From the Colonies, another Turkey….
Being that this site is a UK and US co-op, this piece is more for the pilgrims from
New York harbor to Coit Tower high atop San Francisco. The Thanksgiving holiday
is traditionally the start of the holiday season although the commercial aspect
sadly seems to start mid summer. My past Thanksgivings have been a mixture of
Norman Rockwell paintings (think traditional) and the movie "Home for the
Holidays. (think dada or black comedy) This year's was another in my collection of
Road trip of sorts
The offspring are older now so my mandatory presence at the traditional gathering
is not required as it has been in the past years. The invite to feast upon the bird
came from Terry Burkhart and there are few backdrops more suitable to give
thanks than that of Monterey Bay in Pacific Grove. (that's where Laguna Seca is
race fans) She had decided to get out of Firebaugh and get away from the farm
business for a few days. Accepting the invite was the easy part, getting out of
southern California was the hard part. Traffic was much worse than usual for the
afternoon as Bryan (offspring number one) chauffeured me from the adobe in
Irvine up to Long Beach where a new silver Thunderbird awaited courtesy of Ford
PR for the drive up the coast. Long time followers of the adventures of John Brooks
will recall last year that he also had a T-Bird and a similar destination, that of
Terry's beach house in PG for the ALMS gig at Laguna. Brooksie's drive up was all
sightseeing along Highway 1 and largely uneventful. Mine was with the evacuating
masses struggling along I-5 over the grapevine and into the central valley and
turned, unfortunately, quite eventful.
The crawl and congestion was so bad, with traffic coming in from the north that
matched that of the south that I abandoned I-5 for the two lane blacktops that
crisscross the middle of the state. Good move as the speedo of the T-Bird was
now averaging above 80 mph. The long king snake crawl of holiday commuters
became a distant memory, as the only visual reminder was that of an occasional
set of headlights in the opposite direction. I hit the town of Coalinga close to 11pm
and noticed a large supermarket that was still open. The only item missing from
the holiday menu was oddly enough, a pumpkin pie. As luck, not fate, would have
it, this market had just received a shipment of fresh pies due to the fact that they
would be open on Thanksgiving Day. Now to the fate part.
Road trip out of sorts
The ambient temperature was in the mid 30's and when I parked the T-Bird there
was a mixture of smoke emitting from the right side of the car. It had no particular
smell and as the T-Bird was a new car, perhaps the heat of the exhaust mixed with
the cold. Nope… After making the happiness pie purchase, I pulled out and
headed down 198 for the hour-long stretch to 101 and eventually Monterey. Never
happened, in the darkness of the first mile the dash lit up like a pinball machine.
The temp gauge was buried and I turned back and slowly limped back in to
Coalinga by shutting the motor off and coasting. As expected, nothing was open
and the signal bar on my mobile was weak at best. The first call was to Terry who
was busy with some friends cooking. "Don't eat the pumpkin pie" was her most
memorable comment to me.
It wasn't just getting to PG but also the fact that the car needed to be back to Ford
PR. No dealer was going to be open on Turkey day and whatever was wrong with
the T-bird, it was doubtful that the parts would be available in Coalinga. Wait, I have
an AAA card, premier membership. I had almost forgotten because in 18 years I
have never called for roadside help. I can't help it if I have been lucky.
I called the auto club and got a solid recording for 15 minutes before a live voice
came on line. Oh, you are in northern California, I will have to transfer you to them.
A helpful suggestion: before you describe your situation, give your number so in
case of a disconnect, they can call you back. If not, plan on another long wait
getting through again. A call back is exactly what happened and after much
conversation, I was able to get a flatbed dispatched to pick up the stricken bird and
take us to a Ford dealer in Salinas, two hours away. It was after 1am when I was
awakened by the low rumble of a big diesel. After a brief introduction, we loaded
the car on the flatbed and set off down 198.
Make yourself a happiness pie
Knowing your neighborhood sure helps, a call from Terry as we were getting close
to Salinas made things much easier. Why not take the car to the Ford dealership in
Seaside and she could pick me up there as it was only a 15 minute drive from the
beach house in PG. Fortunately my mileage allowance from the auto club would
cover the extra distance. (and at 7 bucks a mile, it mattered) The Ford dealer just
happened to be across from a Porsche dealership (Boxsters and Cayennes on
special) and we unloaded in the early morning darkness under the watchful eye of
a Seaside cop. Terry arrived in her Lexus SC 430 coupe a few minutes later and
we transferred my stuff, along with the pie, to her car. I filled out an envelope, put in
the keys and stuffed the contents into the night drop. The Friday morning
conversation with the dealer will be interesting as will the calls to Ford PR. And
Bob, the driver of the flat bed? He recognized Terry's car. It turns out that the
company he drives for is based out of Firebaugh and their yard is located directly
across the road from the entrance of Burkhart Farms.
Will paint for food
The popular line is that we should be giving thanks over the feast and surrounded
by friends and family. There is a famous Norman Rockwell painting that shows
just such a scene. The pipe smoking master of Americana (corny and otherwise)
also did one of a woman and a little boy saying grace over a Thanksgiving meal in
a simple diner as a couple of blue collar workers looked on. In this simple
painting, Rockwell captured that giving thanks is a matter of personal choice,
regardless of one's surroundings. Friends, family, lovers, your dog, your cat or your
Might as well toss good music (KPIG is on as I write this and LOUD) and cars that
run at Le Mans in to the mix.
Terry's feast was everything the day should be. For the record and because
Brooksie will want to know, the wines were a 2001 Sauvignon Blanc and an
excellent 1988 Zinfandel. And of course, Bombay Sapphire. Not a bad way to reflect
and give thanks.