(Ron's photo album of the trip can be found by clicking here).The idea of driving our Miata to California never crossed my mind until I heard of the 25th Anniversary event being planned for the Miata at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I was enticed by the opportunity to drive our MX-5 on the Laguna Seca race track and to be there for this once in a lifetime event. The September timing also aligned with my potential retirement plans.
Diane and I had not undertaken a road trip this long since 1986 when our two children were preschool, and we packed up our 1977 GM van for a three week vacation to Southern California and Disneyland with a stopover in Vancouver BC to take in Expo '86.
Initially, there was a lot of apprehension regarding the limited amount of space, and the comfort level of driving up to nine hours a day in the confines of the small roadster. After many consultations with friends, careful packing and repacking, we managed to get everything we thought we would need in the Miata, including a nice sized cooler for water and snacks, and a helmet. We even utilized the space behind the drivers and passenger seats.
The plan was to leave Calgary on Saturday, August 30th and arrive in Monterey the day before the official festivities. Accommodations were booked at Best Western hotels along our way down and at the Embassy Suites in Seaside, California during the event. The return trip, however, was left unencumbered.
Our route took us south along the Cowboy Trail, west into BC through the Crowsnest Pass, then south to the border crossing at Kingsgate. We spent the first night in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. From there, we continued southwest to the Columbia River valley, then west to the coast highway and south to Monterey. At one hotel just south of the Canada/US border we were asked if we were heading south for the winter. Who knew that Calgary would have a freak snow storm two days later?
On our second day of travel we picked up a rock, thrown from a semi travelling in the opposite direction. It left us with a double bulls eyes centered on the driver's side of the windshield just above the driver's line of sight. With this damage we were concerned that the Miata would not be allowed on the track for the hot laps. That evening we reached out to the Miata.net community and event organizers. Within a few hours we had two referrals to a mechanic in Monterey who put us in contact with Alan's Auto glass, which was located only a few blocks from Embassy Suites Hotel where we would be staying. Great news, but we still had 1500 kilometres to travel. The drive along the Columbia River Gorge offered some amazing and spectacular scenery. Hundreds of wind turbines lined the ridge, and an equal number of people were windsurfing and parasailing on the massive river, and along the way we passed three huge hydro dams. Night two found us in Cascade Locks, Oregon on the Columbia River at the foot of The Bridge of the Gods. During the night we were serenaded by the wails of the trains travelling up and down both sides of the river. In the morning we realized that we were less than 100 feet from the railway tracks.
On the way down we planned a few stops to help us break up the long drives and stretch our legs. The first was Multnomah Falls on the south side of the Columbia River gorge in Oregon. It is spectacular and, at 620 feet, is the fourth tallest waterfall in the continental United States. We also stopped in Eugene, Oregon to meet up with a gal Diane has been conversing with over the internet for over 12 years. We had a good but short visit over a light lunch before heading west to the coast and an overnight stay in Coos Bay. The next day we entered California under the scrutiny of a border patrol agent who wondered aloud, "I don't know where you'd put it ... but do you have any fruit in there?"
We took the scenic route through the redwood forests, found lots of twisties then stopped in Leggett to drive through the Chandelier Tree, one of three "drive through trees" in California. On the return trip we would also stop at the Klamath "Tour Thru Tree" near Crescent City. South of the Redwood forests we travelled through vineyards and orchards, and various vegetable crops including piles of pumpkins in the fields getting ready for Halloween.
We spent part of a day in San Francisco and drove our Miata down the twisty Lombard Street taking lots of pictures. I then drove back down the street while Diane took pictures of our Miata from the bottom. We then went for a walk along Fisherman's Wharf, watched the sea lions at Pier 39 and stopped for clam chowder.
On Thursday September 4th, we arrived in the Monterey area mid afternoon, with a stop at Alan's Auto Glass. The Miata returned Friday morning at 9:00 AM to have the windshield replaced. That gave us enough time to meet up with the Canadian group for our scheduled arrival at Wolf Hill for the photo and ND reveal. To make our group stand out in the aerial photos some of us Canadians draped Canadian flags over our windshields. In our case the flag also hid the yellow tape that was holding the new windshield in place for the first 24 hours.
Saturday we mingled at the track, met many nice Miata folk, checked out the vintage Miata's and took a close look at the new ND prototype. Diane met the owner of Flyin Miata and secured Ron a ride along in FM`s "Igor" with an experienced group B driver. That was a very intense and very fast 20 minute ride. Accelerating swiftly and breaking hard all the time being within mere inches from the cars surrounding us. At the end of the day we took in the barbeque then opted for a soak in the hot tub at the hotel. And wouldn't you know it we found some other Miata folk doing the same.
Sunday turned out to be a long busy day. We had to be at the track early for the driver orientation and training at 8:00 AM, and since Ron was driving in Group D, his last session did not end until 5:30 PM. That morning there were one hundred Miata's in the hotel parking lot when we left. At the track we parked beside the one other Miata that had been driven from Calgary. It was also being driven in novice group D. I had requested an instructor and was lucky enough to get one who was able to ride along with me in the Miata. Joe had a set of helmet mikes so he was able to provide turn by turn direction and advice through the headset. I can still hear him saying... "...Brake quickly (on the straight before the turn)... throttle thought the turn then accelerate (out of the turn through the apex and to the exit)... not yet, not yet, not yet, now... smooth, smooth... look at the apex, now look to the exit ... look where you want to be... use all of the track, you paid for it so use it all... "
After each 20 minute hot lap session there was a debriefing in the training room, by the time that was over, there was barely enough time to work in a washroom break before heading back to the paddock to get the car, pick up the instructor and get into position for the next session.
Our Miata had to display a number to access the track and for identification in the professional photos that would be taken during the hot laps. Ron had magnetic numbers made up in Calgary before we left. He chose "007" because the Miata is a 2007, with the Canadian flag showing through the numbers. Got Blue Milk does an incredible job of making you look fast so yes, digital copies of their photos of "007" followed us home. On close examination we realized that one of the photos had captured both of the Calgary Miata`s on the corkscrew at the same time, with yours truly in the lead. We also scheduled a session with Vision Wells who outfitted our Miata with three action cameras during one of the 20 minute runs. The resulting video followed us home in the mail.
We decided to stay in Monterey an extra day. We spent Monday at the Monterey Aquarium and strolling along Cannery Row. Then we met up with the Riley's (the other Calgary Miata) for dinner at Chilies'. Tuesday we did the 17 mile scenic drive through Pebble Beach and then turned north back through San Francisco. We took a short detour across the Richmond Bridge just because it was there.
On the way back one of the nights was spent at the Fire Side Motel recommended by one of Diane's cousins. It is located right on the ocean in Yachats, Oregon. We dined in a restaurant at a neighbouring hotel overlooking
the ocean and watched the sun set into the Pacific. That night, as we were serenaded by the waves pounding on the beach, we could not help feeling a bit disconcerted after reading the tsunami and earthquake emergency
vacuation procedures posted in our room.
We had so much fun at the Miata race track with all of the events, people and cars. We indeed had participated in a world record meet up of Miata's with 1210 there on Friday and over 1934 Miata's arriving throughout the weekend. We participated in the parade lap at the raceway on Saturday with 645 other Miata's. Which was followed on Sunday with another 169 Miata's for a total parade of 814. We had fun travelling, sightseeing, stopping at road side fruit stands, shopping and navigating the many twisty roads. It was so nice sharing the event with another family from the Canadian Rockies Miata Club.
In the words of another Miata(dot)Net'er: "Congratulations to all the organizers and volunteers for putting on a memorable - and world-record-breaking - event! It was brilliant to share in the enthusiasm for the world's favourite sports car with people from all around the world."
We drove 5,925 kilometres in 15 Days, consumed 491 litres of premium gasoline, averaged 35.6 miles per gallon (17.5 on track day, highest was 40.5), and burnt 3/32nd of an inch of rubber off a new pair of Bridgestone Potenza RE720 Sport tires in one hour and 20 minutes on the track.