Keith’s Blog: Is This the Year to Go to Monterey?

Monterey Car Week is cancelled. The SCM 1000 is postponed to 2021, along with nearly all other car activities at least through July.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be looking forward to using our cars again — perhaps as early as this August — in controlled, thoughtful circumstances.

Before the virus took hold, I had planned a week’s adventure with Bradley that included Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Crane Hot Springs and the Alvord Desert Scenic Highway.

Assuming that the little hotels and restaurants that serve those areas are open, I’m resetting my plans for August.

I think a small group of three to four cars, (6-8 people in all), could maximize their safety and still go on a tour.

The challenge with bigger events, such as the SCM 1000, is finding a safe way to feed and house 80 to 100 people. Social distancing becomes very difficult at smaller establishments.

I’m not interested in doing anything stupid or putting myself at risk for no reason. At the same time, living through this pandemic is like driving on ice. My “avoidance alert” radar is on high.

When I go to the local Safeway, I find myself studiously avoiding contact with others. I wipe down the self-serve checkout terminal before I push any buttons.

When I’m outside walking or riding my bike, I’m constantly scanning ahead to make sure I can avoid being in proximity to anyone.

All this caution is not as good as a vaccine. But until a vaccine comes along, it is our only option to try to have some semblance of the lives we used to know.

I’m itching to be on the road, especially with Bradley. The brief day trips I’ve taken in our Volvo 122s and our Jaguar S3 V12 coupe have simply whetted my appetite to be on the open road.

More than one person has suggested this might be the perfect year to go to Monterey. Hotel rooms will probably be discounted and readily available — if hotels are open. The same with getting a reservation at your favorite restaurant.

Monterey and Carmel are fantastic areas to explore; even more so when not overwhelmed with thousands of classic cars and their admirers.

Depending on how the virus plays out, a Caravan to a Virtual Concorso might be a possibility, if we can find food and lodging in Eureka and Novato on the way down.

I’m just tossing these thoughts out. Perhaps the New Normal is tours with three to four cars. Perhaps Monterey this August is a good idea.

Do you think it’s time to start planning these types of things?

I look forward to your suggestions.

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, now in its 33rd year. Keith has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and had his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity. He has received many honors, including the Lee Iacocca Award, the Edward Herrman Award, was inducted into the Concorso Italiano Hall of Fame and more. He is on the boards of directors of The LeMay Museum and Oregon Ballet Theater, and was formerly the chair of the board of the Meguiar's Award.

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5 comments

  1. Keith – looks like you got her up to 80 mph. Looks like fun! Plenty of oil pressure. Enjoy!

  2. I suggest looking at it all this way: what are the things you can do that will maximize the greatest good for the greatest number of people? Perhaps they are not taking a trip to Monterey with 6-8 other people. It’s hard to tell, at this point, what will be safe and acceptable then. But until then, think about how much good you can do for others. Because they certainly need it.

  3. How would you select such a short list of caravan drivers? Lottery? Car classifications? I’d be interested in going, and it would be just me alone. I have a 1965 Austin Healey 3000.

  4. Excellent thoughts and suggestions Keith. I have been ruminating along the same lines.

  5. To quote an iconic Carmel resident, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question, do you feel lucky”.

    March 15th we felt lucky as we left Portland for three days in Carmel, a drive down Big Sur and then five days in Santa Barbara. First night OK in Redding but we wiped everything touchable down with disinfectants just to make sure. Second day California locked down the counties around San Francisco with stay at home orders. Not so lucky. Lunch at a drive through Burger King and then onto Carmel by 3:00 PM. Luckily we could park just about anywhere because most of the stores had already closed even though there were no reported cases in Monterey County. Parked right in front of the hotel, never did that before. Lucky.

    Went to one of our go to restaurants, Flaherty’s, that night for the local fish, Sand Dabs. Maybe ten people between their two side by side restaurants. Everyone maintained social distance, unfortunately someone had a bad cold or ??? and coughed a lot so didn’t feel very lucky. Canceled the Santa Barbara portion of the trip.

    Next day walked the beach, most businesses closed including the Monterey Aquarium and Art Museum. Not much to do so we made dinner reservations for that night at La Bicyclette hoping we could get in. They only had two reservations and asked us to check back to make sure they were still open. Good meal, good distancing, felt lucky.

    That day they had two Covid 19 cases in Monterey County and the county administration went to a shelter in place order. Hotel told us they were closing in the morning and we would have to leave. Not so lucky.

    Walked the two block to Nielsen Brothers Grocery and ordered two big sandwiches to go, put them on ice for the drive to Portland in the morning. Lucky Lucky.

    While I was out my wife accidentally walked into a hotel employee meeting where they were getting their layoff notices.
    A terribly unlucky thing to happen so quickly.

    We left at 6:00 AM that next morning. The night porter was the only person left at the hotel, he said he had kept his job only because he also handled night security.

    Arrived back in Portland about six that night and felt very lucky.

    I thought if we traveled early in the outbreak the numbers would be with us, but that didn’t work out. Traveling with higher infection numbers isn’t going to be a very enjoyable experience, having said that though, I’m glad we went, just to put a perspective on what people are having to deal with.

    One high note, the Alfa Stelvio ran flawlessly. You don’t need luck with Alfas anymore.

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