After a tasty breakfast at Roxanne Cafe on Powell Street in San Francisco, we dropped by Pacific Motors for a check-in with Harry Hayashi. We were eager to know whether we’d be on the road soon, or whether we should plan a day of sightseeing. The Rover was still on the lift, but the drivetrain had been reassembled, and it appeared to be mid-oil-change.
Harry emerged from the depths of his shop, and we inquired. “Don’t bother me!” he said, as he hurried into his office. Dave and I looked at each other, incredulous. “End of day! I call you!” I was slack-jawed. Dave put his hand on my shoulder and shepherded me back to the Santa Fe. “If he wasn’t a genius,” I said, “there’s no way he’d get away with that shit!” I tried to re-frame it for myself, so I could appreciate that we had the best possible mechanic working on our truck.
We busied ourselves training at World Gym on De Haro Street, a few blocks away. I checked my phone compulsively as we trained, intermittently cursing him for being so rude and cryptic, and appreciating his obsessive commitment to making sure the ol’ Rangie was perfect before letting it out of his shop. We got “the call” just as we were finishing up.
Back at the shop, Harry was pleasant and friendly, wishing us well on our journey. The truck was parked at the door, ready to roll. I had spent some quality time with the Rover during its brief stay in my garage in New Jersey, but this was Dave’s first chance to get up close and personal. He climbed into the driver’s seat, beaming with excitement. I realized in this moment that I’d made a foolish mistake at the rental car office: I opted not to list Dave as a driver on the Santa Fe, figuring that I’d be doing most of the driving around San Francisco. Now I was stuck driving the Hyundai while Dave got the first drive in the Range Rover!
But what a drive it was. I watched in the rearview mirror as Dave’s smile grew wider and wider, punctuated with what appeared to be enthusiastic hooting and hollering. It was like watching a home movie of a little boy who got exactly what he wanted for Christmas: adorable, honest, and priceless. My jealously melted away, and I actually got a little misty seeing him so happy. Owning this old Rover is probably as close as we’ll get to bottling that feeling.
It was 3pm by the time we topped off the Hyundai’s tank and returned it. Most of our drive to Santa Barbara would take place under the cloak of night, so we cut west toward the coast immediately. Dave had never been to California, and I wanted to make sure he got to enjoy the vistas along the Pacific Coast Highway for what little daylight we had left. We made it to Half Moon Bay and fueled up for the first of probably 30 times on our voyage.
The first time we had a clear view of the Pacific, I pulled into the parking lot at San Gregorio State Beach. We had a tender moment in the salty breeze (with Dave, that is, not with the truck), and then I decided it was time for a photo op. I pulled the Range Rover into the picnic area, past a sign indicating that the area was for Authorized Vehicles Only. ‘It’s December, nobody’s going to care,’ I thought. The California Parks Police cares all year, it turns out.
I explained to the officer that we’d just stopped for a quick photo. Thinking himself quite droll, he asked me to read him the sign that was posted 10 feet behind the Range Rover. I read it to him, and he confirmed that my understanding of the sign matched his. I sheepishly told him that we’d just picked up the car an hour ago, and were at the beginning of a cross-country drive. He ran my plates, confirmed that the car was indeed mine, and let me go with a warning. I suppose I shouldn’t be so timid about getting the shot I want, but the Eagle Scout sitting on my shoulder will probably remind me about this near-miss the next time I try to push my luck.
We flowed down the PCH, coddled by the Range Rover’s silky smooth ride. As the sun sank into the Pacific, we focused our attention on getting to Santa Barbara, some 5 hours away, while our friends there were still awake. Google Maps offered us an alternate route through Santa Cruz, which I’m sure it thought was quite clever, but we still lost time.
If the drive to Santa Barbara taught us anything, it’s that we’d better have a refueling plan in mind by the time the trip odometer reads 200 miles. The fuel light went on at 240 miles, and we became aware that we were some 30 miles from an open gas station. We made it, but only just: the 18-gallon tank took 18.9 gallons to fill.
Our longtime friends Justin and Jeff put us up for the night. We drank some more California red, and got updates on Jeff’s new job, and Justin’s sister’s recent embrace of the love that dare not speak its name. We ate clementines from the tree in their back yard and rassled with their black-lab/golden retriever mix, Theo.
Bedtime arrived, and we opted to sleep on the air mattress, despite the boys’ insistence that we take their bed. They warned us that the mattress had just been repaired, but we assured our them that we would be fine. With no data to support our optimism, we woke up, predictably, taco’d into the middle of a partially deflated mattress.