Starting The Year With a Crowd of Alfisti!

1 Feb

Often, annual events can become dull, but it’s exceptional ones that simply get better as they go. This latest New Year’s Drive on January 2nd, proved to be exceptional as we combine 100 miles of winding scenic roads, an outstanding BBQ, a wonderful crowd, and the nice cars and hospitality of Fred Schuddekopp at Autostrada.
The first clue that the event would be great was the crowded parking lot at the Starbucks gathering point just north of Lynnwood. With the coffee store filled with familiar faces, the aroma of coffee wafting through the air, I noticed a few new faces. As NWARC has grown by 116 people in the last 12 months, I suppose new faces shouldn’t surprise me. It was great to see so many people joining for the day’s events.
The Alfa Romeo watch I was wearing told me to get rolling so we gathered outside in the unseasonably warm weather for our pre-drive guidelines. Drive carefully, no crashes, explain the route guide, and welcome the new participants including the Fiat Enthusiasts Northwest (FEN) members who had been invited along.
We headed out on the drive by first taking a slow drive north on I-5. I knew a little about how OJ must have felt since I was driving about 55 MPH for 15 miles with 27 cars following me.
At Marysville, we transitioned to backroads that followed the shoreline past Tulalip, then Kayak Point and Warm Beach. The scary part is the number of the signs along this 15 mile stretch of road, in memory of the abnormally high number of drunk driving deaths. I haven’t counted them recently but it exceeds 20 signs on either side of the road.
Some members may remember a few years back when we visited the home of Steve Werner, just north of Kayak Point. Steve was building a fantastic Ferrari Mondial 500 replica that used an Alfa 4 cyl engine, and deDion rear suspension, transaxle, brakes, and more. I wondered about his great project as we passed his home which had a For Sale sign. Since his wife was a Boeing top executive, I’ll assume they moved to Chicago taking that cool car with them.
We crossed over the Stillaguamish River, went past Stanwood and crossed over the little Gateway bridge onto Camano Island. Our route took us to the north end of the island with views onto Skagit Bay and through the community of Utsalady, whose name comes from the native word for Place of Berries. We wandered the northern half of Camano before heading off the island and past Stanwood then turned north on the Pioneer Hwy to Skagit Valley.
As we approached the town of Conway, we turned westward, crossed the South Fork Skagit River and onto Fir Island and along the Skagit City Road which now tours new and old farms and used to access the first white settlement along the river, though the town has been gone for over a hundred years at this point. Over the next bridge, we crossed the North Fork Skagit River, then followed Dodge Valley Road and wandered into LaConner. Being on a timeline, we didn’t stop but I highly recommend it as a great town to wander whenever you have time to return.
We crossed the Rainbow Bridge onto Fidalgo Island, which is all the land west of the Swinomish Channel. This channel was dug out in 1937 to create a safer route for boats getting out from behind Whidbey Island rather than forcing them to navigate the turbulent waters of Deception Pass.
We skirted the shores of Similk Bay, then over a ridge and past Lake Campbell. As we passed the old vintage gas station and store below Mt Erie and on the shore of Lake Erie, club members Paul and Kristy Affolter joined us. They waited for us there after returning from their home on Lopez Island. We continued up into the SW side of Anacortes along Anaco Beach Drive with it’s deer and very nice homes.
Finally, we entered Washington Park and followed the 2.6 mile, one lane paved Loop Road as it wanders among the tall trees, scenic views, and walkers that share this route. (As the leader, I did warn walkers as I got to them that I had over 27 cars behind me.) Finally I stopped all of us at a viewpoint looking across the windswept side of the park across to Burrows Island. The long drive without stopping meant that the people had to choose between the view or the restroom. By this point, I found that our ranks had grown to just over 30 cars trying to park where about 10 cars might fit.
After I could hear the growling stomachs over the blowing wind, we continued another 15 minutes back to downtown Anacortes and our lunch at Autostrada. Another 10 cars full of members had gone directly to the lunch spot so the crowd was outstanding. Some people lined up for food, while others stood talking, and others found the restroom.

The view of Burrows Island from the Washington Park viewpoint.

I was focused on the beautiful red 2002 Alfa Romeo Spider parked gloriously in the lot. The owners were nice (or crazy) enough to hand me the keys so without any chance for them to reconsider, I jumped in and headed out to terrorize the drivers around Anacortes. The car’s fit and finish were extraordinary with the leather seats, and steering wheel providing the feel we all love. The engine was quick rev’ing and pulled very strongly with an easy press on the Go pedal. After a couple blocks of driving I realized I’d never get to use all 6 gears without a short drive on Hwy 20. Off I went. Perhaps it’s just me, but while thoroughly enjoying the drive I wonder about all the people in the other cars I’m passing and if they have a clue how lucky they are to see an amazingly rare car.

The author taking a 2002 Alfa Romeo Spider for a quick run.

Autostrada is a shop that builds and restores Alfas, primarily focusing on GTVs, GTAs, and Giulia Supers. The shop owner, Fred Schuddekopp has a long standing reputation for outstanding knowledge and his customers are from across the nation. Rather impressive for being located in little Anacortes. Fred S. opened up his storage space for tours so most of us jumped at the chance. The first car hiding there was an Alfa GTA (1600) that came from California. It was “complete”, but in pieces, including body work and paint when Fred first got it. The early race history is unknown but was raced in the US by noted Alfa collector John Murphy of Atlanta for many years in wide body configuration. Next was the 1300 GTA Jr. that came from Portland painted but totally disassembled. It’s entire history is documented including the original purchase paperwork. Spending most of it’s history here on the West Coast they have some wonderful photos of it in action. There was a TI Super from Scotland, though the car was first sold in France. The east coast owner who has the detailed history, bought it 3 yrs ago and shipped it to Autostrada to get it running, which they’ve sampled only once since building it. It carries FIA papers and retains it’s correct Dunlop brake set-up. Then there was a Giulia Super that Fred S. originally purchased for himself, for what was thought to be a bargain price. When it rolled out of the truck from Colorado, he new he’d made a mistake! By the time he wandered to SoCal where Fred’s former partner of 25 years put a new nose on the car, this bargain turned into a money pit! Now, the new owner, Tom Lacosta. took mercy on the car and invested in cleaning it up nicely over the years and its been raced quite a bit and proven to be both reliable and fast.  Also parked there were 2 GTVs; one belongs to Brian Mertz who lives in SoCal. Tired of his local racetracks, he shipped the car to Autostrada for storage and maintenance and to race it in the NW twice a year in what is an “arrive and drive” program. Mike Alfstad of Seattle owns the other 69 1750 GTV. That car has good local history plus a few updates over the years.
Autostrada specializes in restorations, plus race car building/maintenance and race support. Preferring to focus on Alfas, partially because he can easily keep spares around, but also knowing that the pre ‘67 cars have the best “return”, if you will. Fred’s car interest was started at the age of 12 by his Dad who took him to Mosport to see the cool race cars. After an interlude involving the sailing industry, he returned to the car business and enjoys the association with Alfas, including Giuliettas as well as the GTAs, GTVs, and Supers. A small part of Autostrada is parts; springs, swaybars, plexi windows for instance. Keep them in mind for your needs.
As people talked and ate, we also ran a drawing for the many giveaway items Fred S. had put together including a number of shirts from Tony & Debi Schmid. The drawings gave away shift knobs, calendars, games, and much more. I think most people ended up with some item! I had also brought a goodie bag with Alfa Romeo logo cookies and brownies as a gift to anyone who drove and Alfa from the Starbucks, along the drive, and finished at Autostrada. In all 72 people attended driving 25 Alfas, 7 Fiats, 3 Audis, 1 Ferrari, a couple Hondas, a Mercedes, and a VW.

What a great way to ring in 2012!

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