Bradley and I had two road trips in a week. First, we drove to Astoria, on the Oregon Coast. We took the 1991 Alfa Spider and he drove about 100 miles. This being springtime in Oregon, we drove through a hailstorm.

The combination of the scenic, winding Highway 26 and the nimble S4 Spider is a good one. Traffic moves along at a comfortable 60-65 mph. There are plenty of passing lanes.

I didn’t miss the absence of the trucks going 80 mph that careen past us on the freeways.

I’m enjoying watching him develop driving instincts. He now points out to me when he sees brake lights far ahead, and he takes his foot off the throttle in anticipation of changes in traffic flow. We are both growing more relaxed.

It was a successful outing.

We decided our next trip would be an overnight one. Our destination would be Florence, OR. It is farther south on the coast than Astoria, and about 170 miles from Portland.

I asked which car he wanted to drive, and he first suggested the 1971 Jaguar E-type V12 coupe. Then he noted that if we wanted to actually drive there and get back, the 2004 Mercedes SL55 AMG might be a safer choice. While the Jag has completed a couple of SCM 1000s without incident, it is, after all, a 52-year-old British car.

I still suffer from a mild case of PTSD from being stranded in the countryside when the Jag’s alternator stopped charging the battery, as well as driving across town with steam spewing out of the radiator overflow when the thermostatic sensors for the cooling fans failed.

The day before we left, I picked the car up from the ever-helpful Mike Christopherson at Pro-Tek Automotive, and proceeded to fill it with fuel and stop at a local tire store to have the pressures checked. Time is not so precious the day before you go on a trip. But every minute counts once you are underway.

I have written before that the SL55 is a magnificent GT car. I was checking my records and we have put over 9,000 miles on the car in three years. It has only spent one night in the shop, to have the automatic trunk closer adjusted.

I drove the 110 miles from Portland to Eugene on I-5, where we picked up Highway 126 to the coast. Bradley then got behind the wheel.

Like Highway 26, Highway 126 is a curving, pleasant stretch of road. Bradley was comfortable behind the wheel, and we had the kind of engaging father-son talk that only seems to happen on road trips. He asked questions about how SCM got started.

Doing 60 mph, the 493-horsepower V8 of the AMG loped along at 2,100 rpm. I have installed Apple CarPlay to replace the archaic cd-based GPS system. Having a modern electronic interface transforms the car.

We overnighted at the Quality Inn. While no one would confuse it with the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, its room rate was only $115 a night, rather than $1,500 with a four-night minimum at the Florida resort. Plus, breakfast (of a sort) was included.

We had made reservations at the Bridgewater Fish House and Zebra Bar. We shared entrees of scallops and Chinook salmon. We both gave the dinner a B+. Our conversation continued non-stop.

The next day we were on the road back to Portland. Bradley wanted me to drive the first part, then he took over on the freeway. We talked about braking before entering a turn, then accelerating after the apex.

He’s nearly ready for a defensive driving course. I’d like a few hundred more miles of seat time first.

Once we hit I-5, I was interested to see how he handled merging with traffic, and keeping a safe distance on all four sides. He is improving.

He noted that the luxurious, powerful AMG made our daily-driver Hyundai seem every bit like the Korean economy car it is.

Soon enough we were home. Our first father-and-son overnight road trip sharing driving duties was in the books, with just over 400 miles covered.

I’m looking forward to the next adventure. The 45th annual Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon Old Spider tour is May 6th. It would be a good drive for both of us.



  1. David R Lightfoot

    Great story but you might want to work on Bradley’s hand position on the wheel. 9 and 3 is preferred. Those bumps he is squeezing are meant for pushing with one’s thumb, while the other hand uses the thumb hook on the wheel to pull.
    David Lightfoot


    As to the comment above, I saw a remark about 9 and 3 a long time ago. Used it since. Have mentioned it to others, who converted to it. It’s less tiring than grabbing the top of the wheel with both hands.
    BTW….that remark was made by Jackie Stewart.

  3. One of the best things I ever did with my dad was ride with him on his 30 mile drive to and from work during school breaks. He had an auto body shop and I worked with him from when I was 10. No matter how the day went, when we went to leave he was just dad, not the boss. It was always just me, no annoying brother and sister. Got my learner’s permit when I turned 14 and he taught me to drive, as you are with your son. Learned a lot more than how to drive, I learned how to live my life on that 30 mile drive between Vero Beach and Malabar FL. These drives will mean everything to Bradley 60 years from now. Heck, they probably do now.

  4. There is a specific reason why 9 and 3 are best. When you get your hands on top of the wheel, you use your shoulder muscles to “push” the wheel. When you keep your hands on the lower part of the wheel, you “pull” the wheel with your forearms. The muscles in your forearms are simply better connected to your brain, and therefore more precise, than the muscles in your shoulders. Racing drivers must use their “inside” hand (in relation to the corner) to pull the wheel down rather than their “outside” hand to push the wheel up in order to maintain proper control.

  5. I hope the Alfa didn’t get damaged in the hail storm!