The Cleveland Boy Goes California Dreamin’

In early April, I found myself flying into San Diego for a business trip, taking in the amazing view as the plane neared its destination. The hills surrounding San Diego provide a fascinating tapestry on which to paint a plethora of twisty driving roads. And there is no better vantage point than the window of an airplane making its final descent—well, until you are actually driving those roads, of course. Nestled among massive homes and estates are winding ribbons of tarmac that, despite the flattening effect of being several thousand feet above the ground, still manage to convey the dramatic changes in altitude that accompany all great mountain roads. Oh, to drive such roads would certainly be a delight!

It’s a good thing that I planned ahead.

With Spring Break schedules aligned, and grandparents thoughtfully agreeing to watch the kids, my wife (miraculously) was able to join me. For us Clevelanders, going to California at the beginning of April is a dreamlike reprieve from the it’s-almost-spring-weather-but-you’ll-have-to-wait-another-month teasing at which Northeastern Ohio is oh so good. Naturally, we chose to add a few days to our itinerary in order to explore the Pacific Coast city—and just maybe, find someone with a suitable set of wheels to peruse those mountainous roads.

If only we knew someone who lived in San Diego… someone who might have a BMW built for tackling those hills… wait! Doesn’t our editor live in San Diego?!

Satch graciously offered to let us exercise his infamous Z4 M roadster—license plate WOADSTR—recommending a trip up the mountains towards the quaint town of Julian. First, however, we agreed that we would meet at La Jolla Independent to pick up our steed.

Pulling up to the relatively tiny service center that is La Jolla Independent is like encountering a proper antiques shop selling authentic Egyptian artifacts—at your local mega-mall. Space is literally at a premium in these popular parts of California, so the owner, Carl Nelson, and his crew use some creative tactics to keep everything flowing and stored effectively. The landfill-cum-museum vibe provides a bold visual, with more than a few treasures hidden on the property.

Another bonus of the trip was that my wife—remember, she’s one of the copy editors for Roundel—finally got to meet the head honcho. And I also got to meet Party A, of whom I cannot say enough kind and wonderful things. But here’s one: she picks better custom license plates than Satch.

With introductions out of the way and keys firmly in hand, I found myself piloting the Z4 M roadster, top down and straight six purring away.

It may sounds cliché, but the Z4 embodies all that is good about a simple, competent, and entertaining roadster. The controls fall easily to hand, the pedals are perfect for heel-and-toeing, and there is plenty of playfulness in the chassis without ever feeling like it will bite you. I know that I have been here before, usually every spring, but I really do want a roadster. As soon as my young kids are old enough to ride in the passenger seat, the hunt will begin!

It’s certainly not uncommon to encounter a surprise or two when straying from big cities. In this case, we may have accidentally traveled back in time—I mean there was a TARDIS hanging out in Ramona. When is the last time you saw a Sears Hardware and a K-Mart next door to each other? And when it came time for food, we found Pinto Thai, a small restaurant off of Route 67 with exquisite décor and simply amazing food—recommended. From there we climbed upward towards the town of Julian, took in the sights, and then turned the roadster’s snout back towards the Pacific to soak in the sun and sublime views before dinner with Satch, Party A, and a few other like-minded car enthusiasts. What could be better?

It would take a pretty special car to top such a day with the M Roadster. Something like….

A Z8! Yes, Nancy Drew was being released into the wild—and needed a pilot. And Satch wanted me to drive it?! Wait, was I sure that he doesn’t have a large, set-value insurance policy on Nancy, with the hope that a friend bins it and he cashes in? Probably not. There would be no binning of cars that day—and I say cars, plural, because Nancy Drew’s stablemate was coming out to play as well. Party A also has a Z8, this one in black with cream leather and piano black trim, and it just exudes competence, combined with a classical flair that is missing from practically every new car today.

There will forever be a special place in my memory for the sound of two S62 V8s roaring through the California hills, the rumble of twin tailpipes from afar, combined with that creamy-yet-forceful induction note from the motor immediately tucked into the long bonnet ahead. Thank you to Satch and his (Definitely) Better Half for a truly memorable experience!—Chris Doersen

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