Ed R

Prove It

Four in the morning, my eyes open. Some insurance agent made a bold claim, my mind is gnawing at it. I'd like to believe him, but words come cheap. Today will prove it out, or not.

The wife is out of town, she took both dogs. Our cabin, hidden in a Northern California Sierra pine forest, is very quiet. I hear a seductive, soft voice . . . like a warm breath of air on a cool night.

My shrink tells me to ignore voices that don't come from vocal cords. He drives a late model four door sedan with a solid top. What does he know.

Again the voice, a bit harsher, more urgency. "Drive me!"

In the garage, a vintage British roadster. The top is down, the car is washed, engine oil is topped off insuring the cement floor will be well lubricated.

"Drive . . .", I cut it off.

"For crying out loud, you can wait fifteen minutes". I hate pushy voices.

Tee shirt and jeans, water splashed on the face, comb run through a ragged mop. I look in the mirror, no encouragement there. Coffee. Yesterday's cup still has some in it. I zap it for heat and pick up a donut. A bite out of that reminds me the wheel bearings should be repacked with grease.

The garage door is opened, I smile. She really is nice looking.

"She?" Where does that come from? Too many attractive curves to think otherwise I guess.

The cockpit is protected by a tonneau cover, both halves are unsnapped then folded back behind the leather seats. I drop in, turn on the ignition switch, set the choke, pull the starter cable. The engine fires, the car idles down the gravel road between properties. RPMs are low, the neighbors get cranky when awakened before dawn.

Open road, down the mountain, we purr into the Sacramento valley. The heater is on full, the outside air cooler than expected. Long sleeves might have been a good idea. I'll tough it out, no big deal.

The sun breaks horizon behind me, valley is crossed, the roadster begins to climb mountains. I'm not packing heat, it's cold. Tough has its shortcomings. I should pull over and put the passenger tonneau cover in place to hold more degrees.

But it's complex. I just passed a motor home in the flats, to trail him in the hills is unthinkable. The roadster suddenly swerves to the side of the road . . . forget tough. I jump out of the car, run to the other side, pull out the cover, fasten it swiftly, fall back behind the wheel, grab first gear and drop the clutch.

Back into neutral, turn on the ignition, pull the starter cable, engine is running. Back to first gear, drop the clutch. Piece of cake, still no motor home. On the road again, comfortable.

Four hours of driving, 1000 foot elevation, running North up the 101. A flash of light catches my eye. There, side of the road, digital electronic warning, "Caution, Special Event Ahead". I crest the hill to find hundreds of Harley Davidsons parked next to small tents. Biker party, on a large scale.

The Southern entrance to Avenue of the Giants appears. This infamous 32 mile stretch of asphalt meanders roughly parallel with the highway, winding through some of the tallest trees in the world. On a bike or in a roadster, it is a good way to feel small. Harleys of all sorts cluster about the country store and nearby bar. Long rows of gleaming chrome front the roadway. Several hundred eyes follow as my car passes by.

I pull over to shoot the classic car with a Canon. Half a dozen bikers pull in behind. These guys are massive, six foot eight with biceps the size of wine barrels, though I could be mistaken. Dressed in black leather and in need of a shave, they unlimber after a long ride.

In a series of deep throated growls one says, "This place is absolutely lovely, how wonderful to ride through these towering coast redwoods. The exceptionally fresh scents are intoxicating, and the unrestricted visibility of two wheel vehicular transportation beneath the forest canopy is unsurpassed".

The leader of the pack spots me, not hard to do standing next to a sky blue '61 MGA. He lumbers towards me while my reflexes instinctively prepare for action.

"Nice roadster, I used to work on MGs when I was younger. Say, would you be so kind as to take a picture of me and my buddies in front of this fine specimen of Sequoia sempervirens?".

I think quick at times, but often have a smart mouth. Passing my lips I hear the words, "Yes sir".

The tree is wider than my car is long, it seems only two of these brutes will fit in front of it. All six somehow manage.

This is a delicate situation. Their women back home will be expecting a nice shot. My training didn't include how to get a biker to smile. Saying "Cheese" doesn't seem appropriate. Suddenly there are thundering footfalls behind me. Turning quickly I evaluate the breaking situation. A guy the size of an F-150 pickup is running straight at me, arm outstretched, something black in his hand pointing at my chest.

I'm not worried, small target.

"Me too, me too", he pleads, while handing me his iPhone.

Words fail me. He squeezes between his fellow animals, they put their arms around each other's shoulders, and all smile as pretty as a diva at the Grammys.

Their women will be pleased.

We talk of old cars and motorcycles. They like long rides, drove 700 miles from San Diego for the weekend, a nice switch from their desk jobs. Maybe they weren't six foot eight.

Proceeding up the Avenue in my open roadster the view is magnificent. Side roads to special groves are taken, there are quick conversations with admiring tourists about vintage cars. Wildlife abounds, 3 Porsche Carrarras glide over a rise, then swoop through a gentle turn, disappearing into the forest. Too quickly the Northern end point is arrived at. The clock says noon.

I pull out my wireless location resource. Current position noted, East is home, but the Pacific Coast beckons. West it is. The map is refolded.

Nuts, I didn't get it right. Unfold . . . refold. Once again. Nuts. I wad it up and toss it in the passenger foot well. Some products should have more design time before going to market.

101 again, South for a bit, to Leggett, head of California State Route 1. Known for hugging the Pacific Ocean, it begins 15 miles inland. The excellent road surface dips and twists through dense green forest. Traffic is light, hairpins a thrill, but I come up on a slow RV.

The sign says, "Slow Traffic Use Turnouts". He does! I slip gratefully past, and rap my knuckles twice on the dashboard mounted horn button. This double toot conveys the message, "Thank you so much for considering your fellow man who may want to enjoy this road at the speed limit. It puts a smile in my heart, I hope your day goes well, and you come upon a pleasant place to park that behemoth where you can enjoy your stay for a long time." The horn saves a lot of time.

Highway one hits the coastline and I head South, a good thing to do when the only other option is straight over a steep cliff into the ocean. I come to a rest stop. Returning to the MG there is a new Maserati parked in front.

"Outstanding build quality, nice lines", I remark to the well healed owner. Ignoring difference in value, he likes the MGA. A lot. Back on the road his tail lights disappear quickly.

Fort Bragg is reached, a show is taking place. I catch sight of classic cars, want to stop, but my gal attracts attention and I'm fearful to leave her alone. We pass by, then head inland.

More great asphalt and long turnouts. Enjoying the curvy rise and fall of the road the rear end of a custom pickup looms. Tied down in the back is a Harley. It is barely moving. I'm spoiled, expecting him to read the sign and use the turnout. Sigh, he doesn't. A couple of quick knuckle raps on the horn should convey the message, "Hello? Would you please pull over?"

The button jams. An angry sound blares out for what seems like minutes. I whack at the horn, finally it quiets. All senses alert I await developments. Another turnout appears, he pulls over. My right foot hits the floorboard, the pass is uneventful, I offer a friendly wave.

Back to 101, gas station in Willits. Bikers everywhere as my roadster takes on petrol. Scanning the area I spot some sort of mechanical device headed towards me. Upon further analysis it is recognized as an elderly woman using a walker. She comes up smiling broadly. I'm wary, but figure I can handle it. She owned an MGTC many years ago, always wanted an MGA. Lots of happy memories. The roadster brought them back and made her day. Maybe her week.

I point the chrome grill towards home. South for a bit on 101, then skirt Clear Lake on 20, run the valley, motor into the foothills, and back into the garage. I listen to the ticking sound of cooling engine components and reflect. The speedo has 565 additional miles.

There is a vintage voice in my head, it makes me want to look at, work on, and drive this car. Old friends, various adventures, girlfriend become wife of 40 years, long forgotten memories return. Road handling in a sports car without power steering is fun, the passing country is gorgeous, scents and scenes are enhanced with the top down. Conversations take place that wouldn't have otherwise, with rich and poor, young and old, lovely people, and those less so. Many strangers have an old car story to tell, and do so with animation and sparkling eyes.

Yeah, okay Hagerty. My life is better in a classic.

14 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Gerry H. Delaware February 4, 2015 at 17:15
    Loved your story! Having a classic that's a convertible is like dating twins - double the fun! There is just nothing like a top down ride in your classic car on a great road. Your story captured the feeling of freedom and a connection with a car that has to be experienced in order to understand it. You made my day. Thanks!
  • 2
    Jim - '69 Pontiac Custom S Longmont, CO. February 4, 2015 at 17:48
    Excellent article! Very well written and funny! :)
  • 3
    Shane Canada February 4, 2015 at 18:01
    I love the way this is written, it captures the romanticism and connection every real car enthusiast has with their car.
  • 4
    Tom Oregon February 4, 2015 at 18:42
    Had a TF back in 1965 before I was drafted. Wonder where she is today.
  • 5
    Dave Mid-west Ohio February 4, 2015 at 19:19
    I have to agree. I have various collector cars and the trips would never be the same in my everyday late model. Driving my old Chevy pick-up, either making a casual trip to a home improvement store or just out for a leisurely drive, I don't think I've ever returned home without a positive comment from an admirer. Life IS much better in a classic!
  • 6
    Mike Boone Spencer, NC February 4, 2015 at 20:41
    What about the Midget?
  • 7
    David Perfect United States February 4, 2015 at 23:47
    Brilliant, thank you.
  • 8
    farmerdan Starksboro vermont February 5, 2015 at 13:15
    nicely written, i could feel the breeze in my hair
  • 9
    David Vaughn Atlanta Ga February 5, 2015 at 08:44
    With the exception of reading your story I have never rode the west coast highways, but your words painted a picture for me and I was there with you at every turn, Thanks for the ride friend
  • 10
    Greg Elgin, TX February 5, 2015 at 22:36
    Great story! My older brother had a MGA, then a MGB GT. I'm sending this story to him, he needs another one before it too late.
  • 11
    Steve Ogburn Redmond, Oregon February 5, 2015 at 12:55
    Great story. Been there done that in my 1976 Vette with the T-tops off. Thanks
  • 12
    Mark Stricklett Danielsville, GA. February 7, 2015 at 09:26
    My heart jumped when I saw your car ! I had the twin to this wonderful lady. I was a sports car enthusiast in high school, while my friends were into the muscle cars. One of my favorite drives was cross country after high school graduation - when gasoline was .29 a gallon, speed limit was 75 and I had few obligations!
  • 13
    dave phoenix az February 12, 2015 at 18:47
    some things are soooooo good.sounds like a love ride to remember.I have driven the pch-101 many times. In an old ford truck,but was very fullfiling,in the mind and the piece.the drive is fantastic.I did years later aquired an"A" .black sweetie with red leather ,and put many miles on the roadster,top down chaseing sunnrisses and sunsets in arizona, and be sure when there was frost on the car the passenger side tonno cover was snaped securrly in place.My only regret other than selling the car after 8 years of driving it almost daily,was in hindsight I should have ponnied up for another engine rebuild and kept the sweetie, after-all it did only have a small 4 and after "severall" blown engines I needed to get back to an 8cylinder
  • 14
    Jan Sundgaard Maplewood (St. Paul) Minnesota March 30, 2015 at 20:17
    I just pulled my first car out of storage, I drove it during high school in the late 60's and sold it to my little brother in 1971. It's a '57 MGA Roadster and I just loved it! I missed it so much I bought another one, pretty cheap, only this one had the disc wheels while my original had wires. Anyway the second one had been through a lot besides only going about 85 mph and I soon sold it. Before long a '65 Austin Healey 3000 Mk 3 came into my life. I no longer missed my MGA! We really enjoyed the Healey with two small children the small back seats were great! Well my wife became pregnant with our third child (maybe the Healeys fault! Never know) so we drove around a special nearby lake in our Healey every chance we had until we found an old fixer upper on the lake, bought the old house, had the new baby boy in Nov. of 1978. Well, now the car was too small and we needed a dormer on our really cool old house, so......yup, sold the Healey. Well 35 years later my nephew wants an old motorcycle of mine that my son had now, so I told my son to ask if he wanted to trade it for my old MGA, they made the deal. The car came home again, very tired, some mechanical issue many years ago, the bottoms of the front tenders aren't anymore nor the rocker panels, but the real important metal that makes those beautiful MGA lines is in very good shape. It can be repaired. It might not be worth it, it might be better buy a restored car, it may be wiser to put my efforts and dollars in one of several other neat cars I have? But....it's my first car, family, you know? Anyway, a local body shop rents from me and he's excited to take it on, I have little restoration experience but I'm fairly mechanical and I justify this out of the appreciation I have of the cars engineering, the way it handled and the fun I had with it. We have 15 grandchildren from our four kids, several of them are driving. I think the family will enjoy this relatively simple but sturdy classy little roadster. Hopefully for a long time. And that's my British sports car story.

Join the Discussion