Keith’s Blog: A Quick Road Trip in the Lockdown Era

I question the wisdom of my own decision to leave quarantine, even if briefly.

Last weekend, Bradley and I piled into the SCM Volvo 122S and drove to the Oregon coast and back.

Our destination was the fabled Bowpicker Fish and Chips in Astoria. The establishment is housed in a free-standing boat on a trailer.

At 69, I am in a high-risk group if I contract the Coronavirus. So we exercised what I thought were proper precautions. We went directly from our condo to the Volvo parked in the underground garage. We cleaned the door handles with Clorox wipes before getting in.

We drove straight to the coast. It was overcast with intermittent rain showers.

Our only stop came when the oil-pressure light began to flicker during spirited driving on a twisty section of Highway 26.

I had not recently checked the oil, and I guessed that the level in the sump was low.

We stopped at a NAPA store. I sent Bradley in to get two quarts of 20/50 High-Mileage oil.  He wiped the oil bottles and his hands with sanitary wipes.

He learned how to open the hood on the Volvo and check the oil. It was two quarts low. As the un-baffled sump holds just four quarts, the oil pump pickup, located on the left-hand side of the sump, was starving on hard right-hand turns.

Bradley then learned how to pour oil into an engine, and check the dipstick afterwards.

We motored on. The Bowpicker had closed early, but a good second choice turned out to be South Bay Wild on Duane Street. We ordered takeout ahead of time, and Bradley went in and picked it up.

Halibut is in season, and we enjoyed our deep-fried delight in the car.

I tried and failed to balance the meal on my lap; the second time I spilled it the container of tartar sauce came open and deposited its contents onto my expensive driving gloves. Their aroma will serve as a permanent olfactory reminder of our trip.

On the way back to Portland we stopped for fuel. Bradley wanted to learn how to put gas into the car. He wiped the handle of the nozzle with Clorox wipes. He then picked up the nozzle, inserted it into the gas tank and filled it. We were getting 24 mpg.

After he was finished, he went to the restroom and washed his hands with soap and water.

We then drove back to Portland, this time taking Highway 30 to Interstate 5. While the Volvo was a joy on two-lane roads, that was not the case on the freeway — at 75 mph in pouring rain – with hulking SUVs whistling by us at 90 mph.

The teachable moment and bonding time with my son were very positive. He is thoroughly at home in the 122S, and his memories of being in the Giulia Super are fast fading.

He learned how to replenish the fuel and oil in the car. He’s starting to understand that old cars require thoughtful care and feeding, as well as attention. Supposed I hadn’t noticed the oil light flickering? That could have cost us an engine.

I understand that I put us both at a higher risk than if we had simply stayed home and played video Scrabble, currently a favorite pastime.

What would you have done? Did the risks outweigh the rewards?  Would you have made a different decision?

I look forward to reading your thoughts.

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.

Posted in Keith Martin

30 comments

  1. Kudos to you for getting Bradley out of the house and engaged in some good learning moments. I have taken the free time to teach my 18 year old son how to drive a stick, something he is itching to do. We are also fortunate enough to live in a quieter area of Florida, so we have been out on the paddle boards in the canals and in the bay nearly every day, communing with nature and appreciating the natural world. Dolphins, birds, fish, and manatees.

  2. This was a great low risk experience. As we know, our mental health will be challenged during this time as much as our physical well being. Fresh air, open road, bonding with your son and taking every appropriate precaution-Bravo!
    I applaud you and thank you for sharing the experience!

  3. Keith – number 1 Cardinal rule before “Wheels Up”
    Is ALWAYS check Engine oil level !… number 2 is ALWAYS
    check Spare Tire pressure and Jack/wheel nut remover .
    NEVER leave home before doing these. ! You were lucky !

  4. You did all the right things, took all the correct safety precautions to yourselves and to those who you came in “social distance” with. Bonding with you kid is all-important and it’s refreshing to read that in this time of CV-19, you took proper precaution while also mentoring a kid who hopefully will take up the wheel when you are on the other side of the grass. I have boys, I drive a TVR Vixen…pretty much says it all

  5. That will certainly be a road trip Bradley will remember for the rest of his life !

  6. I commend you Keith. Lasting memories with our children are priceless and this likely will always be remembered by both you and Bradley. You took precautions and used good sense. Two of you in a closed automobile cannot be more of a risk that the same two bodies in a home or apartment together. You also took reasonable precautions. It would seem that fresh air and a peaceful drive in these troubled times cannot be a bad thing. I am 71 years old and I believe I would love to do the same with my daughter or granddaughters. nearby.Thank you for sharing.

  7. Keith:

    I think that your and Bradley’s trip to the coast was perfectly appropriate. You took the necessary precautions. Some semblance of normal life must go on.

    I glanced at the photo of Bradley putting gas into the Volvo and then thought “wait a minute – they’re in Oregon!”. Does Oregon now allow motorists to pump their own gas? Is this a Covid19 thing? Whenever I travel to your fair state, I’m struck by what an anachronism it is to still have service station attendants – tell me that hasn’t gone away.

    1. Oregon’s rules for gas stations have always had three exceptions allowing owners to pump their own:
      1. Diesel
      2. Motorcycles
      3. Classic & Vintage cars.

      Two years ago stations in very rural areas (basically east of the Cascades) are allowed to run as self-service after hours.

      That said just a few days ago the Governor has suspended the ban on self-service gasoline rose allow self-service statewide during all hours. The rule came down literally as I was running an errand where I had my truck filled by an attendant on my way out, then stopped to fill a gas can with no-ethanol gasoline for my lawnmower on my return trip and was told it was self-Serv only.

      We live in interesting times.

      1. Classic & Vintage cars are NOT an exception!
        I got into a pissin’ contest at COSTCO over this.
        Called OR State, I was WRONG!

  8. I would have done the same! At age 73 I too need to take every precaution not to get the Covid19 virus but I also need to get out of the house. My pride and joy is a 2001 Mercedes SLK320 in Firemist Red which I have owned for five years and have brought back to it’s original condition. I get out on sunny days every chance I get and will continue to do so.

  9. I think as a Car Guy you would have checked all the fluid levels before departing on this road trip. That way your son would know how to properly prepare a car for road work and would know where all the fluids that make a car safe are located. Just Saying.

  10. No, Keith, I’d do what you did. It sounds like a day well spent. In fact I kind of did. My 21-yo daughter wanted to return to Olympia WA, from our home in Poulsbo WA for the first month of spring quarter at Evergreen State College (even though all classes will be via ZOOM). Her lease runs out at the ed of April, so my arguement that she shold stay home fell flat – but April 30 we will be moving her. Anyhow, rather than take the direct route down State Highway 3 through Shelton, I decided to do a loop of the Olympic Peninsula via US Highway 101, and he mother came along. We were good about social distancing and ate at Burger King drive-thrus. It was a great drive and well worth it.

  11. My wife and I are both in our 70’s. We just did a similar trip through the Texas Hill Country. I add one thing to the wipe down routine, Latex gloves. Before I get out of the car I put on the gloves. When I’m done pumping gas, getting something from the store, whatever, then the gloves go in the trash before I touch the car. We still wipe down everything, including the plastic credit/debit card. I had someone laugh at me for that. Let them laugh, this crap is obviously very “sticky” and has tested to last for days on hard plastic. How many cards have been stuck in that card reader and left a surprise behind? You are going to get way more exposure at the grocery store than a drive like this. Enjoy the drive!

  12. First, what’s being asked of society is not a “quarantine.” No one is under house arrest. We need to get our terminology correct to reduce the fear-mongering. Driving in a car meets the definition of social distancing, no matter what you’re driving or where you’re going (even if you don’t know where you’re going). It gets us out of the house and it’s good for mental health, which is good for health. The only consideration we need to make is taking precautions at gas stations and when getting food, and I think you did it right. I run a one-day sports car tour every May, and while this year’s tour may be at risk of looking different because of the points-of-interest stops and meal gatherings potentially being cancelled, the tour itself will still go by taking distancing precautions. How many people show up for it this year is another matter, but it’s a free event so it can still run.

  13. While I think you guys exercised due diligence, the plain fact is that if everyone indulged themselves in this fashion, we will all suffer for it. Sorry to be the damper on this.

    1. I’m with @Jim Rosenthal on this. I’m wary of taking out my vintage car with the remote–but real–possibility of requiring a AAA tow. The long wait for the driver to show, the exposure to each of us, and the paranoia from disdainful looks of passersby is too much for me to handle.

  14. Curb Your Enthusiasm?

    Hi Keith, First off, love the 122S; this is a car that’s been on my radar for a couple of years now. Second: my first road trip as a young guy was in a Fiat X1/9 that I drove from my hometown of Astoria, Queens, NY to Astoria, OR back in the early 70’s. It’s a Car Guy memory that I’ll cherish for my lifetime.

    I love every aspect of your road trip but I do think that right now we need to curb our enthusiasm a bit and really think about the ramifications of adding to the number of people who are out and about – even when exercising considerable care and caution. I know it’s hard to keep a car guy stationary; it’s killing me not to fire-up my leaky Brit sports car or motorcycle – and a blast along an isolated road seems innocent enough.

    Anyway, just my 2 cents. Hope to see you and the other enthusiasts in Monterey in August – if in-fact Car Week fires-up again as we all hope it will.

    Best Regards,
    Jim

    1. Hi Keith,

      I feel this was well intentioned, but ill-advised. Living with a health care professional I’ve become educated about the many risks associated with these kind of outings. And the most critical risks are not to you, but to others.

      The Covid virus can live in many different surfaces. You could have unknowingly therefore have spread the virus – no matter how careful your son was at each stop. Also, had you had an accident or needed assistance you would have not only put these emergency workers at risk, you would have diverted resources that are needed to fight this devastating virus.

      I too am sorry to be a buzz-kill, but we are all in this together and therefore have to think about how our actions can effect others.

      It seems you could have created these same experiences for you and your son in your own driveway.

      Respectfully and house-bound (with three exotics in my garage and the gorgeous roads of the Bay Area waiting, empty outside the door),

      Lance Dublin
      San Francisco

  15. I am trying to get the Nor’east 02 group out for an early spring New England drive.

    I figure if we don’t tailgate that is
    plenty far apart to meet the social distancing criteria.

    We might even bring bag lunches and
    stop at a nice spot.

    Hopefully this “new norm” doesn’t
    last too long.

    Nice that you got out
    with your boy Keith.

    Everyone Stay Well

  16. Hi Keith,

    I feel this was well intentioned, but ill-advised. Living with a health care professional I’ve become educated about the many risks associated with these kind of outings. And the most critical risks are not to you, but to others.

    The Covid virus can live in many different surfaces. You could have unknowingly therefore have spread the virus – no matter how careful your son was at each stop. Also, had you had an accident or needed assistance you would have not only put these emergency workers at risk, you would have diverted resources that are needed to fight this devastating virus.

    I too am sorry to be a buzz-kill, but we are all in this together and therefore have to think about how our actions can effect others.

    It seems you could have created these same experiences for you and your son in your own driveway.

    Respectfully and house-bound (with three exotics in my garage and the gorgeous roads of the Bay Area waiting, empty outside the door),

    Lance Dublin
    San Francisco

  17. Hi Keith, I’m in the same vulnerable group you are and I applaud your decision to take Bradley on a ride. In fact, although I’ve been very cautious and staying at home, getting deliveries,wearing mask and gloves on the few occasions I have to go out, I am very much looking forward to a 2 hour drive with 9 or 10 other classics to be scheduled on a nice day soon in the countryside outside of Boston. No contact, just waving to good friends driving along. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. At least we have something that will take us safely outside which we can enjoy!! Stay safe, stay healthy, this will end sometime!! Best, Bruce

  18. this is hysteria. I could go on at length but just get a prescription for plaquenil–tthat hydroxy-stuff, some 220mg zinc sulfate tabs, maybe az–mycin. 500mg of . twice a day for 5 days, I: 220mg zinc sulfate per day for 5 days; 1 ‘az’ per day for 5 days–the doc in monroe n.y. had about 40 patients who had symptoms; no hospitalizations! take enuf vitamin c and vitamin d and you shouldn’t worry in any case. we have a fancy restaurant that does takeout to the tailgaters in the parking lot…a neat idea. stay well! this isolation can’t go on for long or the economy will tank

  19. Just got back from a 40 mile run in “your” “our” 911. Both the car and us needed just to get out. It was full of gas, no stops, no crowd, just driving and feeling the air. Great early morning run and left us feeling a lot less enclosed in the house. Glad you and Bradley got the cahnce and got out together.

  20. I think this was a poor decision, multiplied by the fact that it is published online and gives a poor example of how we should be good citizens these days. Unnecessary trips like this put you, your son, and any other people that may have been or were going to the same restaurant, parts store, gas station at increased and unnecessary risk. This is not a drill. Isolation is what is necessary. If one doesn’t feel the need to protect themselves and family enough, feel compassion for healthcare workers that are putting their lives on the line these days and might have to take care of you or someone that could be infected by your trip.

  21. I would have taken a drive but I wouldn’t have gotten out of the car. Still a risk of going into a restaurant for takeout or into a service station. When I have to go to a store or refuel one of my vehicles, I wear a mask & gloves. As soon as I finish refueling , I dispose of the gloves before re-entering my vehicle.

  22. Well Keith,while it may have been a little risky and a potential bad example, I don’t blame you one bit for wanting to get out. I have been quarantined for the past three weeks with a moderate case of covid-19 and only left the house three times. Once to the Dr., once to get tested (2 weeks of trying later, don’t get me started on how crappy our response, lack of tests, and horrible wait for results has been, coming from one with first hand experience and the virus) and once when my symptoms had eased when I dropped the top on my e36 and went for drive with my dog on a sunny day. All three outings were important to me, for my health both physical and mental. I see your dog got to go as well, it’s very cute. If you don’t mind, whats its name?

Comments are closed.