Drive Toward a Cure

The Luxury Lifestyle Rally That Raises Money for Parkinson’s Research
Photos by Randy Wells and Mark Davidson

For many, Parkinson’s disease strikes too close to home. There are more than 5 million people affected by the chronic and progressive movement disorder. Among them are celebrities like Michael J. Fox, Sam Posey, Linda Ronstadt, and the late Robin Williams, Phil Hill and Muhammad Ali.

I watched as my father died of the long-term degenerative condition at age 80, and it was heartbreaking. There is currently no cure for the puzzling midbrain affliction. But lifelong automotive enthusiasts Deb Pollack and Mark Davidson wanted to come up with a way to raise money to find one.

Their answer was to create an adventure road rally that provides a premium experience for donors to enjoy the weekend-of-a-lifetime and contribute much-needed funds to continue the search for a cure to this debilitating illness.

The inaugural rally, named the “California Adventure”, turned out to be a labor of love for Deb and Mark. It covered 600 miles and featured two simultaneous routes. One was from the north – a drive that started from the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, near San Francisco.

The other route came from the south, originating at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. Both groups met at the Allegretto Vineyard Resort in Paso Robles in central California. Hagerty’s sponsorship of the event ensured comprehensive roadside assistance for all attendees.

When Deb, the founder of “Drive Toward a Cure”, asked me to participate in their inaugural rally this year, I immediately said yes. I didn’t ask any questions, and we were off.

I joined the southern route participants at the Petersen Museum on the morning of Friday, April 28.

Dick Cupp was someone I knew who would be attending. He’s in his late ‘70s, has Parkinson’s, and comes from a long history of racing vintage Porsches. His long-time friend and fellow SoCal racer Steve Schmidt came to pilot Dick’s 1960 Silver Porsche 356 Super 90 coupe over the weekend.

Steve Schmidt, left, Dick Cupp, and Max Jamiesson, share laughs during a break from driving.

Dick remembers well the time when he purchased the Porsche in 1972, “It’s a car that you just drove back then,” he recalled. “They weren’t all that expensive. Steve and I actually traded it back and forth for awhile.”

Meeting these guys that morning at the Petersen felt special, like being part of a uniquely privileged club enjoying an outstanding collection in limited company. Our guided tour of “the vault” only enhanced the exclusivity of that morning. From the Petersen, detailed rally maps provided a carefully planned route – including several twisty canyons over the Santa Monica Mountains – toward the next destination, the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard. Mullin’s expertly guided Citroen collection was ear and eye candy for any automotive enthusiast.

Red Ferraris filled a special gallery at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles while a variety of Citroëns in many colors characterize the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard these days.

Lunch came after more twisting back roads to the Danish village of Solvang. Next came an exhilarating tactile sensation-filled run up CA State Route 229 and Foxen Canyon Road, and on to Paso Robles.

From the north, participants toured the stellar Blackhawk Museum in Danville. From there they headed south on CA State Route 238 to the very exclusive Mozart Foundation Automobile Museum in Mountain View.

Among the northern folks attending was another of Dick and Steve’s long-time friends, Max Jamiesson, driving a similar 1960 Porsche 356, this one in white paint. Under perfect weather, they followed CA SR 152 and 25 to Paso Robles.

While Steve handled refueling at the front of the coupe, Dick checked the oil.

For Dick, Steve, and Max, their meeting in central California was a special reunion of vintage racing friends. As a treat, a special stage consisted of short timed runs through cones for everyone who wanted to test their autocross skills at the Paso Robles Event Center.

Friday evening more than 70 drivers and navigators join in a group dinner at the Allegretto Vineyard Resort. It was a moving and enjoyable event accompanied by great wine, food, and conversation Each participant talked about their connection with Parkinson’s and why this particular event means so much to him or her. As Deb Pollack explained, “When I lost my Mom to Parkinson’s in 2006, I realized there were meaningful ways to share the emotional bonds and gratification that driving can bring, especially when we can support the challenges others may face.”

Saturday’s schedule offered relaxing tours to Lake Nacimiento, Indian Valley, Peachy Canyon, and Santa Rosa Creek with stops at Eberle Winery and lunch at Bistro Laurent in Paso Robles, where the town’s mayor declared it a special day. Later, several attendees drove to Moonstone Beach in Cambria for a panoramic Pacific Ocean view.

Wine tasting and dinner at the Adelaida Vineyards and Winery brought auctions, raffle prizes, and a special surprise for Dick. He received the “Spirit of Drive Toward a Cure” award and received a framed original illustration picturing him driving one of his Porsche racecars at the Monterey Historics.

Dick, standing, and Steve admire the surprise gift.

The weekend event raised more than $26,000 that have already been distributed to the Michael J. Fox Foundation and The Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center. Both conduct cutting-edge clinical trials in stem cell research and gene therapy.

Sunday brunch inside the caves of the Eberle Winery wrapped up the weekend. Reluctantly, participants bid their goodbyes and headed home in vehicles ranging from modern Ferraris to a 1953 Chevy pickup truck, enriched by a three-day adventure that brought them closer.

This was the first such fund-raising drive supporting efforts for Parkinson’s research. The next Drive Toward a Cure rally is scheduled for September 27-30, 2017 and is called the “Great Southern Adventure”. It will travel through the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Smoky Mountains, and along the famed “Tail of the Dragon”. That driving experience starts in Asheville, NC and leads to Braselton, GA, just in time for the Atlanta Concours.

Philanthropy is a privilege shared. Parkinson’s is a disease that knows no social boundaries. The “California Adventure” weekend proved to be the perfect celebration for all who know what it means to support a worthy cause while experiencing an unforgettable drive.

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Article Copyright 2017 Randy Wells. All Rights Reserved.

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