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Old 5th September 2007, 04:25   #1
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Default Pikes Peak but no challenge

"I thought you love to drive". Thats how it started when my wife remarked thus.

The weekend of 1 to 3rd of September was a long weekend, due to the Labor day being on the 3rd.
Flight tickets to anywhere were sky high. On account of the Niagara trip already reserved down on the
month, accounts weren't looking happy. Which meant any plans of a flight to a holiday destination was
impossible.Was simply devastated thinking of having to spend three days indoors.

However, there is a notepad with driving distances and the hours scribbled by myself and the order of
preferences. My wife would see me look at that notepad and sigh. Every nice place, that we have not yet
covered, is far away from Dallas making a minimum of around 12 hours to drive. That isn't much, but when
we think of the little girl and think of the hectic scedule those drives could amount to, on even the
long weekend, it wasn't painting a rosy picture. Thats when she said the first statement.

We did a experimental trip to Talimena scenic drive (the travelogue of which was dumped half way thru!)
a 700 mile round trip starting 11am and reaching back at after midnight. What we saw was impressive, but
what was felt was more so. The little one was actually enjoying. Even after the grownups have exhausted,
she would wake us up to take her on a drive.

So boom! Which is the first priority point? Well there is no point for guessing why the Pikes Peak
featured on top of the list!! The base point is the Colorado springs, 720 miles from Dallas (from our
residence). Drive time is around 12 hours. So we decide to start on the Friday evening after office and
hit the road. But driving thru the night to reach colorado springs, would mean that the tiredness of the
journey would take its toll on the entire Saturday, which the baby might not be able to endure. So we
took a decision to split the distance. Here was the planned Itenarary

Day 1 - Friday - Start after office and reach Amarillo 340 miles. Drive time 5ours 40 minutes.
Day 2 - Saturday - Drive to Colorado springs in the morning - see the royal gorge bridge
Day 3 - Pikes Peak, Garden of the gods, caves of the winds. and drive down to Amarillo at night
Day 4 - Return back.

I will breifly jot the salient points before getting into the details (Which I am yet to write)

here are the Salient points
  • Breathtaking Sceneries
  • 1800 mile round trip in 3 days
  • Last day 800 miles (1300 kms) in 12 hours 40 minutes including stops (Denver to Dallas)
  • Stop time was 1hr 50 minutes
  • Average Fuel consumption 22.6 mpg
  • Highway fuel consumption 23.9 mpg
  • Hill climb fuel consumption 11.2 mpg
  • Vehicles driven - Mercury Grand Marquis and BMW 328i thru the hill climbs and descents. The first Grand Marquis given to me was a boat, got it changed at the car rental before leaving and it was totally different in driver feel.
  • Visited Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak, Cave of the Winds, Manitou Springs, Royal Gorge bridge, Garden of
  • the Gods and the Denver downtown.
  • Got pulled over by a cop, but worked it out thru a warning only.
More details coming soon and I will add pictures along the way.

Last edited by 1100D : 5th September 2007 at 04:37.
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Old 5th September 2007, 05:17   #2
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Wow, that must have been some trip to watch pikes peak hill climb. I read that Monster Tajima was the only one taking part in the unlimited class and he managed to secure the record from Rod Millen. Any videos of his run? The event surely must have been crazy.
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Old 5th September 2007, 08:56   #3
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let this be a start

Last edited by 1100D : 5th September 2007 at 09:02.
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Old 5th September 2007, 08:59   #4
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Pikes Peak.. wow !!

*subscribed*
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Old 5th September 2007, 09:30   #5
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The decision to stay over at Amarillo worked wonders as we covered the journey from Amarillo to
Colorado springs in day time. What a lovely drive it was. For miles on the State Road 87, ours was
the only car, barring a few vehicles to be overtaken thru the broken lines. A few small hillocks
would make themselves seen on both sides. And offcourse a slow train that tried to keep up with
us! Then there were those refineries, sprouting just beside the highway. Giving off an eerie old
world charm, that we see on the backgounds of our simulation games.


Soon the State road 87 took us into New Mexico and the moment we branched on interstate 25 towards
Denver at Raton, we were greeted with mountain roads. Sweeping left and right with a speed limit
of 65 miles an hour.


Ok now its time to talk about the car. Since we will cover long distances, I decided to try out an
American cruiser, not the best of machines on the switchbacks, but that too worked wonders with
all three of us on the final day, when we actually drove down from Denver to Dallas (820 miles/
1300 kms) in 12.5 hours flat including stops.We were given a Mercury Grand Marquis, 4.6l v8. For
those of you who do not know, it is based on Ford Crown Victoria (the cop car) and on my first
night of driving it, I would come close to the tail of any car, that would slow down thinking I was
a cop and move over!!


Getting back to the curves, the big hulk, which lacked any feedback whatsoever, was indeed taking
the curves (although not communicating with the driver). The biggest game however, was that no
one was expecting a cruiser to come upto them like that in the RVM and overtake them. Cruisers are
mainly driven by old people you see. Secondly, if the overtakee was driving a Subaru or
something, he/she would oblige by taking it personal and then showing me what driving dynamics mean, at
which point, I would swiftly move over and let them show off!


In no time we reached Trinidad and I-25 from that point onwards had a higher limit of 75. So set
the cruise at an appropriate speed higher than that and the bearings rolled to Colorado springs in
no time. What a beautiful city?
Thats Colorado springs for you

More tomorrow when I have more time, today the connection is slow.

Last edited by 1100D : 5th September 2007 at 09:32.
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Old 5th September 2007, 09:57   #6
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Wow...waiting for the next episode!!

One question, why Mercury Grand Marquis?
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Old 5th September 2007, 10:02   #7
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Woweee .. lovely snaps !
The ride in that Merc (ury) must have been good ?

Why did you not take the Merc (edes) ?
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Old 5th September 2007, 10:23   #8
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Lovely Snaps 1100D,
Some of the highway pics reminded me of Hosur - Krishnagiri stretch of Nh7, some stretches in AP during my Kolkata trip... Is india catching up?

If the villagers/moped guys respect the rules, I am not seeling any difference between the GQ and the US highways...

Abhi
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Old 5th September 2007, 11:04   #9
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Hehehe, the Grand Marquis would have people getting out of your way! For those who arent familiar, its based on the Ford Crown Victoria which is used by cops!!

I still didnt understand why your wife made that statement though?
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Old 5th September 2007, 20:33   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiteKnight View Post
Wow...waiting for the next episode!!

One question, why Mercury Grand Marquis?
Why the Grand Marquis? After driving the Mercedes on highway stretches and then driving normal mid/full size cars you get to feel they are not upto the mark in terms of neither ride nor handling. I needed something with similar or more space so that my passengers (actually just my wife, as my daughter is anyway confined to her child seat) have enough space to lounge around, meaning less fatigue, meaning longer distances at a stretch. Moreover wanted to try out an American cruiser in what they specialize. In anycase, something more nimbler wouldn't have mattered anyway, because the speed limits are the same for all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shuvc View Post
Woweee .. lovely snaps !
The ride in that Merc (ury) must have been good ?

Why did you not take the Merc (edes) ?
I did not take the Mercedes because of the simple reason, that with a malfunctioning rental car one simply has to call the rental company and they will provide me with an alternative car, without putting any delays. Moreover I was quite intent on taking the Mercedes, but the tyres have gone totally bald in just a few months since I got it. I take the Mercedes to a 200 mile radius, not beyond.

Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy View Post
Lovely Snaps 1100D,
Some of the highway pics reminded me of Hosur - Krishnagiri stretch of Nh7, some stretches in AP during my Kolkata trip... Is india catching up?

If the villagers/moped guys respect the rules, I am not seeling any difference between the GQ and the US highways...

Abhi
Indian Highways are catching up with the developed world. Like it. But you know, you dont get "chai shops" or the "dhaba's" with the "khatia's" in US, which makes it really soulless. Moreover, the speed limit enforcement in US really makes it quite uninteresting. Any more tickets and I will have to shell out a bigger premium on my car insurance. Yes my quota of having fun is almost over.Autobahns have no limits and they have far less accident rates than US interstates (So that takes away the safety argument of enforcing speed limits).
A few mopeds and villagers straying across, will not happen with people becoming more aware of the vagaries of the expressway, it will take a couple of years. Infact the situation has greatly improved since the past couple of years when the expressways were coming up. I even miss the time when our old fiat used to burn up Bombay road. The surface was far from perfect, but we still had all the time in the world, in contrast to now.
The beauty of driving in India, despite what some people call as hassles, is really a world apart. It is always considered blasphemy when I talk to US settled desi's that I dont like long drives in US, despite the good roads, despite the lovely cars available.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
I still didnt understand why your wife made that statement though?
Wife thought that off late I am just making excuses not to make it by the road. I was not even looking at the option of spending the longweekend on a roadtrip. I was simply looking at flight ticket prices and banging my head. There has been a lot of mental reservations which crept against long drives over the years. Those are pretty much justified.
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Old 6th September 2007, 09:05   #11
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Some more pics of the highway 287
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Old 6th September 2007, 09:07   #12
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Getting back to the story!
They say, Come walk thru a postcard and yes Colorado springs is just that. Lunch aside, we set on for the Royal
Gorge Bridge.
Little did I know driving on the bridge, how far the gorge is down below. But a ride thru an
inclined railway, took us to the bottom of the gorge from which this long suspension bridge looked
like it was tiny!

(Where have we met before!)

(The thing below is a broad gauge train - it is that far down!!)



But the drive to the Bridge was really exciting, especially the last few miles. The Grand marquis
was getting familiar and so was cornering better with the traction control switched off.
(Dark sky - bright green ground - amazing)

On the return we had a relative visiting us from Denver and he brought his 328i to enjoy the drive
upto the foot of the Pikes peak (Cascade) at night. The pikes peak highway to the summit was
closed by that time. Since his car was a coupe with 2 seatbelts at the back. The ladies had to stay
back, for the men to explore a BMW, the way it has to be. The road to Cascade has many sweeping
switchbacks at a limit of 50 mph. But a 3-series E36 BMW would feel at home doing 25 over that.
Then he also mentioned one of the best routes to take the Bimmer to, its the hill climb upto the
"cave of the winds". However, the Bimmers engine grunt left a lot to be desired on the climb up. My
E320 with an automatic would do better. But the real fun was on the way down.


It was decided there that the next night we are heading further north into Denver rather than
heading back homewards to Amarillo.

I will end this chapter here!!
Coming soon

Last edited by 1100D : 6th September 2007 at 09:15.
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Old 7th September 2007, 08:14   #13
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Next day saw us go to the "Garden of the Gods" park, where the amazing red sandstone formations kept
us amazed. I will let the pictures do the talking.


From there we went "cave of the winds" caverns thru the historic Manitou springs dwellings. A 45
minute walk thru the caves, sometimes thru very narrow passages reminded us of a similar cave at
Mawsynram at Shillong. But the detailing and maintenance was top notch. One can also take a
lantern tour, thru the caves simulating the real cave explorers lives.


It was then time for what I had been waiting for, the Pikes peak. 19 miles of hillclimb. But then
the speed limit was only 25 miles an hour. Worst still people were actually going lowerthan that
in a single file. No overtaking allowed. Upto the midway the road was metalled. But Mile marker
10 onwards the road turned into loose gravel. Opportunity for a lot of fun, but then the SUV's in
front were doing 15 mph!!


So decided to pull over at a Vista and let the convoy pass to build a gap. After about 10 mins
there was another car that was approaching uphill, so just joined before that car and then began
enjoying a clear stretch till I caught up with the convoy a few turns away! The crown vic was kept
at gear selector position 1. The car would oversteer at every bend, especially on the ripples the
gravel track has gotten to form. Then we reached the top of the world.
We were Greeted with a snow fall and we were lucky that, at this time it was a rare event. It was
chilly. Everything from there was a shade of brown yelow and green. Soon we were accompanied by
the cog railway, which I had decided to skip, as we had time only for one climb to the top and I
was anyway going to drive upto the top. Parked the Crown Vic on the cliff edge and this
photograph does not have any photoshop elements on it.


We must have spent an hour or more, but soon both my wife and me started to feel the lack of
Oxygen. Now it was time for the hill descent. Similar story, build a gap with the vehicle in front
for about 10 minutes till the next vehicle cama along, that point onwards charge down to catch up
with the vehicle in front. Curve exits were sideways I was really shaky about turning the
traction control off, cos there was no guard rail , but then did it. Wife's health started
deteriorating, she knew this was no "universal studios" joyride.
Halfway down there is a checkpoint where they measure brake temperature, and if your brakes are
hotter than a certain temperature, they dont let you climb the rest of the hill till you cool off
and receive clearance. Our brakes were cold and the inspector gave me a wink. He probably knew
that I wasn't almost on the brakes at all. I was using the steering and the accelerator and the
gearshifter to do the needful.
However it started raining soon after I left the check post which meant that the cars at the
checkpost probably wouldn't get a clearance soon. So build a bigger gap and then charged down the
perfect winding stretch downwards. The marquis is a fantastic drift car, you do a right-left jig for
a left hander and the tail obliges.


(The middle pic turn was the only turn I made a slight Boo-boo, over confidence, I had the camera in hand as I was about to set the thing up for the hair pin, on top of it the traction control was also off, but we live to tell - however not a single mistake on gravel)

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Old 7th September 2007, 08:17   #14
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We reached Cascade again and then drove towards Denver thru rain that would put cats and dogs to
shame. Wife needed the whole distance to Denver and about a few minutes in denver to recover.
After dinner it was time to hit Denver downtown. Parked the car at 16th Street and was immediately
transformed into another era. We saw a rickshaw being puled by a phirangi. The Mall Bus ride was
free. Had a Horse-drawn buggy ride. But since we had to leave the next morning by atleast 8am
Denver time (9 am Dallas time) head back to his shack. Anyway the 328i creamed the Grand Marquis in a
drag!


Last day, was the most challenging day. 800 miles to cover in a day, was pretty apprehensive about
the small lady. But after the First 200 miles thru breath taking scenery she fell asleep, only
to wake up at Amarillo 200 miles later, where we stopped for lunch. She was pretty excited about
riding the car again after lunch.


Post lunch on the highway 287, just after passing a crest, I saw a black crown Victoria parked on
the roadside bush. Immediately put my foot on the brake reducing speed slowly, not to make it
obvious that I was doing it. But as I was passing the car, I could see the crown vic moving and
turning towards the road. I knew at that moment he was coming for me. He entered the highway and his
red and blue was on, flashing at me. I pulled over, arms clearly visible on the steering. Mr
Highway patrol walks up ,

Cop - "you were going a little fast".
Me to cop - "Oh must have picked up a bit on the downslope before the crest"
Me to cop in my mind - "oh yeah? not just little" I thought

Cop - "yeah, probably, but be careful the limit is 70"
Me to cop - "I know, I am tired, was looking for a rest area cos I am driving from Denver (show
him fuel bill), so might not have noted the speedo for a fraction there.
Me to cop in my mind - "Well I know, but if I set my cruise over that limit, how can the car go
below it, moreover you beleive itpicked up speed on a downslope, while I only saw you after going
over a crest.

Cop - Alright, I am going to give you a warning slip, it has not legal implications, no fines, but
I have to keep a record of my activities. Can I have your license for the necessary checks and I
will have you on the road in a couple of minutes.
Me to cop - okay, here you are
Me to cop in my mind - heh heh

He takes my license goes back to his cruiser and then comes back with my license and a warning
slip.

Cop - "Sir, there is a rest area 14 miles from here with nice facilities. There insn't probably
anything before that, so you can head for it"
Me to cop - " oh thanks, by the way its good to know that patrolling is good on this highway cos
it increases safety, so its good to know cops are around"
Me to Cop in my mind - Tell me if there are other cops down the road.

Cop - "unfortunately no sir, it is just me and my partner today, so be careful"
Me to cop " okay"
Me to cop in my mind " whoooooaaaaa " (as I saw the partner just drive across us the opposite side
while I was pulled aside)


What worked is that the Radar gun could not measure speed as my speed was reducing. He only saw
the 7 that remained constant.

At 9:40 we entered our Suite and I wsh we could turn back again.

Apologies for making this too long!

Last edited by 1100D : 7th September 2007 at 08:25.
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Old 7th September 2007, 09:45   #15
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Wow Anirban - you have taken me to America without me getting out of Nasik. Thanks.

I prefer to drive here anyday but now there are speed radars between Mumbai and Nasik also. I got caught in 5507, told the cop - gaadi ki haalat dekho, fast ja sakta hai kya ? He fell for it. Ha Ha.
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