2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: Stingrays and Snakes
September 4, 2014
I've never been a motorcycle guy. Riding dirt bikes in high school was fun, but I don't think I've been on one since. Sport bikes and Harleys are cool, but I imagine I'd kill myself on the former and perhaps grow very old, creaky and possibly wealthy on the latter, with a cool bandana to vaguely telegraph my internal sociopath. Anyway, I've always felt you experience the world better on two feet.
But I got the touring bug recently and a somewhat inexplicable desire to get a bike and get lost in, among other places, the deserts north and east of L.A. So when I needed to sort out urgent papers that required a ride out to Palm Springs, I had neither bike nor license, but did have a spiritual twin: our 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Two feet, two wheels, two seats. It seemed right.
The morning blast out on the superslab was quick and uneventful, the paperwork painless. The return trip was the reward. Instead of doubling back to the interstate, I climbed south, then west, over the Santa Rosa-San Jacinto mountains on a two-lane called the "Palms to Pines" byway. It's around 50 miles of tight switchbacks and long straights that rise from sea level to 4,000 feet. It winds through a handful of mountain towns and ends near Hemet, an old trading post for the nearby ranches of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
I kept the Stingray in Sport mode the whole way. I'm not too familiar with this road, but the Corvette's balance and predictable tail dragging inspire growing confidence at every corner. The gap between how the Corvette looks like it handles (big, pushy, understeery) and how it really does handle (small, precise, chirpy) amazes.
Our Corvette recently started overheating at the hands of mechanically unsympathetic drivers who shall not be named, but even with ambient temperatures above 100 degrees at lower elevations and the A/C blowing cold, the coolant temp needle barely budges. My only real worry is a surprise visit from an oncoming highway patrol unit.
I briefly think about bypassing Hemet and connecting another sweet twisting section, California Highway 243, which runs through the town of Idyllwild (one of southern California's hidden gems) and links back up with the superslab. But I want to push west, not north, and eventually decide to drive on through Hemet and stay on Highway 74, which turns into the Ortega Highway and dumps out into South Orange County.
The Vette crawls through Hemet with its low speed limit and proliferation of signals. I start to regret my decision, but soon enough the Vette is climbing again through the Cleveland National Forest and past the Lookout, a breakfast shack popular with local riders. Mike Monticello claims to be kind of a celebrity there.
Soon enough the road ends in San Juan Capistrano, one of California's mission towns. I look for a spot to get a photo of the Stingray with the likeness of Father Serra, but settle for a photo near the corner of one of the mission walls. Almost a year ago, Kurt Niebuhr and I drove the Corvette back from Kentucky. I'm still in lust with this car.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor