Denver and Back '06

The Road to Bandimere Speedway, Denver CO, 8/6/06

It was with a little apprehension in my mind as we prepared to go to Denver for race #3 in the PRA schedule. We had blown our motor up at Famoso five weeks prior, and the new motor, put together with much help from CB Performance, did not have any full runs on it. The runs it did have were a couple partial runs, one easy run and the other run aborted due to fuel pressure problems. So, I was a little nervous, perhaps because I thought I might have done a little damage from letting it go way too lean that day. Before racing however, we had a few days of vacation stops on our way there.

Tuesday, August 1

Our round trip of 2300 miles to Denver Colorado started Tuesday evening after work at around 3pm. We use this trip as an opportunity to mix in some vacation time, with some fun stops along the way. Our goal of Buffalo Bills Casino & Hotel (Not on the vacation sites list) at Primm Nevada (a 7 hour drive) at the state line was reached that evening after all the restaurants inside had closed up, leaving only the hotel coffee shop and McDonalds still open. The coffee shop personnel didn’t have customer service in mind, so McDonalds got the nod. A cruddy way to end the day.

Wednesday, August 2

Wednesday was “drive all day.” We got an early start and moved north on I-15 through the Virgin River Gorge and St. George to merge onto I-70 in central Utah on our way to Montrose CO. Once on I-70 the surrounding scenery gets really nice with several scenic viewpoints along the way. Since we weren’t in any hurry, we were able to “Stop to Smell the Roses” so to speak. We arrived in Montrose that evening after 12 hours on the road to stay at a very old and very rustic hotel, surprisingly, with wireless internet service. Montrose is one of those towns that roll up the sidewalks in the evenings, but there was a good eating establishment within walking distance of the hotel. Steak and beer. Yummmm.

Somewhere in central Utah at one of the scenic viewpoints along I-70

Pretty close to the edge. If I slip, Cindy will drive the car at Denver.

Our reason for the Montrose stop was to visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. Our trip to Denver in 2004 included an overnight stay here in Montrose, and is where we first learned of the Black Canyon. We were fascinated enough to spend some time here on this trip.

Thursday, August 3

We spent the better part of Thursday at the Black Canyon National Park. The Black Canyon boasts of being Deeper and Steeper than any other canyon. The slogan goes like this: Some are deeper, some are steeper, but none as deep AND steep as Black Canyon! The gorge was carved through millions of years of erosion by the waters of the Gunnison River. It is remarkable for it’s steep walls and depth. At a half mile deep, it would swallow the Empire State Building twice over, yet is only a few hundred yards wide. 150 years ago, enterprising men attempted to conquer the gorge by building a railway through it. They succeeded for only a few miles. The Canyon won. It was declared impenetrable. A few men even lost their lives just attempting to survey the canyon for the railroad.

The Black Canyon. Pictures can't convey the awesome nature of it

Near the Park's visitor center a family of deer came to check the car out.

The plaque depicts a comparison of the empire state building and the canyon at this particular point.

Friday, August 4

Upon leaving the Black Canyon, we followed the path of the Gunnison river east toward our next destination of Cañon City. We had booked reservations on the Royal Gorge Railway in one of the vintage domed observation cars for a scenic ride through the Royal Gorge along the Arkansas River on Friday afternoon. Hundreds of people ride the river on rafts through white water sections as well as gentler sections. Along the river there are remnants of mining operations from years gone by. Also at the narrowest section of the canyon is the world’s highest suspension bridge anchored into the rock walls of the canyon. Also in Cañon City is a Dinosaur museum that houses some fossil dinosaur and sea-life remains found in the vicinity. The area went through many changes through the ages, at one time being a vast inland sea.

Leaving Cañon City on Friday evening, we rolled into Denver for what we came this way for in the first place. To do some racin’!

Saturday, August 5

On Saturday, Bandimere Raceway hosted their regular bracket race program as well as an additional program called the American Graffiti Stick Shift Series. All stick shift cars, no electronics. Sounded like fun, so that’s what we did. I figured I could compete on equal footing with anyone in a stick shift car.

The first run, with what I considered a “Denver Tune-Up” proved to be disappointing. 13.16 at around 102mph. Not only disappointing from a performance standpoint, it was also puking oil out of the breather tank. This showed the rings were not seated and as we found out later, they were actually damaged, most likely from that last run at Famoso. I thought at the time the fuel ratio was still too fat, so I leaned it out some more and went even slower and puked a bigger volume of oil out, probably worsening the ring problem. Then it started to rain.

The locals said it would blow over within minutes, but it kept raining. Four hours later, at 6pm, the track officials called it. It was a disappointing day on many levels.

Sunday, August 6

We awoke to cloudy skies and a bleak outlook for Sunday’s Bug-In. A few scattered drops fell as we waited to get in the gate. The weather started to improve and it did in fact, turn out to be a gorgeous day!

After getting in and getting thru tech inspection, we cleaned up the car, charged the battery, wrapped a “diaper” around the breather tank to try to contain any oil spillage, fattened up the fuel mixture and waited. I was hoping for dramatically improved performance. What we got was an even slower run and more oil puking. At this point it was obvious that we had damaged the motor, and there was nothing we could do about it. I made the attempt of blocking the breather line from the left side valve cover to keep oil from puking and decided to take one last shot before eliminations. It didn’t work. It still puked and went slower still. One bright spot was the .005 reaction times.

I drew Marcus Palmquist for first round. He didn’t know we were hurt, so I told him about the .005 RT thing, hoping to get him to jump and redlight against me. It had the opposite effect. He was late, and having decided not to risk oiling the track, I motored down-track easily, giving Marcus the round win. Dang it!

Marcus went on to the runner-up spot with good friend Doug Berg getting the win. It pretty much worked out as well as it could get for us under these conditions. We actually rose in the standings from fourth into third place, 12 points behind the new leader John Schuerger. It did however bunch the top 7 positions really tight at the top with only a 30 point spread between the first and seventh spots. This will make a good showing at Sac extremely crucial.

We stopped for food and companionship with the Schuergers and Bergs after the races were over before starting the long return home. At dinner, John called former points leader Troy Palmer to give him some news… “Hey there former points leader! This is the new leader. The good news is, you’re only down by 70 points or so. The bad news is, you’re now in 8th place!” We just had to rub it in a little that Troy was not able to attend the Denver race and had taken a major points hit. I guess there’s a touch of evil in all of us.

Monday, Tuesday, August 7-8

The road home was pretty much straight back. We made Grand Junction Sunday night, with Monday being a 12 hour day on the road. There's Cindy on one of the scenic viewpoints in Utah. We stopped every so often to look around and enjoy ourselves and our surroundings.

Around St George, a big rig hauling steel trusses passed us like we were draggin' and anchor. I guess we were, come to think about it. Later, going through the Virgin River Gorge on a narrow winding section of road where we cut through the north west corner of Arizona, traffic backed up for a few minutes and there in the middle of the road was that truck, turned over on it's side with the front windshield broken out. Gouges and skid marks in the road marked it's path. We later found out the driver had lost his life. It had happened just minutes in front of us, and we couldn't help but think about if we would have been next to him. It appeared as though he was going way too fast for the conditions.

Upon our return home, I immediately yanked the motor and popped the heads and barrels off. The number 1 & 2 barrels were scored as a result of the rings being overheated at some point, and binding up in the barrel, scraping it dry and galling. My opinion is that this happened at Famoso on the 22nd of July on our TnT session to run in the new motor, when the ground wire for the fuel pump went bad, leaning it out. Dang it again!

The bottom end looks good, but we’ll get ‘er checked out and install a new set of pistons and barrels. Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to run the car prior to BugORama on Labor Day in Sacramento. We really need to get back on track. We can’t afford to waste any more opportunities to score points if we expect to have any chance at all of winning the championship this year.

We owe a huge thank-you to Rick and Pat at CB Performance. Without them, our season would have been pretty much be over at Famoso on June 24th. It’s a team effort that makes a successful racing program, and we are fortunate and honored to be a part of the CB team.



Denver 2004

Six States, Seven Days, Four National Parks and Monuments, and oh yeah, a Drag Race!

What an adventure! Our week long, 2700 mile, circuitous trek to the Denver Bug In event on August 8th had us covering six states, including California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, hitting a few points of interest in between.

  Wednesday August 4

We started out the Wednesday prior with a smooth 8-hour night run from Fresno to Las Vegas. Once there at 1 a.m., a cruise down the strip was in order since our younger son, who accompanied us on the trip, had not yet seen Vegas at night. Right down Las Vegas Blvd with race car in tow we went, gazing at the lights, the sights and all the people still milling about. It still amazes us the people are out all night long at that place. But not us. I was tired from a full day at work, then an eight-hour drive, so it was time to pack in it in for the night.

Thursday August 5 

Eager to hit the road the next morning, we had planned a scenic route through Utah rather than using the Interstate Highways. However, the weather report called for severe thunderstorms in the area, with hail and heavy rains. We stuck to I-15 north  passing through St George, Utah with its gleaming Mormon Temple built in the mid 1800s. The scenery gradually changed from mountainous desert to the red rock formations Utah is known for. We steadily climbed on I-70 East encountering some rain along the way, stopping periodically to take in the awesome landscape until getting to the Moab turnoff at mid afternoon on Thursday. Moab is known as “Mountain Bike Mecca” with its famous Slickrock trails. It is also the gateway to Arches National Park, home to some of the most spectacular land formations on earth, carved out by wind, water and time.

Friday August 6

We spent most of Friday exploring the park, again with race car in tow. This attracted quite a bit of attention from park visitors, a large percentage of which were Europeans and Asian. Every time we stopped at one of the points of interest along the park’s roadway, a group of people would gather around and ask questions. There were even quite a few who took group photos of themselves next to the car. I guess it was an unusual sight at the park. Whatever the case, it was a great ice breaker for people to just come up and talk.

Late that afternoon, we began the arduous climb into the Rockies after passing into Colorado. At first, the climb seemed rather easy. I expected it to be much more difficult than the Sierra Nevada mountains which I am very familiar with. But after passing through a few ski resort areas including Vail at just under 9000 feet, I began to think that these Rocky Mountains weren’t all they were reputed to be. Just about the time I said to Cindy, “These Rocky Mountains ain’t so tough!” the road went vertical. The first major climb topped out at 10,600 feet and our truck was gasping for air and struggling to maintain 35 mph in second gear with it’s small V6 engine. I then said, “It can’t get any higher that that!” But it did. Shortly, we started another major climb. With traffic fairly heavy, we got stuck in the far right lane unable to accelerate to pass the big rigs. One attempt to pass a truck struggling up the hill proved to be futile and we actually had to drop down into low gear and just grunt it out at 25 mph for the duration of the climb, culminating at the Eisenhower Tunnel. So, we laughed at the mountain. The mountain laughed back….twice!

Almost all downhill from there, we rolled into Denver that evening happy we had survived without any vehicle trouble. That night it was dinner and drinks with friends Pat Downs and Anthony De La Torre.

  Saturday August 8

We got to the track a little late Saturday morning, thinking we could just make a couple time runs in preparation for the main event on Sunday. We ended up having to enter into their regularly scheduled bracket program. We had time for one time shot then eliminations. I had decided to focus on trying to hit our 12.65 index rather than go for however fast the car would run. Our first run was a 12.84. Pretty close. For first round of eliminations, one of the other Super Gas guys, Marcus Palmquist,  lined up with me and both of us had dialed in at the 12.65 index we were shooting for, so it would be a heads-up run. He says that at least one of us will make it to the second round. With Marcus experiencing some trouble during the run, I went 12.69 for the win. I was happy with that, but during second round, I got “treed” by a guy in a Camaro, kept a half a wheel ahead and broke out with a 12.48 and lost. I didn’t care at that point. Mexican food and a few beers were waiting for us with friends and Super Gas racing partners, the Allen, Sue and Matt Wiess and the Palmers, John and Troy. Good times, good friends!

 Sunday August 9

Getting to the track early on Sunday, we breezed through tech and got ready to race. Our Qualifying runs were in order, 12.69, 12.66 and 12.57. Confidence was high. Qualifying in the number 4 slot, we drew Muffler Mike Sheldon for first round. We have become friends with Mike since moving to SG this season and having to face him first round was not a pleasant scenario. One of us would be eliminated and Mike is a fearsome competitor I have much respect for. I ended up with the win for that round with a right-on 12.650 to his breaking out 12.63. This put us up against good friend Allen Wiess, also tough to beat. Too tough on this occasion. Leading by too much of a margin as we went through the traps, I break out with a 12.61 to his 12.77. I had figured I should be well within the 12.65 index. I reckon I figured wrong! That’s racing, as they say and we went to cheer for Allen to take out John “The Sugarman” Schuerger, mostly because John was very close to us in the points chase. It was not to be however as Allen’s motor had some kind of breakage, allowing Schuerger to go to the final round against AJ Sims. Troy Palmer had also suffered some engine damage in the first round and was not able to continue. AJ took the win over Schuerger, limiting John’s SG points advantage to roughly a round and a half over us. So, we drop to second overall, but still there to battle it out for the championship.

  We left the track and our friends right after the conclusion of the event with the intent of making as far as we could toward our next destination, Mesa Verde. Traveling through the night through rugged mountainous passes, unable to enjoy any scenery in the pitch black darkness, we made Montrose Colorado at 11 p.m. Montrose is home to Black Canyon National Park and is just under 9000 feet elevation. We had not made any reservations at any hotel, since we were not sure of how far we would get. But, since Montrose is a resort community, we had no trouble finding pleasant accommodations.

Monday August 10

Hitting the road again early Monday morning, we made our way through steep, winding mountain roads through spectacular surroundings. It was like the roads were just chiseled into the side of vertical rock walls, occasionally going right through the mountain itself through tight tunnels. We topped out at Molas pass, elevation just under 12,000 feet. Stopping at a roadside viewpoint, we were in awe of the landscape spread before us. Never before had we been able to view so far, so much from a single point, just as the pioneers who first traveled this area more than a century before had written in their journals. This particular place also boasted the cleanest, freshest air in the entire country. Rolling mostly downhill for the next few hours through southern Colorado, we saw beautiful mountain ranges, rolling meadows, horse ranches and clean green landscape. Very peaceful, very serene.
We pulled into Cortez, Colorado around noon. Cortez is the gateway to Mesa Verde National Monument, home of Ancestral Puebloan Native Americans. Their dwellings were built into the cliff walls of the high mesas more than 1000 years ago. Being in this place was a very sobering experience, trying to imagine the lives these people had so long ago.
  That evening, we were entertained in downtown Cortez by Native American dancers, doing dances handed down through generations and being carried on by even the youngest of the tribe. Colorful and exciting, it capped off a very educational day.

Tuesday August 11

  Leaving Cortez Tuesday morning, our next destination was Four Corners National Monument, the point at which the states of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona intersect. Our first impression was “Is this it? Is there nothing more?”

Four corners is essentially a spot on the map that happens to be on Navajo land. It is marked by a structure that has a metal plate signifying where the four states meet and surrounded by flags of the states and Indian nations. Also on the site are Indian vendors selling various handmade items, food, and conventional souvenir items.

Although initially disappointed, we spent a couple hours there talking to some of the native people, purchasing some handmade jewelry, pottery, etc. We had a lunch of Navajo fry bread tacos at an old converted travel trailer that was now a food concession stand, operated by an old Navajo woman. Cindy offered her a place to live at our house, she was so impressed with the woman’s cooking!

The next several hundred miles were through the most desolate area we had encountered, the landscape changing from mesas to high rocky desert. Our goal of reaching Winslow, Arizona, the site of a huge meteor crater, would not be met, as the route we selected took far longer than we had anticipated. We reached Winslow after the park had closed. However, we were back on an interstate highway after being on single lane back roads since leaving Denver, so we stayed on the road all the way to Kingman Arizona, reaching there at close to midnight Tuesday night.

  Wednesday August 12

From Kingman to Barstow California, the road parallels Historic Route 66, and remnants of roadside concessions are still there, although most of them are skeletal remains. They are still enough to spur the imagination, conjuring up images from the past, of people traveling this stretch in what we now consider antique vehicles. They went without the modern comforts such as air conditioning for days like this one, a particularly hot scorching day, well above 100 degrees even late in the morning.   

  Once reaching Barstow California Wednesday just after noon, we were back in familiar territory. With the opportunity to reflect back on the trip, there were so many places we didn’t see, places we didn’t visit that we would have liked to. We could have made token stops at a lot more places, but not had the time to truly appreciate them. I am certain that we will be back again, and next time we will travel different roads, and experience different things. As is often said, it’s not so much the destination, it is the journey.