Additional photos by DWA!
Did you ever go to summer camp as a kid? You and a few dozen children sharing the common experience of a week in the wilderness—a bonding experience, something you'll all remember for the rest of your lives. Now imagine such an experience for adult car fanatics and you get a general feel for participation in the Coastal Range Rally.
We joined nearly 70 cars' worth of people, at least 100 folks, for a three-day, 700-mile drive through some of California's best roads. The event is hosted by the guys behind the Driving While Awesome! Podcast, so it's got to be awesome, right? I mean, it's in the name. This is an event all about inclusion, eschewing traditional classic rally year range and make or model restrictions. The only limitation on participation is that your car must be something with a "sense of occasion," something fun.
The event attracted drivers from all over the western half of the U.S., and possibly the widest variety of automobiles ever assembled. While nearly a third of the entries were built by Porsche, they ran the gamut from early longhood cars, a 912E (driven by yours truly), to a nearly new 991 GT3 RS. A handful of American and Japanese cars were in attendance, though their numbers were significantly smaller. Then there were those Europeans not from Zuffenhausen represented by everything from a vintage Morris Mini to a new Audi R8 V-10. The common thread among all of us was that everyone was enthusiastic about the weekend. Everyone was a so-called "car nut."
With as wide a variety as this, obviously not everyone would be able to stay in one pack. A dozen or so smaller groups with a handful of cars in each group were formed, based simply on who could hang with everyone else in a straight line. At the front of the group was usually the R8, a well-built 964, an actual 911 race car, a pop-up headlight first-gen Acura NSX, and the GT3 RS. At the back of the pack was usually an old 911, our 912E, an E30 or two, and a Chevy Sprint Turbo (remember what I said about diversity?)
Day one of the rally began in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, slightly marred by a light drizzle. The kind of misty morning you expect of the area if we're honest. We'd gathered in the parking lot of a national coffee chain to get waivers signed and have our first driver's meeting to discuss how the weekend would play out. The first day's driving would see us down to Paso Robles, California, the rolling hills of wine country.
While there was a little water, some fallen tree debris, and washed-out dirt across the roadway, the driving enjoyment was never affected. We were spread out over several miles of California countryside, and participants enjoyed driving what is best described as in a spirited and sporty fashion without crossing the border into illegal—at least nobody got a speeding ticket, that is. The first day's roads were among our favorites of those we encountered all weekend, perhaps aided by the fact that it was a Friday and congestion was nonexistent.
The second day was brighter and sunnier, a sunglasses-on windows-down kind of day. Mother Nature had formed our morning route, rather than the route cutting through the hills in a straight line. These are the best of roads; these are the best of times. The crew trekked out of Paso to once again visit the rolling hills. Pockmarked and patched and re-patched, these one-and-a-half lane width roads switched and wound and ran as a ribbon down the hills into the Central Valley.
Around lunchtime, the roads straightened and we stumbled our way across the Carrizo Plain to the desiccated shores of Soda Lake. It was like driving across the face of the moon light-years from humanity. (The moon is roughly 238,900 miles from Earth, a light-year is 5.9 x 1012 miles. But what're a few orders of magnitude amongst friends? -Ed.) Everything quiet and still, we were forced onward by the march of time and the pressing deadlines of darkness.
Arrow-straight roads for miles and miles, nearly 70 cars of consequence shot their way through open plains; our group was an interesting sight. It was infrequent to spot any other cars, but the occasional tanker truck heading for the oil derricks wasn't out of place. We made our afternoon sprint through the dusty and largely abandoned towns with names like Cuyama, Whatever-Springs, and Something-copa. It is unlikely that Porsche or Lamborghini tread here often, given the desolate nature of the surroundings.
By now, most of the world knows about the revered Highway 33 and how exquisite a driving road it is. Heading south toward Ojai, we had a grand time climbing up to the nearly mile-high summit, and then coasting, braking, pedaling down the other side. The roar of the cars ahead and behind echoed off the mountainside as a thick evening fog descended; we'd discovered Dante's Paradiso on four wheels.
That night in Ventura, we could feel the weekend closing down around us, and we knew the following morning was the final journey for the group. Some had already left with various vehicular maladies, while some would stay behind to head home Sunday morning. The 50 or fewer remaining members of our ragtag group travelled onward up the coast to Santa Barbara for a Cars & Coffee, then on to one last driving road to end the trip.
The cyclists were out in full force Sunday morning, slowly climbing mountain passes; the fog was as thick as Yukon Cornelius' peanut butter. Each of our crew kept the speeds low, the brakes applied liberally, and the throttle sparingly. Once at the top above the fog line, many stopped for one last impromptu meet in a turnout area. Goodbyes were said, promises were made to come back next year, and traditional summer camp blood brother oaths were exchanged. Our parents were here to pick us up, camp was over, back to the real world.