Above: Event Organizer Martin Swig (seated on Chrysler New Yorker)
holds a driver's meeting to start every day, to inform us about
weather and road conditions and any changes in the route. Below:
The start. There are two examples non-American iron on the tour...
and both are Jag XK-120s... This one is an FHC.
After breakfast we have a quick driver's meeting in the hotel
parking lot and get underway. The first bit of interest is the
Kingsbury Grade up to south Lake Tahoe. Very cool. The Jag stays
cool too. We stay cool with the top down. Once we reach the summit
the weather gets ugly and we get some rain that eventually turns
Below: Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night will prevent
me from letting Dad put the top up. =)
The route dips into California and traces the Sierra along the
Cal/Nev border for about 50 miles, before we climb over another
pass and descend back to the valley floor and Nevada. The Nevada/California
border is like the Wyoming/Colorado one: You know when you get
there because the environment immediately changes.
Above: The weather gets nasty in the California Sierra.
Below: Heading back down to a canyon to Nevada, looking back.
The route takes us to Yerington Nevada, and a shop of a company
called Lilliput. They make (or market) old german wind-up car
toys. They now sell to collectors for big bucks. I grab a couple
of beetle toys for my collection. One old green beetle, and one
new white beetle... just like my real cars. =)
Below: Lilliput and some cool cars.
We gas up and head south, eventually doing about 20 miles of dirt
road to the "Flying M ranch" for lunch. One car damages it's gas
tank along the way. We have some great mexican food, and then
head to the airstrip for a speed event. this ranch is owned by
Baron Hilton (yes, the hotel guy) and he is a real aviation buff.
The airstrip is the only pavement for miles, and we make good(fun)
use of it. The event is a measured mile, but the catch is: You
start from a dead stop and you must finish at a dead stop one
mile distant. The only latitude granted is from bumper to front
wheel. In other words you must stop right on the finish line.
With a modern disc brake equipped car this would be trivial. With
an old monster like these it is a real challenge!
Dad wants me to run it and I talk him into coming along for the
ride. If nothing else than to tell me when I should start applying
the brakes. We line up for our run and our turn comes. I get a
slow start but work the car up to its comfortable top speed. A
little past 3/4 of a mile I let off and start slowing down. I
manage to (somewhat) easily stop the car on the line. We are allowed
a second try and we decide that we can do better and line up for
Left: Waiting in the lineup for the timed start/stop mile on the
Flying M's airstrip... the only strip of pavement for 25 miles
Below: The lineup for the speed event.
This time we figure we can go as far as 100 meters or so from
the finish before we start to brake. I get a good start this time
and we fly even faster than the first run. I keep it floored for
almost too long because when I start to brake it looks like we
aren't going to make it. As we approach the finish I am screaming
"STOP! STOP! STOP!!!!!" at the car and both Dad and Dan Radowicsz the timer are laughing
out loud. Somehow the old drums manage to stop the car in time
and Dan congratulates us on a fine finish. I don't know what our
times are, nor know how we finished compared to all this hefty
American V-8 iron... I'll let you know as soon as I do.
The next leg is about 45 miles of dirt road over the infamous
"Lucky Boy Pass." In years past it has been a nightmare, and it
looks like it could be one again... rain is threatening. We deliberately
start late so that we are at the back of the pack. I'm driving
and it is a bit tense to say the least. About 20 miles down this
dirt track I say to Dad "I don't think this sort of road is what
Sir William had in mind." referring to Sir William Lyons, the
man who designed the Jaguar.
Left: After 20 miles of dirt road you end up carrying some acreage
with you. Here is some dirt on the bumper of a caddy at lunch
After seemingly hours of having our bodies rattled and eating
three pounds of dust we ramble up the pass and plummet down the
other side onto glorious pavement again. The scenery was almost
worth the bone-jarring ride. We pass through a huge navy weapons
storage facility, and wind our way towards Tonopah. About 20 miles
from there we have to stop and add some gasoline to our tank lest
we run it dry. As the horizon is obscured by a fierce looking
rain storm we opt to raise the roof. In fact my Dad is shocked
when I suggest putting the top up. =)
Sure enough the desert rainstorm is a fierce one, but we manage
to skirt the southern edge of it and miss the real hard stuff.
We top off in Tonopah for the long run to Eureka up the Big Smoky
Valley. We are reversing part of the last day of the Cannonball Classic. When we passed through last fall the weather was clear and rewarded
us with spectacular views.
As we round the ridge and turn into the valley we see that it
will not be the same this time. The storm is boiling over the
range that makes up the western edge of the valley and we are
headed right into the storm...
Riders on the storm.
Clockwise From Top Above: Stopping to batten down hatches. Keeping
a grip on the helm in the force ten gale. Yeah right... not today.
Clockwise from Left: The duct tape job to prevent leaks (and the
top blowing off! Bubbles blowing through the bottom of the windscreen.
Below the view with no windshield wipers... just wait until it
As we enter the storm the wind picks up tremendously. Every time
a truck passes us in the opposite direction it looks like the
rapid change in pressure will rip the roof off the old car. It
also makes the engine hood rise and the sidescreens pop out and
wave in the wind much to our terror and dismay. We stop and do
our best to secure the whole rig with a generous amount of that
famed aftermarket weatherstripping and hold-together dear to the
hearts of british car owners worldwide: DUCT TAPE.
However once we get underway the wind even starts ripping THAT
off the car. Unbelievable!
As we get farther north the wind dies down, but the rain picks
up. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. The Jag's meager
windshield wipers eventually crap out. Of course Murphy's Law
hold true and the passenger side continues to operate while the
drivers side just lies on the hood of the car. This is Nevada
of course which means the land is too big to wrap a fence around,
and that translates to:
"COW! COW! COW!:" I yell as I see a small herd standing right next to either shoulder
of the road. There is another car coming towards us in the opposite
lane (just to make it more interesting! Probably the 5th car we've
seen in 100 miles!) By the time the third "COW!" comes out of my mouth Dad has figured out what I am shouting about
and stomps on the old drum brakes. As we and the other car converge
on the herd OF COURSE a calf runs into the road. I am bracing
for impact and prepare myself for witnessing an impromptu creation
of a days worth of Big Macs at the Tonopah McDonalds. Thankfully
the other car has disc brakes and stops about 10 feet short of
the calf. Dad somehow manages to bring the Jag to a halt as well.
Much honking and mooing ensues and eventually the road clears
of burgers, still on the hoof. We ramble on towards the north
end of the valley in the fading light.
Dad, spooked by the earlier bovine encounter, decides the evening
is becoming too dim for his eyes and hands the driving over to
me when we reach US Highway 50. The last 60 miles or so are in
the dark, with a rain-splattered windshield and the occasional
truck tossing a thousand extra gallons of spray our way. I'm getting
as spooked as Dad and ease way off on the hard driving. We are
almost two hours late for dinner anyway, so there is no need to
rush. Thankfully the twinkling lights of Eureka appear as we crest
a hill and we roll into the sanctuary of the Best Western's covered
We arrive at dinner very late, but thankfully (for us!) the combination
of so many folks straggling in late too and the service being
a tad slow that night, we don't miss a course.
For your viewing pleasure I'll toss in a couple of more pictures
from earlier in the day:
Go to the Next page: Friday.