Amelia or Bust: Wrenching is half the fun for this road-tripping Alfa owner

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Kayla Keenan

Those in the know call them “Dave Roads.” Anyone who has ever been on the Amelia Island or Bust Tour knows that’s shorthand for roads that have no lines and very few signs—curvy, undulating, on-the-edge-of-your-seat roads with sharp turns, fast inclines, and sudden drops. Exhilarating for the driver but sometimes a white-knuckle, hold-your-breath experience for the navigator.

These are the roads that course designer Dave Hord lives for. So when he labeled day two of this year’s 1000-mile tour from the Manassas, Virginia, to Florida a “driver’s day,” that meant just one thing: lots of Dave Roads. And he enjoyed them in a 1984 Porsche 911 Targa, the perfect precision machine to tackle roads like these.

“When you drive them well they’re really rewarding; if you don’t drive them well they can be frustrating,” Hord says of this winding section of asphalt through the Blue Ridge Mountains. “Since we have so many different kinds of cars on the tour, some people choose to skip them for a straighter route. But in the right car, they’re so much fun.” Judging from the enthusiasm of his fellow drivers, he isn’t the only one who thinks so.

One of those drivers had to wait a little longer than the others to experience that exhilaration. Aaron Meisner, a four-year veteran of the tour, ran into a little trouble with his 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider before reaching the first Dave Road of the day. But, surprisingly, he wasn’t complaining. He loves getting his hands dirty and fixing a problem himself.

alfa roadside maintenance car jack
Josh Sweeney

Meisner, who lives in Baltimore, has driven a different car in each tour—a BMW Z4 Coupe, Ferrari 308, Jaguar E-Type, and now the Alfa. Although Hord warns all drivers to test their car with a 200-mile jaunt before arriving for the Amelia Island or Bust Tour, Meisner pushed the envelope a bit. He purchased the Alfa from Bring a Trailer on Christmas Eve—he and his wife hope to tour Sicily in it after their third child heads off to college—and as soon as the roadster arrived he began readying it for the tour.

“Of course, they’re never quite what you’re hoping they’ll be,” Meisner says. “So I tried to address everything I thought might fail. I put in a new alternator, water pump, and LED headlights, sorted the electrical system—just anything I thought was a vulnerable from a reliability standpoint.”

Meisner also wanted heated seats, so he ordered everything that he’d need … while secretly hoping the parts wouldn’t arrive until after he’d left.

“My worst fear was they’d show up 72 hours before I’d go on the tour, because I’d want to put them in, and of course that’s exactly what happened. Having never done upholstery before, I spent three days disassembling and assembling the seats—and finished the night before I left. And I’m glad I did.”

Amelia Trip Alfa seats
Aaron Meisner

That’s because he immediately dropped the top for the tour, even with temperatures in the 30s. The weather was warmer on day two—a fortunate development, because Meisner had some roadside work to do.

“I started to smell fuel, and in my experience with old cars the smell of fuel is a problem that never goes away on its own,” he says. “So we pulled over on the side of the road. I initially assumed it was one of my own repairs gone bad, but it turned out to be a fuel hose that I hadn’t gotten to service.”

Meisner had everything to fix the ruptured fuel line … except the fuel line itself. Fellow tour participants David Geisinger and Aimee Cardwell came to his rescue, locating a NAPA Service Center, which gave them a 3/8-inch fuel line. They also purchased a couple of clips, and before long Meisner had the Alfa back on the road.

fluid drip car maintenance
Josh Sweeney
engine bay work roadside maintenance
Josh Sweeney

“The line I pulled was clearly labeled ‘not intended for fuel injection,’” he says with a laugh. “The pressure was too much for it.”

Not for Meisner.

“Part of the joy of driving these older cars isn’t just getting to your destination but getting to your destination in a car that no reasonable person thinks will make it,” he says. “It’s infinitely more gratifying having overcome those challenges.”

And in time to enjoy the Dave Roads.

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