TL;DR: The entire team assembles and meets Brian at The Stable to pick up the cars. We drive from Golden Gate Bridge to Leguna Seca Mazda Raceway, where we get the track entirely to ourselves for hours. We finish our evening eating pizza and drinking beer in a paradise house in the town Carmel-by-the-sea.
If yesterday was the calm before the storm, then today was an earth shattering 8-plus-plus on the Richter scale. A maelstrom of activity that can only be described as… virtually indescribable. But we’ll do our best.
As with most unforgettable days, the ones that root themselves in the deepest coils of your memory because they’re so chemically vivid and exceptional that they become seared into your DNA, our Day One began with a hearty meal (thanks to Team Targa). But even before we chowed down on our buttery, cheesy, eggy, all together mouth-wateringly decadent breakfast croissants, Devon was up at 5:30am fielding a work call; and shortly after that, our entire team —now numbering eight with the addition of Greg and Miles, our volunteer camera crew (more on these brave souls to come)— was assembled and buzzing around Mike McCauley’s one bedroom apartment. Lips were smiling, hips were gyrating, hands were packing, and creative juices were flowing (“We need a shot of the three riding side by side on the Golden Gate Bridge, even if it means holding up traffic!”).
In spite of our smouldering enthusiasm to get started, none of us knew exactly how to fan the flame beneath our collective butts. So we left Mike’s an hour-and-a-half later than we intended; and we didn’t get off the street outside, or the Vanborghini (our camera crew’s Italian Stallion) out of the garage, until forty minutes after that.
But make it to The Stable we did, eventually, and Brian the Gentle Giant introduced us to our four-wheeled palaces that were sure to become more familiar to each of us than our own homes.
Our sinusoidal start to the day —a hyper, caffeine jacked beginning to a long-anticipated adventure— meant that we would inevitably stall and be thrown into to a lull state, which is exactly what happened soon after arriving at The Stable. Immediately after arriving, we installed our custom Cocomats, provided as a part of their sponsorship package, and began to make a list of everything that could possibly go wrong (we determined that a trip to the DMV should happen but likely wouldn’t; we discovered a fuel cell that had a broken fuel gauge and busted censor; we found seats that wouldn’t seat people safely; turn signals that didn’t signal… the list was endless).
As we regarded the cars the same way I imagine wary cowboys would regard a wild mustang, a much more complete picture of what we were getting into began to form in my mind.
"You got power seats?" Taylor asked Mike about his Turbo, while critically observing Michael’s 911. “You've got luxury!”
Unintentionally adding to my growing trepidation, Brittany leaned over and said in my ear, "See those straps up top?” referring to the Sparco, bright red five point harness in the passenger seat. Her voice dropped to a low, gritty whisper, "It’s so that you can't ever escape once you start this road trip."
Needless to say, shit got very real, very quickly.
While Brian showed our serious-faced drivers around the vehicles, pausing as needed to bring the cars to a state of “plausibly ready,” Greg was doing his best to capture perfectly angled shots. His was a delicate dance to keep out of the way of grumpy-looking (yet surprisingly genial and helpful) mechanics who were hard at work, breathing new life back into broken old cars. We were supposed to be at Leguna Seca, almost 150 miles away, at 3:30 at the latest, but by 12:00pm none of the cars had even been started. And then all of a sudden all the parked vehicles that had been blocking The Stable's exit were gone, and we were ready to go!
Our three drivers settled into their vehicles (Devon in the Targa, Mike in the Turbo, and Michael in Bones) and with a quick turn of the hand, all machines were kicked into gear. Immediately, spine-tingling reverberations and deep mechanical growls filled my entire body. A dense cloud of smoke filled the entire stable. Exhaust fumes from the three antiquated vehicles were thick and metallic. Underlying the heavy musk was a near-edible aroma of grease and grime. My brain began to reject the onslaught of chemicals and lack of oxygen by punishing me with a case of nausea and the spins. But adrenaline won out and once I’d climbed into Bones and assumed my role as Michael's co-pilot, I was ready to rock.
We were ready to rock.
We promptly rolled out, and then promptly botched our exit shoot. So we drove back and shot it again. Shortly thereafter Michael’s gear knob snapped (the first of many times). We fixed it with barely a blink because we were on the road which meant that we were back on track. Kind of. Before heading to our first destination, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, we needed to make a fuel stop.
And it was a good thing that we did. We barely sidestepped our first catastrophic debacle -running out of fuel on Lombarde St. Bones’ fuel cell can hold up to 17 gallons of fuel and when Michael filled up the tank, he poured in a whopping 16.9 gallons with space left over to add more.
Having a near crisis didn’t matter one iota because as Michael had already explained to me, “If it isn’t terrifying, it’s not worth doing.”
Banter and expletives filled the airwaves (each team carried a walkie talkie set to channel 911): “This is really happening!”; “I’m fucking jazzed!”; "I’m so pumped right now!” all followed by my husband's loving affirmation, “I just want to reiterate this is the coolest fucking thing I’ve done with the exception of getting married.”
We were on track to arrive at Leguna Seca at 4:30pm, only an hour late in spite of our near four-hour delay, so long as we took the highway. From my deep bucket seat, positioned many inches below Michael, I peered out the window and beamed at everyone we passed by. Even the oblivious cud-chewing livestock that decorated the fields in droves.
It wasn’t until we parked the car outside the public restrooms at Leguna Seca that Michael realized we had a problem. A quick pow wow revealed our problem to be an issue with the starter, a minor setback that Mike McCauley had plenty of experience working around. So with a quick push down the hill back the way we came, Bones was back in action.
Sure that we wouldn't be allowed on the track because we were so late getting there, we were delighted to discover that the gods of crazy-good fortune were smiling down on us. Instead of being punished and having our dreams crushed, we were rewarded with a change of plans. They decided to grant us three or fours hours to drive the track, unsupervised, to our heart’s content. It was like being granted a Free Pass to all the rides at a theme park without there being any other theme park visitors!
Gary, our track tour guide and host, led us around the circuit twice before leaving us to our own devices. Over the airwaves of Channel 911 he revealed to us the secrets of the track (like how there’s 18” of gravel on the shoulders to couch spiralling drivers in sharp and pointy safety), and we crept along in silence behind his Mazda pickup in complete awe. It felt like we were defying natural law by being there.
After our two tour laps we said Thank You and bid Gary Goodbye. “Oh it’s my pleasure,” he responded. "We’re pretty proud of this old facility.” Old facility. Hah! I thought to myself. And then he sped away and left us, shockingly, alone.
What happened after that is difficult to capture in words. How do you describe what it’s like to feel as though you’re driving, no, flying, into a sea of sky, because the crest you’re approaching is so blind that for a brief moment you become convinced that the world must cease to exist on the other side? But that when you get there it’s really just a stomach-dropping 10-storey drop into a tight left curve that has you wishing you were flying into the sky, because it's safer to be alongside broad-winged soaring raptors than it is to be hugging the hot plummeting tarmac?
Soon everything, even my questions, disappeared from my mind as I became lost in the sensation of acceleration and absolute freedom. And when we had exhausted our minds and what remained of our adrenaline reserves, we collected ourselves and drove to our AirBnB rental property that was thirty minutes away, tucked in the upper regions of the lush hillside.
Our rental turned out to be yet another dreamscape, we soon found out, as our host showed us the paradise we were all sharing. A bespoke heirloom-filled cottage in the quaint community of Carmel-by-the-sea that our host's grandparents designed, built, and decorated (with commissioned oil painted artwork of their family’s Weston Terrier) years ago.
We had dinner reservations but we cancelled them. The idea of eating anywhere else but where we were staying seemed repugnant, it was so extraordinary.
As we sat around the table sharing the food of gods (pizza and beer), we gradually came back down to earth.
“Did that really just happen?” someone, I think Mike or Greg asked. No one answered. We all just looked around at each other, huge grins splitting our faces, and began to giggle. And then laugh, not stopping until we all passed out. Because while the day was done we still had tomorrow, and the next day, and the next after that. We'd just begun our adventure and it had already become so much more than any of us could have hoped for.