A Car Club Mille Miglia

by Joel Justin & Neal Subic

Background and Trip Prep

Mille Miglia is Italian for 1,000 Miles. It’s a motor car race in Italy which took place between 1927 and 1957. It was originally a high speed open road race, and then evolved into more of a refined time-distance rally until it ended in 1957. But was re-born in 1977, still in Italy, for pre-1957 cars, and it is still run today. The California Mille is a spin-off of the Mille Miglia, but instead of a time-distance rally, it’s a 1,000 mile “tour” around California. It is still limited to cars earlier than 1957.

The CCBCC Mille would be modeled after the California Mille – a 4 day 1,000 mile tour, but instead of being limited to pre-1957 cars, ours will be limited to British cars from any year.

The seed was planted during our club outing to the Malamut Museum in Thousand Oaks. There were several cars there with California Mille roundels on their doors. I commented to Neal Subic that it would be a fun outing for our club to try. That was all it took!

Neal and I had fun planning the route, but our winter storms threw us plenty of curveballs. Our number one goal was to stay off freeways as much as possible – in other words, drive some of our state’s beautiful back roads. Our initial plan was to head up Hwy 1 to Big Sur, then over to Yosemite. From there, we were going to go over Tioga Pass to Lone Pine, then home. However, with mud slides and the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge getting damaged, Hwy 1 was no longer an option. So we modified our first day to stay inland and end up at the Harris Ranch Inn in the San Joaquin Valley.

Our second night was pre-planned to be at the Big Trees Lodge in Yosemite, and the next day, drive through the park and out the back side through Tuolumne Meadows. The Sierra snowpack was our second problem. We started monitoring Tioga Pass and with the plowing progress reports we saw, it quickly became clear the pass wouldn’t open in time for our crossing on June 10th. So on to plan C – Sonora Pass. It would make day #3 about 100 miles longer, but would still provide a beautiful drive over the Sierra. And over the last 12 years, it was always open by Memorial Day. But not this year! We considered changing our last night’s stay in Lone Pine, but we were hard pressed to find another “cool” place to stay and at this late date, we weren’t sure we’d be able to get enough room reservations even if we wanted to change. So now we’re on plan D, in which we chose a route on side roads along the western Sierra to Bakersfield, then across on Hwy 58 to the Owens Valley.

As the trip neared, we had a pre-meeting with everyone at our house. We passed out day-by-day trip kits – maps with detailed turn-by-turn directions. While our plan was to try to stay together, we knew there would be times when we got split up, so we wanted everyone to be armed with a map. We handed out trip regalia – dash plaques, door stickers, and for those who ordered them, embroidered event polo shirts and ball caps, and wine, beer and high ball etched glasses.

We also had people bring tools, spare parts and anything else they couldn’t fit into their LBC (Little British Car). What were we going to do with all that? Well, we had a SAG wagon that was going to shadow us! SAG stands for Support And Gear. Terry Schuller and Dave Reid graciously offered their Ford F-150 truck if we could come up with a driver. Our good friends – John and Jean Cook – jumped at the chance to join our adventure.

We were as ready as we could be, so it’s time to begin our epic journey…

Day #1 – Ventura to Harris Ranch

On June 8th, we met at the Golden China in Ventura at 7:30. We wanted to meet an hour before departure to take care of any last minute questions or gear transfer to the SAG wagon. We originally had 13 cars signed up, but for various reasons, 3 dropped out, so we were a group of 10 LBC’s plus the SAG wagon. Our group consisted of:

1. Joel and Pam – 1961 Triumph TR4
2. Neal and Maggie – 1970 Triumph TR6
3. Mike and Sandra – 1973 Triumph TR6
4. Dave and Terry – 1958 Jaguar XK150
5. Martin – 1971 Triumph GT6
6. Gary and Junie – 1967 MGB
7. Jack and Pam – 1964 MGB
8. Rebecca – 1957 Triumph TR3
9. Leonard and Judy – 1963 MGB
10. Craig and Kathy – 1974 Triumph TR6
11. John and Jean – 2013 Ford F-150 (SAG Wagon)

Our LBC’s leaving Golden China.

Our LBC’s leaving Golden China.

We departed the Golden China on our way to our first stop which was Moss Motors. We had arranged for a short tour and some of us took them up on their offer to have parts ready at the counter if we needed anything for the trip. Most of our drive up was in high-level fog, but by the time we got to Moss, the sun was out.

We were there about an hour. Kevin Flint, the Director of Sales, met us and took us on a great tour of their warehouse. After our tour, parts pick-up and bathroom break, we loaded back up and headed up to Gaviota where we turned off on Hwy 1 and headed towards Lompoc. Finally off the 101!


Cars in front of Moss Motors.

Cars in front of Moss Motors.

The group on the Moss Motors tour.

The group on the Moss Motors tour.

Our next stop was at La Purisima Mission. Neal pulled his magic and got them to waive the $5 per car entrance fee. We spent some time in the visitor center, then took a short walk to see the mission. As we were getting ready to leave, Gary’s MG wouldn’t start. We checked the battery (in the boot) and the starter connections and everything seemed in order. It was turning over veeerrry slowly. We were getting ready to jump start it when we tried one more time and it cranked normally and fired right up. He didn’t have any other problems with it on the trip. Another Lucas mystery!

Continuing up Hwy 1, our next stop was for fuel and lunch in Pismo Beach. We parked by the pier and had lunch at Wolly’s which is a great little fish-n-chips place overlooking the beach.

After lunch, we took back roads from Pismo to San Luis Obispo. Gary and Junie missed the turn and ended up taking the 101 instead. We had to get on the 101 in SLO to get over the Cuesta Grade. Just as we were leaving SLO, we came across Gary and Junie who had pulled over to wait for us. We were all back together again!

After about 8 miles on the 101, we got off in Santa Margarita on Hwy 58 and headed east. This part of Hwy 58 was a quiet country road (unlike the stretch we took from Bakersfield to Mojave later in the trip). From Hwy 58, we turned north on Webster Rd. (Hwy 229) and began a beautiful drive up thru farm country on twisty roads with lots of pastures and oak trees. And no other cars!

Hwy 229 ended at Hwy 41 where we headed northeast towards the town of Shandon. Hwy 41 was still a twisty pretty road, but with a few more cars on it. We stopped at the Shandon Rest Area to regroup, stretch and visit the bathroom. So far the temperatures were perfect (cool) and the sun was out. You couldn’t ask for more ideal top-down driving weather.

There was a surprise on this next leg we didn’t learn about until Neal was “driving” the route on Google Maps a few weeks before the trip. The surprise was 4.5 miles of unpaved road. We departed the rest area and continued a short distance on Hwy 41 before turning north on Cholame Valley Rd. It was a bit bumpy, but again a beautiful drive thru central coast ranch land.

After we passed thru Parkfield – the earthquake capital of the world – we saw the “Pavement Ends” sign. We slowed down and spread apart a bit as we started up thru the mountains on the dirt road. I was in the lead, so I had it best. Martin and Mike seemed to want to follow close. The rest of the group was back a bit. There were lots of tight turns with washboard. I figured out that if I took the turn on the outside, I could avoid most of the washboard. This was good because not only was it rough to go over, it caused traction loss which made things interesting.

Martin and Mike getting dusted out.

Martin and Mike getting dusted out.

Just after the pavement started again, there was a large pullout area where we stopped to regroup and assess our dusty cars. We all made it thru OK, or at least we thought (more on this later). Mike, Leonard and Dave decided they couldn’t be seen in cars that dirty, so they got out their dusters and took a minute to tidy it up.

The group at pull-out assessing the dust damage.

The group at pull-out assessing the dust damage.

We continued on what was now Parkfield-Coalinga Rd. to Hwy 198 and headed east thru the small town of Coalinga and onto our final destination at Harris Ranch. It was a longer day than we anticipated – we arrived at the hotel at 6:00 pm after driving about 255 miles. We all filled up before checking into the hotel and taking showers.

It was a very nice hotel with a beautiful courtyard. As we were checking in, Craig reported that his TR6 wasn’t running well – underpowered. We popped the bonnet and quickly discovered his throttle linkage between his two carbs was broken. Only his front carb was connected to the gas pedal! We tried a quick fix with a hose clamp, but we couldn’t keep the carbs synchronized properly. So Martin drove Craig back to Coalinga to the auto parts store to get some tubing and small hose clamps. When they got back, it only took a few minutes to MacGyver things back together.

We met for dinner at 7:30 at the steakhouse. (You can’t go to Harris Ranch and not eat at the steakhouse!) They set up a large table in a back room for us so we could be all together, be noisy and not bother their other patrons.

Everyone at dinner at Harris Ranch.

Everyone at dinner at Harris Ranch.

After we all ordered our beer and wine, we had a small raffle. Julie wasn’t there, so I did my best Julie imitation (but fell WAY short). Leonard and Jean won event ball caps, Junie won a bottle of 1,000 Mile Merlot, Rebecca won a $25 Rock Auto gift certificate and Terry won an acrylic event wine glass. Our meals were fantastic and the service was outstanding. We all joked that we needed to have our club meeting there from now on! After a long day and a good meal, everyone was ready for bed…

Day #2 – Harris Ranch to Yosemite

Our plan was to meet at 8:00 am and leave at 8:15. Some of us ordered room service for breakfast and others went to the restaurant. Pam and I ate on our patio overlooking the courtyard. We gave some extra milk to a “hotel cat” who was very appreciative of the treat.

We were on the road at 8:16 (dang, one minute late). We backtracked a bit on Hwy 198 before turning north on Hwy 25. This was my personal favorite stretch of road. It was freshly paved, adequately twisty, gorgeous scenery and not another car the entire length! There was one tight turn that had a little dirt across it. You can imagine how fun it was accelerating out of that turn with the rear end stepping out a bit. I’ll bet I wasn’t the only one who did that.

38 miles of beautifully twisty roads!

38 miles of beautifully twisty roads!

Our first stop was Pinnacles National Park. We stopped at the visitor center and enjoyed a look around and of course the obligatory bathroom break. It was looking like rain, so everyone started putting their tops up. Dave was having problems getting his hood stick up. It seemed one of the cross bars couldn’t unfold properly without disassembling it. Dave swore he didn’t do anything! We finally took the whole thing off the car and magically, it all sorted out.

We were at Pinnacles for about 40 minutes before departing and continuing north on Hwy 25 towards Hollister. It drizzled a little on the way – in June! We skirted around the town and stopped on the far side at Casa de Fruta Orchard Resort for fuel and lunch. We got three tables next to each other and had a good meal.

After lunch, we split into two groups as some didn’t want to stop at our next planned stop. This ended up working out pretty well. Instead of trying to keep 11 vehicles together, we only had to worry about 5 or 6.

We headed west on Hwy 152 and one group stopped at the Romero Visitor Center on San Luis Reservoir. The lake was only about 10 feet from full pool. It was quite windy and we only spend about 15 minutes there before continuing west across the San Joaquin Valley, still on Hwy 152.

We passed thru the small towns of Los Baños and Chowchilla before starting our way into the foothills of the Sierra. The second group stopped at a new fire station in Chowchilla for a restroom break. The firemen enjoyed showing off their new station and looking at our cars. My group didn’t know they were there, but they saw us pass.

We had another beautiful drive into the foothills on Raymond Rd., ending in the town of Coursegold. We turned north on Hwy 41 and stopped for fuel in Oakhurst. From there it was a short drive into Yosemite and to the Big Trees Lodge (formerly the Wawona Hotel). We arrived at 4:45pm after driving about 260 miles. The second group arrived about 15 minutes later.

Cars in front of Big Trees Lodge.

Cars in front of Big Trees Lodge.

After checking in, we gathered on the second floor back porch for the beginning of happy hour. We migrated to the second floor front porch (for our second happy hour) which provided a nice view overlooking the hotel grounds and the final rays of sun before it set.

Happy Hour #2 on the front porch of Big Trees Lodge.

Happy Hour #2 on the front porch of Big Trees Lodge.

Our dinner reservations were at 7 and we had two large tables for our group. After dinner, several of us enjoyed a piano player in the lobby lounge. He played and sang lots of old songs and told fun stories between them. The rest of the group went back to the second floor back porch for happy hour #3 or headed off for quite time in their rooms. We all slept well again.

Day #3 – Yosemite to Lone Pine

Due to the reroute, this was going to be our longest day. We got up early and were on the road by 7:30. Craig and I had a quick breakfast in the dining room (no issues this time!).

We backtracked on Hwy 41 thru Coarsegold and down towards Fresno. We stopped for a rest/fuel break in Madera, then continued into Fresno. We headed east on Hwy 180 and the farther out of town we got, the prettier the drive. We wound up into the hills a bit before turning south on Hills Valley Rd.

We dropped back down to the valley floor and zigzagged south following farming roads and spending part of our time on the Orange Blossom Trail – yes, there were LOTS of orange groves. We went thru the towns of Orange Cove, Orosi, Cutler, Hillmaid, Exeter and into Lindsey. This was done on a series of long straights and right or left turns traveling thru beautiful country on roads you never would think to drive as your normally driving up Hwy 5 or 99 at 75+ MPH heading to your northern California destination. What a treat to be on a trip that was more about the journey than the destination!

We stopped for gas and lunch in Lindsey. Lunch was at the Orange Works Café. We knew nothing about it ahead of time other than it was in the right place for a lunch stop. It turns out it is a very popular spot for locals. We got there shortly after they opened and there was already a line for food. We all ordered sandwiches and drinks (orange smoothies, juice, milkshakes, ice cream) and got a group of tables outside. The food and beverages were excellent.

As we were getting ready to leave, we noticed some coolant on the ground under Leonard’s MG. We popped the bonnet and checked the level. It was OK, but there was definitely coolant leaking out what looked like a recent radiator repair. We tucked the MG in the middle of the group and continued south on Hwy 65 towards Bakersfield.

Cars in front of the Orange Works Café.

Cars in front of the Orange Works Café.

This is the part of the trip I liked the least. Hwy 65 was on and off freeway. It did go thru some small towns, but as we got into Bakersfield, it was much less interesting. We had to get on Hwy 99 for a short distance. There was a lot of fast traffic (boo) and as we approached our Hwy 58 exit, there was construction which put us in stop-and-go traffic (double boo!). Then we got on Hwy 58 which was nothing like our first day. While the road was nice and wound up into the mountains thru Tehachapi, there were LOTS of SLOW trucks who all seemed to want to pass each other going uphill at 35 MPH (triple boo!!).

Leonard and Judy decided to head home as their car was overheating on and off. We were all on a group text, so they kept us appraised of their progress. As we were heading towards Lone Pine a little later, we got the good news they made it safely home (with several stops up the Grapevine to let the engine cool off). Judy reported that Leonard already had a list of things to do to fix the problem!

We did stop at Murray Family Farms for a fuel and bathroom stop. They offered a free basket of berries if you presented you fuel receipt. We got blackberries which were delicious.

About halfway up the hill towards Tehachapi, we got a text from Jean in the SAG wagon. Mike’s TR6 was struggling uphill. We all got off at a gas station and waited. Continued texts from Jean kept us appraised of their progress. After about 20 minutes they arrived. We had scouted out a place out of the wind and we spent 20 minutes changing out his fuel pump. Things seemed better after that.

The mechanics “helping” Mike replace his fuel pump.

The mechanics “helping” Mike replace his fuel pump.

We continued east on Hwy 58, then merged north on Hwy 14 towards our next stop at Red Rock Canyon. The turn was a bit confusing and our well rested and quick acting leader at the time missed it. No one was too bothered by it though as it was hot and getting late and we were all anxious to get to Lone Pine.

We stopped for a stretch/bathroom break in Pearsonville. My TR4 was running rough – apparently on 3 cylinders. Not wanting to troubleshoot it in the heat and wind, we soldiered on to Lone Pine.

We pulled into the Dow Villa Motel at 5:40 after driving 375 miles. All our rooms were along a single story section of the hotel which was perfect. Some showered right away. Others decided they needed beer to quench their thirsts. They headed over to the Totem Café and found a great spot outside (in the shade) to pull some tables together to enjoy some suds.

Washing down the dust after a long day on the trail, errr road.

Washing down the dust after a long day on the trail, errr road.

Others trickled in and eventually all 20 of us were there. Most enjoyed dinner there while Pam and I, and the Cooks headed to Bonanza Mexican Restaurant. We all had good meals.

I bugged out from dinner early so I could troubleshoot my rough running problem before it got dark. I started the car and pulled spark plug cables one at a time and determined the #1 cylinder was not firing. I pulled the spark plug and shorted it to the block and cranked the engine. Good spark. Hmmm, it was starting to sound more serious. I pulled the valve cover and hand-rotated the engine and found the #1 cylinder intake valve was not opening. I pulled the rocker arm assembly to check the pushrod which was OK. So my conclusion was a flattened cam lobe. Crap.

By this time, everyone was back from dinner and I had lots of “help” sorting thru options (change the oil and filter and drive it home, rent a U-Haul and tow it home, drive home in the SAG wagon and get my truck/trailer and come back for the car, AAA). None were ideal for a variety of reasons, so I decided to (finally) take a shower and call it a night.

Day #4 – Lone Pine to Ventura (Home)

Sleep was restless as I churned thru the options in my mind. I got out of bed about 6:30 knowing I wasn’t going to drive it home, but still not settled on a plan. Pam called AAA and found they could have a flatbed there in 90 minutes and take us all the way home for $144 (we were 18 miles over our 200-mile limit and at $8 per mile, that’s what got us the $144). Decision made! It was cheaper than any other alternative and would get us home the quickest.

The group ate breakfast and pondered their options. Mike’s cars was missing again, Neal’s car was sputtering on and off. Jack’s car was missing too (found loose spark plug). Martin’s car started vibrating above 55 MPH and the speedo hadn’t worked for the last 950 miles. Basically, our LBC’s were showing their heritage.

The group headed off at 8:30 while Pam and I waited for our tow. From here I’ll turn the story over to Neal (see the end for the rest of the Justin’s story).

The day started off with a somber note as we all realized that we were losing our fearless leaders (Pam and Joel), this, after losing Leonard and Judy just one day before. We were down to 8 cars now, and each of us were having rekindled doubts about being able to finish this thing, and each of our cars were having doubts of their own.

As was our regular morning practice, we called the group together out in the parking area and gathered around our cars to discuss the upcoming day and its route. We discussed an optional trek home that would be shorter, quicker, and possibly less stressful on the cars and drivers, which was to head down the 395 to the 14, to the 5, and then to the 126 back to Ventura, but there was a unanimous decision by all involved to stay true to our day #4 route, and to accept our destiny and just deal with any circumstances that might come up (including the definite possibility that Mike and Sandra might end up on a flatbed also).

So as we all pulled out of the Dow Villa’s parking lot heading South on the 395, with the peak of Mt. Whitney to our right, and waving goodbye to Joel and Pam, we refueled at the local Chevron, then gathered at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center. Mike’s car was running absolutely horrible. It was firing on only five of the six cylinders, and was burning more oil than leaked out of all of our cars combined (about a quart every 150 mi.), so Craig Peterman and Mike quickly installed a brand new set of spark plugs hoping that would help the situation. We then pulled out and headed South towards home.

Our next planned stop was 67 miles away at the Indian Wells Brewing Company, just off Hwy. 14. Maggie called ahead to let them know that 20 British car nuts were about to descend upon them, and asked if they could set up a tasting and tour of their brewery, which they did and graciously welcomed us. This turned out to be a very enjoyable stopping spot for the entire group. We had a great tour of their brewery that produces not only 16 different varieties of craft beer, but also 10-15 different flavors of creatively named sodas. Their retail and tasting room was great entertainment with many nostalgic signs, posters and memorabilia.

Continuing south on Hwy 14 for a few more miles, we turned off and headed West on Hwy 178 towards Lake Isabella. This two-lane road was a steady (but gradual) climb up into and through the Kern River Preserve which was full of beautiful vistas, rolling golden grass covered hills, and expansive views out over and along Lake Isabella that was covered in white caps from the steady westerly wind blowing across our bonnets.

After 50 easy miles cruising the Isabella Walker Pass Rd. (Hwy 178), I purposefully blew past the offramp to our lunch stop in the City of Lake Isabella, and took an optional exit further down the road to get to our destination so we could arrive with the wind at our backs verses the wind in our faces (that’s my story… and I’m sticking with it!).

After re-fueling and a hearty lunch at The Pizza Factory in Lake Isabella, with Mike’s car still huffing and puffing but keeping up like the Energizer Bunny, we headed off west again on Hwy 178 through what was Maggie’s and my favorite section of the entire trip. We will remember this canyon road, and drive it again and again as we move through life… it was that good.

Walker Pass with the raging Walker River.

Walker Pass with the raging Walker River.

The road twisted, climbed and dropped, and twisted some more as it ran high above, along, and then nearly on top of the Kern River. The river was at full flow and at full speed because they are desperately discharging water from Lake Isabella so the lake doesn’t have any dam issues from snow melt. I was leading the group through the canyon, and to try and take in as much of the experience as possible, I set a slower pace than usual to avoid gear shifts and steering corrections… just a nice leisurely, twisty drive with a roaring river outside the passenger door.

The next 50 miles were sheer hell for me with straight roads skirting the east side of Bakersfield, a section of stop lights, a freight train crossing, and then passing over the super highways Hwy 99 and Interstate 5, to our last fueling stop just south of Taft, before we headed back up into the mountains and through the Los Padres National Forest. On this last leg of the trip, we could feel home getting closer and closer as each mile peeled away.

Cars stopped at railroad crossing.

Cars stopped at railroad crossing.

Mike and Sandra’s car just wouldn’t quit. It was mortally injured, and God only knew what was wrong with it, but it kept running and kept up with the gang.

Our very last stop was for a stretch and a break at the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center, just a few miles north of Ojai, but when we arrived about 4:30, the Visitor Center was closed, so we parked in the open parking lot outside of their gates, hoisted ourselves from our seated positions, used the facilities in the RV camp site across the road, then walked around and hung out for 30 minutes or so swapping stories of the day’s adventure. This was our final time together on this trip, and it was bittersweet as we were all tired and wanted to get home, but we also didn’t want the journey to end. Finally, we succumbed to our exhaustion, lined up and took group photos, gave each other hugs, handshakes and high fives, then individually headed out on our own to drive the rest of the way and give our LBS’s (Little British Superstars) the rest they much deserved. This trip was absolutely fantastic, and proved that we (and our little roadsters) still got it!

Farewell at Wheeler Gorge.

Farewell at Wheeler Gorge.

Day #4 – The Justin’s Version

Our tow truck didn’t show up until 10:45 – about 3 hours after we called. That was OK. AAA kept us informed with texts, so that gave Pam and I a chance to wander around Lone Pine. We shopped a bit and saw the last remaining section of adobe wall left from a destroyed house during the 1872 earthquake. While we were waiting, we got a text from Jean saying they just passed a flatbed tow truck heading north, so we knew they were getting close.

Our driver was a stereotype desert rat. Well tanned with a long scraggly goatee and a limp, and as friendly as could be. After loading the car up, we were on the road by 11:00 am. He set the cruise at 68 and we traveled in comfort (read “air conditioning”) south on Hwy 395. The truck was an extended cab so Pam sat in the middle in the back seat while I rode shotgun.

TR4 on the flatbed.

TR4 on the flatbed.

We stopped in Mojave (his home base) for fuel and snacks, then continued on. We arrived at home a little after 3:00 pm. After getting the TR4 on the ground, I drove it into the Paddock (our name for our new garage). After unpacking and since we were home early, Pam and I removed the bonnet and I started draining fluids in preparation for pulling the engine.


After we got home, we kept up on group texts and saw that everyone got home safely – in the 6:00 pm timeframe. There was unanimous agreement that the trip was a blast and everyone couldn’t wait until the next one. I’m not sure what Neal and I have started, but it looks like another Mille is in our future. Actually, we already have a preliminary route in the works, which will certainly go thru iterations before we finalize it – just hopefully not as radical ones as this year’s!

'A Car Club Mille Miglia' have 3 comments

  1. July 12, 2017 @ 12:45 pm -Nate

    7.12.17 ! EXCELLENT ! .

    I’m also an LBC owner/lover/driver/mechanic and I’d love to join in this sort of fun run if you have a mailing list please ad me .



  2. July 31, 2017 @ 4:36 pm morris minor

    How about bringing a trailer behind the swag wagon ?


  3. September 20, 2017 @ 9:06 am John Paul

    On your next Mille Miglia run when is the next one and how much does t cost, or how much money should i bring?


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