In our latest issue, you'll find a BMW European Delivery Vacation, Exploring the du Pont's Place in the Country, Dakar: Destination, Journey, or Just a Race...and lots more.
Vera Marie Badertscher When she was barely a year old, Vera took her first road trip with her family from Ohio to Mississippi. Since then she has meandered the roads of 45 states and explored many corners of the globe. From her home in Arizona she writes about Gila monsters, hawks, and backroad adventures as well as lifestyle, shelter, international travel, and the arts. She has received national awards for travel and internet writing that appeared in publications like "Arizona Highways," "AAA Living," "Home and Away," "Steinway & Sons," and the "Rolls Royce Owner's Desk Diary." Until the editors of Automotive Traveler persuaded her to climb out of her beloved Jeep Cherokee, she had never driven a Chevy HHR and she had never been to Delaware, both now listed among her favorite things. (pen4hire.com)
John Rettie is an internationally renowned writer and photographer, specializing on automotive topics, photography, travel, computers, and high technology, who lives in Santa Barbara, California. Rettie has managed to pack a wide range of experiences into his career and has traveled the world covering auto races, product launches, and numerous other aspects of the auto industry. He's visited 73 countries and his goal is to set foot in more than 100 before he retires. John is one of 50 members of the jury for the annual World Car of the Year award. Previously, he was a member of the jury for the North American Car of the Year award for 13 years. He was honored to be president of the Motor Press Guild in Los Angeles in 1990, 2004, and 2005. (johnrettie.com)
Debi Lander is a freelance travel writer and seasoned international traveler who hails from Jacksonville, Florida. She considers photography her hobby and has a keen interest in castles and cathedrals. Debi has run ten marathons including Athens, Greece, the vineyards of Bordeaux, and the 2001 Marine Corps Marathon past the 9/11 wreckage at the Pentagon. Debi is the proud new owner of a 2008 BMW 550i, which was acquired through European Delivery in Munich.
Brett Stierli is a Field Technical Specialist for Mazda North American Operations western region and a self-described auto enthusiast/adventurer. Brett is also a movie location buff who enjoys finding and photographing movie location sites, and he appreciates unique architecture such as 1950's and 1960's mid-century modern design, googie, Eichler, and others. During his many business and personal travels he enjoys discovering local/obscure family dining establishments for every meal...the older the better, no chain restaurants for this guy! Brett is single and resides in an empty four-bedroom house with a FULL three-car garage in Trabuco Canyon, California.
Dusty Dave It was a lucky day when Automotive Traveler first learned of Dusty Dave's self-published book, The Top 100 Rustic Vacations, an outgrowth of his 10-year-old website rusticvacations.com. Dusty is an accomplished travel writer, photographer, and most importantly, an outdoors enthusiast who in his travels has stayed at some of the most unique and charming lodges in North America. When he's not at his home in beautiful Telluride, Colorado, he is most likely traveling around looking for new and interesting rustic vacation destinations to be profiled in his monthly column for Automotive Traveler.
Cindy-Lou Dale A well-traveled writer on many topics, Cindy-Lou Dale is Automotive Traveler's resident road warrior, having accumulated more than her fair share of frequent .yer miles. An accomplished photographer as well as a writer, Cindy has contributed articles for magazines around the world, including The New York Times, National Geographic Adventure, Islands, Winding Road, Away Magazine, Penthouse and many other titles. Cindy-Lou was born in South Africa and currently lives in England, but she spends weekends visiting her cats in Brussels. Read her blog at automotivetraveler.com.
By Richard Truesdell
Lest you all think that I do nothing but live in the past, let me tell you that I am a very forward-looking person, so much so that I'm working on the editorial calendar for the next 12 issues of Automotive Traveler. And the topic for this month's musings was to be on green vehicles and sustainable travel destinations, but I've put that one on a back burner for a future issue of Automotive Traveler.
For this month, I (again) take a look back--about 40 years--to a time that many travel aficionados longingly refer to 'the golden age of travel.' Well some think the 1940s were the golden age of travel but that was before my time. The reasons? The dawn of the age of commercial jet travel for the masses, and the continuing evolution of the Interstate Highway System.
My dad was an Air Force vet with a love of aviation, which he handed down to me. I can remember, almost as if it was yesterday, being parked at the end of the north-south runway at Newark Airport, near the original terminal dating back to the 1930s and next to the toll booth to the New Jersey Turnpike. He taught me how to identify the various planes taking off, and in time (I was about six years old at the time), I got so good at it that I could distinguish between the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8. Both were big fourengined passenger jets which, at first glance, looked quite similar.
I can also remember going into the terminal and in the years before security checkpoints, all the way up onto the observation deck to watch lucky travelers board. Then, if it was a special occasion, Dad would take the family (I have a younger brother) to the ultra chic Newarker restaurant that was on the mezzanine level of the terminal.
But for this middle-class family, a flying vacation would have to wait until the end of the decade, as each year we took a two-week vacation by car from New Jersey to Florida. We always stayed at the Colonial Inn in Miami Beach and for several years we went down with friends from up the street. I remember them driving a beautiful black, finned 1961 Cadillac Fleetwood, which was very cool. The first trip I remember, we drove in my family's equally cool 1961 TBird hardtop, the one with a swinga- way steering column. I remember that the back seat was cramped and that the 'Bird wasn't air conditioned, two issues that were addressed the following year when Dad got a brand new aqua four-door Galaxie 500 hardtop as his company car. That one was equipped with factory air conditioning, a first for the Truesdell clan.
What I remember most from those trips, which are some of my fondest memories from that childhood so long ago, were how I helped plan our route with the aid of the colorful road maps that I snatched almost every time we stopped for gas. And as the Interstate Highway system was approaching its 10th birthday, some of the highways already in use--especially in the northeast where the NJ Turnpike, I-95 in Delaware and the Baltimore-Washington Expressway--made it possible to drive from Union, New Jersey, to Richmond, Virginia, without encountering a single traffic light.
But in the south we were forced (for the most part) to travel along older, typically two-lane U.S. highways, either U.S. 1 inland or U.S. 13 and U.S. 17 along the coast, often referred to as the Ocean HiWay. The states even had their own group, the Ocean Highway Association, to promote travel along the shorter, cooler coastal route.
That first year was the most fun, as it was the first time that I traveled more than 100 mph, which must to have triggered some speed gene in me. It was in the T-Bird and it was on the Florida Turnpike. But Dad--who scared my Mom just a bit--noticed something. He saw that the toll ticket was time stamped and he was certain that, if we didn't pull off for a bit, he would be greeted at the toll booth by a Florida State Trooper. That wouldn't be a good way to start off our vacation in Florida.
All of this is important as it serves as a prelude to a road trip we have coming up this fall in Automotive Traveler. I've been looking for a 1965 to 1974 Ford Country Squire station wagon and later this fall I'm going to revisit the route, staying on the old roads as much as possible, relying on period-correct road maps instead of GPS, staying along the way at surviving vintage motels in place of cookie-cutter multi-story boxes and eating at places that have survived the intervening 40-plus years in place of contemporary chain and fast food restaurants.
Back in 1969 I finally got to fly on a trans-continental trip to California. And as a special treat, for the return to New Jersey, Dad splurged on First Class and we had the entire cabin to ourselves; it was a United Airlines DC-8 and we all felt like rock stars. It instilled in me both a love for travel (which, I hope, manifests itself on every page of this magazine) as well as a love for First Class. These days, I carefully manage my many frequent flyer accounts to ensure that I fly up in front of the plane as much as possible.
Now that we have our personal blogs up at automotivetraveler.com, I hope that you will also share your childhood memories of those family vacations, and if your memory hasn't faded, tell us about the cars that made the trips so memorable.
See you next month,
Editorial Director, Automotive Traveler
By Dusty Dave
For hundreds of years, all over the world, lighthouses have been the saviors of seagoing vessels. With today's computers and exacting GPS systems, while they are not quite as important as they once were, lighthouses still hold a very special place in people's hearts. They're admired for their history, their beauty, and for what they represent. In the U.S., a few of these lifesaving lantern houses have now become saviors not just for sailors but for weary travelers as well. Maybe not all that weary to be precise, but at least a little tired from a long trip in the car. Lighthouses offer an extremely unique lodging experience in both terms of accommodation and location. When choosing to stay in a fourstory night-light, you're also choosing to sleep just steps from the water itself. This closeness brings you directly in contact with all the magical sights, sounds, and smells the ocean serves up.
Saugerties, New York
Livin' large in a lighthouse! This landmark red brick beacon on the Hudson River has been fully restored and offers lovely overnight bed and breakfast accommodations. The lighthouse is still operational and a quick climb to the top offers excellent views of the river below and of the Catskill Mountains in the distance. Once the novelty of staying in a lighthouse has worn off though, what is there to do? No worries, there are quite a few things to keep you busy: hike the nature trail, go for a picnic, do some fishing, rent a boat, or enjoy one of the many local festivals. Location: 100 miles from the George Washington Bridge and 42 miles from Albany, New York. Saugerties is also reachable by Amtrak. Rates range from $160 to $180 per room per night and include breakfast. Pets are allowed.
Magnificently perched 205 feet above the ocean's crashing waves and shooting a beam of light out some 21 miles, Haceta Head isn't just the brightest light on the Oregon coast, it's also one of the most photographed. Both the lighthouse and the light keeper's house are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and date back to around 1894. The keeper's house, where guests actually stay, is located just a short walk from the lighthouse and is also on a cliff. The Oregon coast offers many activities in the area. Besides the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Oregon Coast Aquarium, nearby Horseback Riding, and unlimited choices for fishing, you'll also want to be sure to visit the world's largest sea lion cave, which is only a mile away. There's even a phone number you can call to find out exactly how many sea lions are in the cave at any given moment.
Location: Just off the 101, halfway between the towns of Florence and Yachats. Rates are around $140 to $280 per room per night and include an amazing sevencourse breakfast.
Point Richmond, California
A room with a view is an understatement. Good luck trying to avoid popping the big question if you take your girlfriend to this place. As you gaze across the water at sunset with the San Francisco skyline as your backdrop, she's going to want to hear something special, and it better not be, "I like your hat." The East Brother Light Station has been in operation for more than 133 years and is definitely an icon in the area. The lighthouse can only be reached by boat (because it is on its own island, kind of like Alcatraz, minus all the convicts) and offers a total of five rooms to choose from. Four of the rooms are in the lighthouse itself, and the fifth is in the Fog Signal building. Overnight guests get special V.I.P. treatment: after arriving, they're welcomed by the innkeepers into the parlor for champagne and hors d'oeuvres, then, as the sun is setting, they can ascend the spiral staircase to the lighthouse tower and hopefully catch a glimpse of the shimmering San Francisco skyline.
Location: Just 30 minutes from downtown San Francisco. Rates range from $325 to $415 per night and include breakfast..
By R. Todd Felton
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
Sag Harbor, New York to Deer Isle, Maine
A vintage truck-top camper and V-6 truck if you want historical accuracy or any self-contained camper unit.
Last month's "Open Page, Open Road" journey ended with a dramatic climax; this month's opens with one. In the first pages of Travels With Charley, Steinbeck fights his way through a hurricane, cuts his boat free from two others that had drifted onto it, re-anchors it, and swims ashore--all through 95-mile-an-hour winds. After this initial display of heroic action, the narrative settles into the thoughtful, careful observations that make this travelogue and journey such an interesting road trip.
Although the account of Steinbeck's cross-country trek offers many great drives, this month I'll focus on the very beginning of his travels--the trip from his home in Sag Harbor on Long Island to Deer Isle in Maine. So grab a dog, pack up that van, and get ready to "feel" the country as Steinbeck set out to do.
John Steinbeck bought a house in the Long Island village of Sag Harbor in 1955 in order to be close to the ocean, and it was from here that he left shortly after Labor Day in 1960 on his 10,000-mile, 34-state circumnavigation of the United States. From the Village of Sag Harbor, drive as Steinbeck himself did, north on Route 114 to the Shelter Island Ferry, north again to the North Ferry to Greenport, and then east on Route 25 to the Orient Point ferry to New London. From New London, you can wind your slow way up Routes 32, 181, and 9 towards Amherst, Massachusetts, and then up to Deerfield or shoot up Interstate 91 from Hartford to Deerfield.
The reason for Steinbeck's route up the Connecticut River Valley was to visit his son at the Eaglebrook School in Deerfield; yours should just be because it is a lovely part of the country. The wide, fertile farmland of the Pioneer Valley provides scene after scene of tidy red barns, tidy New England villages, and tidy rolling hills. From Deerfield, head north on Interstate 91 before heading east in New Hampshire along the Kancamagus Highway (Route 112) to North Conway before heading into Maine and across to Bangor. Take this route not for literary accuracy (Steinbeck himself may have traveled along Route 2 towards Bangor), but because it is one of the prettiest drives in New England.
In Bangor, Steinbeck gets horribly lost and confused, wandering off to Ellsworth and Blue Hill. Avoid that by dropping down Route 15 south to Deer Isle and across to Stonington, a town that Steinbeck likened to Avalon--so mysterious and strange that it must disappear when you are not there. Steinbeck came this way to visit Eleanor Brace, a friend of a friend who showed him around the island and fed him a lobster dinner. Brace's niece still lives in the house, and Stonington seems to have changed little since Steinbeck's visit.
For additional information on this trip, I highly suggest visiting Vicki Cain's website, travelswithjudy.com. She set out in 2004 to follow Steinbeck's entire trip and is making a documentary about what she found in Steinbeck's footsteps..
By Cindy-Lou Dale
When you think about transatlantic flight, you're probably imagining you'll fly into London, where most inbound planes land at either Heathrow or sometimes Gatwick. To continue onto mainland Europe using a no-frills carrier like Ryanair or easyJet, you'll need to factor in about five hours of schlep time plus the additional expense to transfer, as they mostly fly out of two other airports -Luton or Stansted, which are some way out of town.
But there is another option: Aer Lingus has reworked its prices and now offers inexpensive direct transatlantic flights to Ireland from Chicago or Boston for as little as $149 (aerlingus.com). FlyGlobeSpan offer a JFK to Liverpool flight for $99 (flyglobespan.com). But don't limit yourself to the UK, think outside the box. Europe is the Mecca of no-frills airlines and connections it's one of Germany's big cities you're heading to, fly Condor (condor.de) or LTU (ltu.com) which could bring you in from NYC to Rome for $239 (euroflyusa.com).
From these European bases you can hopscotch across the Continent using numerous el cheapo airlines whose tickets are all priced one-way, with no surcharges.
Currently, UK-based Ryanair and easyJet are the largest no-frills carriers with the widest destination network. Ryanair comes in the cheapest, offering (for example) flights from
By David Newhardt
While it may seem that some automobiles are works of art, first and foremost they are machines, designed to transport people and goods. To show automobiles in an environment devoid of people can seem, well, soulless. When was the last time you saw a car rolling down the street without an occupant (readers in Los Angeles, save your e-mails!)? As an automobile photographer, it's natural to want to make the vehicle the point of interest. After all, photographing automobiles isn't like shooting fashion models. Cars tend to refrain from talking back, they don't have an egocentric entourage, and never have to take a bathroom break. Yet without people, automobiles are little more than lumps of metal, glass, and plastic.
Check out a photograph of a vehicle with a person in it. Where does your eye go? To the vehicle or to the model? The primary reason to have the human element in the shot is to complement the vehicle, whether the person is in the car, next to it, or in the background. The best photos of vehicles with people don't look staged; they seem to freeze a moment in time when the visual elements in the shot--the vehicle, talent (people in front of the camera), and setting--just "came together." Making it appear that no effort was expended can actually expend a lot of time and energy.
One of the most valuable ways to make a shoot easier is to pre-visualize what you want to achieve. Determine what you want to the final shot to look like. Do you want the vehicle and the talent to carry similar visual weight? Or should one assume more importance than the other? If you want the talent to stand out, clothe them in bright colors, or use less clothing and position them close to the camera. Remember, they are competing with two tons of machine for the viewer's eye. If you don't want or can't place them where they would stand out, light them more brightly than the vehicle. The eye tends to gravitate towards lit objects before scanning the shadows.
Want to make the vehicle the star of the shoot? Then your responsibility is to use the talent to complement the automobile. That might be as simple as having the talent in the background, slightly out of focus, engaged in a common activity, such as dropping a letter in a mail box, or walking towards the car. Or it might be a complex shoot, requiring multiple talent, lights, reflectors, and traffic control. Regardless of the number of elements in the shot, the photographer's job is to make the image look natural.
I've said it before, and it bears repeating; change your elevation. Look for a different height with the camera; on the ground or atop a ladder, just get the camera moved from the five and a half feet height most amateur photos are shot from. With a change in elevation, automobiles and talent can take on an entirely different look. Put the camera on the ground shooting up, and suddenly the talent's legs look a mile long. Get on a ladder and shoot down, and visual elements you didn't know existed leap into view.
Using a long shutter speed in conjunction with a deep depth of field opens another menu of visual options. A touch of motion in a shot can lift a sedentary image into an energized photo. If your talent is moving while the shutter is open, they'll be blurred. The amount of time the shutter is open, and the speed at which the talent moves will determine the amount of blur. Or the vehicle and talent can be still, and the background moves. Just bracket and experiment. The beauty of digital photography is the ability to delete the shots that don't work..
By Brenda Priddy
9 p.m.: The phone rang at my Arizona office late in the evening. It was an acquaintance from California, who happened to be doing a Route 66 road trip across the country. He was traveling not too far from Las Vegas earlier in the evening, when he accidentally stumbled upon a photo shoot --probably for a brochure--on what we would later identify as the upcoming BMW 1 Series Coupe.
The photo shoot was taking place around the Route 66 mile-marker known as Hackberry.
My acquaintance, who we'll identify as Mr. Smith, was simply driving by the popular tourist stop and noticed a car--a car that he'd never seen before--sitting at an old and non-functioning gas pump. Even though this was a common parking spot, things just didn't look right: The car's identity was hidden. It's badges and other identifying details were all covered up by what could only be described as garbage bags. In addition, there was a rather large group of people surrounding the car, as well as a couple of men who could double as bouncers at exclusive Las Vegas clubs.
Mixed in with all the Route 66 memorabilia around the little shop were photographic backdrops, lights, and reflectors, as well as motor homes that doubled as mobile offices and a huge car carrier--used to safely transport and conceal the burnt-orange German star of the catalog.
And all of this was right out in the open. Right out on a popular stretch of Arizona's Route 66. And visible to anyone passing by.
"Mr. Smith" first phoned us at 9 p.m., describing the situation and telling us about the one or two photos that he managed to take around 6 p.m. as he pulled into the tiny parking lot. To be fair to all--and because we've heard the different sides of this story--let's just say there was a 'confrontation' between Mr. Smith and the socalled bouncers and anyway you look at it--flesh and sheetmetal collided. It was not a good situation. The area was too remote for 911 calls to work, and after it was determined that everyone was fine, Mr. Smith drove away.
10 p.m.: At Mr. Smith's own insistence, he drove back by Hackberry late that evening and noticed that mobile offices and transporter were still there. He phoned us again and we decided that it might be advantageous to take a look for ourselves. We quickly packed our bags, arranged for a dog-sitter, and hit the highway by 11 p.m. But after we reaching the 21-hour-awake mark, we found a roadside motel and caught about two hours of sleep, then hit the road again to reach the photo shoot before sunrise.
4 a.m.: We awoke after what seemed like only a few minutes of rest and hit the road again. We hoped to reach Hackberry before the sunrise photo shoot began, but they were way ahead of us--shooting the BMW in a barn, well off the street, and away from prying eyes.
6 a.m.: We were close enough to see the bright flashes of the strobe lights, but too far to catch a glimpse of the BMW. We looked around, but there was really no place to set up surveillance--no structures in public areas to block our presence. No trees or bushes. Nothing. Only a dry ravine. Not even any traffic --especially at this hour!
8 a.m.: I'd been quietly pacing in the ravine for what seemed like hours, and my support vehicle would occasional drive by to check out the situation, but with a full camera crew just feet away --my hiding place was about to become exposed.
8:30 a.m.: The game was over --at least the part that involved me being invisible. I was spotted and approached. First by the transport driver, then by the European film crew. And of course I was asked to leave, but I kind of liked this little plot of Route 66 --so I firmly planted my feet in a prime watching spot, right next to a couple of friendly burro and some of the most photogenic 500 square feet that you'll ever see!
For the next three and a half hours, as the entire crew did everything they could to block my view--including stringing backdrops between a ladder and the transporter, bouncing light in my eyes with huge reflectors and repeatedly taking my picture--I walked around on the shoulder of the Mother Road, enjoying the sights and the unique beauty of Hackberry, taking pictures the entire time.
No, I didn't even come close to catching the new 1 Series, but it was one of the most enjoyable picture-taking days that I've had in years!
Hackberry was established in 1874 as an early silver mining town. It's about 130 miles southeast of Las Vegas, but definitely worth the trip! And on your way, be sure to stop in historic Boulder City for shopping, tours of Hoover Dam, something to eat and haunted hotel stories. It's well worth the adventure!.
By Robyn Larson McCarthy
"Houdini!" calls out Bob Gibson, owner with his wife Mel of Gibson Kennels, whenever Chaucer walks in. How my dog earned this appellation is a tale for another time. Let's just say that six-foot fencing, secure enclosures, and talk of installing a video camera were involved. Chaucer's file must reference his after-hours antics, because employees checking him in invariably handwrite "escape artist" in large letters on his information sheet--then circle it with a highlighter. That's a sign of a good kennel!
How do you find such reliable pet lodgings when traveling? Guides such as Countryman Press's "Dog-Friendly" series are an excellent starting point. Just keep in mind that listings are not recommendations, so always visit the kennel's website and do a quick online search for local media mentions. (Googling "doggy daycare" and the city name usually pulls up the link to any articles on upscale dog kennels in the area.)
When you call, expect employees at a quality establishment to detail boarding options (regular runs, suites, or mini-suites), playtime offerings (individual or group), their "house" food (they should offer both regular and sensitive-stomach varieties), and drop-off/check-out policies. Most require dogs to have received a bordatella (kennel cough) shot within the last six months. (Since vets dispense bordatella shots annually, unless requested otherwise, this is important to note.)
I then ask two questions:
"My dog is an escape artist: He actually figured out how to jiggle open the window locks on an apartment I once lived in so he could get out. How many doors will be between him and the outside world?"
I'm not looking for a specific number (although two is the minimum), but for the employee's reaction. Even if your dog isn't a four-legged Houdini, asking some version of this provides insight into the level of care a kennel provides. Any sign of impatience with the question or a careless attitude about loose dogs is a red flag. I once actually had a kennel owner say cheerfully, "Oh, don't worry! If they get out, they always come back." What you want to hear is a ready explanation of the kennel's layout and precautions taken for the dogs' safety.
"Are you familiar with [your breed here]?"
Owners of happy-go-lucky labs and other easy-going dogs don't necessarily need this information; asking simply allows you to gauge the staff's experience and concern for your peace of mind. And if yours is a "high-maintenance" breed--terriers, Dalmatians, chows--you definitely want to know your dog is staying with people who understand any "challenges" typical of his breed's temperament.
Look for two things when dropping off your dog. How many employees do you see? If one person is trying to check in your dog, clean up another guest's "accident," answer the phone, and walk new arrivals back to the runs, take a closer look. Is this a chronically short-handed establishment, or just a brief period of activity?
Second, how does the place smell? Unless, this is your first visit to a kennel, you should be familiar with the doggish scent of such places --and with the fact that even the most well-bred pup has the occasional "accident" right at reception. But if there's a pervasive stink to the place, reconsider.
While he's vacationed at many fine kennels around the country (check out the "Paws Awhile" page at ChaucerSeesAmerica.com for a listing), Chaucer definitely has three all-time favorites:
Whether because of their swimming program, their involvement in a local animal rescue group, or their phenomenal staff (which has seen little turnover in the 10 years he's been staying there), this is, paws down, Chaucer's All-Time Yappiest Place on Earth. Expertly run by Karen Welch (pictured nearby), The Kennel Club's services and her employees' warm professionalism are the benchmark by which I judge every other kennel.
Gibson Kennels is a country dog's paradise, but even a city slicker can appreciate its down-home atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. The boarding and daycare building sits on the same property as the Gibson's horse stables and family home. The experienced doggy people on staff always take a few extra minutes to see how "the little monsta," as Bob calls him, has been since his last visit. Despite numerous kennels closer to our New Hampshire home, the sense of security I feel when leaving him with the Gibsons makes every minute of the 90-minute drive worthwhile.
I generally prefer independent businesses to chains, but we tried this PetsHotel last year and were thrilled with the friendly service of manager Joanne Dunavent and her staff. Chaucer has returned repeatedly for daycare and boarding during our extended stays in the area. I particularly appreciate the attentiveness of their night attendants: Their habit of spending a little extra time keeping "senior guests" company during the wee hours meant that when Chaus had a minor health issue one night, he enjoyed personal comfort until PetsMart's on-site medical facility opened in the morning.
# # #
Robyn McCarthy is the editorial director of The Armarium Press, an independent publisher of business books and, coming this fall, the first travel title authored by Chaucer the Dog, Tube-Sock Tricks, and 101 Other Tips for RVing Success. A former editor for both consumer and trade publications (including Mobile Electronics magazine) she has written on business and current affairs for The Wall Street Journal, the Journal of Commerce, USA Today, and other publications.
By Gary Witzenburg
Imagine a luxo-sport BMW sedan positioned well above today's $122,000 long-wheelbase 760Li.... perhaps in $170K Bentley territory, or beyond. One day soon, this could be it. But what powertrain could top the 760's mighty 6.0- liter/438-hp V-12, and what could justify such a price?
Could this be BMW's future flagship hybrid, maybe marrying its 4.8-liter/ 360-hp V-8 to the two-mode hybrid drivetrain co-developed with General Motors, Daimler and Chrysler? If so, it would trump Lexus' LS 600h luxury hybrid in power, price, prestige, and (yes) fuel economy. Hybrid or conventional, it's a powerful piece of design with future production potential. Adrian van Hooydonk has been design director for BMW cars since September 1, 2004. Before that, he headed BMW Group DesignworksUSA in Newbury Park, California, and before that was an exterior designer at BMW AG in Munich since 1992. Following basic education in his native Netherlands, he earned a Masters in industrial design from Delft Polytechnic University and an automotive design degree from Art Center, Europe, in Switzerland.
We caught up with van Hooydonk before the September Frankfurt Auto Show to discuss BMW's beautiful Concept CS unveiled in Shanghai earlier this year. He would not speculate on CS powertrain or production plans but did drop some telling hints about future BMW design: BMW Concept CS sketches
AT: Does Concept CS point the way forward for BMW?
AvH: It shows what BMW designers and engineers are dreaming about, and that we could expand our model range upward. If we were to build it, it would be our top-of-the-line vehicle. Also, the philosophy that each of our cars should have a character of its own. It has been a while since all our cars looked very similar but in different sizes. Since then, we have created more choices for our customers through sculpture and three-dimensional surfacing, and this car shows what we can do in terms of sculpture. It has a lot of three-dimensional surface change in a subtle and sophisticated way. The surfaces are very complex.
AT: It may be a preview of a car above the 6 and 7 Series?
AvH: Yes. As a top-of-the-line halo or flagship car, it would have to be the best possible incarnation of BMW, with a healthy doses of sportiness and elegance. Sportiness and elegance are key elements of every BMW, but the mix is always slightly different. An M3 is skewed toward sportiness, a 7 Series more toward elegance. In the Concept CS, we wanted the mix to be 50/50 at a very, very high level...more sporty, more elegant and luxurious than any four-door we have ever built. CS--"Coupe' Sport"--models have been our most sporty and most elegant cars, and this is the first time we have used it on a four-door. We are emphasizing how sporty and elegant a BMW sedan can be.
AT: Whether or not it reaches production, will some of its design cues find their way into other production BMWs?
AvH: Maybe parts of it. But we still want each of our cars to have a character and identity of its own. We are not going to take this design and produce it in three different sizes.
AT: Let's discuss some specific elements. The twin-kidney grille is much larger and bolder than on any BMW we recall. Is that an element that may translate to other BMW cars?
AvH: In basic principal, yes. I can imagine the kidneyshaped grilles growing slightly, and having kidneys that wide on a very sporty car in the future. We also put them on this car very vertical, nearly slanted forward, something that was featured quite strongly in our history. We used to call that "shark nose." In the side view, that lengthens the hood and gives the car a sort of forward drive, like it wants to go. You can expect that on some other BMW cars as well.
AT: The roofline is very fast and coupe-like.
AvH: Yes, but inside that profile it was very important to have good rear seat room and a trunk. I fit in the back, and I'm six foot four. The roof is a sort of "double bubble" theme, as tall as it needs to be where occupants sit but slightly lower between them. We took the roof down in the middle to create the smallest possible frontal area and emphasized that with the rear brake light and at the top of the rear window.
AT: The sculpted kick-up over the rear wheel?
AvH: That is a line that you know from us only on twoseater cars. The Z4 has it; the Z8 had it in a slightly softer shape. The fact that we put it on this four-door concept means it is a sports car for four people, not just a lower-profile sedan.
AT: The raised side character line unconnected to either the front or the rear?
AvH: We typically have a line at that height, usually where the door handles fit, normally running the length of the car. On this car, we did not want to run it full length because we needed to break up the body side volumes. It takes your eye from the front wheel to the rear door and emphasizes that kick-up over the rear wheels. The door handles are in the chrome strip at the bottom of the side window. There is a touch sensor, part of the chrome strip moves out, and the handle comes up vertically so you can grab and pull it.
AT: The side fender port?
AvH: It has a very interesting way of incorporating the side markers...a light film behind the chrome piece reflects in a second chrome piece. Also, the door shut-line does not go through it. There is a very complex hinge that moves the whole piece out of the way when you open the door. We can use some pretty complex solutions on a show car.
AT: The taillamps and exhaust outlets?
AvH: We always say that BMW design will never be geometric. We won't have flat lines with radii...always curves, with precision and acceleration, and these taillamps express that. Inside them are two LED light bars, so at night you see two thin strips curving up toward the outside, which emphasizes the width and the contour. You also see the four exhausts, some air outtake in the lower bumper, and just enough lip on the trunk to create some downforce.
AT: What is significant in the interior?
AvH: We wanted to create a super-luxurious car without any traditional cues or materials. There is no wood in this car, yet the impression is more expensive than anything we have today. We have a lot of leather in two different colors and textures, wire mesh inserts in the dashboard, ceramic knobs and controls, and polished or matte aluminum for other switches. The second aspect is that sitting behind the wheel gives you a feeling of total control... a very good overview of the road and all the instruments and controls.
AT: We don't see any reason why this car could not be produced.
AvH: I agree. A lot of engineers at BMW have gotten excited about it. But is there a market for it, how big would it be, and what would be the price? And the engine is another question. As a designer, all I can do is put some hardware out there and hope that people react positively. We have done that, and now the rest is up to other parts of the company.
AT: If you could drive this vehicle anywhere in the world, where would that be?
AvH: I would love to take it on a nice drive across the Alps, from Munich down to Italy, then along the Cote d'Azur.
AT: On what kinds of roads would it be most comfortable?
AvH: In our minds, it is a true sports car in which you can comfortably travel, like GT cars of old. A GT was a car you could drive fast on a race track and use during the week. Cars that go fast are not always a pleasure to drive very far, but this one should be able to do both.
AT: What are its best design elements?
AvH: I would say the proportion, the stance, and the subtle surface changes. The key point on the exterior is that all the surfaces are connected and flow into one another. That is the definition of sculpture, and it is done in a very subtle and sophisticated way.
Because we chatted with van Hooydonk just before the Frankfurt show, he could not comment on the pair of X6 concepts unveiled there until afterwards. Less radical than the CS, they are highly significant as BMW's first "Sports Activity Coupés," and the gas/electric hybrid version will be its firstever production hybrid.
The Concept X6 weds the sporty character of a BMW coupe to the DNA of an all-wheel-drive BMW X. It rolls on a long wheelbase with high ground clearance, a short front overhang, a long rear overhang, large wheels hugged by muscular wheel arches, a low, flowing roofline, and a wedgy four-door shape characterized by interactions of convex and concave surfaces.
The front view is dominated by extra-large kidney grilles (aha!) with robust slats, headlights cut in a sharp profile and foglamps in special surrounds in the outer air intakes. The hood's contours are subdivided by sharp lines tapering out toward the grilles, while the large lower air intakes signify a powerful engine's high demand for cooling air while emphasizing the car's strong sporting character. Around back, the taillamps, wide-set exhausts, and horizontal lines accentuate its wide track and body width.
After unveiling the X6 concepts at the September Frankfurt Auto Show, van Hooydonk told us: "These are vehicles that can do it all. They can go fast on the autobahn, look cool in the city and get people to their ski cabin in the mountains. The hybrid is also very significant. People think environmentally friendly is something we need to do but won't be much fun. At BMW, our mission is to make sure we can offer exciting vehicles that are also environmentally friendly." While officially calling these "concepts," BMW has confirmed that the X6 will arrive on the market in mid-2008 and the hybrid version in 2009..
In each issue of Automotive Traveler, our editors and contributors suggest noteworthy books and DVD programs that will be invaluable additions to your personal libraries, especially when it comes time for planning your next road trip.
(The Armarium Press; $10.00) by Chaucer the Dog, illustrated by John Clarke
Automotive Traveler has already attracted a diverse and dazzling roster of contributors, several of which have large book portfolios to their credit: Steve Statham, David Newhardt, and Gary Witzenburg to mention a few. They are about to be joined by a fourth as "Chaucer the Dog" shares his secrets for making life on the road as comfortable as possible in "Tube-Sock Tricks, and 101 Other Tips for RVing Success." Chaucer's book, providing RV owners with tips and tricks about everyday comforts and conveniences they won't find in technical and systems-oriented guides, is a must-have for those intrepid road trippers who travel with their four-legged friends.
Packed with practical information, Chaucer adds his two cents on a variety of topics like why it's better to use the campground shower instead of the one in my RV. And he answers the eternal question regarding what's up with flamingos and RV parks? Inspired by a fourmonth coast-to-coast RV trek --and dedicated to the late family member whose dream the trip was --Tube-Sock Tricks contains many great ideas for campers and roadtrippers alike. It's an informational and engaging read, one that no RVer should leave home without, even those who are not traveling with their pets.
Four Fleetwood Jamboree C-Sports
--D. H. Lechter
(Fulcrum Publishing; $15.95) by Craig P. Kennedy and Andrea C. Jehn
As Craig P. Kennedy notes, there are 55 million disabled Americans and many of them like to travel. They face such obstacles as hotels or bed and breakfasts that says they are accessible but may not have a shower that a wheelchair user can use. Auto rental agencies may say they have vehicles for the disabled, but, gee, none with hand controls. The list of concerns is nearly endless.
With his partner Andrea C. Jehn, the Steamboat Springs, Colorado, couple tells where the disabled (including seniors who have some limited physical restrictions) can find accessible restaurants, accommodations, ski lifts, parks, sports arenas, and any number of other public facilities. You learn which are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant and which are do-able.
They detail adaptive programs for golf, skiing (water and snow), biking, white-water rafting, and more. You get Web sites, telephone numbers, addresses, maps, and even words about trip preparations. Kennedy had a paralyzing skiing accident after college but he's never let that stand in the way of enjoying an active lifestyle. He's now a motivational speaker, writer, and consultant on accessibility issues.
Now that they've covered Colorado, it's time to hit the road and cover the rest of the West.
Four Audi RS4 station wagons with adaptive
(Rand McNally & Company; $14.95) by various editors
Some people drool over maps and atlases, vicariously visiting someplace or revisiting the best trip of their lives. Others slobber over a book's indices and homey photography to revel in an instant sense of place. If that's you, then check out the Rand McNally Midwest Getaway Guide (or any of the other volumes in the series).
One would expect maps and suggested places to stay in a getaway book. These editors also throw in great souvenir shops (e.g., chocolates, harps, wood carvings, or art exhibit posters), where to eat, and what to see and do in select getaway areas within each state. It's a sampling, not an exhaustive listing.
The indices include cross-references to museums, cities, points of interest, airports, and parks, as well as forests and wildlife spaces for the areas covered and surrounding places. So, if you're interested in a state park, but not particular about which state, there's a list for you.
To satisfy the armchair traveler in all of us, they also include some historical and whimsical notes. You just might have to pack, fill that gas tank, and post a "gone for a getaway" sign.
Four Chevy Impalas
(VCI Video; $19.95) by Michael Wallis and Susan Fitzgerald-Wallis
Author Michael Wallis is widely acknowledged as one of the guiding lights in the Route 66 revival since his acclaimed book "Route 66: The Mother Road" was first published in 1990. With this three-DVD set, Michael, along with his wife Susan Fitzgerald- Wallis, have assembled into one set, three best-selling videos (originally produced in 1994, 1995, and 2000) on The Mother Road. Best of all, they've done it at a budget price.
If you'd rather watch a video than read a book to get a feel for Route 66, this is a great place to start, especially if you're considering driving the route yourself (as Automotive Traveler's Brett Stierli does elsewhere in this issue). Originally running 2,448 miles from Chicago, Illinois, through St. Louis, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, before ending in Los Angeles, California, this collection truly captures the essence of America's Main Street, as told by its consummate storyteller.
While it's impossible to cover Route 66 in just three videos, Wallis has come as close as is humanly possible. All the important landmarks are covered and even some I've missed in six cross-country journeys of my own. This is one to own rather than rent!
Four classic Ford F-100 pickups
--D. H. Lechter.
It's been called the biggest single-day event in the automotive kingdom, with 40,000 cars and up to two million participants and spectators. For others it's simply known as the Dream Cruise. No matter what you call it, the Woodward Dream Cruise is a very special event. Held the third Saturday of each August, it is the blue-collar counterpoint to the ultra-chic Pebble Beach Concours normally held on the same weekend. In place of ultra-lux classics, the Woodward Dream Cruise typifies the "run what you brung" attitude that 40 years ago made the Motor City the envy of the automotive world.
Southern Michigan (in general) and Detroit (in particular), is experiencing tough times. This spring, Toyota surpassed GM in worldwide production and sales for the first time, so a sense of melancholy has been hanging over the region, with layoffs and 'for sale' signs everywhere you turn. But for one glorious week, the Motor City let its hair down, forgot about its troubles, and hosted a gasoline- fueled party that (quite frankly) left us looking for words. That being said, enjoy our photo spread over these two pages and on the web at automotivetraveler.com where we've posted a selection of downloadable, high-resolution images from the 2007 Dream Cruise.
The Woodward Dream Cruise especially celebrates the time after World War II in 1945 right up to the first OPEC Oil Embargo in 1974 when Detroit truly ruled the automotive world. The Muscle Car Era --that 10-year period starting with the introduction of the Pontiac GTO in 1964, when stuffing the biggest possible V-8 into the smallest possible car was the recipe for automotive immortality--usually has the strongest representation.
Back then engineers from the Big Three--Chrysler, Ford and GM--along with the Little One--plucky AMC--matched wits and hardware on Michigan 1, better known as Woodward Avenue. Match races were the rule and some legendary cars like the Boss 429 Mustang, big-block Chevelles, 340 and 440 Six Pack Mopars, and red, white, and blue AMC Rebel Machines were born as a result of their unofficial, under the corporate radar, competitions. Stretching from below Ferndale at 9 Mile in the south to 20 Mile in Pontiac in the north, the Woodward Dream Cruise is a high-octane fantasy, where the smell of unburnt hydrocarbons is an automotive aphrodisiac. Hundreds of Mustangs gather at 9 Mile in Ferndale, classic Mopars (with vintage Challengers cruising alongside the upcoming 2008 version) and AMCs congregate at 13 Mile, and multiple collections of classic GM muscle are found north of 13 Mile. You'd be hard-pressed to find an import anywhere in sight.
We flew in on Friday and started our fun from the balcony of the Borders in Birmingham, one of the best places to catch the cavalcade of Detroit's finest as the sun sets. It's now an Automotive Traveler tradition. On Saturday, we cruised with other participants, stopping to talk with owners whose cars caught our eye. To get a sample of the true Woodward Cruise spirit, check out this month's "our cars" selection on page 116, featuring Ruth and John Stone's unique 428-powered 1967 Ford Country Squire station wagon. It's a great example of American muscle in a wood-grained, Di- Noc package.
Clockwise from upper left: Woodward is fun for fans of all ages; this De Soto shows off early Hemi power; new-generation Dodge Rebellion Girl with the 2008 Challenger; when you cross a Ram pickup with a Lamborghini, you get a Ramborghini; Paul and Kathy Budka's stunning 1970 AMC Rebel Machine at 13 Mile with the rest of the Mopars.
If all this sounds like fun to you, plan to join us at the 2008 Woodward Dream Cruise. Mark your calendar for Saturday, August 16, 2008, and make your reservations (look to the Automotive Traveler forums starting in January for our own 2008 Dream Cruise caravanning plans). Officially the Woodward Dream Cruise is a one-day event, but participants start arriving a week before and many of the communities plan events for the week leading up to the big day on Saturday.
For more information visit woodwarddreamcruise.com .
Clockwise from upper left: Dave Jostes with his 300,000-mile 1970 Chevelle; a 1950s Chevy cop car at the GM exhibit at Athens Coney Island; Bill and Ada Hoard--along with their '66 Mustang--prove age is no obstacle at Woodward; Carla Messer, Alicia Shepherd, and Noah Lappin in Maria Lappin's family-friendly 1967 Ford Country Sedan station wagon; Kevin and Loré Smith with their 1968 Road Runner and 1970 AAR 'Cuda, October's Musclecar Enthusiast cover car.
Two men travel from Tokyo to London in an Aston Martin V8 Vantage on an epic road trip meant to make roads safe for children in developing countries.
On June 25, 2007, two intrepid Englishmen, Richard Meredith and Phil Colley, set off from Tokyo at the wheel of an Aston Martin V8 Vantage. They set their sat-nav system for London's Trafalgar Square, 16,000 kilometers away with an expected arrival 49 days later.
With this adventure, Meredith (a 58-year-old teacher from Newport Pagnell) and Colley (a 42-year-old travel specialist), became the first people in the world to traverse the full extent of the new Asia-Pacific Highway. At the same time, they also brought attention to an important cause by raising money to increase road safety awareness among children in developing countries, reflected by the trip's name, "Driving Home Road Safety 2007." Their 10,000-mile journey in the factory-prepared V8 Vantage brought them through 16 countries, including South Korea and China. As in any adventure of this sort they battled inhospitable terrain, intransigent bureaucracy, intense heat, and a variety of other difficulties that tested the men as well as their near-standard V8 Vantage to their limits. The project, which was sponsored in part by Bridgestone, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, E2V, I.M. Kelly Automotive, Ontime Automotive, Autotext, and Eurowatch, was a logistical challenge that required two years of extensive planning to pull off without a hitch. Along the way, presentations were held at Intercontinental Hotels in Tokyo, Beijing, Ceylan, Paris, and at the final stop at the InterContinental London Park Lane.
After traversing China, the two-week Eurasian leg of their trip took them through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, back into Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. Their biggest obstacle: gasoline of dubious octane ratings, which required a bit of "throat-clearing" according to Meredith.
"We have experienced extreme heat, rough roads, supersmooth highways, excessive bureaucracy, delays, warm welcomes, incredible press and local interest, petrol supply difficulties, and a few scary moments," said Meredith. Upon their arrival in Georgia, after covering 6000 miles, they remained right on schedule, unpredictable condi- tions not withstanding. After arriving in Istanbul on August 5, it was obvious that the upcoming European section would be a milk run in comparison to the trip thus far. The European section of the route brought the duo through Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, and France before their arrival in London. Aston Martin's Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ulrich Bez, commented, "I have been following their progress closely and I have great admiration for Richard and Phil's determination. Of course I am also delighted with the reliability of the V8 Vantage, which had already done 100,000 miles when it started this trip." As a counterpoint to the relative safety of their own trip, the duo point out that an estimated 150,000 people (of which 25,000 are children) were killed on the world's roads during the same time span of their journey. Yet Meredith and Colley, who took on the drive to support these safety initiatives, said, "The death toll could be lowered if proper resources were put into basic safety measures such as crash barriers and pedestrian crossings." Additional information on 'Make Roads Safe' and 'Road Safety is no Accident' can be found at makeroadssafe.org and who.int/roadsafety/en/.
Upon their arrival in London, Meredith proudly exclaimed, "This is a memorable moment! I had been planning this trip for nearly two years, and can hardly believe it is now over." For Colley, his thoughts ran along similar themes when he proclaimed, "It is incredible. To have completed the journey is one thing, but to do so on schedule is something else. I will never forget it." Interested in adding this rolling piece of history to your garage? You're in luck, as Dr. Bez has announced that the car will be auctioned by Bonhams at its annual Olympia sale on December 3, 2007, and all the proceeds will be donated to the UNICEF China fund that these safety have been supporting. The car will be offered for sale at no reserve and it is estimated to sell for £50,000--£60,000. That's $100,000 to $120,000 for us Yanks. For more details on the auction, visit the Bonhams website at bonhams.com. .
Meredith and Colley have been using the drive to highlight the following statistics provided by the UN and World Bank: At least 1.2 million people worldwide are estimated to be killed each year on the roads--more than 3000 people every day.
At least 440,000 people are estimated to be killed and 30 million injured each year on Asian roads--including the Asia-Pacific Highway. By 2020 the UN estimates that two thirds of the world's road deaths may occur on Asian roads. Road crashes are the leading cause of death for young people aged 10-24.
By Debi Lander
ready! Although I am not much of a beer drinker, when in Munich...I ordered a stein. The stout waitress clasped all our mugs in one hand, although I was barely able to raise my one-liter glass vessel. Mom and dancing figures that re-en-Dad permitted Laura to try a act festivities from a 16th-Radler--a light beer
prices; Germany and Austria have prosper ous economies and the dollar is down. Much of that results from industrious workers and the auto manufacturers: Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and Volkswagen. But, I scoured the Internet looking for hotel discounts and we did our best; BMW even arranged bargain-priced rooms at The King's who led us throug churches exploding with gilded baroque flair and an open-air market selling pretzels the size of large pizzas. We meandered toward the Royal Residenz and the square where Hitler paraded his troops. chauffeur us home. Auto Delivery at the Factory We arrived at the BMW factory just outside the city, as excited a kernels of corn ready to pop. Almost instantly we were seated in our 2008 metallic-silver ultimate driving ma-
Hotel in Munich. But, the Hofbrauhaus--an immense chine. Sebastian, our rep, taught us beer-garden restaurant imbibed with to operate all parts: side mirrors that Shortly after our arrival, frivolity, oompah music, and plenty fold in, "great for tight spots," he we darted off to see of brew--beckoned. And we were said; recharging outlets in the back-
Munich, Bavaria's Capital, is home to the famed Glockenspiel and Hoffbrauhaus. Crowds gather to watch the clock tower figures come alive twice daily and party in the beer garden. Insert- Jay, Debi, and Laura raise a toast.
Austria's Lake Region, the Salzkammergut, offers high alpine views from the entrance of ice caves. Seen in the far distance, the tiny town of Halstatt borders the crystal clear lake. Favorite pastimes are hiking, fishing, water sports, and winter skiing.
The Vltava River encir-three short rapids. cles Cesky Krumlov, a Mother and daugh-UNESCO World Heri-ter shopped their tage site. The town is way back through sadly fraying, like an the narrow pasover-stuffed cushion sageways, now bursting at the seams, cleared of numerfrom a deluge of visi-ous day-trippers. tors. Cars are not permitted, so we dragged Venturing to Vienna our bags over cobble-Next morning we stone streets to the split for a three-hotel. (Okay, I should hour journey to have packed lighter.) Vienna, cruising The clerk instructed us at 90-100 mph to follow a map, with most of the way. about 15 turns, to a Honestly we just parking garage on the blended into the outskirts of town; mis-flow of traffic. Jay take three. devoured this drive and the Bimmer Unfortunately, Miss M added plenty of did not recognize this bite. Somehow the area (mistake 4) and sizzle of the auto-the poorly marked dia-bahn started awakgram didn't warn of a ening my senses. detour (mistake 5). We spent the next hour in husband and wife verbal ping-pong (mistakes 6-16) trying to locate the obscure lot, then trampled back to our lodgings--only to
Cesky Krumlov: The Barber's Bridge crosses the surrounding Vltava River in the red-roofed village of narrow streets. Insert: Top of the Castle find we overnighted the BMW in the wrong place! (Time to stop counting.) two brown bears lived; the bears in Italian, so they began keeping the colors and clamshells he included provide alternate protection to a real deal. in his masterpiece, "Birth of Venus." Jiri, a private guide waiting in the water-filled moat, and symbolize a We peered down on a walled villobby, sorted out the mess. Jay link with royalty. It seems the castle Jiri, Laura, and I climbed 162 stairs lage, crammed with red-roof-topped moved the car, while Laura and I owners added a bear motif to the in the town's signature landmark, dwellings and many small bridges. strolled through a maze of medieval coat of arms to flaunt their relation-the decoratively pastel painted townhouses. Then we crossed a ship to the "Orsini" line--a noble tower. The tall cylinder looks as if Finally, we slipped onto a river raft, castle drawbridge over a pit where Italian family. "Orsa" means she-bear Boticelli frescoed it using the same sight-seeing while also shooting
The Castle of Cesky Krumlov. Could I be acquiring a taste for speed? My fears were further abated because we encountered no accidents, not even a fender-bender. We spent two days and nights waltzing through the stylish capital city, dropping a lot of cash in the process. Seated in the posh Sacher Hotel, I reminded Laura of the handy BMW etiquette rule. When in doubt about table placement, just remember the letters of our car: BMW= B-bread on the left, M-meal in the middle, W-water on the right. We sipped champagne and applauded Austria's decadent chocolate cake, Sachertorte, with schlag--an American super-sized dollop of whipped cream. Cost: 60 euro.
A performance of the dancing Lipizzaner stallions nibbled away almost $300. We didn't keep track of what we spent feasting on Wienerschnitzel and indulging in an evening Mozart concert at the luxurious Golden Hall. Pricey, but sheer genius. Our boutique hotel manager strongly recommended a taxi and early arrival at the immense and ostentatious Schonbrunn Palace, this region's version of Versailles. Sage advice. He also warned us: "Subway riders must beware. Vienna's number one tourist destination attracts pick-pocketers, dressed as camera-toting tourists." He also added that the thieves were not nationals.
Back downtown, our eyes popped at the dazzling Hapsburg jewels. We lost our equilibrium exploring turn off the DVD and look outside!"
UNESCO World Heritage Site: The historic architecture and castle of picturesque Cesky Krumlov, in the Czech Republic, lies protected for future generations. The Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral stands in the right rear of the photograph. We finally pulled into tiny Halstatt, population 500. The pedestrian-only hamlet is literally chiseled into the mountainside, bordering a crystalline lake. There was no elevator, so we trudged up four stories (yes, I brought too many clothes) to our rustic room with balcony, everything crafted from pine. Thankfully, our million-dollar view cost a lot less.
Day six. We footed to a funicular that zips visitors to a landing above town, then hiked uphill to the salt mine entrance, feeling like three dwarfs hi-ho-ing off to work. Tourists donned miner's jumpsuits and plodded through claustrophobic frosty burrows, similar to catacombs, while learning about salt.
Everyone had fun whooshing down slides in the mine.
More punishing stair climbing was necessary to explore the dramatic altarpiece in the town's gothic Catholic Church. Our effort also achieved a majestic view of wispy clouds lacing across voluptuous mountains, whose edges slash down into the blueberry colored sea.
Hunderwasser's modern architecture, Up the Alps and Down the Lakes of scenery, which included tower-
reminiscent of Barcelona's Gaudi, and Keeping to schedule, we whizzed ing rock walls, dark tunnels through
craned our necks at soaring St. Ste down the road to Salzkammergut, snow-capped mountains, no pass phen's Cathedral. Hotel, tour guide, considered the most beautiful re ing zones, huge azure lakes, and entry fees, cab fare, and tips: mehr gion of Austria. Once we exited the miniature settlements that looked geld. Memories: priceless. main highway, we crept along, not like model railroad displays. I loudly Viva Vienna. prepared for the dramatic change reprimanded my daughter, "Laura,
Next to the church, I entered the eerie Charnel House or Bone Chapel; a room crammed with skulls and bones of former residents, like a scene from a horror flick. The city of Hallstatt simply lacks grave space, so after ten years, caretakers dig up the dead, paint the skulls, and place them in the sanctuary.
Awakening to low-lying clouds and a downpour, we chose to forgo the high alpine road, or scenic route to Innsbruck. The famous Grossglockner drive switchbacks across the teetering Alps and offers, what guidebooks call "panoramic glacier views." I'd been warned to update my will before driving it.
Our decision left time run through the Altstadt (or, "old part of town") and the Hofkirche, the awe-inspiring Imperial Church, filled with larger than life-sized bronze figures, surrounding Emperor Maximillian's empty tomb.
Then we hailed a taxi to Innsbruck's impressive Olympic ski jump. From the top platform we watched courageous athletes careening off the edge; after soaring through the air, they landed on Astroturf, their view facing straight into a cemetery lying outside the stadium. Location, location, location. Our taxi was another Mercedes, but not a top-of-the-line model. Automakers must offer fleet deals to cabbies, as most are either Mercedes or BMWs. So nice to ride in style.
I've always dreamed of visiting Schloss Neuschwanstein, also known as Mad King Ludwig's castle. Ludwig II, King of Bavaria declared insane.
His palace is perched atop a wooded, treacherous ledge in rural Bavaria. Visitors, including those enormous tour buses, squeeze up and down bottlenecked roads, across roller-coaster peaks and a valley, before the fantasy magically materializes out of the trees. Even Walt Disney relished the glamorous gem, using inspiration from its fairy tale turrets to create his theme park castles.
Small insert: Painted skulls in the Bone Chapel. Bottom of page: A summer skier practices on Innsbruck's Olympic ski jump. Top Right: Larger-than-life bronze figures of Innsbruck's Imperial Church have incredible detail.
from 1864-1886, shunned the public and politics, choosing instead to build elaborate castles. He nearly bankrupted his domain, and was Happily, we avoided an endless line by pre-ordering tickets online. Once inside, the 40-minute tour runs with German precision, through lavish rooms of arduously carved wood paneling. Eccentric Ludwig II drowned in shallow Swan Lake, below the fortress, after only living in the creation 172 days. Some say he was murdered. Hmm?
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany's top tourist attraction, is the spectacular fairy-tale fortress built by Bavarian (Mad) King Ludwig II. An uphill hike to Mary's Bridge, another engineering feat, gives visitors this panoramic view.
Finally, it was my turn to drive! A four-hour escapade through southern Germany brought new landscape perspectives, including mile upon mile of the sunny, yellow-green vineyards, which foster the region's wunderbar wines. Passing on two-lane roads proved tricky, with so many blind spots, swerves, and tight-angle turns. The 550i performed to perfection; but I questioned my own driving skills. Jay's frustration grew as I withdrew; I was hesitant to pull out and around others. Before long he snatched back the wheel and wrangled his way behind a fire-red Lamborghini and Porsche 911. When congested traffic hit a straightaway, all three gunned their engines. We zoomed around slower vehicles--until the trio queued up, again, and again.
Arriving in Freiburg, driver Jay insisted, "No more hotels in these cursed no-car zones." (But I liked being in the middle of things!) A marvelous medieval gothic cathedral dominated the skyline, miraculously upright and unharmed after WWII, unlike 80 percent of the town.
Next day, we headed for the heart of streets, then single alleys without tion workers claimed the area was the evergreen Black Forest and the shoulders, down to a narrow strip closed. GPS showed it as the only cuckoo clock museum. Roadways of asphalt, without any markings. viable route--unless we considered dwindled from four- to two-lane Abruptly we stopped. Construc a lengthy detour.
The museum displays the history of timekeeping, including collections of astronomical devices, ornate mantelpieces, pendulums and pocket-watches, and some entertaining mechanical gadgets like the dumpling-eater, who gulped down the right number of biscuits on the hour. Eve Renz, the charming direc-
We surged to Stuttgart, home of automakers and traffic jams dominated by the luxury brands. The Mercedes-Benz Museum is jaw-dropping gorgeous, its rounded sleek glass and metal structure forming a crystal monument to German engineering. Visitors ride pod-like eleva
After two weeks we were bursting with bratwurst, a bit cranky, and ready to return home. Indeed, I was enthralled by castles and cathedrals, Bavarian villages and Rhine wine, but I also grew to enjoy fast cars, the incredible highways, and even a little beer.
Above--A Knight's View: The Neckar River swerves in storybook fashion below the fortress built by the Knights of Hirschhorn. Right: Laura and Debi enjoy the terrace of the castle hotel, overlooking busy locks.
extensive (and expensive) gift shop. The impressive 1.5 million-Euro facility encompasses 16,500 square meters, and definitely lives up to Mercedes' elite standards.
On the other hand, the Porsche Museum, six miles away, was disappointing. The current offering contains only 15 cars and one video presentation. Across the street, an astounding, aerodynamic-looking replacement will open in 2008.
By evening, we conquered Hirschhorn castle hotel, a fortress above the Neckar River. Like royalty, we supped scrumptious seafood, drank golden wine, and slept like kings. Then our carriage was off for a final day of touring in Cologne, my biggest disappointment. The immense cathedral, so tall and wide it couldn't fit into my camera lens, just can't compare to elegant Notre Dame and her imaginative gargoyles. However, I have to ad-tastes great.
breathing the air outside the building started my mouth to watering. I chuckled as a worker frantically bagged wrapped sweets on the assembly line, much like the familiar "I Love Lucy" candy episode. The cafe's mocha chocolate cake, truffely rich, received our highest honors.
Our family road trip through Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic soared to the top of the Alps and descended below the earth's surface to salt mines and ice caves. We rediscovered each other during time spent together--1900 miles in the car and all those meals. (No wonder we were cranky by the time we
Memories come from interacting with people, places, and the culture, and this vacation transcended our expectations. We can't wait until we need another new car--for the perfect excuse to return to Germany.
In Munich, BMW arranged discounted rooms at The Kings Hotel, First Class. The rooms are small with lovely canopy beds, priced between 100-150 euro per night. My teen daughter rated their breakfast buffet as the best in Germany. kingshotels.com/first-class.htm. Don't miss the Hofbrauhaus, "The" place to taste German beer alongside tourists from every other country in the world. Meals are inexpensive and tasty in an Octoberfest atmosphere, hofbrauhaus.de
Neuschwanstein Castle: Mad King Ludwig's fairy tale dream. This is Germany's number one tourist attraction, so pre-ordering tickets (with date and time) is imperative. Don't miss it! ticket-center-hohrnschwangau.de
The German Clock Museum: Also known as the Cuckoo Clock Museum, it sits in out-ofthe-way Furtwangen, but can be reached by an invigorating drive through the Black Forest. deutsches-uhrenmuseum.de
Schlosshotel- Hirschhorn, near Heidelberg, is a true fortress. The castle hotel overlooks the Neckar River with fascinating views of locks and barges. Their small restaurant surprised us by serving the most delicious meal of our trip. castle-hotel.de
Cesky Krumlov's Hotel Dvorak sits at the edge of the Vltava River and the Barber's Bridge. Ask for a room with a castle view, as it remains illuminated all night. discoverczech. com/cesky-krumlov/hotel/hotel-dvorak.php4
Hotel Schloss Monchstein in Salzburg is outstanding, our trip favorite. The graciously renovated castle hotel, with 24 rooms, provides privacy and scenic views. Walk 5-7 minutes on a woodland trail to a lift, which descends directly into old town. Impeccable service and a superior restaurant. Pricey at 300-400 euros per night, but worth the splurge. monchstein.com.
Also in Salzburg is Carpe Diem Finest Fingerfood, where award-winning chef, Jörg Wörther, runs a healthy chic restaurant serving quick meals in crispy cones. carpediemfinestfingerfood.com
In Vienna, we chose Hotel Koing von Ungarn, a boutique hotel just around the corner from St. Stephen's cathedral and within walking distance of all center city sites. The spacious rooms are great for families. We had a two-bedroom apartment, giving my daughter a treat. Best of all, the hotel is a real value in an expensive city, at about 200 euro per night. kvu.at
Elegant Sacher Hotel and Café is home of world famous Sachertorte, chocolate cake served with a dollop of whipped cream. It's also available as take-out or mail-order. sacher.com
We saved money in Hallstatt staying at Gastof Zauner, where doubles cost less than 100 euro. This rustic pine guesthouse boasts a picture-book restaurant, with ivy growing through the windows and over the ceiling. Order the fish from the lake and be sure to get a room with a balcony. zauner.hallstatt.net More expensive, Hotel Gruner Baum located right in the tiny town's central square offers fine lakeside dining and lodging with 20 guest-rooms. gruenerbaum.cc
The Romantik Hotel Schwarzer Adler is located near, but not in, the pedestrian zone of medieval Innsbruck. Bathrooms feature Swarovski crystals, and its fantastic restaurant provides both old world charm and terrific service. deradler.com
Vera Marie Badertscher
Local conservation efforts protect country scenery along the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway (Rt. 52)
Saving nature and history are just part of the legacy of the enormous, and enormously rich du Pont clan that so influenced this area. Five days along the 12-mile stretch of Route 52, Route 100, and side roads gave my husband and me a chance to marvel at an American royal family in "Chateau Country" with its gardens and mansions and museums.
We wondered if we would get to see a rare DuPont Motors automobile. As much as we would like to, we knew we had zero chance of driving a 90-year-old DuPont Motors Phaeton on our road trip. So, since the du Ponts once ran General Motors, we opted for the retro look of a GM car, the Chevrolet HHR. When I think of road trips--stuffing a car full of family, luggage, and food--I picture a car like the HHR. Solid, road-worthy, and as family-friendly as grandma's lap.
The Sport Red Metallic paint on the 2007 HHR LT that we picked up in Philadelphia shouted "Good times." This fully loaded model entertained us with toys like On Star, XM Radio, and a keyless remote that starts the engine from across the parking lot.
"You would think they could trim the trees so you can see the signs," complains a visitor, tired of getting lost. On the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway that rambles from Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, to Wilmington, Delaware, tulip and oak trees arch over the road, creating bucolic tunnels. The law helps residents protect their 19th Century views by banning tree-trimming. Even the names of hidden roads like Snuff Mill and Barleycorn evoke an older time. Left and center: We HHR had several clever storage compartments, including this lockable storage bin.
Right: The Sports Metallic Red 2007 Chevrolet HHR, outside the Pink House at the Inn at MontchaninVillage.
While it looks smallish on the outside, passengers can relax in the roomy interior. And as for trip-readiness, so many little compartments, hooks, and pockets lurk in unexpected places that we never did discover them all. The fourcylinder motor, while lacking oomph, was perfectly adequate for this flatland trip.
The HHR zipped out of Philadelphia and headed for Longwood Gardens, our first duPont enclave. In 1906, Pierre du Pont, a real go-getter and lover of the land, bought the historic property, he said, to save the now-200-year-old trees planted by Quakers who originally owned the farm. With his cousin Coleman, Pierre had taken over the family fortunes and served as president of General Motors from 1920-1923, bringing it back from the edge of ruin. Meanwhile, as a diversion, he created this 1000-acre showplace. He expanded the 1730 brick farmhouse which sits like a prim, plain aunty, overlooking the flamboyant excesses of the gardens.
We walked and walked and walked in Longwood, mesmerized by the collection of exotic plants in the 4-acre conservatory, the tranquil formal gardens, the wild woods, and particularly, the fountains. Way back in the Thirties, Pierre created a sound, colored-light, and water show worthy of today's Las Vegas. In a series of high-climbing spurts and arcs, water flies 130 feet in the air at the main fountain area. At full throttle, new computerized controls developed since Pierre passed on can change colors and jets of water more than 17 million ways. Since Pierre no longer hosts house parties at Longwood, we did the next best thing and stayed with one of his cousins. Leaving Longwood, we crossed the state line into Delaware to our first hotel, the historic landmark property Inn at Montchanin Village.
Left: A cat relaxes in the courtyard of Pierre du Pont's former homey mansion at Longwood Gardens. Right: Longwood's conservatory encloses five acres under glass. Lily ponds on the terrace reflect the classic architecture.
A great granddaughter of a du Pont, "Missy" Lickle and her husband Dan bought and restored this old village into a luxury inn. The rooms occupy houses used by du Pont workers in the late 19th century. Because the Lickles started with individual houses and divided them into guest quarters, no two of the 28 rooms and suites looks alike. "Missy" Lickle has chosen unique furniture for each, mixing plaids and prints, original art, and fresh-cut flowers to create a homey retreat. She uses a whimsical logo of leaping cows to decorate bath tiles and Frette linen bed sheets. A few steps from our upstairs suite in the old farm house, we arrived at the gourmet restaurant Krazy Kat's. General Manager Jacques Amblard explains that the building once served as a store belonging to a lady whom the residents of the small village thought was a bit daft.
They referred to her as "that crazy cat." The animal paintings and cat-prints everywhere lend a playful air, but the menu features seriously good eating.
We fueled up for our second day of exploration with breakfast at Krazy Kat's before getting back on the nowfamiliar Route 52 and heading for Hagley Museum and Gardens. The birthplace of the DuPont industries celebrates its 50th birthday in 2007. Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, who mercifully used his initials E.I., and his son Henry du Pont ran the family explosives business at Hagley after E.I. left France and settled on the Brandywine in 1802. His wellconnected father had friendships with the likes of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, putting the du Ponts a few steps ahead of the mass of immigrants coming to America, and ensuring a government customer.
Today's peaceful scene of small stone buildings along the verdant riverbank belies the constant danger faced by workers at the powder mills. Our knowledgeable guide, Shirley Miller, explained that workers did not want to "cross the river." If an explosion occurred in one of the small stone structures where explosive powder was ground to a fine grain, the contents of the building --along with any workers nearby --would go up in the air and out into the river.
The Inn at Montchanin Village features cows, cowbirds, and a Krazy Kat. Above left: Lawn chair with cowbirds. Bottom left: Unique decor in each suite. Left: The Krazy Kat restaurant mascot welcomes guests.
Did you know? The family spells their name du Pont (with a space). The company is spelled DuPont (two caps, no space). The hotel is spelled the same as the family--du Pont.
Cows have moved out and vehicles moved into the original barn. The top floor of the barn houses a Conestoga wagon and horse and buggies. But on the lower level, we discovered the prize--a 1928 DuPont Motors Phaeton. E. Paul du Pont manufactured the sleek Phaeton and other models of luxury cars between 1919 and 1931. This particular G model did not have the dashing style of other DuPonts I had seen in pictures, but leather straps and wood on the exterior of this convertible, bright green trim, plus a rear glass windshield, branded it as special.
I tried to picture someone driving the basic chassis from Delaware to a Massachusetts body works to be fitted with a custom body, then back to Wilmington for finishing touches. One hopes E. Paul paid those drivers very well to navigate bumpy roads shared with horses and survive the onslaught of weather as they drove a bare set of wheels and underpinnings across hundreds of miles.
While Henry Ford turned out flivvers every three minutes for $260 each, the DuPonts cost $3500-$6000 and took three months to complete. An inflation calculation shows DuPont vehicles were relatively cheap compared to today's luxury cars--about $40,000- $70,000 in today's dollars. On the other hand, Fords would be amazingly cheap at less than $3000. Unfortunately, not enough car owners had as much money as the du Ponts. Only 547 cars were finished before the company went bankrupt and E. Paul moved on to Indian Motorcycle Company.
After lunch at Belin House, on the grounds of Hagley, happy to have a body on our HHR chassis, we drove to the nearby Nemours Mansion, where we discovered we would not be able to tour this Chateau until it reopens after reconstruction in May 2008. Even with the chaos of remodeling, we could see that this place will be worth the wait. Among the improvements, a new visitor's center will be located on Route 141 and the tram that carries visitors into the grounds will traverse the main road former guests used. Alfred I. du Pont, the fellow pushed aside by Pierre and Coleman, also caused a family scandal by divorcing his first wife. Revenge was sweet as he moved to Florida and made another fortune on Florida real estate and railroads. This French tribute to his French ancestors makes a point that he was the first son of a first son of the original founder of the DuPont company. Pointed also, were the pieces of glass embedded in the top of the wall. We wondered if he armed his redoubt against the family enemy, and giggled when we saw cannons (from the battleship Constitution) on the lawn. Left: The Hagley Museum houses an original delivery wagon for the first product manufactured by the DuPont company.
Right: Hand-painted poster for E. Paul du Pont's automobiles. Bottom: E. Paul du Pont manufactured this custom DuPont Phaeton Model G in 1928. The car still shines in its unrestored, original condition.
When the chateau opens again for tours, do not miss the garage and A.I.'s car collection. Always interested in machinery, he was the first owner of an automobile in Delaware, an 1897 one-cylinder Benz. The cars on display include a 1960 Rolls Royce Phantom V--one of only ten made--and a 1933 Buick Sport Coupe with a rumble seat.
A fruitful day of touring behind us, we headed down good old Route 52 into Wilmington and pulled up across the street from the Hotel du Pont for dinner at Deep Blue. Diners in suits pulling wheeled briefcases trundled down the street and into the hip bar and restaurant that specializes in sea food. Probably a fleet of DuPont attorneys, we thought. After an outstanding meal, we retrieved the HHR from the valet, Nahun, who obviously approved. "Coo-ool ride," he said. Then he elaborated. "It's comfortable. I didn't know it was so big inside."
The next morning, we checked out of Montchanin Inn and piled our luggage in the car. Since I normally drive a car with big windows, I felt my view limited by the lowprofile windows of the HHR. Putting the back seats down improved visibility when backing up, but we could have achieved the same results by removing the back seat head rests. We had a short drive to Winterthur, where we planned to spend several hours. When Henry Francis du Pont inherited Winterthur, he bred prize-winning Herefords on the estate which once was large enough to encompass a railroad station, a post office, the village of Montchanin, and several farms. In mid life, he became infatuated with early American furniture and craft and he went on a life-long buying spree. In the biography she wrote, "Henry F. du Pont and Winterthur," his daughter Ruth Lord says, "My father never succumbed to a frugal impulse." Aboard the Garden Tram at the visitors' center, we followed the same path Henry F. drove his guests along to show off his gardens and approach his house. (In truth, Henry's chauffeur probably drove. I immediately related to Henry when I learned that he rarely drove any of his luxurious cars because he had trouble coordinating foot and hand to shift gears.)
In the 1940s, Henry F. decided to turn the ancestral manse into a museum of Americana and more than doubled its size to 175 rooms. When the foundation opened the 900-acre estate to visitors, he and his wife built a small (mere 21,000 square feet) "Cottage" across from the mansion. That home now serves as a gift shop nearly as lavish as the mansion. Minding Henry's example, I fought off my frugal impulses as I shopped for official Winterthur reproductions. After all, Delaware has no sales tax.
Greg Landrey carries the official title of Director of the Library, Collections Management, and Academic Programs Division. Unofficially people call him "the car guy." Landrey points out that vintage luxury automobiles belong on display along with the other high-end American products shown at the museum because of the fine craftsmanship. He would like to see the eight-bay garage--where four chauffeurs and six mechanics worked for the family --opened to the public. Between 1916 and 1969, Henry Francis owned 40 Cadillacs and three Rolls, according to Landrey. Left: Henry F. du Pont carefully selected fresh flowers to complement the décor at Winterthur, as in this Chinese-themed room. Center: The Montmorenci Staircase spirals upwards for two flights. The stairs and other architectural details came from a home built in North Carolina about 1822. Right: Seafood in Downtown Wilmington.
After taking one of several hourlong themed tours in the house, watching a film narrated by Henry F.'s two daughters, walking around the grounds, and shopping, we had a fine lunch at the utilitarian cafeteria in the visitors' center before moving on.
Our second hotel, the Mendenhall Inn, was recently converted to a Clarion Collection Hotel, and combines older and newer wings with an historic restaurant in Mendenhall. The room rate includes a terrific hot breakfast buffet including an omelet table.
Although we took an afternoon break at this point, anyone with an ounce of energy left after Winterthur could drive a couple of miles farther to the Brandywine River Museum at Chadds Ford. This museum sits in a conservation area and features the works of the Wyeth family. A du Pont started the conservancy and the museum. Another du Pont with an interest in nature founded the Delaware Museum of Natural History near Longwood.
The Simon Pearce Restaurant and retail store near West Chester exemplifies the refined lifestyle along the Brandywine, not to mention you get a great view of the river from every table. After dinner, we browsed the hand-blown glass and custom pottery that Simon Pearce brought from Ireland to Vermont and then to Brandywine.
The roads to the estate of Lammot du Pont Copeland, Mt. Cuba, twist along beside creeks and hills getting narrower as you go. This can be charming or maddening depending on the type of traveler you are. The roadside greenery introduces us to Mt. Cuba's hilltop island holding out against suburban sprawl. Where their cousin Pierre's Longwood dazzles with exotic plants from around the world and mechanical fountains, the 650-acre Mt. Cuba concentrates on the native plants of the Piedmont region of the Eastern United States.
Mt. Cuba Center works more on research than attracting the hordes that swarm Longwood and Winterthur. You must call ahead to book a guided tour of about two hours, covering a half-mile of wooded paths, and the schedule is limited. Forest paths lead along and across a picturesque burbling stream running through woods and meadow.
Mrs. Copeland and her landscape architects planned everything, including the stream, turning depleted corn fields into the most naturallooking landscape you can imagine.
Although so far, we had focused on the du Ponts in their country homes, Delaware history starts much earlier than E.I. du Pont's arrival. To see a bit of 17th and 18th Century Delaware, we left the Brandywine Scenic Byway for an afternoon and turned back the clock in New Castle. But even here we found du Pont influence.
Top left: Simon Pearce Restaurant. Top right: Dessert at Simon Pearce. After dinner, you can buy the same plate, mug, and wine glass at the store across the hall. Bottom Left: A forest pond at Mt. Cuba Center looks natural, but, in fact, is man-made. Bottom Right: Forest paths at Mt. Cuba Center are laid out so that the walker cannot see what's coming around the next corner.
The DuPont Company and the Automotive Industry George Read, a delegate from Delaware, went to the head of the line making his state the first to sign the Declaration of Independence. His son Thomas' grand house, operated by the state historical society, still stands on the Strand although the father's house burned down long ago. A du Pont descendent restored the Read house and donated it to the state. The oldest house in Delaware, the late 17thcentury Dutch House sits across the village green. Louise du Pont Crowinshield funded the restoration project.
On our final day, we said goodbye to winding up and down Route 52 with its glimpses of high-class country living, knowing that we also would be giving up the HHR. As we started our last sprint on Route 52, fog blocked out everything but the trees nearest the road. This gave us an excuse to flip on the HHR's fog lights, but the air cleared as we approached the Hotel du Pont in downtown Wilmington. This is a company town, and the company literally owns the elegant property locals call "The Hotel." Between the DuPont company and all those credit card banks that cluster in Wilmington, the hotel, built in 1913, stays very busy during weekdays. We ogled the gorgeous lobby and ballrooms on our way to eat breakfast in the Green Room (which actually is red). I will long remember the house special of Warm Lump Crab Gratin.
Left: The Dutch House in the town of New Castle, oldest house in Delaware, owes its reconstruction to Louise du Pont Crowninshield. Right: The Du- Pont Company built and still owns its own hotel in downtown Wilmington. Hotel du Pont's ornate lobby centers around a Bosendorfer piano.
As the company evolved from an explosives company to a one based on chemical manufacture and development of new products through research, du Pont members applied their knowledge to their varied interests. Those interests included a strong tie to transportation with ventures in railroads and aviation, and of course, automobiles.
Besides their involvement with the General Motors company and E. Paul du Pont's short-lived automobile manufacturing business, the modern DuPont Company still supplies many materials to manufacturers of most American cars and other global automotive companies.
Early in the development of automobiles, it became apparent that ordinary paints would not last on the metal car bodies subjected to extreme temperature changes and weathering so DuPont chemists went to work creating paints that lasted. They still provide undercoats and finishes, in addition to engineering polymers, elastomers used in belts and hoses, and refrigerants for automotive air conditioning systems. The company also created Butacite, which comprises the inner layers of automobile safety glass. Although the company sells few products direct to the consumer, consumers use dozens of DuPont products every time they drive their car.
Wilmington's riverfront, historically important to the area's trade, now features the Shipyard Shops with discount shopping. On a hot day, Molly's Ice Cream and Deli beckoned. The views from this little family place cannot be beat and after lunch we strolled along the pleasant riverbank and learned about the area's history. With a little more time, we could have taken a ride on the River Taxi that plies up and down between offices and shops and restaurants, but we had to nose the HHR onto an on-ramp and head back to Philadelphia.
It seems somewhat ironic that this very democracy-minded state bred one of America's richest families, whose immodest estates and largesse resemble the Royals of Europe. But then, they got rich the old fashioned way--they earned it. Many defied convention, like E. Paul, the designer of luxury cars. But somehow we think that E. Paul and his cousin Pierre of General Motors would have approved of the HHR.
Left: Delaware's riverfront has morphed from an industrial shipbuilding scene, to a pleasant place to stroll, shop, and dine. Plaques along the way commemorate the area's history. Right: Portrait of E.I du Pont
With a family so large, the opportunity for great drama abounds, made even more intriguing by the clan's penchant for privacy. Unlike other families of great wealth in the United States, the du Pont success cannot be traced to one individual. Sons of the family, raised with a sense of noblesse oblige and clan loyalty, contributed an amazing variety of talents into the 20th Century.
The story begins with Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817), the last of the family to stay in France. His dabblings in government, particularly as a finance minister, got him in trouble during the French Revolution, but put him in touch with all the major figures of the age, and ultimately resulted in encouragement from Thomas Jefferson to bring his explosive powder business to America.
His son E.I. (1771-1834) got a slow start with the business on the Brandywine, but E.I.'s son Henry (1812-1889 was a good manager, and had the luck and connections to grow the company with government business during the Civil War.
Pierre S. (1870-1954) was credited with bringing the operations into the modern world, but family chaos resulted from a split from Alfred I. (1864- 1935), direct descendent of E.I. du Pont. Pierre S. became president and turned around a faltering General Motors in the 1920s. When the United States government began to take an interest in monopolistic business practices, they targeted DuPont and forced them to divest themselves of General Motors and make many changes in the way they did business.
Besides aptitudes in finance and industry, a strong botanical interest runs through the family. Despite the heavy demands of business, family members poured money and time into Delaware's education, transportation, conservation, and social welfare programs. Some ran for and gained public office while others were advisors to Governors and Presidents. The lavish lifestyle of the early 20th Century gradually became impossible as the family became more numerous, diluting the wealth, while government taxes ate up inheritances. While the family is still a presence in Delaware, and a few members work for the company, the DuPont company separated from the family more than 50 years ago.
By John Rettie
For those who are geographically challenged, Dakar is the capital of Senegal and is the most western African city--as in geography not culture--sitting just south of the great Sahara Desert on the Atlantic Ocean.
It's a city of over one million inhabitants and French is widely spoken --it used to be one of the largest French cities when it was under French-colonial rule. Today it's a bustling cosmopolitan city but it's pretty far from being a Mec ca for tourists --unlike other great African cities such as Cairo, Nairobi, or Cape Town.
"But nobody drives to Africa!" you say. Oh yes, they do--just ask the 2000 people who drive to Dakar every January. While, it's not a pilgrimage in a religious sense, it's still an out-of-this-world experience that many thousands dream of. Yet, it's something anyone with time and some money can do.
Auto racing enthusiasts know, of course, that I'm talking about the famous Dakar Rally, nowadays known just as "Dakar." The annual race began in 1979 and has become one of the most famous auto racing events in the world. Originally it started in Paris and in all but a handful of years has finished in Dakar after traversing the Sahara Desert via different routes each year. Around 600 bikes, cars and trucks compete each year with drivers from all over the world. Unlike most forms of major motorsports entry is open to anyone who feels competent to drive or ride across desert terrain.
The past couple of years Dakar has started in Lisbon, Portugal, where everyone involved gathers a few days before the start to get their vehicles checked for safety. Meetings are held to explain the rules. For example, every official vehicle that is going all the way to Dakar must have a sophisticated GPS system installed that displays waypoints for the official route and can automatically track the speed of the vehicle and its location at all times.
To ensure the safety of the thousands of spectators that watch the race in villages and towns en route, everyone, including racers is restricted to pre-determined speeds. Any racer caught speeding is penalized with time added to their results.
If a service crew is caught speeding it's just as bad, as the penalty is placed on their driver's time. (Of course, when the racecars are on a special stage away from inhabited areas they have no speed restrictions.)
There are pages of notes to read and a route book is handed out to the service crews and media. Yes, even the media that want to cover the whole event have to pay as if they are entrants and get their vehicle scrutineered.
And, that's how I came to be in Lisbon back in January. I first saw the start of a Dakar back in 1985 and although I've managed to see the start and midpoints several times since, I had never managed to find the time or finances to follow the whole event from start to finish. It was something I dreamed of doing--my dream finally came true this year. I was lucky enough to be one of eight media from the U.S. and Europe invited to drive along in one of the three Volkswagen Touaregs to cover the event. Our vehicles were identical to the dozen or so service Touaregs used by the VW support crew--I was in car number 915. To the uninitiated we looked just like another racecar.
Because of this, the Dakar is, in effect, more like several events that are all running in parallel--there are the competitors, support crews, organizers, media, and even spectators. Everyone is in on the happenings and getting to Dakar is the goal, but it's the journey that counts most of all.
Of course, spectators don't have to register, but they are not allowed to enter the bivouac at each night's stop.
They are also on their own as far as knowing the exact route but it's pretty easy to figure it out as the bivouacs are always located on the airfield nearest the town designated for that night's stop, and these are listed on the website where anyone can track the exact location of race vehicles during the event.
In Portugal, the location of the special stages are announced well in advance, as spectators are encouraged to get out and watch the action. Indeed the one million spectators had an easier time than we did on the first day, as we discovered firsthand.
We left our Lisbon hotel early in the morning, well before the official starting time, as we wanted to get to the first competitive stage about 100 miles from the formal start to see the racers in action. The autoroute was packed with enthusiastic Portuguese drivers, all hell bent on also making it to the stage. It was foggy and before long we were stuck in a massive traffic jam caused by numerous chain-reaction shunts in the backup of spectators exiting to the forest where the stage was taking place. We knew we'd get to see the racers in Africa so skipped fighting our way in. Instead we took a leisurely drive to that night's rest at Portimao, a resort on the Atlantic shore. So much for seeing the racers the first day.
Nor did we see them the next day. Instead, we left our hotel at--would you believe--2:30AM in order to make a mad dash at no more than 120 kph (75 mph) to catch a ferry at 9:00 a.m. in Algerciras, Spain to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Tangier, Morocco. If we'd gone to view the special stage we wouldn't have gotten to Morocco until late in the evening and we'd have been driving all night on unfamiliar roads.
That's how we became tourists, stopping for a leisurely Sunday lunch at a neat restaurant outside Tangier. We then voted to stay the night in a luxury hotel in Fez instead of trying to catch up with the competitors, who had taken a different route through Spain and slept on a longer ferry crossing. As it was, we never saw the race teams again until the evening of the third day when we arrived at the bivouac in Errachidia right on the edge of the Sahara Desert. From my past experience I know that following a rally is almost like competing, as you have to plan your day meticulously and spend a lot of time driving as you hop from one area to the next, leap-frogging the rally. However, when the whole event follows one long continuous route that never doubles back on itself it's tougher, unless you drive through the night.
Ultimately we saw the cars race for the first time on the fourth day.
The track was only a few miles from Hotel Xaluca Maadid where we stayed the night. This is one of the most unique hotels you'll find anywhere in the world as it is decorated with rocks that are filled with fossils of fishes from millions of years ago. It's a popular hotel with tourists and was featured in the movie Sahara. It was the second time I'd stayed there and one of these years I want to go back and spend more than a few hours exploring. For the racers, Morocco is where the rally becomes serious as the stages gradually get more and more difficult. They consist of a mixture of smooth tracks, rough trails, and pure sand dunes. However, the transit roads and the airfields, where the bivouacs are located, are relatively civilized. While the service crews and competitors have to follow predetermined routes, we in the media were free to choose our own routes and, as there are many good paved roads in Morocco, it was great to take shortcuts along back roads with beautiful scenery and fascinating villages well off the beaten tourist routes.
Thanks to plenty of ferry crossings from Spain to Morocco it has become relatively easy for anyone to take a vacation by car in Morocco. It's no surprise to see plenty of European race fans in their regular vehicles following the event through Morocco.
Then we reached Tan-Tan--a Godforsaken town on the southern boundary of Morocco--and the paved road ends soon after. Arriving at the bivouac is a real surprise for first timers as we are greeted by a line of hundreds of European motorhomes at the airfield on the edge of town. It's as far as most Dakar race fans get--for them, it's the end of their pilgrimage.
From here on, it's only the competitors and official vehicles that used to continue to Dakar. I say "used to," as there is now a paved highway that runs down the Atlantic coast to Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. It did not show up on any maps we had, so at the time we did not know of its existence. But when we saw 18-wheelers that had made the journey from Paris at bivouacs in the middle of Mauritania a few days later we knew they could not have crossed the Sahara as we did. Only then did an official tell us about the paved highway. We were glad we did not know about it ahead of time as we "might" have taken it, but then we would never have experienced the Sahara as we did.
Well before daybreak next day, everyone on the event set off on a rough track that leads to the border with Mauritania. It's a disputed border--this means there are minefields and one needs special permission to cross.
The officials open the border crossing and everyone involved in the rally convoys across and must keep to the safe "track" marked by Cairns and used tires. From there it's essentially a straight blast across a few hundred miles of flat, relatively smooth desert terrain to small towns in the middle of the bleak and windswept Sahara Desert. Normally it's one of the driest places in the world but this year it was wet and muddy as it rained for several hours just as the competitors were crossing the border.
There's something entirely surreal about driving three abreast at 70 mph on a rock-hard totally flat, dry lake bed that's not so dry. Fortunately it wasn't too muddy, although we could feel the surface becoming gooey at times, and if we slowed we'd probably would have gotten stuck. "Keep going" was the call of the morning. Within a few hours we were back on dry terra firma and instead we had to put up with howling winds and dust, dust everywhere.
I read somewhere that 40 (yes, forty) million tons of Sahara dust blows across the Atlantic Ocean every year and gets dumped in the Amazon rain forest. I did not believe it until I found myself in the dust. The Sahara Desert is shifting westwards and is gradually engulfing villages and even some cities in its path.
By late afternoon we reached Zouerat, a relatively civilized town that features an enormous iron ore mine on the outskirts of town. We got there just in time to see the leading bikes and cars reach the end of the stage. We also saw our first camel auction and experienced the strange way some highways suddenly require drivers to travel on left side of the road instead of the right. It's no British colony, but for some weird reason they have found it safer for the trucks. I never did see the signs that told us when we had to revert to driving on the right. But nobody cared once we were back on the desert. Our goal was to reach a railroad crossing where we knew the special stage would pass. We got there as the first bikes crossed and it was not long before we saw the cars. Fortuitously it was right there that Robby Gordon flew across the track in his Hummer passing Carlos Sainz in one of the race-leading VW Touaregs. He certainly knows when to put on a show --and the TV crew as well as about a dozen photographers captured his dramatic pass.
With a few hundred competitors starting the day at one-minute intervals it still takes several hours to get everyone on the road. By the end of the day, the racers are stretched out over many hours. As a photographer it's almost impossible to stay and see every vehicle without getting hopelessly behind. Even spectators, if they hope to keep up, have to move on after a while. It's no wonder that slower race teams often complain there are no photographers snapping pictures of them.
We continue on a pretty direct route to the next bivouac in Atar while the race route takes a more circuitous route through sand dunes we can see off to the distance to the east of us. We can also tell that the scenery out there looks more spectacular than the rather mundane flat lands we are traversing.
Atar. It's an ancient trading center in Mauritania and it's the midpoint of the 2007 running of the Dakar Rally. Two Volkswagen Touaregs have a commanding lead and everyone is looking forward to a day of rest. The bivouac is slightly larger than usual as several planeloads of spectators fly in for the rest day on charter flights from Paris, arranged by the organizers. Officially this is the only way spectators are allowed to be in the bivouac and they pay quite handsomely for the adventure. They also have to put up with the dust and heat. There are longer-thanusual lines to the temporary shower stalls and latrines--literally holes in the ground. Who cares? The excitement of just being in the Sahara on the Dakar is worth the discomfort. But, the food is great--what more would you expect from an event organized by the French?
As media, we were given a copy of the competitor's road book each evening and we had the choice next day of following the race course or taking the service route. If we took the race route we'd have to get on it early to avoid being passed by race cars and then we'd probably get stuck in the sand dunes. Instead we elected to drive to the start of special stages and watch the cars before taking the easier service route.
Ironically, from Atar the race route was far shorter than the service route but it went through some serious sand dunes. The racers were staying in Tichit with no service crews allowed, primarily because there was no access by paved road. The service crews were given two days to travel over a thousand miles on paved roads to meet up with the racers in Nema, at the terminus of another paved highway. We decided it would be foolhardy to attempt to follow the race route, so after watching the racers start the stage, we too trekked on the paved highway. As we drove through villages and small towns along the edge of the Sahara Desert we were greeted as though we were part of the rally. Kids and adults waved and cheered. Apart from one kid who was throwing some rocks, we were warmly greeted and felt no animosity.
Once, when we stopped for a picnic at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere we were surrounded by kids of all ages in no time at all.
They literally appeared out of the thin desert air. French is widely spoken, even in this Muslim country, and we were invited by one friendly teenager to join her family for dinner. Sadly we had to respecfully decline as we continued on our hurried way.
Even though we were literally hundreds of miles from the racecars, we found ourselves sharing the road with so many service vehicles we still felt part of the event. It would have been perfectly possible for any intrepid spectator to tag along as well. If they did, it would certainly be advisable to travel in convoy just as we did. There's something comforting to know that if you get stuck, you've got friends close by. Incidentally in more than 4,000 miles our three Touaregs only suffered three punctures despite the road being so bad in places that roads in Detroit would be described as mirror-like.
Another amazing fact about travel in these remote parts of the world is that just about everywhere we went we had good mobile phone service. Yes, my Cingular Treo indicated I had a signal most of the time. I know from experience that I cannot get a signal just a few hundred yards off the freeway in the California desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It certainly proved that cell phone coverage in the U.S. seems very poor when compared to sparsely populated third-world countries such as Mauritania.
By the time we reached Nema to once again meet up with the racers, we had heard word by phone that both the leading VWs had suffered mechanical problems and Mitsubishi was once again leading the event, even though none of their drivers had won any stages. Just weeks before the 2007 Dakar was set to run, the government of Mali (the next country along the route), had warned the French organizers that there was potential for terrorism in Timbuktu and advised them to cancel the two-day marathon stage with no service allowed. Instead the race took a much shorter leisurely oneday loop that started and finished at the same bivouac. This was the first and only time we were able to see all the race vehicles on a special stage. It was quite a treat to see the slower vehicles that, until then, we had only seen in bivouacs.
Approximately 80% of the competitors in the Dakar event are classified as amateurs. While many of the wealthier amateurs compete in specially built racecars, there are just as many tackling Dakar in almost-stock vehicles, such as Mitsubishi Monteros and Toyota Land Cruisers. It truly is an event for anyone who cares to enter; which maket something even the wealthiest of people cannot do at Daytona or Indy without being a skilled driver possessing a proven track record.
By now we were only four days from the finish in Dakar and the scenery was getting greener as we left the Sahara and entered Black Africa.
It was also getting much more populated and we were seeing people, especially teenage girls, dressed in western-style clothes. All of this signals that our adventure was coming to a close, and we'd survived with no dramas or bad experiences. On the penultimate day we watched the racecars on a stage near a small town. There were hundreds of locals out watching--they especially liked watching Robby Gordon slide his monstrous Hummer through the corners. He might not have been as fast overall as the ultra-quiet diesel- powered Touaregs but he was certainly as spectacular.
The final day of driving involved driving 350 miles to Dakar. It's funny: At the beginning of our 14-day trek nobody wanted to sit in the back seat of the Touareg. Each of us wanted to drive so badly we had to be democratic and take turns. But on this last day everyone just wanted to curl up in the back and sleep. Not me--I drove the whole way and it was a blast as we were on the same road as the racecars so I was passing slower service trucks while being passed by faster race cars. At the same time, I had to try to avoid enormous potholes and donkeys and people and overloaded trucks. It was like a video game. It got even better in Dakar where the traffic was abysmal on a Saturday afternoon. Rules did not seem to matter so it was not long before I realized that smart cab drivers were driving on the sidewalk (if you could call it that), weaving in between food stalls and pedestrians. Traffic signals could be ignored. I'm sure our stickers announcing to everyone that we were race car number 915 didn't hurt either. Okay, I came within an inch or less of touching something or another but eventually we made it to the finish at the Meridien Hotel in Dakar.
We'd made it--we'd completed the Dakar.
VWVortex--For all that is Holy to owners of Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Seat, and others, VW Vortex.com offers news, advice, and reviews on the latest from Wolfsburg, Germany. With gorgeous design throughout, and great event and feature coverage, it is a benchmark of elegant layout and information. Of note this month is a feature on VW GTIs that will compete in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring, and a recap of VW-powered racecar performances at the 24 Hours of LeMans.
National Corvette Owners Association--A site that acts as a clearing-house for Corvette related topics and events, and boasts over 18,000 members. The forums assist in de-ailing what ails your Corvette, while the Corvette Store carries practically every piece of Corvette-branded apparel and accessories known to man.
SaabCentral--Owners of the quirky, but lovable line of vehicles from Trollhattan, Sweden, can find all the answers to the most pressing questions about the bunch "Born from Jets." The News section of the latest issue announces the "rebirth" of the Saab Black Turbo X, which is a 9-3-based high-performance sedan that, according to the site, will deliver standardsetting levels of performance for the brand.
The Temple of VTEC--Fans of Honda's VTEC powerplants flock to this website for the latest in performance modification tips, parts, and new models. Geared more to the tuner than to your mother and her new Honda Accord Hybrid, it will keep you informed on the latest from Japan's second largest manufacturer of automobiles..
Blue Oval News--For those who bleed Ford blue, comes Blue Oval News, which is a cross between a company mouthpiece, an employee and retiree newsletter, and a "buffbook" for all the Ford Faithful. A nice archive and search engine feature round out the bill, which also features spy photos from some of our favorite car shooters!
Zil Automobiles--The official website of AMO-Zil, it features vehicles made famous as the limousines of choice for former Soviet and now Russian presidents. These so-called "High Class Cars" as well as other vehicles by the Russian manufacturer are described in metric form and offer an interesting view into Russian vehicle production. Click on the British "Union Jack" for English translation pages.
US13 Southbound at Delaware Highways-- A great adjunct to this month's feature on the Brandywine Valley, this website covers US13 in depth, from the Delaware Memorial Bridge south all the way to the Maryland border, great for getting the feel of this east coast two-lane classic.
US Route 6 Tourist Association--US6--also known as The Grand Army of the Republic (Memorial) Highway--was once the longest transcontinental route. Originally running from Provincetown, Massachusetts, to Long Beach, California, it now terminates in Bishop, California, at US395. While it may not be as well known as Route 66, this coast-to-coast route is a true slice of American Pie.
The Lincoln Highway Association-- This Web site showcases the history and the various alignments of The Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway, also known as US30 over much of its length until it gets out west. From New York City to San Francisco, traversing 13 states, the original Lincoln Highway linked the US from sea to shining sea and is a road tripper's ultimate challenge.
The Three Flags Highway, US395--We evaluated more than a dozen comprehensive US395 Web sites, but Cameron Kaiser's homage to US395 is clearly the best of the bunch and obviously a labor of love. Powered by great graphics, spectacular images, and covering practically every possible alignment, this site makes you wish that US395 still ran all the way to San Diego..
US89 The West's Most Western Highway-- From the Canadian to the Mexican border, US89 lives up to its billing as the west's most western highway. Traversing six national parks, US89 is best sampled in the spring or fall with a classic American convertible, or if you're a real western purist, a vintage Ford or Chevy full-sized pickup.
The Mother Road. Historic Route 66--The legendary road in all of its Chicago-to-Los Angeles glory, Swa Frantzen's website is the Granddaddy of all Route 66 sites (it dates back to 1994 and has been continually updated), and it remains one of the best. "If you ever plan to motor west, Travel my way, the highway that's the best, Get your kicks on Route 66!" This is the website to start your Mother Road journey...simply the best
By Brett Stierli
Am I crazy to drive more than 1800 miles to see a buried car? Perhaps I am. In my job as a Field Technical Specialist with Mazda North American Operations (MNAO), I travel a lot from our base in Irvine, California. Most of us working at Mazda are car enthusiasts, some of us have a penchant for adventure, and this includes my best friend, Pete Rovero. About four years ago, Pete called me all excited after he learned of a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere buried in time capsule in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Pete researched the story of the Belvedere on a website dedicated to the car with an actual countdown clock. It was then that we decided we were going to see that car come out of the ground on June 15, 2007, no matter what it took. And besides Pete, my good friend Earl Anderson, who works for Honda Motors of America, decided to join us with his son Mitchell. It promised to be a trip of a lifetime.
About six months ago we started planning our big trip. Right up front we decided to incorporate as much nostalgia into the itinerary as possible. As we all had wanted to do a Route 66 road trip, it was easy to incorporate The Mother Road into our itinerary, as it starts close by here in Southern California and Tulsa is a classic Route 66 town.
Each day we started planning in earnest, and decided that we would have at least one meal a day at a classic 1950's- or 1960's-era diner or restaurant and stay at one 1950's and 1960's-era Route 66 motel along the way. For me, this would be my third Route 66 adventure so I had some idea of what we were getting into. I always enjoyed traveling over Route 66 every few years to see how special landmarks have improved as things and places are being restored, or to see how some locations have deteriorated even more due to neglect. I'll never tire of jumping in the car and going on a long road trip, especially Route 66 between Barstow and Tucumcari, which is my favorite stretch of The Mother Road.
Us at the shoe tree east of Amboy, California. Bret, Pete, Michell and Earl we were going to see that car come out of the ground on June 15, 2007, no matter what it took.
The buried 1957 Plymouth on stage before its 50-year-old cover is removed.
Unfortunately we could not complete the trip in a classic 1950's- or 1960's-era vehicle due to size constraints. Neither my 1970 Ford Cortina (profiled in issue three of Automotive Traveler) nor my 1966 Mustang Convertible could accommodate four people and their luggage. While Pete recently acquired a very nice original 1966 Chevrolet Caprice station wagon, which would have been perfect for a trip like this, his purchase was so recent he didn't have time to ensure it would be completely road-ready. Nor was Earl going to volunteer his Boss 302 Mustang! As much as I'd love to road-trip a car like that, there's no way I wanted to ride in the back seat of a black interior car without air conditioning for a 3500- plus-mile round trip. I quickly volunteered my company car, a brand-new 2007 Mazda CX-9. The Mazda CX-9 crossover sport/utility turned out to be the perfect vehicle for a long crosscountry trip like this one. With its smooth, powerful, quiet 263-horspower V-6, and six-speed automatic transmission, and room for all four of us and our gear, it performed flawlessly while delivering great fuel economy (we averaged 22.7 miles per gallon) on regular unleaded, thus keeping fuel costs low. The ice cold, dual-zone air conditioner kept everyone happy, even when the mercury registered as high as 114 degrees.
It also didn't hurt that it was the Grand Touring model. The options included a Bose 296-watt, 11-speaker centerpoint 5.1 surround- sound system with DVD player. Its voice-commanded navigation system also ensured we wouldn't get lost while providing us point-to-point directions to obscure landmarks and continually calculating our time of arrival to every destination.
The DVD player was a big hit on the trip with all passengers. As we were tooling around on the Interstates, Route 66, and countless back roads we usually had a road trip- or car-related movie going. The movies we selected for this "All Guy" road trip were classics that we had all seen many times, so even the driver and front passenger could enjoy listening to them while the backseat passengers were watching. Our list of good road trip movies included "Smokey and the Bandit," the original "Gone in 60 Seconds," "Vanishing Point," "My Cousin Vinnie," "Christine," "The Hitcher," "National Lampoon's Vacation," "Used Cars," "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," "The Blues Brothers," and "Back to the Future." The CX-9 was also plenty roomy inside for all of us. The third-row seat folded down to provide enough room to keep all of our luggage and coolers inside the vehicle for added convenience and security at each stop.
I woke up early and took the
Cortina down to the "Cars and
Coffee" cruise in Irvine, California,
then headed back home early to
pack the CX-9 for the Tulsa trip.
Pete, Earl, and Mitchell arrived at
my house at 10:30 a.m. and we
headed on out. We picked up Route
66 in Devore and headed north.
We stopped for lunch at the Summit
Inn, a surviving old Route 66 restaurant
on the top of the Cajon Summit, and
then retraced Route 66 through the towns
of Victorville, Oro Grande, Helendale,
Lenwood, Barstow, Dagget, Newberry
Springs, Ludlow, Amboy, Chambless, Essex,
Goffs, and Needles. During Saturday's
trip we also stopped at the Route 66 museums
located in Victorville and Barstow.
Day one total miles: 287
We left Needles
and followed Route
66 through Golden Shores and Oatman, then
stopped for lunch at Mr. D'z in Kingman for
burgers and homemade root beer. We continued
on Route 66 through Hackberry, Valentine,
Truxton, Peach Springs, Seligman, Ask Fork,
Williams, Flagstaff, Twin Arrows, Two Guns,
Meteor City, Winslow, and Jackrabbit. We ended
our day by checking in to the famous Wigwam
Village in Holbrook.
Day two total miles: 328
No continental breakfast was available at the Wigwam so we stocked up on breakfast supplies at the grocery store across the street and ate our breakfast in a Tee Pee. We left Holbrook and drove through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks, then returned to Route 66 and traveled through Gallup, Grants, Laguna, Budville, and Albuquerque. When we reached Santa Rosa, we enjoyed a late lunch/early dinner at the Owl Café, a local family-owned restaurant that served the best chicken fried steak I've ever eaten.
We called it a night in Santa
Day three total miles: 401
We toured Santa Rosa to search for the famous Blue Hole,
a very popular deep-water diving spot. Unfortunately, we
couldn't get close to the hole due to construction around it,
so we'll just have to see it next time. From there, we traveled
through Tucumcari, San Jon, Glenrio, Adrian, Vega,
Amarillo, Groom, McLean, Shamrock, Texola, Foss, and
Clinton. We pulled the Mazda over at the Cadillac Ranch
west of Amarillo to stretch our legs and spray-paint our
names on one of the famous Cadillacs protruding from
the ground. While at the Cadillac Ranch, we met a guy
named Adrian from Fremont, California, who was driving
his own recently restored 1967 Plymouth Belvedere to
witness the event in Tulsa. A quick 20-minute drive to the
east side of Amarillo brought us to the world-famous Big
Texan Steak Ranch for an excellent steak dinner. None of
us were willing to try the free 72-ounce steak challenge,
which says if you can eat the entire steak, dinner salad, and
shrimp cocktail in less than an hour, the meal is free. On
the other hand, if you can't finish it's $72 out of your pocket.
We completed this day's travels in Clinton, Oklahoma.
Day four total miles: 357
Got the Mazda back onto the road and traveled through
Hydro, El Reno, Oklahoma City, Shawnee, Stroud, Depew,
Bristow, Sapulpa, Tulsa, Catoosa, Chelsea, Vinita,
Miami, Quapaw, Baxter Springs, to Galena, Kansas.
During our travels through Oklahoma City we stopped at
"Ground Zero," the federal building that was blown up
by a domestic terrorist, Timothy McVey. We also traveled
a little off-course to Shawnee for lunch at
Van's Pig Stand, which is a famous local joint
that's been serving great BBQ since the 1930's.
Headed back up to Route 66 and stopped for a
light dinner at the world's largest McDonald's
in Vinita, Oklahoma. This Mc Donald's is located
in the former 1960's restaurant called
The Glass House, which is actually constructed
across Interstate 44 giving diners a view of the
highway that runs below the restaurant. We
called it a night in Miami; which, to locals, is
Day five total miles: 354
Day six was scheduled as an easy
day without a lot of miles to cover,
so we all slept late. We cruised
back to Tulsa and checked into the
Crown Plaza Hotel, which is located
just one mile from the burial
site. After settling in, we walked
over to the event location to check
things out and to figure out where
we would want to stand to watch
the car come out of the vault. At the recommendation
of a friend of mine who also
goes out of his way to find obscure local
places of interest, we went to the El Rio
Verde Mexican restaurant in Tulsa. This
family-owned restaurant is located in a
rough part of town, but the food was excellent
and I would definitely go back again.
Day six total miles: 85
We all walked over to "Coney Island" for a manly breakfast of chilidogs; their neon sign says they've been serving them since 1929! After that, we headed over to the burial site where we chatted with other people waiting to see the car come out of the ground at the stroke of noon. Wow, what a sight! When the car was lifted out of the ground, it was obviously wet. It had originally been draped in a specially made sealed cover that was supposed to protect the car in case water did enter the vault, but it had failed over the years. The cover was silver when new, but now it was muddy brown with tears in it exposing some of the car.
What we could see of the car through the torn cover wasn't too good. As they were loading the car onto the flatbed so it could be taken to the convention center, one of the volunteers went down into the vault and pulled out a big piece of one of the leaf springs; the spring had completely rusted off of the car! We attended the official unveiling Friday night in the convention center and as they rolled off the silver protective cover, it was obvious the car would never see the road again--unless it's riding on a flatbed trailer. The car was covered in rust and mud from top to bottom, proving this car has been completely submerged many times over the last 50 years as the water table fluctuated. Luckily, the steel cylinder placed in the vault with the car had not rusted through and all of the items contained inside it remained in perfect condition. On her way to the convention center. Two guys obsessed with 57 and 58 Plymouths taking a picture of one of many in town this week. Just minutes after she's pulled out of the vault.
We headed over to the convention center for a car show with more than 400 cars in attendance. Most were late 1950's Plymouths as well as an impressive turnout of Prowlers. Now the unearthed 1957 Belvedere was placed in the center of the show so everyone could see her up close. Afterwards we left the show and headed to the Tulsa Fairgrounds to see the famous landmark called the Golden Driller. We ate great pulled BBQ pork sandwiches at Bill Sims, then dropped Earl and his son Mitchell off at the Tulsa airport so they could fly back to California. Pete and I began heading west and stayed the night in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.
We cut diagonally Southwest through New Mexico on U.S. 54 towards Alamogordo. We spent some time in White Sands National Monument before heading to Tucson for dinner at the Kon Tiki restaurant. Virtually the most authentic Tiki restaurant I have ever seen, the restaurant has been nearly untouched or renovated since it was built in 1963. From there, we headed up to Scottsdale for a couple of day's rest with relatives before making the rest of the trip home.
Once we hit the road
again, we drove back
to California nonstop.
Total miles from beginning to end: 3564.
We all started off Saturday morning, June 9, for Tulsa, Oklahoma, to see the buried 1957 Plymouth Belvedere as it was unearthed. We drove from California through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, until we finally reached Oklahoma.
When we got hungry we searched for all the restaurants that looked like they'd been there for at least 50 years. No new places for us, the older the better! For some reason, the oldest, hole-in-the-wall places serve up the best tasting food. of them as we could along the way. We were on a part of old Route 66 in California when we came across a tree with hundreds of shoes hanging from the branches. Pete and Brett have pictures of their previous trips through route 66 so they'd compare the old buildings over the years and note the changes they had Arizona was amazing. It had an eerie air to it because of the 'dead' trees. The Cadillac Ranch in Texas was great, the Cadillacs are half-buried in the ground so you can spray paint all over them, leaving your mark for posterity, or until someone paints over your message.
As we drove through Texas we saw a lot of old gas stations that weren't in business anymore, but they led us to imagine how it was when Route 66 was the Main Street of America. The old jail in Texola, Oklahoma, was well worth the stop.
We arrived eventually at Tulsa. Pete bought tickets online so that we could see the unveiling, and we were anxious to see what state the Plymouth would time capsule; sadly, time was not good to it while it was underground. On our last day in Tulsa, we stopped by the car show to enjoy the many 1950's-era cars. And, we couldn't call it a day without going by the "Golden Driller" in Tulsa. This very tall statue of an oil worker is a tribute to Oklahoma's oil industry and the men who worked in it. This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I'm glad Pete and Brett allowed my son Mitchell and me to tag along. I'm grateful for the memories that we made.
On June 9, 2007 my dad, his friends, Pete and Brett, and I left for Tulsa, Oklahoma. We drove Brett's Mazda CX-9. Although it was a great car, with all kinds of luxuries for a road trip, we saw a junk Galaxy we thought would be even more perfect at a Jack in the Box, and it sounded like it could barely run. As soon as we got to Route 66 we felt more like we were on our way. After a few miles we saw an 'EAT' sign that Brett wanted to take because it advertised nothing! No restaurants, truck stops, nothing, it was out in the middle of nowhere. We thought that was funny.
Along the way we saw abandoned schools, gas stations, and restaurants. We stopped at one of the abandoned schools and found a tree with shoes all over it; there must have been a lot of shoeless kids. We got to the city of Needles and decided to sleep there at a Days Inn.
The next day we all piled in the car and left. We crossed the Colorado River and just like that we were in Arizona. We had New Mexico and Texas to get root beer and there was a place that makes their own, so we went there. We bought a dozen bottles and gulped three each.
That night we stayed at the Wigwam Hotel. My dad, Pete, Brett, and I have oodles of pictures of this and other cool sites. If you've seen the movie 'Cars' you'll know that the 'Cozy Cone' was based on this hotel. It was actually very comfortable even though it had all these old cars in the parking lot. There was also a 'V8 Café' in the movie that was just like a Conoco Gas station we saw.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, had a cool restaurant called the Owl Café. They had the best chicken fried steak ever. We drove into Santa Rosa and stayed at a La Quinta Hotel. The next day we were in Texas and ate at a restaurant called the Big Texan. The dining room was huge. I shot a dead lady in the shootout game, and she jumped up and punched a guy. I also shot a piano and it started playing. It was like the Knott's Berry Farm shooting galley.
We drove through to Oklahoma next. On the way we saw a jail that was no bigger then a bathroom. We finally got to Oklahoma after days of driving and seeing old stuff like the Conoco gas station. We had to wait 'til the next day to see the 1957 Plymouth Belvedere resurrected. It was rusted out from all the water it had in it. Afterwards my Dad and I had to take a plane home and we skipped the return drive back. I'm really thankful that Pete and Brett invited us along.
Route 66 has always been one of encounter with The Mother Road occurred in 1994 when I joined Mustangs Across America, a caravan of Mustangs traveling from Sacramento, California, to North Carolina to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Mustang at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The caravan predominately drove on I-40, but we did drive enough sections of old Route 66 to fuel my desire to experience more. Flash forward to 1999, and I'm doing a full-blown Route 66 road trip, driving my 1965 Continental in a mini-caravan of three cars, which included Brett in his 1988 Mazda 323 GTX and a friend in his 1965 Mustang 2+2, with a couple of mutual friends from Australia riding with me in the Lincoln for ballast. We drove whether it was paved, gravel, or dirt. It was an unforgettable road trip.
Since then, Brett and I have revisited sections of The Mother Road on a yearly basis, from Victorville to Chicago, usually in one of Mazda's latest offerings: Mazda6, Tribute, Mazda3, CX-7, and even an RX-8. So, when it was time to plan the trip to Tulsa, the new CX-9 was in order, and Brett graciously volunteered. And since we had a couple of new roadies (Earl and Mitchell) along for the ride, the ONLY road to take was Route 66.
Route 66 has a life of its own, constantly changing from one year to the next, and that's what makes traveling it so exciting for me. I love checking out the different roadside attractions; comparing them today to what them, or even to what they were like just last year. Some continue in their downward spiral of decay, like the Ludlow Café, which has now been totally stripped of its identity by vandals, and the Painted Desert Trading Post, which I swear will be collapsed in ruin the next time I see it. Others are improving, like the town of Amboy, California, currently being restored by its new owner, and the freshly painted Blue Whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma. Places like the Bagdad Café, the Wigwam Village, and The Blue Swallow Motel have a timeless quality about them, and are a reminder of what traveling Route 66 must have been like 50 years ago, when there was no interstate.
And you can't leave out the human aspect...you meet some of the nicest people on the road. Each of us struck up quite a few conversations with the locals, who were always cordial, and ready and willing Mexican restaurant in town, or directions to get the best pulledpork sandwich East of the Continental Divide.
It was great sharing these experiences with my fellow travelers..
By Mark Elias
Through the years, my parents have become jaded. After seeing their oldest son go through stages that more closely resembled a sort of automotive attention deficit disorder by showing up each week with a different car from a manufacturer's press fleet, until finally they don't even notice most of the rides that I show up in. A recent visit to the home of my parental units was different. Driving through car-conscious Coral Gables, near Miami, it was clear to see that all eyes were upon the new Buick Enclave. Even Mom commented, "Boy, that's a fancy SUV, what is it? A Buick? I didn't know they made SUVs."
Well, Buick is doing its best to make sure that people DO know. But let's get specific here: According to General Motors, the Buick Enclave is a crossover-class vehicle. By now, we're sure you've seen the "Drive Beautiful" campaign that's appearing on a television screen near you, but this is really the best-looking Buick in a long time, despite the fact that Tiger You-Know-Who and GM product czar Bob Lutz say the brand has been building beautiful cars for years.
Built using the all-new architecture shared by its GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook cousins, the Enclave trumps the other two with bodywork that borrows more from an artist's sculpture studio than from the GM body stamping plant that turns out the panels used on the aforementioned vehicles. The classic Buicks of yesterday inspired design cues that carry over into what the company calls "heritage forward." This refers to the inclusion of design elements that, although may have been seen on past Buicks, have been stylized in an updated manner to keep the design fresh and up to date. The waterfall black chrome grille is similar to that on the Lucerne. Portholes, long a staple of Buick design, have been updated to look at home on the Lucerne, the Lacrosse, and the Enclave. Crisply cut fender flares enhance the wide track, and provide necessary cover for the chromed cast-aluminum 19-inch wheels that are an available option on the Enclave CXL AWD (all-wheel-drive). All this combined to create a new look so powerful, it seemed our rolling sculpture drew stares wherever we went in the South Florida area.
The ride of the new Enclave is easily equal to, if not surpassing, that of other competitive set vehicles from such makes as Lexus, Infiniti, and Volvo. Credit Buick's "Quiet Tuning" regimen for this. Items such as an acoustic laminated windshield and laminated safety glass in the two front doors, as well as injected acoustic foam in 28 locations, help to bring a new sense of quiet to the cabin. Speaking of the cabin, the Enclave sets the benchmark for new interiors from General Motors. High-quality materials abound, including a steering wheel accented in mahogany, as well as door, dash, and console panels accented with burlwood appliqués. The curved top of the center stack is a "new classic" design which reminds of the lighted portion of a Wurlitzer jukebox, but without the neon. So refined is this interior, its seating even features something Buick calls "silk-infused" perforated leather. (We're not quite sure of its purpose, or even what it is, but the seating feels good.) For the warmer climates, though, we wish "cool seats" were an available option. In its guise as a CXL with seating for seven, the second-row captain's chairs aid in keeping apart rambunctious young ones as well as cranky oldsters. For seating in the "way-back," GM's Smart Slide feature provides easy access to the third row, or the ability to reconfigure for added storage space.
More on the steering wheel: We think drivers would be better served with a redesign on the corporate steering wheel that features a few awkwardly placed buttons, and many more that could be eliminated through the use of toggle switches instead of one switch to raise the radio volume, and another separate switch to lower it.
As good as the rest of the Enclave CXL AWD is, at a curb weight of 4985 pounds, it is certainly no lightweight. As a result, it needs every pony that GM's 3.6-liter V-6 engine can possibly bring to the table. The engine's 275 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque are good starting points, but at times, seems wanting. This is possibly due to the six-speed automatic transmission (with buttons that enable sport shifting), which apparently is mapped to climb through the gears rather quickly in an effort to get to the most economical drive gear. Rumors of an impending Enclave Super model are so far just that: rumors. That's not to say that the extra power that comes with such a designation, won't be welcomed. Kudos to the engineers in the Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) department. The Enclave seems to have successfully eliminated most, if not all, of the outside noises and road imperfections that result in a less than comfortable ride.
Overall, the Buick Enclave is set to bring a new (younger) age of prosperity to the brand, and a new set of conquest buyers to the model. They won't be disappointed..
Body Style: 7-passenger crossover vehicle
Length: 201.5 inches
Width: 79 inches
Height: 72.5 inches
Wheelbase: 119 inches
Engine type: DOHC transverse-mounted V-6
Displacement: 3.6 liters
Horsepower: 275 horsepower @ 6,660 rpm
Torque: 251 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm
Transmission type: 6-speed automatic
EPA rating: 16 city / 22 highway
Base price: $36,255
Price as tested: $44,950
By Mark Elias
Some days it just pays to get dressed up. When Ford introduced its Edge crossover vehicle along with Lincoln's MKX, it felt as if they were showing the same vehicle first in a casual and then a more formal guise.
Both are equally capable vehicles in this growing category called "crossover;" breaking new ground for a company that has been firmly entrenched in the land of SUVs and fullsized pickup trucks. More comfortable than their larger corporate cousins, these carlike variants are a step in the right direction in a time that's calling for more economy and fuel efficiency, especially as fuel prices have stabilized just below $3 per gallon.
Wearing a handsome, if intriguing, hue called White Chocolate Tricoat, the MKX carries a dashing manner reminiscent of a certain secret agent known for making the scene in a dinner jacket. Seats that would not feel out of place in the first-class cabin of most transcontinental aircraft comfortably embrace the driver and up to four additional passengers; a choice of in-seat cooling or heating increases their comfort level. In Florida, chances are, cobwebs will grow on the heater switches before they see much use. Not so for the cool function that fights the stickies, which are so prevalent in a southern summer. Also providing added elegance is just enough wood paneling to impress, without causing undue stress on the local chapter of the Arbor Society.
Other inside comforts include a THX audio system with a Sirius receiver and a six-month subscription, as well as a DVD-based navigation system. The highlight of the interior, also happens to be, well, the highlight. Actually known as the Panoramic Vista Roof, it is one of the largest sunroofs available on any crossover vehicle. It's just one of those things that will put a smile on your face as you cruise along a great highway or backroad.
Speaking of cruising: the MKX we tested stood at the pinacle of Lincoln's high-zoot model line. Equipped with "intelligent all-wheel-drive (AWD)," it promises capable handling in both rain and snow. The AWD system, coupled with traction control, can transfer torque from front to back and side to side. Everyday driving shows off a vehicle that does not wallow like its larger SUV stablemates and handles and isolates road imperfections with ease. Credit the MacPherson struts with L-shaped lower control arms up front and an independent suspension with trailing blades, and stabilizer bar out back for that.
The 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6 is a reliable unit that also sees duty in the Lincoln MKZ and Ford Taurus. In this iteration as the MKX powerplant, it puts out 265-horsepower and 250 lbft of torque. Although we did not try, Ford claims it's good for up to 3,500- lbs of towing capacity.
Stopping power is supplied by a fourchannel ABS system. AdvanceTrac Ride Stability Control (RSC) is aboard to help prevent vehicle rollover. Safety equipment runs the gamut from the three-point safety belts in all seating positions, to the dual-stage front bags, working in tandem with the front-seat side airbags and safety canopy. An item that straddles the fence between safety and convenience is its optional adaptive front lighting system that causes the lenses to pivot in the direction the steering wheel is being turned as an aid to illumination around a turn. Quite an insightful idea, indeed. For 2007, the MKX received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rating of "Top Safety Pick.
In tony Palm Beach, Florida, the Lincoln MKX felt as at home on Royal Palm Way as it was in front of the Breakers Hotel or driving down Worth Avenue: It looked like it truly belonged there. In a city with more than its share of Bentley, Jag, and Lexus, its good looks attracted admiring glances from drivers of all three other brands, and is well positioned to be the new "Belle of the Ball.".
Configuration: 5-passenger crossover vehicle
Length: 186.5 inches
Width: 75.8 inches
Height: 67.3 inches
Wheelbase: 111.2 inches
Engine type: DOHC transverse-mounted V-6
Displacement: 3.5 liters
Horsepower: 265 horsepower @ 6,250 rpm
Torque: 250 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission type: 6-speed automatic
EPA rating: 17 city / 24 highway
Base price: $44,385
By Steve Statham
Fair warning--if you're trying to convince travel companions that you have a great idea for a road trip, you're going to get some funny looks if you blurt out, "We should walk down inside a volcano!"
But stick with it, because there are places in this nation where you can do exactly that without risk of melting your Tivas. One of the most accessible volcanoes is right off the lonesome stretch of U.S. 64/87 that cuts across northeastern New Mexico. There you'll find the Capulin Volcano, a National Monument that is part of the National Park System.
When contemplating volcanoes from this region, banish the image of a lava-spewing, Lord of the Ringsstyle Mt. Doom from your mind. Capulin Volcano is an extinct cinder cone that burst to life some 60,000 years ago, but has never been active in recorded human history. It is classified as monogenetic, meaning it only has a single period of activity.
What makes Capulin Volcano such a worthwhile diversion is the looping drive around the cone, and the network of trails that awaits visitors at the top. First, the drive: From the park's visitor center, it's a slow but exciting meander around the circumference of the cone, a climb of 1,300 feet above the surrounding plain.
The views from the road are genuinely spectacular, with vistas that extend all the way to Colorado in one direction and Texas in the other, although this visual feast is best left for passengers to enjoy, as the sheer drop-offs require the driver to keep his eyes on the road. It is mildly surprising in this day and age to encounter a mountain- hugging road that hasn't been babyproofed with guardrails, but Capulin is one of the remaining holdouts.
Our vehicle for this excursion was a 2007 Saturn Outlook FWD XR. The Outlook is Saturn's new larger-size crossover SUV and, with a quiet and spacious cabin, is well-suited to long hours driving across the plains. Despite its 200-inch length and 4700-pound curb weight, the Outlook felt nimble on the curving road up the volcano. We were traveling light, but there was room for eight people inside the Outlook (although six seemed a more comfortable number for crosscountry travel).
Above: The Outlook XR was handsome in it Red Jewel Tintcoat paint, a $395 option. Right: Our test vehicle had the Premium Trim Package with leather first- and second-row seats, and heated front seats, plus the Nav system and Advanced audio package.
Pulling into the parking lot at the rim, we were faced with a couple hiking options. The easiest trail is the short, 0.2-mile paved Crater Vent Trail down to the bottom of the crater. It's a 105-foot descent, but is an easy walk for children or others who don't want a strenuous hike. The crater vent is plugged, but the trail is surrounded by boulders of volcanic rock as a reminder of the cinder cone's explosive past. At the bottom is a display that explains how the volcano was formed.
For those who want to work up a sweat, the one-mile Crater Rim Trail offers eyepopping, panoramic views. As its name implies, this trail takes you around the top of the rim of Capulin Volcano. Like the Crater Vent Trail, it is also paved, and the many elevation changes--the highest point is 8,182 feet above sea level --will give you a good workout. The trail meanders around stands of pinyon pines and chokeberry bushes. Lizards scurried underfoot and bees went about their business during our hike. For anyone looking for a brief respite from crosscountry driving in this corner of the nation, the Capulin trails offer a great opportunity to get the blood circulating again.
Above: The Crater Rim Trail has plenty of elevation changes that will get you huffing and puffing, but also benches for resting and taking in the view. Background: Capulin Volcano. You can see the road winding its way around the cone. Services are few in the immediate area. Best bet for room and board, or food, is Clayton to the east, or Raton to the west. In Clayton, we indulged in a green chile cheeseburger at the Rabbit Ear Café.
Back on the road, with Capulin receding in the rearview mirror, we had plenty of time to contemplate just how far Saturn has come in a few short years. GM's recent push to upgrade the interior appointments of its vehicles is on fine display here, with the design and quality of the materials substantially higher than what Saturn supplied as recently as two or three years ago. The details work well, too; the green cruise control light in the speedometer binnacle in the dash is a nice touch. The wood trim was handsome, and thanks to the adjustable center console, the shifter always fell readily to hand. There's also a warning chime if you leave your blinker on too long. (Not that we needed it. Really.) The Outlook proved a quiet cruiser on the highways, and thanks to a tight body structure, never felt loose or flabby.
Output from the all-aluminum 3.6-liter V-6 is excellent, thanks to Variable Valve Timing (VVT), double overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and a 10.2:1 compression ratio. The XR model gets dual exhaust, pushing horsepower to 275, which is impressive coming from only 217 cubic inches.
Still, the Outlook is a lot of vehicle for a V-6 to pull around. Sometimes it seemed the six-speed automatic transmission was indecisive, as if the engine and transmission were sorting through too many commands. There were times when we pressed for more power, only to find less than instantaneous acceleration. We've driven the Saturn Aura XR with this powertrain, and it seemed better matched in that application. But when you hit the Outlook's sweet spot, the 3.6 delivers.
Right: Pronghorn antelope are a common sight in this corner of New Mexico. We saw several herds a mere stone's throw from the highway.
Outlook buyers will probably be more interested in its familyfriendly features, such as the "Smart Slide" second-row feature, the standard dual-zone a/c, the head curtain side air bags, and all that interior room.
The Outlook's quirks are few. We found it all too easy to accidentally engage the switch at the end of the turn signal stalk that controls the rear wiper. And we'd wager the sun rises faster than the power liftgate that is part of the Convenience Package. Besides that Convenience package, our test vehicle had the Advanced Audio package, Premium Trim Package, Touch Screen Navigation System, Premium Paint, and the XM Satellite Radio, all of which pushed the XR's base price from $29,995 to a sticker of $35,859. That's not out of line in this class, and there were times the Outlook XR felt like an even more expensive vehicle. And there are places to trim the price tag. The Touch Screen Navigation option came in at an eye-opening $2,145. It's a nice feature, but that's enough money to buy a fresh Rand-McNally road atlas every January for the next century.
On the fuel economy front, the Outlook performed within the expected range. The EPA gives the Outlook XR a miles-per-gallon rating of 18 city, 26 highway. In our travels --mostly highway miles, lightly loaded--we recorded tanks of 21.71 mpg, 21.46 mpg and 25.07 mpg, for an overall average of 22.7.
The quiet ride, roomy and comfortable interior, and XM radio ensured the Outlook XR was a good companion for the remote corners of New Mexico. And not once did we have to test its lavaavoidance capabilities..
For more information on Capulin Volcano, visit: nps.gov/cavo
For information on the Saturn Outlook, visit: saturn.com
By Mark Elias
Automotive journalists can be a jaded bunch. When Mercedes- Benz invited the country's auto media to McCall, Idaho, for the introduction of the 2008 ML550 sport-utility vehicle, many were heard to ask, "Where?" Once we all traveled through a "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" odyssey (minus the train component), we could see why M-B chose the area, which is located about two-and- a-half hours north of Boise.
After leaving Boise, our travels brought us up the Payette River Scenic Byway (Idaho 55), which naturally parallels the Payette River. A twisty, windy, but not challenging road, it featured amazing views on both sides, including many scenic overlooks for those in pursuit of the perfect "Kodak Moment." The white water was rolling, with many outdoor rafting expeditions evident as we were heading north.
Our location on Payette Lake in central
Idaho was a 77-unit, all-suite resort that
was the former Shore Lodge. Founded in
1948 and renovated in the late 1990s, it
reopened as the Whitetail, and is Idaho's
only semi-private golf resort and country
club. The 18-hole golf course is open
to members and hotel guests only. It is
joined by other features, which include
libraries, sitting rooms, sports courts,
and gymnasiums, as well as a private
beach and fishing ponds. Despite a few
operational glitches, which could easily
be rectified by proper training (and
some extra Wi-Fi routers), it offers a truly
spectacular view on a less traveled path.
The 2008 ML550 is a carryover design from the 2007 ML500, but has been refined in a few key areas. Key among them is the addition of the new 5.5- liter DOHC 32-valve V-8 engine, which is the new corporate V-8 platform. With 382 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque, it boasts a 26 percent increase in horsepower (+80) and a 15 percent increase in torque (+52) over the outgoing 5.0-liter V-8 engine.
Mercedes also saw fit to dress up the exterior more aggressively to reflect the more powerful stature that the ML now claims. Dipping into the AMG parts catalog, designers outfitted the ML with a new chrome grille, an AMG-styled bumper, and 19-inch, fivespoke AMG-designed wheels. Other items of note include standard running boards, a sunroof, and an aggressive rear stance. Squared-off chrome exhaust tips help to set off the dark, brooding rear end.
Inside, the ML has been dressed up more than last year's model. With burled walnut appliqués on the dash, doors, and the steering wheel, there's enough wood inside to revitalize the logging industry in McCall, Idaho. (For what it's worth, McCall's last sawmill closed down in 1977.) The transmission shift control has been moved from the center console to the steering column, opening up the real estate on the area between the seats to make room for a pair of award-winning cupholders (said award was presented by Wards Automotive). All this in a well-equipped ML 550, with the biggest M-B star in the grille of any Mercedes sold in America, will set you back $53,175 Simoleans.
Our drive through Idaho had us leaving McCall via Highway 55. From the center of town, it is almost 11 miles until Highway 95 North. Once along Highway 95, we quickly encountered a roadside marker for the 45th Parallel designating the point halfway between the equator and the North Pole. Whodathunk it would be in the middle of Idaho?
Three miles after passing through the town of Riggins (posted speed limit: 25 mph), we crossed the Little Salmon River, but not before we entered the Pacific Time Zone. While XM radio's Bluesville channel pumped out Eric Clapton's blues classic "Further on up the Road," that's exactly what did. Don't blink or you might miss the gold mine that's available for sale or lease on the right hand side of the road. The Little Salmon feeds into the Salmon River, and there we discovered one of the few rivers in North America flowing from south to north.
The drive northward continues through what was the home of the Nez Perce tribe of Native Americans. Named by French explorers for the piercings some wore through their noses, they were a peaceful tribe who were known as skilled warriors, but only when necessary. After crossing Hell's Canyon Bridge over the White Bird Creek, look for the White Bird Battlefield on the right; this is where the Nez Perce beat an American militia using bows and arrows against soldiers equipped with Winchester rifles.
A short distance further, and we were in Grangeville, Idaho. Grangeville is home to the Sunset Auto View Drive-in theater. One of 11 working drive-ins in the state, at the time of our visit, it was showing "Chuck and Larry," and "Knocked Up." Operated by the thirdgeneration grandson of the original owner, it is open on weekends and charges $5 per person; children from 6-10 are just $3 dollars.
We contined past the drive-in on MT ID Grade Road, and followed along nine miles of twisty downhill road to a sharp left-hander onto Idaho Hwy Route 14. What followed was 8.5 miles of one of the nicest riverside drives anybody is likely to encounter in North America. Keep your eyes peeled for deer and other wildlife feeding near the riverbank. The old adage says "All good things must come to an end," and so it is with Hwy 14. Be sure to look out for the Studebaker overgrown with weeds on the side of the road. We headed back on to Hwy 13, through the town of Kooskia, on to the town of Kamiah, where we continued on to The Flying B Ranch located on 5,000 acres in Lawyer Canyon.
Primarily a hunting lodge for corporate entertainment, the Flying B also hosts individuals, couples, and small groups of friends and families. An Orvis-endorsed wingshooting lodge, it is open year-round for all types of hunting and fishing activities. Call ahead for schedules and arrangements. Or check out their Web site at flyingbranch.com
We headed back to McCall using a backroad through Grangeville, and then right down through the middle of the White Bird Battlefield. It is a steep drop-off zone as well as open range area so prepare to encounter one or a few errant head of livestock on the zig-zaggy mountain road. Once through the town of White Bird, still with a speed limit of 25 mph, you are only a little more than an hour away from McCall.
Mercedes-Benz has decided the Luxury SUV class is fundamental to the growth of the brand. With the ride of the new high-performance ML 550 (which possesses a rightly deserved sporting attitude), it is the perfect vehicle to explore the great roads and outdoors of America. The ride is spectacular and offers the chance to pursue a road lesstraveled, even if it does wind through Central Idaho. Like one of those little hole-in-thewall restaurants that friends are always reminding you about: It's out of the way, but worth the trip.".
By David Newhardt
If any car has a maligned history, it has to be Chevy's revolutionary Corvair. Part of the 1960 introduction of Detroit's first real response to the success of the Volkswagen Beetle, the Corvair was the most exciting of the trio, featuring a rear-mounted aircooled flat-six. While not the same sales success as Ford's mainstream and utterly conventional Falcon, by the end of its first generation in 1964, the Corvair had carved out a respectable niche in the US market. Unfortunately, in 1965, the ceiling fell in on Chevy's innovative compact with its skewering in Ralph Nader's notorious book, "Unsafe at Any Speed."
With Nader's book, and the resultant bad publicity coming just after the introduction of the stylishly updated 1965-69 generation, in 1966 all development on the Corvair was halted except for mandatory safety upgrades. The small car mantle was taken forward by the orthodox Chevy II introduced in 1962, which later evolved into the Nova. By the time it was discontinued in 1969, the model lineup had been pruned to just three models: two coupes and a single ragtop with production a paltry 6000 units.
All of this history is meaningless to Automotive Traveler columnist Robyn McCarthy and her writing collaborator, Chaucer the Dog, who are lucky enough to own the car she grew up in: her family's 1964 Corvair Monza Convertible. The sporty white-on-midnight-blue ragtop is one of 31,045 built out of a total car production of 191,915 units (an additional 15,199 forward control vans and pickups round out 1964 Corvair production).
Speaking about the car recently, Robyn noted that her parents first purchased the Monza in the fall of 1963 in Lafayette, Indiana, when they were grad students at Purdue University. Her father was pursuing his PhD in physics and her mother was getting her master's in chemistry. They did not expect to remain in Indiana after grad school and were eager for weekend road trips and summer vacations in their first new car.
In the summer of 1965 the car really hit the road, towing a new whiteand- red Apache Raven tent camper to the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park for several weeks. Robyn noted that with the midnight blue Monza, it was a very patriotic color combination. (The Apache is also still in the family... and next in line for a restoration.)
"The car we all consider so 'cute" these days," relates her father, "was in fact a real workhorse." Robyn adds, "My parents towed that camper everywhere, from Mammoth Cave in Kentucky to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore--even hauling a big rental trailer to move their things back to Connecticut after my Dad received his doctorate."
"In fact, the only road that got the better of the sturdy little Corvair was one in Dinosaur National Park. Signs warned campers against towing big trailers down into a certain campground, so my parents stopped to ask a ranger if the Apache would be okay. Sure! No one thought to question what type of vehicle was towing the trailer," recounts Robyn. Two-thirds of the way back up the steep road the next day, it was clear the Corvair's two-speed Powerglide transmission couldn't go one foot further. A fellow camper in a truck stopped to help, towing the Apache and letting the Corvair zip up the rest of the way on its own."
"In the late Sixties," continues Robyn, "the Corvair moved our family cross-country to Tucson, where my father was joining the department of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona as an astronomer. I made the trip traveling seatbelt-less in my fancy French pram--with wheels removed--nestled in the back seat. What would the safety-Nazis say today?"
"I didn't grow up thinking the car was anything extra special," says Robyn. "It was just 'our car'--and if other people thought it strange that at picnics we pulled our blankets and hamper from a huge trunk under the front hood, it seemed perfectly normal to me."
In talking with Robyn, it became apparent that she had the "car guy" gene from a young age, even if she was too busy reading Jane Austen to realize it. In 1984, her family relocated to Munich and, during their numerous road trips around Europe, she felt a new interest in cars--especially the Citroën Deux Chevaux. They were fairly common in Bavaria, and she was dying to own one: "Compared to the nerdy little ubiquitous Opels and the BMWs that the science institute provided my father, the Deux Chevaux was a paradigm of charmingly quirky individualism on wheels. Besides, it was the complete antithesis of the Trans Ams and Mazda RX-7s that everyone back at my American high school thought were so cool. So, when we returned to Tucson, I saw the little convertible, which was put up on blocks before our year abroad, in a new light."
"Moving forward, to 1999, I undertook to have the car actually restored and began working with Oldies and Goodies Classics in Tucson. The project turned out to be bigger than expected, mechanical work, paint, upholstery, and a full transmission rebuild. The project took several years--we'd complete one step then I'd save up enough money for the next one--but the result was stunning: the car ran beautifully and sported a gorgeous new paint job, custom upholstery with piping, and a brilliant white convertible top. With the exception of the steering wheel, all other features from the dash area to the exterior logos remained factory original."
Unlike many of us, who have to scan eBay in an effort to recapture something like our first car, one of Automotive Traveler's literary types turns out to have been the one smart enough to hold on to that piece of family history. Bravo to you, Robyn..
By David Newhardt
One of the most wonderful parts of attending an event like the Woodward Dream Cruise (see event coverage on pages 40--42) is the wonderful and unique cars you encounter. It's also great to talk with the owners, most whom have great stories to tell about their cars. This was nowhere more evident than our encounter with Ruth and John Stone of Morgantown, West Virginia, who drove their Raven Black 1967 Ford Country Squire woody more than 700 miles round trip to attend the Dream Cruise. They typify the true spirit of the Automotive Traveler reader.
Ruth and John, who attend between 25 to 30 car shows each year, are members of the local Dream Machines Car Club in Morgantown. Together now for more than 35 years, they have a long history as car buffs, going back to John's first car, a 1936 Chevrolet standard two-door sedan that was purchased for just $35 and a bicycle taken in trade. For their first wedding anniversary in 1972, they were given a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline as a present from Ruth's Dad who had purchased the car new in Detroit. It's since been restored and then sold, and Ruth says they're still looking to find out what's happened to the car.
Their station wagon is not your average 40-yearold grocery getter. Ford's Country Squire, which came to typify suburban America in the Fifties and Sixties, was ordered through Beasley Ford in Cincinnati, Ohio, for use as a flower car by Derring's Funeral Home in Morgantown. It carried a sticker price of $5,110, almost as much as a new 1967 Lincoln Continental.
What makes this car so noteworthy is that a roof rack was not ordered, but still featured many factory-installed options including a C6 Cruise- O-Matic three-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, six-way power seats, power windows, and Thunderbirdstyle chrome wheel covers. Its optional dealer-installed tachometer is unusual, but maybe this wasn't as odd as it might seem--especially because the Derrings also chose to order this Country Squire with a 428-cubic-inch V-8, the largest engine offered in a Ford station wagon at the time.
Ruth and John have been able to trace the car's history all the way back through the three owners since Fred Derring's family sold the car after his passing. They purchased the Country Squire in May, 1996, to become the car's fifth owner. After purchasing the car, they submitted its VIN to Kevin Marti who uncovered some interesting facts about their car.
It was one of an amazing 952,553 fullsize Fords built in 1967 (to put this in perspective, only the current F-Series pickups sell in this volume; full-sized Ford sales in 2007 will total about 100,000 units, many of which are police cars). And of the full-size total, 48,115 were Country Squires equipped with Ford's unique dualfacing rear seats. Of that, 1,149 were equipped with the big four-barrel, dualexhaust 428 engine. Where things get really rare is that only seven were ordered with the AM/8-Track radio, the forerunner to today's premium audio system options. Only three of these cars were equipped with speed control and only two those had the optional underdash Convenience Control Panel installed. What makes the Stone's Country Squire a completely unique car is that Fred Derring's son ticked off the box for the Styled Steel Wheel Covers when the car was ordered. The cost of that option? A paltry $35.
Ruth professes that the car is in original, unrestored condition and that over the years it has benefited from a very high standard of maintenance from all its previous owners. In fact, she says, all of its many options--including the 8-Track player--still function properly. It's a regular at local car shows and has won too many awards to count. John wonders when he will need to replace some of the wood grain Di-Noc which has faded over time and professes that it is still a dream it is to drive. As hard as it might be to believe, he claims that at highway speeds, using the still-functional speed control, he's attained as high as 23 miles per gallon...simply incredible! Of course it does require the highest octane fuel he can find, given the high compression nature of the 428. And yes, the air conditioning still blows ice cold. Suffice to say, they don't make them like this any more.
Ironically, as rare as we might think a 428-equipped Country Squire must be, it wasn't the only one at this year's Woodward Dream Cruise. The Royal Oak Ford used car lot had another 1967 Country Squire: Not only was it a 428, it was factory-equipped with a four-speed top-loader manual transmission, bucket seats, and a center console. In an unrestored state, its documentation included evidence that this special-order car was approved for production by none other than Lee Iacocca, who at the time was the President of the Ford Motor Company. How cool is that?.
By Steve Statham
Automotive orphans, that is. For those of you who don't live and breathe cars shows, an "orphan" car is one from a manufacturer that has expired from the scene. A Studebaker is an orphan, as is a Packard. So is a Hudson. The latest to be left on the doorstep of the automotive orphanage are Plymouth and Oldsmobile, two once-sturdy makes abandoned by their corporate parents. When it comes to automotive orphans, they literally "don't make 'em like that anymore."
Still, a shuttered factory doesn't mean all the millions of people who bought the cars over the years suddenly drive them all to the impound yard. Owners of orphans restore their cars too, and they band together in clubs like everybody else, and they like to show them off at car shows. And believe me, at an orphan show you'll see cars you won't see anywhere else.
I dropped in on an orphan car show this summer in Denver. The American Motors Owners Association held their international show in early July, and I walked among vehicles that, were they mammals, would be on the endangered species list. You can attend Pebble Beach for the next 100 years and not see a restored Gremlin, but there were several in Denver. Pacer enthusiasts also had a presence, and I hadn't seen Pacers so clean since they were lined up new on dealers' lots. (I have to admit thinking--with all due affection--that a Pacer at a car show just naturally looks like an orphan.) And I've seen plenty of nice Javelins over the years, but the AMO Nats is the only place I've ever seen a six-cylinder Javelin restored to a high level.
Terry Gale is arguably the most prominent AMC collector in the country, if not the world, and had on hand this restored, right-hand-drive U.S. Postal Service Ambassador. You won't find one of these at just any car show.
A Rambler American makes a great compact platform for performance junkies. This owner opted for a small-block Mopar V-8.
Fred Neubauer bought this 1967 Ambassador convertible with 343cid V-8 and never let it go--he's the original owner.
But I don't mean to paint all the vintage AMCs in attendance as oddballs. Believe me, any motorhead worthy of the name would drool over the beautiful gathering of AMXs and Javelins, and only a snob would turn up his nose at the freshly polished Rebels and Ambassadors. It takes real dedication to restore an AMC product --you can't just call up Year One and have a complete interior shipped to your house, as you can with a Camaro.
This wasn't my first AMO meet, and I'm reasonably well-versed on AMC products, but at a dedicated show like this you'll always find real diehards, people who can decode a VIN at a glance. I found such a person in fellow Automotive Traveler contributor Mark Fletcher, who graciously introduced me around and guided me toward the most interesting cars. Fletcher owns a B-scheme 1969 SC/Rambler, in which he caravanned to Denver from Phoenix with 30 fellow members of the Cactus Cruisers car club. It must have been a heck of a sight. If there's one classic muscle car that can generate an industrial-strength double-take, it's a red, white, and blue SC/Rambler. "That's the reason we collect AMCs," he said. "We like the unusual."
So do I. I enjoy seeing restored Corvettes, Mustangs, and Camaros as much as the next guy, but at some shows your eye can glaze over after the first few dozen pristine examples of the same car. At the AMO Nationals (amonational.com),
I never had that problem. I found something different and interesting to inspect every time I turned around. I saw cars on display that I'd never seen at any other car show.
So, yeah, you'll never find a Gremlin at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and you'll never see a Pacer bid to six-figures at Barrett-Jackson, but the orphans seem to be doing fine on their own. Although I'll admit that driving a Gremlin to Pebble Beach does have a sort of perverse attraction, in a Homer Simpson-visits- Buckingham-Palace sort of way.....
With its mail-slot scoops, this 1968 AMX may look like some kid's home-built hot rod, but this "Pirahna" AMX is one of a handful built in 1968 for racers by Thoroughbred Motors and a Denver AMC dealer.