10 September – Onward from Monterey – travelling through San Juan Batista again where we stopped off for some scrumptious pastries at the little bakery before heading into the Pinnacles National Park and were able to find a site with a modest amount of shade but more important power. This would be the first day that we have just sat inside all afternoon with the air-con going – the temperature outside was 104 and a very dry wind as well. The good thing was that it cooled down to a really pleasant evening as soon as the sun departed.
11 September – Decided that we would do a short hike before the sun got too oppressive and that was a good move. We hiked through a lovely shaded area up to Bear Gulch caves and through them up to a small reservoir. The caves had been formed by huge rocks falling into the the canyon during an earthquake and in places completely blocked out all light – so a torch (flashlight for the Americans!) was recommended and needed. Two hours later a very hot and sticky couple of bods returned to Wanda and that was our day!! That very dry hot wind and high temperatures had returned. Only a handful of people camping in the park – this would be a stunning place to come in the cooler weather. It is popular with rock climbers as it has a lot of sheer cliffs and interesting rock formations. We met up with our immediate neighbours and had a very enjoyable pot luck dinner with them. They had recently been to NZ and were full of praises for our wonderful country.
12 September – Off down Highway 25 joining up with 101 to Paso Robles for a supply stop at the local Wallies then down to Santa Margarita and the reservoir of the same name. Again the water is hardly visible – being the weekend the campground was quite full so we had to make do with a fairly open site with a view of the empty arm of the lake.
13 September – Sunday, all the locals were heading back home so we moved into a nicer site in a little more shade for a lazy day of reading – fortunately there was some cloud cover which cooled the heat down nicely.
14 September – Southbound again and along the coast through Gaviota, Santa Barbara and stopping for the day at Ventura. Tried out the country park which was a little different – only about 12 sites in a little valley, very tired facilities and in need of some TLC but it was quiet.
15 September – Back down to Ventura and Oxnard where in a visit to a motorcycle shop which was supposed to house a museum, Bob found that the museum was ‘virtual’ but there were a small number of interesting machines in original condition from the early days of American motorcycling on display – Thor, Indian, Big X and Henderson. After getting contact details here we made an appointment for the next day’s visit and took the inland road to Ojai and another of the county parks in about the same distressed condition but a nice shady spot.
16 September – A very eventful day. We started off with a visit to Guy Webster in Ojai who previously had had a huge collection of Italian motorcycles but is now down to just a select 20 or so. Guy is from the Webster Dictionary Family dynasty as well as being a legendary photographer of the rich and famous. Interesting person – has a huge passion for Italian motorbikes and in his greatly reduced collection had some very rare examples of Mondial, Gilera, MV Agusta, Moto-Morini, Bimota and Ducati. We spent most of the morning with him as various friends popped in and chatted including the motorcycle buyer for Bonhams Auctioneers. Unfortunately he was currently wheelchair bound as he had a fall whilst recovering from heart surgery – he had enjoyed riding in NZ recently and was looking forward to getting back on his very fast Aprilia.
From Ojai we carried on to Santa Paula where the California Oil Museum had just finished having a display of Nortons and Bob called in on the off chance that they may be able to tell him whose collection they belonged to, in the hope of arranging a visit to them. Well it got better – the bikes were in the process of being picked up by their owner Daniel Schoenewald who offered to take us back to his factory and show us the full collection. A lovely self-made man who started his business off 30 years ago on his kitchen table and now is doing extremely well making motion control systems for all sorts of applications for medical, military and anything that moves. On the first floor overlooking the production area is a huge area where he has his bikes – wow, where do we look first? Kawasaki triples – all models and colours made, Nortons, BSA’s, a Brough Superior, Steve McQueen’s Indian, Ducati’s, Bimoto’s, Suzuki and a quite a few other makes totalling 135 altogether. With the bikes delivered it was back to Santa Paula to fetch Wanda and take Daniel up on his kind offer to park in his avocado orchard for the night.
17 September – Just a short drive today into the Simi Valley. This valley is full of all manner of horticultural operations – lemon groves, raspberries, avocados and every sort of vegetable. All grown with irrigation which on top of the huge population accounts for the very low reservoir levels in California – it has been several years since they have had significant rainfall and the last couple of winters haven’t even had much snow in the mountains. The state is certainly in dire need of rain. Our stay was at yet another Ventura County Park – Oak Park – nice and shady although right behind us was the railway line with the high speed Amtrak trains whizzing up and down with very loud horns! These parks do seem to struggle with keeping the restrooms nice but at least we did have power.
18 September – Whilst travelling with Daniel he had told us about a building in Oxnard which used to house the Otis Chandler motorcycle collection, but now held some French classic cars. That sounded interesting – enquiries showed that the building had been re-modeled and was now known as the Mullin Automotive Museum, a fairly exclusive collection of rare art-deco period cars and collectibles open only occasionally to the public. Luck held as there was to be a special tour today which they were happy for Bob to join, and what a great treat it was to be. Modeled on the Paris Auto Salon (the Grande Palais) of the 1930’s, the building now owned by businessman Peter Mullin holds some of the most exotic vehicles ever built for the road or track, principally by the hands of Bugatti, but also the likes of Hispano-Suiza, Delage, Delahaye, Peugeot, Talbot-Largo and Voisin. The main touring and race car exhibits are restored to an extremely high standard, but the Brescia Bugatti recovered from Lake Maggiore in Switzerland after 70 years underwater is quite the opposite. Proudly displayed just as it was raised from the muddy bottom, it is planned to leave it with all the patina intact.
To add some realism to the collection, a large number of Bugatti cars obtained from the Schlumpf Reserve Collection are also left as found, complete with rust, dents and old tyres. Among the Bugatti family were many talented members who displayed their skill as artists, sculptors and furniture makers – many of their creations alongside Lalique crystal and Louis Vuitton leather bags are used to capture the art-deco atmosphere of this most impressive of museums.
19 September – Our penultimate journey in Wanda took us back through Santa Paula for a quick flit through the Oil Museum before heading up through Filmore (the county park there was only taking group bookings so on to Plan B) and to Lake Piru and the pleasant campground with yet another very low reservoir.
20 September – Wanda took us on her final run today up past Castaic and Pyramid Lakes before turning right and along the very straight road through the dry Antelope Valley to Lancaster and the campgrounds located at the local fairgrounds. Went past a nasty accident scene only a few miles out from Lancaster (in all our 40,000 miles we have only seen a couple of accidents). The cooler temperatures of the last few days are a thing of the past – back up into the high 90’s and 100’s.
21- 22 September – At Lancaster spent the last days of our long journey at the local fairgrounds weeding out the last of the goods to be sent home. Picked up a rental car for our return to LA and to help make life easier whilst finalising Wanda’s handover. Finally met up with her new owners, Helen and Michael, who had managed to find their way to Lancaster from LA using the Metro train. How nice to finally meet them face to face after all the emails. Wanda will be in fine hands.
23 September – Bob & Michael spent an enlightening morning at the DMV office (they referred to it as the cattle ranch) doing the transfer of Wanda, giving us the afternoon to assist with sorting out storage facilities and supplies for her new owners. She will be wintering over in Lancaster in a very nice undercover storage site.
24 September – With Wanda happily settled with Helen and Michael we said our farewells and headed for the bright city lights of Los Angeles – not much to be said about that except that LA freeways are a nightmare, but being in a car made it so much easier. Stayed out near Inglewood and LAX airport for the night to be within easy (that term is subjective when travelling in LA) motoring of West LA.
25 September – Peter Mullin also has a collection of brass era French cars housed in West Los Angeles which he calls ‘Autos de La Belle Epoque’. Another stroke of good timing luck meant that Bob was again able to join a private tour of this normally closed venue. Also modeled internally in the Paris Auto Salon style, this building in an industrial part of the city is another treasure trove of interest to the vintage enthusiast. Tracing the history of early automobile development in one of the leading nations of the time, France, this fine little collection holds some great examples from the likes of Renault, Panhard et Lavassor, Darracq, Sizaire et Naudin, Niclausse and Delaunay-Belleville which he was able to enjoy at leisure. The young woman docent at both this and the main Mullin museum was both knowledgeable and informative – perhaps being the daughter of a well known US motoring writer had much to do with this.
26 September – When back in Seattle some weeks ago we had been told of the ‘Planes of Fame’ museum at Chino in Greater Los Angeles. With just one day available before we were to leave North America, this was a last opportunity to see yet more aeronautical history. Bob found quite a collection here with many of the aircraft still flyable and an equal number of ambitious restoration projects underway, whilst many of the planes from later eras were merely in outside storage. Several early Boeings featured as well as many of the iconic WWII American aircraft represented by among them the B25, B17, P38, P47, P51, F4, F7, F8, C46 and C47. Surprisingly there were also some flyable British models such as the Gloucester Meteor, de Havilland Vampire and Folland Gnat as well as several German, Russian and Japanese planes from the war years. An interesting couple of hours, but not so stimulating as some other collections seen here due to the displays being rather crowded and not following any particular logical pattern. Battled the freeway traffic back to LAX airport, found our hotel (luckily for us Helen and Michael had their own GPS so we were able to keep Sally – navigating without one would have been very taxing) and then returned the rental car and settled in for our last night.
It is hard to believe that our time in the USA is up already, it seems only yesterday that we arrived here in LA and started off on our little odyssey. We have certainly seen so much, met so many generous and interesting people and thoroughly enjoyed our stay here.