A Father & Daughter Share the Road to Pebble Beach
February 1, 2024
Joe and Caroline prepare to set off on the 2007 Motoring Classic in their 1937 Cord SC Phaeton.
Enjoying the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic
By Joseph Cassini III with Caroline Cassini
Story featured in the 2008 INSIDER
Sometimes you know immediately that a certain moment or event will remain with you for the rest of your life. That has been my experience with the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic, a 1,500-mile automotive tour where the scenery is spectacular, the views dramatic, the organization flawless, the camaraderie genuine, and the venues wonderful. It is, in a nutshell, an outright fantastic and fun time.
My wife, Margie, and I participated in the first Motoring Classic three years back [in 2005], and this past year [in 2007], I went on it again with our daughter, Caroline, who was then 15. We made a very conscious decision months in advance that I would do this trip with Caroline. We thought it would be a good opportunity for the two of us to spend several days together. So we talked to her about it. We told her about some of the highlights of the trip, and she was really looking forward to it.
She did ask me several times if she would be the youngest person on the tour. I think that was her only trepidation—fitting in.
Caroline: I was, of course, a little hesitant because I knew I would be the only child. But I was excited to spend time with my dad. And I have loved cars since I was little. I’ve grown up with them! After being with them and seeing them develop from pieces of metal to these gorgeous masterpieces, I couldn’t not love them. So I just got used to the idea of being the youngest on the tour.
And it really wasn’t hard. The adults on our tour were great to me. They didn’t seem to mind talking to me, and we had some great conversations. They would tell me about their experiences and tell me stories about their cars. I haven’t met anyone nicer than them in the car world. They were amazing.
Everyone on the Motoring Classic is a true car enthusiast, but more importantly they are just nice folks. Even if you are meeting for the first time there is a sense that you have met before and you are comrades on this great adventure.
Cars on the tour included American and European models of various sizes, horsepower and breed. Caroline and I drove our 1937 Cord SC Phaeton, which, fortunately, performed flawlessly throughout the trip.
I don’t have a large collection of cars, but the cars I do have I keep at home, and Caroline works on them with me, doing odds and ends—changing the oil, cleaning them, polishing the copper brake drums on one. So she knows quite a bit about car and how they work. But going on a longer trip that truly tests the cars is a different experience.
Caroline had ridden in the Cord before, but not to that extent, and she kept an eye on it. She watched the gauges, and if she wasn’t familiar with something—when it didn’t shift into gear right away or when we were pulling a hill, for example—she wanted to know what was happening, she wanted to know if the car was okay.
C: I think I learned more about actually operating the cars and maintaining them.
Every day, or nearly every day, my dad and I had to add oil to our engine to keep it running, and that was kind of hard. When we got to Pebble Beach we learned there was a much easier way to do it. But the way we had done it still worked out well . . . which was good!
From its start in Kirkland, Washington, until its arrival eight days later in Pebble Beach, every moment of the Motoring Classic is an adventure. The route laid out by our tour masters, Al and Sandi McEwan, is not only unique and incredibly beautiful but quite challenging. The roads themselves are the key source of enjoyment: fabulous blind curves mask beautiful vistas, straightaways allow you to test your vehicle under acceleration, and endless loops through foothills and mountains cover some of the most varied car territory available anywhere.
There’s such a contrast each day, in terms of the topography and the scenery. There are no lowlights, only highlights—from the awesome ascent up Windy Ridge to the top of Mount St. Helens then down to the winding Colorado River Highway, from Timberline Lodge perched at 6,000 feet on the side of Mount Hood to a jet boat ride on Oregon’s Rogue River, from the California redwoods to the serene wine country.
C: It’s hard to choose, but I think the first day was probably the most memorable for me. We drove all the way up Mount St. Helens with our car—and not everyone made it that far. It was a demanding trip, but the Cord made it! When we got to the top, you could walk even farther up, so I walked to the very top. You see all this greenery on one side, and then you turn this corner and you see all these trees down. You can see exactly what Mount St. Helens did to everything. You can really understand the environment. It’s a really great site; I’ve never seen anything like it.
My dad decided to stay with the car because a lot of people were looking at it.
As might be expected, our cars possessed a certain “wow” factor as we proceeded down the coast. People often asked us if they could take their pictures alongside the Cord, and we enjoyed their excitement.
One very chilly and misty morning, when Caroline and I were traveling with the top down through a small Oregon town, we saw a store sign that read, “Hot Cider/Home Baked Donuts.” We immediately drove in, and we soon attracted a small crowd of locals. There was one older gentleman that drew my attention as he stared at our Cord. Upon inquiry, he told me that as a young boy he had a toy model of a Cord but had never dreamed of seeing one in person. It surely made his day.
We had many similar encounters as we made our way to Pebble Beach.
As my navigator, Caroline was able to keep us on-route the entire trip. She read the tour manual and looked at the maps and took notes about things to watch out for and things we enjoyed. If there was a particularly scenic overlook or something, she would scribble a note or draw a little picture in the margin.
Much of our talk focused on the route, and since I had driven it once before, Caroline wanted to know what to expect. Being a teenager with an inquisitive mind and a desire for instant gratification, she often wanted to know not only where we were staying and what we would be doing later but what was around the next corner.
C: Even though my dad was driving, he still wanted to see things, so he didn’t hesitate to look around at all, and I didn’t mind that. But when my mom joined us, which she did for the last leg of the trip, she didn’t want him to do that. That’s for sure!
I’m afraid I also have a tendency to have a bit of a heavy foot. On the straightaways, and even a few curves, we really tested the car, we opened it up. So we didn’t dillydally. We weren’t the first to arrive each day, but we definitely weren’t the last either.
I do feel compelled to report that Caroline did have one major disappointment: she was unable to drive. This was not because of any lack of ability but simply because of her age.
C: I get my permit this spring [in 2008] and I get my temporary license at 17. After that, and after I learn how to drive a stick, I’d love to go on this tour again. And again. I don’t know what I’ll do after college, but if there’s any chance that I can keep up with this hobby, I would love to.
The next time we participate in the Motoring Classic Caroline will be of legal driving age and I will be her navigator . . . at which point, I am sure, I will find a way to get lost.