Our new issue features the Ferrari Panamerican 20000, wine touring in Bordeaux, Arizona Cactus League Spring Training, and exploring Alaska on a Winter Jeep Jamboree.
By Richard Truesdell
A Passport and a Blueprint. Welcome to the premiere issue of Automotive Traveler where we like to say that every drive is an adventure.
Over the past ten years I've lived something of a charmed life. I had the privilege of being the Editor-In-Chief of Car Audio and Electronics magazine, which gave me a taste of the challenges of the editorial life. And since then I've enjoyed what can only be called the best "job" imaginable, traveling the world driving, writing and photographing some of world's most exciting vehicles in some stunning locations. From Jeep safaris in Africa, to four muscle cars on Route 66, to almost 200 miles per hour on the Autobahn outside of Stuttgart in a Ford GT, I know I've led a dream life.
But more importantly, I've learned that almost all of these so-called once-in-a-lifetime adventures are within reach of almost any automotive enthusiast.
At Automotive Traveler, it will be my job and that of our outstanding group of writers and photographers to give you the blueprint from which you can plan your own journeys. In this way we will be your personal passport to automotive-themed adventures that you may have thought were beyond your means or otherwise unobtainable.
Our focus is singular; driving exciting vehicles over challenging roads, meeting remarkable people along the way to discovering exciting destinations.
Think of Automotive Traveler as a hybrid magazine. First, we're not strictly a travel or an automotive magazine but rather we'll combine the best elements from both genres. We'll do this without the hyperbole of the typical mainstream automotive titles as well as the superfluous fashion fluff that dominates too many of the glossy travel monthlies.
Our hybrid nature extends to our service mission and our unique delivery method. While you will be able to download a PDF hard copy of Automotive Traveler, it will best be enjoyed by viewing it online, using the innovative and dynamic Olive Software Active Magazine interface within your browser. Each of our features will be infused with direct interactive links to the cars,roads, people and places that make each journey special, especially useful in planning your own adventures.
Automotive Traveler is the destination for those of us who share this special passion for a great road trip, which can take many different forms. It can be a grand adventure, such as participating in the Paris to Dakar rally. Or it can be a spirited drive through the Furka Pass in Switzerland trailing a beautiful blonde in a white Mustang convertible while driving a Silver Birch Aston Martin DB5. Or, it might be something much more fundamental, a baseball-loving family spending their springbreak in Florida or Arizona during spring training, traveling from stadium to stadium, in their quest to get a glimpse or autograph of a future Hall of Fame shortstop. I think it's only fair to say that I am a great admirer of the British motoring journals, especially Car, evo and Octane (to which I contribute), all of which provided the inspiration for Automotive Traveler. Two features in particular immediately come to mind. The first was a feature written by Richard Bremmer, photographed by Anton Watts that ran almost eight years ago in the July 1999 issue of Car. In it a brand new Ferrari 575 Maranello was flogged 3,000 miles across Argentina from Buenos Aires to literally the end of the earth, the Tierra Del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. The second was writen five years ago for evo's issue 21, where Editor Harry Metcalfe and photographer Gus Gregory drove a doorless and roofless Lotus 340R from London to Switzerland to attack the famed Klausen Pass to commemorate Rudi Caracciola's legendary 1934 drive in a Mercedes-Benz W25 Silver Arrow. These features now stand as a benchmark for what you'll see in these pages. In my eyes, they represent automotive adventure photojournalism at its absolute peak.
More importantly we want your involvement and participation. On the forums on our website automotivetraveler.com) you'll find detailed guidelines for making your own contributions as well as requests from our writers and photographers seeking input for upcoming features. We want Automotive Traveler to be your magazine as much as it is ours..
Founding Editor, Automotive Traveler
Brenda Priddy Sometimes referred to as the queen of automotive spy photographers, Brenda Priddy has the reputation for being in the right place at the right time. Brenda, for her column I Spy Auto, is looking back into her archives to give us a look at what today's important new car introductions looked like cloaked in camouflage. Her photos have appeared in such publications as Motor Trend, Forbes, Fortune, and USA Today. Brenda calls the Phoenix area home with her husband John and two kids.
Mark Elias A car guy since his grandmother gave him his first Matchbox car in 1961, Mark served 11 years with the Associated Press as a photographer. Afterwards he worked as photo editor at AMI Auto World, and now is now a full-time automotive photojournalist, living his life's dream. For AT he's our new car editor and also contributed the Land Rover Driving Experience story in this issue. He lives with his family in West Palm Beach, Florida and is patiently rebuilding his die cast collection that his mother threw away while attending college.
David Newhardt If your coffee table is sagging under the weight of automotive books, chances are good that David Newhardt's photographs illustrate them. After serving eight years aboard nuclear submarines while in the U.S. Navy, his passion for automobiles led him to work for Automobile, Sports Car International, and Motor Trend. While David has authored several books on muscle cars, he has contributed photography to nearly two dozen more. Recognized as one of the premiere automotive photographers and muscle car experts in North America, David has been interviewed on television documentaries for the History Channel.
Sue Mead If it's got four wheels, Sue Mead has driven it while searching the world in her quest for automotive adventures. Specializing in four-wheeldrive, she's has accumulated enough off-road miles to have circumnavigated the world in the dirt including such events as the Camel Trophy and the Land Rover's G4 Challenge. Sue has also written three books: Monster Trucks and Tractors; Off Road Racing, Legends and Adventures; and Rock Crawling published by Chelsea House. And Sue's crudentials are so respected that she's a member of the jury that picks the North American Car and Truck of the Year each January.
Jill Starley-Grainger Originally hailing from the Peach Tree State, ex-pat Jill Starley-Grainger now calls London home with her husband Tim. They had the enviable "job" of touring Bordeaux in a classic EType Jaguar for this month's feature Grape Escape. Always on the move, Jill writes on a variety of travel- related topics for the UK daily The Independent. She has so adopted the Mother Country that she spells organized as "organised" making it just a bit more challenging for those of us on this side of the pond to edit her copy.
Steve Statham A gear head by his own admission, Steve spent more than his share of years behind various auto parts counters. He is the current editor of Musclecar Enthusiast, contributor to Road & Track's annual Buyer's Guides, and is the past editor of the late Super Ford magazine. Over the past 15 years Steve has had 13 books on automotive history published, including the MBI bestsellers Pontiac GTO, the Great One, and Camaro Musclecar Color History so we know he's fluent in the Bowtie, Pontiac, and Blue Oval languages.
By Dusty Dave
You've probably heard of a Dude Ranch before, but maybe not a Guest Ranch. A Guest Ranch is exactly the same thing but for some reason, somebody, somewhere, probably not a very cool dude, decided that being a guest was more marketable than being a dude. Anyway, no matter what you call 'em, they're a blast. Besides the obvious fact of being in the great outdoors, a ranch vacation is ideal because it is basically stress free.
Absolutely everything has been taken care of for you including your accommodations, meals and activities. There's no need to spend all day worrying about making a reservation for dinner or hunting for a reputable rafting company, etc. All you have to do is show up and have fun! The only decisions you'll ever have to make at a ranch are choosing which activities you may or may not want to participate in. And if you have kids, it's like winning the lottery. Many ranches have supervised children's programs that will keep them busy with activities all day long.
So what's the one thing that all ranches have in common? It's horseback riding. That doesn't mean you have to ride. If you're like a lot of people and you prefer looking at horses to riding them, there are plenty of other activities you can choose from to satisfy you taste for adventure such as hiking, mountain biking and fishing.
Now comes the hard part. With over four hundred ranches in North America, how do you know if you're going to choose a good one?
Well, this cowboy has seen his share of ranches over the years and has made it easy for you by picking three of his all time favorites. My goal is to try and convince you to make a reservation at one of them by the end of this story. Hold on tight and giddy-up!
You've most likely heard of the town of Steamboat for its ski resort and fluffy white powder, but I would have to say that even better than that is the Vista Verde Ranch. This amazing ranch is open year round and offers activities unheard of at other guest ranches. Besides winter horseback riding and sleigh rides, they also have a complete Nordic center with front door access to endless miles of perfectly groomed cross-country skiing trails. If that's not enough, you can try your hand at snowmobiling, backcountry downhill skiing, snow shoeing or dog sledding. In the summer they will keep you even busier with the options of going horseback riding, mountain biking, fly fishing or hot air ballooning. The food is first rate and often includes a night of wine tasting. Ideal for couples and families alike, you can't go wrong at Vista Verde.
My personal favorite: Horseback riding in knee deep powder. Nothing, I mean nothing, can compare to it. Prices range from $2700 to $3100 per person per week in the summer and $900 to $1700 per person for three nights in the winter.
This fantastic family friendly ranch offers it all in an unspoiled wilderness setting. The wildlife viewing is unprecedented. You are almost guaranteed to see the magnificent longhorn sheep (a.k.a. rams). Besides the scenic trail rides and excellent fishing, what makes this ranch stand out is the fact that it is a working cattle ranch and is able to offer its guests the unique opportunity to round up and herd cattle, very fun!
Other notable activities include an overnight whitewater rafting trip and a visit to their alpine lake fish camp and lodge. My personal favorite: The pack trip on horseback up to their high camp where we slept in tents, sat around a campfire and ate Dutch oven desserts. Prices range from $1500 to $1800 per person for a week. Shorter stays may be available. This ranch is only open during the summer.
If you are looking for a small and personable, adult-oriented ranch with impeccable accommodations and food, then look no further. Hidden way back in a remote and picturesque valley, the Flying A is a dream ranch with only one objective in mind: to make you happy.
It is doubtful that you will ever tire of all the amazing activities and food, but should you want a temporary change, the famous cowboy town of Jackson Hole is only about fifty miles away. My personal favorite: Although I didn't hit a single thing, I really enjoyed the trap shooting. It was certainly challenging. Prices range from $1300 to $2000 per person for a week. This ranch is only open during the summer. Dusty Dave's Fun Fact About Horses: Why do people typically get on from the left side of a horse? It all started back when soldiers used to ride horses and carry a sword. They kept their sword on the left side, so getting up on the horse's left side meant their sword didn't get in their way..
By Todd Felton
In On the Road, Dean Moriarty tells Sal Paradise, "We gotta go and never stop going till we get there." Sal asks, "Where we going, man?" Dean responds, "I don't know but we gotta go." In homage to the proposition that the open road is there to drive, here are ten great road trip novels to get you going.
Whether you see the world from a bucket seat or an armchair, these books will bring you across dusty desert roads and through the wide boulevards of Paris. So fill the tank up, put the top down, and get yourself on that road out of town.
Kerouac's book has sent legions of the young and restless out to find the real meaning of life or what Sal Paradise calls "The Pearl." Filled with plenty of sex, drugs, and jazz, the book covers four separate road trips condensed from Kerouac's seven years of traveling the beat roads of postwar America.
Thompson's staggering appetite for drugs can only be matched by incendiary humor. This book is a 110 mile-an-hour, weaving-across-themeridian danger of a book. Do not let your children near this book.
One of our nation's bestloved curmudgeons completes a nearly ten-thousand mile loop to "rediscover this monster land." From the stony harbors of Maine to the fruitful valleys of his childhood California, Steinbeck drives his custommade camper (named "Rocinante," after Don Quixote's horse) and offers his take on hurricanes, trailer parks, nuclear submarines and Texas.
Summer school was never like this. A father, struggling with his own issues, takes his disgruntled son on a cross-country motorcycle journey. As they cruise the back roads paralleling Interstate 90, father and son slowly come to grips with the events that have sent them to the roads.
Moon's book came to define for many the journey of self-discovery, where long hours behind the wheel and the swirling mix of American culture can help bring to light an interior landscape as varied and occasionally troubling as the one out the windshield.
Ed Reece is dying of cancer and has one simple wish: he wants to die in his own bed. This involves kidnapping his own adult son, picking up his estranged daughter-in-law, driving across the country, picking up the bed in one state and retrieving it back to the house he was born in.
A classic of the American road, this novel follows the Joad family as they try to escape the ruins of their farm by seeking work in California. This novel features one of the five best endings in all of American literature.
It may just take a foreigner to get us to see ourselves clearly. Although Bryson was born in Des Moines, he approaches American culture with a decidedly English perspective in this hilarious road trip.
A classic of "'The Lost Generation," this novel follows a hard-drinking group of American expats from Paris to Pamplona to Madrid in their fruitless search for life's meaning or at least one good relationship.
Guevara's account of his motorcycle trip across South America is filled with accounts of drinking and fighting as well as a brutally honest and strikingly poetic observation of the continent..
By Cindy-Lou Dale
Being a hardcore traveller has taught me a few lessons, some of which could save you money, others could save you from jail time.
Here are my top ten tips to avoid disaster.
Be street-wise, only carry copies of your passport and drivers licence on your person, and keep your originals stowed away safely in your luggage. It's also a great idea to scan your documents and send them to yourself via E-mail so you can access them wherever there's an Internet café. For personal security it's smart to hand copies of your travel itinerary to friends and family, including the hotel's front desk. If you are taking prescription medicine, have a letter from you doctor explaining your treatment, and if you're heading to an exotic location, don't forget your immunization card.
Visiting your destination during off-season is one way of avoiding crowds and peak rates.
Check what your Consular Affairs office (travel.state.gov) is saying about your intended destination.
Visit the destination's official tourist office website; they often list promotional discounts at restaurants and hotels. You may also find information about a city pass, like the Venice Card in Italy, which allows discounted entry to main attractions, including free museum days. Also, check out if there's a public transport pass, something like the London Oyster Card which you can pre-load and is good for up to a week on underground trains and buses. Should you be travelling to Europe, find out where your hotel is in relation to favoured attractions, and use public transport --you'll be saving a huge amount on gas (which costs nearly $7/gallon) and in parking fees too.
Don't rely solely on online booking engines for good hotel deals, check the official website of the hotels you're keen on as they often have last-minute discounts and usually have better deals than the travel sites.
But don't only focus on hotels; look at alternatives like renting a light house in Croatia (lighthouses-croatia.com), or a five-hundred year old farmhouse in England (landmark-trust.org.uk), perhaps a castle in Scotland (guideforeurope.com/castlehostels.html). It's not as pricey as you'd think, and you get the luxury of space and privacy.
Avoid tourist trap areas and follow the locals to where they dine. You'll find the food is cheaper and the best around. In the summer months make lunch the main meal of the day and purchase the makings for a picnic from the market.
Cars outside of North America are largely stick shift, so request an automatic. Europeans and Brits tend to drive cars that are fueled with Diesel, check what you're driving before filling up. Make sure your vehicle is reliable and your spare is fully inflated before venturing out. Is there a breakdown service included in the rental agreement? Ensure you know the road rules of the State/Country you're visiting and take along your own (preloaded) Sat-Nav equipment. Alternatively, have a good road map. Long road trips are made more tolerable with audio CD's, also car blankets and cushions for your passengers. Pack some snacks and drinks--roadside services are pricey. Some car-hire contracts contain clauses which could invoke hefty penalties, such as returning your car too early. Read the fine print.
Credit card companies have individual pricing structures for international transactions-- check yours before leaving. In fact, you may want to contact them anyway and tell them of your travel plans as sudden activity on your account in a foreign location could raise a red flag and your account may be suspended. Keep a record of your credit card numbers in a safe place, including the three digits on the back.
It's all about prudence, really, like not picking up hitch hikers, and only using ATMs inside buildings, and hailing a cab when you're lost. Consult your guidebook and learn about the latest scam and be sure you don't fall victim to it, carry only one credit card on your person at any given time, and keep your valuables in a secure wallet under your clothes. Buying a local SIM card will save you a small fortune on forwarded call charges, but be alert and walk purposefully --talking on your mobile phone or fingering your iPod is an invitation for would-be thieves to investigate you further.
Listen to uniformed men carrying guns; I once spent three days in a Congo jail because I didn't..
By David Newhardt
You roll it onto the driveway and snap away, confident that you've captured a magazineworthy shot. Yet when you download the image onto your computer, it doesn't quite look like what you've seen in the buff books. Disappointment settles in, and you curse the camera for not taking the picture of your dreams. Well Sparky, it's not the camera's fault. It's just a machine, and if it's not used properly, it's going to deliver sub par results. My job is to show you how to produce photographs that will blow your friends away and make your vehicle look like a million-dollar ride.
First things first; a camera body collects light. That's all. It's the job of the lens to gather the image and direct it to the sensor in the camera. Sounds simple, right? But like so many things in life, reality can be a bitch. Whether you use Nikon, Canon, Olympus, or any other camera system that allows the user to change lenses, it's the responsibility of the photographer to determine what focal length lens to use, when to point it, and when to push the shutter button.
You've all heard the saying, "you get what you pay for" and few slogans ring truer in photography than that. Entry level Single Lens Reflex (SLR) digital cameras tend to use a sensor that doesn't generate as many mega-pixels as a higher priced model. As important as the output of the sensor is the strength of the processor inside the camera. With a higher price tag comes more powerful processor, able to crunch the increasing amount of data a bigger sensor generates.
Probably the most important single item in photography is the camera's lens. Cutting corners here results in compromised images. Sharpness, color saturation, ease of use and durability are prime reasons to stretch the budget when buying a lens. I'd rather use pricey glass on an entry level camera than screwing a bargain lens onto a $5,000 body. Many lenses (and some camera bodies, depending upon the brand) come with anti-vibration technology and it's worth every dime. You'll pay a premium for the feature, but the first time you take a panning shot in dim light, you'll know why it was money well spent.
Another piece of photography equipment I don't leave home without is a good tripod. Virtually every static shot I take is on legs. While I can hold a camera steady at 1/30th of a second with a 50 mm lens, I rarely use a "normal" lens. The vast majority of my photography uses wideangle lenses and telephoto or zoom lenses. With a wide angle lens, camera shake is a minor issue, but attach a "long" telephoto lens and camera shake becomes a very real issue. With a camera on a tripod, and tripping the shutter by using a remote shutter release, another worthwhile accessory, eliminates camera vibration that results in fuzzy images.
Typical eye-level shot at mid-day. Do.n't the top view shot at suns. look so much beter?--DH
One of my pet peeves when I look at photos of vehicles taken by owners is that the camera is always about five and a half feet off the ground. Take a look at the photography in your favorite automotive magazine, rarely is the shot at eye level. Chances are the camera was close to the ground, or high above the vehicle. Most people go through life seeing everything at eye level. Photos taken from that perspective tend to look, well, boring, especially when a "normal" lens is used. The eye tends to linger on unusual perspectives. Another of the reasons that I use a tripod is that it forces me to really look at what I'm shooting.
Vehicles are rolling sculpture and the play of light on them can be a wonderful thing. Future columns will talk about specific ways to create memorable images, but if I can impart one bit of wisdom this month, it would be "open your eyes". Park your car in an empty parking lot, then walk around it, looking how the light changes and flows across its surface. Then get down on one knee and see how it changes everything.
When you show your friends your pictures, they'll ask what magazine shot it. Then it's time to take credit..
By Brenda Priddy
One of the most popular sections of any automotive publication are the spy photos. Since capturing these cars involves travel to far-flung locations that are boiling hot in summer and icy cold in winter, I'm sharing some of my best shots of lingerie- clad prototypes with their production counterparts spinning on auto show turntables, in this case, of Chevy's all-important 2008 Malibu.
If luck is on our side, we'll manage to photograph prototypes a year, or even two, before they're officially introduced to the public. And the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu was no exception.
Although the Malibu is NO Ferrari or Bugatti Veyron, it was a very exciting vehicle to "shoot" early on in its testing stages. This might appear as just another family sedan to some, but Chevy is counting on this new Malibu to go up against the likes of Honda's Accord and the popular Toyota Camry. And the test engineers traveling with the Malibu prototypes took to protecting their ward very seriously; to the layperson it could only be described as paparazzi verses bodyguards. And in this case, after a few bumps and bruises, the paparazzi won.
But just like with the Hollywood celebrities, we weren't the only ones touting long lenses as the area was saturated with spies. And we all had the same objective --to get the first and the best photos of the Malibu 18 months ahead of its scheduled auto show debut in January 2007.
Easy? No way! At one point I was standing on the sidewalk and surrounded by six or eight angry-looking engineers towering over my 5-foot 3-inch frame. Security, even in public places, always seems tight--but on this occasion it was exceptionally stringent. And then Gene, their hired security guy, stepped in to assist the frustrated engineers.
Well gentlemen, if you step in front of my camera, you're going to get your picture taken. It's that simple! (Sorry Gene!)
And that was the easy part! Suddenly a hand covered my lens--adding sweaty fingerprints on the front element of my expensive lens. Was I intimidated? On the contrary, I ended up shooting several hundred pictures of their top-secret car over the next few days. It seemed that wherever they decided to do a secret test run, I would be one step ahead of them, catching every move. The motivation and adrenalin rush was the same as shooting an exotic Italian car.
Now, 18 months later, the new Malibu was GM's star at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. When the sheet comes off, it ended sales for my pre-production Malibu but it marks the beginning of a new era for the Malibu nameplate.
What was Chevrolet hiding underneath all the camouflage?
Well, for starters, a much more handsome and bolder look with more aggressive styling and upscale amenities. In addition, the new Malibu will measure in a full three inches longer than the 2007 model, and the optional sunroof will be a whopping 70% larger! And they didn't want those surprises to get out and possibly reach their competition before they were ready to make an official announcement.
The front-wheel-drive Malibu rides on the Epsilon platform, which it shares with the Saturn Aura and Pontiac's G6, but unlike the outgoing Malibu--this one is sitting on the long-wheelbase version--giving it a few extra inches on most of the competition.
General Motors is also promising better fuel economy in their new Malibu, as well as a gasoline-electric hybrid version by the end of the year. The base engine is a four-cylinder 2.4-liter Ecotec DOHC I4 with 164-horsepower.
Have the need for more power? No problem: How does a 3.6-liter V6 DOHC with 252-horsepower sound? And, a new six-speed automatic with optional steering-wheel-mounted shifters has now replaced the four-speed automatic transmission, which was once mated to the outgoing pushrod V6.
In addition to the upgrades under the hood, the new Malibu gets injected with style inside and out. Ambient lighting and interior colors such as Cashmere, Ebony, and Titanium help dress up the Malibu like never before.
Safety wise, the Malibu comes standard with six air bags, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and traction control. The upgraded LT and LTZ models add electronic stability control to the list of standard features. Not bad specs for a vehicle whose price is estimated to start around $20,000 when it appears in Chevy showrooms this fall.
Truthfully, this is the best looking, and likely the best performing Malibu in years. But we still prefer playing cat-and-mouse games with a half dozen engineers and photographing the Malibu in checkered tape.
As you can see, the position of the outboard red lens of the tail lamp has moved from its location in the pre-production version.
When you spend too much time running through airports in a mad dash to get on board to claim space for your two allotted FAAcompliant carryons, it's essential to pack light and tight. This is especially true if you travel with a laptop, noise cancelling headphones, MP3 player or iPod as well as a full complement of photographic kit, none of which can be safely checked as baggage. If this describes you, check out these seven travel musthaves that will reduce the stress faced by today's road warriors.
If you're a baseball fan and
have to lug around a laptop,
especially one of those 16-
inch widescreen behemoths,
you'll never look more stylish
while protecting one of your
most valuable possessions
than with Rawlings' classic
double gusset, baseball
glove leather briefcase. While
at the high end of the price
spectrum, at nearly $400, this
16-inch by 12-inch by 5-inch
case exudes quality from its
hand-laced handle to the interior
organizer panel with its
airline ticket protector. While
you might not have A-Rod's
$252 million dollar contract,
you can zip through security
looking like you do.
This is the Swiss Army knife
of power products that
should be part of every
traveler's carry-on kit. Not
much larger than a wallet,
the Xantrex Xpower Pocket
Inverter can slip into your
pocket or in a computer bag
compartment and power
your low-draw laptop with
its 3-prong outlet while simultaneously
all from a conventional 12-
volt outlet. At home in the
air, with two plugs, for those
airlines that don't provide
the standard cigarette lighter
socket, or in your car, its versatility
combined with small
size can't be beat,
especially for less than $40.
Combining light weight with
a 13.3-inch widescreen display,
the Sony Vaio VGNSZ491
is the ideal traveling
companion, as well as a
great way to read Automotive
Traveler while on the
road. Using carbon fiber
construction to diet down
to 3.7 pounds, the VGNSZ491
in a package less
than 1-inch thick. Running
Microsoft Vista, the VGNSZ491
runs an Intel 2.16GHz
Core 2 Duo Processor with
2GB of on-board RAM and
a generous 200GB hard
drive. For security, it features
a Biometric Fingerprint Sensor
and for entertainment an
integrated DVD±R Double
Layer/DVD±RW drive, making
it worth every cent of its
Ever find yourself trying to
remember what time
zone you're in?
You won't have that problem
when Wenger's 74714
Commando Dual Time 2-Eye
watch adorns your wrist.
This aviator-style timepiece
features a second time zone
sub-dial along with a 7-jewel
Swiss quartz movement
that is water resistant down
to 330 feet. The lined leather
strap offers comfort with
a sense of style that never
goes out of fashion, looking
great for business or pleasure.
In an age where some
watches cost as much as an
imported sports sedan, the
74714's price of $275 seems
like an absolute steal.
Want to take high definition
videos on your next trip
then look no further than
Canon's user-friendly HV20
high definition camcorder.
With Canon's true 1920 x
1080 CMOS image sensor,
the image quality will
push the limits of the best
of today's best flat panel,
high definition monitors. The
HV20 also features Canon's
Super Range Optical Image
rock-steady footage, even in
low-light conditions. In fact,
both aspiring filmmakers
and home movie shooters
can give their video a truly
cinematic look and feel with
the addition of Canon's exclusive
24p Cinema Mode.
Although it's not expected
to arrive until June, and
then will be available only
through an exclusive distribution
deal with Cingular/
AT&T Wireless, the Apple
iPhone will be the got-tohave
wireless phone this
summer. Combining a fullfeatured
iPod with a wireless phone
with PDA functionality, the
iPhone offers a new level of
convergence, with the ability
to eliminate two devices
from your travel inventory.
With expected prices of
$500 for the 4GB version
and $600 for the 6GB
version, the iPhone
(with a new activation)
must be considered
adding up the price of
three separate devices.
If any product has made air
travel more palatable in this
era of stuffed airliners with
crying babies in every fourth
row, it was the original Bose
QuietComfort noise canceling
would have thought travelers
would have coughed
up $300 for a set of headphones,
but line up they
did. Their over-the-ear design
virtually eliminated the
ever present drone while
flying. And now, for those
who prefer an on-ear design,
Bose offers for just $50 more,
the updated version, the
QuietComfort 3 headphone,
your first class ticket to hifi
sound or a good night's
sleep on overseas flights.
In each issue of Automotive Traveler, our editors and contributors will suggest noteworthy books and DVD programs that will be invaluable additions to your personal libraries, especially when it comes time for looking for planning assistance for your next vacation or road trip.
If you have a love of great Italian food and want an indispensable guide to ways off the beaten path of Tuscany often ignored by tourists, look no further than this 300-page book.
As soon as I started reading, all I could imagine was a vintage red Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider and my girlfriend lost for a week in Tuscany; no laptop, no cell phone, no WiFi, just my trusty Michelin map and this book, savoring the roads, and more importantly, the wondrous food of this region.
Elon, an American cookbook author, has made Tuscany her home, and along with her Israeli husband, lives in a 17th-century farmhouse in the Apennine foothills. Her knowledge goes well beyond what you'll find in any guidebook to the region. And more importantly, she'll be your guide through la cucina povera (the poor kitchen), which really is an unfortunate description of the cuisine, where family recipes of more than 50 chefs form the foundation of what amounts to a definitive guide of both the food and traditions of this region.
While lacking the photos so common in lesser books, in reality, none are needed. The book provides detailed maps to guide you 10 outstanding itineraries, each of which is a culinary vacation all by itself. Rating: Five Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spiders
As someone who has made the trip from Chicago to Los Angeles on Route 66 four times, my personal bookshelf groans from the weight of my literature on this subject. But this book by Arthur Krim sets a new standard for its level of depth on the subject.
The road in its original form is long gone, decommissioned more than two decades ago and replaced by five faceless Interstates but remains a document of how America saw itself in the middle years of the last century. This exceptional volume connects the reader with all aspects of Route 66 as an icon of American popular culture as found in classic songs like Bobby Troup's ("Get Your Kicks on) Route 66", books like Jack Kerouac's On the Road as well as mainstream entertainment such as the sixties television show Route 66, which forever linked America's road with America's sports car. If there's only one book on the subject in your personal library, you can't do better than this labor of love, decades in the making. It will help to explaining the road's enduring legacy and its attraction for road trippers worldwide. Rating: Five 1962 Corvettes
When I started traveling throughout Europe extensively, about 10 years ago, I quickly discovered there was a world beyond the foreign outposts of the well-known American lodging chains. And when I started covering major auto shows, in Paris and Geneva especially, I learned how difficult it could be to find reasonably priced accommodations that fit my needs; that is until I discovered Karen Brown's series of guidebooks. I can safely say that not once, when I've stayed in any of her recommended locations, have I been disappointed. Her one-page reviews give you a clear picture of each hotel or inn's strengths and weaknesses, if any. Rather than staying in some sterile in-city hotel room, be an adventurer and immerse yourself in the local culture by staying in one of her recommended lodgings.
The series is broken down by individual countries and separated into volumes covering hotels, inns, B&Bs and chateaus. You'll wonder why you've ever settled for less when selecting a place to stay after a day's invigorating drive. Her recent 2007 releases covering France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland are indispensable, especially when you're seeking an eclectic base of operations for a ski week...or while attending a continental auto show. Rating: Five Audi R8s
As someone who hails from the Garden State and still, even though I no longer reside there, still calls it home, I believe that New Jersey continues to get a bum rap. Rather than thinking of all the chemical plants along the Turnpike and in spite of the fact that it seems we have more mobsters per capita than any other state, it is also the home of our poet laureate Bruce Springsteen and an incredibly diverse culinary scene.
So if you want a way to devise a unique touring itinerary for a visit to the third state, may I suggest Helen-Chantal Pike's Greetings from New Jersey: A Postcard Tour of the Garden State. A native of New Jersey, with a particular interest in Asbury Park, she has translated her post card collection of the Garden State into a road map of sorts, divided into six logical geographic regions, perfect for planning your own sojourn to the land of Tony Soprano. For those of you who share her love of post cards, she devotes her final chapter to the delights of Deltiology or the study of post cards, including a history of post cards and glossary of the most important terms. Rating: Five Pink Cadillacs
We hope these offerings will add pleasure to your future road trips; please let us know if you've got favorites you want us to include in future issues.
When it comes time to planning your next trip, take a look at these websites; they are packed with useful information, no matter where you're heading.
Road Trip USA--Noted travel author Jamie Jensen's site exploring America's two-lane byways.
Great Ocean Road--Australia's Great Ocean Road running from Torquay and Allansford.
roadmaps.org Road Map Collectors Association--For those who collect the road maps service stations used to give away for free.
History of the Interstate Highway System --Celebrating the 50th birthday of the Interstate Highway System.
U.S. Department of State--Important travel, passport and visa information for U.S. citizens and visitors to America.
Switzerland Tourism--The Swiss Tourism Bureau's visitor's website.
By Jill Starley-Grainger
As soon as I opened the door, a group of Frenchmen sidled over murmuring "Ooh la la," "Magnifique," "Ah qu'elle est belle!" Rather than shoot them an icy glare, my usual response to unwanted male attention, I joined them in their admiration. After all, The Old Girl is an undeniable beauty.
Although we'd spent just a few hours together, her sultry lines, classy demeanor and seductive purr had already won me over. Forget your Ferraris, your Lamborghinis, your Maseratis. When The Old Girl is in town, younger, brasher models simply pale in comparison. Sure, she requires a bit more effort, but when you're behind the wheel of a classic 1967 E-Type Jaguar, thoughts of power steering fade away.
I waved to Tim, who I'd dropped off a few minutes before at the market entrance in La Réole. He'd already managed to purchase five types of cheese, one from each fromager in the market, which takes place on Saturday mornings and overlooks the Garonne River.
(Above) The 12th century roman portal of the church of Our Lady in Castelviel, together (right) with one of its amusing gargoyles. Gourmet Touring's guidebook leads you myriad cultural finds such as these and overlooked by the less informed traveller. A pre-programmed SatNav leads you down tiny roads in the Entredeux- Mers countryside dotted with fairy tale-esque fortified chateaux (such as the one to the left). Photo courtesy Philippe Roy/Bordeaux Wine Council
According to our tailormade guidebook, the best bread was at the stall by the bridge. We made our way through the locals, who were stocking up on fruit, veg and saucisson, to find the baker. After purchasing a few more picnic essentials--strawberries, olives, pastries--we hopped back into The Old Girl and zoomed off for out first wine tasting of the day. We'd arrived in Bordeaux on Thursday and spent the last couple of days wandering through the city's 18th century old town, with its ornate facades and wrought-iron balconies, and visiting the extraordinary Garage Moderne (see sidebar). Our seven-day trip with Gourmet Touring wasn't due to start until Saturday, and John, the British owner of Gourmet Touring, had suggested we spend time soaking up the atmosphere in the city beforehand.
An honest mechanic?
Car and art lovers are flocking to Garage Moderne, the hippest garage on the globe. On the outskirts of Bordeaux is a garage with a mechanic you know you can trust--you. Not only are you sure of getting a fair deal here, but there's also ample to keep you entertained if you have to hand the tools over to the professionals. This concept garage, which will hopefully catch on, is half garage and half art gallery, with a café attached. The utterly charming Maud ("I am a woman under all this grease!") showed us around before helping a man put an engine in his car.
Maud explained that Garage Moderne is a collective where members can work on their own cars using the garage's tools and with the help of staff as needed, or they can pay staff to do the work for them. Plenty of people come here just for the art gallery, though, and to tour this fascinating place. Visitors are welcome, and there are special cultural events throughout the year. Even if you arrive sans car, Garage Moderne is worth a visit, if only to see how they've decorated their permanent collection of cars.
Le Garage Moderne, 1 rue des Etrangers, Bacalan, +33 (0)556 509133, legaragemoderne.org (Above) A small sign points the way to Le Garage Moderne. An old Citroen is a permanent fixture in the garage's eclectic collection.
Maud and another mechanic help a customer put the engine back in his car.
No French meal is complete without a baguette. Grape picking is usually done by hand in Bordeaux. Neither the prospect of driving a Citroen 2CV (below) or having to work on a car yourself (right) are things that you will have to concern yourself with on a Gourmet Touring organized holiday.
A few weeks before our trip, John had called up to have a chat.
When we booked the vacation, we knew we'd be swanning around in a swanky convertible sports car, staying in fabulous chateaux and enjoying meals at gastronomic restaurants, but we weren't aware of all the other extras we'd be getting, including a handmade guidebook and itinerary tailored specifically to our interests, plus the marriage-saving satellite navigation system (SatNav), cutting down on those ghastly map-reading arguments. If we'd booked the accommodation and car rental independently, those two alone would have cost the same or more than Gourmet Touring's package, so all these extras, and the fantastic local knowledge, really were the icing on the cake.
Although most famous for its wine and food, we were also interested in all the other aspects of the region, such as the art, architecture, history, chateaux, seaside and countryside. Gourmet Touring created an itinerary to accommodate all of this, with a few vineyards included. Unlike Napa, vineyard visits in Bordeaux must be booked ahead of time, ideally a few days in advance, but Gourmet Touring arranged all that for us. Our first vineyard, beautiful Chateau Lamothe, revealed a deep, dark secret. Instead of a purpose- built cellar, the wine is stored in limestone caves, and the entrance shows evidence of a caveman dwelling. The other secret is the high quality of the vineyard's Chateau Lamothe Cuvée Valentine Rouge , a bargain at 11 Euros ($14), so we grabbed a bottle to take on our picnic.
After a glorious al fresco lunch by the river, we wound our way through the back roads of Entre- Deux-Mers, the area east of the city of Bordeaux bordered by the Dordogne and Garonne rivers (hence the name: "between two seas"). With The Old Girl's top down, we had 360- degree views of the fields of sunflowers, vineyards and woodlands as we swept along the rolling country lanes.
Every few minutes, we would come across a romantic old watermill, a lonely ruined tower or a fortified medieval village. Whenever we drove through a village square, locals would smile admiringly at The Old Girl and give us a wave. With a long scarf keeping my hair in place and both of us in sunglasses, we felt like Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief.
After a full day zipping along country lanes and strolling through the back streets of villages, we checked into Chateau de Sanse. Renovated in 2000 from the ruins of an 18th century chateau, it has a modern, light and airy interior, with relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. We ate dinner on the terrace, where we could see vineyards, a pond and rolling countryside all around us. After a long and leisurely meal, we ambled off to our twofloor suite for drinks à deux.
Chateau de Benauges. This magnificent 13th century fortified chateau is a reminder of days gone by when France and England weren't such happy neighbors. (Below) The pool at Chateau de Sanse offers an inviting prospect on hot summer days, a clever mix of old and new.
Saint Emilion. One of the most picturesque villages in France and home to some of its finest wines. The church steeple sits on top of the subterranean monolithic church.
The next morning, we woke up to find the Jag had vanished in the night and been replaced by a Fiat Barchetta . Because The Old Girl is rather special, she's a bit pricier to rent, so we'd booked her for one day only. Our less expensive, but still fabulous, new ride was called Claudia. John showed us how to use the SatNav and put her top down, then we were off.
The day was so beautiful and Claudia so agile that we decided to spend the morning soaking up the scenery along the country lanes. As we passed through the village of Castillon La Bataille, we noticed a few people by the river playing pétanque, which is a bit like horseshoes. We grabbed the pétanque balls and instructions provided in Claudia's trunk and started a game ourselves.
Before long, a girl and boy, aged eight and nine, came over to show us how to it should be done. They spoke no English, and our French is hopelessly basic (please, thank you, toilet, wine), but we played quite happily for about an hour, with their grandfather shouting suggested improvements for them from his nearby bench. Unsurprisingly, they defeated us time and again. Feeling a little deflated, our spirits were raised by a flight in a hot air balloon. Drifting slowly over the undulating landscape, we sipped Champagne as elaborate chateaux, fortified villages, ancient bridges, pastures, rivers and vineyards rolled slowly beneath.
After coming down to earth with a gentle bump, we hopped back into the Barchetta and followed the SatNav instructions to St. Emilion, a Unesco World Heritage site. Strolling through its picturesque streets, we couldn't resist sampling the local speciality: melt-in-yourmouth almond macaroons with cream in the middle. That fortified us for the 45-minute tour of the amazing 11th century monolithic church carved into limestone and the creepy ancient catacombs, where parts of human skeletons could be seen at the bottom of shallow puddles.
Small local bars are one of the many categories of interest with individual write-ups in Gourmet Touring's guidebook. (Above) The set of pétanque balls in the trunk of Gourmet Touring cars enables you to join in like a local--even if your style of play gives it away that you are not!
The hot air balloon was invented in France by the Montgolfière brothers. Re-enact their voyage as a perfect way to top off a holiday in the region.
We hurried back into the sunlight and up the hill to a cheerier prospect--dinner at the award-winning Hostellerie de Plaisance.
Gourmet Touring would be chauffering us home and paying the food bill, so we were able to let our hair down without worry. The staff produced a to-die-for six-course tasting menu for us. The finale, after the impressive chariot of cheese, was dessert--all five of them, including a strange sounding, but divine, rhubarb, strawberry and basil compote. The next morning, as if by magic, Claudia was waiting for us in the car park, ready to ferry us across the Garonne River to visit some of the most famous wine chateaux in the world.
Wandering through the grounds of Chateau d'Arsac in the afternoon, we learned that some of the world's finest art is hidden away in Bordeaux's private chateaux. The modern sculptures and paintings set in the gardens, vineyards and wine cellars of Chateau d'Arsac varied from amusing to surreal, and we saw more first-class art on our wine tasting at Chateau Mouton- Rothschild, whose labels have featured the original work of artists such as Picasso and Warhol.
The canal du midi stretches 150 miles long linking the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coast. As a means of travel it is rather slow, but it is an ideal place to sit beside with one of Bordeaux's gastronomic picnics. (Left) Like the masters whose art graces the labels of Chateau Mouton Rothschild's wines, the iconic bonnet of the E-Type paints a perfect picture in front of you.
The halls of Chateau du Tertre, our accommodation for the night, offered more artistic surprises, including an excellent carving of a herd of sheep.
Stepping into our bedroom was like being transported to Louis XV's secret love nest. Marie Antoinette would have been jealous of our enormous, elaborate bathroom, with several chairs scattered in the room in case the trip from one of the sinks to the massive roll-top bath was too tiresome. Only a handful of the chateau's rooms are for paying guests, so we had the huge building over the cellars practically to ourselves.
After all the wine and culture, the great outdoors were calling, so we put the Barchetta's top down and followed SatNav's instructions south to the Bay of Arcachon. Bypassing the quaint oyster-farming villages, we zoomed straight to glitzy Cap Ferret. High fliers hoping to keep a low profile on vacation moor their yachts here, and Claudia felt right at home amidst all the laid-back glam. On one side of Ferret is the bay, with its warm, calm water, friendly, narrow beaches and très chic eateries.
On the other side is the Atlantic, with huge, sandy beaches and the high rollers loved by surfers. (Above) Exclusive accommodation with an exclusive address.
Weekend des Grands Amateurs Bordeaux's finest chateaux open their doors to wine buffs for a weekend of wine-themed events.
Cadillac Car Rally
Vintage (non-Cadillac) cars thunder through the Cadillac wine region.
Bordeaux River Festival
Check out some unusual boats at this bi-annual festival, with plenty of the local tipple on offer, too.
Rugby World Cup
Matches will be taking place in Bordeaux throughout September, but book tickets early.
Truffle hunting season
The first day of truffle hunting season sees pigs and dogs take to the countryside to sniff out these delicious fungi.
May be incorporated in to GT itineraries Philippe Roy/Bordeaux Wine Council Jean-Jacques Brochard/CRTA/Tourisme-Aquitaine.
We plopped our towels down on the bay side, watching yacht owners swim or row ashore for provisions, including a rather comical poodle, who couldn't quite decide whether he fancied a dip in the water--or not. By evening, we were both ready to hit the hay early, and luckily we didn't have far to go to our relaxing coastal hideaway. Just near Cap Ferret's lighthouse is the easygoing Maison du Bassin, the perfect place to crash after a hard day on the beach. When we arrived, The Old Girl was waiting in the car park.
Much as we loved Claudia's smooth handling and zippy moves, we didn't want to leave Bordeaux without spending a bit more time with The Old Girl, and luckily, she wasn't booked for our last day. After breakfast, The Old Girl took us around the bay to the bird reserve at Teich. On a short walk through the wetlands, we saw dozens of enormous white storks nesting on the tops of trees just above our heads and a plethora of egrets, buzzards, kites and grey geese flitting through the skies. Even Tim, who has little interest in wildlife, found it fascinating for the wide variety of birds it attracts.
For our last day, we were heading to a very special spa, but first, we made a stop en route at Pessac on the outskirts of Bordeaux. As fans of Modernism, we wanted to visit Cité Frugès, the neighborhood designed by Modernist architect and furniture designer Le Corbusier. The simple square, white box houses he dreamed up were far too wacky for the 1920s French working folk they were intended for, but they're being snapped up and renovated now by Bordeaux cognoscenti.
On arrival at Caudalie Vinotherapie spa , I hopped out of the car and left Tim to spend some quality time alone with The Old Girl, swishing round the countryside. After my wine-grape facial and soak in the Cabernet Barrel Bath, we met for a final feast at La Table du Lavoir, one of Caudalie's two gourmet restaurants. John arrived after dinner to chauffeur us to the airport, and we bade a fond farewell to The Old Girl and Bordeaux, sure we'd be meeting again soon.
You can climb the lighthouse in Cap Ferret to gain a bird's eye view of the peninsula.
The birds at the ornithological park have their own special view. (Far bottom left) Straight edges meet seductive curves. One of Gourmet Touring's Barchettas outside a Corbusier house.
Take the grape through a different route---a luxurious merlot massage is the ultimate relaxant and is included in Gourmet Touring's 'On y Va' package.
There are many options to get to Bordeaux from major US gateways. Oneand two-stop code-share service is offered by Air France, American, British Airways, Continental, Northwest/KLM, United and Virgin Atlantic. With three-week advance reservations, coach prices start at around $900. Other options include the all-business class airline MaxJet with service from New York, Washington DC (seasonal) and Las Vegas to London Stansted. Promotional fares start at $1,000 roundtrip. From Stansted, London's low-fare hub, flights are available to nearby Bergerac, France, about 70 miles east of Bordeaux for $125 round-trip on Ryanair. Inquire with Gourmet Touring when making reservations for pickup when booking flights into Beregerac.
As each Gourmet Touring itinerary is uniquely tailored to each client's interests, Sian and John strive to match the requested level of accommodations to each itinerary. The standard-level packages include one of four charming chambre d'hôtes and can be upgraded to a château each evening at an additional cost. For their trip to Bordeaux Jill and Tim stayed at these four properties.
Château du Sanse
01 1 33 5 5756 41 10
Hostellerie de Plaisance
01 1 33 5 57 55 07 55
Maison du Bassin
01 1 33 5 56 606063
Château du Tertre
01 1 33 5 57 970920
Aquitaine Tourist Board
Live in Bordeaux
Bordeaux Tourist Board
Bordeaux Wine Chateaux
Vacations with Gourmet Touring include rental of a convertible Fiat Barchetta with satellite navigation (SatNav), transport to and from the airport, accommodation in chambre d'hotes (similar to B&Bs) or chateaux, breakfasts, half bottle of Champagne, a meal at an award-winning restaurant, a chauffeured trip home after the meal, a personalized itinerary and tailormade guidebook based on your interests.
Optional extras include rental of a 1967 Jaguar E-Type or a Porsche Boxster, a hot-air balloon flight, surfing lessons, gourmet picnic hamper, round of golf, spa treatments, cooking classes and more. Rental of larger cars can be arranged, and discounts are available for rental of two or more cars.
Sian: "Each client is different with regards their interests and requirements. We tailor every itinerary not only to the interests of the individual, but to the time of year that they are visiting, their knowledge of the French language and their budget."
John: "Our local knowledge and attention to detail are key to our organizational success. Past clients recommend us to others, instead of using less specialized tour operators, because we enable them to see and do so much more in a short space of time."
Sian: "The touring guidebook that we individually produce for each client covers a huge range of individually reviewed places from food markets to vineyards. This gives clients the security of having quality local knowledge to hand, that is usually only associated with large tour parties, but with the flexibility of traveling independently. Four-day, three-night packages per person from £550 ($1,000). Seven days, six nights from £770 ($1,500).
More bang for your buck The founders of Gourmet Touring, John and Sian Mears, promise a first-class experience for coach-class prices (Above) The founders of Gourmet Touring, John and Sian Mears, promise a first-class experience for coach-class prices, a personalized itinerary and tailormade guidebook based on your interests. The Jaguar E-Type, Fiat Barchetta and Porsche Boxster are pictured at the gates of the impressive Chateau d'Armajan des Ormes in Sauternes where tours, together with tastings, can be organised for Gourmet Touring's clients. gourmet-touring.com.
By Richard Truesdell
San Francisco Giants
7408 E. Osborn Road Scottsdale AZ 85251
2007 Ticket Prices $8-$24 (weekday) $12- $26 (weekend)
Official Website sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com
Chicago White Sox
Tucson Electric Park
2500 E. Ajo Way Tucson AZ 85713
2007 Ticket Prices $5, $6, $8, $12, $15, $16
Official Website chicago.whitesox.mlb.com
Hi Corbett Field
3400 E. Camino Campestre Tucson AZ 85716
2007 Ticket Prices $2, $7, $9, $12, $13, $14, $15
Official Website colorado.rockies.mlb.com
HoHoKam Park Stadium
15850 North Bullard Surprise AZ 85374
2007 Ticket Prices $6, $10, $16, $20, $22
Official Website chicago.cubs.mlb.com
Los Angeles Angels of
Tempe Diablo Stadium
2200 W. Alameda Dr., Tempe AZ 85282
2007 Ticket Prices $5, $6, $8, $12, $15, $16
Official Website losangeles.angels.mlb.com
Maryvale Baseball Park
3600 N. 51st Ave Phoenix AZ 85031
2007 Ticket Prices $7, $11, $15, $19
Official Website milwaukee.brewers.mlb.com
Peoria Sports Complex
16101 N. 83rd Avenue, Peoria AZ 85382
2007 Ticket Prices $6, $11, $16, $21
Official Website sandiego.padres.mlb.com
Phoenix Municipal Stadium
5999 E. Van Buren Phoenix AZ 85008
2007 Ticket Prices $8, $10, $17, $20, $24
Official Website oakland.athletics.mlb.com
Peoria Sports Complex
16101 N. 83rd Avenue, Peoria AZ 85382
2007 Ticket Prices $6, $11, $16, $21
Official Website seattle.mariners.mlb.com
Tucson Electric Park
2500 E. Ajo Way Tucson AZ 85713
2007 Ticket Prices $5, $6, $8, $12, $15, $16
Official Website arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com
Kansas City Royals
15850 North Bullard Surprise AZ 85374
2007 Ticket Prices $6, $11, $15, $18, $20
Official Website kansascity.royals.mlb.com
15850 North Bullard Surprise AZ 85374
2007 Ticket Prices $6, $11, $15, $18, $20
Official Website texas.rangers.mlb.com
If there's one experience of growing up in the sixties that sticks in a boy's mind, it's the ritual of Little League baseball. I grew up in Union, New Jersey--a town of 50,000 about 45 minutes west of Manhattan--where making a team was a very competitive process and not every boy made the cut. It took me three tries and it was probably due more in part to the fact that my Dad volunteered to coach a team (Thanks again Dad!).
I grew up in a baseball household, a Yankee baseball household to be exact, even though Dad had a stint in the Red Sox organization before he entered the Air Force. I remember the night Roger Maris hit number 61 back in 1961 and have very fond memories of my Dad teaching me the finer points of the game while watching the Yankees play on WPIX, Channel 11, and listening to legends Mel Allen and Phil Rizutto broadcast the play-by-play.
And I fondly recall a spring break trip to Florida to see the Yankees at the preseason home in Fort Lauderdale. But what I remember most is the two-day trip south, a pilgrimage we made each summer just as the Interstate highway system was coming into its own. The four lane super slab called I-95 was replacing a patchwork of two-lane roads, cutting a full day off of the drive from New Jersey to Florida.
In 1967, we made the trip south in our car of the time, a 383-equipped Dodge Coronet 440 station wagon. In an era when gas cost less than 30 cents a gallon, I distinctly remember Dad saying that it could pass anything but a gas station.
Fast forward 40 years, and the setting is Spring Training, Arizona-style. Each spring 12 major league teams call the Phoenix metro area and Tucson home, collectively known as the Cactus League. And when taking a family of four out to a regular season major league game with great seats can easily cost upwards of $400, Arizona in the spring is a viable alternative for a sixtiesstyle family vacation by car.
For this adventure, we needed two throwback elements, the right car and the right digs. For the car, it was a simple choice, Dodge's 425-horsepower monster, the Magnum SRT8, which perfectly updates the formula laid down by the family Coronet (see sidebar) after 40 years ago; an intermediate- sized station wagon stuffed with the biggest, most powerful engine available. With a top speed in excess of 160 miles per hour and a rear seat DVD system nestled between the front buckets (the family Coronet had a bench seat), modern day Little Leaguers will never utter the phrase "are we there yet?" In this case, photographer Mark Fletcher, who lives in nearby Glendale, got a chance to treat his family to a tour of ball parks and to take advantage of a mini vacation, literally minutes from their front door.
Mark commented that the Magnum represents the best of all worlds. "The Magnum SRT8 has incredible acceleration," says Mark. "It combines the straight line performance of a classic Mopar muscle car, outstanding handling and all the versatility of a traditional station wagon. When this week is over it's going to be really tough to return to driving the family minivan." When it comes to finding a place to call home each night after taking in a game, there is only one truly authentic mid-century experience to seek out--the recently renovated Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale is the place to go. Conveniently located less than five minutes away from Scottsdale Stadium, springtime home to the San Francisco Giants, and less than two hours from Tucson, it makes an excellent base of operations for a baseball-themed spring break in March.
Downtown Scottsdale is close-by, within walking distance in fact, so if you choose to venture off the grounds of the Hotel Valley Ho, great restaurants and shops abound and it won't be necessary to get the car from valet. But it should be said that Scottsdale is geographically huge, covering 184.2 square miles, from Phoenix to the south to the mountains that set its northern boundaries. Now home to 202,000 residents, it's the 4th largest city in Arizona and is a bastion for some of its wealthiest.
In addition to the Giants who call Scottsdale their springtime home, the greater Phoenix area, also called The Valley of the Sun by the locals, also hosts the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago Cubs, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Oakland Athletics, the San Diego Padres, the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers. Tucson, about two hours south on I-17 plays host to the Chicago White Sox, the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks. (See sidebars for exact stadium locations and ticket details) Spring Training Baseball One of the best aspects of baseball in the spring is the intimacy of the stadiums.
Instead of impersonal monoliths that can seat upwards of 60 or 70 thousand fans, these stadiums typically seat around 10,000 with a top ticket price in most instances of $20 or less. And it's here, especially with young fans, where they can see, hear and more importantly feel every pitch, each swing of the bat and every defensive gem. It's where they can get up close and personal with the next Brooks Robinson as he tries to make the final cut and establish himself "in the show." A spring training game is where a father (or in this day, a mother as well), can impart their own knowledge of the game to their children. There is something special when a parent can explain the nuances of baseball to their children, especially when they show a love and aptitude for the game.
There's a special strategy to baseball, a symmetry that remains pure, even in an age where many of the players tend to be multi-million dollar spoiled prima donnas and not the role models they were in my youth. Speaking from experience, learning about the times to expect a hit-and-run, or when the pitcher intentionally walks a batter or the reasons why a manager calls for a shift to the right side of the diamond when a lefthanded pull hitter is at the plate, is an opportunity for parent and child to bond.
And this bond is on a level that remains to its core, uniquely baseball, especially on a glorious cloudless, springtime afternoon. With a scorebook in hand, I recall fondly my own Dad telling this 8-year old baseball fanatic how to keep score, diagramming and documenting a game in a scorebook which remains to this day a keepsake of a very special time in a young fan's baseball life.
With 12 teams now calling Arizona home, and with the Dodgers and Indians now set to join them in 2008 and 2009, from March 1 to April 1, there will always be a game to catch, on some days two, with all the parks, except for those in Tucson, less than 45 minutes from the front door of the Hotel Valley Ho. For trip planning a baseball-themed spring vacation to Arizona, I can suggest two exceptional websites. First is cactusleague. com, the official site of The Cactus League with all the resources in one place, including a trip planner designed to make designing your vacation as easy as a click of your mouse.
And there's a second website, cactus-league.com, that is the unofficial counterpart, a true fan site that offers additional trip planning tools. Especially useful is their dining guide. Through it we located Rustler's Rooste on South Point Parkway. If you like your steaks with an impressive view of the valley from the foothills of South Mountain, this is your kind of place. And if you've ever had a hankering to try rattlesnake, here's your chance but even if you stick to their prime steaks or barbeque ribs, you'll never leave hungry or disappointed.
While there are so many attractions in both the Phoenix and Tucson areas to investigate and choose from, when you would like to take a break from your immersion in baseball, we suggest a very special trip, especially for the equestrian among you, to the stables of Los Cedros USA. At Los Cedros art, architecture and nature coexist in a very special way as you can watch professional trainers at work with some of the most magnificent horses in the world.
Another way to take advantage of Arizona in the spring is to hit the links and the Scottsdale and Phoenix areas are simply a Mecca for those who gain pleasure chasing a little white ball for about 7,000 yards. If you're looking for a guide to the courses of the area look no further than the experts at Arizona Golfer for information on Arizona's public courses. And the concierge at almost any resort can help you secure a tee time that suits your capabilities from a scratch golfer to a once-ayear duffer.
What should be apparent is that a springtime vacation in the Valley of the Sun offers a combination of recreational opportunities unmatched almost anywhere. And if you just happen to love baseball, then you simply can't pick a better, family-friendly destination. With resorts in all price categories, an unmatched selection of activities and just a few hours drive to either Tucson to the south or Sedona to the north, you'll never be at a loss for things to do or places to explore.
Baseball images in this feature courtesy of the individual team photo galleries Photo courtesy of the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. at cactusleague.com
Professional baseball and Arizona have a long partnership starting at the turn of the last century when minor league teams stopped in Arizona to play pre-season exhibition games. The biggest change occurred in 1946 when Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck brought his team to Valley of the Sun while convincing New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham to join him. Up until that time Florida was the primary venue for preseason baseball.
In 1946 Hi Corbett Field in Tucson became the springtime home for the Indians while the Giants moved into the original Municipal Stadium in Phoenix. On March 8, 1946, the Indians' Bob Lemon defeated the Giants 3-1 at Hi Corbett Field in the precursor of what would later be called the Cactus League.
The Indians and Giants remained the only teams in Arizona until 1951 when the Giants swapped spring training sites for one year with their cross river rivals, The New York Yankees, due in part to Yankees coowner Del Webb's desire to see his ball club play on a day-to-day basis while he managed his rapidly growing real estate empire.
What was noteworthy about the spring of 1951 was the changing of the guard in the Yankees clubhouse. Joe DiMaggio, the Yankee Clipper, spent his final training season with the club while another future Yankee legend, Mickey Mantle, made his first. The next ball club to make the pilgrimage to Arizona was the Chicago Cubs. They moved their spring training site from California's Catalina Island, where they found it difficult to find opponents to play each spring. In 1952 the Cubs started spring training at Rendezvous Park Stadium.
With the Cubs in Mesa, the Giants in Phoenix and the Indians in Tucson, the Baltimore Orioles came west in 1954, settling in Yuma and the four teams officially became known as the Cactus League. The year 1954 would be marked by the first time two Arizona-based spring training teams would meet in the Series, marked by Willie Mays famous overthe- shoulder catch of Dusty Rhodes, punctuating a four game sweep of the heavily favored Indians by the underdog Giants.
In 1959 the Boston Red Sox replaced the Orioles in the old Scottsdale Stadium as they treated Arizona fans to the talent of Ted Williams as his long and illustrious career was drawing to a close. Over the years Scottsdale Stadium would play host to many Cactus League teams including the Orioles, Red Sox, Cubs, A's and Giants.
Another to move into the Valley of the Sun was the expansion Houston Colt 45s, who called Geronimo Park in Apache Junction their home. Next to arrive on the scene, in 1969, were the colorful Oakland Athletics, led by their eccentric owner Charlie O. Finley, added to the Mesa neighborhood. At the same time the San Diego Padres moved to Yuma, the Seattle Pilots arrived in Tempe. The Pilots stayed in their regular season home in Seattle for just one year before moving to Milwaukee where they became the Brewers and have called Arizona home for spring training ever since.
In the years that followed the Cactus League consisted of eight teams. The Angels trained in Mesa, the Mariners in Tempe, the Cubs in Mesa; the Brewers in Chandler; the A's in Phoenix; the Giants in Scottsdale, the Padres in Yuma and the Indians in Tucson.
In the 1990s, responding to a threat from Florida, attempting to poach teams from Arizona, several new ballparks were erected. In Peoria, the Mariners and Padres share an outstanding facility, the Peoria Sports Complex.
Over in Mesa, the Cubs are pledged to remain in HoHoKam Field for years to come. Down in Tucson, the Rockies play in an updated Hi Corbett Field, sharing the town with the Arizona Diamondbacks who play in the brand new Tucson Electric Park with the Chicago White Sox. In 1998, Maryvale Baseball Park became the new home of the Brewers on the west side of the Phoenix metro area.
In a second cooperative effort, starting in 2003, the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers now share a facility in the city of Surprise. All in all, 12 teams play in nine ball parks in the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas, giving baseball fans just another reason to visit the Valley of the Sun each spring.
Situated in downtown Scottsdale, originally built in 1956, the Hotel Valley Ho has come to represent the ultimate in southwest desert chic. In the fifties and sixties, with its Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired mid-century architectural elements, the Hotel Valley Ho was the "in" place in Valley of the Sun, with many Hollywood celebrities calling it home while it being the focal point for Scottsdale high society.
You've heard the expression, what's old is new again and those words ring true when talking about the contemporary interpretation of this Scottsdale landmark. In 2002 Westroc Hotels & Resorts acquired the propery and in June 2004 embarked an 18-month-long, $80-million rehabilitation and expansion of Hotel Valley Ho's 14-acre site. Reopened in December 2005, with 194 guest rooms and a world-class spa facility, the Hotel Valley Ho perfectly blends the old with the new; classic mid-century modern architecture with modern conveniences like complimentary wireless Internet access throughout, in-room flat screen televisions, a state-of-theart exercise facility, the VH (Vitality + Health) Spa, Cafe Zuzu, and the revival of the legendary Trader Vic's. It's at Trader Vic's, where the Mai Tai was invented and guests can savor their favorite cocktail from the staff's expert mixologists.
When it comes to comfort food, no one can serve it up quite like the team that Chef Charles Wiley has assembled for the Café Zuzu's kitchen. Breakfasts that will keep you filled all day long is just the start. For dinner beef stroganoff, chicken and dumplings, braised short ribs and macaroni and cheese (like you've never tasted this comfort food classic, with ham and Tillamook cheddar cheese) will win over even the most jaded palate. And if you're in town on a Sunday, consider the outstanding brunch before you head to the ballpark or any of Scottsdale's other attractions. The Hotel Valley Ho is a family-friendly property with many adjoining rooms available for parents who desire a degree of privacy when traveling with their kids. You'll find all the amenities expected in a AAA Four Diamond resort. With the many packages offered year round, it is more affordable than one might expect with room rates starting at $259 per night. Go to hotelvalleyho.com for details.
An integral part of the property's redevelopment is a new 37-unit condominium tower which extends the hotel's signature architectural elements. The 1- and 2-bedroom units start at $700,000 and range in price up to $1,700,000 for the top floor penthouse units. The on-site management team facilitates rentals of the units for those owners who spend only a part of their time in Scottsdale.
If you think we're impressed with the Hotel Valley Ho, you're 100% right. In an area saturated with world-class accommodations, the Hotel Valley Ho has clearly established that it is in the top tier of Scottsdale's elite hotels. This is a property that will impress even the most demanding traveler with its combination of style, charm and most of all, world-class service and attention to detail. It's five stars in our book!
Hotel Valley Ho
6850 E. Main Street Scottsdale, AZ 85251
207.9 inches Length 197.7 inches
75.3 inches Width 74.1 inches
55.0 inches Height 57.9 inches
117.0 inches Wheelbase 120.0 inches
3,705 pounds Weight 4,260 pounds
383 cubic inches Displacement 6.1 liters
325-horsepower (gross) Horsepower 425-horsepower (net)
In-dash AM Radio Audio In-dash AM/FM/CD
None Video Rear seat DVD
$3,147 Price in 1967 Dollars $6,330
$22,000 Price in 2007 Dollars $37,995
The Dodge Magnum SRT8, like other Magnums, can be equipped with a dual zone entertainment system. Up front, there's an in-dash AM/FM/CD with six speakers and in the case of the SRT8 version, it's augmented with a powered Kicker subwoofer mounted behind the rear seat.
Mounted between the front bucket seats is Magnum's innovative rear seat Video Entertainment System (VES). Instead of a flip-down screen from the headliner that restricts rear vision, the Magnum's 7-inch screen flips up out of the center console which also houses a separate DVD player with dedicated video game inputs. While parents can listen to CDs through the in-dash receiver, the kids can enjoy a DVD or video game using the system's pair of wireless headphones. At a price of approximately $1,200, it's a perfect way to make everyone happy on trips cross town or cross country.
Back in the sixties, entertainment options were a lot simpler. In the case of the 1967 Dodge Coronet, it was simply a factory-installed radio, and if one was really cutting edge, an underdash 8-Track player. As far as entertaining the rear-seat passengers, it's road trip BINGO or singing along with Mom and dad.
In keeping with the retro-modern baseball theme of this trip, we'd like to suggest three CDs for Mom and Dad and three DVDs for the kids in the backseat. front seat, back seat music, movies and games for your baseball road trip John Fogerty--Centerfield (1985) Truly a baseball classic, former Creedence Clearwater Revival front man John Fogerty's ode to the national pastime is essential listening for any fan of the game. From start to finish, it is a gem. Some notes about the title track: Fogerty wrote Centerfield after watching a Giants game at Candlestick Park. His seat, the bleachers behind centerfield. The track is a seventh-inning-stretch staple at many ball parks and plays continuously at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Steam--Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye
Steam's Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, long the song of choice at Chicago White Sox games when an opposing pitcher is pulled from the game or when a Sox player hits a home run, is a sixties classic. But even with its enduring popularity on oldies stations, it has the bubble gum stigma attached, due to the hook of its infectious chorus.
The Smithereens--Meet the Smithereens
Given that the first album that I can remember buying was the 1964 classic, "Meet the Beatles" it only seemed natural that the Smithereens tribute occupy the third slot in the Magnum's in-dash CD changer. Mersey Beat meets the Jersey Beat, The Smithereens, who hadn't released a CD since the late nineties, pay proper homage to the Fab Four's enduring legacy with a recreation of their seminal LP. I defy anyone over 40 not to sing along with every track, especially their spot-on interpretation of "All My Loving."
Major League Baseball 2K7 Video
Redefining the pure baseball video game experience, Major League Baseball 2K7 from 2K Sports is one of 2007's must-have baseball video games. Regardless of platform, the graphics are as sharp as any baseball game and an improvement over last year's product. Even the handheld version for PSP excels. Major League Baseball 2K7 is available for the Sony PlayStation 2 and 3, Sony PSP and the Xbox 360 console.
A League of Their Own--Tom Hanks,
Geena Davis, Madonna (1992)
A true guilty pleasure if there ever was one, A League of Their Own chronicles the misadventures of the AAPGL. (All American Pro Girls League), a professional baseball league established during the World War Two years as a replacement for the game decimated by its stars serving in the Armed Forces. If it's famous for anything it's Tom Hanks uttering the immortal line, "There's no crying in baseball" and includes standout performances from all the stars, even Rosie O'Donnell.
Major League (Wild Thing Edition)
--Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen
and Corbin Bernsen (1989)
Another guilty pleasure, and again, not suitable for under-age ball fans, Major League could very well be the funniest movie ever produced about baseball. Look for two noteworthy supporting roles, that of Rene Russo (in her first film role) as Berenger's romantic interest and the irrepressible Bob Uecker as the play-by-play announcer whose best line is "JUST a bit outside..." Absolutely hysterical!
MLB 07 The Show (2007)
The innovative Road to The Show from Sony Computer Entertainment builds upon the success of last year's version. Adding to its already robust set of online play features, the MLB franchise now includes Online League Play, which gives gamers the ability to set up leagues with up to 30 teams, complete statistical tracking, point benefits and full customization. MLB 07 The Show is available for Sony PlayStation 2 and 3 as well as the PSP handheld..
Backseat entertainment to keep the "Are we there yet?" question to the bare minimum.
As the two Ferrari 599 GTB Fioranos punched through the mid-day fog on our first day out of Lima, Peru, we put the poverty of the city behind us. On the third major leg of the Ferrari Panamerican 20,000, we can not help feeling guilty as we navigated unspeakable poverty from behind the wheel of a pair of $300,000 Italian supercars.
When rationalizing such things one has to get beyond the initial cynicism that this was all a very elaborately orchestrated publicity stunt for a company whose products are so well known, that they have little need to advertise in the conventional sense. Quickly you realize that this is serious business, a drive that would challenge the machines as well as the stamina of all participants. It was the mother of all road trips, even by my own lofty standards, truly a grand adventure.
Lima, Peru is a cross-cultural city of more than two million inhabitants, a mixture of native cultures and Spanish influence dating back to the16th century, and the two Ferrari 599 GTB Fioranos, here after referred to as the 599s, finally cleared city environs. And Lima is a study in contrasts. This was no more evident as we navigated northward through miles of its poverty-stricken suburbs, subdivisions of second hand rejects from Home Depot; mud bricks, corrugated metal and I suppose cardboard. It was then, on our first day on the road that I took stock of the fact here we were, driving two cars worth together more than a half million dollars, through neighborhoods where the entire population would never realize that level of wealth in their collective lifetimes. Just something for all of us to think about as we adjusted the climate control, the volume on the audio system and the seats trimmed in the most butter soft leather hides imaginable. Again, it's a study in contrasts, one that made me feel quite guilty.
In the Plaza de Armas, two Prancing Horses strut their stuff, with the 599s introducing themselves to the citizens of Lima.
Crowds greeted the 599s wherever they traveled. Here, in front of the Municipal Hall on the Plaza de Armas, which has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. (Middle) Across from the Palacio de Gobierno, Ferrari test driver Gilli German poses with one of the well-dressed female police officers, with smiles all around. (Bottom) Here Gilli skillfully navigates Lima traffic on our way back to the hotel from the Plaza de Armas.
With Lima in our rear view mirrors, we gained some elevation on a well-maintained stretch of multi-lane toll road. Toll roads are everywhere in Peru but they are nothing like their North American counterparts. Normally we'd encounter a toll booth on the outskirts of some town, pay the fee then navigate for hours a 2- lane road until reaching the next population center of consequence. But in this case, the road was wide and we used the opportunity to photograph the two Ferraris poking through the mid-day mist; one red, the other blue, we contemplated their beautiful shapes, even if they were adorned in the decals of the tour's many sponsors. It was on the second day out of Lima, the drive from Huaraz to Trujillo, after my mishap (see sidebar) that for the first time I got up close and personal with the people of rural Peru. It was in some featureless mountain village, high in the Andes, our lunch stop on Sunday. The caravan (or the circus as many of us liked to think of it) of two 599s, our support team of three small Fiat MPVs, and three Iveco commercial vans loaded with spares and our luggage, parked and the inevitable crush of bewildered locals surrounded us.
Compare and contrast in Huaraz, as the caravan sets off in the morning, the 599 is already covered in mud and dust. At least the 599 avoided the graffiti paint job that graces the mini van in the background.
As we drove from Huraraz to Trujillo, in the Andean town of Carhuaz the 599s competed with this group of school children on parade.
Unfortunately for yours truly, my participation in the Panamerican 20000 almost ended before it started as upon shooting the cars driving by at the archeological site north of Barranca, I tripped, fell and in an effort to protect my Nikon D200, shattered my wrist in what would turn out to be four places. (Dumb choice; new D200 body costs about $1800, titanium rebuild of my left wrist back in California, set my HMO back $22,000 while I faced two months of rehab.) Because the main caravan had a tight schedule, they continued on to the planned overnight in Huaraz in the mountains while my Shell hosts Tatiana and Marcos doubled back to Barranca on the coast to get me medical attention. Quickly we located a spotless clinic which had no resident radiologist so for the needed photos we headed cross town to the regional hospital where X-rays confirmed the obvious, my wrist was broken. It should be noted that with all the bars on the windows, I felt that I was in a Turkish prison, not a medical facility but the care was quick and efficient.
After taking a shot for the pain, we headed northeast 150 kilometers to rendezvous with the group in Huaraz where the local trauma specialist was called in to set my arm while Tatiana scrounged around town to get the necessary supplies to set my wrist from the local pharmacies. Around 10 PM the arm was set and by midnight the owner of the three-star Andino Club Hotel had dinner waiting for me.
The following day it was back to work but the injury precluded any opportunity to drive the cars. By noon, the plaster cast, which hadn't the opportunity to properly harden, was coming apart from my insistence of using it as leverage as I continued to shoot the cars as we headed to Trujillo where the following morning Tatiana insisted we visit a clinic where it was again Xrayed and reset in an acrylic cast (Tatiana had broken her foot just prior to my arrival so she had it set at the same time).
My command of Spanish is minimal, while Tatiana spoke the language fluently. This made things much easier; it's not like traveling in Europe where it seems almost everyone speaks English. It got me thinking, "What if the injury was more serious, and if I needed to be evacuated home, how would it be handled?" First, before departing, make sure you know. Both my medical plan and my platinum level credit card have provisions for transportation in the event of a serious injury. If you lack such coverage, add it before you leave; it's very cheap insurance.
(Left) In a scene not typical to those usually encountered by Ferraris, the Inca Trail, a 60-mile dirt trail running between Caraz in the mountains and Chimbote on the coast, the mechanical components of both cars (and the support vehicles) are put to the test illustrating that the 599s are far more robust than usually given credit.
(Below) Ferrari team leader Enrico "It's a crazy thing to do" Goldoni, Ferrari test driver Gilli German and Shell technical support manager Marcos Tatijewski take measure of one of the boulders we had just driven over.
I spotted a little boy of about 10 in a yellow T-shirt emblazoned with the Ferrari logo, his eyeballs popping out of his chocolate skin at the sight of the two 599s. Opening the door, I invited him to sit behind the wheel; the look on his face, priceless. His ear-to-ear grin got me thinking. Maybe this experience would inspire him to greatness. Maybe he would get a good education and break the almost never ending cycle of poverty and do something wonderful with his life. Maybe 20 years from now he'll discover the cure for cancer or maybe be the first Peruvian in space. Only time will tell.
As the 599s navigated the rutted roads on the Inca Trail, from the inland city of Huaraz to the costal port of Trujillo, 80% of the roads were unpaved. My first thoughts were that this drive had much more in common with battering Jeeps on the Rubicon Trail than cruising the rarified localities such as Monaco and Pebble Beach, so typical of events normally connected with cars of the Prancing Horse. Watching spotters guide the cars through obstacle after obstacle, and hearing their bottoms scrape painfully over the jagged rocks, I couldn't help but think that no owner would knowingly subject his personal 599 to such abuse. It proved beyond the shadow of any doubt that these two 599s, even taking into account their deviations from their everyday counterparts (see sidebar), were well up to the tasks of coping with the conditions, especially low octane fuel and dust that seemed to be everywhere, including the insides of my camera, forcing me to learn of its automated "dust-off" capabilities. Border crossings are always a concern and our passage from Peru to Ecuador was no exception. With eight vehicles, there was a mountain of paperwork that had to be processed at Macara. This was complicated by the fact that in our group were all of the Italians of the support team as well as two Brits from Top Gear, two more Spanish journalists, the members of the Shell support team from Brazil and Bolivia and myself. It was there I first noticed that the tour guide who accompanied us through Peru was heavily armed and as soon as we crossed into Ecuador, we picked up another equally well-armed guide; it seemed that Ferrari was taking no chances having their prized 599 GTBs hijacked.
(Left) High in the Andes this little girl was all smiles as our caravan stopped in her village for lunch. (Below left) This young Ferrari enthusiast got the thrill of a lifetime when we asked if he would like to get behind the wheel of our 599. (Below) One-lane bridges like this were common along the Inca Trail causing Ferrari PR spokesperson Davide Kluzer to quip "Why do you photographers insist on photographing the cars on each and every bridge?"
Upon crossing the border we gained altitude and the scenery, especially the lush, almost tropical rain forests, were truly stunning. But as we climbed up over 10,000 feet, several of the team, myself included, succumbed to light headedness, symptomatic of altitude sickness. As soon as we descended down to a more reasonable level as we approached the city of Cuenca, things improved dramatically. And it was there that the locals had an opportunity, especially a group of school children, to get up close and personal with our caravan. Their smiles said it all. It should also be noted that on the leg from Cuenca to Quito, the Panamerican crossed the halfway point, 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers).
It was impossible not to notice immediately that the standard of living was substantially better in Ecuador than what we encountered in Peru. If there were shanty towns, they were farther from the main roads we took and the construction of the houses, at least to our eyes, appeared more substantial. Quito, an old colonial city, presented some horrific traffic log jams at the end of the evening's rush hour but finally we arrived at our hotel. This would be my last day of the tour as in the morning I had an 8 AM flight to catch back to Miami.
(Main photo) On Peru 12, somewhere between Chuquicara in the mountains and Guadalupito on the coast, the 599s plod along on a road better suited for a 4X4 Jeep, Range Rover or a burro than a sports car with the sunset telling us we still had five hours before arriving in Trujillo. (Top inset photo) In Santa Rosa, south of Chiclayo, Peru, Ferrari took time out for some beauty shots of both cars on the beach overlooking the harbor.
(Middle inset photo) On the border crossing into Ecuador, in Macara, Marcos Tatijewski explains to the border police where we had come and where we were going. (Bottom inset photo) In Loja, Ecuador these three schoolboys get up close and personal with our 599 duo. We think their smiles say it all.
Before I left for the airport I bid farewell to the other journalists, especially Brits Tom Ford and Lee Brimble from Top Gear who teased me unmercifully when I fractured my wrist. Next, I said goodbye to Tatiana Salcedo and Marcos Tatijewski, my hosts from Shell who had arranged for me to participate in the Panamerican as their guest. To say thanks I left them with a couple of my MP3 CDs with more than 500 oldies from the sixties through the eighties. They still had a month's drive before I would see them again in Los Angeles and I figured they would appreciate having some different tunes to listen to as they followed behind the Ferraris in their Fiat support vehicle.
In the annals of great drives, epic road trips or what ever you want to call them, the Ferrari Panamerican 20000 has to rank up there very near the top. After all what else could explain taking two brand new $280,000 Ferrari 599s on a journey lasting four months, covering 20,000 miles through 14 countries in the Western Hemisphere. Last year Ferrari took a pair of 612 Scagliettis on a 15,000 mile jaunt through China; this year they set the bar even higher.
As I got on the plane on the way back to Miami, I tried to reflect on the past week's activities. As a former Ferrari owner (1980 308GTSi, SN 34047), I was struck most of all by the sheer audacity of the undertaking, this coming from someone who put 72,000 miles on my 308 in sixty months. First is the fact that a challenge such as this is as extreme, maybe more so when you consider it's done with production cars, than Ferrari's involvement in Formula One.
Then I thought, what was Ferrari trying to prove? In the final analysis it seemed that they were showing that they build powerful and dare I say it, reliable supercars rather than the art/possessions that they have come to represent in this brand-obsessed world we live in. To Enrico, Davide and the rest of the Ferrari support team for the Panamerican 20000, this was so more than the prerequisites required to purchase and own a Ferrari; desire combined with a large bank account and some sort of personal provenance in the eyes of the factory. It took spirit combined with an extreme sense of adventure.
They got it!
Finally I thought of our days in the Andes where a 599 might as well have been a UFO dropped in from another galaxy. But there was a difference; almost everyone we encountered had some idea of what the 599s were and what they represented. They might not have known that it was a Ferrari 599, but they knew it was special and extraordinary, a modern supercar that represents some of the best elements of the technological accomplishments of our era, driven over roads that hadn't materially changed in 600 years. Think about that confluence of old and new. It's truly magical.
By the time I arrived in Lima, Peru, the caravan had already traversed four countries, starting August 24th from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, arriving six days and 1,200 miles later at Foz du Iguaçu, Brazil, better known as the City by the Falls. At the height of the rainy season, these water falls are more than a mile wide.
The next leg would traverse both Argentina and Chile, with the leg's final destination being Calama, Chile. It was on this stage that the two 599s surmounted the Andes over some of the highest altitudes of the entire tour, almost 15,000 feet above sea level. Not only did the altitude cause concern for the participants, but the 599s needed to adapt to lower octane fuel as well as deal with the ever-present dust in conditions that the typical Ferrari owner wouldn't encounter in a lifetime. Ferrari was so concerned for the well being of all the participants, journalists as well as the support crew, that they flew over a doctor from Italy who would accompany the team as far as Lima, Peru.
(Counterclockwise from far left) If you've ever wondered what kind of logistics it takes to put two Ferraris on the road for 20,000 miles and four months, here's your answer, the start at the Fiat plant in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
(Next) Obviously Rio de Janerio, Brazil, including a nighttime shot at the Citadel de Samba. (Next) On through to Chile and the Salar de Atacama, salt flats of incredible beauty and desolation.
After arriving in Calma for a switch of journalists (Ferrari invited 25 teams of two journalists, two to a car for each leg) the caravan set out for La Paz in Bolivia. It was on this leg that the cars attacked the Chilean salt flats of Valle della Luna and the Valle della Morte, stark landscapes that had more in common with those found on the moon than the Italian Riviera, before crossing over the border and into Bolivia. This leg, according to Ferrari spokesman Enrico Goldoni who helped organize the logistics for the Panamerican 20,000, was among the most dangerous terrain of the entire tour.
This La Paz to Lima leg would introduce the caravan to the culture of the ancient Incas whose advanced civilization was ultimately conquered by the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century. Ultimately, the tour, in its two Mexican stages, would traverse the lands of the Aztecs and the Mayans in Central America before entering the United States where our own Native American Indian culture was represented; each indigenous culture was symbolized by one of the four icons that adorned the doors of both 599s.
It was on this leg that the caravan visited Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire from the 1200s through the early 1500s. And about 70 miles away is the religious center of Machu Picchu, which was never conquered by the Spanish after its inhabitants fled. Ultimately the jungle reclaimed the site until its discovery by Hiram Bingham and his National Geographic team.
While I had to leave the tour after its arrival in Quito, after a day's stopover, the Panamerican continued northward and on the following day the caravan passed over the equator before heading into Columbia. From there Panama was next followed by the Central American countries of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico before crossing into the United States at Tijuana on October 23, two months after starting in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
(Above) Atlantic meets the Pacific as the 599s check out the container ships navigating the Panama Canal.
(Bottom right) The caravan visited Machu Picchu, often called the Lost City of the Incas. Discovered by archaeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911, it is the best preserved, most complete pre-Columbian Inca ruin in existence.
(Left) Evening in Antigua, Guatemala's ancient capital. (Above) Two farmers can't believe their eyes, a 599 in San Miguel, Guatemala.
Due to some bureaucratic red tape, the Iveco trucks were denied entry and were left in Tijuana, adding to Goldoni's logistical headaches. From there the team drove up I-5 past San Diego for a wellearned day of rest before the real start of the North American legs of the Panamerican.
After Los Angeles, where a series of photo opportunities were scheduled for the local media, the 599 GTBs headed to Sin City for a reception at the Ferrari dealer in the lobby of the ultra lux Wynn Hotel on the Las Vegas strip. If ever there was a match made in upscale heaven, this had to be it.
Following their departure from Las Vegas the Panamerican headed southeast towards New Orleans where they were able to witness some of the devastation wrought the previous year by Hurricane Katrina. The tour continued eastward to Miami then up the east coast to Washington DC before moving on to Chicago and making a stopover in the Motor City.
After the first part of their tour of the US, the Panamerican crossed the border into Canada with an overnight stop in Toronto before returning to the US in Buffalo with Niagara Falls as the backdrop. Now it was the home stretch, the last 300 miles via Pennsylvania, the 24th state touched by the Panamerican, then through New Jersey and the Lincoln Tunnel and on to a reception on Wall Street on November 16th. The reception, attended by Ferrari dignitaries such as Maurizio Parlato, President and CEO of Ferrari North America, marked Ferrari's 50-year presence in the United States and was a grand way to celebrate the success of the cars from Maranello, which have come to symbolize engineering excellence as well as artistic beauty.
(Clockwise from lower left) Nighttime in the post Katrina French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana. (Next) We wonder what the Founding Fathers would have thought of the two 599s parked in front of the US Capital? (Next) Almost home, 20,000 miles, driving into the Big Apple. (Next) November 17, 2006, the Ferraris arrive at Wall Street, the end of a four-month-long odyssey where the two 599s performed virtually flawlessly.
The 599 GTB Fiorano (its official name) is the latest in a long line of continent-crushing 2-place Grand Turismos dating back to the first road-going Ferrari 3-liter coupes in the fifties.
While originally Enzo Ferrari built production cars so that he could race, now the tables are some what turned as Ferrari races to lend prestige to their road cars.
And while you can trace the 599 GTB's luxury Grand Touring lineage all the way back to the specials constructed for the fifties jet set, I like to think that the 599's great grandfather is 1963's 250 GTB Lusso, arguably the most beautiful road-going Ferrari of all time.
Throughout the sixties, and especially with the 365 GTB/4 Daytona, frontengined, V12-powered 2- seat Ferrari road cars set the standard for the genre, yet were eclipsed by progress. First came the revolutionary Lamborghini Muira and then Ferrari's own midengined responses, first the 512 Boxer and later by that symbol of eighties Miami Vice excess, the Testarossa, raised the bar. It took a while for Ferrari to truly return to its front-engined roots, but when it did, it resulted in the 575 Maranello. Here was the recipe thoroughly updated for the nineties and it enjoyed a decade-long production run, now only surpassed by the new 599 GTB Fiorano, a car so in demand that there's already a four-year-long waiting list.
For their participation in the Panamerican 20000, Ferrari did make a few minor changes to insure that the cars wouldn't puncture themselves to death on the roads they would encounter.
The changes included a 4 mm thick aluminum plate replacing the standard issue plastic. To gain some additional ground clearance the shock absorbers were slightly raised to handle the roughest roads. The Pirelli SottoZero tires were custom designed for the 599, combining a snow-tire tread pattern with a rally-racing rubber compound. But in all other regards, they were identical to the other cars in the series. Powered by an Enzo-derived 5,999cc V12 motor with 611-horsepower, the 599 sprints from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds and boasts a top speed in excess of 205 mph. Think of these capabilities as almost Enzo levels of performance at about half the price.
Long time Ferrari partner Shell provided continual technical support through the 20,000 miles. Technical manager Marcos Tatijewski was with the tour from start-to-finish while providing a suite of performance fuel and lubricant products along with technical support. Where available, Shell fuel stations along the route fueled the 599s with Shell V-Power fuel (the support vehicles have 110 gallons on board should fuel be otherwise unavailable) and Shell Helix lubricant products, which come factory installed in the crankcase of each and every new 599 GTB Fiorano that rolls off the line in Maranello.
To our eyes, this adventure has more real-world relevance than all the F1 World Championships that Ferrari has won over the years. After dismissing the obvious PR elements, we see it as an example of wild confidence Ferrari has in their product. And while the grand old man might not have understood, Enzo certainly would have been proud.
By Sue Mead
The first thing you'll notice, if you fly to Alaska in the winter, is the enormity of the white palette and the prolific mountain ranges that stretch beyond the clouds. Even if you land in the modern-day, capital city, Anchorage, you'll quickly grasp why this proudly-rugged state is called The Last Frontier. Bush planes outfitted with skis take off and land alongside the Boeings and Airbuses, the snowfall is feet-deep on roof tops, and moose ogle at you from along every roadside.
Sometimes, it's hard to imagine what life was like in the days of the pioneers, before we motored in Jeeps, with heated seats and four-wheeldrive traction, but that's exactly what Mark A. Smith had in mind when he designed the first Northern Lights Jeep Jamboree.
The three-and-a-half day event held in February, gave participants the opportunity to learn about the rigors of horsedrawn sleigh travel while being pulled by a team of Percherons; to experience the thrill of dogsledding tucked into a musher's sled along a portion of the Iditarod Trail; to get up-close-andpersonal to the ice-faced Matanuska Glacier; to hear the cry of the wolf at Wolf Farm USA; and then to climb into Jeep vehicles and drive through snowy woods and across frozen lakes.
"You haven't seen--and truly learned about--America until you've been places only your Jeep 4x4 can take you," said Smith. And Smith would know. "The Father of Modern Four Wheeling" not only knows the backcountry of America, but he has been a 4x4 pioneer around the world. His four wheeling exploits and adventures earned him the accolade "Four Wheeler of the Decade" in 1986, and memberships in the Off-Road Hall of Fame and The Explorer's Club.
Smith's first organized Jeep trip was in the early 50's, and was designed as a way to add dollars to the local economy of the small community of Georgetown, California, located near the trailhead of the now-famed Rubicon Trail, in the high Sierras. During the mid-eighties, Smith formalized the Jeep-trip idea and developed Jeep Jamboree USA, not only for individuals with the heart of an explorer, but also for families looking for fun. Since, he has led thousands of enthusiasts on trips in the U.S. and internationally, as well. While Alaska's biggest city has experienced a remarkably snowy winter already this year, and rooftops have had to be shoveled with some 80 inches of snow, we found only two feet of snow on the ground in the city, but far higher levels in Hatcher Pass, an area sought out by extreme skiers and snowboarders because of its open and rugged backcountry. And, despite rumors of frigid conditions in the frozen north, the temperatures ranged from a balmy 35 degrees to a fairly chilly three above. Although this made for more pleasant conditions for our outdoor activities, the warmer weather aided by the ambient light created more slushy conditions for our trail drives, along with the possibility of avalanche danger in the steep mountain passes.
The Northern Lights Jeep Jamboree was headquartered at The Mother Load Lodge, in Hatcher Pass, approximately one hour north of Anchorage, on the Wasilla Fishook Road. Originally a wagon trail that followed the Little Susitna River to its head waters in Hatcher Pass, the area was known as an outpost and supply region for the gold fields of the Willow Creek Mining District.
The first trail was rough and followed the path of least resistance. Now widened and paved, it is still rugged and takes travelers by the remains of the Independence Mine and deep into this passageway to the Parks Highway, with majestic views in all directions.
Tim Stigen, (left) and Mark A.Smith pose one of the 5 1978 CJ7s used for the Expedicion de las Americas. Stigen, of Alaska, was the youngest member of this famed 21,000-mile, tip-to-tip journey. Participants of the First Alaskan Jeep Jamboree form a caravan for driving across the frozen surface of Big Lake, Alaska, with a year-round population of 2,000.
Located in the pristine wilderness of Hatcher Pass, the lodge specializes in weddings, banquets, parties, retreats, incentive groups, meetings, special occasions and events all year. Open seven days a week, Memorial Day through Labor Day and Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the rest of the year (unless privately booked) from noon to 9 p.m., individual overnight guests and groups are welcome anytime by reservation. Although the accommodations at the Lodge are rustic, the setting is magical and the food is gourmet. Due to the remote location of the Northern Lights Jeep Jamboree, it wasn't practical to drive one's Jeep to Alaska but for this intrepid group of Jeepers, all wasn't lost. At the Anchorage airport, as at hundreds of airports nationwide, Thrifty has a fleet of Jeep 4x4s, including the Grand Cherokee, the choice of most of the participants.
Organized locally by paramedic and fireman Tim Stigen, and his son Mike, the event drew a small, but hearty group from the lower 48 to explore a portion of The Big Wild, the new tag line for the 49th state. Stigen drove his 1978 CJ-7, one of the original Jeep vehicles that made the trek from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, back in 1979.
"We planned a winter event keeping in mind the variability of weather and chose places that were safe and scenic," explained Stigen, who kept the attendees busy during the sixplus hours of daylight, but allowed for personal exploring and family time after the sun set.
"For us, winter is foreign," pointed out Alan Travis, from Phoenix, Arizona, who came with his wife Mary. The pair of Jeep owners have rallied in Jeep events and flown to Alaska in the summer, but had not experienced winter off-roading. That was the case for others, most of who had attended other Jeep Jamborees and hailed from New Jersey, Texas, Illinois, Florida and California.
Far left: Jeep 4WD systems provided plenty of traction for the snowy backcountry of Alaska. Left: A Canis lupus, or wolf, at Wolf Farm USA check us out as we make a visit to learn more about these endangered mammals that still roam the wilds of the 49th state. Above: Warm and comfortable is the order of the day in the rooms of the Motherload Lodge; Top: The lateday sun illuminates a majestic mountain ridge in Hatcher Pass, Alaska.
It all started when Smith and a group of Rotarians in Georgetown, California organized the first Jeepers Jamboree, crossing the Rubicon Trail in 1953, as a way to boost the local economy.
The concept made history as 155 "Jeepers" and 55 Jeeps made the first trip. In 1954 Willys Motors, at the time the manufacturer of Jeeps, became involved, but Smith made it a lifestyle. And, along the way, he developed Jeep Jamboree USA, now with offshoot 4WD events in Canada and Mexico. Smith has also helped organize other Jeep Jamborees, in locations ranging from Australia to South America.
At 80, Smith is no less active than his early years, although he has turned over the everyday operations of Mark A. Smith Off-Roading, Inc. and Jeep Jamboree USA to his daughter Jill Smith and son-in-law Pearse Umlauf. The physically-fit off-road guru works nearly every day of the year, organizing events and 4WD training, and attending a select few of the Jamborees each year. The new Alaskan Northern Lights Jeep Jamboree found its way onto his short list, as one of the "Mark A. Smith" events, designed to be small and up-close-and-personal, with this offroad guru. Those who attended were thrilled.
"What brought me here was the appeal of Alaska, plus I'm an off-road kind of person," said banker David Gary, who joined friend Terry Heaton, the owner and manager of automobile dealerships in Texas, who also sells Jeeps. "I'd never been to Alaska and I thought the wintertime would be fun," said Heater. "I'd met Mark Smith on the Rubicon and thought this Jamboree would be more intimate," he added.
For Bruce and Heidi Wolfson, of Livermore, California, who home school their children, the Jamboree became another great educational experience Matthew, 8, Madeline, 6, and Elizabeth, 5, were able "to see a different part of our country." The natives called Alaska, Aleyska, The Great Land. A new campaign calls it "The Big Wild." No matter what you call it, Alaska offers something for almost everyone and regardless of whether you head north or south out of the gateway city of Anchorage, or whether you motor in a Jeep or another brand of automobile, you will discover a great playground for the young and the youngat- heart--during any season.
Jeep Jamboree USA has another 2007 event in Alaska, scheduled in June (see schedule). As the first Northern Lights Jeep Adventure was a tightly structured program, if visiting Alaska, you should leave extra time to explore the 49th state. And the best way to do this is by air. Alaska, more than any other state, because of the distances and climate involved, depends more on small aircraft to serve its intrastate transportation needs. In many instances people live where no roads go. And while in the Anchorage area there are many fine flightseeing services, close to Hatcher Pass, in Palmer, you'll find Mustang Air at your service.
Their Cessna 172, which can seat up to three passengers, is an excellent way to explore the Alaskan backcounty, especially the glaciers. The flight to the nearby Knik Glacier Gorge, about 30 minutes away, costs less than $200 per person and even a three-hour flight to Mt. Denali, an experience that shouldn't be missed, runs a very reasonable $480 per person.
And if you're up to the challenges of Alaska in the winter, keep an eye on the Jeep Jamboree web site in the fall. If we know Mark, he'll lobby for a return trip to Alaska in 2008.
Tim Stigen's 1978 CJ 7 is set up for extreme 4WD trekking. Moose antlers adorn a roof-top in Chugiak, Alaska.
If you know Mark A. Smith, or you've only heard of him, you've likely wondered what motivated him to become one the world's leading adventurers, driving Jeeps around the globe, and creating history wherever he went.
"Driven by A Dream, Mark A. Smith's Journal," chronicles this legendary life from his early years, in the rugged mining camps of Nevada, to the present, which finds Smith still active with the Jeep Jamboree USA program he established in 1982; setting up 4WD events and training around the globe; and as an off-road consultant to the DaimlerChrysler Corporation. Raised as the son of a miner, Smith, a member of the Off-Road Hall of Fame and The Explorer's Club, was recognized as Four Wheeler of the Decade in 1986.
This 352-page coffee table book is a scrapbook of the celebrated life of the man, and the legend, that will teleport you from Alaska to Australia, from China's Silk Road to Hadrian's Wall, in Scotland, and from Egypt to the Galapagos Islands.
A combination of journal and diary entries, letters, memorabilia, and pictures; you'll also get up-close-and-personal as Smith tells tales not only of his exploits, but also invites you into the world of his family and friends. Among the most charming sections is "Mark's Recipes from Around the World and at Home".
Alaska Airlines, Delta, Northwest, and Continental all fly from major gateway cities and hubs in the lower 48.
Tim Stigen 4WD Trail Guide
1150 S. Colony Way #3 PMB 183 Palmer, AK 99645
621 Airport Rd., Suite 100 Palmer, Alaska 99645
Callin' Trail Kennel
P.O. Box 877973 Wasilla, Alaska 99687
Jeep Jamboree participants enjoyed dog sledding along a portion of the famed Iditarod Trail.
Before planning any trip to Alaska, you should purchase a copy of The MILEPOST Alaska, the bible of North Country travel. Published and updated annually, it provides mileage designations with route and local information provided in an easy-to-read format. (vernonpublications.com)
Driven By a Dream
Mark A. Smith's Journal
Mark A. Smith Publishing, 2004
Mark A. Smith Off-Roading, Inc.
P.O. Box 1601, 2776 Sourdough Flat Georgetown, California 95634
(530) 333-4777; or jeepjamboreeusa.com
Price: $49.95, plus shipping & handling - (7.25% sales tax for California residences)
If you prefer to travel to Alaska in the summer, as many "outsiders" do, Jeep USA Jamboree is offering a summertime edition, June 21-25th, headquartered in Hatcher Pass, as well. This Jamboree will offer Tundra Buggy rides on a glacier, and instead of cold weather gear, make sure you bring your mosquito head-net for the winged creatures that are a big part of The Big Wild! While there, consider a southerly route out of Anchorage to Homer that will fill your memories and photo archives with even more superb scenery, nature in the wild, gold panning and a host of activities to keep you busy for the nearly 20 hours of daylight!
Heading south from Anchorage on the Seward Highway (Alaska Routes 1 and 9), the fun begins immediately. The Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge (Potter Marsh), a 2,300-acre wetland with a scenic boardwalk for easy bird viewing, is located just fifteen minutes out of this urban gateway. Shortly down the road along Cook's Inlet are the pull-offs for Beluga and Windy Point, tucked against the shores of Turnagain Arm, where the Seward Highway winds along the steep cliffs of the Chugach Mountains.
It's no surprise that this highway is one of the 10 most scenic in the nation. The scenery is breathtaking and it's not unlikely that you will see pods of small, white Beluga whales and orca in this broad bay, which is ringed to the south and west by the snowcapped Kenai Mountains. Dali Sheep inhabit the area and often descend the cliffs to come close to the roadway. Nearby is Girdwood, the site of an 1888 gold strike, where you can pan for gold at the Crow Creek Mine. It is also the home of the Aleyska Resort, which offers renowned alpine skiing with tram rides available year-round up Mount Aleyska, where the views are spectacular.
Just a half mile up the Aleyska Highway, on the three-mile spur road to Girdwood, is the ranger station of the Chugach National Forest, which encompasses almost six million acres. Here, you can get maps and information on Forest Service cabins and campgrounds and dayuse picnic areas. While cabins are limited, there are over 400 campsites located in pleasant forest settings. Most have running water, picnic tables, pit toilets and parking for your car nearby your tent or trailer. No fee is charged for campsites without water or for picnic areas. Several campgrounds also have RV dump stations.
A few miles further along the highway, some 50 miles south of Anchorage, you'll see signs for the Portage Glacier, the state's most popular attraction. A five-mile drive will reward you with a view of icebergs of all sizes. Many are visible from the walkway along Portage Lake or you can take a boat cruise that, for a fee, will give you an up-close-and-personal view of the glacier and there icebergs. The Begich Boggs visitor center has demonstrations and displays of the glacial geologic history of the area along with naturalist programs, guided hikes and self-guided walks.
Back on the main motorway, designated a National Forest Scenic Byway, you'll continue to find scenic views as you travel to the coastal community of Seward, 125 miles southeast of Anchorage. (Take Route 9 and follow signs for Seward at Milemarker S 37.7, approximately 90 miles south of Anchorage). A favorite stop is Exit Glacier, a giant, icy blue glacier perched across a carved mountain ridge. Although visible from the road, it's worth hiking the half-mile trail to get close enough to feel its awesome force.
The small port town of Homer, tucked between the Kenai Mountains and Resurrection Bay, is now known for its fjords and fishing but was once the jumping- off point for the original Ididarod dogsled run to Nome. While there is plenty of hiking, fishing and camping nearby, many visitors indulge in the fulland half-day tours to the mountains, waterfalls and glaciers of Kenai Fjords National Park, where you will see a host of sea mammals and bird life.
If you wish to travel the full length of the picturesque Kenai Peninsula, you'll take the Sterling Highway (Alaska Route 1), at its junction with the Seward Highway, and comes to its end 141 miles southwest in a seacoast town of a slightly different personality. Called Halibut Capital of the World, Homer is a renowned fishing community with arts and crafts shops that line its sand "spit" of lard, which overlooks the Kachemak Bay and the glacier-rimmed Kenai peaks.
A great side trip out of Homer is to visit Halibut Cove or Seldovia, across the bay. You can take the ferry and or a small plane hop (15 minute flight) to see a unique town with a blend of Russian and Native cultures. While there visit the Seldovia Village Tribe's Museum and the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, a National Historic Site, built in 1891.
On your return to Anchorage, allow time to stop along the way. Points of interest include Kenai, founded in 1791 by Russian fur traders (points of interest are the Russian Orthodox Church and Fort Kenay, built by the U.S. Army in 1869); Soldotna, a business and sport fishing center, established in 1942 by homesteaders; and at the Russian and Kenai Rivers Recreation Area, which draws anglers from around the globe to try for its world-class king salmon. Campsites are numerous and many provide good access to fishing and hiking trails.
The natives named it well, Aleyska, The Great Land, offers something for almost everyone and its Kenai Peninsula, easily explored out of the gateway city of Anchorage is a great playground for the young and the young-at-heart.
If You Go:
Chugach National Forest
3301 C Street, Suite 300 Anchorage, AK 99503-3998
For information about campgrounds, cabins, trails and ferry routes; and maps.
Kenai Visitors Center
Jeep Jamboree USA has added two new trips to its U.S. program for 2007. This builds on the success of the 2006 program that attracted nearly 7,000 enthusiasts ranging in age from four months to 86 years. The family-oriented 4WD outings are designed for all levels of expertise- from beginner to seasoned off-roader-and provide instructional guidance over the course of two full days (Fridays and Saturdays) in a variety of locations in America's backcountry. The price for most of these programs is between $200 and $400 per person, depending on the program and location. Events run February through October and cover every region of the country with destinations selected for scenic and historical value as well as fourwheel- drive trails. While most participants are Jeep owners, Jeep Jamboree USA provides information about rentals for attendees, who must drive a Jeep vehicle on the trip. Trails, which are rated on a scale of 1-10 for difficulty, accommodate both stock and modified vehicles, although the program emphasizes a "family friendly" not "hard core" image. In some locations, tow hooks are recommended or required.
Please note, the Alaska trips hosted by Mark A. Smith are priced to reflect the longer duration, the included Jeep rental, fuel, lodging and additional meals as well as tour costs. The cost for the 2007 edition of the Alaskan Northern Lights Jeep Jamboree (Mark A. Smith signature trip)was $1,895 per person-based on double occupancy. This includes a Jeep vehicle rental and fuel, four nights lodging and 11 full meals along with all tour fees and transfers to and from airport.
First Alaska Jeep Jamboree, Summer, June 21-25 (Mark A. Smith signature trip) $1,895 per person-based on double occupancy; includes Jeep vehicle rental and fuel, four nights lodging and 11 full meals, all tour fees and transfers to and from airport. In addition, there are also two Canadian events organized by Jeep Jamboree Canada. For further information about Jeep Jamboree USA programs, contact (530) 333-4777. To receive a free 2007 guidebook, call 800/925-JEEP. The Jeep Jamboree USA guidebook, with event dates and details, is also available on-line at jeepjamboreeusa.com.. 2007 Jeep Jamboree USA
By Mark Elias
As cliché as it sounds, that was then, the 2007 Solstice GXP is now.
Apparently, the din was heard all the way to the executive suite over at the Tubes (the nickname used to describe GM's Renaissance Center HQ in downtown Detroit) as Pontiac has chosen to offer the Solstice with a 2.0-liter, 260-horsepower direct injection four-banger with turbocharger. It is just the kick in the pants that "the little roadster that could," needed. Again, using the corporate Ecotec "world engine" platform, albeit in a massaged form that yields 260 lb-ft. of torque, it feels like a totally new vehicle. In addition to looking fast, it is, in fact, very fast.
Like most cars in the segment, the Solstice is designed as a driver's car. Aided by the division's StabiliTrak stability control system and a sports-tuned four-wheel independent suspension, as well as rearwheel drive, an enthusiast has the means to throw the GXP into a corner and power through for some truly inspired driving. The fivespeed manual transmission offers precise movement from the short throw shifter, and just hopes that you'll jump in and drive it hard.
As good as the handling and powertrain are, the interior and storage area are the Solstice's Achilles heel. Normal-sized drivers would find the cockpit accommodating. Larger occupants would find it cramped. Seating is good, and supportive in most cases, although seat back movement is rather minimal. We'd like to see more side bolstering to firmly hold occupants in place while tossing the car around the way it begs you to. Available in cloth, the GXP we tested featured optional leather buckets with GXP badging stitched into the headrests.
A large curved form of plastic houses the center stack's climate controls and a rather nice Monsoon audio system. It divides the cockpit into two pods. It's unfortunate in the sense this plastic divider consumes any possible area for in-car storage. Also annoying is the two-slot cupholder that pops out anytime the driver's elbow comes in contact with it. Occupants almost need the skill of a Russian circus contortionist to access their Super Big Gulp. Trunk space is minimal. Leave the LV bags at home and plan to take a small duffel for your next weekend jaunt.
Driving the GXP displays some serious road-handling chops. With the roof up, the GXP is surprisingly quiet inside. The tradeoff, though, is that rearward and side visibility is poor, causing drivers to pay serious attention to the side and rearview mirrors. Unsnap the centrally located roof latch, open the glove box to push the hatch release, and the roof stows neatly in the trunk. Once the drop-top is down, visibility is excellent.
For all its ergonomic and storage shortcomings, the Solstice GXP is still an exhilarating ride. It quite possibly won't be the only car in your garage, but a fun one for that weekend trip where all you need to take is a TSA-approved Ziplock bag..
Length: 157.2 inches
Width: 71.3 inches
Height: 50.1 inches
Wheelbase: 95.1 inches
Curb Weight: 2,976 pounds
Engine type: Turbocharged DOHC I4
Displacement: 2 liters
Transmission type: 5-speed manual
EPA rating: 20 city/27 highway
Base price: $26,515
By Richard Truesdell
All three engines in the 2008 Cayenne are both more powerful and more fuel efficient. The V8 available in the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo is an all-new design and will be shared with the upcoming Panamera four-door due in 2009 and all include direct injection. Porsche thus far has resisted the temptation to offer a diesel but with their increasingly closer corporate ties with Volkswagen, it wouldn't surprise us that the Tourareg's V10 diesel may some day find itself under the Cayenne's hood. First water-cooled 911s, then a Porsche SUV and maybe on top of that a diesel; what next to confound the Porsche faithful?
Fuel economy improvements for 2008 are somewhat concealed by the fact that the EPA is using new standards to measure fuel efficiency which reflect real-world experience much better than the previous standards. In San Antonio, where Porsche previewed all three Cayenne models, while all the other journalists ran to the V8 powered S and Turbo models, we were more anxious to drive the base model V6 Cayenne. Our thinking was that with its as tested price of $51,500, it would be more representative of the kind of model that would appeal to Automotive Traveler's readers. (It also gives us the opportunity to request the more powerful models for a week long evaluation after we return home.)
If you think 5,000 pounds of vehicle, propelled by a 290-horsepower V6--up 43 from last year's model--sounds sluggish, think again. Equipped with the optional 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, the V6 Cayenne reaches 60 miles per hour from a standing start in just 7.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 141 miles per hour. That's certainly competitive with most V8-powered SUVs in its class. (Suffice to say that the Turbo, with 500 horsepower on tap will reach 171 miles per hour when properly exercised on the Autobahn. On the 8.5 mile oval at the Continental Tire testing facility in Uvalde Texas, we witnessed 165 miles per hour, a feat that Porsche claims could be duplicated with ease on the unrestricted Autobahns in Germany.)
New on Cayenne's plate is Porsche's Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) which utilizes active anti-rollbars that virtually eliminate body roll in corners. Its effects were evident when pushing the Cayenne hard through corners, with intervention being measured and progressive. When coupled with an improved version of Porsche's Stability Management, all three Cayenne models live up to their title of the Porsche of SUVs.
On the inside, even our base model Cayenne was very well trimmed but if it was us, and we were buying a Cayenne, we would opt for the $3170 leather trim option. This puts finely stitched smooth leather not only on the seating surfaces, but on the dash and door panels as well. Trust us, it will remind you on a daily basis and when you write the check each month that you bought a Porsche rather than some other ordinary SUV or crossover.
What separates the Cayenne from many other SUVs, are its on-road dynamics, and handling characteristics. In our evaluation at the Continental Proving Grounds we continued to be amazed at just how well all three Cayenne models performed when driven in dry, wet as well as gravel conditions. Every time we got out of the Cayenne we had to remind ourselves that we were doing what we were doing in a 5,000- pound vehicle. Simply amazing.
With the V6 Cayenne's base MSRP of $43,400, Porsche has positioned the "entry-level" Cayenne as a viable alternative to a number of competitors. With a premium of only $5,000 more than many domestic and imported SUVs, Porsche has pitched to a zone that almost any enthusiast could take a swing at..
Length: 188.9 inches
Width: 75.9 inches
Height: 66.9 inches
Wheelbase: 112.4 inches
Curb Weight: 4,762 pounds
Engine type: DOHC V6
Displacement: 3.6 liters
Transmission type: 6-speed manual
EPA rating: 18 city/22 highway
Base price: $43,400
By Mark Elias
The Mercedes-Benz division of DaimlerChrysler apparently felt the same way and turned to their (now) in-house tuner AMG for added performance over what is available from the standard assembly line vehicle. Known for years as a high-performance engine builder of Mercedes engines, AMG was purchased by DaimlerChrysler AG in 1999. Since that time, their reputation has only continued to grow, by incorporating performance innovations in the areas of engines, suspension, and interior design. Case in point: AMG engines are built by technicians who are serious about their craft, so much so that one man builds an individual engine from the ground up. This concept of "one man, one engine," has been the hallmark of AMG engine building since the company's inception in 1967. When it is completed, hot tested and certified, he affixes a builder's plate with the engine model and his signature.
To say the engine is a piece of art is a mere understatement.
So let's talk of this engine. At 6.3- liters, the naturally aspirated V8 powerplant rivals the size of many heavy-duty trucks. And at 475- horsepower and 465 lb-feet of torque, there are only a handful of factory-produced high-performance cars that surpass it in horsepower and torque. The Ford GT and Shelby Cobra GT500 come to mind. The BMW M5 and Bentley Continental GT are two more. Beyond that, the air is pretty rare, indeed. Step on the throttle and prepare to be firmly kicked back into the highly bolstered seats, while at the same time hearing the pitch of the 32-valves wind upward as the engine nears its 7000 rpm redline. The auditory note is that of a high-revving European sports sedan rather than a Detroit-designed muscle car. Compare it to the choice of Champagne versus Beer. Both achieve the same end result. One just does it with a little more finesse than the other.
Visual cues on the CLK run more subtly than one would expect. A new front apron is complemented by side skirts that cause the appearance of a car that rides lower than it actually does. Titanium grey eighteen-inch AMG light-alloy wheels help add to the low profile ride and handling. Look through the wheels to catch a glimpse of what's going down in the braking department. The AMG braking system features cooled and cross-drilled rotors and six-piston calipers in front with four-piston clampers in the rear that enable nearly fadefree stopping when necessary.
For all the highlights in technology underhood, the interior is where the lowlights appear. Don't get me wrong. The CLK 63 AMG does everything that you ask of it, from the wellplaced paddle shifters that operate the sevenspeed sport shifting automatic transmission, to the sure feel of the steering, which is one of the best examples of road feel that we've seen lately. The infinitely adjustable driver's seat allows nearly everyone to achieve a comfortable driving experience. The Navigation and sound system operate as designed, providing directions and an aural experience that makes the Sirius satellite radio programming really shine.
Maybe it's the fact that the blonde leather interior in the vehicle we tested would be more at home in Mom's C-class rather than in the high performance touring cabrio that the CLK really is. It's just the lack of performance accents in the cockpit leave us flat. C'mon, Mercedes! Throw us a carbon-fiber bone here, to go with our preferred black leather interior!
Driving up I-95 from West Palm Beach to the Amelia Island Concours near Jacksonville brings you in contact with many other luxury sporting vehicles. The one thing that is noticed, especially when encountering another Mercedes-Benz driver, is the look of inadequacy or "driver envy" that frequently occurs when the CLK 63 AMG passes. And passes, it really does: Driving the AMG is an ethereal experience that places the car and the driver's mind on the same plane. Think where you want to place the car, whether alongside the Porsche Cayman in the next lane or far in front of the Lexus LS quickly reducing in size in your rear view mirror. In this example, the concept of car and driver as one feels quite comfortable..
Length: 183.2 inches
Width: 68.5 inches
Height: 55.1 inches
Wheelbase: 106.9 inches
Curb Weight: 3,960 pounds
Engine type: DOHC V8
Displacement: 6.2 liters
Transmission type: 7-speed automatic
EPA rating: 13 city/20 highway
Base price: $89,200
These six auto-flavored websites are packed with links and archives. Once you start surfing, you'll never know where you'll end up.
The Allpar MOPAR Page--Almost everything you can think of from the cars of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and even AMC.
Jay Leno's Garage--A tour de force website from America's best known "car guy."
Green Car Journal--The Internet's authority on alternative fuel vehicles.
Autoextremist--Every Wednesday, gives you an insider's look into the auto industry.
Internet Movie Cars Database--Cars in your favorite movies and TV shows
Sniff Petrol--Automotive news and humor from a British perspective.
By Mark Elias
The environment here makes us feel like we're wearing a suit while playing in dirt. Not too far from the main house of what must be one of the most opulent privately owned homes in America, is the Estate's Outdoor Center. The vehicles parked in front give the impression you're walking thru the lot at a local Land Rover dealership. Land Rover LR3's, Range Rovers, and Range Rover Sport models all sit at the ready--except these vehicles are covered in mud, muck, and raw earth.
Using the school's vehicles, the Land Rover Driving Experience is designed to teach Land Rover and Range Rover owners how to best use their vehicles to the full reach of their capabilities. The Experience, which is open to owners and non-owners alike, is also held at North American locations in Carmel, California; and Montebello, Quebec.
Our recent visit to the Biltmore Estate highlighted the Experience's offerings, which include half and full day drives that give participants a newfound respect for the performance that these vehicles are capable of. During our fullday experience, we ascend steep hills, where all you see is nothing but sky, to an over-the-top, nearly face down demonstration of the Land Rover's Hill Descent Control, which actually applies braking in conjunction with engine compression. After banking totally on faith, we realize the vehicles perform flawlessly. With the help of instructors Greg Nikolas and Josh Williams, you actually learn to put your trust, and both feet (through two-footed driving techniques) into the system. Another trick learned is deep rut running, where the Range Rover gives driver and occupants the feeling of riding on one side with the opposite side's wheels in the air. It's not what actually happens--it just feels that way. Through all of this, what impresses most is that they stress restraint from high speed maneuvering through the rough. Following the "Tread Lightly" protocol of off-roading, they strive to not harm the surroundings in which they travel.
Nikolas, the program's senior instructor, takes participants down washed out ravines and thru creek beds where water nearly covers the Range Rover's hood. Building confidence in his students, their vehicles or a combination of the two is Nikolas' strong suit. Trained in the US Army, he espouses their expedition style of driving, which teaches students that the vehicle is their lifeline. The major difference being that they don't have a platoon-full of mechanics in tow.
Accommodations for participants are available at the luxurious Biltmore Inn on the property of the Biltmore Estate. By all means tour the main house, and plan to spend about three hours for a self-guided tour. Visitors to the Outdoor Center can purchase Land Rover Collection items including clothing, jewelry, outdoor gear and other souvenirs.
Downtown Asheville is experiencing a revitalization that is transforming it from a sleepy old-line southern town to what some have termed an East Coast version of Berkeley, California. Restaurants run the gamut from Middle-Eastern, to Asian, to southern-organic. An excellent example of the latter is Tupelo Honey Café. Famous for their fried green tomatoes over goat cheese grits appetizer, as well as other twists on low-country favorites, they also offer daily specials. If their bone-in Pork Rib Chop is on the board, order it. They won't be around for long.
Barley's Taproom in Asheville is housed in an old appliance store on Biltmore Avenue. With fresh sourdough pizza, and over 24 beers on tap, Barley's is known as the place where "suit and tie meet tie dye." Live entertainment staged three or four nights a week and four regulation slate billiards tables upstairs round out a fun venue with no cover charge.
Down the block from Barley's is the Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club. A concert hall of the intimate sort, it features national touring acts as well as local talent. Please check out orangepeel.net for concert schedules.
Pricing for the Land Rover Driving Experience starts at $200 for a one-hour lesson, to $800 for the advanced full day Experience (for up to three drivers) including lunch. For more information, please go to landroverusa.com/drivingschools..
Each issue of Automotive Traveler will feature a manufacturer-sponsored driving event such as The Land Rover Driving Experience, details on an overseas delivery program or a visit to a manufacturer's museum. If you've participated in a driving event, overseas delivery program or visited a manufacturer's own automotive museum, tell us about your experience. Visit the Automotive Traveler website forums at automotivetraveler.com and click on the FORUMS tab on the homepage.
Managing Partner, William Basore
This XR7-G came courtesy of someone else's very messy divorce and after purchasing the car, Bill set out on a methodical restoration dedicated to retaining as much of the car's originality. "Everything about the car appealed to me. I like the color, the engine, the G package and the overall uniqueness of the car just grabbed me. At the time I could have purchased a very nice restored XR7-G complete with the original 390, but running a fresh 428, for the same amount that I paid for this car. It was a tough decision."
When asked about his best experience with the car, Bill loves sharing this story. "Well, it started out to be one of the worst. About six months after I got the car I had it running well, but cosmetically, it was pretty tired. The paint was faded scratched and dinged in the worst sort of way. Several panels had been 'keyed' sometime in the past. In spite of the rough appearance, I decided to drive it to the Mid America Shelby meet in Tulsa Oklahoma. I filled out the entry and was told where the Cougars would be parked."
"During the morning several of the Mustang guys started to come check out the Cougars. I had one guy who was particularly interested in my car. He did seem very personable, and wanted the part numbers off everything under the hood. He seemed to get even less personable as he wrote down the casting numbers for the intake and copied the numbers from the original Holley. Away he went, only to return a minute later with a couple of his buddies. Ignoring me completely, they all inspected under the hood. Then without a word to me they left, returning this time with an even larger and clearly unhappy contingent. More inspecting and mumbling about numbers ensued. Finally, the head of the pack asked me where the rest of the Mustang was that I had raped. I had no idea what he was talking about. He demanded to know where the '68 CJ Mustang was that I had yanked the engine out of, and did I know how rare those cars were, and did I know only an idiot would put that engine in a beater Cougar?"
"I told him that my car came with the CJ, that it was an R code car, and that if they had bothered to look at the VIN they would see that. He did not like my answer and said anybody could stamp an R on an aluminum tag, and it meant nothing, and in fact, the tag did look like it was hand stamped. He also said that there weren't any R code '68 Cougars built. I assured him that there were, that he was looking at one, and that further more, 1968 Cougars were also built with the 427 side-oiler, an engine never installed by the factory in any Mustang, not even a Shelby. Now this was not a very smart thing to say to a bunch of Mustang guys who are fixing to kick your butt, as they are all still a little sensitive about that 427 thing."
"Fortunately I also mentioned that I had the Marti Report to back that up. I am pretty sure that Kevin Marti may have saved my life that day. I pulled out the Marti Report and showed it to the crowd. After some study, the apologies began. Of course, they had never seen a '68 Cougar CJ and of course it had all of the right date codes. As if on cue, a '68 Cougar GT-E equipped with the 427 rumbled down the aisle to take its place on Cougar row. Its timing couldn't have been more fortuitous."
And for those of you that think you know everything Shelby-related, did you know that the XR7-G has its own Shelby connection according to Bill. "In 1968 A. O. Smith was building the Shelby Mustangs for Ford. Mercury took advantage of the relationship with A. O. Smith and all of the G cars were built on the same line as the Shelby Mustangs, and all of the special G parts carry Shelby part numbers. Many of those special parts are actually common to both cars, such as the tip within a tip exhaust, and the Lucas driving lights. The G was to be Mercury's Shelby.".
Editorial Director, Richard Truesdell, Yorba Linda, CA
It has something in common with our featured reader car, the Performance West Buick Lucerne. Both were GM-supplied SEMA Show demo cars. In this case, the Fiero was given to International Research Motorsports (IRM) of Gaithersburg, Maryland as part of a program to develop aftermarket parts for the then new Pontiac Fiero, America's first mid-engined two-seater.
The 1984 Fiero had two basic problems. First was its well-documented fire problems on the fourcylinder motor when owners didn't religiously check the oil level. The second was that in spite of its swoopy looks and Ferrari 308-like mid-engined configuration, for 1984 at least, it was an underpowered, four-cylinder commuter car. (The V6 would come in 1985 and the fastback midway through 1986.)
IRM was given this Fiero to use as a prototype to develop a new set of body panels and a turbo package to give the Fiero the performance to match the promise of its sporty looks.
This particular car, which was pictured on several pages of Gary Witzenburg's seminal 1986 book, Fiero, Pontiac's Potent Mid Engine Sports Car, was displayed at the 1984 SEMA Show and was featured in many magazines. IRM worked on developing the necessary parts (verified by the set of 1988 Maryland tags found buried in the trunk) for the turbo upgrade. It is also the first T-topequipped Fiero built, courtesy of Cars and Concepts.
Apparently, IRM never fully sorted out the turbo package, and the car was parked in their facility sometime in 1988 or 1989 (verified by the set of Maryland plates found in the trunk). There it sat until late 2005 when it was sold on eBay, with just over 20,000 documented miles from what was left of IRM as it was liquidated. In 2006, second owner Bob McCool worked to get it running right as he planned on giving it to his girlfriend.
Ultimately, he was unsuccessful, in spite of trying several different computer/ chip, combinations; he never could get it to stop running rich. When I bought it in December 2006, I told him that I planned to drive it back to California. He told me I was certifiably crazy, which is probably true.
After driving the car from Maryland to New Jersey, I noticed something strange. While the car carried a Maryland title saying it was a 1985 Fiero, it was, according to the VIN, a 1984 Fiero. As Bob had provided me two extra computers, I removed the computer in the car, which was clearly not a GM part (I suspect it was a custom-built IRM box) and into which Bob had already installed one of the chips from one of the boxes he had bought on eBay. After confirming that the other box was from a 1984 Fiero, I installed it and immediately the check engine light went out and the Iron Duke 4 idled properly.
Needless to say, I was able to successfully navigate the IRM Fiero from coast-to-coast without incident, a trip of almost 3,000 miles. The biggest problem was a massive New Year's Eve snow storm that closed I-40 between Amarillo and Albuquerque.
Upon crossing the New Mexico and Texas border in Texico, NM, I passed a strange sight, a house whose front lawn was littered with Fieros, five coupes by my count, in various states of disrepair. As I had seen exactly one other Fiero in the previous 2,000 miles, I took this to be some sort of strange omen.
Look for a more detailed account of this cross-country adventure in a future issue of Automotive Traveler..
Reader, Larry Weiner, Bonsall, CA
The strategy worked, with Lexus quickly establishing a US beachhead and sending the Germans back to the drawing board.
Today the tables are turned, especially in the near-luxury $35,000 segment where the V6 Lexus ES350 is clearly one of the class leaders, but there's a U.S. competitor with a value story to tell: the $36,000 Buick Lucerne CXS. Equipped with a 275-horsepower Northstar V8, the Lucerne is sized and equipped a lot closer to the larger, more expensive V8 Lexus GS420 than the V6 ES350. The biggest challenge Buick faces in a market dominated by the popular European and Japanese imports is how to tell this value story in a way brand-conscious consumers will understand.
At the 2006 SEMA Show, Buick took their first tentative steps towards boosting their profile, providing almost a dozen Lucernes to well-known tuners; you're looking at one such car, the 2007 Buick Lucerne Quattra Sport, designed and built by the Performance West Group. Each year, the Performance West Group brings more than a dozen such cars to the annual SEMA Show, each modified to set them apart from mainstream models found in showrooms.
"Buicks have always stood for understated elegance," says Larry Weiner of the Performance West Group. "Traditionally, it has been the car of successful doctors and lawyers, the final step in the GM hierarchy of brands, before moving up to a Cadillac. While less pretentious, the Buick offered many of the same amenities, and often times more exciting performance than a Cadillac."
"Our goal was to infuse the Quattra Sport with the same attention to detail Buicks designed by the legendary GM design chiefs Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell. As an example the custom tooled side moldings were designed to amplify the length of the car. The Brandywine hue from Sherwin Williams' Planet Color collection, along with the Pirelli P Zero tires mounted on the 22-inch Oasis wheels, give the car a dynamic yet elegant look. This transfers to the inside where the black and silver Katzkin leather seating surfaces transform the otherwise dark cabin."
"And while the factory-installed audio system would probably satisfy most typical Lucerne buyers, to compete with the nearluxury class leaders, like the Lexus ES350, which offers a Mark Levinson audio system, we turned to Boston Acoustics for a serious upgrade that has been skillfully integrated into the vehicle by J&G Customs. The result is a system that can play CDs or be fully integrated with your iPod and deliver sterling sound while retaining all the functionality of the factory-installed head unit."
Cars like the Buick Lucerne Quattra Sport are known in the trade as "Image Vehicles." While few ever reach production, the Quattra Sport modifications by the Performance West Group leave no doubt that if GM gives it half a chance and some marketing push, the Lucerne can compete with the best from Europe or Japan..
Want to see your car featured in Our Cars, Your Cars? Go to automotivetraveler.com/your_cars, fill out the questionnaire and send us six high-resolution JPGs of your favorite ride. You might be next!
Readers, Matt & Valeri Wilson, Uniontown PA
Most American boys grew up with dreams of someday owning a Hemi Cuda, GTO or possibly a Shelby Mustang. Not Matt Wilson, his dream became a reality the day he purchased this red, white and blue patriotic ground pounder.
"In the summer of 1981" says Matt, "I had just turned 16 years old and my parents knew this would be the last summer that our whole family would be together as my older brother was 18 and starting his own life."
"Since we could all take turns driving, they decided we would go on a 10-day trip through the midwest. We lived in West Virginia so it was a long drive just to get to Indiana. From that point on it was great; we got to see everything you would want to see."
In my family we're all car nuts and we would stop at all the old car museums along the way. Most of these old car museums were no more than old barns filled with old junk cars, but they all looked pretty cool to us at that age. But one stop would spark my dream. It was at the Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo, South Dakota."
"There was one car that I had never seen before and it stuck out like a sore thumb. It was an A-scheme, Hurst SC/Rambler. It just looked ready for a fight. I could see myself driving that car around my home town and getting into trouble. Well, the rest of the trip was great, but I never got that SC/ Rambler out of my head! If you get the chance to visit there, you will the very same SC/Rambler is still in the museum to this day."
The SC/Rambler made a lasting impression on the impressionable 16-year old. Years later, he got to fulfill his dream and purchased an SC/Rambler of his own.
"The car had been close to my home town throughout its entire history," relates Matt. "It was documented from the first day of delivery to the dealership with early racing history, and even a spare set of original NOS decals."
As Matt was to learn these cars have a history of long-time dedicated owners and rarely change hands. He learned that the previous owner, Bob Crayton wouldn't sell the car to just anyone, it had to be someone who would enjoy it as much as he did for the past 31 years.
"I drive this car in its original condition every opportunity I get, often driving long distances to attend shows and to be a part of the muscle car scene. I've even driven it in the rain."
"I was asked if I would drive my Hurst SC/Rambler from Uniontown up to the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, PA. I was more then glad to do this as I have wanted to go. I can't put into words how that place will make you feel but it sure made me proud to be an American."
Matt spends a lot of his spare time taking friends for rides in the red, white and blue beast. He seems to really enjoy showing off the factory cross-ram intake manifold and talking to other great people on the muscle car scene about the history of these cars.
Through the online SC/Rambler community, Matt eventually hooked up with Joie Vaughan. An SC/Rambler purist herself, she shared much of Matt's passion for these special cars. Over the years they became good friends and their combined efforts would lead to the establishment of the "Official 1512 Hurst SC/Rambler Registry." It is known today as the largest SC/Rambler community in the world with well over 200 documented surviving SC/Ramblers and still counting. Matt's car is currently on display at the Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant in Charleston, West Virginia and be there through the end of April.
For more details visit their outstanding website amazingmusclecars.com and check out some the other SC/Ramblers and the extensive documentation they've compiled on one of the most underrated musclecars from this golden age of American horsepower..
By Steve Statham
If you follow that line of reasoning very far, it will inevitably lead you to the Dodge Ram SRT-10. Anyone who has driven an SRT- 10 knows what I am talking about. I've driven plenty of fast cars, but that muscle truck in particular made me smile because a 5100-lb pickup just shouldn't be able to move that fast. But it did. Driving an SRT-10 for the first time is like discovering your backyard storage shed can not only move under its own power, but can do burnouts besides.
That monster pickup has been on my mind a lot lately, for two reasons. For one, it recently went out of production, so that's one less fun machine available on the new car market. When any musclecar (or truck) retires from the scene, it should not pass unnoticed. I'd suggest a Viking funeral in tribute, but that would be a $50,000 bonfire with few volunteers. Secondly, my first time behind the wheel of an SRT-10 was also the first time I met the editor of this publication, Richard Truesdell. Although we had worked together by phone and e-mail, we had never met face-to-face until the 2003 press introduction of Dodge's Viperpowered truck.
I learned a couple things about Rich right away. He liked fast cars, he likes the open road and he liked to explore. We hadn't even completed the Ram drive program before Rich was working over the Chrysler reps to shake loose a Viper and an SRT-10 from the press fleet so he could put together an article about touring the central Texas barbeque trail.
I was able to offer a moderate amount of help in that endeavor, if you consider driving a Viper, an SRT-10 and eating delectable smoked meats as "help." When the story hit print in Truck Trend it was a blast to read and looking back on that now, it is obvious that the wheels in Rich's head were turning even then. He has often dreamed up great road trips combined with great cars.
So When Rich first revealed his concept for Automotive Traveler it made perfect sense to me. Most car people daydream about grand road trips to lively destinations. We just need a little guidance to get started. If you are reading this, then you are probably looking for inspiration as well.
That barbeque excursion was a fine example of automotive touring. We drove through flat farm country and winding hill country roads, through towns large and small. We ate barbeque in Taylor, Elgin, Lockhart and Luling, and Rich later looped out toward Llano. We dined on piles of brisket and sausage served on butcher paper, in halls that had absorbed generations of wood smoke. Want a taste? Visit louiemuellerbarbeque.com. It was a great tour, and best of all, it was one that anybody could easily duplicate. A truck, a map, a couple $20 bills in your pocket, and a few hints from a publication like this or a guidebook and you're on your way.
And the SRT-10? It was a hit. The Viper drew appreciative looks, but there in the heart of truck country, everyone wanted to know about that "Viper pickup." We didn't have to tell any tall tales; the truth was awesome enough. Torque is the key factor in a vehicle's ability to pin you to the seat, and the SRT-10, with its 8.3-liter V-10 (505 cubic inches) had loads of it--which was a good thing, because we needed every bit of that 525 lb-ft of torque to haul our beef-engorged carcasses around.
Production of the SRT-10 may have ended, but I'll smile every time I see one pass by, largely because of those brief days when we were on the road, with the truck in its natural element. We had the right vehicle on an entertaining mission, and smiled the whole time. Here's to many more such adventures. To contact Ram SRT-10 diehards, srt10forum.com..