Life is a Highway

Motor the Mountain Car Show in McCloud…

If there was a word to describe a combination of nostalgia, admiration and enthusiasm, it could be ascribed to classic cars. They evoke a time when drivers had a more mechanically intimate relationship with their automobile, and embracing the open road transcended routine commuting.

“My joy is on the road, behind the wheel. I love seeing an old car driving down the highway,” says Rich Gabrielson, a Siskiyou County resident and self-titled “car nut” who bought his first car in 1955 when he was just 13 years old. He paid $49 for a 1938 Chevrolet Coupe – and that was just the beginning. “At age 15, I paid $75 for a 1936 Ford Sedan, and at 16, I paid $90 for a 1950 Canadian Meteor. At the time, my parents rented our house in Castro Valley for $25 a month until the landlord tried to raise it to $40. My father refused and bought a house for $10,000 instead. He then told me there was no room for my three cars, and sent the two oldest ones to the junk yard, making me keep the 1950 Meteor. When we moved to the new place, I realized he’d lied because there was plenty of room for all my cars. It took a long time for me to forgive him, but I did. But losing those precious old cars basically cemented my love for older, different and, of course, fast cars.”

Photo courtesy of McCloud Chamber of Commerce – Photography by Mel

After shuttering a 30-year career owning Fremont Auto Air & Electric in the Bay Area, Gabrielson, now 81, retired to Hornbrook where his classic car habit is still kicking. “My wife and I have a couple acres on a hillside overlooking the Klamath River. Our house is 1,300 square feet, but my shop is 1,800 square feet with plenty of room for my three 1955 Pontiacs, two very rare Safari wagons and my 1928 Model AA Ford truck. The last several years I’ve also worked primarily on others’ vintage and classic cars. I’ve taken photos of all of them and stapled those photos to the office wall. There are over 700 photos in this collection, from Model T Fords to classic Mustangs and T-Birds.”

Photo courtesy of McCloud Chamber of Commerce – Photography by Mel

When Gabrielson first arrived in Siskiyou County in 2010, he found a couple of outlets to connect with other classic car enthusiasts. “I was a member of the Bay Area car club called Contemporary Historical Vehicle Association and was excited to find there was a local branch of the same club here in Siskiyou County that put on the annual Father’s Day car show in Yreka. So I promptly joined up with them. On acquiring my Model AA truck, I also joined the Siskiyou A’s car club which is dedicated to Henry Ford’s iconic Model A cars and trucks.” While both of those clubs have since gone by the wayside in Siskiyou County, it’s because most of the participants have aged out. “I remember sitting in one of the meetings thinking, ‘Man, there’s a lot of white hair in this room. Too much white hair,’” Gabrielson recalls.

Photo courtesy of McCloud Chamber of Commerce – Photography by Mel

But in south Siskiyou County, classic car culture has found an outlet with the Motor the Mountain car show, set for August 17 this year in McCloud’s Hoo-Hoo Park. “I feel like car shows provide a unique opportunity to explore all types of automobiles in the market. There are a lot of garage cars hidden here in Siskiyou County and this event gives an opportunity for these cars to be brought out and shown off again,” explains Jeana Ronfeldt, director of the McCloud Chamber of Commerce. Married to a man who works in off-road racing and a car enthusiast herself, Ronfeldt adds that it’s not just Siskiyou County cars that get the spotlight at the event. “We have car owners from Southern Oregon to the Bay Area and Nevada coming to this show to ‘show off’ their cars. Last year we had 168 cars registered, and we estimate around the same this year, with a total attendance around 3,000 people.”

Michael Crone is a classic car owner who attended the event for the first time last year with a newly fixed up 1972 GMC Sprint as a surprise for his father, who regularly attends the Motor the Mountain show. “I was impressed by the community involvement to make the event so memorable. They even worked with me to be one of the first cars in line to make the surprise for my father that much more special. And everyone I spoke to were very welcoming and cheerful.”

When asked what drives his own interest in classic cars, Crone has an easy response. “Owning a classic car gives you a sense of pride. It’s like a family member that garners your attention and affection. Classic cars also bring back memories of your childhood. There’s a simplicity of the mechanics and the style of the designs. Modern car manufacturers have all morphed into a cookie cutter design. This makes it extremely difficult to tell modern cars apart. So when it’s unique, people are drawn to that.” •

For more information or to participate in this year’s Motor The Mountain Car Show, visit

About Megan Peterson

Megan Peterson is a freelance storyteller who loves her family, her pets, and Northern California. Her favorite part of writing is finding flow, and she always relishes a touching human story. Aside from Enjoy, she’s typically busy writing and producing for television, having created more than 220 hours of on-air content on networks ranging from National Geographic to Netflix.

Related Posts