We've driven the I-15 back from Vegas maybe 50 or sixty times, and I love it, but it is a whole different drive in a ragtop.
From the entrance to the I-15 from the Vegas overpass through the desert, I was all at once hyper-present in the drive itself, and hyper-aware of the adventure that we had been on over the last two weeks, and that now it was drawing to a close.
The landmarks were the same, but they all felt different.
The drive had started out very cool, overcast, a little rainy here and there. It got so cold that we put on the heat (yes, with the top down) and as the temperature kept dropping as we climbed to well over 6000 feet, we pulled over and pulled the top-up. Seconds later, it rained.
The rain came down a little sideway and hard. We drove slowly through it wondering if this was going to keep up all day.
As we descended from 6000 feet, the rain stopped and the temperature began to climb
. We pulled Sophia's top down to reveal the high desert and the gigantic stones resting patiently along the highway as we were cruising to California.
Other drivers passed us and honked and waved or gave us the 'thumbs up' as they had done in other states, but very few of them let us over into their lanes when we signaled; we were home now.
Vegas to Prim.
Prim to Baker.
Baker to Barstow.
Barstow to San Bernardino.
We were sunburnt and wind-blasted in the blazing sun, but calm and comfortable.
We all had to do is get Sophia smogged and then get through the DMV. That's all we had to do. Nothing to it, right?
We couldn't find a place to smog the car at first. Sophia predates almost all of the modern equipment that most smog check places use.
'Sure we could smog your car.'.. everyone says until they see it. 'What kind are is this...no.. no.. we can't do this.
'My specialist is not here today.
Phone call after phone call until we finally found a shop that said they could smog test it but it's $65 'pass or fail'.
I usually like the smell and sounds of a mechanic's bay, but today, I was anxious. We sat on hard plastic seats while they checked Sophia out in front of us. The two mechanics murmured to each other in mechanic and staring at her.
The head mechanic came back to his desk by our hard plastic seats, shaking his head. She didn't pass. He didn't know why and didn't care, but he was pretty sure it was something serious. 'Probably a bad catalytic converter ... or maybe a blown head gasket..." or something tragic and incurable.
I drove Sophia away in a panic. Megan was still calm and unphased.
Okay.. what can we get done at the DMV?
We parked Sophia in the shade of the inspection arch. Megan staying the car, while I stood in line and waited.
The line moved inch by inch until I was inside the DMV. I have to say, all things considered, they ran a pretty good ship.
I got lucky and got a nice and helpful DMV helper, who brought all the paperwork up to speed. All I have to do is find someone who can make this pass inspection.
We sat outside of a restaurant eating mediocre food and trying to come up with a solution. We called dealerships and individual mechanics and smog shops all within driving distance and still in California.
"No. I don't work on cars that old."
"I don't even know where I'd get a shop manual."
Okay, I thought to myself, I've bought gorgeous screaming red paperweight.
I've seen other older Alfa Spiders on the road in California. Someone has got to know how to smog her.
It was then that we got the idea to call the president of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Central California, who also happens to be my brother-in-law, Megan's brother Paul.
Paul gave me the name of a man who services the whole club. His name is Emilio. Remember that name. It may save your life and sanity someday.
I'd call Emilio and set up a time to drive up the coast and see him, but It was hot and we were tired and frustrated. It was time to head home. Once we were home and unpacked and showered and rested, we'd feel more hopeful. I was now relaxing some in the likelihood that he can fix whatever is wrong with Sophia and get her to pass the California Smog Inspection.
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