1200 Miles of California Backroads

Why not turn the trip to Coachella into a first-rate road trip? OK, done. 1230 miles later, I can attest that California's backroads are spectacularly beautiful in springtime. Words fail me in describing these breathtaking landscapes.

Fortunately, however, I can find the words to describe the best roads I found. 
Day One: SF to Santa Maria
I started the trip by taking Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay, then climbing up to Skyline Drive for the classic drive past Alice's Restaurant and Windy Hill, then dropping down on 9 to Santa Cruz. This is a familiar route to any Bay Area driving enthusiast. The weather was perfect and the midweek traffic was light. As usual 9 is a blast, with lots of dappled shade and tight corners descending from the mountains.  Highlight: Highway 9 from Skyline to Felton. Always great. This is a mountain road through the forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains, so lots of dappled light, narrow two-lane road, and tight switchbacks. What the Miata was made for.  From S…

1965 Corvette Final Assessment: Always an Occasion

Time to sum up my 3 years with a 1965 Corvette convertible.

Well, for starters, it was very different from the modern-era Porsche 911 Turbo that it replaced. From a pure performance point of view, it was no contest -- the Porsche is a modern almost-supercar, while the Corvette is an antique. But driving is not all about performance. In fact, maybe it's not even mostly about performance. Because driving the Corvette was always an occasion. Take it out, fire up that (very loud) V8, inhale that 60s American engines-gasoline-and-oil scent -- well, it was never just driving. It was an event. Neither the Porsche nor the new Miata have that. Hell, no car I've ever driven before had the sense of occasion and curb presence delivered by this one.

The other major impression that I'm left with: the Corvette is, and always has been, America's blue collar dream car. Wherever I took it, people (usually men) would chat with me, explaining that a grandfather or uncle or brother owned …

1965 Corvette Convertible: 3 Year Cost of Ownership

The Corvette is now off to its new owner in Arizona. That means that it's time, once again, to tally up the cost of ownership for this little "one year, interesting car, fully depreciated" experiment. Except, as those of you who are paying attention will notice, I kept this interesting car for just over 3 years. I'm not exactly sure how that happened, but I liked it and it took a while to sell (including a failed effort on Bring A Trailer that didn't meet reserve). Before I knew it, 3 years had gone by...

From a cost of ownership point of view, it's interesting to contrast this experience with the Porsche 911 Turbo that preceded it. As with that car, the main expense here was maintenance. With a 50+ year old car, maintenance is always going to be an issue. (Hell, it's the same with me, now that I'm over 50.) But, unlike the Porsche, there was also some significant depreciation here. That was probably due to a combination of (a) my having overpaid at …

Miata: Mods #1-3

No car is perfect when delivered, at least not for every owner. Besides, when a car is new, you can't fuss over maintenance, so you fuss over "improvements." At least I do.

Mod #1: Android Auto

This one was utterly crucial. In fact, I delayed buying the ND Miata until I was sure it either came with Android Auto or would be retrofittable. Who wants to live with auto company navs in a world with Google Maps? And who wants to perch your phone in a clamp on your dash when there's already a big color screen there?

In November 2018, Mazda confirmed that all models from 2014 would be upgradeable. Soon after, they starting shipping the retrofit kits, and the wonderful forums provided lots of advice on self-installing. The install took about three hours, all in, and now I've got Android Auto up and running, delivering Spotify, Pocket Casts, and Google Maps. Not to mention Google Assistant, which is more versatile than the Mazda voice recognition system.

Mostly, i…

Turo: 2015 Jaguar F Type

Thanks to Turo, I was able to rent this 2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe on a short midweek trip to Los Angeles (only $75/day!). It's the 340hp, 6-cylinder supercharged base model, with the 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. Coming in around $62k new, this one has already seen nearly 58k miles and some minor wear, given its "bought for renting out on Turo" life (the owner has a half dozen cars on Turo). Turning up the subwoofer revealed some annoying interior rattles, so I preferred the engine noise to the stereo for entertainment.

I ended up not having much time to drive it, other than to and from the airport and a bit in Highland Park. My chief impressions were:

It's a great looking car, and the coupe is better looking than the convertible, in my humble opinion. But you are completely at the mercy of the mirrors to see into the blind spots, which is a little daunting for those of us who still look over our shoulders when changing lanes;The automatic transmission is surpris…

Corvette: Last Things Fixed

Well, the time has come to sell the Corvette, which I've already kept for two years beyond my "one year" rule. So it's time to take care of the final little maintenance items.

First up, the steering coupler. It was worn when I got the car, and my trusty Corvette specialist, Pat Hendrix, has been mentioning it to me. It was never a safety risk, but better to tidy it up with a replacement.

Second, while we're in there, I wanted to raise the electric radiator fan trigger temperature from 180 to 195. The car has no trouble with overheating in regular driving, so no need to run the radiator fan at normal coolant temperature. After the adjustment, the electric fan only kicks in when I'm trapped in traffic after heating the engine up on the highway for a spell. Which is exactly when having the electric fan is handy!

Third, Pat mentioned that there was an oil leak from the oil pan gasket, so I decided to fix that, too.

It all ended up a bit more expensive than I'…

Car #3: 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible

This is a long-term purchase, so it brings my "different, interesting, fully-depreciated cars every year" experiment to a premature close. I always knew I would end up in a Miata, I just didn't realize it would be quite so soon.

I love the Miata. I drove my first Miata in 1991 at a dealer in Chesapeake Bay. It was love at first drive. But it wasn't until 8 years later that I could afford one -- a lightly used 1997 in Montego blue. I kept that car for 11 years. I still miss it. So it was inevitable that I'd be in a Miata again someday. And when Mazda announced the new, fourth generation of the Miata (the "ND" version to enthusiasts) for the 2016 model year, I nearly ordered the "launch edition" off the boat. Since then, nearly every car critic who has written about the ND Miata has rhapsodized about it. In fact, by car reviewer consensus, the ND Miata probably ranks as best all-around, affordable sports car on the market today.

I bought this 2…