This year we made the decision to drive to Monterey from Portland, about 750 miles each way.

In previous decades, we had flown to San Jose, CA, picked up a rental car and driven to the peninsula, repeating the process for the trip home. Door to door, it would take about eight hours.

I’ve learned that my days of 11-hour one-day drives between Portland and Monterey are over.

There were four of us this year: Me, my partner Schön, Bradley and his friend Joe. Bradley has his license now, so we had three drivers to rotate.

While my past three trips down the coast were in a trio of vintage Alfas (1967 GTV, Duetto and Giulia Super), this year I decided to take our family car, a 2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited.

With our rooms in Monterey costing us well over $8,000 for three nights, the thought of sitting by the side of the freeway in Red Bluff, CA, waiting for a fuel pump for a vintage Mercedes while our room reservations vaporized sent a chill through my credit card.

In past years, I had rented a two-bedroom condo for SCM for a week for around $3,000. Those days are gone.

So, here’s the first thing I have learned: When you are on a tight schedule with financial obligations, you need reliable transportation, whether by car or by air.

This was to be a throwback trip, to the days when family vacations were done by car. We would take three days to get to Monterey and stop at all the one-off attractions we came upon.

The treat of our first day was seeing the “Mo’s World Famous Clam Chowder” sign as we pulled into Newport, OR. While Mo’s is a fixture in Oregon, it had been decades since I had stopped. We all had the chowder in a bread bowl, and it was tasty.

Later that day we stopped at The Trees of Mystery and visited with Paul Bunyon and Babe the Great Blue Ox. I first visited Babe when on a road trip vacation with my grandparents, in their new bumble-bee-yellow-and-black 1956 Mercury Montclair. They took me there when I was five. I’ve never forgotten that trip, and now my kids won’t either.

We had a pleasant dinner at a boutique restaurant in Eureka, where we hooked up with SCMer Greg Long, who was driving his Citroën convertible to Monterey.

The next day began with an obligatory trip through the Drive-Thru Tree in Leggett, CA, then on to Ft. Bragg and Highway 1. Through the magic of the internet, we found an out-of-the way food stop that had fresh and delicious deep-fried prawns. We ended the night in Novato, CA, capping off the drive with a couple of margaritas at a local restaurant. The food was good, but somehow the food at every Mexican restaurant tastes exactly the same.

I’ve learned when driving to Monterey to stop in Novato and cross the Golden Gate Bridge after rush hour is over. If I try to drive straight through from Portland with just one overnight, I always end up in the Bay Area in the middle of rush hour, making for a miserable three-hour end to the day as I work my way south.

We arrived in Monterey mid-morning, and got checked into our rooms at the Portola Hotel & Spa just in time to go to the SCM contributors happy hour that Senior Editor Rory Jurnecka had arranged at Turn 12 Bar & Grill.

After a whirlwind four days, we headed back to Portland on Saturday. We took the fast way, up Interstate 5 to Redding, CA, then home. We found a couple of delightful independent ice cream shops along the way and had dinner at a fun Japanese place.

We were back home by Sunday late afternoon.

Did it take longer by car? Of course. Was it more expensive to drive? Probably, as in addition to gas we had meals and hotel rooms to pay for.

Having the car, however, allowed me to bring my personal mobility scooter, which greatly increased my opportunities to get around.

It was definitely a throw-back vacation, with two adults and two kids in a car covering 1,500 miles in a week. I longed for the Ford Country Squire station wagon SCM once owned.

Although the trip was longer and more expensive, it was also fun. Fun is not a word often used when flying with your family. We got to stop at enjoyable places and discover interesting restaurants. We actually experienced the scenery instead of flying over it. Each new place we visited was a new adventure.

Next time, would I do it again? The jury is out on that. It does double the time you spend in transit, so you can’t be on a truncated schedule. You have to go in a modern, reliable car with air conditioning to make the trip bearable. Everyone has to share the “road trip karma,” or they might find themselves left behind at a rest stop.

We ended up taking a vintage-style trip to see the vintage cars in Monterey. It provided an unanticipated bonus and made a few great memories to boot.



  1. Hi Keith. I love reading your articles. Attending Monterey week is a bucket list item for me. I enjoy the leaflet that SCM puts out every year on the various auctions and shows. You could probably write a book on suggestions for how to navigate all there is to see. It also sounds very expensive.

  2. Hi Keith, not having your medical issues, I still believe any trip 500 miles or less is better off driven. At 75 I’m still comfortable doing 800-900 miles in a day but I’m sure that will change. With the way airlines are today, you may wind up driving anyhow, as we did last Christmas flying from Dallas to Ft. Myers but getting unceremoniously dumped off at Huston with no hope of a flight out for four days. There is just so many issues with flying now days (tiny seats, loosing luggage, unruly passengers, delays, etc.) that make it miserable so you really need to make sure the flying is the best way to go.

  3. “Fly or Drive” aren’t the only options. Take Amtrak, sleep overnight on the train, see some sights, arrive rested, showered and via the most environmentally friendly mode of travel. When I write my articles for the Lincoln magazine, I’ve flown to my destination but taken the train home, because that gives me the time and space to write. Something to think about, especially for a journalist like yourself!

  4. Keith, I have the same thoughts. Driving from Memphis to Muskoka, Canada for 2 days and having 4 days vacation and then driving for 2 days back to Memphis. Driving for 4 days and having 4 days of vacation is not a pleasant experience. However, flying these days is not much fun either, but a least you have control of your time when driving.

  5. How about renting a motorhome next time?? UBER out to dinner and such.? Just a thought.

  6. I am retired and love to drive, so unless there is an ocean crossing involved, I am driving no matter what the distance might be.

  7. I like driving trips anytime. Love the experiences, sights, sounds and amazingly varied people all along the way. And in a fun old car (928 5spd) or big old cruiser (Merc S55), always enjoyable. Yes, it is getting expensive with crazy lodging prices … Cheers!

  8. Always enjoy a good road trip tale and you did not disappoint today. Per Michael & David, I’m a driver whenever I can. Seems like it just feels right even at my extended age. As Larry Webster so accurately capture in his book ” Never Stop Driving ” a sense of joy and accomplishment. Keep the good stories coming Keith.

  9. Always drive!! I drove from Toronto to Daytona for Bike Week many times over the years. Your time is your own- travel at your own pace. Who needs the grief of flying? Like you, the days of going straight-thru are over, but the scenery still makes the trip worth it every time!

  10. ROAD TRIP the people that you meet and the places you can experience are memories you can’t experience on a flying cramped tube!