For this professional classic car adventurer, going the distance is only half the fun
The Rush to Gold Bridge is not an event for the faint of heart. Over three days, participants and their classic cars face hundreds of miles of mixed tarmac and gravel in remote parts of British Columbia. The route is pre-planned, but conditions on the day of could present surprise challenges.
“I really hope the forest service road is passable this year,” says Dave Hord, “It’s a long detour around if it isn’t.”
As the event organizer, did he not perhaps think of checking things out the week before?
“I never pre-sweep the gravel sections for the Rush to Gold Bridge,” Dave says with a grin, “Where’s the adventure in that?”
Hord, a Hagerty partner, is the owner of Classic Car Adventures, a company that puts together budget-friendly tours in British Columbia, Washington, Ontario, Colorado, and Oregon. He’s also one of the driving forces behind the Hagerty Touring Series, a similar idea which blend in events with a slightly more upscale bent, like the Amelia Island or Bust tour.
Dave is well organized and meticulous. Last year, he logged exactly 37,621 miles of driving, combining events and planning with additional 15,000 miles of personal mileage. He handled bookings and cancellations, printed out route books, adjusted for re-routes because of road closures, accounted for last-minute participant substitutions, and planned meals and accommodation for events with more than a hundred participants. He is cheerful, personable, competent, and resourceful.
But here’s the somewhat open secret. When it comes to cars, Dave—as you may have surmised—is slightly deranged. The night before the Rush to Gold Bridge started out, for instance, he wasn’t carefully stacking route books nor heading to bed early. Instead, he was dropping the fuel tank for an all-nighter emergency repair on a slightly ratty Ford Falcon. He’d bought the car specifically for the trip, and it had already broken twice. He fixed it once, but the driveline exploded before he got out of town.
This series of events did not perturb him. Hord doesn’t just curate adventurous driving in classic cars, he lives it. Most of the mileage he does is in one of a trio of 1970s Super Beetles he owns. It is not uncommon for the car he’s driving during an event—for which he is the organizer—to require a roadside repair. Many suspect he even likes breaking down.
He was certainly cheerful when he turned up at the side of my own roadside breakdown, five years ago. My dad and I had decided to sign up for the Spring Thaw, an all-tarmac event held early in the year that’s supposed to function as a shakedown test for the happy summer of motoring ahead. Our 1967 MGB had stumbled twice already and called time in the middle of nowhere, halfway through the second day of the weekend. We were feeling pretty glum.
Hord was absolutely delighted.
“Aha!” he cried, “Now you’re getting the full experience!”
He wasn’t the only one to stop. In fact, every fellow participant who saw us pulled over and pitched in. In fifteen minutes or so, we had the stricken ‘B diagnosed, patched together, and running again with an auxiliary fuel pump taped to the valve cover. It was great. His giddiness started to make sense.
“I like to feel that I’m introducing people to an adventurous side of themselves that they didn’t really know about, or forgot they had,” he told me later. He says that a highlight of this year’s Rush to Gold Bridge was seeing a couple of Triumph owners who had signed up for the tarmac-only portion dipping their toes onto the gravel.
Hord’s events have a no-man-left-behind feel. It’s a society of rueful grins, shared roads, and stories told about heroic repairs on the side of the road. Everyone has a tale about a time when something went wrong, about limping into town on half a gearbox, about staying up late chasing down electrical gremlins.
Beyond the camaraderie of nursing along a stricken car, the sheer delight of an epic road trip shared with friends is its own reward. When everything goes well, there’s no better feeling than seeing a curving road ahead, dotted with vintage metal and like-minded people who understand and appreciate Lucas Electrics jokes.
“If you’ve seen the Eric Bana movie, Love the Beast, there’s a part where he says his Falcon was like a campfire for him and his friends. That’s the way I’ve always seen it,” Dave explains. “Cars are the things my friends and family can gather around.”
It makes sense that all this wild adventuring sprang from a friendship. Hord and his buddy Warwick Patterson founded Classic Car Adventures more than a decade ago, not so much as a business idea, but as a way to get a few friends out for organized trips without breaking the bank. Hord bought Patterson out in 2013, when the latter’s filming company grew to require undivided attention. Dave took over CCA full-time but has endeavored to retain its grassroots ethos.
“The Rush to Gold Bridge has always been the one event where the best we hope for is to just break even,” he says, “It’s how we started, just a couple of buddies hoping to get through a fun weekend and not lose too much money.”
This year, Dave’s mileage is about a third of what he normally racks up. By March, pandemic-related restrictions spurred along an initial cancellation of 2020’s events. This year was intended as a big growth period for the CCA, perhaps with additional full-time employees, but all of that was put on hold. Some restrictions have eased slightly in the last couple of months, allowing for small gatherings that must adhere to strict rules.
“We really spent a lot of time figuring out how we could safely get people out enjoying their cars again,” Hord says, “I’m just happy we can run smaller events right now, following the rules but still enjoying some great roads.”
What 2021 has in store is still up in the air. The Spring Thaw, for instance, is currently too large to run as a single event under standing regulations, so it might have to be split up. Smaller events make less sense from a business perspective, and there’s the question of how travel might work for the farther-flung prospects. Nevertheless, just as he is when staring under the hood of a broken-down classic, Hord is optimistic.
“I figure I just run the events, hope to break even, not worry too much about my mortgage and see how things flow,” he says, “That’s how we started, and it all just kind of fell into place.”
He laughs. “If it turns out I do have to worry about my mortgage, well then I’ve got a small collection of not-very-valuable cars I can sell to help pay for it. And I’ve still got a huge file-folder full of what I call my Bucket List Adventures.”
This year, everyone finished the Rush to Gold Bridge. There was one Rover P6 that required emergency repairs, and Hord’s Falcon wasn’t the only car not to make the start. The crew made new memories, renewed friendships. Hord had to catch a ride back home in a Miata this time, which was not his first choice. Too reliable, maybe. But once again, he went the distance.