Sunday, September 25, 2011

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We made it home on Friday at 6:50 p.m. The drive north from Medford was uneventful, just the way I like it! We did manage to take a couple of detours on sections of old US 99 in Oregon. If you are ever near Grants Pass you might consider the section between there and exit 40 at Gold Hill. This stretch parallels the Rogue River. Just sit back and cruise the asphalt at a comfortable 40 mph or so and try to imagine travel on US 99 in the Fifties. Sure it was slow, but it had a soul and a spirit that does not exist on the vast majority of our interstate system!

We also had to make a detour to chart out a new section of our Covered Bridge Tour route since one of the bridges we had on route is undergoing renovation. The work was scheduled to be complete on September 23. I checked the website only to find the completion date is now in October. The route is now about 8 miles longer.

Highlights of the Trip

Of course visiting our family was the best part, but since that is of little interest to anyone else I’ll list the following as highlights:

The Food

Finding good seafood etouffee in Ft. Bragg at a brew pub was a very pleasant surprise. The lunch at Alioto’s was an even better experience than our dinner at Rovers in Seattle a few years ago (voted Seattle’s best restaurant at least 3 years in a row)! The huge and very good rib eye steak meal at A. J. Spurs in Buellton will be remembered for a long time. The fish tacos at The Brigantine in Del Mar, overlooking the famous horse racing track, was my first attempt to eat that dish and I certainly enjoyed it. And last was the grilled Albacore tune at Fish Camp in Huntington Beach.

The Road

I had not driven many of the roads around Santa Barbara and I still haven’t, since our limited time didn’t allow it. But I seem to prefer the back roads of Northern California and Oregon more. I have never been much of a beach aficionado, I prefer the trees, rocks, and tide pools of the north coast more. The roads up here have fewer and shorter straight sections between curves! While I can appreciate the desert-like scenery of the south, I much prefer our green, moist environment.

Favorite stretches on this trip included: Oregon 34, California 1 from US 101 to the coast, California 128 between the coast and US 101, California 41 from US 101 to I-5, and California 154 to 246 to Santa Ynez.

The Car

I saw this trip as a wonderful chance to put the little car to the test. In my opinion it passed with an A in every category I care about!

Performance: Only on two occasions did I feel it could use more horsepower and torque, but then I was pushing it on the narrow, twisting back roads – something it is not really designed to do, it is not a sports car! The road handling ability is superior to my 124 spider, as are the brakes, the horse power and torque, and the ability of the seat to hold you in place. On I-5 we were able to cruise at 70-80 mph without effort and I felt secure in the car. Reactions to wind gusts were not more than I expected, less than an old VW beetle. The cruise control functioned perfectly – better than in our Honda. There was very little slowdown on hills on the Interstate except for the very steepest (Grapevine, for example, where I had to down shift into fourth gear to maintain 60 mph).

Comfort: in our Honda I find myself having to shift my position frequently after an hour or so in the saddle – no so in the 500. After the second day I realized I was staying put and when I got out of the car I was not sore like I am from driving the Honda!

Cargo area: we were able to care a duffle bag; a small suitcase; a combo picnic cooler/basket; my laptop; a camera bag and tripod; a book bag for maps, guidebooks, and notes; a couple of bottles of car care products, engine oil (I only added a small amount once), a roll of towels, and 10 microfiber rags; two jackets; a box of stuff for the kids; and 4 knitting project bags! The load just came up to the bottom of the windows. Sure the car could only carry two persons with that load, but it is not meant to be a large family car – it does what it was designed to do and does it well!

I am very pleased with the car and have nothing to complain about.

So that is that for this trip, another one for the books. We did our first long road trip in 1977 when we travelled 7000 miles in 7 weeks around the US. Our next one was a two week tour of the Pacific Northwest in 1989. It was round trip from the Bay Area to Puget Sound. That was to determine if we wanted to move here, which we did the following year. Then a round trip from here to Indiana in 2001. Three weeks in a 1987 VW camper. I hope our next long road trip is not so far in the future!

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