3 for the road: College pals drive a ’67 Camaro across America

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In 100-degree temps in Monument Valley, Utah, the Camaro stalls several times, obstructing traffic. A lot of other tourists stop to photograph our red Camaro in the red desert landscape, so no one seems to mind if we’re in the way. Olivia Hagerty

The starting line—New York City traffic. Today is the day when the rubber finally meets the road, the beginning of our 21-day journey from Manhattan to San Francisco. I’ve assembled the perfect team of road trip companions; the three of us represent the East Coast, the Midwest, and the West Coast. Lua, 21, from Brooklyn, New York, got her driver’s license about a month ago for the sole purpose of coming on this trip. I’m also 21, from Traverse City, Michigan, where I grew up driving old cars on open country roads. Aniza, 23, from San Luis Obispo, California, has arguably more driving experience than Lua and I combined.

We wanted to see the country on our own terms, before we are all card-carrying adults, and we scored the perfect car, a bright red, 1967 Camaro convertible. What we give up in air-conditioning and comfort, we gain in style. We are in the car for not even five minutes before we are getting thumbs-up and hoots and hollers from strangers and having conversations with people at stoplights.

“ ’69?” other drivers ask. “No, ’67!” we yell in unison. We even have two guys offer us “foot rubs for life” in exchange for a ride in the car. Tempting, but no thanks.

camaro in brooklyn
On the cobblestones of Brooklyn, Lua, Aniza, and I discuss road-tripping strategy before we depart N.Y.C. in the Camaro. Did everyone pack sunscreen? DW Burnett

Once we’re clear of the metro area, we start figuring out how to gauge our travel time. Although the Camaro is running beautifully, it’s best not to push it. The “five-hour drive” on our cell-phone maps might end up being a “seven-hour-plus drive” in this 50-year-old car driven by three friends who are in no particular hurry. So we’re going to take it easy, factor in food stops, leg stretching, and pee breaks. And fuel stops, because the 350 V-8 burns through gas like bone-dry kindling to a flame. As for night driving, we’re going to do our best to avoid it. With quite possibly the worst headlights known to humankind, we would probably be better off driving by candlelight.

We make it to Lexington, Virginia, that night. After we park the car, check into our hotel, and plop onto our beds, I experience a strange physical sensation: When I close my eyes, I still feel the pull of forward momentum, as though we’re still driving. A car like the Camaro will do that to you, especially if you’ve had the top down all day. Lua and Aniza have opened a road atlas and are plotting tomorrow’s route southwest toward Nashville; 100 miles on paper might seem like nothing, but this sort of road trip will change your perceptions of distance. Where do we go? Suddenly, with the maps in front of us, 21 days doesn’t seem like that long.

We had no idea we’d look back and call Little Rock, Arkansas, one of our favorite stops. Nor could we have anticipated how we would get to know the idiosyncrasies and of the Camaro and think of it as a friend. The car was much more to us than simply a way to get across the country.

Since the three of us are all art students, in love with cameras, film, and images, I’ll tell you the rest of the story through the following photos and captions. I can’t wait to hit the road again.

small town in Chihuahuan Desert with concrete sculptures
When we were planning our journey, Marfa, Texas, was on the top of our list. The small town in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert is a haven for artists and home to the Donald Judd Foundation, where you can find large public art installations, like these concrete sculptures. Olivia Hagerty

camaro on the road
The San Francisco fog and cool breezes are a sweet relief from the scorching desert heat that we endured as we made our way across the southwest. DW Burnett

texas longhorns
A herd of Texas longhorn in— where else?— Texas. We are all working on fine arts degrees and have brought along a variety of film and digital cameras to take advantage of the photography opportunities. Olivia Hagerty

food on a camaro hood
Hot fried chicken served on a hot hood in Nashville. Olivia Hagerty

salt lick bbq in driftwood texas
At the Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas, a pit master uses a mop to drench the slow- smoking racks of ribs in their famous sauce. The smell of smoke can be detected miles down the road. Olivia Hagerty

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico
The incomparable White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Olivia Hagerty

caught in rainstorm in arkansas
Somewhere in Arkansas, heavy rain floods the roads. Our windshield fogs up, so we pull into an abandoned gas station to wait out the storm. Aniza Iniguez

driving a camaro
Olivia at the wheel. We’ve had the top up much of the time, especially in the southwest, as desert sun and black vinyl seats are not a great combination. Some days, the heat was so intense, we had to sit on towels and wrap wet bandanas around our necks. Aniza Iniguez

camaro on a flatbed
The good news is, the Camaro made it all the way across the country. The bad news is, the brakes failed in Los Angeles. Hagerty Roadside flatbeds it to a nearby re- pair shop, and we are good to go late the next morning. Lua Beaulieu

camaro on the road in san francisco
We reach the Presidio in San Francisco, a city with a climate that’s ideal for putting your convertible’s top down. DW Burnett

golden gate bridge and camaro
From the Brooklyn Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge: After 5000 circuitous miles on America’s highways and byways, we are in awe that we’ve made it safely to San Francisco. DW Burnett

 

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