June 2-14, 1998
Having sold both the 1989
Lotus Esprit and the 1967 Corvette Coupe, there was an empty space in the garage that
begged to be filled. Fearing that the space might become filled with such
unessentials as lawn mowers, screen doors, gardening equipment and the like, I quickly
moved to fill the void and bought a 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV. The good news was that it
was a totally restored, zero-rust west coast car. The bad news was that it was still
on the west coast - Tempe, Arizona, to be more precise. So an expedition was formed
to retrieve it.
On Tuesday, June 2, Vi and I
flew to Phoenix and were met at the airport by Dan Cogswell, the guy who owned the Alfa we
were buying. We drove him home and then spent three days touring Arizona and New
Mexico in our new acquisition, arriving in Cuba, New Mexico on Friday. Meanwhile,
brother John flew to Albuquerque on Thursday and linked up with us in Cuba on
Friday. Cuba is where our friends Saucy (Harriet Russell) and Wad (Wadman Daly) live
and we spent a couple of totally enjoyable days visiting with them. Then John and I
left in the Alfa, taking just over a week to get home via a northerly route, while Vi
toured the Southwest for a while and flew back on the 16th.
Here's the route that we took
getting back to Boston in the Alfa. We chose a northerly route because we wanted to
spend some time in the Rockies, it looked more interesting and less traveled than crossing
through mid-America, and (primarily) it was June and the car has no A/C.
This page chronicles our
journey with the Alfa - the route we took, places we stopped (intentionally and
otherwise), things we did, and other exploits. Click on any of the smaller images
for a larger view.
This was actually one of several photos that was emailed to me while I was
considering the car to buy. It was taken in Dan Cogswell's (the previous owner's)
driveway. Dan picked up Vi and I at the Phoenix airport, we drove him home, finished
the paperwork, and left from there. It was hot in Phoenix - high 90's - and we
sweated a bit the first day, but the car ran cool and once we left the lower elevations we
After spending the first night as the only guests at a quaint inn run by a bunch of
throwback hippies in Pinetop, AZ, we headed northeast and spent much of June 3 poking
around the Petrified Forest (a bunch of big trees that fell over and turned into rock) and
the Painted Desert (I think they ran out of paint - we've seen more colorful areas
Canyon De Chelly,
Canyon De Chelly is a National Park in the northeast corner of AZ with a gorgeous
long, winding canyon, smaller than the Grand Canyon but much more colorful and
interesting. Navajos still live in the canyon and farm along the river. Highly
recommended, except that the entire area for a hundred miles in every direction is a
Navajo reservation and there isn't a beer to be found. Yikes!
Cuba, New Mexico
Arrived on Friday in Cuba, NM to visit our friends Saucy and Wad. Here's the
Green One, parked in front of Saucy's studio. John met us in downtown Cuba for lunch
at El Bruno's (for long-awaited green chili stew). John followed us to Saucy's in
his rental, and discovered that the Alfa had no brake lights, so we spent some time
cleaning fuses and connectors and repairing ground connections.
Saturday, June 6
Cuba, New Mexico
This is Saucy in front of her old Subaru (stopped rusting when she arrived here),
her studio on the right, and their house that they are building themselves (!!!).
They just moved in a few days before our arrival - bet they were glad to see us!
They have fantastic views and have built a beautiful, interesting house. We had a
Cuba, New Mexico
Spent quite a bit of time in this position. This time, I was trying to
determine why the horn wasn't working. Also, most of the lights didn't work reliably
until after the trip when I got a chance to go through all of the electrical stuff.
Upper left corner is John's left index finger.
Cuba, New Mexico
Saucy and Wad let us borrow a small map to take with us to help with the journey.
Here we are pointing out the starting and ending locations. At this stage,
these were the only two points we were sure about. Come to think of it, the only
point we were REALLY sure about was the starting one.
Frisco is about in the center of Colorado and, at 11,000 feet, is a cutesy ski
resort town. Yup, that's snow on the car and on the roof of the (not so cutesy)
motel we stayed at. Frisco also has a diabolical little insect that bit me all
around my ankles, which itched like hell for the next three weeks.
Here I am with the Alfa's instrument cluster removed and sitting upside down on my
lap. Both the tachometer and speedometer were bouncing crazily and noisy, and
finally the speedo started screeching like a banshee, so we disconnected it for the rest
of the trip. Since the gas gauge also didn't work, we determined when to stop for
gas by intuition.
Somewhere in the
We saw more impressive snow-covered peaks than this one, but it rained during most
of our travel through the Rockies, and neither of us wanted to get out and take a picture.
How about the rakish, aggressive stance of the Green Machine?
Black Hills, South
Having made it through Colorado, we stayed in Wyoming Monday night, drove through
the northwest corner of Nebraska, and into the Black Hills on Tuesday. Had to share
the road with numerous buffalo in this neck of the woods. They were considerably
larger than our Alfa, and not terribly cognizant of the rules of the road, so we yielded
the right of way.
Mount Rushmore, South
Felt a patriotic calling to stop at Mount Rushmore, since we were in the Black
Hills region anyway. It's a very pretty area, except where some bunch of doofuses
carved up one of the mountains. Stayed in nearby Rapid City Tuesday night, and found
a very decent brewpub built in a converted firehouse.
Drove across all of South Dakota Wednesday, stayed in Morris, Minnesota, and made
it to Wisconsin by midday Thursday. This is what Wisconsin looked like from one end
to the other. It rained steadily starting right when we crossed the border from
Minnesota until after we made it into the Michigan U.P. Wisconsin sucks.
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Stayed in Iron Mountain, Michigan on a rainy Thursday night, and drove the length
of the U.P. and crossed into Canada at Sault Ste. Marie around noon on Friday.
Sudbury is a fairly good-sized city in the middle of nowhere, apparently built up around a
nickel mining industry. Had our best meal of the trip at a French restaurant, but
compensated by staying at a cheesy Holiday Inn.
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
No pussy-footing around in Canada when it comes to the important stuff. In
the States, we hide our beer in grocery stores or nondescript-sounding "package"
stores. Didn't buy any beer here, though, since the clerk told us that the darkest
beer they had was something like Molson Golden.
Somewhere in Ontario
Stopped at lunchtime to nibble on some bread and cheese by the side of this lovely
lake in a Canadian national park. Cute park ranger didn't charge us admission
because, we think, she liked the Alfa. The car got lots of comments, grins, stares,
and thumbs up along the journey.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Rolled into Ottawa early Saturday afternoon, which gave us a chance to explore the
city a little. Ottawa's the capital of Canada and is a very pretty city (as cities
go) with lots of interesting architecture, much of it housing the various government
branches, embassies, etc. This is Parliament or something.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Ottawa has three brewpubs. One of them has good beer. Ottawa is fairly
safe and clean, although, from our vantage point at a street-side table in an open-air
Irish pub, we did witness a guy getting busted for soliciting a prostitute.
We both woke up early on Sunday, hit the road, and made it to John's house in
Medfield by early evening. The trip gave John an appreciation for the GTV, and he
thought he might want to buy one for himself, so on the way we stopped to look at one I
knew of for sale in Vermont (it was a bit too rusty).
The new old Alfa performed well for the
entire trip - the engine never missed a beat. We did have lots of electrical
problems (lights, horn, gauges, etc.) that were mostly due to age and corrosion, although
some of them were caused by incorrectly connecting things back up when the car was
reassembled during the restoration. It had an annoying driveline vibration that,
thankfully, became almost unnoticeable at cruising speed and, even more thankfully, didn't
get worse during the trek. After we got back, I spent a few days sorting a bunch of
things out and then handed it over to my Alfa mechanic, Paul Glynn of Glynn Motorsports.
He discovered that the suspension was totally shot and needed to be rebuilt, which
he did in addition to a number of other things that needed to be done, and presented me
with a very sizable bill to show for it. Seems as though the previous owner had the
car restored starting from the top and working down, and when he got to about floor level,
ran out of interest, money, or both.
But what a car it is now!!! With the
new suspension (I had Paul put in sport springs and Koni shocks while everything else was
apart) and the driveline vibration resolved, the car drives like (or maybe better than)
new! This 25-year-old Alfa holds its own among most contemporary cars; it must have
REALLY stood out among its competition back in '74. Plus, it provides LOTS more
enjoyment along the way (the unit of measure that I apply in evaluating car ownership is
"grins per mile").
John and I agreed that the trip was both
fun and worthwhile and that we'd do it again in a minute (we may have to if he finds an
Alfa out west like I did).
Thanks for visiting!
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