Quebec MGB American Tour
Thanks to Michel Desbiens, president of Club automobile Le Rendez Vous des Anglaises inc. du Québec, for sending in this story and pictures of his amazing 10,000 mile MGB trip around North America. Truly inspiring!
Happy are those, who just like Ulysses, have traveled a lot. Happier are those who can do it in a small British car all the while accomplishing a long-standing dream. Let me tell you about the adventure of three MGB’s and their happy owners. The journey takes us from Montreal to sublime California. The return trip takes us through the beautiful Rockies and across the flat but sensational Prairie scenery.
Our adventure started two years ago when my two friends, Denis Vincent and Guy Guèvremont asked me to accompany them on a trip across North America. This trip was not to be taken lightly as this expedition would cover 15,000 kilometers in our English cars, aged respectively 26, 29 and 33 years old. Familiar with their mechanical skills, I could accept their offer in complete confidence.
The preparation for this trip was an experience in itself. I’ll spare you the details of the numerous preparation meetings we held but you have to know that our cars would require the most rigorous of tune-ups which would push back our departure date several times. Due to the conflict in Iraq and our notorious spring storms it was finally on April 7th, 2003, a bright Monday morning, our convoy of three departed.
It is barely 2 PM when we have to make our first stop at Whippany, New Jersey. As a matter of fact it’s snowing, hailing and visibility is zero! The following morning everything is covered in ice and before we can depart for Virginia we have some major de-icing to do. It’s not before late evening, near Christianburg, that all evidence of the ice storm finally melts away from our cars. Unfortunately our first flat tire, on my car, and transmission problems on Guy’s car force us to remain in the area for a few additional hours. As luck would have it our North American MGB register (NAMGBR) lists a garage that specializes in British cars and our snags are quickly repaired.
Direction – Elvis
The next important stage in our adventure plunges us into the cradle of American culture. Memphis, Tennessee here we are!! While visiting the local auto museum we learn that Elvis had once owned an MGA! A quick stop at Graceland gives us a chance to capture this moment in history with a couple photos and we’re on our way again. From this point in our trek across America, on our itinerary starts to resemble a road movie. The dry desert air follows us as we cross Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Three days of intense heat, the broiling sun and a dusting of nostalgia we drive on the famous Route 66. At the end of this route we reach Flagstaff bringing us to the edge of the Grand Canyon. Out of respect there’s a moment of silence as we stare at all this splendor and immense open spaces facing our little convertibles. All the while, many people are surprised and curious to see our cars surrounded by this scenery. Usually one MGB is enough to get everybody’s curiosity going, but can you imagine three MGB’s in this fabulous décor!
Direction – Las Vegas
After seven days on the road we finally reach Las Vegas. A break and rest are well deserved for our little engines and us. But before entering Las Vegas we must cross the well-known Hoover dam, an absolute wonder. On the other side of the dam, the outline of Las Vegas can be seen across the horizon, lying in the middle of nowhere, part of the Nevada valley. Our cars attract attention as we negotiate the heavy traffic in the city of lights. After two days of rest and bumming around the luxurious hotels and casinos we finally hit the road once more. Our next destination in this adventure is Los Angeles. However, we make a unanimous decision to detour and head for San Diego near the Mexican border. In incredibly heavy traffic we make it to the border and in the distance we can see the Mexican flag fluttering proudly in the wind. We turn around and head north. The trip is going so well and the thought of following the coast all the way up is exciting.
Direction – Los Angeles
Highway 1 along the Pacific coast was probably built with the MGB in mind. How wonderful it is to drive along the coast with the top down and in such a beautiful place. After many kilometers of saline peace our arrival in Hollywood is rather hair-raising because of the traffic and intense urban activity. Our hotel lies within a few blocks of the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. We will be able to stroll along the walk of fame, see the famous “Hollywood” billboard and even drive through chic Beverly Hills. But the ocean is calling us and the beaches of Santa Monica are more inviting. Our cars parked close to the pier, steal the show. A crowd gathers to admire them and the number of kilometers we have traveled impresses them. How proud we are standing before these nice folks and what a nice day it was to be on the beach in the warm California sun. For the remainder of the time we spend in the area we succeed in discovering one of the most beautiful camping areas on the coast, Malibu. The view of the sun sinking below the horizon seen from our camping area is beyond description. Camping here was so pleasing; in fact we stayed two more days. The extra time gives us a chance to visit Venice Beach, relax and have a tour of Moss Motors. Moss, located in Galeto near Santa Barbara, is primarily known for its activity in the British restoration market and is the world's oldest and largest supplier of these parts.
The highway to San Francisco was just as idyllic but there was no warning of the difficulties that were awaiting us. It happened at a traffic light in the town of Half Moon Bay that my MGB started to act up. Was it a blown piston or a disconnected spark plug? Checking it out, the head gasket was found to be at fault. We find Guido Cordova, a Mexican mechanic working for the Main Street Service Station who will perform the necessary repairs, hopefully by Saturday. It’s with a bit of apprehension when we return to pickup my car. As a matter of fact, the garage had felt the same way fearing that it would be difficult in getting the necessary parts to fix the car and also doubted in their expertise repairing British cars. To our great surprise the work performed had been well done and I was able to rejoin my friends for the next leg of the trip towards Sonoma. The road took us through the beautiful Redwood forests with those giant trees making our cars look like toys.
After crossing Northern California, our MG’s attacked the states of Oregon and Washington thus making our point of entry into Canada near Vancouver. In the past 23 days of mostly sunshine, our cars were still running smoothly, but a major obstacle on the horizon was waiting for us, the Canadian Rockies. With altitudes reaching 11,000 feet, stops were frequent to give a break to our cars and giving us a chance to admire the breathtaking scenery. Upon arrival at Lake Louise we were disappointed to see that the winter ice was still covering the clear blue waters of the lake. We stayed overnight in Banff and the weather forecast was for cool and cloudy. The following morning we woke to 6 inches of fresh snow piled on our cars. Luckily the roads were quickly plowed and we were on our way again heading to Regina.
Crossing the Prairies was much easier than anticipated. The scenery is quite nice and the drive was very relaxing. After camping overnight in Thunder Bay we now take on a 500-mile excursion around the northern part of Lake Superior. This lake really looks more like an ocean and seems so mysterious. We get to go through Sault Saint Marie before spending the night in Petawawa with one final stop planned in Ottawa. Reaching Hawksbury signifies the end of our journey, as this is where we must separate. After 35 days of travel, without any major snags and our little personality differences all I can say is “What a trip this has been!”
Our MGB’s traveled about 9500 miles consuming around 275 imperial gallons of gas. We refueled 33 times and used about 5 quarts of oil per car. Having done the math this works out to an average of 33 miles per imperial gallon. This unforgettable experience is proof that, in spite of its age, the MGB remains a reliable, comfortable and extraordinary car to drive!
Special thanks to my traveling partners Guy and Denis who helped make a dream come true. I would also like to thank Nicole, my spouse, who understood the importance of such a trip and supported me throughout this undertaking. I love you, Nicole!
Montréal- Île des Soeurs