The Trans America Challenge 2018
27 May - 17 June 2018
JUNE 10, 2018
Santa Fe to Colorado Springs
Getting high in Cowboy country
And so, the last week begins. And, the confirmation of the big reroute arrived late last night. Thankfully it wasn’t quite as drastic as we first thought and we neatly skirted around the smouldering forest and even managed to slot in a replacement Regularity section to boot. We lost none of the big sky views and wide open countryside for which this area is so famous. Indeed, Mark Appleton did such a good job of rearranging the tulips that he’s thinking of training as a florist.
Early Sunday morning is obviously a good day to leave Santa Fe, so getting out of the city was as easy as it possibly could be. There’s no doubt that we’re in the hills now though as soon we hit 2,500m and went on to top out at 3,046m when we crossed the Cuchara Pass during the afternoon. Some of the cars were complaining and spluttering a little but for most a quick adjustment to the fuel / air mixture sorted things out.
Not everyone managed to get out of Santa Fe this morning however; Mick and Grace de Haas’ Mercedes has fuel evaporation issues, John and Nicole Whitelock’s Ford has a seized engine and Michael Kershaw and Matthew Smith’s Mustang needs a new fuel pump. Luckily for all concerend, Mark Buchanan - the ERA’s Santa Fe emergency service, is coordinating the recovery operation so we fully expect these three crews to be back with us shortly.
For the rest of the rally, there were three Regularities on the schedule and they were all on gravel and they all involved some high altitude work.
The first Regularity, the last minute substitution, was at La Canada and it took the cars along a rocky and broken road through a dense pine forest towards the time Control in Rene’s 50s Diner in Mora, where a small crowd had gathered to meet and greet the cars ass they pulled into the ‘lot.
From here the roads took us on a fantastic drive over the seemingly endless high plains around Mora and The Turkey Mountains.
Arrow straight, smooth as silk and well over 2,000m high, this section was spectacular to say the least although sadly Hudson and Mary Lee’s Mercedes found it a bit too demanding and it finished the day on a flatbed. The sweeps will take a look this evening and if it can be fixed then it surely will be fixed.
Alex Vassbotten and Eric Osland's Alvis was also feeling the heat and just before lunch it rid itself of the custom made engine side panels which were then stowed in an obliging ERA crew vehicle.
The lunch Time Control was in the busy Oasis Motel, in the small town of Raton, where the crews mixed with the local diners who’d turned out for the Sunday special and, it was into this carpark that Brian and Catherine Scowcroft’s Chevy came spluttering, minus its rally plate, which had shaken itself free earlier in the day. Jaimie Turner was quickly under the bonnet and made some more adjustments to the carb’s and as they pulled out it did sound a little better, but tonight it will likely need a new set of plugs to be on the safe side.
Climbing over the 2,388m Raton Pass we left New Mexico and arrived in Colorado on the Interstate, before turning off for the second Regularity, the aptly named Rocky View which saw us cruising very nicely into the Rockies and the beautiful San Isabel National Forest. If any of the crews had a hard time keeping their eyes on the clocks then they could be forgiven, as the scenery around them was nothing short of breathtaking. The approach to the 3,046m Cuchara Pass proving to be a highlight in more ways than one.
Some of the cars were wheezing by now and some of the crews might just have been feeling a little short of breath, so a well placed Time Control at the Paradise Coffee shop in La Veta gave all concerned a welcome breather before the road turned towards the last Regularity on Pass Creek Road. Once this had been negotiated it was then pretty much all downhill into Colorado Springs which sits at 1,750m, although with 200km to go it was a very gentle decline.
Tim Eades, one of the support crew for the http://www.drive4stageiv.com team, found himself riding in the eye-catching Chevy Bel Air itself today and, unfortunately for him, a rock was kicked up which threw a fan blade in the direction of the radiator. Tim’s quick thinking and his Peking to Paris resourcefulness prevented any major damage to the cooling system and with just a little time lost he was on the road again.
The road to the night halt was a new one and, along this traffic free blacktop there were signs which warned us to look out for eagles in the road, to be alert for Amish buggies and not to approach the wild buffalo. We paid heed to them and eventually we arrived safely at the excellent Antlers Hotel in delightful downtown Colorado Springs where the evening’s talking point was the superb selection of fresh green vegetables on offer at dinner.
It’s been a tough day but a rewarding day and even after so many miles and so much climbing, the leaderboard hasn’t changed. Jim Gately and Tony Brooks are still first, David and Jo Roberts are still second and Mike and Lorna Harrison are third.
We head to Pike’s Peak tomorrow and then take in some more of stunning Colorado.