Every year, the club does a couple of long weekend drives, typically one in the spring and one in the fall. Years ago, we used to call them the “Colorado Good”, a play on the name of the Colorado Grand, an annual classic car charity tour.
Friday, May 19
Our rally point this morning is the Love’s gas station on the north side of Buena Vista. I figured it would take two and a half hours to get there, and I added a few minutes in case I hit the tail end of morning rush hour traffic.
Colorado weather is notoriously changeable. A common remark is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Yes, I’ve heard people in other places say similar things, but Colorado is truly a “four seasons in one day” kind of place.
Today it is rainy. It’s an “upslope”, meaning it’s coming more from the east or northeast, and by going west, I would be able to get out of the rain and into the sunshine. I was thinking things would clear up at Kenosha pass, but that was optimistic. On the west side of Trout Creek pass, one usually sees a gorgeous view of Mt. Princeton and the other peaks in the Collegiate range. Today, though, the clouds hung low over the Arkansas valley and if you didn’t know there were mountains right in front of you, well, you wouldn’t know.
We met at our assembly point. On the way there from Colorado Springs, Jeff had his windshield wiper fly off his car. Will and Kat were behind him when it happened. When Will and Kat pulled into the gas station and got out of the car, they saw that Jeff’s wiper was sticking out of their front grille. What are the chances?
Our first stop was a photo opportunity at Twin Lakes. Again, normally you’d see some majestic peaks from here. The ceiling was lifting somewhat, but the tops of the mountains are still shrouded.
From there, we went back to US 24 and headed north, over Tennessee pass.
Tennessee pass crosses the Continental Divide at an elevation of 10,424’. It climbs only 272 feet from Leadville and descends 1.826 vertical feet to Redstone. It was the first Continental Divide highway pass that was kept open all winter, starting in 1928.
Zebulon Pike came this way in 1806.
On November 24, he and three others set off from their camp near Pueblo to climb to the summit of Pike’s Peak. On the fourth day of their climb, they were in waist-deep snow but they reckoned they were still 15 or 16 miles away from the summit, still a mile above them. They turned back. They concluded the peak was the highest on the continent with an elevation of 18,541’ and that “no human being could have ascended to its pinnacle”.
After he failed to summit his peak, the expedition continued and he found himself in South Park. He crossed Trout Creek Pass and worked upstream along the Arkansas, which he had incorrectly identified as the Red. By his reckoning, the Arkansas stopped more than eighty miles to the south. To the north, he expected to find the Platte, and just past the Platte, the Yellowstone. Pike stopped near Mount Elbert, a bit short of Tennessee Pass. His men were tired and didn’t want to go any further. It was December, after all. No doubt, conditions were rough. He wasn’t lost but didn’t really know where he was.
Thirty-nine years later, John Frémont (who would later become the first Republican candidate for president) was the first to cross Tennessee pass. Ostensibly, his mission was to map the area around Bent’s Fort on the high plains of what is now southeastern Colorado. The credulous might believe he was lost, too. But his real goal was Monterey, California on behalf of Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, with a view to national expansion. California was still Mexico until it was the spoils of war the following year.
We stopped for a picnic lunch at an I-70 rest stop. I had printed our six pages of directions for the trip, including our hotel and restaurant information and Mike’s nice route description. I had the cameras in the passenger seat of the car, so I tossed the notes on top of them to sort of hide things from casual snooping.
After lunch, we headed west on I-70. Most of the gang got off the super slab to follow Cindy on a tour of some back roads. Normally, I’d be down for that but I kept on the interstate. Once I was on my own, I thought it would be a good idea to find out just where I’m headed. Somehow, I was now missing the notes. How the heck did that happen? (Odder, the notes are clearly visible in a video taken while driving on I-70. So I didn’t leave them at the rest stop.)
I wasn’t the only one who didn’t follow Cindy. Will and Kat passed me before long. They’d have stayed behind me, but I waved them by. It would have been embarrassing to miss the exit for the hotel. Just after they passed, the car acted funny for a few seconds. At first, I had a moment of panic: did I just blow a fuse? But that wasn’t the case, and all was well again very quickly. I later figured out what happened.
When we got off the highway, I ended up following Will and Kat through a fast food drive-through. They didn’t stop either but went to a different restaurant. I decided to quit stalking them and struck off for the hotel on my own. I only made one wrong turn.
I later had a chat with Cindy, who led the non-interstate tour. None of her route was in the notes, and things got complicated when she experienced a little mechanical trouble. She doesn’t know what happened, but she momentarily had neither brakes nor clutch. The clutch pedal went straight to the floor. Both systems use the same reservoir, so it’s not surprising an issue with one might cause an issue with the other. She had the rest of the gang go ahead without her. A few minutes later, both clutch and brakes were back to normal. She’s local to that area, so she managed to take a different route and rejoin the others by getting ahead of them.
For dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant called Enzo’s. I could ask Mike, who did his usual stellar job of planning and leading the group, if he chose the restaurant because of the name. If that was the case, he might deserve some grief: Enzo is Ferrari, not Lotus.
Getting off the highway, it felt like I was applying the brakes. I realized now that this is what happened when Will and Kat passed me earlier. This same thing happened on the way home from Atlanta. One of the bolts holding my right rear brake caliper in place had worked itself out. It didn’t come out completely as the parking brake cable is in the way, but it was out far enough for the caliper to occasionally be cockeyed on the disk. This happened years ago on the left side. That time, the bolt came completely out. I’m surprised this one happened again, but the caliper has other issues and I’ll be replacing it in the coming days.
In any event, the fix is an easy one. All I need to do is jack the car up, dismount the right rear wheel, get the caliper into place, and tighten the bolt. The only problem with this plan is I lack a jack and any way to remove the wheel. I got online and looked for any auto shops that would be open on a Saturday morning and found one right around the corner from the hotel. They open at 8, so I should be back on the road fairly quickly.