Twin Sisters

The first time I hiked Twin Sisters was roughly thirty years ago. Saturday I hiked it for the second time.

I barely remember the trail. Relentlessly uphill, but not very steep. No streams or lakes, so you have to carry all your water. Not a long hike, and not much higher than many lakes I’ve visited. The only real thing Twin Sisters has to offer is the view of Long’s. That’s about all I remember of it. Lately, I’ve been thinking it might be fun to make this hike and try a time lapse of the sunrise on Long’s. When I saw the hillside after the floods I wondered if it affected the trail. I really had no idea where the trail was. So before I could consider doing the hike in the dark, I’d better know where I’m going.

I wasn’t too worried about getting an early start. Even if the parking lot at the trailhead was full, I could park at the East Lily Lake lot and add an extra four tenths of a mile each way. When I got there at nine I wasn’t surprised to see people parking on the roadside, so I didn’t bother going any farther and parked as well. I walked past about a dozen cars to see that the road is closed at the hairpin. The road above here severely damaged, passable only by four wheel drive.

At the trailhead, a notice about the flood damage included a map. The lower section of the switchbacks had been erased. About a half hour into the hike I arrived at the slide area. It’s flood damage, but considerably different than the Lawn Lake flood.

Change is constant. Although we think of geologic change being slow, it’s made up of short bursts of transformation. In the last few years, I’ve been able to see the effects of these dramatic events. I was on the trail to Bluebird Lake a few weeks after an avalanche tore through a section of forest. I hiked through burned forest a few weeks after the fires. I hiked to Lawn Lake shortly after that flood. I hiked from Mills Lake to Black Lake on both winter and summer routes shortly after the microburst there. And now this one. Is it a flood or a landslide or a little bit of both? In any event, nature’s power revealed.

The trail crosses the slide only once. The trail rises to a switchback and when it reaches the slide area again, a temporary trail climbs more or less straight up the hillside to the next section of trail. Repeat two or three times. Looking on the bright side, there are now nice open views here.

After the switchbacks the trail circles around to the north slope, giving a nice view of Carriage Hills and Lake Estes. If I’d have brought my long lens, I’d have looked for the house on Ramshorn. My pace slowed considerably here. To this point I’d only been passed by two pairs of hikers while passing quite a few people. A couple I had passed earlier looked like they might catch back up, but they slowed down when we timberline.

Technically, I didn’t actually summit. I went to the right of the antenna and found a spot to set up the cameras, eat my lunch and relax. There were quite a few people here, and perhaps an equal number on the near summit. I saw only a few hikers on the other summit.

The day was beautiful. I had to put the windbreaker on while having lunch, it was pleasantly cool with gusting winds. There was no handy ballast to secure the tripod for the SLR, but the GoPro sat low enough to the rocks to not be too affected. I sat there for about an hour watching rain clouds scud in from the northwest. I packed up and left before they arrived and only got sprinkled on for the last few minutes of the hike.

Ford GT

It was only the second time I met Kent when I asked him what I had to do to drive his Ford GT. This was on the Braille Rally last year. I was delighted when he answered, “Buy me a six pack of craft beer.” Unfortunately, he left before I exchanged contact info with him. Since then, I’ve been keeping my eye out for him. I finally connected with him at the Concours a few weeks ago.

I asked him if his offer was genuine or if it was just a polite way of putting me off. He responded that the price had gone up to two six packs and we exchanged cards. One Friday he emailed and said I could drive it that Saturday. I had plans and felt it would be poor form to cancel, so I told Kent that didn’t work for me. Then I worried I wouldn’t get another chance.

But persistence won out and we arranged to get together yesterday for a beer. So with painters tape holding one turn signal in and the other one missing, I drove the Elise to Kent’s. I even was lucky enough to score a parking spot right in front of his house. We went to his garage and he gave me the nickel tour. He has some very nice automobiles, any of which I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to drive, but the Ford GT stands out for me.

I can’t say that the GT is the car I most want to drive of all cars ever made. I can only dream of driving an F1 car. Likewise, I’ve never even laid eyes on many supercars you see on Top Gear. At museums and auctions I’ve seen dozens of fantastic cars that I never had any realistic chance of even sitting in, let alone riding in. But I’m hard pressed to come up with any other car that given a chance to drive that I’d choose over of the GT.

2014-07-04 16.29.45sMy specific request was, “I don’t even want to drive it fast, just around the block.” So after the tour of the garage, he backed the GT out and we headed to Strange Brew for beer. On the way, he gave it just a little kick in the pants. Just that little squirt of the throttle was … sublime.

But before quenching our thirst, we switched seats and Kent directed me on a short circuit of the area. We got on I-25 and then immediately off. I really wanted to punch it but I took it easy – you never know what other drivers will do. Then we made a wrong turn and had to turn around. I made Kent a little nervous when it took me a couple tries to find reverse, but we made it back to the Strange Brew without incident. I’m used to getting a lot of attention in the Elise, but I don’t think I ever had a guy in the next lane at the light yell at the top of his lungs, “That is an awesome car, man!”

Over beer we swapped car stories. His are much better than mine. It started raining when we were chatting and Kent needled me a bit – “Now I’m going to have to wash it.”

2014-07-04 16.29.54sIt took me quite a while to stop calling these cars GT 40′s. When the GT was at the SEMA show in 2003, it was labelled GT 40. But there was an issue with rights to the name, so it ended up just Ford GT. Kent has a small poster made from materials from that SEMA show in his garage. And he had GT 40 graphics made up and applied to the doors.

I was quite surprised how easy the car was to drive. I was expecting a brute. It was quiet, had a smooth ride, was comfortable. It has leg room to spare; I did not drive with the seat all the way back as in most cars. It’s a very wide car, the driver and passenger sit quite far apart. Rear visibility was a bit worse than the Elise. The wing mirrors are small, and the a-pillars are so big if you’re short you won’t be able to see the one on the drivers side. And ingress and egress require a wide parking spot – you pretty much have to open the doors all the way.

I can’t thank Kent enough for letting me drive his car. We’re barely acquaintances. And I understand why exotic cars don’t get driven much, but I always kind of felt that a car that isn’t driven isn’t fulfilling its destiny: cars are made to be driven. So I think it’s great that Kent drives his cars, and I’m happy he shared his passion with me.

SAAC/CECA Track Day, HPR

High Plains Raceway had club days on both Saturday (Z Car Club) and Sunday (SAAC/CECA). Being a cheapskate, I’d have rather run with ZCCC because they were forty bucks cheaper but we had a garage sale Saturday so CECA it was. Plus, it was the LoCo track day as well, an added bonus.

The day started on a bit of a down note. On my way to the track, on I-70 near East Colfax, my right turn signal assembly popped out. It has happened three or four times before, but this time the wire failed to tether it and it was gone. I spent a few minutes looking for it, hoping it made it to the grass and might be intact. But no luck on the search.

Arriving at the track, I spotted the LoCo contingent and joined them. I bummed some tape from Pete and secured the left side turn signal and covered the gaping hole on the right. I had invited Bill and he surprised me by getting there before me. I grabbed a breakfast burrito the size of my head. Took me the entire drivers meeting to eat it.

It looked to be the usual CECA contingent – Corvettes, Vipers, Porsches, a classic Ferrari, Mustangs, old and new, Minis, Miatas, and Subarus, a couple BMWs, a couple NSXs. In the Lotus paddock we had an Evora, two Exiges, and a handful of Elises. Perhaps the highlight of the day was the brand spanking new McLaren 650S.

I ran in the red group, which I think was the smallest group. Of this group, only a few cars were slower than me. Today we were short handed on corner workers, so the only legal passing zones were the straights – couldn’t pass in the short chute between 6 and 7. Bill decided to sit through the green group classroom session, so I was without passenger the first session. I had the soft top on for the first session, then took it off for the rest of the day.

In the second session, the McLaren came up behind me pretty quickly and I was able to wave him by without slowing him down too much. Lucky for me, he caught up to traffic right away and I was able to run close behind him for a short spell.

At lunch they did some parade laps and a ladies only session. Anybody could do the parade laps, so we sent Bill out. When he came back a short while later I thought he was done, but he had time for one more lap so I got a ride in his almost new Taurus SHO. I wasn’t aware they were making them again.

Most folks left after three sessions. They ran green and blue together for the fourth session. So few cars were out, the let the reds back on track. I ran 15 timed laps that session (as opposed to 10 or 11 in the others) and even came in before the checkered flag.

On the way home I stopped again to try to find my turn signal. I walked maybe a mile of that highway, between morning and afternoon. I got back in the car after seeing the same crumpled license plate on the shoulder and was about to shift to second gear when I saw it. Unfortunately, it hit concrete instead of grass. The lens and bulb were gone, and it was missing pieces and badly cracked, but surprisingly still had the grommet.

These things are on back order from Lotus, so no idea how long I’ll have to do without it. I wonder if you can get green or yellow painters tape…

Lake Helene

Last Saturday Jerry and I hiked to Lake Helene. This was Plan B. Plan A was to hike from Bear Lake to Tourmaline Lake. I hiked to Tourmaline last year, from the Fern Lake trailhead. That’s the longer route, but I wanted to walk through the fire area. I wanted to return because the weather that day wasn’t very good for photography.

US 36 was closed for construction the last two times I headed to the park so this was my first look at any road repairs. For the time being, this is not a good route for the fun car. Both canyon sections are dirt. They’ve done a lot of blasting and it looks like there will either be very wide shoulders or an extra lane. I’ll be surprised if they don’t put in a left turn lane just before where the first passing lane starts.

My park pass expired in April so we didn’t get to use the express lane. By this late hour, the lower parking lot was full and the Bear Lake lot was about two-thirds full. We hit the trail a few minutes before nine.

We made fairly good time on the lower section of the trail. A half hour to the Flattop/Odessa trail junction. Up to here, there was little snow on the ground. From about a quarter mile past the trail junction all the way to Lake Helene there was quite a bit of snow. We brought microspikes with us, but I wasn’t expecting to install them so soon. By the end of the day, we’d passed dozens of other hikers but none had spikes. A few wore sneakers without socks, but at least I didn’t see anybody in sandals.

Following the trail was a pretty straight-forward exercise, for the most part. The snow lay on the ground in big ridges, sometimes across the trail but sometimes also along the trail, big drifts four feet deep or more. Seldom did the snow obscure the trail more than twenty yards, and in these areas there were blazes on the trees.

By the time we got to where the trail makes the hairpin turn and descends to Odessa Lake, the blazes led us up the slopes of Joe Mills Mountain. We ran into a couple who intended hiking to the Fern Lake trailhead. I knew we were no longer on the trail, but they didn’t. After taking in the view of Odessa Lake below, I got us down to the trail, showed them where it goes, and Jerry and I headed to Helene. The snow was slowing us down; we wouldn’t make it to Tourmaline by noon and Jerry was getting pretty tired. So Plan B it was, and we headed to Helene and searched for someplace not covered in snow to have our lunches.

We spent about an hour and a half relaxing over lunch. The day had started off quite reminiscent of last year – a solid, undifferentiated bank of clouds. For a while on the trail it seemed we’d end up with bright, sunny skies. In the end, it was more cloudy than not, and by the time we decided to head back things were looking decidedly threatening. We never did get rained on, but it was probably a close thing. There was a bit of lightning a short distance to the north.

When we got back to the car we ran in to the couple we ran into on the trail. They didn’t make it much past where I put them back on the trail. The snow was too deep for them so they turned around.

By now the parking lot was full. To keep folks from clogging up the parking lot, they have several rangers directing traffic. “No, you can’t wait for them to leave. There are spots on the other side. If you don’t find one, go around again. Keep moving.” I think I chatted briefly with each ranger. “People sure take a lot of pictures of your car!”

31st Annual Colorado Consours d’Elegance

Back on June 8 I entered the car show at Arapahoe Community College. This was my second year in the show. Last year I had the car judged and came in second. This time I didn’t bother with getting judged but somehow ended up with another second place ribbon!

The rules are that entrants be on site from 9am to 3pm. Any early departure requires rounding up a police officer to help navigate a safe path to the exit. And, of course, we had to be there well before 9. I left the house a bit later than I’d hoped. To make matters worse, I soon realized I left my paperwork on the kitchen counter so had to run back home. In the end, I was only a few minutes late.

This year’s show celebrated the 100th anniversary of Maserati, the 60th year of the Porsche Speedster, the 50th year of the Ford Mustang and McLaren, and the 40th year of the Porsche Turbo. There were more McLarens there than I’d seen in one place before – the Phoenix McLaren dealer trucked a few cars in, and there was a McLaren race car as well.

2014-06-08 12.31.32sI was a bit delinquent in taking pictures, but so it goes. I was thinking I had plenty of time to do this, but the weather became a problem. Skies to the west were slightly threatening most of the morning, but I kept a positive attitude that we’d be spared any grief. My positive attitude didn’t help much.

It started raining before long. Lots of people scrambled for cover. Some of us sat in our cars. Others got in their cars and drove off – we were given permission to leave the grounds early. It didn’t stop with rain, though. Soon we had hail. I can only imagine what was going through the minds of those folks who brought out their seven figure museum pieces.

After the rain and hail stopped, a police cruiser was circulating with an announcement to take cover in the building. Other officers came through on foot: “Go inside now! There is a tornado warning! Take cover!”

IMG_0741sBy this time, well over half the cars had left. Most of us Lotus folks were nutty enough to stay. I think only the Saab owners adjacent to us stayed in a greater percentage.

Even with the less than ideal weather, I had a great time. I made the day for a 3 year old boy when I let him sit behind the wheel. I spotted him from thirty yards away when he first saw my car and came running toward it. “Look at this one, daddy!”

Long Beach

It took me the better part of two weeks to post about our Moab trip because as soon as we got home I had to go to Long Beach on business.

Although I spent the better part of two years working in Burbank, it has been fourteen years since I was in Long Beach for the race. On that trip we were in a motel a few miles from the track, but this trip I stayed downtown at the Marriott. The place has changed considerably in the meanwhile.

Each day for dinner, I walked from the hotel to a restaurant nearby. After eating I walked back along part of the race course. In the sidewalk in front of the convention center they’ve put some commemorative plaques, like this one:

2014-06-04 19.14.06s

Phil Hill, 1961 F1 Champ, Ferrari

The rental car this week was a Hyundai Accent, an average car in almost every way. Mine was a neutral color, sort of gray and at the same time sort of brown. The only memorable attribute of the car is the uncomfortable driving position. With the seat adjusted properly for my legs, the steering wheel was too far away.

I know I did it in the past, but today I have a hard time imagining getting around unfamiliar places without the aid of GPS. On this trip, I think Google was messing with me. It led me from the hotel to the client’s office along a different route each day, both in the morning and evening. I assume this was due to traffic. That said, it led me down a street where a train was more or less parked.

One evening I went to Burbank for dinner with a friend. Once GPS got me on I-5, I knew exactly where I was going. When I got within four miles, Google wanted to send me to Glendale. The wonders of technology.

 

Red Rocks Ramble

Red Rocks Ramble was the sixth edition of LoCo’s Colorado Good. This time we explored Moab. Saturday drive to Moab, Sunday a morning loop, a free afternoon followed by happy hour at the motel, Monday tour Colorado National Monument before the final blast down I-70 to home.

Saturday, May 31

We met the Denver contingent at the Fort for an 8:30 departure. We were told that photographer Mike Rodgers (Driven Imagery) would get some shots of us from an overpass at Parmalee Gulch. Turns out he went as far as the summit of Monarch Pass. I’m pretty sure I saw him shooting us in South Park, too.

RedRocksRamble01Most of the drive would follow our tracks from last spring: meet folks from Breckenridge in Fairplay, Springs folks near Buena Vista, lunch in Gunnison where we picked up our last participant. But after Ridgway we went straight instead of turning left to Telluride. This took us up the Norwood grade, through the town of Bedrock and Paradox Valley. There was absolutely no traffic all the way to the junction with US 191, a high-speed blast punctuated by occasional cattle guards.

RedRocksRamble02We weren’t so lucky on 191 all the way to Moab – lots of trucks and RVs. We arrived at the motels – we were in two motels, across the street from each other – in plenty of time to check in and get cleaned up before dinner with the group at the diner next to the motel.

One sad note for the day – Jeff broke the suspension on his Birkin near our fuel stop in Montrose and had to drop out.

Sunday, June 1

We woke to a beautiful morning and after breakfast assembled for a drive on the La Sal Loop Road. As it was hot the whole weekend, we kept the top on most of the time but we slathered on the SPF and went al fresco.

We made the run clockwise, going north from Moab and along the Colorado River through a dramatic red rock canyon. The river is calm through here, no whitewater. But the water looked very high. Quite a lot of traffic through here, as one would expect. We soon found our turn and headed south into the La Sal Mountains.

I’m sure it was a beautiful road, however many decades ago it was last paved. But it was very scenic and I think everybody enjoyed it. We pulled over for a break and a group picture. Some of the folks were wishing they’d brought a light jacket, which was a pleasant break from the heat we had the rest of the trip.

We broke into smaller groups for lunch and went off to explore on our own for the afternoon. A lot of folks headed to Arches, but we’d been there before so the choice was Dead Horse Point or Canyonlands. I suggested we do Canyonlands and hit Dead Horse Point on the way back if there’s time. There wasn’t.

Upheaval Dome

Upheaval Dome

I’d looked at the map of the park before leaving the house. I hoped maybe there’d be a short hike we could take, not much more than a mile. Upheaval Dome fit the bill, so that’s where we headed first. Round trip is a mile, characterized by the pamphlet as a “steep” 200 foot climb.

IMG_0698_stitch_smallAfter that, we pretty much stopped at every major scenic point on the road. We didn’t see anybody else from LoCo and in fact it seemed like most park visitors were foreigners. I chatted with a guy from Germany (“I see a lot of Lotuses in Germany!”), heard Chinese and Japanese, French and Spanish spoken.

IMG_0702_stitch_smallBack at the motel, we had happy hour – margaritas, snacks and conversation. Then out to Eddie McStiff’s for dinner with the group.

The day wasn’t without glitches. One of the M100′s suffered not only a nasty rock impact and broken windshield but had a mechanical problem as well. And an Elise had to make a run to Grand Junction for tires.

Monday, June 2

The first few miles of the day were a repeat of yesterday. We stopped beneath the canyon walls for a group picture. Ross’s general rule is not to put the same color cars next to each other, but that is especially true for yellow. I think Mike parked next to him just to needle him a bit. Sometime I’d like to try lining them up like a rainbow.

IMG_0717sAt our morning pit stop in Fruita I managed to catch an impromptu group shot at the Loco station. Gotta get a shot of LoCo at Loco, right?

2014-06-02 09.55.52sGassed up and refreshed, we headed into Colorado National Monument. I’ve been by here a handful of times but never stopped for a visit so it’s about time. It is a pretty interesting place. The geography is similar in many ways to Canyonlands, but smaller and more intimate. I ran the camera for this part of the drive and will post a second video if I manage to put together anything interesting.

IMG_0722_stitch_smallLunch in Grand Junction at the Kannah Creek Brewing Company for the official end of the gathering. Several of us stuck together for a few miles of twisty roads along I-70. We took County Road 45.5 into DeBeque, then side roads up and down the side of the valley to minimize our time on the super-slab.

For the run from Rifle to Frisco, we were down to four – an Evora, two Elises, and a Miata. We find the trip through Glenwood Canyon always interesting – the highway is quite the engineering marvel, even if it is just a highway. But this time, the river was running higher than either of us recall seeing it. The bike path was flooded for long stretches, and the water looked to be within a foot or two of the railroad tracks.

Once through the canyon, we put the hammer down for a high speed run over Vail pass. A Volkswagen stayed on our tail until we got to the foot of the pass. There we passed a Pantera, who made an attempt to keep up with us. After a few minutes neither he nor the VW was in our mirrors.

We had to gas up in Frisco. At the next pump was a guy filling his Harley. I was thinking he looked familiar when he said, “You were in Moab.” We had met the day before. He arrived in Frisco along an entirely different route and was headed for Trail Ridge Road next. He had ridden 1600 miles in three days, starting in Texas.

The rest of the trip was leisurely and mostly uneventful. We were held up for a few minutes while they did some blasting at the tunnel construction east of Idaho Springs. And there was construction on one of the overpasses. They ground the asphalt off but didn’t make a little ramp as normal. I hit that edge hard at about sixty and both my turn signal assemblies popped out of their mounts and flopped around until I could get pulled over. Lost one of the grommets. It’s an $8 part, but $20 for shipping.

I can’t speak for everybody, but we had a grand time.