Every year, unless there’s a pandemic, anyway, Lotus Ltd, the national Lotus owners group, holds a Lotus Owners Gathering. These events are hosted by whatever local chapter wants to step up to the plate. The only LOG I’ve attended so far was the one we hosted in Colorado Springs. Most often, they’re deep in the Eastern time zone and I’ve been reluctant to make the drive. In 2020, the fine folks in Salt Lake City took on the challenge. COVID saw that challenge and said, “Not this year!” so it was postponed to 2021, where we begin our story.
I wasn’t the only one from Lotus Colorado, as you might expect. The LOCO gang is pretty devoted to group drives, so a two-day drive was organized for the trip to SLC and there was a choice of two drives for the return trip, one of which was several days and hits several national parks, including a visit to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, I just started a new job and had to minimize time off, so I did the travel on my own.
Friday, September 10
I left the house at 6 am and headed up I-70 to Silverthorne. Yes, this is a violation of Rule #1. There is a fairly limited number of routes from Denver to Salt Lake City. Most people tend to use I-80. I-70 is another choice. Other than interstates, your choice is pretty much down to Trail Ridge Road and Poudre Canyon. Both are nice drives, but each would add a significant amount of time to the trip.
Between the two interstates, the next most obvious route is US 40. It covers the vast majority of miles between the two terminals, with a short stint on I-70 on the Denver end and I-80 on the SLC end. I drive the section of US 40 between its intersection with I-70 and the western end of Trail Ridge Road in Granby fairly often. A variation of this trip would be to forego Berthoud Pass and continue on I-70 to Silverthorne. From there, take CO 9 north to Kremmling. That’s a new road for me, so I went that way.
I stopped for breakfast at a bagel place in Silverthorne. There, I had a short visit with a couple visiting the area from Portland. They began the conversation by saying that they liked my car because it matches the colors of the University of Oregon.
From the top of Hoosier Pass south of Breckenridge to Kremmling, CO 9 runs downhill beside the Blue River, a tributary of the Colorado. There are two dams on the Blue, Dillon Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir, dividing the valley into thirds. The twenty miles from Silverthorne to Green Mountain Reservoir runs along a spectacular string of 12 and 13,000 peaks run to our left. After Green Mountain Reservoir, the valley flattens and widens. Here, trees are only growing on the slopes and the valley floor is fairly barren. North from Kremmling, we climb along Muddy Creek, which is dammed by Wolford Mountain Reservoir just a couple miles from town. Thirty miles up the road we reach Muddy Pass and the junction with CO 14.
John C. Frémont explored this area in 1844, crossing Muddy Pass, heading south. He wanted to search for the unknown source of the Colorado River but “a mob of Arapahoes in war paint” appeared from the east. His men swam their horses across the river and hustled up the Blue River to where Dillon Reservoir is. With Arapahoes everywhere in the woods now (who were actually looking to pick a fight with the Utes), they hurried up Hoosier Pass. Twelve years later, Frémont was the first Republican candidate for president.
Passing the junction with CO 14, we start to climb the eastern side of Rabbit Ears Pass. Typically, the top of a pass is a crest. Here it’s a plateau. The road runs nearly level at about 9,400′ for about four and a half miles. Drop down the west side of Rabbit Ears to Steamboat Springs, and onto the Colorado Plateau, which we’ll cross for most of the rest of the day.
We follow US 40 west until Heber City, Utah. Traffic was about as light as I expected until I got to Vernal, where I had lunch. I was not terribly happy with the traffic from Vernal to Heber City. The road is nice enough: a good surface, with just about every significant climb having a passing lane. But the traffic west of Vernal was not to my liking. Lots of trucks running in both directions. I don’t know what they’re carrying, but they’re the ones that look like inverted cones, running in tandem, 38-wheelers.
Between Starvation State Park and Strawberry Reservoir, I just missed a rain squall. I’d have rather driven through the squall than missed it: the road was wet and the big trucks kicked up huge clouds of spray. So much for having a clean car.
At Heber City, Google wants me to go to I-80, but I’d rather not. Instead, I find a route through Wasatch Mountain State Park. I enjoyed this little trek: Pine Canyon Drive, S Guardsman Pass Road, and Big Cottonwood Canyon Road. Those first two were narrow, steep, and windy with no center stripe and a 15mph speed limit. Which is about right: I encountered a deer and a Bighorn Sheep ewe standing on the road.
I pulled into the hotel parking lot at 4:20 and was directed where to park: drive under the limbo pole, past the Evoras and Elans and Europas, into the upper part of the lot with the Exiges and finally my Elise brethren. I wasn’t the last to arrive, but nearly so. As usual, I have the dirtiest car in the group. Everybody who needed it washed their cars at the hotel. I barely had time to check into LOG and into the hotel before it was time for the Gathering of Lotus Owners.
Out in a tent on the back lawn, we had some food and a cash bar. Soft taco fixins, chips and various dips. A local brewery made a Lotus Lager available. I think it was more like an amber ale. I like amber ales, so I had two Lotus Lagers. Somehow, I managed to gather with other LOCOs, which I don’t have to drive 600 miles to do. I resolved to mingle as much as possible with people who haven’t already heard all my stories.