Well, let's start by say that the nights weren't exactly arctic cold. In fact, other than in some spots, they night were quite temperate. So.... I did it, or should I say we did it! We - as in my friend and co pilot and I traveled 2000 miles in the 1998 BMW ///M3 TOPLESS! That's right, we did the entire trip with the top down on the car. Only times the top came up was whenever we parked for the night purely for security reasons.
It was quite a trip. Maybe not quite as awe inspiring as the my previous trip across the country but it was certainly just as much fun and there is something to be said about driving around with the Sun quite visibly above your head. Can you say SPF??? Yep, we had a lot of SPF going for this trip.
It was great to celebrate the official end of summer this way. It is October, and while San Francisco Area was experiencing the late summer referred to as the Indian Summer, most of the country was starting to experience lower temperatures - except in places like Phoenix, AZ which still boasted temperatures up in the 90's to 100 degrees.
So... how did this all come about? Well, a few weeks ago a friend and I were at a concert. We are big fans of Tears For Fears and we found out their 2016 tour would conclude with shows in Phoenix, Temecula and the last show would be in San Diego. I guess after a few beers, we came up with the plan to attend all three shows - we would go on a road trip to all three locations. Alas - as the time neared, the RRM5 met an untimely end. So, the question now was which car would we be use for the road trip. We started considering options, including the possibility of just renting a car for the trip. However, that did not seem like much fun. I was in the final stages of restoring the 1998 BMW ///M3 convertible in the garage and the idea started to form that we should take this car. Then the idea further grew into doing the entire drive with the top down - what better way to celebrate the end of summer than attend these concerts and do it with the a road with the Sun on our faces? And so, with a resounding YES - we agreed that we would do this trip. It would be a 1500 Mile Topless Challenge! WHOO!
The concert dates were October 7th, 8th and 9th. We would have to be in 3 cities in 3 days. The longest and most grueling part of the trip would be the drive from San Francisco, CA to Phoenix, AZ. It was a 12 - 13 hour stretch. From there, it would be about 5 hours to Temecula, CA from Phoenix and an easy 1 - 2 Hour drive from Temecula to San Diego, CA.
To ensure that the car would make the trip, I had to finish my work in time. Part of that work involved replacing all tires, brakes, suspension and giving the car a full maintenance service. I once again reached out to my friends / partners and sponsors from my last adventure. I am delighted that they were able to once again help with this trip - either that or they were used to getting crazy requests and ideas from me. The car got DINAN shocks and strut bar installed. It got MEYLE Brakes (First time using them), and MEYLE HD Strut mounts. As usual, I put in the only oil I trust which is Liqui-Moly and of course for the Spark / Ignition there was no other brand going into that engine but the NGK Spark Plugs. Interestingly enough, I was able to use the same ones as used in the ///M5.
The car passed CA Smog and was registered days before we left on the trip and just a couple of days after I finished doing all the work on it. It must be pointed out how important service is on these cars. The car actually failed smog when I first tried to get it registered - this was prior to the maintenance service I gave it. Once all that was done, the car passed with flying colours. Also, the car was riding on well worn shocks - it was a night and day difference with the ride once I installed the DINAN shocks. They use KONI sports shocks, but they are valved to DINAN Specifications. I am sure they would have to kill me or jail me for life if they revealed the specs, all I know is they work like a dream and I am okay and happy with that.
We planned to leave San Francisco around midnight so that we could make Phoenix by around 1 or 2 PM or at least in the afternoon to give us time to freshen up for the concert. We were fortunate that we would be getting back stage passes and a whole VIP package to the concert, so that was great incentive to do this crazy trip. So... with plans firmed up, bags packed and the car ready to go, my friend and I met up at around midnight on Thursday night.
As promised, we rolled out of San Francisco that cool night with the top down. We had no idea what to expect to be honest. It's a feeling I have come to know when setting out on adventures. You realize you are finally doing it - that crazy plan you came up with - and you just don't know what will happen. All possible preparations have been made, but have you covered everything? Is every bolt tightened down? Are all the fluids topped up in the car? Did you remember to lock your door when you walked out? Anyway... too late to get bogged down by all these thoughts. We were heading south on the 101 Freeway on our way to link up to the 5 Freeway South via the 152 at Gilroy.
We made one brief stop in Redwood City, CA after about our first 50 miles of driving. We figured this was a good shake down for the car - fully loaded with the top down. There were no issues with the car at all. She was driving and riding like a dream. So... we filled her up with 91 Octane /Premium fuel and pointed her nose down the 101 Freeway headed for Gilroy.
At first it was a little weird driving with the top down, especially at night. However, the design of modern convertibles is pretty amazing. With the windows up and the rear wind deflector install and upright, there was a bubble of still air in the cabin. We could converse normally and there was near enough zero wind in the cabin - expect where my left arm was rested while in the driver's seat. My buddy also commented on the draft he felt on his right arm. I will have to chat with the fellows at BMW about this :).
The drive down from San Francisco into Los Angeles was pretty uneventful. We stopped in Lost Hills for fuel and a short rest - especially as we were doing great on time. One of the most fun parts of this part of the trip was coming into Los Angeles as the Sun was coming up. It was gorgeous to say the least. During the night, we did get a couple of puzzled stares and the occasional blast of an air horn from a 18 wheeler - probably telling we were nuts! LOL!
We were able to make it through Los Angeles county traffic without too much muss of fuss - get we got through just in time. From Los Angeles, we started heading East via the 10 Freeway. This took us through places like San Bernardino, Palm Springs, Palm Desert and on to Blythe and then finally Phoenix. The drive was hot! And I don't just mean the car looking hot, average temperatures once we got through to places like San Bernardino hovered around 95° and it was like that all the way to Phoenix where it got a bit hotter. However, I have to tell ya, it wasn't bad at all. MAN! You had to just love the feeling of the Sun in your face. I would love to say it was great to have the wind in my hair - but there is no hair on my head to be blown! LOL! :)
We made it to Phoenix around 2 PM and were able to check into the Westin Hotel downtown. It was nice to get a chance to shower and cool off a bit. It's funny, driving in the heat didn't fell so bad. But as soon as we spent time in the air-conditioning of the Hotel and our room, coming back outside again felt like we walked into a furnace. All of Phoenix felt like a huge sauna! LOL!
We had a great time in Phoenix, albeit only for a day. We were able to meet with some friends there and attended a great concert. It was fun to be able to watch the concert from back stage and up front too. I must say, I loved the acoustics at the Comerica Concert Hall. It was my first time there and the sound was great. Tears For Fears put on a great show. You wouldn't know these folks had been on the road for 3 weeks plus, doing a gig almost every night. They put on a show like it was their first show on the tour. I am sure everyone had a great time, we were all able to "SHOUT, and LET IT ALL OUT!"
We were pretty much done with the first half of this trip once we were in Phoenix. The next day would be the shorter drive to Temecula to join Tears for Fears at the Pachanga Resort for our next show and their umpteenth one. So... day one was a HUGE SUCCESS! The car had performed great, we were not burnt to a toast and we were getting used to the whole TOPLESS things. Bring it on Sun! We were doing great in our Ultimate Tanning Machine.