Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/09/07[Author Prev] [Author Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Author Index] [Topic Index] [Home] [Search]
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 window. 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 paying?" "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.