July 2021 Cardinal Point Drive – Valles Caldera

Photo at the Valles Caldera

Story and photos by Phil Undercuffler

The New Mexico Chapter of the BMW CCA hosted another Cardinal Point driving tour on Saturday, July 24, 2021, with our route taking us North. The morning got off to an exciting start, as while our intended meeting point was Santa Fe BMW, the first of us to arrive were met by an enthusiastic receptionist who advised that we were actually in the wrong place and that we should motor around the corner to the MINI dealership where there were refreshments and goodie bags waiting! Now, I’m not one to turn down the offer of free goodie bags much less refreshments, but I was more than a bit confused as last I looked we were a BMW club, but I figured I would go and explore the situation – if for no other reason than to collect any other early birds that might have been similarly misdirected. Upon further investigation it turns out MINI was hosting a nationwide scavenger hunt the same weekend, and no, the goodie bags were not for us. After gathering up our misdirected BMW-driving cohorts and regrouping back at Santa Fe BMW we got back to the task at hand. An added benefit was the opportunity to meet General Manager Patrick Day, who was wonderfully gracious and inviting, I look forward to strengthening alliances with our regional dealerships.

Despite a slight drizzle and threatening sky, we had good turnout with eleven folks and seven cars; many of the usual suspects like Jim Storch – who I believe will use any excuse to stretch the legs of his 1M – and Jim Levandoski in his E39 540, but also a number of new participants that hadn’t been able to attend the Albuquerque based events. We had three Z cars including George Croshaw’s beautiful blue 3.0i Z Coupe, and Jeff and Jackie Haught showed up in a stunning classic E9 3.0CSi. After introductions and the preparatory driver’s meeting we headed North, wending our way through Agua Fria to 599, then up 84 past the Pueblos of Tesuque, Cuyamungue and Pojoaque before turning East on 502 past San Ildefonso. Our morning’s first stop was at the White Rock Visitor Center along NM 4, for a very picturesque and informative rest stop. The staff was extremely friendly, and while the exhibit areas were small, they were detail packed and gave a good overview of the area and local attractions. Once underway again we continued along the switchbacks of NM 4 up and over the Cerro Grande Route until we got to a scenic pullout overlooking the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

The view was beautiful, but as the Tourmeister I severely underestimated the amount of time us BMW aficionados could spend in wrapt conversations when gathered around our cars. It was clear we were going to have to make up some time to get to lunch on schedule. We got back on the road headed down towards Los Alamos, but try as I might, the pace was a bit, shall we say, tardy. Perhaps even laggardly. It was clear one car was having trouble keeping the pace despite the long downhill run. Following our standard drive protocols every driver is always responsible for keeping the car behind them in their mirrors, so when one car slows, we all slow. In the best Boy Scout tradition, Jim L had brought his radios so we could maintain communications between the front and back of the pack, and soon it was clear the reason for the delay – we had our first mechanical breakdown! We all quickly circled back to find John Lawrence and his pristine thirty thousand mile 2.3 Z3 Roadster hoods up, accelerator pedal no longer connected to engine. Fortunately, we had many heads to gather and scratch to troubleshoot the situation, and it was quickly discovered that the throttle cable could be successfully manipulated at the engine end, so the disconnect must be somewhere closer to the pedal. Having only recently been deep under the dash of my Z, I knew the right clips to turn to remove the under-dash panel and provide access to the pedal linkage. Aha! The throttle cable had come disconnected from the linkage. I was able to hook the throttle cable back onto the linkage, but it wasn’t quite right – the metal hook at the end of the cable was bent open; it looked as if some clip or latch was missing. The DIY hive mind discussed the situation, perhaps the hook would stay hooked long enough to get us all back to Santa Fe, but we were worried the hook would pop loose at the most inopportune time, leaving John stranded and somewhere far worse than a downhill run. Jim L to the rescue again, this time with a bread tie! It was just what was needed to kluge together a secure hack, enough to keep the throttle cable engaged – maybe not secure enough for another 30,000 miles, but enough to get home and to a garage.

Once underway again, we made good time coming down the hill from Los Alamos, although at one point I was somewhat concerned that Google Maps might get us strip searched at a security checkpoint that my GPS failed to warn about. Fortunately our collective past lives of crime didn’t catch up with us on that day and we were able to proceed onwards along Jemez Road to make our lunch date. The staff at Gabriel’s were wonderfully understanding about our somewhat tardy arrival, and quickly sat us for an excellent meal, accompanied by great conversations. Hunger sated, we eventually all said our goodbyes and headed in our respective directions. Hopefully by now John has had the opportunity to have his bread tie replaced with an authorized BMW part!

Photo of Phil working on Z3
Phil working on Z3 Throttle Linkage – Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Owen

Photos by Phil Undercuffler