The home stretch... Saving the best for last, and another grizzly bear sighting

After 70-something days and over 10,000 miles, Maggie and I have arrived at our last - you guessed it - MG event... the High Country Tour (HCT) hosted by Lynda McEvoy and Al Moss.

This will be the smallest gathering of these funny, little Brit cars of our trip: 29 MGs, 68 folks from six states, including Maggie and me from Washington. A surprising number of the cars, for one reason or another, arrived on trailers! We still remain not only a "driven to" event entry, but the only MG pulling a trailer... our MG TD-BT (BT being "bedroom trailer").

I have yet to compile my 'Top 10' lists for our drive around the United States and Canada though, without even knowing it, I think I've saved the best place for last!

A huge surprise

Sedona, Ariz., is a beautiful, huge surprise of a quiet, little town. Describing Sedona to its due is close to impossible. Being on a "10,000-mile adventure," I'll start with the observation that our stop here in Sedona is about 10,000 feet below the top of Mt. Rainier, though the grandeur of the surroundings here are of equal splendor as our great Puget Sound landmark.

Sedona also features a maze comprised of some of the oldest exposed rocks on earth and surrounded by huge, thousand-foot tall formations of ancient "Sacred Red Rocks," as the Native Americans first classified them.

Today this little village is home to booming art galleries, eclectic personalities, Western history as well as refreshing inns from which you can soak up the scenery, clean air and comforting lifestyle. In this setting the HCT-MG meeting organizers provided us with plenty of free time for exploring on our own. One of our explorations was a short drive to The Chapel of the Holy Cross, a privately built and graceful monument that displays an admirable respect for its natural surroundings.

The MG-centered activities, like the Sedona setting they occurred in, were laid-back. First of all, no one was allowed to wash, polish, dust or in any other way clean his or her MG before the car display. This unusual rule was fine with us, since we made a decision at the first MG meet in Grand Rapids, Mich., that - since we were off on a 10,000 mile drive - it didn't make much sense to try and make "MaGgie" look un-drivenly beautiful (not that she could) for car shows along the way.

So we were without question the dirtiest MG on display among the 38 cars showcased at our Poco Diablo headquarters. We'll let that shining glory fall to the cars that arrived on trailers, their little tires rarely, or never, having touched the ground.

A dream come true

In my youth I dreamed about winning a first-place prize for display, but I didn't have an MG then. Fortunately, my MG now proudly wears her ding-and-dent badges of being a driven MG, so I have no fantasy of ever winning a display trophy. Even if the "trailered" cars were excluded from competing against the "driven" cars, there are some amazingly beautiful MGs that are "drivers."

Maggie and I have worked hard as a team while driving together these past two-plus months. Although my shih-tzu has made good strides at her car rally skills of recognizing street signs and answering questions, we've still remained significantly challenged by the human-dog communication gap. So we no longer compete in the two-person oriented car rally... neither, in fact, do we compete in the driver/blindfolded-navigator mandatory funkana driving contest, for the same reason.

As surprising as Sedona has been - and as sure as I was of not winning prizes for display, rally or funkana contests - I was shocked to be the one and only winner during the HCT group ride on the historic Verde Canyon Railroad. The train station is in Clarkdale, Ariz., about a 40-minute drive from Sedona. Our group boarded the last two of about a dozen cars, each uniquely named and decorated as if Mother Nature had followed us all aboard.

'It's the journey'

As the train rolled into Verde Canyon, I glanced through their travel brochure and realized the proclamation, "It's not the destination... it's the journey," unquestionably applies to my own expedition across North America.

Two weeks before our July 25 Seattle departure, while in Bellingham on the way back from the shake-down drive to a Canadian MG meet, I serendipitously ran into a granddaughter of a Magnolia homesteader. Then, all packed and ready to go the day before our departure, I again was surprised at the Bellevue All British Car Meet to see a Blaine Junior High and Quay classmate for the first time since the 1950s-'60s school days.

Now, as Maggie and I sat over 1,300 miles away from Magnolia, about to start out on a four-hour train ride, I partook of some casual chitchat with our two rail attendants. One attendant asked me about "Alaska roots?" "No, I'm from Seattle," I said. "So am I," she replied. "Queen Anne." "You're kidding! I'm from Magnolia!" Then an echoed "What year did you graduate from Queen Anne High?

So, only about 300 miles from the end of our 10,000-mile odyssey, I've had yet another Magnolia/Queen Anne-roots experience, this time with train attendant Marlene (Brown) Supalla, QUAY '74. In fact, her family is full of Queen Anne connections: QUAY '73 husband Brian and his twin brother, Bruce, who also married into 1974's class, Debbie Beasley.

In between the canyon's spectacles, bald eagle nests and high train trestles, Marlene and I to the best of our memories compared Magnolia and Queen Anne stories and acquaintances.

As entertaining and folksy as that evening's dinner and stage show was, after my train encounter I know I was smiling more than others. It really is a small world... and 10,000-mile trip!

The longest mile

The next night was awards dinner time... in keeping with HCT's classy and easy going style, the prize for whoever drove the longest distance to the meet was based on Rand McNally distance from the driver's hometown to Sedona, not on anyone's actual miles driven to the HCT. This is how it should be; I'd hate to gather a distance award away from someone who drove a longer direct distance, just because I have had the good fortune to buzz around North America for three months. As it turned out, both my atlas "direct route" miles and my 11,012 miles driven since departing Magnolia were greater than anyone else's.

"And so the longest distance driven award winner is Maggie and Rick!" We celebrated with Al Moss, an MG original, as he presented us an elongated red rock trophy for our miles and our mantle. Including the MG meets in Grand Rapids, Mich., Watkins Glen, N.Y. and Sedona, Ariz.... we're three-for-three in winning "top distance" awards.

Now on to our last leg, toward home... stay tuned for the final installments of "Travels with Maggie."[[In-content Ad]]