If you ever wanted to teach your daughter how to work on engines, just send her on a 1,000-mile road trip in an old car.
Last Sunday I left Portland with my two good friends, Carly Mackie and Carolyn Corl. We cruised down Highway 101 in the Sports Car Market ‘67 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super for a two-day road trip, with the California Redwoods as our final destination. We made it to the Redwoods and back, even though the Alfa attempted to retire on us six times.
We were only 172 miles into our trip when the Alfa engine decided not to start after stopping at a viewpoint. Luckily for us, an SCM subscriber is always near — this time it was Don Carlson. Don used a switchblade to scrape away the corrosion on the starter coil, the Alfa started up with a kick and we were back on the road.
Monday morning, we were close to the California border when the engine decided not to turn over again. This time, though, we were quick to react. I popped the hood, and Carolyn got the switchblade out and started working on the starter coil. Just as a group of gentlemen came over to offer help, the car started up, and Carly closed the hood saying, “We got this.” We were on our way again.
We finally made it to the Avenue of the Giants and spent the afternoon driving on great back roads. Then, as we headed back towards Eureka, the Alfa decided to overheat. We poured a gallon of water into the radiator and made our way back to Highway 101.
Fifteen minutes later, we were on the shoulder of 101 with the driver’s side floorboard completely soaked in a mixture of water and antifreeze. A failed heater core was the culprit.
It would be a good two hours before the Hagerty tow-truck arrived. So we did what any good college students would do and enjoyed a picnic of cheese, crackers and hard cider — since no one was going to be driving for a while.
Old Town Automotive in Eureka had our heater core bypassed by 10:30 the next morning, and we were back on the road. It was an eight-hour drive back to Portland, and we were prepared for anything. We fixed the heater problem, but somewhere along the way we lost a cylinder, so the car wouldn’t idle if we came to a stop. It was a great way to practice my heel-toe technique.
The Alfa attempted to die one more time in Grants Pass. The girls pushed the car, and we were able to bump start it. We drove like a bat-out-of-hell all the way back to Portland.
Driving a 46-year-old car on a 1,000-mile road trip might not be everyone’s cup of oil — especially if it tries to break down on you the whole time and leaves you stranded in the Redwoods.
But when I asked my girlfriends about another trip next year, they smiled, suggesting that maybe we try a German make. We cherish memories and stories that we can look back on with a smile and lots of laughs. Lucky for us, there are three more Alfas in the basement of SCM with “road trip” written all over them.