I'm a fan of the classic American road trip. It's amazing that we have a vast network of roads and the ability to travel freely along them, across state lines if we wish. I didn't consider once shipping the car home from LA when it was ready; a relaxed run up the Highway 1 is achievable in a weekend, and the roads north of Los Angeles are so amazing that it would be a shame to miss them. I can't think of a better way to bond with a new vehicle. We'd done the same trip a few years before when I bought my 1971 BMW 2002. (or nearly, as the alternator died early on and the battery finally gave up 5 miles from home)
My wife and I met when we worked in Orange County, and we enjoy the beaches and the South Bay. So we made a plan: fly down Friday morning and retrieve the car; meets friends, visit the beach, and stay in the South Bay the first night; get up Saturday and run around the roads of Malibu, then make the ~3-hour run up PCH to Pismo Beach for the night; wake up late Sunday and take PCH all the way home through Big Sur.
The first night - parked under the Quality Inn & Suites Hermosa Beach.
In preparation for a ~400-mile drive with a 30 year-old JDM sports car, I brought and/or purchased the following upon arrival:
- Duct tape
- Zip ties
- Basic screwdrivers and wrenches (7" is the maximum length for carry-ons with the TSA)
- 12v USB charger
- Bose Sound dock (you'll see)
- Spare oil
- MAF cleaner
- The most important single item: AAA card.
The weather was excellent on Friday, if a bit cool for the beach, but Saturday and Sunday were looking pretty dicey. With rain in the cards starting around noon Saturday, I cajoled my wife into waking up early to get up to Malibu before it got wet.
David M. Brown Scenic Overlook
Original wheels. Hood 'S' badge removed, lower lip painted body color.
"Nissan" badge removed; slight drop on Tein coilovers. Kakimoto exhaust.
The roads were empty, pretty bizarre for mid-morning on a Saturday. The only other sports cars we encountered were three different 991 GT3s - and that was all. I guess no one was interested in driving the canyons with the threat of rain looming. We had a good run up and down Piuma road from the cost inland, but as soon as we turned onto Mulholland Highway things started looking very... charred.
The view from the top of "the Snake" on Mulholland.
Another angle from the top of the Snake. Utter destruction.
Malibu was absolutely destroyed. It felt like driving through a moonscape, with entire hillsides blackened and, in many places, nothing left of homes but a chimney. In some areas it still smelled as if a campfire were burning. As amazing as the extent of the damage was the seeming inconsistency of it; one home sat untouched 50 yards from a burned-out foundation. The photos above are from the top of the Snake, a famous and popular car hangout on Mulholland Highway. The bridge at the bottom of the hill, just past the Rock Store, was out, so the overlook was only accessible from the Kanan Road side.
As we set off from the Snake, as if on cue, the rain began to fall. This was the physical damper to go along with the spiritual damper of seeing the fire damage. We followed Mulholland down to Highway 1, where I'd planned a special lunch stop before we got out of Malibu. The fish and chips was excellent.
To be honest, I don't even remember this scene from the movie.
It was a trial by fire for the lights, wipers, and HVAC systems as we started our drive up to Pismo Beach. It was absolutely chucking down and there was standing water on the road and generally terrible visibility. I am happy to report that the car did not miss a beat, and I was thankful that Top Rank had fitted new wipers to the car.
Our command center, with the very latest in in-car entertainment.
Fuel stop #1 in Lompoc. This is where I learned that G&K fits a weird pump nozzle adapter into the fuel filler neck. We achieved 350km on 14 gallons of fuel, which figures to an unimpressive 15.5mpg. We'll just chalk that up to the canyon driving. I'm also just happy to have a car with a fuel capacity greater than 12 gallons...
The rest of the drive was soggy and uneventful, and we eventually found ourselves in a damp Pismo Beach. I had the best chowder of my life at the Splash Cafe, and then we closed things out with a milkshake at the Cool Cat Cafe.
Sunday morning brought in some sunny skies, and we were able to check out downtown Pismo and enjoy the famous cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
We ventured up highway 1 just a little bit further to Morro Bay, and stopped for a quick set of photos in front of their big rock.
Still searching for the bad angle on this car.
Unfortunately the weather to the north was nothing but rain, rain, and more rain. At this point I decided to call off the original plan, and not continue up PCH through the wonderful Big Sur. It's a shame to miss that ribbon of road, but I knew that it would end up being much worse to crawl along those cliffs in the rain behind a timid rental Mustang convertible than to cut our losses and zip up the 101. This was the "must choose" junction, as PCH north of Morro Bay doesn't have an inland escape route back to the 101 until you get all the way to Monterey.
Après moi, le déluge.
The next 4 hours or so were not glamorous, but we made good time in spite of the lousy weather and we were well ahead of the "return from LA" weekend traffic. We arrived home safely, and in daylight to boot.
So what of all my worries? As it turns out, none of them came to fruition. We didn't once have to reach for the bag of tools or spares that I'd packed. The car didn't miss a beat: we made great time, saw and ate some lovely things, and didn't have to speak with anyone from CHP or AAA!
The car sat untouched in the driveway for the better part of an hour before I started swapping parts. More on that next time.