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The Long Road to Paris: End of the U.S. Leg

April 22, 2011 Cowboys and Autos Day 8. Head winds and fast trucks were kicking Stewball around, but we were still making good time until "Road Work Ahead. Prepare To Stop." Well, we stopped for 20 minutes! I timed it. Now this was feeling like a race. We did have to scoot (fast) to get in on time, which we did. I think Ed’s hands may be stiff in the morning from holding the wheel. I think a wheel cover to increase the diameter is needed before China. This old steering wheel has a small diameter and means really clenching your hands. We were met in Dodge City by horses and riders. The youngest rider was three years old. They escorted us through town, down Wyatt Earp Blvd., the main drag. Met us at the east end of town and our hotel was on the west end. Really colorful and fun, but a long slow parade at 3 mph and Ed’s (yes, he was still driving) foot on the clutch. Tomorrow Denver, higher altitudes. Hope Stewball likes this run. Jan April 23, 2011 Where the Cows and the Antelope Play Day 9. First, I need to thank everyone for the feedback you are leaving on the novel. We are getting as many comments on the book as our blog! That feels really good. Maybe we do have a winner. OK, the rally. We left the horses in Dodge City. OK, not all of them, we did see lots of them in Colorado, too. But the big sightings were antelope. We don’t have them in North Carolina so seeing them is special. The wind continues and the engine was cutting out, so I didn’t drive today. Hard to keep the car on the road and anxiety in check. Ed thinks now the cutting out we experienced today and earlier was not due to the distributor rotor or fuel mix, but due to a 12-volt wire to the distributor coming in contact with the manifold and partially shorting out. We had this problem and similar cause with the 190 SL. Gary (see next paragraph) rerouted the wire and we will see tomorrow. Tonight in the "Mile High City," well, "Golden" actually. Just on the west side of Denver. Once again we made our time. We have every day so far. Still no scores. Before we started, I had an email from Gary Bergman from Frisco, Colo. saying he would do anything and make any repair we needed to keep Stewball going. He adjusted the valves, rotated the tires and a few other things too, wouldn’t accept any payment, brought me a rose for my bud vase and then took us out to dinner! We did give him an autographed book to keep as part of his involvement in this adventure. These VW guys are the best. We’ve met a lot of them along the way and they really are available to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What a group. Tomorrow, Gateway Canyon, Colo. We’ll reach 11,000 feet, so we (make that Gary) advanced the spark timing and leaned the fuel mixture. Ed will have to reverse this once we get back to 5,000 feet. Meantime, Stewball needs all those 53 horsepower to stay on time with all this climbing. Jan April 24, 2011 Snow and Go...Slow Day 10. Scores finally. We are in second place in the Schuster division and third overall. We feel pretty good with this standing considering our underpowered Stewball. Thank you, Gary, our mechanic extraordinaire, Stewball is running better than ever. We woke up to light snow in Denver.  The challenge was already set by a tight time allowance and mountain roads. We crossed 11,000 feet today as the snow really picked up. The road was snow-covered and slippery, traffic was heavy and slow. The scenery was beautiful, but Ed couldn’t watch anything other than the road and the other cars. Speeds were down to 30 mph. Finally a dead stop. A multi-car accident and a 25-minute complete stop. Fortunately, none of our rally cars were involved in accidents although, from reports at dinner, there were some close calls. No one made their time. Johnathan in the big Chrysler probably did the best. Even the modern cars didn’t get in on time. It was a relief to finally get into Grand Junction. Tomorrow Utah, Jan and Ed April 25, 2011 Dramatic Scenery, Dramatic Breakdowns Day 11. Left Gateway, Colo., this morning driving back along the canyon that we entered yesterday. Dramatic scenery, waterfalls and sheer cliffs. Tight time today, we all thought, until we discovered all the GPSs were reading wrong and the distance shown was much greater than the actual distance we had to travel.  Seems the cliffs screwed with the settings. So, while we hurried along as usual, we really didn’t have any problem with our time in. However, this was not to be for others. The Model A had trouble with the altitude. We did hit Summit, Utah at 7,477 ft., with “wintery mix." Again! Don’t know the whole story, but they missed their time in. Then, we learned while we waited for other cars to get in, that the 32 Ford broke the rear axle, which now must be replaced. The first problem will be where to find one on Easter Sunday in Salt Lake City, Utah! The 2004 Jetta Turbo Natural Gas/gasoline overheated and Lee had to bang on the thermostat to get it to open. That’s not all. In order for the trailer to be available for the 32 Ford, the 29 Hudson had to return to Gateway to make their trailer free for the Ford. Once the Ford is off-loaded, the trailer must return to Gateway. That is 278 miles one-way to pick up the Hudson and have it here for the start tomorrow. Met more VW folks at the end stop at yet another car museum today. We sure appreciate all the support and help they have given us along the way. Tomorrow we have a 6 a.m. start and 541 miles to cover to Reno. Lots of activities there. This will be our last day of rallying on the U.S. leg. Seems strange that it is almost over. See you in Reno, Jan April 26, 20ll Thrills and Spills Day 12. Our longest, hardest day. Salt Lake City to Reno. 541 miles. Snow, rain and sleet. Lots of climbing. Crossed Sonoma Peak at 9,395 ft. Then, it gradually dawned on us, even in ideal weather, no one could make the six hours and 11 minutes alloted for the new cars or the seven hours and 11 minutes for the antiques. I calculated the average speed for the new cars at 88 mph. I didn’t bother to work out the speed requirements for us, but immediately tried to call the race committee. We had only spotty cell-phone coverage, but I finally managed to get through to Jeff. They had neglected account for the time zone change. They added an hour for everyone but then a high wind alert was issued on the highway with winds up to 50 mph. Jan and I traded off driving several times, as the difficulty of keeping Stewball on the road cramped our hands and shoulders. We did make our time with 20 minutes to spare. But it was a long tense drive. We had another surprise waiting in the plaza of the Harrah Hotel. Four of our friends from the 2008 Centennial Tour were here to meet us; two from Canada and two from California. We had no idea they were coming. It was like a class reunion with Luke, Ray, Patrick and John. Then a quick change of clothes and off to the National Auto Museum with Harrah’s car collection and the 1907 Thomas Flyer center stage in our banquet room. We were all awarded beautiful glass etched globes as awards for finishing the U.S. leg of this world race. It was made from sand that was collected from the route the Flyer took across the U.S. in 1908. A very meaningful and personal award. Tomorrow morning many of us will be in tears. The Thomas Flyer, winner of the 1908 race will be started (hopefully) and will lead us out of Reno under the old Reno Arch. Jeff Mahl, great-grandson of George Schuster, winner and driver of that same car, will sit in the passenger seat, dressed as his great-grandfather did. The Flyer has been restored to the condition it was in when it finished the race, complete with dents, chipped paint and mud. Once the Flyer pulls aside, the torch will pass to the cars who hope to go the whole distance to Paris and we continue to San Francisco to complete leg one.  We part with many of our friends who will go the distance only vicariously by following our adventures on our blogs. We will miss them, but I know these friendships are forever. Finishing the first leg of the "Long Road to Paris," Ed

California Dreamin'

It occurred to me that since I spent the first 66 years of my life in California, I have a lot of useful information about California that I should impart to my readers, many of whom are dreaming about visiting the Golden State. 

A Hidden Jewel on California's Central Coast

Paso Robles, California Most people, even those who don’t live in California, have heard of Santa Barbara; many have even heard of San Luis Obispo.  Both of these lovely little cities are on California’s central coast.  Few have heard of the smaller city (around 30,000 residents) of Paso Robles. Back in the twentieth century there were a lot more cows and horses than there were people or tourists in Paso Robles, formally named El Paso de Robles (Spanish for “The Pass of Oaks”).  Still, it was a pretty little city nestled in the rolling hills dotted with oaks around 35 miles inland from Moro Bay.  It even has a river flowing through it (the Salinas) part of the year, which is unusual for central or southern California. There have been a number of wineries producing excellent wine in the Paso Robles region ever since the end of Prohibition (and even before).  The region was known among wine aficionados for its Zinfindel. Come the twenty-first century, and everybody interested in growing wine grapes and/or making wine discovered Paso Robles.  That changed everything.  Not only are there more than 200 wineries in the region now (in, adjacent to or within easy driving distance of downtown), but the industry has spawned a dozen or more fine restaurants; and spas, interesting shops, wine tasting rooms and various festivals throughout the year.  It is a hidden jewel and one of my favorite places to visit for a relaxing weekend or midweek respite.  It makes for a lovely weekend for anyone, not just baby boomers and seniors, anyone who enjoys good food and wine, beautiful scenery, friendly people and relaxation in a serene, small town setting. April is an especially nice time of year to visit Paso Robles.  The hills are verdant, the wildflowers are blooming; the vineyards are sprouting leaves; and the weather is perfect (take a jacket for cool evenings).  If you like the Festival atmosphere, the Annual Wine Festival and its 20,000 visitors will take place the weekend of May 20-22 this year.  Winemaker’s dinners at the wineries and restaurants are the thing to do Friday night; the tasting of more than 400 wines takes place in the downtown park and environs Saturday and visits to wineries for more tasting, food and music is encouraged for Sunday. An advance warning:  Unless you already have a reservation, you will not likely be able to get overnight accommodations at this late date in Paso Robles.  Try San Luis Obispo, which has many more hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts and is only a thirty minute drive. I suspect the wine tours are all booked up for the Wine Festival Weekend, but for any other time I suggest that you hire a wine tour.  That way you boomers and others can visit as many wineries as you want on either a private or public tour, and you don’t have to worry about finding them or a DUI.  I recommend one of the oldest of the tour operators, The Wine Wrangler, www.thewinewrangler.com. As for what wineries to visit, it is difficult to choose from more than 200.  I can recommend a few that I have personally visited.  Cass Winery, Eberly Winery, Dark Star Cellars, Justin Wines, Castoro Cellars, Meridian Vineyards and EOS Vintage Winery.  I hasten to add that there are many others well worth visiting.  These are just ones that I personally have enjoyed.  I can also vouch for the excellent food and lovely views of the surrounding countryside at Cass Winery, but I must add that my son works there, so I might be slightly prejudiced. Whether you visit on Wine Festival Weekend or some other time, a walk around the picturesque downtown is not to be missed, including visits to several wine tasting rooms, an olive oil tasting shop and wonderful Italian, French, Southwest American, steak, barbecue and other restaurants. I have eaten at the following restaurants and can recommend them: Buona Tavola (Italian), Bistro Laurent (French), McClintocks (steak and barbecue), Artisan (continental) and Villa Creek (American Southwest).  Needless to say, all have fine wine menus.  All are in the small downtown area within 4 or 5 blocks of the city park.  There are probably other good restaurants, but I don’t want to recommend a restaurant where I personally have not dined.  The Paso Robles Inn has a good breakfast. For accommodations I would recommend the historic Paso Robles Inn. It is picturesque and comfortable and right downtown where most of the best restaurants and shops are located. For nightlife, Level Four downtown is usually hoppin’.  On weekends many of the wineries have music or other events, especially in the summer.  A very nice wine and music venue downtown across from the park is Vinoteca, a good place for appetizers and a glass of wine before dinner. If you just want to focus on downtown, a day and one night is sufficient, but if you want to visit wineries, I recommend two days and two nights.  Paso Robles is about a three and a half hour drive from Los Angeles, give or take, depending on where you are coming from in Los Angeles and about the same from the Bay Area.  The AMTRAK Train also stops in downtown Paso Robles going both directions.  You can fly into the San Luis Obispo Airport, rent a car and drive the half hour to Paso Robles. I’ve never heard anyone who hasn’t thoroughly enjoyed a couple of days in Paso Robles.  

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