The Loch

Jerry and I hiked to the Loch. It was a relatively calm day near the divide, for a change. It was fairly warm, but the sky was nearly solid overcast. Again, we got a late start that was made even later due to another closure of highway 36. We didn’t hit the trail until about 11. But it’s a short hike, so no harm, no foul.

We took the winter route up – the fire trail to the junction, then up Icy Brook to the Loch. The ice on the lake is starting to get fairly rotten – crystallized and porous. We skirted along the south shore until the ice ended on the dry lake bottom. About a quarter of the lake’s summer surface area is dry right now; the lake is much shallower than I expected.

We found a place to set up the camera with some trees nearby to keep us out of the wind, should it arise (and it did, eventually). I normally have the camera pointing to a patch of sky above whatever dramatic peaks I’m nearby, but in this case I figured my best shot at getting any sort of interesting cloud action was to face it east. I’d have set up the SLR as well, but it was malfunctioning. On the way up, I tried to take some photos but, although the batteries are fully charged it wouldn’t do anything. Eventually, I took both battery packs out and swapped their location and I was back in business.

On the hike out, we decided to take the route past Alberta Falls. That turned out not to be the best choice, but so it goes. There was very little traffic this way, so the “beaten path” wasn’t very beaten. We weren’t using snow shoes, so we wanted a fair amount of traffic on the trail before us. The original plan was to follow the stream down (from the bridge on the North Longs Peak trail) to the falls, then take the trail from there. But it was soon obvious doing this with just micro spikes wouldn’t be the best choice. So we followed the footsteps on the summer trail.

The thing about following somebody else’s footprints is you’re assuming they knew what they were doing. There were several times I had my doubts. But every now and then we’d see some evidence that we were on the trail. In between these times, it seemed like the trail blazer was maliciously taking us on an excursion. It was all good, though, as we arrived at the falls to find a bunch of people sitting there enjoying the view of … the frozen falls. Not really much to look at when it’s frozen solid and covered with snow drifts.

Cars & Coffee

I went to the Cars & Coffee this morning. Got there about nine, the place was pretty full. I managed to back into one of the last few spaces. As usual, a nice mix of cars, weighed heavily toward the exotics. I counted four Elises, two Exiges, an Elite and a few Esprits. More Ferraris than Lotuses. A couple Lambos, the usual plethora of Porsches, batches of BMWs, and stable of Mustangs.

I took a few snapshots:

McLaren MP4 12-C Spyder. When people mistakenly think my car cost $300,000, I can only assume they haven’t really looked at my car and have certainly never seen any car that did cost $300k. This here, boys and girls, is a $300,000 car. It makes me shudder to think what service and insurance costs for this every year. Prime example of a “stupid money” car and a gorgeous example of automotive engineering.

IMG_0525sNotice here the size difference between the Exige and the Ferrari. The Exige isn’t backed in as far as the Ferrari and still comes up more than a foot short.

IMG_0526sWhen I saw this right hand drive Celica I had to talk to the owner. When I lived in Estes I saw a green first generation right hand drive Celica several times between Estes and Lyons. I thought perhaps this was that car. Nope, this guy just imported it from Japan last year.
IMG_0527sMy initial reaction when I first saw pictures of the new Vette was that it looked like a Camaro from the back. And when I first glimpsed this car, my first thought was “Oh, a convertible Camaro.”
IMG_0528sThis Ariel Atom is a ridiculous car. This one looks brand new, doesn’t have a scratch on it. Granted, I didn’t get that good of a look at it, as they were pulling out just when I spotted it. Given its pristine condition, I can only assume it’s yet to see a lap on the track. There is no other purpose for this car, except to be tracked. Yes, it’s street legal. But you can’t carry anything. Even without a passenger, I doubt you could carry a sack of groceries. I laughed when I saw the cupholder.
IMG_0532sThis sure got me to do a double-take. I immediately thought early Corvette. But the size is all wrong. This seems giant. The huge wheels help with the proportions, but the style is all wrong to pull off the early Vette look. I have no idea how recent the Vette is that it’s built on but it looks pretty new. Completely custom interior, of course. But what sort of tool takes up two spots at these things, anyway?
IMG_0533sI don’t know my Hudsons. Is this a Hornet? I have no idea what year it is, except that it’s early fifties. I love the bullet hub caps. I also love that it seems to be getting more attention than the Astin Martin next door.
IMG_0536sI first saw this from the front. Immediately saw the Mugen badge. Had no idea what model it was, had to walk to the back to find the Fit badge. Really? Mugen Fit? Are there performance parts here, or just body pieces?
IMG_0538sGot this picture of the Factory Five 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupe when he was pulling in. It’s a kit car.

Dream Lake

It has been ages since my last hike. So, last Saturday, with a favorable weather forecast, I headed up to the park for a walk in the snow. When I set out this morning, I figured I’d head to the Loch. It’s a short hike, so I was in no hurry to hit the road. I left a bit before 9, figuring I’d be at the trailhead by 10:30.

Last time I headed to Estes Park, US 36 was open and Colorado 7 was closed. Today it was the other way around due to blasting operations near mile marker 12. This was my first trip on 7 between Lyons and the junction with 72, where the canyon is quite narrow. I’m surprised how much of the road didn’t get washed out in some parts. The river channel was simply scoured out. Looked to me like most of the debris has been removed and long sections of river bank have been sculpted.

The section of road from Allens Park to Estes Park is getting pretty beat up. While 36 was closed in the immediate aftermath of the flooding, all logistical support for Estes went on this road resulting in long sections of fairly rough pavement with lots of potholes. Traffic was moving about the speed limit, which was in places faster than I wanted to go because the road is so beat up.

So, with the late start and the longer route to the trailhead, I arrived at Glacier Gorge parking lot later than I’d hoped. All the spots were taken except the parallel spots. An important rule driving the Elise is to never parallel park. I did stop there for a few minutes, though. The wind was fierce, I really didn’t want to hike in this. Snow was blowing in huge clouds from all the peaks. I didn’t want to hike to the Loch from Bear Lake, and didn’t want to hike very far, so I parked at Bear Lake and hiked to Dream.

I arrived at Dream at a quarter to noon. In winter, I take the winter route, up the drainage, from Nymph to Dream. A lot of folks follow the summer route. The two meet up again just below Dream. Here, the beaten path is six or eight feet wide, and goes onto the ice along the north shore. I looked for a spot on the south bank where I could set up the GoPro and have my picnic in the trees, out of the wind.

I went about half way across the lake where I found a small tree on a tuft of grass. I put the camera here, using the tree for support and as low to the ground as I could. I headed to the trees and looked for a picnic spot. The wind was fierce. When I stood with no trees in front of me, gusts occasionally knocked me off balance. I found I could get three or four trees deep from the lake and still find a window with a view.

After I ate, I stood watching the snow blow off the mountains, but after only a few minutes of this I was getting cold. I retreated into the trees, which helped. In the summer I have no problem finding a comfortable spot to watch the world go by for an hour. But in winter the winds are just relentless. I needed to do something, to move around and generate some warmth. I took the SLR out on the ice to see if there was anything interesting.

IMG_0509sThe ice looks like the top of a choppy lake. Little white caps of snow are on the ice. And the ice isn’t flat. The snow forms these odd little ice lattices; these lattices look like little dunes on the ice. I took several photos in an attempt to show what these things look like, but none show them very well. The jumble of white lines are not in the ice, or part of the surface of the ice. Like ripples of sand under moving water, these little walls of ice make many-celled miniature dunes on the thick ice.IMG_0516sI head back to my stuff and am quickly met by hikers coming through the trees. I thought it was pretty odd that they’d come that way. They even asked where most people hike, so I pointed to the other bank. I decided that I’d wait for them to enter the trees on the west side of the lake before I shut the camera off. When they got half way there they stopped for a conference. Then more hikers pop out of the trees along the same path as the first two. My little picnic area off the beaten path somehow became the beaten path. More hikers kept coming through the trees. Could non of these people follow a six foot wide road of footprints and ski tracks?

The hike back to the car was quite crowded. Just about everybody going up to Nymph was wearing snow shoes. There were a few skiers, and a few people in sneakers. I didn’t see anybody else using micro spikes. There’s really no need for snow shoes unless you’re going off the beaten path.

Two Weeks in Portland

I’ve been quiet here because I’ve been a bit busy. I’m nearing the end of two weeks in Portland on business.

Rewinding to last week, but first a digression. I recently decided that it would be great fun to make the drive here from Denver if I could arrange a track day at Portland International Raceway. I reached out to the local enthusiasts, Club Lotus Northwest (CLNW) and found that they’re having a track day at PIR on August 29. I also signed up for their mailing list. When my presence was requested in the office, it turns out that I’d be in town when CLNW had one of their meetings.

So last Tuesday I found myself at the McMenamin’s Courtyard restaurant at the Kennedy School to meet with the fine folks of CLNW. Genae and I make fun of the TV shows where the substance abusers all know that there’s an AA meeting right around the corner from wherever they are. And so I travel a thousand miles to attend a Lotus club meeting. “My name is Dave and I drive a Lotus!”

The Kennedy School was an elementary school built in 1915. McMenamin’s renovated the once abandoned gem, turning it into a complex featuring a 57 room hotel, a theater, and a handful of restaurants/bars. I probably should have wandered around the place a bit to enjoy the murals. I’ll put it on my list for a return visit.

A few quick thoughts on my two weeks here:

  • Rental car for the first week was a Kia Forte. Never heard of it before. First car I’ve driven in ages that didn’t have a remote lock. A very pedestrian car completely lacking in any interesting features.
  • Week one’s hotel room was on the top floor, right next to the elevator. I was expecting it to be noisy but I was pleasantly surprised it was quiet. But each morning I was awakened to the smell of bacon – the breakfast area was directly below me and the scent went straight up the elevator shaft.
  • Going through security at DIA they directed me to a line where I didn’t need to remove my jacket, belt, or shoes, and could leave the laptop in the backpack. A first for me.
  • Returning to Denver, my flight was delayed over two hours due to wind in Denver. Only the second time I’ve had a flight delayed due to weather in Denver.
  • Second time through DIA I was again diverted, this time through the TSA pre-check line. Do they not realize I’ve been on the watch list for the last several years? I could get used to such quick screening.
  • I’m certainly spoiled by the weather in Denver. I enjoy my time here in Portland, but the weather is a bit of a downer. I may be wrong, but I think it has rained every day I’ve been here these two weeks. I’m told the sun comes out by July.
  • Week two’s car is a Dodge Avenger. How did they manage to give an exciting name to such a drab car?
  • This week’s hotel is being renovated. At least the rooms on my floor are. I’m in a newly redecorated room. Half the rooms are under construction – there are post-it notes on most doors: “Complete by Friday”, “Tile: caulk soap dish, caulk top of tile in shower”, and so on. New carpet, tile, wallpaper. But they kept the old sink and bathtub. Instead of the smell of bacon in the morning, I get the smell of paint all the time.
  • I’m a bit stuck in a rut in the restaurant category. I have dinner at another McMenamin’s place – John Barleycorn’s. This time was a pint of their Ruby and a chicken pesto sandwich.
  • Being a book junkie, I make a trip downtown to Powell’s City of Books. Three floors that take up a full city block, I can never make an exit without an armload.
  • Each time now, I eat at the Deschutes Brewery a block from Powell’s. Tonight it was smoked chicken and field greens – basically a Cobb salad with greens instead of iceberg lettuce. And a half liter of one of their cask ales. Yum.


Alton Brown Live

Genae and I went to see Alton Brown do his thing at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. I really had no idea what to expect. What does a famous TV cook do in a theater? Sing and dance?

Yes and no.

That is, he sang and played guitar (and saxophone!) and did some standup comedy. All about food and cooking. And even without any sort of kitchen equipment (except a mini fridge) he managed to whip up some ice cream and pizza. But no dancing.

Before the show

Before the show

But let’s back up a bit. The entertainment began well before the show started. There was a video screen above the stage, pure white and seemingly not in use. Every now and then a sock puppet showed up briefly. As it got closer to showtime, the puppets appeared more frequently. Then they started belching and farting. Made the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles seem tame in comparison. I was thinking it was directed at those of us in the audience stuck at 12 years old, but it turns out the little guys represented yeast. Then the lights came down and he walked on stage.

Alton Brown tweeted this picture early in the show.

Alton Brown tweeted this picture early in the show.

He made a couple of jokes about the Super Bowl – “I lost a hundred bucks last night, so I know how you feel!” And a couple jokes about pot brownies. Then launched into his show.

For the musical parts, he played guitar and sang. He did a love song to caffeine and a blues about pork chops, a rocker about wanting an Easy Bake Oven and a complicated lullaby about how easy it is to cook.

He had two big set pieces that required a participant from the audience.

The first was to make ice cream. He had constructed a device from plastic 5 gallon water bottles and fire extinguishers – a CO2 extinguisher on one end and a water one on the other, with a canister in between made from the bottles. The water one had chocolate milk in it instead of water. And the canister in between (held together with duct tape) had holes along the top for vents. He made sure to explain what the vents were for, then rotated the canister to angle the vents toward the audience. Then he passed ponchos out to the folks in the first couple of rows.

A member of the audience pulled the trigger on the chocolate milk side while he did the CO2 side. Ten seconds later, after a fair amount of noise and venting of chocolate laced CO2 over the folks up close, he pulled the tape off and scooped some of the contents into an ice cream cone. He had the volunteer taste the concoction – chocolaty and … carbonated!

This operation made a bit of a mess, so they took a break to clean things up.

The other big set piece was brought out after singing his song about the Easy Bake Oven. During the song they lowered an Easy Bake Oven from the rafters and he stopped the song: “I said 12 feet high!” The prop guy showed him the plans: “Two marks means inches, one mark means feet. Two marks!”

After the song he told us the story of his first Easy Bake Oven. His parents wouldn’t give him one but he got a hand-me-down from a cousin. This was old school – not one but two 100 watt bulbs. (Now I think they’re 40 watt.) But now that he’s a famous TV cook with means, he scaled it up a bit. I could almost hear Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor saying “More power!”

He unveiled a big contraption – the Mega Bake Oven. Built on a big steel frame he mounted 54 par 64 lights. Those are the ones you see over the stage at heavy metal concerts. They’re 1000 watts each. Half on top facing down, half on bottom facing up. With a conveyer in between, operated by a wheel like you’d find on an old pirate ship.

He selected another volunteer to help him make pizzas. After they tossed the dough, slathered on the sauce, piled on the cheese, pepperoni, and beef jerky, she worked the wheel to move the pizzas back and forth for three minutes to bake them while he showed slides of the building of the Mk 1 prototype Mega Bake. On stage was the Mk 3. “Don’t ask about the Mk 2 … I’ll just say ‘litigation’”. We were close enough to smell the pizza. Smelled pretty good.

Alton Brown is a very entertaining and talented guy. We had a great time.


Saturday I attended my second Eiskhana (read about the first one here). Jerry went with me again, sort of. He had errands to attend to in the morning, so he came up a bit later. So I arranged to meet up with Doug and some of his friends and caravan up together. We were supposed to be there for registration at 8; we gathered at Doug’s at 6:45. It’s only about 40 miles, so that should be plenty of time.

We had barely headed up the hill to Genessee before we hit a wall of traffic – all three lanes creeping along at about 10 mph. It was clogged that way all the way to Idaho Springs. Given that much traffic I expected to see lots of ski racks on the other cars, but there were surprisingly few. I’m still thinking it was ski traffic. Do that many people rent their equipment? Anyway, it took us nearly two hours to go the 40 miles.

The Eiskhana seemed a bit more organized this year than last. This time, each car was given an entry number. I was 87, and there were at least a dozen people behind me. The organizers said they were getting only 20 cars a few years ago and were happy to have over 100 entries now. I don’t know how many cars there were last year, but I’d guess it was fewer.

I expected a different course and that was the case. I didn’t expect that it would be so much shorter. They had the starting gate set up fairly near the ramp to the ice. The course didn’t go past half way across the lake, starting with some esses before turning around, leading to a lollipop then the end gate. To the north of the course they set up a skid pad. The idea was you make two runs of the course then try out the skid pad. Or in the other order if you prefer.

It was my turn on the ice before Jerry arrived so I made the first run without him. I figured once he arrived we’d do the skid pad and then the second run. Unfortunately, by then they’d collected the cones from the skid pad. Then they decided to change the course, making it a bit longer. It was still quite a bit shorter than last year, but it looked like the ice on the east side of the lake was quite rough, so it’s probably just as well.

Prior to the first run, I attempted to set up the course for my lap timer. I had only used it for closed courses before, except for a test run around the house. To set it up, I needed to walk through the start gate and end gate, pressing a button on the phone at each – mark “Start”, mark “Finish”.

When I rolled up to the start gate the first time, the timer started a good fifteen or twenty feet early. Oops, they moved the cones! I managed to get a time for the first run but failed on the second. I didn’t bother trying again when they rearranged the course. I was enjoying shooting the breeze with the other folks and didn’t really want to get in the way of the stewards.

The two runs at the first course were comical for me. I did a couple 360′s the first time, and on the second I got confused and did the lollipop around the wrong set of cones, and on top of that threw in an extra 360 or two. At one point I thought I’d gotten stuck – just spun the tires no matter what I tried.

On the longer course, though, I kicked ass. Well, I’m sure I was nowhere near a “fast” time, but I never lost control of the car. Had it a bit sideways a time or three, but never looped it. After we did my run, Jerry paid the fee for a second driver ($10) and I let him take a stab at it. To add to the degree of difficulty, he’d never driven the car before and hasn’t driven a clutch in ten years or more. But he did pretty well and I think he had a good time. When you think about how quickly the run is over, ten or twenty bucks ends up being pretty steep, but it’s not the kind of thing you can do every day.

The weather was fantastic. Forecast for Denver was upper 50′s, sunny and calm. At the lake it was in the low 40′s and sunny. There was a chill breeze before the sun hit the ice but once we were in the sun it was quite nice. By afternoon I was worried that I should have brought sunscreen but I managed to escape without any sunburn.

It’s a Porsche Club event so obviously there was a preponderance of Porsches. Doug and I were the only Elises. One of his friends has an Elise but drove his Mini instead. Cindy was there in her Evora. I may be mistaken, but I think we Loti were the center of attention. We fielded lots of questions and everybody was taking pictures of us. Well, our cars, not us. People asked if they could sit in the cars and we obliged. I don’t think the Subaru or Buick drivers were in the same boat. I’m used to the car being the center of attention on the street but not to this extent at car events.

Jerry and I were nearly the last ones there. Although I’d eaten my lunch only a couple hours before, I suggested we stop in Idaho Springs for Beau Jo’s. Unfortunately, everybody who left before us met for lunch at another restaurant in town and took up all the parking spaces. Oh well. So we called it a day and headed down the mountain. Traffic wasn’t nearly so bad on the way home – we hit the road before the ski lifts closed.

They finished widening the tunnel east of Idaho Springs. I didn’t expect it to be complete already. I think they need to repave it – the road is a bit rough for a stretch, but it’s nice that it’s three lanes now. Westbound is still only two lanes. So it took them a bit less than a year to add a lane for eastbound traffic the few miles between Idaho Springs and the bottom of Floyd Hill. I wonder what that cost.

All in all, a fun day.

HPR Customer Appreciation Day 2013

The last week of every year High Plains Raceway has a free day for anybody who bought open lapping days that year. I only bought a half day so I felt like I didn’t deserve it. I couldn’t pass it up, though. It has been weeks since I’ve driven the Lotus, probably the longest it has sat idle since I bought it. The weather wonks all agreed it would be a beautiful day so I took the day off, blew off a family get-together and headed to the track.

I got there at about 12:30. There was no activity on the track. Turns out somebody blew an engine and they were cleaning up the oil. The tow truck had a work out. I didn’t see the car that blew up, but there were at least two other cars on the hook in the afternoon.

I started in the slow group. I ran two sessions with them, but the second session was quite short. I had one nice traffic-free lap in those two sessions. I switched to the fast group for the last two sessions. By then, most people had had their fill (having probably run three morning sessions) and the field was thinning out.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. Sunny and mild, probably sixty degrees. I was quite comfortable with just my windbreaker.

It was the busiest track day I’ve attended. I don’t know how many cars were running, but the line to get on to the track with the slow group spilled into every road in the paddock. Cars gridding up were blocking the routes of the group coming off the track. A bit of a cluster job. If this had been a club event, somebody would have lined the grid up properly.

There were five Lotuses there, all Elises. Jason was there with his BRG car. His shirt matched my shoes. Bob was there with his titanium car. Also present were a silver one and a black one. I only was ever on track with the black one. The others were in the fast group but were done by the time I switched.

The slow group was an odd sort of traffic jam. It was pretty much a steady steam of cars moving at something like highway speed. Nobody ever had open road in front of them. There was passing, but sometimes it seemed painfully slow. I had one open lap but all the rest were about ten seconds a lap slower. It was much like being on the highway. A huge proportion of the cars were sedans – BMWs, Audis, a Corrola, a Maxima, a big Jag. A guy in a Boxter ran with his ski racks on. A classic Porsche driver had his right turn signal on. There were Camaros, Corvettes, Mustangs. Porsches, Minis, Subarus, Miatas, a Gremlin running with a Jeep engine and the glittery green steering wheel from a dune buggy.

In looking at my lap times, I’m struck by how much I have improved. When I first tracked the car, it was on Riken Raptors, some very cheap tires. My best lap with those tires was 2:22. The first time I ran slicks, I managed a 2:14. I had big improvements each session. I felt I was overcoming a lifetime’s habit of knowing how fast I could drive around a corner and that with slicks it was a night and day difference. At the end of the day I felt I could get another four seconds quicker.

So now I’m on the Dunlop DZ101s. The rears are new but the fronts are done and need to be replaced. I managed a 2:14.5 this time. That’s as fast as I managed to run on slicks two years ago. I think I’ve gotten better at placing the car where I want it on the track. Whether that’s the proper place is another matter. I’m not missing as many apexes as I used to.

But I suspect another good chunk of time improvement is down to the new brake pads. Yesterday I certainly braked more aggressively than I normally do. Once I was too late and ended up four wheels off. I normally don’t brake hard enough to engage the ABS more than once or twice. But yesterday I gave the ABS quite a work out when I had no traffic.

The slicks are toast, and I’ll not likely buy another set. This spring I intend to get a set of track tires that I’m comfortable driving to and from the track on. I’d hate to be on slicks and get stuck in an afternoon thunder shower on the way home from the track.

With a new set of track tires, how much faster will I be? Is it too much to think I will be three seconds a lap faster? Is it out of line to hope that between more practice and a good set of tires I might shoot for a 2:10? Gotta have goals.