called the FF; which I can only translate into “F***ing Fail”
Fortunately I was able to re-calibrate my Ferrari world a couple of hours later, when I updated the brilliant Copperstate app (available for iPhone and Android – check it out) and viewed a collection of fabulous models that will be enjoying the roads of Arizona with the Egg, next week. Call me a traditionalist, or maybe a car design Luddite; but there is something so elegant and timeless when you combine Pininfarina with the mid 60’s!
Wednesday arrived, and with it the final leg of the 1000 miles of this year’s Copperstate. We had almost made it out of the hotel car park before the mechanical cousin realized he’d left his cell phone happily charging in the breakfast room. Fortunately I have excellent turning and reversing skills, so we returned, retrieved…and headed off again.
Through Sedona, only to be met with extremely bad traffic. Living in LA, this is not an unusual experience; unfortunately we soon discovered the cause was not regular congestion, but an accident involving one of the Copperstate Highway Patrol. All emergency services had come out to help one of their own, a reassuring but still worrying sight. We later discovered what had happened – turning into a forecourt to check on another entrant, the Patrol officer was hit by a driver who decided to pull straight into traffic without stopping to look first. There was no time to take any avoiding action, and serious injuries were sustained. A situation I’ll revisit later.
Our ultimate destination was Scottsdale, and the morning route took us out to and through Prescott, and with it more stunning scenery, charming old towns and happy waving people as we drove through. The weather couldn’t have been better if we’d special ordered it. Moderate temperatures meant the Egg’s “two windows down” air conditioner was all we needed, as we meandered along small single track roads with only other Copperstaters for company. It was difficult to believe we’d already covered almost 800 miles in a 49 year old car, she was literally singing like Maria as we cornered every bend; and everything about the performance continued to improve the further we drove. We kept pushing the distance between gas stops, for no other reason than she was running more and more efficiently; maintaining a speed of anything from 65 – 80 mph was simple, because that’s where the car wanted to be. “She’ll be bulletproof”, the Egg Doctor told me, and he was absolutely correct!
The last stretch of the morning took us up and down and through switchbacks coming into Bagdad. As this section had been included last year, I was delighted to see it again, and just as happy to let my mechanical cousin drive, and enjoy watching him enjoy the experience. He smiles a great deal anyway, but by the time we reached our lunch spot, I was sharing the car with a human equivalent of the Cheshire Cat. Good times.
There are some great cars, and some really great drivers on this event. One of which was a professional Porsche racing instructor/racer; who very generously offered to let Harry ride shotgun for the afternoon in his exquisite Jaguar XK150 OTS. The remainder of the route was easy enough for me to navigate and drive, so I reassured him that I’d be fine. He left, I continued chatting with friends…but there was just something that didn’t feel quite right. Sipping coffee, I replayed the late morning….switchbacks, happy cousin, pull into car park, get out of passenger seat…happy cousin locks car and we walk into restaurant…happy cousin has my car keys. Happy cousin has gone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In less time than it takes to shout “get out of my way”; I left my seat, sprinted (much to my amazement, had absolutely no idea I could move that fast) and found the Jag literally about to disappear into the wild blue yonder. One “oops” later from the family member, before they disappeared in a roar of engine, and normal service was resumed.
The final leg from Bagdad to Scottsdale was a great combination of open scenery that stretched for low desert miles in either direction, with occasional bursts of small towns. At one point it was just me and the Egg, cruising happily along a route that was so quiet, I wondered if maybe I’d accidentally taken a wrong turning and stumbled into somewhere the world had forgotten about. Time has a different meaning in this situation. No radio, no need or desire to be glued to some electronic device, a watch that I inevitably forget to wind most mornings…all I could do was just enjoy the moment and the environment. Through Wickenberg, every speed limit was fastidiously observed – as the local constabulary had politely alerted us that any decision not to do that would be dealt with appropriately. The Copperstate isn’t a race, it’s a rally – but when you’re presented with perfect driving conditions, and long inviting roads, it’s easy to forget that there are limits we’re expected to maintain!
One final section before reaching the outskirts of Scottsdale included another change of scenery; driving through Peoria and the tall pines were back. A few miles that reminded me again of Europe, before coming back into the early afternoon heat and sunshine that everyone associates with AZ. I pulled into the car park, and was quickly amused to discover that I’d beaten the XK150….which explained the stationary flash of red I’d spotted on the way out of Wickenberg!! My tortoise to their hare, clearly benefitting from the classic F1 move of the when to fuel. How often it all comes down to time spent (or not) in the pits 🙂
Snowy conditions……my favourite! That news greeted us over the coffee and croissants for Tuesday’s breakfast, and presented a few more options for all of us than initially expected. Our route was to take us up to an elevation of at least 8000 feet, so the weather change shouldn’t be ignored. A quiet review of road conditions with the mechanical cousin, based on the theory:
- We had The Egg (German engineering)
- All weather tyres (rain and snow no issue), and
- Two drivers born in England (bad weather is synonymous with our cultural identity)
Left us flipping a coin and deciding we’d chance our luck until it ran out, and take the original mapped route.
Heading through Flagstaff, we seemed to be driving for an awfully long time with nothing listed in the route book, showing up on our horizon. With no visible landmarks, there seemed to be only one option – good old Google maps. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to offer the immediately expected result, so I decided that old school was the last resort. We pulled into a garage forecourt, and I headed inside with the route book and was happy to discover that we had done nothing more than overshoot a turning about four miles earlier.
At this point, I should also mention that my mechanical cousin is many things….all good….but keen navigator is not one of them. It’s not that he can’t navigate, he just occasionally forgets. Not a serious problem, but certainly added a level of excitement throughout our entire trip. By the time we retraced our steps and found the right track, we’d eaten up about an hour and better still, given the sun enough time to start drying out the road.
And what a road…..forty plus miles of gently undulating curves that took us up and over a mountain pass. Tall pines and the occasional deer our only companions as we headed through some of the most desolately beautiful countryside of the entire rally. Our plan paid off, as we made it all the way to the lunchtime stop, an airplane museum in Valle. Now on the other side of a mountain, weather conditions had changed from cold and snowy to just as cold wind, a not completely welcome change. Lunch was a welcome break before heading off to our next exploration, the big ditch.
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for eighteen years, and am embarrassed to admit that I have not seen the Grand Canyon. Many trips to Las Vegas, and yet there never seemed to be the time or inclination to add it to the itinerary. Having seen so many photographs, there’s a sense of familiarity which may be the reason….but all of that changed on Tuesday afternoon as we paraded through the Grand Canyon National Park.
Stopping at the first recommended viewing point, I finally managed to see it with my own eyes, and the only word I could come up with seemed to be “wow”; which obviously falls short of any real description, but if you’ve seen what the locals affectionately call ‘The Big Ditch’, you will understand. Photo opportunities were perfect as we reached our destination early enough in the afternoon for the combination of sun and shadow to play across this natural wonder.
Our cruise back to Sedona continued the slightly alpine theme, from the vegetation at least. The last few miles coming back into the valley was breathtaking…..the layers of red sandstone forming beautiful rocks that are so unusual it’s tempting to expect Tim Burton’s Martians to be hiding in crevices. Or maybe I’ve been living in LA too long!!!
Story swapping back at base was a mixed affair. Those who opted for the alternative route were either relieved or disappointed to find out what we experienced. After all, being in a convertible when the top almost works is not really conducive to winter climates. For a few others, the realization that if The Egg could do it, so should they was a little more bittersweet. Best news, no real casualties either way; which is all that everyone hopes for by the time cocktail hour arrives.
The plan every morning has been to start an hour earlier than everyone else, just to ensure that I have some feeling of distance (if not accomplishment) by the time the pack starts hurtling past. Although I’m driving a 356 Porsche with the larger 1600cc engine; in the company of the other 74 entrants I’m in the automotive equivalent of a lawnmower! However, please don’t think this is a complaint, because there really is a perverse kind of pleasure when a 911S, any number of Ferrari’s, Shelby Cobra…..and the list goes on…..roars past. The sound of engines against the relative silence of our surroundings is a automotive audiophile’s dream!
So, Tuesday’s driving consisted of a 300 mile loop from Tucson, south towards the Mexico border and then back again. Within 15 minutes of leaving our hotel, the roads were taking us through national parkland. The only proof of local residence was occasional lines of mailboxes in line on the roadside, and the terrain was a collection of mesquite trees and high desert scrub. I had assumed, wrongly, that Arizona would resemble California, so the varieties of different plants and colours have been a continued surprise throughout this trip.
Heading through a corner, we came to a sadly familiar sight; one vintage car, mechanics truck and collection of heads in a downward direction around an open bonnet (hood). This particular entrant was a 330 Ferrari…that was usually only spotted in the car park at either end of the day. Mark, the driver, waved us down; and in my typical English fashion I politely asked if there was anything we could do to help. With the collection brain trust around the car already, and my technical knowledge limited to being able to recognize the difference between a spark-plug and a distributor cap, this was probably a stretch…but the Copperstate engenders a sense of camaraderie and support that’s as much a part of the event as the road under rubber. Mark nodded, and then announced loudly, “we need your toolkit!!”
The remaining brain trust looked a little mystified, until I produced my treasure. Nods of appreciation, followed by assurances that “this will do” confirmed the words of wisdom I’d been given by the boys at TRE…I may not have the remotest idea what’s in my bag of tricks, but the professionals will, and we just received two thumbs up!
The car was soon running again, and so we all headed on together towards our lunch break at Sonita. Heading towards Nogales, the presence of Border Patrol started in to noticeably increase. Initially there would be the occasional van parked on the side of the road, but as the ranch country expanded into even greater swathes of nothingness, we suddenly found ourselves being required to stop for a full scale border patrol check. Serious looking men with guns and dogs watched as we slowly crept through their checkpoint; and I had to hold back the overwhelming desire to confess to something, anything; simply because they were SO scary!
Unfortunately the dulcet tones of the Egg started to take on a slightly more “too much curry last night” tone as we drove towards Patagonia. Backfiring and burping, and then finally just gliding to an elegant stop. By this time Mark and the Ferrari had become Mark and the Lexus, as his car had also stopped again not to be easily revived; so he kindly collected us and the Egg continued the rest of her journey on the back of a tow truck.
Our afternoon took us through the barren wasteland that is Fort Huachuca. A fully functional fort, its also some of the most desolate scenery we had for the entire trip. The Fort’s history is varied, as it was the headquarters for the famed Buffalo Soldiers as well as the training base for U-2 pilots. For us it took a slightly more entertaining turn, when coming down a particularly windy road, we found the real-life equivalent of the wacky races. At the bottom of a t-junction we found the D-Type, GTO, one of the 911’s and Shelby GT350 all parked in different directions. Some were holding maps, the others waving smart phones helplessly begging the Googlemap gods to answer…everyone was lost! The fort seems to take stealth training very seriously as road signs are virtually non-existent, so in the end we opted for the low tech version of GPS – coin flip and people’s vote. Not technical, but eventually successful!
My day ended with a mechanical conflab. Again, these guys are all volunteers, and they are total rock stars. A combination of experience from Hot Rods to high end restoration, which ensures no car is too complicated to be dealt with. Chad assured me that they’d look over the Egg and do everything possible to have her ready to drive the next morning. Unfortunately the late night update wasn’t so good. A combination of aluminium (AL–OOO-MIN-EE-UM) on one of the plugs and arcing ignition wires suggested something a little more serious than the blocked oil filter or carb gasket problem I’d been wishing for. Once again, Copperstate to the rescue. Although it wasn’t part of my plan, they had a number of loaner cars that are available for participants; so we’d have a Lexus available to complete the last day and reach our return destination of Phoenix. My trusty Triple A card ensured that the Egg had a flatbed trip all the way back to our final location, which she shared with a rather handsome Italian, so she couldn’t really complain either!
Fortunately this isn’t the Oscars…so I can take as long as needed to raise my hat to the various friends, family and complete strangers who inspired, intrigued and influenced to bring me to this point!!
Without question, the first nod of appreciation has to go to a family whose name I cannot remember. They lived in the same village as us back before decimalization had even been invented, and owned a pillar box red Morris Minor Traveller. I was completely enamoured by that car, and regularly daydreamed about adventures that could be possible, if only it were mine! In fact that experience would happen some years later, as my very first car was a 1958 Morris Minor. Grey, four door and affectionately known as Isabelle.
If the Morris offered reliable long distance travel, then the MGB provided a far more exotic sensation. Enter Auntie Colleen…she was an model for a couture house in London in the 50’s/60’s, and maintained the poise and elegance that came with her career long after it was replaced with other opportunities. Whenever I think of Auntie Colleen, the indelible image of her standing in front of a white MGB (complete opposite to Henry Ford – she would drive any colour of MG, as long as….), raven black hair pinned into a chignon and always wearing driving gloves. The car was just as elegant, especially in the summer with the top down. Her inspiration stayed with me, as the first car I owned when I came to LA was a 1978 bright yellow MGB Roadster. Less than 35,000 original miles on the clock, and the pride & joy of her previous female owner. I named her Benina Banana, and we had five happy years & many additional miles of fun together. Ironically she’s back in England now, being looked after by another friend who continues the trend of driving and smiling.
Back to my childhood, when the sporting theme was then amped up a notch with the arrival of one Mike Hasted’s Silver Aston Martin DB something. Seeing a real person driving James Bond’s car, in Norfolk of all places, was mesmerizing. This was also the first car that connected sound to picture for me. I’d always been drawn to their shapes or colours, but suddenly I started to register the more subtle aspect as I’d hear the engine pulling away.
Teen years… enter first boyfriend, Anthony Fraser. First boyfriend’s father had a garage with a Lancia Fulvia in it, and was also editor of a magazine called Car during the early 70’s. So, now not only was I expanding my appreciation of various nationalities heritage; I had discovered the concept of the enthusiast. Clearly the family shared the car magazine gene, as Anthony subsequently became a great car photographer, and his older brother joined the enviable ranks of motoring journalist!
To confuse things a little further, there was another Ian Fraser…this one drove a Ferrari (no idea which model, it was just red). Nothing more entertaining than Ian Fraser #2 visiting my parents at the weekend, climbing out of said car then staring suspiciously as the sky. If there was the remotest hint of rain, he would climb back in the car and disappear back down the driveway….sometimes with a wave, sometimes not. Enter the serious collector!
And then of course, there was my mechanical cousin, Harry. I used to love spending time in the garage watching him work on the engine of his pastel yellow Volvo 1800. Not quite as smooth as Roger Moore, but I also have to thank Harry for introducing me to Wagner (hard sell), Beethoven (instantly smitten) and the realization that anyone can own an old car!
My later teen years were also serenaded with the dulcet tones of Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit. We had moved to a village called Garboldisham, and less than 10 miles away was a little village with a big track. Summer afternoons would often be permeated with the low rumble of carts, cars or motorcycles & I was so disappointed to discover years later just how close & yet so far I was from the truly beautiful and brilliant Ayrton Senna in the early 80’s, as his career was just starting out.
Early to mid twenties….a series of company cars, with a couple of honourable mentions…my black VW Sirrocco, that offset the blonde hair period I was going through quite nicely, and resulted in some very entertaining chases on the A140 or A143 as I’d head down to Suffolk. I’ve often wondered how life may have been impacted if I hadn’t turned off to Woodbridge that one particular summer evening after reaching the roundabout just before mystery man in his Jag….
Second mention was my faithful Audi 80. I could and would drive for hours in that car….nothing she liked more than Friday night, hitting the M1 at about 7ish and heading up to Nottingham to visit my then boyfriend. Each time I took that journey, I’d try to reduce the time by minutes. The plan was going really well until I found myself travelling at 120 mph one evening and not completely sure whether the car was still connected to the tarmac in the same way it had been 20 miles slower…slight boat sensation as the car swayed convinced me that there was a need for speed, just not quite that much of it!
Los Angeles introduced me to the concept of car culture and along the way I’ve been lucky enough to meet a number of great car & motorbike collectors, racers and restorers. Each one adding a little thread of new information and understanding that has kept my interest and appreciation going.
So, to everyone that has nudged me along the path to my current adventure with The Egg, I say thank you!