Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/09/07

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Subject: [Leica] The Adventures of Eric the Red, part 2 (resend)
From: Martin Howard <>
Date: Thu, 07 Sep 2000 10:56:47 -0400

I had woken early, so I hit the Californian coast at about 7:30 in the
morning.  It was breathtaking.  I drove through mist and fog, which cleared
at times to show enourmous vistas of Pacific Ocean.  Rest stops were
frequent as I exercised the shutter release of my now gloriously
black-painted M2.  The road twists and turns along the coast, and even
though you're probably only averaging about 30 mph, it's a roller-coaster
ride.  The most fun I've had on four wheels, but then I haven't had a
license for very long.

I got into the bay area around five in the evening and found a motel on El
Camino Real, a long stretch of road that runs south of San Francisco.  I
had picked up a tourist brochure in Pacifica that listed motels and hotels,
but stupidly I didn't look in it until after I had checked in, or I would
have phoned the ones in downtown San Francisco.  As it was, I was in the
township of San Bruno, about 45 minutes by bus and BARTA (rail) from the SF
city center.

Sunday was spent in San Francisco.  I took the BARTA train into
Embarcadero, walked along the water to Fisherman's Warf, then plunged
straight into the heart of the city.  It's a fascinating city, with
tremendous variation between different parts.  Having come across the names
of Embarcadero, North Beach, Chinatown, and Telegraph Hill in my
role-playing youth, it was a bizarre feeling walking through a town whose
geography I knew, but had never seen in real life.  It's also a city which
is possible to explore on foot, something that I particularly value.  I
wish I had had more time to explore it, but I was on a time table.  Tom had
already before my trip told me that he'd found a car for me.  A 1977
Lincoln Continental, something that in and of itself meant nothing to me,
other than Tom's assurances that it would be the perfect highway cruiser
for my explorations emminating from Columbus.

So, I had only the Sunday in San Francisco.  Monday morning I started out
early and found myself driving through the Golden Gate national recreation
area, through the Presidio, and across the Golden Gate bridge shrouded in
fog at about 8 am.  Then along highway 101 up the northern Californian
coast for more breathtaking scenery.  I thought I knew what a pine forrest
looked like, having grown up in Ostergotland in Sweden and for much of my
youth living in the middle of one, but I was mistaken.  The trees in the
Redwood National Park simply defy description and I spent a fair amount of
time driving with my mouth gaping open while hanging out the driver's side

Eventually I hit the Oregon border.  By this time my mind had overloaded on
beautiful scenery and I decided to scoot over to I-5 and do some serious
zooming on up to Seattle.  I'd told Tom and Tuulikki a day or two earlier
that I expected to hit Seattle on Tuesday, but decided that if I put my
mind to it, I should be able to make SeaTac before midnight, allowing me to
take the early morning bus to Vancouver.  Said and done, my apologies to
anyone who might live in Oregon, but all I saw of it was whatever you catch
from Interstate 5 while doing 75 mph.  Oh, interesting tidbit: I pulled up
to a gas station (petrol station for those of you who only speak British)
just north of the Californian border and tried to fill up the car, when I
was abruptly interrupted by a station attendant who carefully explained to
this clearly ignorant foreigner that it is illegal in the state of Oregon
to fill up your car yourself.  It has to be done by an attendant.
   "Aha," I said, thinking that I'd figured it all out, "you've had too
many problems with people filling up their cars and then taking off without
   "Eh, no," she said, confused.  "It creates more jobs, I guess."
Hmm, interesting labour legislation.

When I reached Portland, dusk was falling.  I ended up on I-205 and zoomed
around the city, cursing myself for being in the wrong lane, rather than
staying on I-5 on going straight through Portland.  I end up in the wrong
lane a lot: it's not very efficient, but I get to see a lot of parts of
cities that I'd never planned to.  Only today I was in the wrong lane and
ended up circumnavigating Columbus, rather than going straight through it,
but as a result, I figured out how to get to the Hoover Dam (yes, there is
one just outside Columbus, though not *the* Hoover Dam which is in Nevada),
something that hadn't been quite clear from the maps.  So, while not
exactly the Dirk Gently method of nagivation, it's a sort of distant
relative version.

In hindsight, ending up on I-205 around Portland at dusk was perhaps not
such a bad choice after all.  In any case, there is a river that divides
Portland from Vancouver.  No, not Vancouver in British Columbia, but the
Vancouver in Oregon.  Taking the bridge over this, there was suddenly a
smattering on the windshield.  The skies were clear (infact, I was looking
left at a beautiful sunset) so it wasn't rain.  Then I noticed that the
"raindrops" left dark marks and stayed put.  Bugs.  Lots and lots of bugs.
There must have been a good few hundred of them I picked up just along the
short stretch of bridge.  When I pulled into the next gas station, the car
looked like it had contracted the measels.

Southern Washington was pretty uneventful and by now it was dark so I
couldn't see much of the surrounding countryside.  Again, my sense of
direction and navigational skills almost got me lost, but somehow I found
myself in the right lane by mistake for SeaTac and before I knew it, I had
returned the bathroom-soapmobile and was standing inside the airport
phoning Tom.  It was 10pm.  San Francisco to Seattle in a day.  Worthy of
Neil Cassady.

Tuesday morning I took the bus up to Vancouver.  By this time, my body was
convinced that I was in a moving car, no matter what surface I was sitting
on.  Cafe chairs, bar stools and concrete steps outside the airport all
felt like a Dodge doing 70 mph to my rear.  Even standing up I was at times
concerned because I was convinced I could feel vibrations through the
floor.  The rest of Tuesday was spent getting my bearings and trying to
remember which city I was in.

Wednesday was the big day.  Tom had briefed me, albeit somewhat carefully,
on the Lincoln.  He and Tuulikki had by this time seen the car and checked
that it was in working order.  Tom was quite enthusiastic, describing with
great vigour and large arm movements how splendid this particular car would
be for my intended use, while Tuulikki was more sceptical.  At one point,
she assured me that I was under no obligation to buy the car, that I was
fully entitled to walk away from the deal if I felt that it wasn't a
suitable car.  Tom, if somewhat reluctantly, concurred.

We made our way out to Bowen Island where the car was parked, with the noon
ferry.  Bowen Island is a small, pine tree covered island just west of
Vancouver, about twenty minutes ferry ride from the coast.  We were met by
the owner of the car, Robin, down by the ferry terminal.  I was introduced,
while Tom and Robin clearly had met before and got on like a house on
fire.  Robin had recently bought the island's only gas station and Tom had
joked on the ferry about how he couldn't afford to keep the Lincoln even
owning that.

The drive took all of three minutes and we pulled into a private driveway.
About 70 meters away I could see a red car and Tom enthusiastically
announced that that was it.  As we got closer, so the car in the distance
grew.  We got closer.  The car got bigger.  And bigger.  And bigger.

Robin parked his Mercedes, which in Europe is a full-sized car, behind the
Lincoln.  Back when we were living in the pine forest, sometimes the school
bus consisted of the local taxi drivers driving the kids home in their
cabs: there were not too many of us living out there in the sticks, so this
was some kind of deal that had been worked out with the school.  Anyway,
almost all of those taxis had been diesel Mercedeses, just like Robin's.
I remember them as being enormous, luxurious vehicles.  Robin's looked like
a small Japanese compact in comparison to the dark red Lincoln parked in
front of it.

Now, if you don't know the 1977 Lincoln Continental first hand, here are
some figures to put it in perspective.  It is about 20 ft (6 m) long.  It's
7 ft (2.1 m) wide.  It weighs around 5,000 lbs (2,400 kg).  It comes with a
460 cid (7.5 l) V8 engine that puts out somewhere in the neighborhood of 350
hp.  That, by the way, is one hell of a neighborhood.  Suddenly, I
remembered Drew's 6.2 l diesel-V8 that I thought was so outrageous back
in Cambridge and I realized that the beast lurking inside this car was 1.3
liters *larger*.  It would take about *four* of my parent's Volvo
engines to match the volume of this one.  I gulped.

The thing that strikes you first about the car is not the 20 ft in length,
it's the 7 ft in width.  The only other things that are 7 ft wide on public
roads usually have a police escort and carry a large, florescent orange
sign stating: "WIDE LOAD".  Looking at the car from the front, you can't
help but laugh.  It's got a Texas grin if there ever was a car that did.