Welcome to an account of a voyage across the USA in 3 Deux Chevaux: Ursula Walter (Uschi) and Axel Kaliske, Wally (Waltraud) and Kiki (Kristina) – friends Uschi and Axel from Germany and Storm – a client of Axel’s (who will be picking up his 2CV Charleston in Seattle and driving it home to New York), along with his daughter. Their destination is the annual Citroën Rendezvous at Saratoga Springs, NY.
Updated daily during the trip, here is the itinerary followed by the details, as told by Storm, of how the trip unfolds. Let’s start by looking at Storm who decided to do this in the first place!
How did this all start? My parents thought they had taken the wrong child from the hospital. Neither of them had any interest in cars and here they were with a child that loved everything on wheels. However, for most of my life that interest was limited to American and British cars, with a passing admiration for Italian design.
It wasn’t until I was well into my 5th decade that I began to widen my purview to include French cars. This erupted into a full passion after visiting my daughter while she was going to school in the Alsace region and living in Mulhouse, home of the French National Automobile Museum. Even my wife, not a big car person by any stretch of the imagination, was happy to spend hours with me at this amazing museum looking at some of the most beautiful cars ever built.
Later that same night, after having dinner in town, we stumbled onto a local car show that filled many of the streets of Mulhouse…and it was there, that night, that I fell in love with the Citroën 2CV. Such an improbable car! Unlike the American cars I grew up with, these were sparse, small cars with small engines, but huge personalities. I decided I had to have one.
When I came home, I began my search and it was during that search I found Axel Kaliske. Axel’s love of the Deux Chevaux began early in life in his native Germany. I loved the idea of a German falling in love with a French car, so bizarre. Then, I found that Axel and his lovely partner Uschi had moved to Seattle and while there became “the source” for all things 2CV in the Pacific NW. He not only helped people find cars, he helped them fix them, he also fixed up cars and sold them as a sideline to his regular 80 hour a week job.
So, I dropped him a line and told him what I was thinking of. We traded emails back and forth and he told me he had gotten in a lovely Charleston with low miles and a really good original frame which just needed a little love. I jumped on it. Axel was looking to get it into the shop and get it done over the winter so I could come out and get it the following summer. That was 3 years ago. Unfortunately, his work schedule was crazy and there were a lot of people counting on him to help them with problems with their little snails and he just couldn’t say no….so the build out got delayed again and again. Axel was apologetic and offered to recommend some other trustworthy folks for a car, but I told him I’d wait…and I did, but it was worth it.
Marcel…that’s what we call our little Charleston, is a beauty. Axel was meticulous in taking the car apart, refinishing, refurbishing or replacing all the little bits and pieces before they went back on the car. The chassis got a good undercoating to protect it from the elements and then it all got put back together. He sent me a link to over 100 pictures from the process and though I thought I was picky…Axel is far more so. I just couldn’t believe the amount of work he was putting into a car that we both had decided would be a perfect driver.
Fast forward to the New Years 2017 and the car was finally in the finishing stages…the question was when to get it. I really wanted to get to know my new car on a special adventure. My plan was to fly out to Seattle and then drive it back to my home in the east. What an adventure!
As it turns out, Axel and Uschi were planning on driving east themselves to the annual Rendezvous in Saratoga Springs, NY, in June. Saratoga is just a couple of hours north of home…it seemed a natural fit. They also had friends who would be going with them in another 2CV and with Marcel, it would make us a caravan of three.
I asked my youngest daughter, the only other real car nut in the family if she’d like to come along for the trip and she didn’t hesitate a moment before saying yes.
So, here I am, well into (almost out of) my sixties, about to fly across the country to drive a strange new car thousands of miles to it’s new home on the east coast. We will take our time, camp out along the way, see the sights and enjoy the drive. I have no idea what to expect, but no doubt it will be a lot of fun. Axel and Uschi are old hands at this sort of thing. I haven’t camped in decades, but we’ll see how it goes. We fly out in early June and plan to leave Seattle on the 4th. Our schedule follows…with any luck, I’ll be able to share the experience, if I can find sufficient wifi along the way, so I can send in daily reports and pictures as we wend our way to Saratoga over the next couple of weeks. Next report will be from Seattle.
|2CV & Truckette||Citroën||1972||Truckette||Barreiros, Manny|
|Ami, Dyane & Mehari||Citroën||1969||Dyane||Gambony, Martin|
|Best in Show||Citroën||1961||D (early)||Schwarzkopf, Donald S|
|CX/CXA & BX||Citroën||1976||CX (series 1)||Royer, Kevin|
|Distance||Citroën||1984||2CV (sedan)||Kaliske, Axel|
|GS/GSA, XM/C6, H-Van||Citroën||1983||GSA||Towle, David|
|ID/DS||Citroën||1974||D (wagon)||Smits, Eric|
|Non-French||Mercedes||300 TD Wagon||McCarville, Dan|
|Other French||Panhard||1960||PL17||Brown, Paul|
|Traction Avant||Citroën||1952||Traction Avant (15)||Erb, Carl|
On the Road – June 4:
As the sun sets on day one, we are in Baker City, OR, a little over 360 scenic miles from our starting point in Seattle near the airport.
As a newbie to the world of 2CVs, I’m amazed by my experience driving today. I didn’t expect such good road manners nor did I expect to be able to keep up with traffic on the highways…I was wrong on both counts. Our car, Marcel, handles beautifully, no skittering about on those impossibly skinny tires and while he doesn’t accelerate quickly, once at speed he does fine. My GPS had us at 76 mph at one point and cruising between 65-70 mph was really quite easy.
Of course, it took some time to get comfortable at that speed. Early on, the 2CV reminded me of a particularly unseaworthy boat we once owned and one needs to build the confidence that the car is actually going where you want it to go despite some rather extraordinary movement in the opposite direction.
So, by late morning, the three “ducks” were all headed onto the highway and heading east and then south.
We got a little rain at the start, a good chance to test the wipers. They passed and the rain quickly ended.
The route was beautiful, surrounded by lush forest as we entered the Mt.Baker Nat’l Forest. There was almost too much to see.
Axel was in the lead car, a veteran of many raids in Europe and here in the states. He was pulling a small trailer which really slowed him down on the inclines…but didn’t seem to slow him at all on the downhill sections. His friends, KiKi, a German Police officer and Walli, a hearing specialist, were in the second car and my daughter Willa and I manned our Charleston, Marcel, bringing up the rear.
Once I became a bit acclimated to the car, the trip was pretty straight forward. The scenery was ever changing and fascinating.
Over the Snoqualimie Pass we climbed and went from the lush green forests into an almost treeless beige and brown range that extended as far as we could see. It was fascinating to experience the difference the mountains made in the climate. Which brings up another thing about traveling in a 2CV. Unlike modern cars, a Deux Chaveaux does not isolate you from the road. You become intimately aware of the elevation changes, temperature changes, lighting…everything. The car is capable, but with a little more than 600cc’s pushing us forward, one has to beware of certain limitations our modern car driving neighbors didn’t.
Still, there was a lot of love for our convoy as we rolled along. Cars constantly passed honking and giving us thumbs up, including an enthusiastic couple in a Porsche that slowed down to roll alongside of us with both driver and passenger bouncing up and down waving at us…no, we did not want to trade, thank you.
Axel’s wife, Uschi, had made up the most fantastic trip books with maps and directions and local historical info and yet because of work would not be with us on the first part of our trip ( but joins us on day 7 in Minnesota). This meant Axel was leading us single handed, pulling a trailer. I had my hands full just driving. Can’t imagine pulling a load too while making sure we all got to where we were supposed to be going.
This amazed me. What a good idea! As a newbie I had no idea but this at least doubles the size of the trunk which is great when touring. Axel built his own unit that’s even bigger and sleeps in the car when camping! I’ll get a shot of that tomorrow.
A turn off 90 at Vantage took us on a lovely road on the east side of the Columbia River. Wow, how majestic it looked. We rolled past the Wanapum Dam and headed south through fields full of vineyard grapes and orchards of cherries just coming into season.
We were taken with the vast expanses of open land, much of it looking like sets from some old western and then surprised to come upon a modern town, in the middle of nowhere.
One area we passed through was Handford Reach. I’d never heard of it and other than a sign we saw on the side of the road, we would have been oblivious to this historically important location. Handford Reach is home to 9 nuclear reactors. B Reactor is the most famous being the worlds first full scale reactor. It was with plutonium made at this reactor that the first nuclear explosion was fueled at Alamogordo, NM in July 1945 and also used in the Fat Boy bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan a month later. Later reactors were used to commission some 60,000 weapons during the Cold War. This was a huge operation which was closed down after the Cold War leaving behind massive amounts of radioactive waste…still a major problem today. But from the road there’s no sign of the old facilities…only a road sign attests to it ever having been there.
The interstate that brought us to Baker City had a long uphill climb through Deadman’s Pass before the highway flattened enough for us to build up a head of steam again, but the slowdown was just enough to miss the owners of the campground we were planning to camp at…so we continued into town and found a motel.
Baker City oozes history. The very wide Main Street is home to some handsome old buildings and there’s a large museum about the Oregon Trail which unfortunately was closed when we came upon it. I could easily see spending some more time to check out Baker City tomorrow…but will see how the group wants to handle it.
Tomorrow, we head to Idaho, stopping at the Craters of the Moon Nat’l Monument before ending the day in Idaho Falls.
Read about Day 2 here.
Read about Day 3 here.
Read about Day 4 here.
Read about Day 5 here.
Read about Day 6 here.
Read about Day 7 here.
Read about Day 8 here.
Read about Day 9 here.
Read about Day 10 here.
Read about Day 11 here.
Read about Day 12 here.
Read about Day 13 here.
Read about Day 14 here.
Read about Day 15 here.