Radwood 2 wasn’t simply a car show, or just a collection of automotive enthusiasts. It was much more than that. It was a refreshing break from the hectic present and an opportunity to relive good moments from the past.
This wonderful event first hit my radar a few months ago. It appeared to be the perfect meeting of like-minded individuals who sought to glorify a specific time period: the ‘80s and ‘90s. I wanted to go so badly, but there was one caveat: It was in Anaheim, California, and I live in Kansas. I knew the road westward would be long, tiresome, and expensive, though, deep down, I knew the journey would be worth it.
That was even if, at first, this whole thing seemed like a bad idea: A road trip from Kansas to California while toting my Nissan 300ZX and CBR900RR in a trailer behind an old pickup I just finished fixing. It seemed crazier when I ran the numbers on what it would cost, factoring in the trailer rental, the hotel stays, and the fuel bill (a full accounting is below). Then there was also the issue of finding someone to go with me—I definitely didn’t want to make the trek alone. My brother, who’s always been the one to push me over the edge, finally came through.
“Go rent that trailer, because I just booked plane tickets to Kansas,” he said a few weeks before the show. “We’re doing this thing.”
I was ecstatic. I hadn’t been on a proper road trip in years, and now my brother and I were going take one for the ages. Fast forward a couple of weeks and we had the vehicles loaded up and the trailer securely hitched to the Ram. It was time to hit the road.
The show was on Saturday morning, and we left early Thursday morning. I figured we could make the trip from Kansas to California in two days. That was a rookie mistake, since there was just one tiny obstacle between us and Anaheim: 1,600 miles of open highway.
The reality of that kind of mileage was way more daunting than I had originally imagined. For seasoned truckers, that probably doesn’t seem terrible, but, to someone who doesn’t tow often, the gravity of that distance didn’t hit home until about halfway through the first day. The gross combined weight of our rig was around 14,500 pounds, and I could feel every ounce of it.
The tow vehicle, a Dodge Ram equipped with a Cummins diesel engine and a six-speed manual transmission, was built for this type of job. But I was not. Glancing back at the trailer at every bump in the road, ensuring a safe following distance was maintained, and finding the optimal gear for every speed was beyond tiring. There was also the challenge of navigating tight turns.
Driving through Kansas took forever. After brief stint in Oklahoma and Texas we reached New Mexico, the last state on the first leg of the trip. Around 10 p.m. we pulled into our hotel in Albuquerque, exhausted. I kept thinking, “I get to do the same thing tomorrow, but with mountains this time.”
One thing I didn’t contemplate much before I left? Trailer security, which made for somewhat of a sleepless night. I bought some locks for the doors and figured that was adequate, but still found myself lying in bed staring blankly at the ceiling in my hotel room with my mind racing. The trailer was out in the dark hotel parking lot in an unfamiliar city. If someone wanted it bad enough, they could find a way to take it.
But when I walked out to the parking lot the next morning, I let out a sigh of relief; everything was accounted for. One night down and four more to go. With that, it was time to hit the road again.
The next leg took us through New Mexico and Arizona, with some gorgeous scenery to take in. The views, though, also came with steep hills. I found myself occasionally dropping down to fifth gear to maintain a respectable highway speed. That Cummins engine is a hard worker.
After what seemed like ages, we arrived at California’s border checkpoint, which caught me off guard. The officer asked me to step out of the truck and open up the trailer. I fumbled around with the keys and opened the trailer’s side door. The officer peaked inside, saw the cargo, and closed the door.
“Got any plants in there?”
“No sir,” I said, “we’re from Kansas.”
“Go ahead, enjoy your stay in California.”
Phew! I got back into the Ram and ran through the gears, slowly pulling away from the border - we had made it into California.
After a few more hours of driving through the mountains, we approached outer Los Angeles. Let me tell you: Slicin’ and dicin’ in L.A. traffic at night with a 22-foot trailer, all the while being mentally exhausted, is something you should definitely remove from your bucket list. It is terrifying.
Pulling into the hotel in Anaheim, I was happy we had arrived in one piece. The marathon drive out west was complete.
We arrived at The Phoenix Club, the venue where Radwood 2 was being held, bright and early Saturday morning. My brother and I unloaded the 300ZX and CBR900RR from the trailer. Once unloaded, I parked the trailer in an adjacent parking lot and brought the Ram back over to the venue. Even the tow vehicle was being entered in the show!
My brother commandeered the 300ZX while I drove the Ram. We joined the line of vehicles that were staging to enter the show grounds. It was at this moment that I realized how well-organized this event truly was. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of planning required to pull off something like this.
The crowd began pouring in later that morning and the whole event took off. Everywhere you turned something super nostalgic was going on. The DJ-on-duty was cranking out tunes that set the retro atmosphere.
And then there were the cars. So many glorious, rad-as-hell cars. I didn’t end up taking a lot of photos, I wanted to be in the moment as much as possible. But I did get some.
The cars were incredible, but I think it was the people, the personalities, the clothing, and the common interests that really made it something special. Without all of this, it would have just been a neat car show. But it wasn’t just a car show, it was an ‘80s and ‘90s cultural review. Everyone in attendance was a participant—you can’t get a more immersive experience than that.
Total Diesel Gallons Used: 300.21 gallons
Total Miles Traveled: 3,402.2 miles
Total Fuel Cost: $890.81
Average Towing MPG: 11.33 MPG
Trailer Rental Cost: $650.22 (early return discount applied)
Towing Supplies Cost: $267.87
Hotel Cost: $573.66
Food Cost: $149.01 (we took a lot of snacks with us)
Show Registration Cost: $54.74
Approximate Driving Time: 60 hours
Total Trip Cost: $2,586.31
It wasn’t an inexpensive trip by any means. But with as many moving parts as there were, that figure actually isn’t too bad. No more vacations for me for a while though! The trip back home to Kansas was fairly uneventful. My brother and I decided to spread the distance over three days this time, instead of two. Much better.
It was hard to leave California after such a brief visit, but I met so many awesome people at the show and I was able to finally put faces to names. I can’t wait to see how this event series continues to grow. There is an insatiable desire for ‘80s and ‘90s goodness in the automotive community, and the Radwood organizers are locked and loaded to deliver.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me while I go replace a wheel bearing on the Ram. The trip uncovered yet another weak link in this Clinton-era Chrysler product. But you know what? I’m alright with it, because that’s just what it costs to keep the ‘90s alive.