John Denver sings of golden windy Kansas wheat fields and long blue summer skies. I like to think I might be crossing paths with where he penned that tune, somewhere between Kansas and Colorado. As for us, the hills rolled on ahead and the blue summer sky stretched for miles, only to be broken up by a few lazy clouds.
I like those clouds. They like to play hide-n-seek with the mountains somewhere in the distance. It’s a game we have played since I was a kid; which one is a cloud and which one is a snowy peaked mountain. Somewhere past Limon, Colorado the clouds lose and I’m greeted with the first glimpse of our destination, the Rockies. But I digress…
Anyone up for a 1,000-mile road trip?
The table was silent except for someone loudly sipping their coffee. That was the question I floated to the table of fellow KCRPCA’ers at breakfast, and it was the reaction I was expecting. Several months later however the reaction was different. I knew of 5 members willing to make the trek.
The Alpine Mountain Region in Colorado Springs was hosting their first ever big driving event, and they were going all out. They were offering all day driving tours to the Royal Gorge, Breckenridge, and St. Elmo’s Ghost Town complemented by half day drives up Pikes Peak; to Canyon City and Bishop Castle. In the evenings, we would get to visit the local Porsche dealer, enjoy cocktail hours and an awards banquet. It was the drives I was interested in. I like twisty back roads, and I figured the Colorado locals should know some exciting routes to each destination.
With the gas tank and frunk holding all they could, we headed to our rally point to kick off our drive. Fred and Cindy Quintana were there and ready to go; punctual as usual. The others were also making the trip and were planning on meeting us at the hotel. After a quick navigational communications discussion, we were off.
With Fred’s 944 Turbo and radar detector leading the way, we made it in record time, despite stopping for lunch and pictures at the obligatory Welcome to Colorful Colorado sign. We rolled into Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs ready for the festivities.
Our first event was Wednesday night at Porsche of Colorado Springs, a posh gathering of some gorgeous cars, happy people, hors d’oeuvres, an open bar and … motor oil
Let me explain. Just as Fred and I rolled in, our oil lights came one. Their service department, despite being closed, stayed late to take care of us. “Mr. Thorne, your car is ready” are words I always like to hear. I had just needed an oil top-off, while Fred would need an oil change. Not a problem. Their classics-mechanic would come in early the next day to do the oil change, so we could continue on with the weekend. Wow! A special thank you to Porsche of Colorado Springs.
Thursday morning, after picking Fred’s car up and topping off with gas, we headed to Pikes Peak. To the locals, who race up this tower of rock and stone, it is just an annual hill climb event. To us flatlanders, the rugged awe of the highest peak (14,110 ft.) in the lower 48 states takes your breath away. Literally. The serpentine road follows valleys and cliffs, with only a few guard rails, through 156 turns up the bolder strewn mountain for 12.42 miles.
Our drive began warm and sunny at the bottom with pine trees gently swaying in the breeze, and slowly gave way to a desolate oxygen starved summit
Our cars performed to perfection, never missing a tight corner or incline. Their passengers, however, were out of breath just half way across the parking lot.
We sat in the shelter house catching our breath, the lack of oxygen and altitude being felt by all. Jim Cummings rose to the occasion, providing coffee and donuts. It was the middle of the morning and I don’t think the flavor combo had ever tasted so good. Feeling slightly better, we all decided it was time to head down. We were soon driving again at angles only meant for mountain goats. At the bottom, happy to be alive, it was time for some real food.
Manitou Springs sits near the base of Pikes Peak and has an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants making up its down town. We quickly found a local brew pub. Soon our very nice bohemian-tree-hugging waitress was setting down pints and burgers, while we shared stories of majestic views, bolder strewn landscapes, and a near miss of a particularly daring ground hog.
With our tummies full, but our sense of adventure not quite quenched, we decided to head to Garden of the Gods. There are only a few times in life when you need to just stop and stare at God’s creations. This place is one of them. The one lane road winds around the park giving way to amazing view after amazing view with each new turn.
We paused a few times to take some quick pictures.
Each stop was followed by “wow that’s a good shot”
We could have spent all day there framing up photos.
Soon the light was fading and we were ready to get back. Rounding one last corner, there it was, Balancing Rock. (Far Left) I remember getting my picture taken there as a child. Sure enough, a few decades later and it is still balancing.
This was a good day.
Friday found us back in the saddle by 8:00 AM. Today’s destination was the Royal Gorge. The locals leading the drive definitely knew how to take the long and curvy way to get there. It was going to be 2 hours out and 2.5 hours back. We even took a detour to Skyline Drive. Picture a tightrope of a road dancing along the thin crest of cliffs on both sides. Words and video can’t do it justice.
After Skyline, we put the hammer down and made it to the Royal Gorge. The Royal Gorge is an expansion bridge extending 1,260 ft. side to side. The bottom of the gorge is 1,053 ft. straight down. The park ranger closed the bridge temporarily so 40+ Porsches could parade across and then parade back. It was the oddest feeling, driving your car while feeling the bridge sway up and down, left and right beneath your wheels. Once we were back on terra firma, we began the winding road home, all-be-it not quite as quick as Kansas City Fun-Runs. The pace may not have been quick, but the drive was beautiful.
Saturday was going to be another full day drive to St. Elmo’s Ghost Town and back. (Est. 5 hours) The plan was to take some spooky pictures with our shiny new Porsches contrasting against the crumbling background of the ghost town. It was not meant to be. The thought of spending another full day, followed by an eight-hour day back to Kansas City sounded like a little too much seat time. A leg stretching exploration of Manitou Springs and Old Town Colorado City were in order, a.k.a shopping. The ladies were thrilled!
I don’t know what is more taxing, five hours driving or five hours of following our women from shop to shop to shop. Their ability to marvel at each new boutique, candle store, T-shirt emporium, and jeweler is a wonder to behold. The men were left winded. Each of us were struggling to find park benches in which to sit and wait on, hoping not to have to carry yet another souvenir bag.
That evening brought the farewell banquet. A slide show played photos of cars, drives, and funny moments over the last few days, as we filed in to save seats. Our guest speaker for the evening was Denis Hovington from the PCA National Office. Being the Controller / Director of Finance, he gave us some unique insight to the growth of PCA, financial stability, and the diversity of the club. The events festivities ended later that evening with door prizes and thank-yous all around for all the volunteers.
The Alpine Mountain Region really did go all out
They provided three days of driving events (half-day options or full-day options for each day), organizing lunches and dinners, a gymkhana, a show-n-shine and even closed state parks for us to drive through. Thank you AMR for a wonderful weekend getaway.
Now, what’s next? The Red River Region in Arkansas has their Palooza in November. That event is only 221 miles away. I wonder what the guys at breakfast will say about that?