My “Mazda-rati” – a GT model with a six speed stick
Today is not our usual Gear Head Tuesday post. Today, we are going to take a trip. We are on a quest for the Artichoke Garlic Herb Grail.
You say, “WHAT!?”
Stay with me. I think you’ll enjoy the ride!
We begin at Stanford University Hospital in Palo Alto, California where I had gone for a check up. Despite the 100 mile drive to Stanford from where I now live, I continue to go to Stanford because it is superior to any medical facility I have ever used. Not only that, but if your appointment is on any Thursday year-round, you can go to the cafeteria in the Main Hospital and partake of their superb roasted turkey with cornbread-pecan stuffing. Hospital food isn’t supposed to be good, but the food service at Stanford, like the medical care, is outstanding. They manage to get the turkey done just right – crisp skin and falling off the bone moist flesh. The cornbread-pecan stuffing is fabulous. So, whenever possible, I schedule my Stanford appointments on a Thursday.
The current Main Hospital opened in 1955. A new hospital building is under construction and the existing hospital will be “repurposed.” The current building was designed by Edward Durrell Stone. The “backwards swastika” motif in the cast concrete construction has always been controversial but Stone chose the design because it is a Native American symbol of good health. Along the fronts of the buildings – both the hospital and the medical school buildings – are colonnades with beautiful bronze lanterns suspended from the roof.
It was a beautiful day and, having nothing else on the agenda for the day after Stanford save the 100 mile trek home on Interstate 80, it seemed to be an ideal time to go on a quest for the Artichoke Garlic Herb Grail. In other words, I was about to drive through the redwood forest in the hills above the San Francisco Peninsula toward the Pacific Coast and head for the tiny town of Pescadero where the Grail may be found. It was the perfect excuse to put my “Mazda-rati” through the paces. It was an open sun roof kind of day.
From the parking garage, I turned onto Pasteur Drive and headed to Sand Hill Road which I took westbound to I-280. North onto I-280, the Junipero Serra Freeway, which by the way, is a lovely drive as it goes through a valley in the hills of the Peninsula. The freeway takes its name from the Dominican priest who founded 9 of the 21 missions in California during the time that Spain controlled Mexico. Much of present day U.S. 101 follows “El Camino Real,” the Royal Road that connects the missions.
At Highway 84, I exit 280 and head west through Woodside and into the hills toward the Pacific.
Whoopee! Lots of tight turns and I can play “sports car” pretending I am campaigning my Porsche in a rally as I did back in my Salad Days when I could afford a Porsche.
Accelerate into the turn, touch the brakes but do most of the braking with the transmission. Snick Snick – a double-clutched downshift from six to five. Snick Snick – a double clutched downshift from five to four. Snick Snick – four to three. I wonder – how many people still know how to double-clutch? With the synchronizers in the transmission, double-clutching isn’t necessary, but I do it anyway on downshifts as it takes a bit of the load off of the synchronizers and gears as they spin to matching speeds.
A straight. Accelerate. Snick. Three to four. Snick. Four to five. Another turn. Snick Snick. Five to four. Snick Snick. Four to three. Hard left on the wheel. Snick Snick. Three to two. Accelerate out. Snick. Single-clutch the upshifts. Two to three. Snick. Three to four. 20 MPH turn posted. Took it at 40. Woo! Hoo!
Wow! East bound is a red Acura NSX, top down, of course, followed by a ’69 Mustang GT convertible, also top down, with a group of four Harleys behind him.
Day-um! There’s a slow-moving silver Corolla in front of me! Oh! Now there’s a Cadillac ATS coupe right behind me. Oh! He thinks I’m moving too slow! Can’t he see the Corolla in front of me?! I look for an opening to blast pass the Corolla. It doesn’t happen. This went on for two agonizing miles. The Corolla barely moving in front of me and the Cadillac trying to push me faster from behind. Frustrating. Aggravating. I’m not so bothered by the Corolla as I am by the Cadillac. I can’t go any faster than the Corolla, I can’t pass the Corolla, so get off my bumper already! The Road Rage Meter is advancing toward the red zone. Suddenly the Corolla turns off onto another road and just then there is a straight. Snick Snick. Downshift to second. Stand on the accelerator. Snick. Three. Snick. Four. Snick. Five. Snick. Six, popping the clutch on each shift. Left the Cadillac behind! He accelerated, too, but to my astonishment, I outran him! Woo! Hoo!
The “Mazda-rati” handles all of this with aplomb! This kind of driving is what Mazda’s engineers designed the car to do. Mazda is rightly noted for building cars with excellent handling characteristics. Not only is the suspension tuned just right for this kind of driving, the gear ratios in the transmission are perfectly spaced. The gear shifts are crisp, precise and the shift lever emits a satisfying “snick” sound, reassuring you the shift went as planned. The car is an absolute blast to drive like this. When I bought it, I insisted on the six speed manual transmission. The salesman asked, “Aren’t you a little old for a stick shift?” I gave him my most frost-inducing glare and told him to “STFU. If you want to sell a car, you’ll say nothing else about my transmission choice.” He got the message …
Now we’re in La Honda, a sleepy village alongside 84. On the left, lots of Harleys parked at the Applejack Saloon, their riders getting tanked inside . The Cadillac turns into the parking lot of the local restaurant on the right. I press on West on 84.
After La Honda, the terrain plateaus and begins a gentle slope toward the Pacific. Hoping no San Mateo County Deputy Sheriff is sitting alongside the road with his radar gun, I blast along well above the speed limit to San Gregorio.
At San Gregorio, I have two choices. I can take Stage Road south to Pescadero or I can go a bit further West and take U.S. 1, turn south and after a few miles turn back east to Pescadero.
Stage Road takes its name from the 19th century when the stage coach came west from Redwood City to La Honda, San Gregorio and Pescadero. It’s a fun road to drive, full of turns – but today I opt to take U.S. 1. The morning fog is beginning to burn off the Pacific. I enjoy the cooling ocean air, a welcome contrast to the heat we’ve had for the last several days in the Sacramento Valley. Last night at home it was still 99º at 21:00 hrs! A few miles south on U.S. 1 and I turn back east to Pescadero.
The huge U.S. flag flying on the flag pole at the intersection of Stage Road and Pescadero Creek Road greets me as I turn left onto Stage Road. We have arrived at the town of only about 650 people, the town being the home of The Grail.
On my right is Duarte’s, a restaurant famous for its Cream of Artichoke soup. Artichokes thrive along the coast. Starting about here and going all the way south to Santa Cruz and then down to Monterey, there are thousands of acres of artichokes growing in the brisk, foggy Pacific air. Duarte’s is also favored by the bikers who, just as I do, enjoy the twists and turns of the roads to Pescadero. As it is a splendid day for riding a motorcycle, even though it is a week day, there is a big crowd of cycles in Duarte’s lot. The Grail is not, however, at Duarte’s.
Pescadero is Harley Heaven
On my left is Downtown Local, an eclectic espresso shop that also sells nostalgic items from the ’40s – ’60s. In front is a beautifully restored ’63 Ford Galaxie 500 XL convertible. As I ogle the Galaxie, a Porsche Carrera, sunroof open – naturally – rolls by gurgling that unique Porsche sound.
A beautifully restored ’63 Ford Galaxie 500 XL convertible, powered by Ford’s big 390 cubic inch V-8, sits in front of Downtown Local, an espresso shop in Pescadero.
I notice that my Caffeine Meter is in the Danger Zone, so I go into Downtown Local and order a double shot of espresso. The espresso was amazing! In fact, it was the single best-tasting espresso I have EVER had! I asked the server, Bella, where the shop gets its coffee. It is from Sightglass, in San Francisco. I’ve got to get to San Francisco and check them out. I learned later from their website that they are a craft roaster of carefully selected coffees.
Every time I have visited Pescadero, I have seen interesting automobiles. On my first visit here in November, 2013, I spotted a Morgan Plus Eight and became acquainted with its owner, Doug – who had the good fortune of having a Packard Twelve to drive when he was in college!
Above: The Morgan Plus Eight owned by Doug H.,
whom I met on my first visit to Pescadero in November 2013.
Below: Some of the nostalgic goodies to be found in Downtown Local in Pescadero.
“Chris-to-Fear” will like this Original Mac Book:
Just down the street from Downtown Local is The Grail! I walk north on Stage Road to Arcangeli’s, an “old school” grocery store with wooden floors that has occupied this site since 1929. Inside is the reason I came here today, inside is THE GRAIL!
Arcangeli Grocery has a bakery and the little store has rightly become famous for one thing: Artichoke Garlic Herb bread. Artichoke Garlic Herb bread is THE GRAIL!
They sell so much of it, you can always get it still warm from the oven. A fresh batch comes out every 30 minutes all day, every day. Each loaf contains a quartered artichoke. You have to buy two loaves, because you’ll never make it home with just one! You’ll eat one in the car on the way home. So despite being still full from the delicious roasted turkey lunch at Stanford, I bought two loaves. One went into the back of the Mazda-rati, the other stayed in the front seat with me. Despite having my hands full shifting gears and racing back over the hills to go home, that loaf of Artichoke Garlic Herb bread didn’t last until I got back to I-280!
You can order the Artichoke Garlic Herb bread and other breads made by Arcangeli HERE. The breads are parbaked and you finish them in your oven when they arrive.
NEXT TWO TUESDAYS: We will wrap up our series on Kaiser-Frazer cars first with a post about designer Dutch Darrin followed
by a post about Henry J. and Edgar Kaiser.
(Hat tip: “B-Squared”)