Like any typical American, my knowledge of geography is a little lacking. When my fellow Car Autance contributors suggested “rolling up to Radwood” as a potential meeting point (the crew’s first time together!) the California-based guys all got excited. “Aw yeah, we can show Kevin all sorts of the California coast, take a long leisurely drive from LA to Radwood!” In my mind, I assumed that “NorCal” was only two, maybe three hours away from Los Angeles. Ha… no, it’s a lot further. But it did turn out to be a gorgeous trip, full of new faces, new people, and good car spotting. Here’s how it went.
We all work remotely here at Car Autance. There’s no main office we all walk into and look at each others’ faces all day in. Even the LA-based guys aren’t even all that physically close to each other (Los Angeles is a lot more sprawling than I thought). Having started this site at the height of the pandemic, we’d never even met for interviews or anything. Radwood was a good way for us to meet in person, shoot the breeze, and nerd out about cool 1990s era cars.
The plan was this: I would fly in from Ohio to LA. Then, we’d all meet up, and convoy in our cars from Los Angeles, to San Mateo, the night before. The plan was to take the 101, more picturesque than the 5, not quite as slow as the all-coastal 1.
Hold on, wait a minute. We’d had this big plan to drive two rad-era cars, through hot ass southern California, one car, in particular, a 1990s Land Rover? Oh, that’s asking for disaster.
Sensing the impending doom, we opted to take three cars, with Chris Rosales’s 2010 GTI serving as an old-car support vehicle. His car is new and modern, and comparatively reliable. With the plans set in stone, my ticket was booked from Columbus direct to LA via Spirit Airlines (my editor swears he was not trying to punish me when he made that reservation) and on flight-day after about four hours in the air on a chair that seemed to be stolen out of a Cushman golf cart, I touched down in LA.
Chris and Peter live outside the city, I learned (not mere 15 minutes away, as my Ohio brain pictured), so we agreed to drive and meet for lunch in Santa Barbara then convoy the rest of the way. (I also picked this rally point because I really wanted to eat lunch at Los Agaves -Ed.)
We’d gained an extra rider on our trip — a stray Victoria Scott. Her Toyota Hiace’s suspension decided to disintegrate on a mini-Overlanding trip. Stranded in LA, she hitched a ride with us to San Mateo. As a whole, all good vibes in our convoy.
Everything was good, chill, and fun — we packed Collins’s Montero to the gills and packed up to meet Peter and Chris in Santa Barbara.
Andrew’s Montero ate most of the miles in pretty good comfort. He insisted that “oh, ugh these seats aren’t comfortable, and the ride isn’t so great,” but I think I might be entirely ruined by my sporty Italian city car. The Abarth’s stiff suspension and 17-inch wheels mean that his squishy tired large SUV feels like a Lexus LS by comparison.
The support vehicle, the newest car there, meant to be the pinnacle of reliability, Chris’s GTI… broke. Hemorrhaging coolant, Chris hightailed it back to LA and swapped out his GTI for the family Jetta TDI workhorse. The rest of us continued.
I had never been in a Montero before, these trucks weren’t such big sellers out on the midwest, and the salt did the rest of them in quickly. I had never been inside a Land Rover Discovery before, either. We stopped in Pismo Beach.
Pismo Beach is gorgeous, with houses that are probably worth millions of dollars, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We pulled over to a vantage point for a couple photos and an oil-level check. Our old SUVs were comparatively ratty compared to the numerous Audi and BMWs roaming around, but none of us care.
We all chatted and looked at Peter’s Disco. Andrew had had one years ago and apparently missed it; as I mentioned, I’d never even sat in one.
Peter’s Rover 4.0L V8 engine, initially designed by Oldsmobile, rewarmed and thrown in Rover products until the early 2000s. For Peter, it used a lot of fuel, and a bit of oil. Over our 400+ mile trip, Peter was averaging something like 13 mpg freeway. Andrew was sure to remind him how much more efficient his 3.5-liter V6 Mitsubishi was (he claims he can hit 20 mpg on the highway with the wind at his back).
My mom’s bougie friend had one of these Discoverys, (possibly a Series 2, but the same difference). Her Discovery was constantly in the shop, and we wondered how the hell she afforded to keep it running. She ended up having a falling out with my mom, so I never got the chance to ever see inside her Rover. I’d like to think Peter’s was just like hers, but less bougie and pretentious.
Tired, and raring to get to our Airbnb and take a load off, we left Pismo Beach and drove the rest of the way straight to San Mateo.
It was great. Relaxed, rolling up the 101, living my best California dreamin’ life. I reflected on how unstressed I was, chatted about how a California work trip to meet the gang and write about cool cars is so much better than slogging behind the wheel as a Lyft and Uber driver. Chris opted to take the more direct route via I-5 with the family Jetta TDI, since he had to double-back from our lunch spot to switch cars. Even with a two-hour addition in which he had to turn around and switch vehicles, Chris met us in San Mateo a mere twenty minutes after we arrived.
It was great to finally meet the people I’d been working with for almost six months, especially since they turned out to be fun to hang out with. It’s always a bit of a dice-roll going on a long drive with somebody you’ve never actually hung out with in person, right? But when you get along, it’s an awesome opportunity to get to know folks. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good feel for Southern California. The “picturesque” parts of the 101 were mostly foggy for most of our journey.
Still, I was at rest, alert and spotting vehicles and rust-free prepping for our Radwood booth. 10/10. Would do it again.