Vegas to Victoria
I believe Jeremy Cato said it best:
"In every life there are a few times when something or someone of astonishing beauty seduces every rational, objective fiber of your being. Occasionally the beauty runs deep and true. Call it complete goodness. And thus a spell is cast, the rules of normal behavior and judgement no longer apply."
Stu, my friend of several decades was smitten the moment he saw the ad. A 1969 Lotus Elan Plus 2 was for sale. It mattered not that the car was in the far reaches of Ontario, it had to be his. So off he went with an understanding friend to realize his dream. In no time the transaction was complete and the voyage home began. Now, any 40 year old car is going to have 'gremlins' and the Lotus was true to form. In no time downhill parking was necessary as the starter refused to work. No problem, with such a light car and a gradual slope, it could be made to spring to life in a matter of feet. (More on this later).
Eventually the car arrived back home in Calgary and like all vintage Lotus cars began the long rebuilding process to bring it up to today's standard. Where shall we start? Well perhaps removing the body for restoration will make all the other 'stuff' easier to access. Of course the engine must be removed and sent to be rebuilt, then suspention parts analyzed and replaced as needed when suddenly it was discovered that the chassis was suspect. No problem just send it to the re-cycle and order one from England. Among approximately 50 other critical items, all the Lucas electronics were removed and replaced with today's solid state ignition. (Lucas electronics got the name 'Prince of Darkness' honestly)
Some 2 years later the Lotus was finished and rolled out in a beautiful red livery. I must admit a little jealousy here as I once owned a Lotus back in the day and still regret selling it. Then out of the blue Stu sent me an invitation to join him in Vegas for the Lotus Owners Group meeting at the Red Rock Hotel. It was decided that I would fly down and share the driving back. Finally, in mid October I found Stu on a bench outside the hotel lobby. Other than the 2 tires purchased in Utah, the car had run flawlessly.
What an eclectic group these Lotus owners are. All ages, sizes, genders and backgrounds were present. Husbands and their long suffering wives and old farts like Stu and I intent on reclaiming an experience from our distant past or at least entertaining one another by performing scenes from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
It seemed that most of the owners had an interest in engineering and had accomplished much from their various garages and laundry rooms in suburban America. If they had one thing in common, beside their choice of sports car, it was their love of life. They enjoy life and revere individualism. Knowledgeable people without the attitude. All in all, they are a great time.
The organizers set up an autocross track in one of the largest parking lots I have ever seen. A number of 'stock' Lotus cars took the track and averaged about 50 secs to complete a run. Then along came a highly modified yellow Elan. Wow!! Run after run (I think every driver got 8 attempts) he clocked in the high 30 second range, leaving the competition far away in his dust.
The next day we convoyed over to the Indy car race at the Las Vegas Speedway. The day started magnificently as we Lotus cars and the local Ferrari club were escorted to VIP parking in the speedway infield. We were rock-stars. We wandered through the garage amidst all the glitz and glamor these magnificent machines can offer, loaded up on water and headed to the 92* full sun exposed bleacher seats. The seats were great as you could see both straits and all four corners. With enough water we may survive the day. The race started with the Lotus leaping ahead into first place. At over 200 mph it was difficult to pick out a favorite from among the pack. Very exciting, very fast, then on the 12th lap entering turn 2, disaster.
The evening buffet began with sadness and recognition of a life too short - then the understanding that there but for the grace of God go I - It was time to move on -
The desert is much larger than I ever imagined. Every hour or so we encountered highway construction which gave us time to stand in the middle of nowhere with other travelers. There really is nothing out here. We wondered aloud how the pioneers survived in this uncompromising environment. The only sign of life for many miles was the odd air force base, prison, or brothel. The Shady Lady and the Cat House sat off the highway in single wide trailers behind what looked like the family home. Quite dusty and depressing.
Suddenly we rolled through a small town called Beatty that has a large, empty parking lot advertising, in an arched light display, 'Free Parking'. Our next sign of human life was encountered in the sleepy town of Goldfield. Although now taking on the facade of a ghost town, this place is steeped in history. The boom years were from 1905 to 1910 when it grew to be the largest City in Nevada with 20,000 citizens including Virgil Earp. Boasting some of the finest hotels west of the Mississippi things were going well, then the gold ran out. In addition, there were two catastrophic fires and, if you can believe it, a flood that finally ended Goldfield's grandeur.
Off we went across the seemingly never-ending desert and into the mountains on some of the twistiest, undulating roads I have experienced anywhere. A joy in a car as nimble as the Lotus. After cruising at between 5 - 7,000 feet above sea level we arrived in Lee Vining for an overnighter.The next day we rolled through Hawthorne and onto Lake Tahoe and Gar Woods Restaurant Great food and charming servers made the stop in the sun a welcome one. Things were going perfectly when Stu suggested getting a bottle of Chianti before we headed through the Donner Pass.
Just before Chico while cruising a country road, we encountered a sign that said 'Bump'. Clearly our interpretation was incorrect as a great resounding thump followed by an increase in exhaust noise indicated we had severed the muffler from its piping. No problem, we can limp into Redding and make the requisite repairs at a local muffler shop in the morning. We wheeled into a Best Western with a Mexican restaurant on the same property. El Mariachi's food was some of the best encountered. After breakfast we loaded up to leave discovering that the starter motor had decided to pack it in. Hey, the car's 40 years old what do you expect? I pushed the car making a note that it was my time to drive, n'est pas? With the exhaust system intact we left Redding and headed for Weaverville along a wonderfully twisty road that decends along the Trinity River . Without warning we broke out onto the Pacific Ocean stopping in Crescent City early enough to enjoy the beach.
Highway 101 along the Oregon coast is recognized as one of the best drives anywhere and rightfully so. A leisurely drive up the coast road brought us to the town of Seaside and the discovery of the U street Pub. Good food, good beer on tap and a lovely owner named Teri. Stop by when in the neighborhood and say hi.
We drove through Washington in a light rain, the first we had seen the whole trip, finally arriving at the Tswassen Ferry Terminal and the parting of our ways. It was a great time, one of which I would gladly sign up for again. Here's to good friends and great memories.
Elmer Hill - Editor at Large
PS: Stu sent an email announcing his safe return to Calgary. Being late in October there was some snow on the roadside but thankfully the roads remained clear. Next year the Lotus meet is in Florida. Hmmmm...