Disclaimer: If you have no love for fine sportscars, this isn’t your post.
Innocent enough question usually, but Paul had been contemplating taking his Uncle’s Porsche 911SC off his hands for the past week when he heard it was for sale. Paul was confused as to what to do, stating that it was irresponsible and bad timing. Like the good friend I am, I told him he had to get it regardless of whatever he was thinking, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity! After all, he had given me the same sound logic when I received a consolidation loan years earlier at the age of 22 or so. Foolishly I didn’t consolidate my debts, but instead purchased a Yamaha FZR 600 with the money — justifying the purchase using that great advice from my friend! Furthermore, the bike was located damn near in Canada, which he and another good friend, Ed, drove with me to pick up. (I am still sorry about the bumper on the truck Mrs. Wilson, please forgive me!) But in the end, it was the right choice! The FZR was a wonderful bike and it was the absolute right time to own it. So naturally I felt it was my turn to make sure he made the right decision!
A couple days later, Tom offered the car to him at a price he couldn’t refuse. I’m still surprised it took Paul all week to decide, but I guess he did just get his offer accepted to buy a house and all, LOL!
So when I got the call for the last minute trip to San Francisco, I was going, of course! Not only did I owe him, but the incentive to get some drive time in a 911, a first for me, well, I was not going to miss that either!
The timing looked pretty good on paper with no weekend plans, a first in what seemed like weeks and weeks of busy weekends all summer. That is until I remembered I was launching the new Admission’s website Sunday night, a task which guaranteed some kind of hang up that would last longer than an hour or two. And it’s a project I’ve been working on for months, that I really wanted to go off without a hitch. We cleverly (or perhaps foolishly) figured out that driving to Redding Friday night after work, to San Fran and back to Redding Saturday, and then the last leg Sunday morning, could work… But if there was a glitch in the schedule, I would be hurting to put the website together in time to meet the Sunday night deadline.
Friday, 0 hours, 0 miles
I left OSU a bit early and snapped this pic as I left town for Eugene to meet Paul. I had just enough time to throw together a bag, grab some two-ways from Radio shack and I was underway.
I arrived at Sheppard VW right on time at 4:30, and of course, Paul was swamped with last minute chores. But he wrapped things up as quickly as he could, did a quick oil change on the M3, and we were off. We ended up getting out of there about 6ish and decided to have a decent dinner at Taco Loco before hitting the road. After some tasty fish tacos, we were on our way.
Having made the trip to Sonoma many times before together, we were very comfortable taking I-5 at night. In fact we prefer it since there’s fewer cars to deal with and the lack of detail in the darkness somehow makes the trip go faster — or we were both sleeping and driving!
But sure enough, according to plan, we rolled into Redding and found a Motel 6. We both speculated that we had made great time and figured it was 10pm. Wrong! It was midnight and were suddenly re-energized with thoughts of flat six motors dancing in our heads. I don’t think we hit the sack until nearly 2 in the morning, and naturally, we were out of bed at 6:30, eager to get to our destination.
Before I continue on though, we need to talk about this motel. There are some standard, dare I say amenities, that one expects in a motel. Clean sheets and towels, check. TV with cable, check. Heck, the floor was even level, and we’ve stayed in places that didn’t even have that. But those kinds of places were $35 a night. This luxury interstate destination was a whopping $80+ with taxes. But those sheets and tv were the only things they were going to give you. No shampoo, no alarm clock, no wall hangings, and generic white paint on said walls. It was like a prison cell, there wasn’t even a phone book in this place, and even prisoners get to make phone calls! Paul was pissed, but I reminded him that he was getting a Porsche the next day, and he finally resigned himself to our palace for the evening.
Next morning, we decided a decent breakfast was the right course of action and ate in Anderson at a little off ramp dinner called the Koffee Korner. I remarked that it was a very klever name for the place, but the food was quick and the coffee was decent. And of course, the people-watching was priceless as we watched a 500 year old man hit on the young waitress with 10 kids.
Saturday, Hour 17, 360 miles
Just a couple hours after breakfast, we were at the part of the trip to the Bay Area that always goes the quickest. As soon as you hit I-505, it always feels like you’re almost there. You’re really not, but the adrenaline starts kicking in and the excitement builds. And then you recall that we’re going to get a Porsche. We were jacked up to say the least.
We continued on to I-80, and after paying the $3 toll for the bay bridge, we really were getting close. Paul whipped out his directions that he scribbled down from Uncle Tom and as I glanced over at them, I realized we had a large potential for getting lost. But the Lord (Ferdinand Porsche) was on our side, and so was traffic, which was astoundingly light! I hadn’t been to San Francisco this way before, but amazingly, we found the house on the first try. I say amazingly because if you were to ask me to make my way again with those directions, I doubt I’d find the place. But we weren’t picking up a Volkswagen Fox after all, and we made an effort to make the directions work!
Uncle Tom spent his career as a lawyer, and apparently a successful one. A warm and inviting man, he welcomed us into his house. Stepping inside, I was surprised he was able to part with it (he and his wife are moving to Shasta, thus selling the car and house). A large house downtown, with three levels, a basement, and a fantastic garage that fits three cars!
After the formalities, Tom didn’t keep us waiting as he knew we weren’t here to catch up on family. It was time to head downstairs to check out the car. I personally was feeling pretty confident it would be nice. But the possibility remained that the car was beautiful in Tom’s eyes, but needed TLC like many sportscars of this age. Not a chance. Tom did love this car, and spared no expense in keeping it perfect. It showed immediately.
The 1980 911SC has been maintained at a place called the Stable, by a mechanic named Charles. I’ve heard of the place before on enthusiast websites, and I knew they did good work. Paul mentioned that they’re very exclusive indeed, and aren’t accepting new clients! I thought only dentists made enough money to turn people away! But now I can see why they’re exclusive, this 25 year old car shows very, very well. The paint is a respray in the original color and original quality, also known as amazing. The seats are broken in, but no cracks or rips. No tears in the headliner, and not a single wrinkle or crack in the dash. On the underside, no rust, and in the back, it doesn’t leak! Paul said looking under the car, you’d swear it was a brand new motor.
Tom spent quite a while going over the details of the car, explaining the various switches, nuances and strange peculiarities of the car, all the while demonstrating that he was a true enthusiast and not just a guy with a car. His basement walls were postered with vintage race photos and a few of himself from the Barber Dodge track school. Paul remarked later after we had the car that it was clearly meant to be. Picking up a sportscar from a distant family relative in a story book like setting in downtown San Francisco. And he was right, everything was like a fairytale.
As Paul and Tom backed the car out of the garage, Tom asked if I was coming along. As I briefly peeked at the child-sized rear seats, realizing I would never fit, I glanced back to drivers seat where Paul was beaming with joy and anticipation. I wished it was me, and I said, you guys go ahead.
In the meantime I had the chance to chat with Tom’s wife, Larie. Even though their place is in the midst of being moved, she made me feel very comfortable as we waited for the boys to return.
When they got back, it was lunch time and they suggested we head around the corner to 24th street. They remarked that when they moved in nearly 20 years ago, it was all hippies in Birkenstocks. Now, it appeared very much like Portland’s 23rd street, with wealthy young people who were definitely trying to look like they weren’t, which was further evidenced by the very nice selection of upscale restaurants. We popped into this place:
The name of the place is Fresca, featuring “Nouveau Peruvian Cuisine”. And it was outstanding. A brand new place in a spot that’s seen numerous eateries come and go over the years, and it sounded like Tom and Larie knew the location well. The remodeled interior was light and airy with pale yellow walls accented with dark, open wood beams and skylights above. I had the Lechon Asada (Pulled Pork Sandwich) and sampled some ceviches (raw seafood pickled in citrus juice with a hint of vinegar), washing it down with the Cusquena Pilsen. It was all delicious and refreshing. Many thanks for lunch, Tom!
When we got back to the house, Paul and Tom took care of business. We all shook hands and we were back on the road already! But I wasn’t quite ready to leave town yet as I hadn’t had a chance to inspect the car personally. And we got lost trying to find the bay bridge anyway, so we pulled over so I could take a quick look. Paul was beside himself with his score, and I was in amazement. And quite jealous!
Saturday, ~ 24 hours, 600+ miles
We had the pleasure of heading back through Berkeley to get back on the bridge, and the traffic caught up with us. I think we went like 40 miles in 2 hours. As the kids say, it was teh suck.
But once on 505, and I-5, things were fine and thank god for a 70mph posted limit that allowed for 75-80mph cruising. Both cars were perfectly suited for this duty.
When we stopped for another break (Red Bull does give you wings, but will also make you pee non-stop!), I returned from the disgusting gas station restroom and Paul tossed me the keys to the Porsche and insisted I take a turn. Needless to say, I didn’t fight too hard. I was advised not to push it as it was pretty hot out (like I needed a reminder to take it easy on his newly acquired Porsche!) He showed me all the oddly placed buttons that controlled the mirrors, windows and sunroof. And it even has dealer installed A/C, which was a welcome and surprising feature I thought. Using my left hand to twist the key in the dash, it fired right up. I was warned about the clutch, but really it’s just an act of being deliberate. It either wants to be engaged, or let out, but not in between. Once underway, it’s no issue at all. At the first stop sign, I hit the brakes and nearly lunged through the window. The pedal is high and very firm, unlike the BMW, which is low and wooden at the moment. Later, I took a peek behind the wheels and the disc brakes are impressive for a car of this vintage.
Finally, the onramp! Paul was leading and generously let me have some room to get things underway. First impressions were that of mechanical precision. The gearchange has very long throws, but operates like a bolt action rifle and practically clicks into gear itself once you point it to the gate. The power accumulates slowly and isn’t as dramatic as I expected. But on the other hand, I glanced down to see we were already doing 80 and I hadn’t even used half throttle. The power is deceptive to say the least in this little car.
The car has a very short wheelbase and taut suspension. Steering is very direct as a result. Small inputs are all that is required as you look down the hood between the pontoon like fenders — just like all the videos I’d seen over the years.
But rather than staring at a computer monitor showing Top Gear rips from the internet, it was for real. I was driving a 911 and thrilled to be in the moment. The richness of details being soaked in through my eyes, ears, nose and hands. The smell of an older car that cools it’s engine with oil and air, the feeling of the road in my hands, the amazingly comfortable and supportive seats, the classic sound of the Porsche flat six…
I describe it as one of the holy grail vehicles for me, as I know I must own one someday. The only cars higher on the must have list are Ferrari’s, and beyond that require lottery winnings to acquire.
And the experience didn’t disappoint. The 911 is refined classic, even in 1980, having been produced for over 25 years already at that point. But the difference between a 911 and say an Alfa Spyder of the same vintage, is that the Porsche was not only refined but improved upon with every year. This car felt like a classic, but with a poise and confidence that allowed you drive it with authority. My 80-100 miles went by quickly, and suddenly we were back in Redding.
We pulled into a Howard Johnson that cost the same as the Motel 6 we stayed in the night previous, but this place did have a phonebook, an alarm clock, and shampoo 😉 I ordered up a pizza and Paul pulled all the goodies out of the car. An original and unused toolkit, the original owner’s manual that may have been read but once before. And the original window sticker, which read $31,000! Quite a sum in 1980!
As we sipped on beers, we realized it had cooled off outside and stepped out on the balcony above the parking lot. There were our two cars below us, and we cheers’d each other at the sight. This is what it’s all about we remarked over and over.
Sunday, Hour 37, ~1000 miles
I slept quite sound in our HoJo, and didn’t even hear Paul get up. When I did awake, Paul was just returning with Starbucks. +1 for Redding to have the modern convenience of good coffee! It was quite early, but it was clear Paul had been sleepless and up for some time already. So I calculated that we had about 5-6 hours to get back to Corvallis and just skipped the shower. We were back on the road around 7!
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to for reality to set in. I was not waking up, even with 20oz of caffeinated breakfast. And the impending thought of my evening of web work was starting to take it’s toll as well. It was going to be a Cranky Dan Day!
As we passed the border back into Oregon, we both commented immediately how crappy the driving conditions had suddenly become. California drivers actually drive very well on the interstate in their own state. The left lane is used for passing only in most cases, and traffic moves quickly. Once in Oregon though, you immediately hit all the brain dead Subaru drivers who figure 66mph is faster than the limit and entitles them to the left lane. Compound this with the faster driving California drivers, who expect the left lane to open up, ends up causing gridlock in the left lane. Meanwhile, we’re forced to sit in the left lane parking lot as well because the right lane is full of truck drivers and motorhomes. Again proving, I have no tolerance for poor drivers on the freeway, I was getting irritable. Very.
It was just before 11 and we spotted a McDonald’s in Sutherland and decided to grab a quick and nutritious lunch, and then finish our trip. This would normally be a pretty sound plan, but not today of course. We walked into the McDonald’s and saw a few people kind of waiting around for their order. A couple of others were awaiting the 11:00am mark, so that we could order lunch. Oh yes, the manager declared they were waiting another 3 minutes before lunch would be served. All right chief, I get it, we’re in your world, I’ll wait. I could go on and on about the next 20 minutes of my life that were needlessly wasted, but I’ll summarize by saying this: Mr. Manager of the Sutherland McDonald’s, YOU’RE FIRED!
Sunday, Hour 46, 1159 miles
We arrived back in Corvallis in front of my house at about 1pm. So far so good, we had pulled it off. And I might add, I’m not in shape, and I’m not 19 anymore. This was a tough day and I was exhausted. I stumbled out of the car, helped Paul with his bags and found the couch is short order. 30 minutes later, I found my bed and slept until 6.
Knowing I couldn’t avoid it any longer, I grabbed some Qdoba and headed to work. There weren’t any major catastrophes, but it was harder than I expected. I probably touched over 100 files that night and didn’t leave until nearly midnight. But I had done it. The site was published and was in a state of about 95% completeness. Good enough considering I was coming into work the next morning, and I headed out.
Sunday, Hour 57, 1165 miles
It’s Miller time! The trip was a success, and the website got published on time! Please check out the OSU Admissions site when you get a chance.
Thanks for a great adventure Paul, and congratulations on your well deserved score!