Eastbound Day 2 – 297 miles – Danville to Lee Vining

Sunday, 27 March 1994

Lake MonoSure enough, Kieran, my jet-lagged son, slept in very late and by the time we’d packed up, poured the requisite 20 gallons on board and set off it was nearly noon.

We went north-east through Sacramento almost to Lake Tahoe before climbing up over the 7740 ft Luther Pass and the 8314 ft Monitor Pass and joining the 395 south to Lee Vining by Lake Mono. I must admit to having started this trip with a degree of nagging concern about our Caddy. It is 35 years old, it has obviously seen more than a few miles and there’s a hell of a lot of it to go wrong. I would not want to push it anywhere! Climbing over those high passes eased the concern a bit. Getting down them a bit more, back in 1959 automotive-engineers seemed to think it was possible to stop an awful lot of car with a very small amount of brakes. Thrash the transmission, don’t trust the brakes I was warned before I left.

We reckoned this car would lead to some interesting conversations and it’s already generated a few. The first was only five miles from my starting point at the Bay Bridge tollgate. The gate attendant wanted to know all about it, irrespective of the queue building up behind. Next in line were two friends who reported the tollgate guy took their dollar and excitedly told them: ‘he paid $13,000 for it and he just picked it up today!’ We had a longer conversation at the South Lake Tahoe gas station where we tanked up, the station owner seemed to know his Caddies and the attendant pronounced it ‘a real dreamboat’. And at our motel in Lee Vining two Canadian ‘snowbirds’, heading back north from Palm Springs, gave me a rundown on the fins of all the ’50s autos they’d owned. Let’s face it big fins is what this beast is all about.

With around 400 miles covered I can report our mighty Caddy actually does better than 10 mpg. By about 1 mile per gallon. Pour 20 gallons of premium unleaded into the tank, plus a bottle of what I guess you can call lead-helper, and 200 miles later you can do it all over again. This car is an ecological disaster zone.