I’m at it again…tossing my suitcase in the trunk and hitting the open road across the country in an old hooptie — with a AAA card handy.
This time though, things are a little different. I’m going to a car meet. I’ve been a member of many car clubs over the years (Bimmer Forums, ZHP Mafia, Club RSX, Drive Accord, Acurazine, Mazda6 Forums, NPORA-Nissan Pathfinder off-road Association…to name a few), but I’ve never attended any of their annual meets. Proximity, time and frankly, interest have gotten in the way of me making the jump.
Ever since the PNW Contour Group reached out to me earlier this year, I’ve been hooked and never met a nicer group of folks. This is one meet I’ll try out. It was going to be hosted in Portland, Oregon, and that was just the ticket I needed to get away from the summer heat.
So, I hopped in the creaky old Ford and set out on a 3,500 mile drive to the Pacific Northwest. Aside from taking delivery in Colorado earlier this year, I haven’t had the Contour on the road for such a long journey. This would be a good test of the 21 year old cooling system in addition to all the other parts I’m unaware of their originality. Some call it crazy, some adventurous. I’d leave it as living on the edge. My route was as follows:
Maintenance and repairs for the Contour have luckily been minimal thanks to the care it’s received in the past. I’ve only had to change out the transmission fluid, recharge the A/C system, alignment, tires, and resurface the brake rotors. All my other costs have been largely cosmetic. In anticipation of this annual meet, I made sure every inch of this car was as clean as it could get and what’s left of the original paint polished and sealed.
The rear bumper needed a little buffing as the clearcoat on my DIY job hadn’t retained the luster it had. I might have to have this professionally resprayed at some point. This should hold me over for now.
The interior, though a little warped and brittle from 21 years of sun exposure, cleaned up pretty nice.
And I managed to stow everything in the trunk leaving the backseat clean and clear. This stash even included two buckets full of detailing supplies and some random car parts I planned to give away at the meet.
I hit the road on a Wednesday afternoon and planned to return the following week around the same time. This meant a fairly tight schedule of only two days driving to Portland and two days back. That was an average of 800 miles/12hrs a day. You never realize how big our country is until attempting stuff like this. My stops along the way were minimal as I’ve been on this route many times in the past.
Colorado state line
Utah state line
Things started greening up near Price Canyon, UT.
Welcome to Idaho!
I’ve seen this road many times in the past, but never tire of the lovely grassy hills of southern Idaho.
First night’s stop in Twin Falls, ID. All my work on detailing the exterior went out the door due to rain showers outside of Price, UT. No biggie, that’s where those detailing supplies will eventually be handy.
Next day, a short stop to view the Snake River Canyon.
This is the I.B. Perrine Bridge which hangs over the Snake River. At 486 feet above the canyon floor, it’s a popular location or adrenaline junkies to jump off with parachutes.
View of the Snake River from under the bridge.
Several hours later, I finally arrived in Oregon!
I was impressed by the determination of this little Contour. Not one issue so far. I was getting a solid 27 MPG on premium fuel even with steady 80 MPH speeds and the A/C constantly blowing.
Driving along the Columbia River with Mt. Hood in the distance.
Arrived in Portland. The meet was going to take place here at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport.
As I arrived a day early, first order of business was cleaning off the grime I accumulated over the last two days. The plan was to complete some photo ops prior to attending the actual meet on Sunday. A quick Google search for a credit card friendly, self-serve car wash led me to one about seven miles over the river to Vancouver, WA. Check out that insect homicide scene!
This is where bringing my own detail supplies came into play. I only utilized the high pressure water.
Dinner at Shari’s where I gorged in breakfast for dinner…a chicken fried steak with eggs.
The following day was going to be mine to explore. The boys had an autocross event 90 miles away, but since I have neither the reaction time or any desire to put that kind of stress on the Contour, I chose to head west and enjoy the PNW in all its glory. Here’s a photo one of the members sent me. I have to admit, I did feel like I was missing out!
However, I did have the beach and rain forests calling my name, so I proceeded with the plan.
I caught highway 26 leading out of Portland to Seaside.
Entering rain forest territory. This is what makes this desert boy happy.
Short hike on the Four County Point Trail.
Of course, who could resist a few little innocent donuts in the sand?
Lunch was in Seaside at Ruby’s Roadside Grill. I tried their albacore tuna fillet melt which was out of this world!
After my day of clowning around the beach and trails, I headed back to Portland where the gang was starting to trickle in for the night. We had a roped off parking area behind the hotel. This was my first time meeting everyone in person, and I couldn’t have asked for a more warm welcoming.
A look from my hotel window as I was winding down for the evening.
The morning of the official meet. Many of us were out at the crack of dawn vacuuming, polishing, dusting, and staging our cars. I live for this kind of stuff.
Some minty seats I bought off a fellow member to eventually replace a few of mine that are pretty well weathered.
This silver beauty next to me belongs to JD out of Phoenix, AZ. What are the chances we share the same vanity plates?!
Alex (in blue) had his car featured in The Smoking Tire SVT Contour review
All polished up and ready. See that gent in the cowboy hat? That’s Greg from California. He’s a proud owner of 11 Contours! Much respect.
Some of the interiors were pretty wild. This SVT had the dash and console swapped from a Mercury Mystique to add a touch of luxury.
Fully decked out here with red pipping, carbon fiber, and Momo steering wheel just to name a few…
Next item on the itinerary, we headed indoors to our reserved conference room.
A lot of action in here. This is where t-shirts were distributed, member story presentations given, raffles, awards, behind-the-scenes of the club and a game of Jeopardy!
Chicken fajita buffet for lunch.
Back outside for voting.
Hoods up if you want consideration for best engine bay award. I left mine down.
Rearranging the cars for a group photo.
Photo credit here: Alexander Davis
Totally unexpected, but I managed to bring home two awards, Best Exterior and Farthest Traveled.
The meet was over around 3:30 pm which provided ample time to gain some ground for that night’s scheduled stop in Baker City, OR. I then continued on the same route where I’d spend the last night in Green River, UT.
Quick stop for lunch with my buddy Josh in Bosie, ID.
Views near Moab, UT
I tried something different for my last night on the road in Green River. I swapped the comfy hotel accommodations for a more primitive, yet charming KOA cabin.
Good thing I brought my own blankets and pillow! Luckily, KOAs and most other camp grounds have wifi these days. My sanity was preserved.
Back in New Mexico!
Continental Divide at 7,275 feet above sea level.
Last leg of the journey.
Home safe and sound! Aside from having to add a little oil, the Contour was very well behaved on the trip. It didn’t skip a beat even with some 100+ degree heat, heavy cross winds, rain, bumper-to-bumper traffic in Salt Lake City, or steep inclines I encountered. Thank you for coming along for the ride. Notice a little garage preview here of what’s to come in the next post. Stay tuned!