I woke up early and washed the e30 at the little self-serve coin operated car wash around the corner from home. Then I dropped it off at AAA Car Care Centre on Keystone for an oil change which took about an hour. I’m not going to turn this into a review of AAA but will share the following experience:
I’ve heard so many stories about quick lube shops being cheap to the point of dishonesty that I’m probably just paranoid now. In 3000 miles I’ll try somewhere else and compare experiences until I find a shop that really earns my trust. We also drive a e39 540i touring which we always take to Bavarian Motorsport in Milpitas (a great shop I recommend very highly) for service but they’re not open on weekends which is the only time I can spare for a fluid service on the e30.
After the oil change I loaded up the car with beach stuff and set out with the family for a 150+ mile drive.
The drive from Santa Clara to San Mateo over Hwy. 101 is not enjoyable on a Saturday. Traffic is heavy and often stopped entirely. But San Mateo is quiet with lots of parking and less than 30 minutes drive from Pacifica which makes it an excellent via point to the coast. Talbot’s Toy Store is huge and beats Toys R’ Us for selection and experience.
On the route from San Mateo to Pacifica we drove through the newly re-opened Devil’s Slide Tunnel. The tunnel is fast, well lit and ventilated. Commuters will no doubt love it but speaking as a joy rider it’s simply boring. If you’ve been through one tunnel you’ve been through them all. We arrived at Nick’s Restaurant at Rockaway Beach around 1:00PM. This place is cool because you’re parked right on the edge of the ocean and if you go early in the morning it’s a great spot to take pictures of your car.
Nick’s was packed just like every other time we’ve gone there. Here’s a few notes about Nick’s:
After lunch we drove south on Hwy. 1 to Santa Cruz to do a little shopping. If you’ve never been I can tell you that downtown Santa Cruz is like going to a parallel dimension where 90s alternative culture is the norm: droog dancers block off large sections of sidewalks to dance and swing clubs at each other, teenagers ride around on art bikes, homeless people ride skateboards, travellers make and sell jewellery right on the street and musicians of all kinds compete with each other for bandwidth every 50 feet or so. Santa Cruz is polarized: there’s a large hip but wealthy bourgeoisie population that bedrooms there but works in Silicon Valley and then there’s the masses of hippies, surfers, travellers, street kids and homeless.
We stopped in Santa Cruz to buy some flats (shoes for Trina) and have some frozen yogurt. The latter of which doesn’t seem to exist: they only have ice cream. We ended up at the Penny Ice Creamery which was… bourgeoisie. They serve ice cream, sorbet and some frozen yogurt. Portions were small, expensive and delicious. After our treat we headed to Aptos.
This is not an amazing beach but it’s got real toilets and fire rings. We only go here when we plan on having a fire and cooking hotdogs and roasting marshmallows over it. We’ve failed to launch this so many times and yet again it didn’t happen. There’s less than a dozen fire rings and on Saturdays the locals come and stake out a claim to camp on all day and into the night. We enjoyed the fading sun but gave up on cooking on the beach when it was obvious everyone with a fire ring was planning to stay put. We vowed to try again the next day.
This highway is fun to drive ONLY when no one else is on it. People drive slow in the fast lane and ride their brakes for miles and miles. No one knows how to drive. The cops hang out on the straight away near the Summit Snack Shop.
The plan laid out on R3vlimited was to meet in Cupertino at Starbucks on the corner of Wolfe and Homestead, then head north as a group.
Turn out for the 90 mile drive was smaller than hoped for – Narayan brought his family in his e39 (he wanted AC… and to protect his m3’s back seats from mistreatment by his son), Oliver Ramos brought his Alpine White m3 and his brother Jesus, Eric Berger was there (hungover from 25 year old scotch) and then of course me and my bunch. The group of 4 cars headed out around 10:00.
Traffic was heavier than I prefer, antics were kept to a minimum. Driving through San Francisco kind of sucked. Traffic was backed up approaching the Golden Gate Bridge and it was hard to keep the group together. It was a little intense for me because I haven’t had much practice with hill starting so I tried to keep my cool, avoid rolling back into Oliver’s Alpine m3 and take the whole thing as an opportunity to refine my driving skills.
On arrival we met up with another e30 m3 owned by Will Campbell. He seemed to know everything about the planes and visited the airport often since he lived in the area.
On my way I stopped to fill up my tires to the required 38 PSI. Fortunately I checked the pressure with my own gauge: the gauge built into the gas station’s air hose was about 12 PSI off!
I arrived at Candlestick park around 7:00 and had just enough time to retrofit a fan shroud onto my radiator. Because the space between my fan and radiator is a little smaller than spec I needed to cut the bottom of the shroud off to make it fit without hitting the fan blade. The shroud did it’s job: I had no issues with overheating.
By 8:00 my e30 had passed tech inspection and received it’s “green to go” sticker.
After a brief “chalk talk” we broke into groups for the morning’s exercises.
The exercise started out with ovals for 2 laps composed of just half of the figure 8. This was a waste of time. None of us knew the course well enough to pick out the right cones to circle around and but the time anyone figured it out the 2 laps were over. However I did get to see others run the figure 8s so by the time my runs came up I had a good idea where the course was.
In additional to a little slalom work we also touched on trail braking. Trail braking is done thusly: the car approaches the entrance to a corner at a high rate of speed. The driver brakes hard, then enters the turn with diminishing brake. At about the apex the driver slowly squeezes on the gas so that by the time the car has finished turning the car is at wide-open-throttle.
Every run I made some improvements. I spun out twice but my instructor helped me understand why and ultimately I spun out because I had managed to come through the turns with more speed than I was anticipating (good, albeit unexpected).
The paper clip is essentially 2 sharp 180s joined by straight aways. This was all about trail braking and cornering with a double apex. The long path around the paperclip was the line taken by slower cars like mine, while the short path was taken by faster cars (like the super-charged Mazda Miata in my group).
Again, I had a spin out but made improvements on every run.
The triangle was most challenging for me, probably because my instructor was very demanding and scolded me for hitting cones. I think the expectation is that by the time you get to this exercise you’re going to be good. The triangle is 2 slaloms and a straight away connected by sharp turns.
I was initially slow to show improvement but eventually dialled in my cornering to the satisfaction of my instructor. I also smoothed out my slaloms (less jerky with the wheel) and cut closer to the cones I was passing instead of weaving in the space in the middle of the cones.
The triangle was really about refining and sharpening skills rather than picking up brand new concepts.
The “Mystery Course” was a short auto x course made of sharp and sweeper turns, two slaloms and a hair pin. I spun out twice and forgot to go “both feet in” on one which meant my car stalled out and was difficult to restart. The mystery course was loads of fun and a real taste of what auto x is like.
I forgot about that car until yesterday when I received my new Ireland Engineering spark plug wire set. My current wire set is part original to the car, part Pick n Pull scavenge and long over due for replacement. I almost ordered a set of blue wires but at the last minute decided that was too matchy-matchy and went with red.
The wires arrived last night and were installed without issue. They look great and I notice that the engine fires slightly smoother with the new wires (maybe just confirmation bias, I’m sure there’s an expert reading who will tell me I’m imagining it). Looking at my engine bay reminded me of that red coupe from so long ago. I went and dug up some pictures – even though I haven’t looked at these photos since I bought my car it’s amazing how many things are similar between the two cars, starting at the red wire set all the way down to the same rims!
The drive was beautiful: after breaking through the clouds (what I’m driving through in the video) it was clear skies and sunny with the ceiling at least a mile below me. I saw two groups of deer and a few rabbits scampered across the road in front of me. As I made my descent I saw soft fluffy clouds nestled between green hills as mourning doves scattered at the sound of my motor as I passed by their perch.
This road at dawn is truly a hidden gem. Sorry about the footage, maybe next time.
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