top of page
  • Chuck and Megan Marra

The End and The Beginning - Santa Barbara and Back. September 15, 2020

This was going to be such a fun day and start to a great fall (no pun intended). We were going to drive Sophia up to Santa Barbara to AA Import Services ( We needed to get Sophia to pass the California Smog Test and I needed someone who was good and that we could trust. Emilio at AA Import came highly recommended by a member of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Central California. It was also a chance for Megan and I to see her brother, who is also an Alfa owner, and show off Sophia to him.

As luck would have it the 'great fall' that was about to start took on a different meaning when just day's before, Megan jumped from some stairs (feeling all of 21) and broke her leg and shoulder in two places. She had surgery the next morning and wasn't going anywhere anytime soon in an Alfa spider. To make matters worse, all this happened during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, and we weren't allowed to see each other. She spent nearly two months in the hospital and rehab under strict quarantine.

To complicate this horrible situation days were still ticking on the temporary permit from the State of California, and Emilio works alone and runs a very busy shop. He had only one appointment open between now and the time the permit would run out. So I had to go this one alone, without my Alfista.

I packed a little 'care package' to get to Megan in the hospital. But they guard at the hospital door, was having none of it. Not only was there no way for me to pass, because of Covid, he wouldn't let me even leave the package for someone to take it up to her. He wanted me to just sit quietly and wait until whenever an nurse from that floor happened to come down to the gate.

After much persuading, the guard agreed to let me leave the care package with him and go on my way.

I called Megan and filled her in and then fired Sophie up and got on the highway up to Santa Barbara. I hoped to up in the Santa Barbara area by dinner time to have dinner with family, but now in L.A. traffic, that was not a sure thing.

Driving through L.A. was hot and slow. There was a lot of stop-and-go traffic that finally opened up around Thousand Oaks and the great hill you have to climb to Oxnard. Once on the other side, it was smooth sailing and considerably cooler. I got to the house just about on time.

Paul and I share a love of music, good food, and wine, micro-brews and Alfa Romeos. He has a gorgeous Duetto. We talked and drank good California wine until late into the night.

I woke up early, about six o’clock, and laid in bed until my mind came back into focus. I was anxious about taking the car to a mechanic; anxious about what he may find. Did I make a good choice? Would this be expensive? My anxiety levels have been very high lately. Megan is in the hospital for four days now, and I haven’t been able to see her in person. Trying to stave off the sadness and depression by throwing myself into work.

Paul had a pot of good Cajun coffee brewing, and after a light breakfast, we

caravaned up through the morning mist through the back streets to Emilo's shop.

The shop was filled with great Italian classics A Lamborghini sat next to a Lancia, and at the end of the drive was a very cool Fiat 124. There was even a Bentley hiding in another bay. I felt like I was in great hands.

After introductions, Emilio looked over the car and told me to give him a few hours and he'd see what he could do. He told me that he is not going to tune it; he is just trying to get it to pass inspection. He asked several questions. Is the car isn’t getting bad gas mileage? it may be not running too rich and it may be the catalytic converter, but we'll see. If it is, unfortunately, he recently lost his ‘exhaust guy so he’d have to send me to a guy in Goleta to put in a universal catalytic converter for about $350. I don’t know if that is with labor or without, but here’s hoping that isn’t the case, and it’s a routine fix that he can do. and with that, I gave him my keys and went off to search for coffee.

I took a walk around the neighborhood and found a coffee shop on Olive and Hadley and Ah Juice Organic Cafe. I ordered a coffee and sat at an outdoor table and waited.

If you have to wait for your car to be repaired, Santa Barabara is the place to do it; sitting next to a planter filled with mint and geraniums sipping a small cup of very good cappuccino. The misty ocean air is cool and the air is filled with the fragrance of the flowers and the aroma of coffee brewing.

The young, friendly barista was right when he said that coffee lovers like this particular

brew. I'm a coffee lover and I liked it very much.

Two very good cappuccino’s in, Emilio called. He got the Alfa to pass inspection and checked the car out.

Turns out there was a slight crack in the boot that goes to the injectors and the boot had come loose, plus the number 2 plug was a little fouled, so with a new boot and new plugs, he said it would be like a different car.

“You got a good one”, he said. I have to say, what a wonderful feeling it was to hear him say that. I breathed a huge sign of relief.

Emilio impressed me as a very good man as well as a fair and a top-rate mechanic. He services most of the AROC of Central California. I'm very grateful to him for getting Sophia legal for the California roads.

As I started down the entrance ramp Sophia screamed happily and there was power to spare. He was right. I did feel like a different car. She was quicker and stronger and gracefully cut through the cool fog, down the 101 from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria where a good lunch and great company was waiting for me.

The journey that had started in my mind months ago, was now speeding to completion. Doubts had plagued me for weeks now. That old saying, ‘if it seems too good to be true, it probably is’, quietly haunted me all across the country and into California. Surely now I was gonna find out it was too good to be true. It didn't turn out to be the case here. It’s a good car, at a great price from some great people.

I don’t know how often you drive the California coast but I can tell you, however often that may be, it’s not nearly often enough. The drive back down from Carpentaria was cool and foggy, the warm and clear. It was beautiful. It was the kind of drive that as a New Yorker, I always imagined a drive down the California coast would be.

After lunch, they walked me out to the Alfa and Paul was curious.. how different was Sophia from his classic Duetto? I handed him my keys and I got into the passenger seat as he fired her up and sprinted up to his long curvy driveway. When we got to the road, he got out, we all gave air hugs and fist bumps and said goodbye.

The drive through the convection oven they call the San Fernando Valley, was as pleasant as the Alfa could make it. But it was hot and frustrating but uneventful the rest of the way home.

However, parking the 1985 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce in our driveway this time, as thrilling as it marked the completion of part one of a dream and a journey. I have been

dreaming of owning and driving an Alfa Romeo Spider again for decades. I have been fantasizing about a cross-country road trip since I was a teenager. Both culminated in parking the car in the driveway. And I don't think I would have done any of this trip, this dream, if Megan wasn't a part of it. She gets me to do the most adventurous things. Now part two of the adventure begins. Where do Megan, Sophie, and I go next?

Check our our Santa Barbara and Back playlist on Spotify:

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page