One thing nice about caravanning with Andrew and Dustin is that you don't have to worry about getting up at the crack of dawn. Therefore, on Day Three of our SEARCH FOR MADONNA, Stephanie and I got to sleep in. We were also soon to experience all the hoopla we had heard about driving on the infamous Hwy 1. Of course, at first, when leaving Capitola on Hwy 1 and finding it freeway, I was a bit disillusioned. That disillusionment would quickly dissipate, though, south of Carmel.
For the drive down to San Luis Obispo, our small caravan was joined by a local Miataphile: an ex-autocrosser in a '91 white by the name of Debbie. After grabbing some yummy pastries at Gayle's Bakery (well, there went the resolve to stick with the diet while on vacation!), we headed south for Monterey and 17-Mile Drive, a picturesque drive through the homes and golf course of Pebble Beach (wave to George Lazur; his ashes were scattered in Monterey Bay). South of Monterey, south of Carmel (and just where is that former mayor with-no-name when you are doing your best to lookie-loo while driving?)
Hwy 1 finally became the highway I had been reading about: awesome scenery and twisty and turnys that wouldn't stop. I didn't know what I wanted to do worse: keep up with Dustin and Andrew and Debbie, or slow down and gawk at the scenery. That decision was taken out of my hands when the "RENT ME" RV pulled out in front of me. The guy did a whopping 25 mph on what little straight stretches there were; I don't think my speedometer even registered the speed in which he took the corners. At least it gave Stephanie's knuckles a chance to relax and get the color back in them. It also gave us the chance to pull out and take a picture or two.
About 15 miles down the road, we ran into Debbie at an old fashion rest area (it's called a wayside inn with a public restroom). She had tried to wave Dustin over but he was having way too much fun on the curves, especially since he had an open road in front of him. Besides, he was excited and anxious to meet up with all of his old friends and family from the San Diego Miata club. No worries, though. Andrew had made sure we had directions to the Madonna Inn, and when it was all said and done, we arrived only 15 minutes later than they did.
Stephanie, though, was still a little concerned that we wouldn't be able to find the place. However, it turned out to be a no-brainer. Even if we had not have had Debbie leading the way, there is no way you can miss the Madonna Inn once you get on I-101 South. Not only does it have its own exit (Madonna Road), which dumps right into the parking lot, you just can't miss it sitting there along side the freeway. It's huge! And a bit garish.
Of course we would soon discover that the outside of the inn paled in comparison to the "uniquely decorated" rooms. And for the life of me I don't know why Stephanie didn't take any pictures as we entered the grounds especially given that the camera had not stopped clicking since we had left Washington. Maybe it was the fact she was hungry or maybe it was the fact that she was blown away with the sight of 30-plus Miatas of all shapes, colors, and sizes sitting in the parking lot.
As we found a parking slot with the group to slide into, Andrew and Dustin appeared out of nowhere. Again, they took their roles as "Hosts with the Most" seriously and made sure the newbies to this event would not be left out in the cold even if we were the last ones to arrive. We were graciously chaperoned to the PINKEST dining room I ever had the privilege of gracing, where they and Dustin's folks had saved us seats in a very large PINK booth. And while I felt awashed in a Pepto-Bismol commercial, the food was good.
Photo by Cindy Smith.
On the way to Hearst
After lunch we had a few hours to check into our hotel rooms, wash off the road grime and unwind before heading out for the evening tour at nearby Hearst Castle. Our room, by Madonna Inn Standards, was pretty normal that is for a three-bedroom, two-bath suite with a gigantic rock fireplace in the middle of the living area. And if gaudy, floral wallpaper is not your forte, than this really isn't a place you would want to stay.
Day Three was winding down and there still had not been a peep from my co-pilot about wanting to drive. Apparently, as she later informed me, she wanted to make sure that I got my share of driving time since this was the first Miata event in a long while that I actually got to drive. And since it had been all freeway the first two days of our trip, she thought it only fair that once we hit Hwy 1, I would be first to enjoy the thrill of driving the kind of roads that the Miata was built for. Besides, she was enjoying just sitting back and taking in all the scenery and new locales; she was actually digging being a lookie-loo. [GASP] My daughter is growing up!
But that was soon to change. I mean, after all, what is a Miata event without an organized run to a given destination? It was time to share the fun.
Trial by fire. That's what it was. Our hosts had a nice run mapped out to where we were to have dinner before touring the Hearst Castle, and I felt it was time for Stephanie to do some driving. Problem was, she had only driven on one other Miata event before and it wasn't in the MazdaSpeed. She was a bit nervous but game and took my advice by trying to get in the back of the group. But you know Miata folk. The SDMC were not going to treat their out-of-state guest by putting them in the back of the bus, so Stephanie got waved in somewhere towards the middle.
Her first big surprise was when she shifted the MazdaSpeed like she does her Integra the MazdaSpeed leapt into warp speed, as I like to call it. That brought a shit-eating grin on her face, let me tell you. The second surprise was how well she was able to keep up with the group (Man, this car corners nice!) and how patient and kind everyone was when she couldn't. Not a bad word was to be said nor a frown to be had by any SDMC member. In fact, when a lady by the name of Diane came up and told her how much fun it looked like she was having and how well she was doing, Stephanie just beamed. She had been so afraid of ruining someone's drive by her lack of experience, but everyone was just there to have fun just like her.
Part III: SHARP, SHARP! SHARP LEFT! SHARP RIGHT! BRAKE, BRAKE! M-O-O-O-M BRAKE! Or "Gee Bruce, I love what you've done with your robe!"