I’ll be honest – this experience was three days, happened at the last minute, and was one of the best experiences of my entire life. I’ve always wanted to travel around the country photographing people’s car collections for a coffee table book, but it involved more planning than I was willing to do at the time. One day, a gentleman by the name of Fernando J Alva Mirás emailed me asking if I want to drive a 51-year-old Citroen DS across the country to Pebble Beach in a couple of days. Needless to say, I dropped everything and made it happen.
When I arrived at his beautiful cottage in Connecticut, Fernando had parked a few fun cars out in the driveway, including the green DS convertible we would be driving. His family made us a nice lunch and we ate outside on the back patio. As we were packing up the car, he pulled out leather suitcases that fit the car’s style perfectly and it made me even more excited to get the trip underway!
We then drove to his friend’s house down the street that had another convertible DS in the garage. We pulled it out to get a great photo, and then made our way back onto the road. In the car I learned the two reasons we were driving across the country like this. First, the car had been purchased bought by a friend of his and it needed to be delivered to Washington; the other was Citroen being the featured marquee at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Our car wasn’t in the shape to be a concours car as it needed some aesthetic work, but it ran like a champ. I figured being a vintage French car from the 60s that we would run into some trouble, but we didn’t have a single issue the entire trip. One thing about these cars is that you can drive over a pothole and not even feel it. The hydropneumatic suspension is completely out of this world!
We decided that we would trade three hour driving stints, and sometimes we would just keep driving until we got tired. Our first fuel stop was in Intercourse, Pennsylvania. As we pulled off the highway, a horse and buggy just trotted on by. That was cool to see. While Fernando was filling up, I went inside to get drinks and snacks. It was then that I found out we were in a town called “Intercourse”. The gas station had all sorts of random stuff for sale that said things like “I love Intercourse” with “PA” in tiny letters. I had a feeling I needed to shake things up and make it interesting, and when my card came out to pay for my goofy gifts, I saw this $1 all black wrapped air freshener. I picked it off of the shelf and added it to my pile. What was the mystery behind the wrapper? A naked girl, of-course. Sounds immature, but the deed was done. Fernando came out with Rain-X and said every old car should have this stuff. Right after we got back out on the road, we were hit with torrential downpours. The timely Rain-X purchase worked perfectly as didn’t even need to use the wipers. What a great product!
We stopped in Illinois to visit Dave Mitchell at Mitchell Motorcars. What a spectacular place! Dave restores vintage cars and his specialty is Packard. He took us for a ride around the block in a stunning 1934 Cadillac Sixteen Town Car. The ride was smooth and luxurious, and I could see myself sitting in the back, sipping some scotch. Oh we had to take him for a ride in our car as well.
As we made our way across the northern part of the United States, we drove through some of the most boring places in existence. Iowa was just farmland and corn fields. The car needed gas and so we took the next exit. Come to find out, the closest gas station was 13 miles down this road that led into a small rundown town. The highest octane offered was 85; we had been putting 93 in the tank so far. 40 minutes later, we were finally back on the highway. What do you think the first thing we saw was? There was a gas station right off the highway. Also, a trucker girl emblem was purchased at the World’s Largest Truck Stop in Walcott Iowa.
I would say in Nebraska is when things started to become interesting. We were driving through Omaha, and I had the thought to get some steak as that is what the town is known for. The restaurant we stopped at was called Monarch. It was a really nice place and had the best steak I’ve ever had. Fernando agreed with me and he’s done his share of fine dining in his day.
Choo Choo!!! I was hanging out the window trying to capture photos of the train to show the speed. The conductor kept blowing the horn for me. We got far enough ahead of the train to catch the sunset with the train passing by. Because of the direction we were facing, I was just able to capture the car with the sun behind it. We got in the car and drove ahead again to try to get a picture of the train at night with our car parked near the track. It was a blast trying to capture, and I started jumping around with excitement when I saw what we captured.
“Definition of a Hustla” by RAY LUV was blaring as we pick up his buddies at the Denver International Airport. Every year, Fernando gets together with his college buddies and does something unique as a group. This year was spending a couple of days in Boulder, Colorado. As we were driving in, I couldn’t help but feel like we were in “The Hangover”: four guys in an expensive classic car on a desert highway heading to the city. If I were to move anywhere in the United States, it would have to be Boulder. The views are breathtaking and would make taking photographs much more enjoyable as locations are easier to stumble upon.
The AirBnb that we were staying at was spectacular. The style inside was like a Frank Lloyd Wright house, just worn out a little. It sat on the side of a mountain and had beautiful views of downtown Boulder in the distance. The thunderstorms that rolled off of the mountains were intense and we watched them creep over the city like the spaceship entering the atmosphere in “Independence Day”. I remember our waitress’s name at The Buff restaurant was Porsche, which was fitting, and rather sexy name. The Buff is a super popular breakfast spot, so we had to vacate and go to a nearby restaurant as the wait was close to an hour.
One afternoon, we decided to take a hike up Sanitas Mountain. This young fit woman ran by us and we asked her how long it would take to get to the summit, and she said 45. After two hours, we were only about 85 percent of the way to the summit.
Caption: What is going on here?
As our trip Boulder concluded, we hit the road again to meet up with Shawn Bowman and Gauthier Vandepeutte, both of whom have Citroen DS wagons. We went out for lunch and had a fun photoshoot which included me hanging out of the hatch of the DS and wearing interesting masks.
The highlight for the entire trip was driving through the Colorado National Park. The roads were very close to the edge of the cliffs. Texting and driving would be a huge mistake as you would plummet hundreds of feet to your demise. The view right as we drove in was so overwhelming that I had Fernando pull over so I could catch my breath. I had a difficult time photographing as I’d never seen anything more beautiful in my life. I was in complete awe of these monstrous rock formations. I had Fernando drive about a quarter of a mile and then pull over again so I could take more photos.
We climbed through a dark tunnel on the side of a rock formation that we had to go down a steep hill to get to. The tunnel kept getting narrower as we went deeper and we were crawling to this bright opening we saw. There was a grate above us and it ended up being a storm drain. For all we know it could have been a mountain lion den! At one point, there was a herd of goats just sitting on the side of the road. I got pretty close and then they decided to climb right up the face of a cliff. Are you kidding me?!
After we left the park, we drove through Utah and stopped in Salt Lake City for a quick bite to eat. Then, it was off to the Bonneville Salt Flats. Unfortunately, we missed the races that happened a couple days before our arrival. However, we got there just in time for a spectacular sunset. It was very windy and there was an absurd number of black flies. That was a highlight for sure for the trip.
(NO PICTURES HENCE THE STATEMENT BELOW)
We are going to skip even talking about Nevada as it was easily the most boring part of the trip. Let’s put it this way: we were on this road that was completely straight with a speed limit of 80mph and I fell asleep for about an hour and a half, and when I woke we were on that same straight road and it looked exactly the same. I felt like we were in the movie “The Book of Eli” when the house is all alone and decrepit. There is absolutely nothing out there!
Why hello, Truckee, California! We rolled up in style to where my childhood friend Danielle Mulloy works. We headed to her place and were greeted by Miller, the famous German Shepard. I love watching the Facebook posts of his adventures. Danielle took us out to Lake Tahoe and up to Donner’s Pass. Thanks again Danielle for an amazing time!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this trip!