A Very Good Day Indeed

Marmot Road when it opens into the meadows

Last week, I had just arrived home from several days in Boston and wasn’t looking forward to the pile of work waiting on my desk.

A text message popped up from my daughter Alexandra. “Dad, I have the week off from Daimler, and I thought we should take the Duetto up to Mt. Hood tomorrow morning for a father-daughter drive.”

“Yep,” I texted back. There was nothing on my desk that couldn’t wait.

In the morning, Alexandra met the Duetto and me at SCM World Headquarters. As she slipped behind the wheel, she commented, “The gear shift lever just feels like it is in the right place.” She had never been in the Duetto before, and she approached the new experience analytically. She noted that all of our Alfas, which range from model-year 1958 to 1967, have a similar seating position in relation to the steering wheel and pedals.

We left the top up for the quick run out Interstate 84, the eastbound lanes nearly empty of morning traffic. The Duetto, even with its stock 1,600-cc engine, cruised easily at 70 mph.

After 15 miles, we took the Troutdale exit, pulled over and put the top down. Alexandra noted how simple the mechanism was compared to the Giulia Spider, which has a top that a puzzle master would find frustrating. We headed up the two-lane road that follows the Sandy River.

There were no other cars on the road, and suddenly we were in 1967. The double-overhead-cam engine in the Alfa was happy in the 4,000- to 6,000-rpm range. The suspension with all new bushings, shorter springs with Bilsteins and a Rugh thicker front bar worked extremely well. My mechanic Nasko had specified the brake pads, and they worked well as they warmed up.

Alexandra has been driving Alfas since she turned 15, eight years ago, and she drove with authority. Her upshifts came at the right time, and her double-clutched downshifts were executed crisply. I got more pleasure out of watching her operate this 48-year-old machine than I would have driving myself.

We eventually came to Marmot Road, one of the great stretches of two-lane blacktop in Oregon. It winds through 10-mph turns in deep forest and then suddenly breaks into long, sweeping turns through sunlit meadows. The Alfa and Alexandra formed a perfect partnership, the car eagerly responding to her deft touch.

Our final goal was the ZigZag Inn along Highway 26, where we ordered our traditional #13 pizza with jalapeno peppers — a perfect way to start the day.

Then we put the top up again for the 47-mile run back to Portland on U.S. Route 26.

As we put the car away until its next adventure — which might be months from now — I reflected on the good day we had just had.

Also, I thought about the work still piled up on my desk. It was there when Alexandra and I pulled out of the garage and headed east, and it was there when we returned three hours later.

I might have made a dent in the paperwork if I had skipped the trip, but that doesn’t seem like much of a tradeoff to me.

The ordinary world will always be there. A morning drive with my daughter along two-lane mountain roads was a most perfect way to exercise the little red Alfa. And it made this a very good day indeed. 

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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