Drive Toward A Cure Fights Parkinson’s With Sports Cars And Road Rallies
Photography courtesy of: Mark Davidson // Drive Toward a Cure
Driving fast and brand new cars up and down the state of California tends to tweak my conscience a little bit; I like polar bears and the current layout of our coastline, plus there’s the fact that it’s easy to imagine someone somewhere out there who’d appreciate the vehicle of the day more than cynical me, but having 755hp on call under my old Adidas can drown out these notions of responsibility under the metal power cords of eight supercharged cylinders, and when you’re participating in and later publicizing a road rally that does more than just benefit the nice hotels it passes, the moral component is also handily taken care of.
The typical version of these trips—ones where people with perpetually freshly waxed sports cars bring them out for a few days of indulgence that mostly translate into sporadic loss of GPS signal and accordion stop and go driving and re-rendezvousing after every yellow light—rarely live up to their brochures. The aptly named California Adventure that I went on earlier this summer with Drive Toward a Cure was not like those tropes. Able to proceed at our pace—of which the Chevy ZR1 Megavette provided plenty—and get conveniently lost whenever the map showed curvy asphalt detours, the drive from San Jose to Yosemite would have only been better if there was enough time to turn around to do it twice.
The primary point of the event isn’t a blurry speed tour through the scenery though, but to fund Parkinson’s research and patient care. There are many opportunities provided in this line of quasi-work called auto journalism, but I’ve rarely had the chance to turn off the traction control and leave a smoke show at a stop sign for a cause that benefited anyone but me. If you also like the idea of participating in the best of both worlds, you can get in touch with the group here.
Drive Toward a Cure is a fully-vetted charity organization made up of people with vested and personal interests in combating Parkinson’s and caring for those afflicted, and Deb Pollack, Mark Davidson, Derek Torry, Nigel Evans, and Kevin Heimbaugh turned out to be some of the kindest people I’ve had the pleasure of spending a weekend with, and not only because they invited me to join them on one that included the keys to the most radical machine I’ve yet to drive with license plates and a warranty.
Any deluxe road rally kicked off with a morning spent around a dozen 959s and a naked 917/30 has decidedly begun on the right foot, and our tour through Canepa’s facilities on the first driving day was a primer perhaps a bit too inspiring for the combination of rain and all but slick tires on the Corvette. After a handful of slippery yaw corrections in the car’s softest and safest mode, I quit while I was ahead and turned attention instead to the lush piney waves of hillside that our wiggle of a two-lane highway cut through. After a stop for lunch and a private tour through the Mozart Automobile Museum we then climbed into cloud territory on a mountain road seemingly cadged from theme park blueprints.
Descending the other side meant two hours of third and fourth gear sweepers through cow and crop country with no one to endanger with speed but ourselves before the roads flattened and straightened for the jog over to another lunch that I could never buy for myself but happily gobbled thanks to the rally organizers. Flat roads laid out at right angles to each other are usually pharma-grade snoozers of farmland, but having a car that gets to 60 in 2.8 seconds and spins its steamrollers at the twitch of a toe with little regard to what gear you’ve selected allows for a pretty wide range of steering input for such a curveless path.
After an autocross session tackled with no attempt at efficiency, our troupe headed out for two days of exploring Yosemite National Park. The hotel was the sort of high-end ski lodge-y setup populated by more than a few electric car drivers, and parking the Corvette along a line of Tesla chargers felt corny, but it’s rare to find such a stark contrast in modern driving that can fit in a single picture.
Touring the heavily touristed main loop of Yosemite the following morning, I made sure to keep the car in its docile and surprisingly quiet driving mode, so as to not scare too many squirrels or righteous hikers in neon Beanwear. It’s a different kind of fun, having excessive power on tap but not using it, trundling around at low growl speeds and looking up at severely impressive waterfalls and mountain ranges knowing that you could make them jettison their birdlife with a few throttle stabs. After the previous two days of not daring to find the limits of this insane Chevrolet on roads without much in the way of forgiveness on either side, testing the excellent manners of the car in the park only made me appreciate it that much more, with occasional tunnels along the way acting as big wind instruments operated by quick trips through the rev range.
Leaving early the next morning for the airport in rain and snow in the dark was not part of the otherwise constant highlight reel of Drive Toward a Cure’s California Adventure, but creeping along at please don’t hydroplane pace gave me some time to organize my thoughts on the event before it was totally over. Pulling into the short term parking lot at a tiny airport in a car with an aviator’s wing filling the rearview after spending three days driving it for free produces a strange feeling that’s hard to put into words though, so I’ll just have to say to all who made it possible, thank you.