From Sea to Shining Sea, and back...



Club Articles, News and Features






-
From Sea to Shining Sea, and back... -
by
Pascal Gademer

 

As i drove thru Atlanta, I realized that it had been exactly seven years to the day that I had flown in to inspect and purchase my 1972 E-type. Seven years of memories, great drives, participating in dozens of events ranging from rallies to concours, track days and slalom to family vacations, while often using it as a daily driver; close to 100 000 miles of FUN ! It all started when i decided to get a second car (in addition to a 1996 XJ6) and having decided on a series III 2+2 quicky found a nice 1972 on jag-lovers.org. After a few emails and phone calls with the seller, I took an early saturday morning flight from Miami to Atlanta, carrying both a cashiers check and a return ticket, just in case; it turned out the car was exactly as represented and by 8pm that same evening I was back home in Miami.

Eight year later, the 650 miles distance between Miami and Atlanta was only a small fraction, not even 10%, of a week long round trip to the JCNA Annual General Meeting in Seattle WA. This was as long of a road trip as one can take while staying within the continental US... excluding Alaska (maybe one day...). 3300 miles and experiencing an incredible sampling of states and scenery: from flat Florida, the southern Apalachians, the Great Plains, Rockies and the Pacific Northwest.

I left Miami around 2pm on tuesday after carefully checking the weather which was my biggest concern as weather can still be tricky in the rockies. The safe route, staying south on I-10 into california then I-5 along the Pacific Coast would have added 700 miles and with some heavy rain forecast for California and Oregon anyway I chose the direct route. I passed Atlanta by evening, heading into the Apalachians, Tennessee, Kentucky reaching St Louis and crossing the Mississippi by dawn Wednesday. Onto the plains towards Kansas City before heading North towards South Dakota in the early afternoon clocking 1801 miles in the first 24 hours (a personal record), before reaching I-90 for the westward sprint into Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington. And a sprint it is on I90, often dubbed America's Autobahn thanks to laxed speed enforcement especially in Montana; while it doens't mean you can drive a la Fast and Furious it does allow you to maintain higher speeds, something my 5 Speed V12 e-type excels at.

Scenery in the northern rockies is simply magnificient, wide open space with some patches of snow still remaining. Snow is beautiful but only from a distance, not on the road when driving an E-type on wide low profile high performance tires... I knew from the weather forecast that there was a risk of snow in the northen rockies and was able to stay on top of the forecasts using the web browser in my cel phone. The forecast turned out to be accurate as I started getting a some light rain Wednesday night in northern Wyoming; soon the rain drops turned into snow flakes and more snow flakes and more... until the highway was just pure white with 3"+ on the ground. Because of the late hour and light traffic, there were no tracks on the road just pure white snow which was coming down too fast to safely continue forcing me to pull over on the first off ramp i could find. I woke up 3 hours later to find the snow had stopped, plows were running clearing one lane making it possible for me to get back on the road and maintain a reasonable safe speed... Later that morning, I crossed more snow in Montana without incident...

Except for running out of gas in Western Montana, I had cut it too close and with a first gas station out of fuel I made it to the next one 15 miles later but ran out gas coasting in front of the pumps and another "sorry out of gas" sign... The place,a gas station / souvenir shop / restaurant / lounge called Testicle Festival (I'm not making this up, see the picture) was open but deserted and after a few minutes I finally found the owner. Since she couldn't get anyone to come over to bring some gas, she just handed me over a empty can and the keys to her car telling me to drive 5 miles down to the next exit. Nice and trusting... considering she had not even seen what i was driving from inside the lounge. The rest of the trip was uneventful, into Idaho and Washington arriving in Seattle thursday at 5PM, or exactly 54 hours after leaving Miami, including 7 hours of naps. Not bad for a 34 year old car often called unreliable, only mechanical issue being loosing the speedometer after 3125 miles...

While in Seattle, I was once again able to see how versatile a series III 2+2 E-type can be. My girlfriend Naomi flew in on Friday morning and during our 5 days stay, we drove the E for sightseeing, going out to dinner, shopping downtown Seattle, and finally after the AGM on Sunday up to Mt Rainier for a couple of days of snowboarding. I really got a kick out of parking an E-type in the snow at the Cristal Mountain Ski Resort along SUVs and all wheel drive Volvos or Subarus; it turned out that even on high performance P-Zeros, it's not bad handling in snow. Speaking of playing in the snow, It had been about 30 years since I last skied, back then Snowboarding didn't even exist, and I was really curious to try it... the first couple of hours were tough (it took over a month to sit on my bruised posterior without moaning). Then it suddenly clicked. By the end of the day I was able to follow at the heels of Naomi despite her couple of years' headstart on me...

Tuesday morning was time to head back and we woke up to an iced-up E-type; I had to get bottles of hot water from the room to melt the ice off the windshield, locks and seals to open the hatch. After a short drive out of the mountains and north towards Seattle, we headed back east towards Oregon and Idaho. Naomi had to get back home by Wednesday so the plan was for her to ride with me on first part of the trip and catch a flight from somewhere along the way. After travelling for 500 miles, it turned out she had to fly all the way back to Seattle to get on the most convenient flight to Miami. After dropping off a fuming girlfriend at the doors of the small airport in Boise, I got back on the road toward Utah and Wyoming making some good time despite the heavy downpours probably sent by a steaming passenger travelling the opposite direction, in southern Idaho.

These trips always leave me with good memories. Like snapshots of an unforgettable sunrise "Somewhere West of Laramie," there is one image i will always remember. In part for the crisp blue sky, rolling high plains, snow patches, and the snow-capped Rockies that peak to the south, with the V12 humming close to triple digit speeds but also because it's the site of what is considered one of the most successful car advertising ploys to ever be conceived and when i first saw it I couldn't guess I'd be driving there... I first saw the poster when Naomi explained to me why she named her horse Jordan--after a 1920s vintage poster for the Jordan Playboy sportscar, featuring a woman riding her horse and racing a train. The ad helped sell thousands of Jordans, and was meant for the sportscar-minded woman of the 20s.

Leaving the Rockies, I drove into the plains states, passing St. Louis by early evening on an uneventful run southeast towards Georgia where I experienced the second glitch on the trip, an intermittently charging alternator. I kept on going limiting electrical loads until the alternator stopped charging altogether. I pulled over in a rest area to check connections and it was clear that the alternator was the culprit (no Lucas jokes as it was a 3-month-old Delco Remy). The trip came to its finale during an afternoon rush hour which caused some concern as by then battery voltage was low resulting in sluggish cooling fans.

Exactly fifty hours after leaving Seattle, I was pulling into the parking lot of the marina after 9 days and 7000 miles of a mostly trouble-free road trip. While this was not my first long trip (I drove the E to Boston, Lime Rock CT, Colorado Springs, Phoenix, Indianapolis and other short trips in the past 7 years), it was definitely the most challenging because of weather and sheer distance for one driver. On the way back, I was lucky to remain a day ahead of a major spring storm which dumped heavy snow over the rockies and plains before spawning severe tornadoes over the southeast. Mechanically, even though I trust the E more than any other car, you always wonder if the 140k miles, 34-year-old classic would make it. I carry a lot of spare parts and tools with me. Unfortunately, i didn't have a spare alternator on this trip figuring that a 3 month modern unit would be reliable... yeah.. right. As Thierry of Jaguar Doctor in Boca Raton, who does a great job prepping the car for these trips, says "new" stands for Never Ever Worked.

Besides the snapshot memories, like the iced-up E at a ski resort, parking by Pikes Market in Seattle, racing Somewhere West of Laramie or crawling thru the snow in Wyoming, the versatility of the 2+2 design was proven on this trip. We went shopping, dining, sightseeing and even snowboarding -- all in just a few days and, of course, in style! And did I mention I picked up the SPL class 1st place Slalom Championship award at the AGM? What a versatile car!

To put things into perspective, 7000 miles in 9 days is more or less the distance between Coventry and Beijing China.




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