My next roadtrip was a return to the Datsun Roadster Classic in Solvang, CA. I’d visited Solvang the previous year, where I’d met many great roadster people, saw some cool cars, and more or less cemented my intentions to make the big drive around the country since the car was behaving so well there. This year marked my second visit, and since I had a little more experience and knew a few more people now, it made the whole experience considerably more interesting.
Since I’d just gotten back from my little 1500 mile jaunt around California, the car didn’t really need all that much attention, so I just did a quick carb adjustment to try to smooth out the idle a little more, and then started figuring out what I’d do at the show since so many of the people there had been following the trip (via the blog) and had been really helpful and supportive. The first thing I did was to print the “Gallery” pictures from the blog on 8.5 x 11” sheets and put them into books for people to browse through. The second was to go out and buy a bunch of different colored Sharpie markers and paint markers. Since I was coming to the meet with the car in the same condition as it was when it finished the trip (i.e., with the giant deer-shaped impression in the right front of the car), I figured I’d memorialize that by having all the Roadster folks sign the fender in the same way you’d sign somebody’s cast. It seemed like a good way to turn lemons into lemonade, and I’d have a nice souvenir from the trip to hang on the garage wall when I finally did get it all fixed.
I had planned to meet up with some other Roadster people to make the drive out to California, with the intention being to follow a good chunk of the route that I’d scouted through Death Valley on my previous drive, mostly so we wouldn’t have to do that endless, boring drone across I-15. The first guy to show up at my house was Ted Heaton, who arrived in a ’67.5 2000 that he’d recently picked up.
Ted and I had a little dinner, talked some cars, then headed back to the house. The other contingent arriving consisted of Dave (my friend from Calgary), and new friends Bob and his mom. Dave had actually planned to buy a restored ’67.5 2000 in Houston and got as far as picking the car up (from the same guy I stayed with in Houston) , but after a bit of driving he determined that the car wasn’t all that he was expecting, so after a detour to Houston to bring the car back and some other travel fun, he hooked up with Bob, who was trailering his own ’67.5 2000 out from Arkansas to the show. (Note that I am the only one without a ’67.5 2000 in this scenario…)
Anyway, Dave, Bob, and his mom were running a bit late getting to Nevada and didn’t show up until the wee hours of the morning. I had all the couches set up and ready to go for everybody (Ted was occupying the guest bedroom), and after a good night’s sleep, everybody gathered in the morning to make a plan. Ted decided that a drive across Death Valley in a car that he’d just picked up might not be the best plan, so he hooked up with a couple of other Vegas roadster guys and they took the “normal” route across I-15 and up I-5. The rest of the gang was game for a little adventure, so after a quick breakfast, we took off for points west.
Bob had unloaded the car from the trailer and he and Dave took turns swapping out between driving that and driving the truck. I drove my car, and we went over the pass on 160 out of Vegas and into Pahrump, then across State Line Road toward Amargosa (what there is of it), then 190 into Death Valley.
The weather was just as nice as my previous recon trip, and we stopped several times to take in the sights. Near Owens Lake, Dave and I swapped cars, and I got to drive Bob’s two liter for a little while, which was pretty cool. It was definitely a little faster and more torque-y than my 1600, but not quite enough to make me lust after a ’67.5, which (if you haven’t gathered by now) is the car to have in the Roadster world. We swapped all around again just before Lake Isabella, with Dave jumping in the truck, Bob getting in his car, and me getting back in my car. Route 178 from Lake Isabella down to Bakersfield is a really fun stretch of road that runs through canyons all along the Kern River; very scenic and twisty. After conferring with Bob a little bit about how spirited a drive we were going to make it, we took off, dropped Dave pretty much immediately, and set about going after those curves. After a lot of fun, we reached the end of the canyon where it stretched out into a straight run into Bakersfield, then waited a bit for Dave to catch up. Bob’s comment to Dave was “Don’t assume that you can keep up with Scott just because he’s in a 1600”, or something along those lines, although I had the unfair advantage of having driven the car almost 40000 miles by now and I knew exactly what it was capable of, handling-wise.
We stopped at a local Armenian place in Bakersfield for an interesting dinner (I know, you were thinking we’d go for Mexican, but no), then finally got to Solvang after a long day of driving. We were booked in different hotels, so we went our separate ways for the evening and hit the hay.
The next morning, I got up early and went off in search of some better office supplies…I had picked the “matte finish” sheet holders for the photo books, and it turned out that you couldn’t actually see the photos that well through those, so I found a Staples in Lompoc that had clear ones and swapped those out. On the way back to Solvang, Dave called and said a whole big group of roadsters were taking off on a little fun run, and that I could catch up with them and join in Buellton. I told him I’d see them there, then hustled down there and met up with what looked like about thirty cars. We took off sort of vaguely northeast in single file, and proceeded to wander around a bit before the leader finally pulled over somewhere near Santa Maria and admitted he was a little lost. The goal was to find some of the cool roads through the hills and then eventually end up in Los Alamos for lunch, but we were quite a bit north at this point. After a brief conference, I was drafted as the new run leader since a) I had a lot of experience with being lost, and b) I had my GPS with me.
After a bit more driving, we finally got down to Los Alamos (which is really pretty quaint) and descended on the Bell Street Farm Eatery & Market en masse for lunch. That place was great; a really good, basic menu and almost all locally sourced. I recommend it if you’re in the area.
After lunch, the group split, with one half taking the 101 freeway back down toward Solvang, and one half following me on a “it looks like this little road goes over the hill and back down toward Buellton” trip. The little road did indeed get over the hill, but it was tiny and twisty and bumpy, or in other words, exactly the kind of road I’m usually looking for. Everybody regrouped at the bottom of the hill on the other side with big grins on their faces, and I’m pretty sure we got the better end of the deal than the folks who took the 101.
That night, there was the Roadster pre-show meet ‘n greet at the Mendenhall Museum, a giant collection of one man’s automotive memorabilia. We had a little rain, but nothing torrential, and it was great to see everybody again. The fender signing started in earnest that night, with most of the “regulars” getting in a signature or a doodle or two.
The actual show started the next morning, and I was parked with the stock low windshield 1600s (the 1966-67 cars, for the most part). The photo book was a big hit, and the fender signing continued, with Pete Brock himself even coming over to contribute his signature. I had also volunteered for photo duty (and had rented a couple of spiffy lenses from LensRentals that I’d been meaning to test drive anyway), so I spent a good part of the show wandering around trying to get some good pictures.
At the end of the day, they gave out the awards for the best cars (and other categories; Dave got one for “farthest distance traveled to get to the show”), and then everybody gathered for a group photo and we adjourned to our respective hotels before the wrap-up dinner. Prior to the dinner, Dave and I took Ted’s new car for a little test drive, where I verified that yes, it’ll totally do a smoky power 180 on pavement (sorry Ted; heat of the moment, and I had to turn around on a little road.) My car can barely spin its rear tires let alone do that, so that’s some illustration of the difference between the 2 liter and the 1600 motors.
The banquet was fun, with good food and lots of giveaways at the raffle. I met up with Shannon (who I’d stayed with in Albuquerque) and bought a lovely restored and re-chromed grille that he’d brought with him, which marked the first step in getting the now-covered-in-Sharpie fender repaired. Another fender and a couple more chrome bits, and I’ll be good to go.
After the banquet, we loaded Bob’s car back into the trailer, Dave figured out how to get to an airport to get back to Calgary, and I headed up to Paso Robles again for a couple of days of driving the great roads and tasting the great wine. It’s hard to pass up when you’re in the neighborhood.
After Paso Robles, I headed back to Vegas, this time over the Tehachapi Pass and via the highways, and as usual, the car performed flawlessly. The fender is going to look great on the wall of my garage, and I couldn’t imagine a better souvenir for the trip.
Next: The roadster meets some real classics.