Thursday, January 21, 2016

The First Road Trip

I was reluctant to take the CRX, in fact, I had planned to rent a car for the trip.  I was concerned about the suspension being too stiff for the 600 mile journey, on top of the fact that I hadn't driven it on a trip longer than a 100 miles before.  This was the car I tore down to nothing, and rebuilt myself.  It would be a true test of my work and my knowledge of cars.  Needless to say, I wasn't very confident.  The week before I was scheduled to leave, I replaced both front lower control arms, and wheel bearings.  My passenger side ball joint had disintegrated and the opposite ball joint, and both wheel bearings were collateral damage.  This made me even more uneasy because I hadn't done a lot of driving since the repair, but I put on my 'big-boy' pants and took it anyway.

Departure day greeted me with clear and mild weather.  The car was full of Christmas presents, luggage, and a bag of tools that had enough tools in it to disassemble the entire car.  I wanted to be sure that if something were to go wrong, I would be prepared.  With a full tank, tires at correct pressures, and the GPS chatting to me, I hit the road.

The purpose of this trip was to meet my parents at their winter stomping grounds on Fripp Island, South Carolina.  They come down every year to avoid the worst part of the northern Illinois winter.  Since I wasn't able to see them during the holidays, I was hauling Christmas fare.  I felt like Santa in my little red sleigh.  Before I hit the highway, I made a stop at my local Land Rover (my other love) shop to pick up a part.  Before I left, I couldn't resist taking the opportunity to snap a picture of the CRX in front of an old Series 1 Rover.  Grins.

My plan was to stay on interstates 90% of the way there to avoid any sketchy road conditions and make the best time.  The plan worked well until I got on interstate 16.  The first 40 miles, and the last 60 almost killed me.  Whether due to lack of care, or a botched repair, the road had waves.  Erase the beach scene from your mind and try to imagine driving a tiny, short wheelbase, 2000lbs car with stiff suspension over a petrified corn field just after planting.  If you're not from the Midwest, that example might not be helpful, so let me help you understand this.  All waves have a top and bottom called a crest and a trough respectively.  As I would clear the crest my suspension would unload.  By the time my suspension reloaded as I reached the trough, I was already heading up to the next crest.  This caused me to be bounced along at 70 mph for 100 miles.  Occasionally, while cresting an unusually large wave in the pavement, I was lifted off my seat for a moment, only to be thrown back down into it seconds later.  Needless to say, by the time I got off of 16 and onto I95 (which could not have happened soon enough) I had a considerable headache.

Thankfully, by the time I reached I95, I was only about an hour away, and the smooth road gave me a chance to relax a little and take in the change in scenery.  The flora had already changed dramatically.  Palm trees lined part of the highway, and the grass fields had been replaced by wetland grasses.  I could really sense that I was close to the ocean.  I don't know what it is, but going to the ocean always makes me smile.  After what I had gone through on the way there, I didn't expect smiles to be prevalent, but when I crossed into South Carolina, I started to calm down and appreciate where I was.  As I passed through the sea front town of Beaufort, the last town before you head into the islands, the roads turned into beautiful lanes bordered by massive live oak trees, covered in Spanish moss.  The scenery on either side was wetland, state parks, and numerous scenic trails and turn-offs.  It's such a beautiful place.  After picking up my guest pass at the front gate, I continued into the community of Fripp Island, a quiet little community surrounded by inland marsh and the open ocean.  On top of the beautifully manicured landscaping, the wildlife is everywhere.  From herds of deer, flocks of wild birds, to dolphins playing in the canals.  It feels like you're on another planet.  As I pulled up to the front of the condo, I saw my parents trusty old 1997 Civic coupe.  What can I say, we're a Honda family.

The weekend consisted of riding bikes along the many boardwalks on the island, exploring the beautiful and historic town of Beaufort, and getting lost along the many sandy, oak-lined back roads.  One of the back roads that we discovered was a long straight, largely deserted road lined with more live oaks that were covered in Spanish moss.  I knew I had to get some shots of the CRX on this road.  So sure enough, as I began my journey home, it was my first stop.  Lucky for me, the morning sun was just coming through the trees, causing the hanging Spanish moss to glow.  It was the perfect setting for a photo shoot.

The way home was a bit different then the way there.  I decided to forego the interstate plan for a back-road approach.  This payed off quickly.  As I was leaving Beaufort county, cruising along a tree-lined two-lane road, something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention.  I wasn't going slow, so I blew right by it only catching a glimpse of a pillar in the trees.  It didn't look like any pillar I'd seen in the area, mostly because of it's size.  So I turned around and went back to see what it was.  It turned out to be the ruins of an old church built in the 1700s!  Yes, that old.  It looked like something out of a movie.  Not only were the ruins special, but the clearing that it was in was littered with head stones dating back to the same period.  We're talking Revolutionary War here.  That's old.

As I continued on, it didn't take long for me to appreciate a properly paved road, however riddled with potholes.  I'll take dodging potholes over being shaken to death.  It was two-lane rural roads for the first 2 to 3 hours of the journey.  I traveled from the coast to Augusta, Georgia.  Between was a series of quaint little towns that were sadly in need of an economic upswing, beautiful rolling hills of trees and marsh, and an overall sense of independence.  The majority of the houses I saw were far from anything you would call civilization, each having their own flavor of character.  These were true settlers in a sense, still living off the land and trying to eek out a good living with very little.  It gave me a sense of perspective after where I came from.

My journey through rural America ended as I entered Augusta, an old town, that was large enough to be called a city, however the general lack of activity suggested otherwise.  I had an alternative motive for going to Augusta, and that was THE golf course.  Yes, Augusta National.  Being a golf enthusiast, that particular course is a golfer's Mecca, a place I have been dying to see.  Sadly though, it was surrounded by a tall green wall that was also lined with trees.  So not only was it not open to the public, I couldn't even see inside.  Major bummer.

Anyway, before I completely forget that this is a CRX blog, let me get back to the car.  Much to my surprise and enjoyment, the car performed flawlessly.  In fact, not only did it shrug off large potholes and debris in the road, it began to run better as my return journey went on.  I'm not sure what happened, but it developed a little more pep by the time I got home.  As I pulled into the garage, I was smiling from ear to ear.  Not only did I prove to myself that my car knowledge and skills are legitimate, I had an all new respect and love for my car.  It was what I like to call, the Top Gear effect.  For those of you that have watched Jeremy, Richard, and James take beat up old cars on incredible journeys across the world, the one thing that at least one of them experiences at the completion of each journey, is a love for their car.  There really is a bond that develops when you ask a car to do something difficult, or simply require it to keep you safe.  Take Richard for example.  He fell so much in love with Oliver (a 1960's Opel) that he imported back to the UK.  The moral of the story is, go on a road trip with your CRX!  No matter what happens, you'll love it even more when you get back.


  1. I don't own a first gen, although I have had a couple of 3rd gen Civic GT's. These were UK cars made between 1985 and 1987 and came with (I suspect) a similar setup to your CRX. 105hp 1.5 12 valve SOHC. Damn, they were great and the torsion bar setup worked really quite well on our tight twisty country roads. I am a big fan of the first gen CRX and I really enjoy reading your blog. It is refreshing to see someone enjoying and appreciating a CRX for what it is and was meant to be. My CRX is a second gen 16i16 with a D16 DOHC. Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Chris, thanks for sharing! I'm a huge 3G fan as well, in fact there's one in my future :) The torsion bar setup works great since the cars are so light and low. I appreciate your kind words about my blog. It's always great to hear from a fellow CRX lover! Your 2nd Gen is beautiful. Those CF48s are dreamy on that car!!