Lorette and Hilary Cheda keep the tow trucks rolling.
With its wild, windy coast, California’s west Marin County is a lonely place to break down. Cheda’s Garage in Point Reyes Station (population 350) began helping motorists 90 years ago; it may be the West’s oldest continuously operating AAA road service station. Hilary Cheda runs the shop with her mom, Lorette.
Q Your territory sounds spectacular.
A We cover 40 miles of coastline in a beautiful part of the state. People come to whale-watch, bird-watch, and hike.
Q Most common road service call?
A Before they cracked down on drinking and driving, we’d get a lot of people driving off the road or into a tree. Nowadays we get more cars overheating or running out of gas. And you’re always going to have lockouts and flat tires.
Q How have tow trucks evolved?
A One of our first tow trucks—long before my time—was actually a Cadillac with a winch rigged to the back. Then, when I was a kid, my dad used old army trucks. They were large trucks with teeny little cabs and holes in the floorboards. I remember going on calls with him and looking down at the road whizzing by at our feet.
Q Any really unusual jobs?
A During Prohibition, when cars and trucks were bringing alcohol through the area, the drivers would come to the garage for repairs and stay up all night outside, guarding their property with machine guns.
Q Any advice for modern travelers?
A People rely so much on cell phones and GPS, but you also want to have a paper map. I got a caller the other day who said, “I’m up on Balboa, right across from the purple barn where the yellow mark in the road ends.” Luckily, our drivers were raised here, so they knew exactly where he was.
Photography by Anita Bowen
This article was first published in January 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.