Cle Elum-Thorpe

This summer, there was a massive fire in Cle Elum, just east of Seattle. It’s a dry and windy landscape where the Douglas Fir trees of the Snoqualmie Forest give way to dry desert steppe and prairie. By Ellensburg, famous for its annual rodeo, the transition is complete.

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Hare-brained schemes

M and I are going to a wedding in France in three weeks. Naturally, the prospect filled me with hare-brained schemes involving old cars.

Witness my current fascination, a Marcello Gandini-designed ’77 BMW 528 near the mouth of the Rhone river.

Or this lovely Peugeot 504 coupe:

Or, looking for all the world like a cross between an Aston Martin Lagonda and a Subaru XT, the Lancia Gamma:

Long summer evenings

The long summer evenings in the Northwest afford some fun and unusual driving opportunities for car geeks, such as the Northwest Alfa Club‘s evening sessions at Pacific Raceways.

The track goes live at around 6pm, and continues through the fading light until the scarcely-visible checkered flag just past 9:30.

The Alfa club also tends to attract some fun and unusual machinery that doesn’t have a good home elsewhere. Some highlights:
Alfa GT Junior (and then some)

R-Gruppe goodness

Original Escort

Spring Thaw Entries Open!

Dave Hord and Warwick Patterson have opened entries for the 2012 edition of the Spring Thaw classic car tour. Last year, my friend Adam and I originally planned on doing it in his ’76 Leyland Mini 1000. Some needed rust repairs just couldn’t happen in time for the event, so we packed up my ’84 BMW 520i and hit the road.

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This year, the mini is much farther along, and we’re doing it again. Can’t wait.

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Best-Laid Plans

Mini Breakdown

I’m writing this from Bend, Oregon, where M and I have been spending a few days over Thanksgiving. Before leaving, we bought a new set of snow shoes for the mini, which proved their worth Thursday night on the mountain pass just before Goldendale.

For many of our road trips, the Mini has been a solid go-to car; chief among its virtues are its heated seats, good gas mileage and excellent road manners. Did I mention heated seats? Because of its relative youth compared to my other cars, we always assume it might be more reliable.

Friday night, after a walk in the woods 15 miles from town, it refused to start.  it would crank, catch for a second, then die. leaving only an engine-management error light on the dashboard.

All cars can break down at some point. Although modern cars are lovely creations, there’s simply not much you can do but call for a tow when problems happen. I can’t help wishing, every now and then, for a reliable old car I understand.