Driving for Kids 2016
Day One, Saturday September 24th: When we all met at Hagerty Insurance offices at about nine on Saturday morning, we were strangers for the most part. We handed out the windscreen headers and goodie bags and, surprisingly, met with some resistance from a couple of drivers who feared the letters on the top of the windscreen would make for unsafe driving. Fortunately, nobody who put them on suffered any problem. Departing from the Hagerty office in Golden a bit after 10:00 we took a leisurely pace up Highway 6 up through Clear Creek then a short stint on I-70 turning off on US 40 over Berthoud pass. It was cold and gray but we stayed warm on the way up the pass with some spirited driving up the switchbacks which generated plenty of engine heat. At the summit, we hit snow flurries and on the way down the pass without the sun or engine warming us it was genuinely cold for those with their tops down. Motoring west we passed through Winter Park, Fraser and Tabernash and on to Granby for lunch. Even with this short drive we had some stragglers but finally all assembled for great food at the Brickhouse 40.
After a delightful lunch break, we drove west on US 40 through Byers Canyon to Kremmling and a fuel stop, and then turned onto CO 134 over Gore Pass. Here we encountered the first of what was to be an outstanding display of Mother Nature’s handiwork with iridescent aspen leaves whenever the intermittent sun deigned to shine. Gore pass is a favorite sports car road with its smooth paved twists and turns, and the glow of the aspen trees just made it better.
We’d had some moisture, though not a lot, so we discussed whether we should take the treated but unpaved road along the Colorado River once we reached the bottom of Gore Pass. The vast majority said yes, so on we drove to the high point of the day; a visit to the Roundup River Ranch and to meet the kids there. It would have been perfect, too, except for one thing.
It is said that great disasters like the Exxon Valdez spill occur not from one colossal mistake, but rather from a series of little decisions or errors any one of which done differently would have avoided the catastrophe. Our minor catastrophe happened like this: Jeff Krueger was alone without a navigator in his car. Trying to both drive and read route instructions, he became concerned when he found nothing regarding the road he was on. This was because only one of all the Routebooks, the book he got, had one page out of order. You guessed it; that was the page he needed. Then he remembered that I had reminded the group when we stopped at the bottom of Gore Pass that when we pass under a railroad bridge 12 miles past Burns the road to the Ranch will be on the immediate right. When he passed under a railroad bridge and saw the road to the right, he was sure that he had missed the turn. The further he went the more certain he became. So he stopped and convinced all the remaining cars to turn back, including the dually sweep truck with the fifth wheel enclosed trailer. There was just one thing wrong: they had only gone about three miles past Burns. Jeff remembered the bridge but not the 12 miles.
If Jeff had a navigator who could have spent a bit of time looking through the book while he was driving, or if the pages had been in the right order, or if the others had not been swayed by his insistence that the camp had been passed, or if there had been only one railroad bridge…well you get the idea. After a while, someone with the right page noted the 12 mile instruction, spoke up and prevailed on the group to turn back around and proceed the whole 12 miles. They arrived at the Ranch just about 30 minutes later than Chuck and I who had been in the lead.
The kids were excited with all the cool cars and we let them sit in and ask questions about our cars and even honk the horn on Chuck’s Morgan about fifty times. We presented an oversized check to the ranch, having raised nearly $30,000. We were touched by the kids and the staff was touched with the donation. It was an emotional moment, indeed. After our visit we proceed west through gorgeous Glenwood Canyon to our dinner and overnight lodging in Glenwood Springs.
Day Two, Sunday September 25th: We departed about 9:00 to Carbondale and turned southwest on CO 133 to a short stop in Redstone. Many of our group had never been here. A lovely little company town founded as an experiment in "enlightened industrial paternalism," John Cleveland Osgood constructed 84 cottages and a 40-room inn, all with indoor plumbing and electricity, for his coal miners and cokers, as well as modern bathhouse facilities, a club house with a library and a theatre, and a school. Most of these Craftsman-era Swiss-style cottages are still used as homes. We took a group photo both of cars and people, then headed over McClure pass and down through Paonia and Hotchkiss. On this segment, we must have said “WOW” about ninety times. The combination of the cobalt blue sky, snowcapped peaks, dark green evergreen forest and the shimmering gold aspen trees was amazing. On to lunch in Crawford where we found a very special place, the Old Mad Dog Café, established in the 80’s by Joe Cocker and his wife Pam to have a place to entertain and kick back far away from the madding crowd. What a neat vibe. After lunch we took CO 92 along the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison on what may be the best sports car road in Colorado and the most scenic as well. Again we were gob smacked with the beauty and the fun road. Turning east on US 50 we drove past the Blue Mesa Reservoir’s sparkling water to the Gunnison Pioneer Museum and our dinner and overnight lodging in Gunnison, CO.
Day Three, Monday September 26th: We woke to subfreezing temperatures and frost on all the cars, including the interiors of several who had left their tops down overnight. Soon the scraping and the sun made travel possible and we departed about 9:00 on US 50. We stopped at the base of Monarch Pass, to let Steve Thomton go ahead and find a place to shoot a video of the cars coming up the pass. It cannot possibly look as good as it felt going by his camera! At our rest stop at Poncha Springs, Chuck and Emma Shinn left to get back to Denver directly while the rest of us continued on US 50 along the Arkansas River to CO 9 and the best county roads you’ve ever seen through Teller county. The show by mother nature continued all the way to lunch with warming temperatures to make it even sweeter and these roads felt even more fun though less dramatic than CO 92. They took us to our lunch stop and awards presentation in Divide, CO.
Speaking of awards, we gave out three: The first was to Rod Tompkins who, with his navigator Bruce Jansen, raised the most money for the Ranch by the end of the event. The second was to Larry Jackson who was kind enough to loan us the truck and trailer for sweep duty. Like having an umbrella so it doesn’t rain, we had the truck and Ted Ax our master mechanic, and nobody needed help or a ride. Best of all, when we took up a collection to buy fuel for the truck, Larry declined it, added fifty bucks and donated it to the camp. What a group! And, finally, the 2016 Leadership award went to Jeff Krueger, a wildly popular decision.
After lunch, we headed east to Woodland Park then up CO 67 through Deckers, Pine Junction and east on US 285 back to Denver. That finished the inaugural Driving for Kids British Reliability Run. We got lots of rave reviews and, due to a matching grant, we raised nearly $30,000 for the kids. Great cars, great roads and a great cause! All of us can be proud that we were the pioneers for this terrific event. See you next year!