Day 1 - August 19, 2020 Part 1 15 Days to California -
Updated: Jun 6
We woke up early, in Maryland.
We pulled back the curtains to find it was raining.
It looked like it was one of those long stormy moody days; a good way to start an adventure.
It was a big day. We were buying an Alfa Spider today. This will be our third one. It’s been twenty-six years since we owned our last one. I came to California with a blue 73 Veloce, and we bought a sea foam green 84 together and sold it when we had our second child and needed a minivan. Now, they are all grown up and today we are ready to start a new adventure: to explore and enjoy the sights and sounds and tastes of the world, starting with California. But we had to get it there first and as I mentioned in an earlier blog, Maryland allows you fifteen days to drive the car to it's new destination. California makes you smog and register it immediately.
The couple we bought the car from was absolutely wonderful. They picked us up outside the hotel and took us to their house. They were lively and friendly, and about our age. She immediately started joking with us as we began to drive. We talked about world events and family and cars and food as we rode through the rain to their house. Megan and I both felt like we’d found new friends.
Maryland is a different kind of green than California and in the rain its even more obvious. The leaves seem softer and the smell is beautiful and woodsy, Now, for the great reveal. They led us around the house, down a hill and there it was. In her shiny red barn and suddenly Etta James was singing "At last" in our heads.
She was well preserved, snugled in the very large red barn. Two glistening headlights in a passionate scarlet face, just waiting. He had her painted recently, so her skin was smooth and perfect. They took me on a tour of the car, pointing out any dings or issues (which were very few). I checked out what I knew to be tell-tale signs of trouble, but found none. It was exactly as promised.
It had been twenty-six years since I pulled open the distinctive Pininfarina door handles. They make a specific sound, you know, Alfa Spiders do, a kind of a sharp click and a short drum roll as they first open. The leather seats were in perfect condition. The smell inside the cabin was the same as I remembered. Peering over the wooden steering wheel, I saw the two small cracks in the dash that he told me about, then the shiny red hood and the rainy ‘out there’ waiting to be discovered. He handed me the tiny key.
I turned the key in the ignition and the engine fired rightup. The sound of the engine stirring to life made my mind race. 'Calm down, Chuck," I said to myself, "and look at this clearly". I listened. The engine purred as if it was happy to be woken up this morning. That purr was nearly identical to the sounds of the two Alfas in my past. Listen carefully. The pistons firing; no tapping, no noises from the belt or the flywheel, the cams, no exhaust fumes. Chuck, get out and check it all. From the tailpipe, dry carbon but no oil. No dripping from the oil pan. Clutch pedal strong. On and on through the checklist in my mind. Everything on the car was as it should be.
Every car has a personality if you take the time to look. Alfa’s are no different, and perhaps even more so than most. I actually had the feeling that she was not sure who I was. I remember unconsciously thinking. ‘That’s okay, we’ll all get to know each other. I sat there and listened for a while more. When I was satisfied and happy I turned the key and she fell asleep again.
Our hosts had prepared breakfast for us: French toast from a sliced baguette, fresh berries on top. They prepared a latte for me. She made her special tea for Megan. We talked easily and got on well.
After breakfast, we went to the Maryland Speedy Tag, which was efficient, but not very speedy. They had a lot of trouble with the printer and the correct paper, but we got it done. I had them make me a copy, tucked the original into my folder and with the copy headed back to their house.
It was time to go. We had miles to go, about 3000 of them.
We walked down to the barn. My host handed me the key. I pressed the clutch and the gear level slipped into first smoothly, better than my last memories of doing it.
A light touch of the peddle and the car pulled up the grassy hill effortlessly, but I could feel her asking: “Who are you?” I pulled the car uphill over the lawn to their driveway. We packed our luggage into the trunk. Back home, we had calculated how to pack everything with a measuring tape and to our delight, and relief, it fit perfectly now.
We took pictures, hugged, and shook hands, and got into the Alfa. Seat belts on. Rear-view mirrors in place. Turn the key. The engine sprang to life. Clutch down. Shift up left to first gear and Megan, Sophia and I pulled out of the driveway, waved good bye to our new friends and started on our adventure.