The Good Seven

Our Elans were built to be driven and not all of us want to to use them on Track Days. If you use, or plan to use, your Elan as a Grand Tourer and have completed or are planning some great trips then inspire the rest of us with the details.

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The Good Seven

Postby EM One Hundred » Wed 08.07.2015, 17:51

What exactly was this trip we were taking…the Good Seven? Some of you may remember that Lotus Colorado (LOCO) takes a couple of big road trips a year modeled after the very expensive Colorado Grand. Since ours are much lower key, we call ours the Colorado Good. This was our seventh and it was the biggest LOCO drive yet both in distance and in participation.

Taking any trip in Colorado in mid-May can be risky. Springtime in the Rockies is like a weather pinball…bouncing between warm sunshine days, cold, even snowy, days, rain or maybe just brisk. We got brisk with a chance of rain to start but would see it all before we got back home.

The Colorado Springs contingent started at 7:15 AM, Saturday May 16th with seven cars, and 15 eager people. Ann and I were in our trusty M100 Elan, top down despite the cool temperature. We took the lovely winding Highway 83 trail to Parker, CO where we picked up the E-470 toll road. Since we never saw a tool booth or camera to mark our use of the toll road…how do they know what to charge us? I found out. Since they always extract their pound of flesh, somehow they figured we owed $6.90 for our thirty mile traverse. Our meeting place was at Brighton where our group tripled with the Denver and northern Colorado contingent…twenty one cars and more than 35 eager people ready to roll.

Leaving the rendezvous point we proceeded northeast on the most boring freeway of the outbound trip to Ft. Morgan, then turned north through some pretty grassland and Nebraska’s rolling hills. Our lunch stop was at Scotts Bluff. What an amazing view we had from the promontory some 800 feet above the surrounding prairie. Imagining the pioneers with no roads and months, not just hours, of travel to get here along with storms, wild animals and hostile Indians, we thought they were brave indeed! We were joined by Bob and Sue Herzog who had driven all the way from Illinois to join us for the rest of the trip. We were glad to see them. After lunch we visited Carhenge…too kitsch to be cool, too cool to be kitsch. Modeled after Stonehenge, it is a pretty faithful replica made of old cars. It was erected by Jim Reinders, on his farm to generate some reason to visit Alliance, NE and it works – we detoured about thirty miles to see it. Headed north again, we soon reached South Dakota.

Some states seem to do a better job of keeping roads in good shape than others and South Dakota has wonderful winding smooth roads. At the junction of US 385 while moving, ahh swiftly, we were to turn left and our Fearless Leader, Commander Ingelido, (FL,CI) missed the turn. Late braking and a desperate last minute turn by your scribe led the rest of the train on the proper route. Now, I should mention that I have the Bob Brown brake improvement and 15 years of vintage racing experience, but the M 100 was brilliant in making this turn, throwing a few Elise’s into slides behind me! Just a few miles later (Mike having resumed the lead) it happened again at the turn to Highway 87. Having missed the turn, our FL,CI informed us he was going to pick up libations and so needed to take the direct route, but we should avail ourselves of Highway 87 heaven. We did and it was! Not only a wonderful Lotus road with its twists, turns, ups, downs, and a pigtail, we saw Bison, Antelope, Turkeys, Longhorns and Deer. I followed a well driven Evora and stuck with him effortlessly.

Finally reaching the Bavarian Inn, our lodging for the trip, we had a nice reception with our traditional LOCO Margaritas. A few of us stayed to clean up then walked down to Main Street Custer to eat. Since the town wasn’t yet fully open for the summer season, we overloaded a recommended restaurant with our big group and finally finished dinner at ten PM. I think Mike and Carole Collins waited over an hour for their pair of Old Fashioned drinks they ordered. We trudged uphill to bed for a big day tomorrow.
Sunday morning, the 17th, a colorful group of eager drivers gathered for breakfast at the Bavarian Inn crowding the small nook and jostling for access to the pancake machine. Soon we were in our colorful cars following our FL, CI to the Needles Highway. So named, because of the many granite “needles” that project above the surrounding terrain, the highway twists and turns through tunnels, vistas and pigtails. A road barely wide enough for two cars and designed to be driven at a sightseeing pace of 15-20 mph, our FL,CI pulled over and we attacked in Lotus fashion at a substantially increased pace. Nirvana! We didn’t see much of the needles but had an amusement park ride which we then relived at the parking area at the junction with the Sylvan Lake Road. What adrenaline! We waited for our Fearless Leader who motored in a more civilized manner.

Onward we sped to Mt. Rushmore via the Iron Mountain Road, AKA the Peter Norbeck scenic highway, which, while scenic, was also Rotomilled almost its entire length. Kicking up stones and dodging potholes we slowed considerably and appreciated the scenery which was spectacular. The road was named after the Senator who first laid out the path of the road. What a fine job he did! His friend Doane Robinson proposed a monument, suggesting that the needles could be sculpted into standing figures of the presidents; but it was Norbeck who convinced sculptor Gutzon Borglum to come visit the area. Borglum dismissed the idea of sculpting the needles but thought the granite monolith called Mt. Rushmore had potential. It did indeed. Finally making our way to there, we found slow lines of cars waiting to pay at the Mt. Rushmore visitor’s center. There was no admission, just a parking charge. The reason is that many folks have free entry park passes, but everyone has to pay to park. Clever!
Four Presidents are sculpted into the face of the mountain in amazing grandeur. Despite having visited many years ago as a kid, and again recently, I find the place compelling, not kitschy. The vision, persistence and daring bravery it took to create the four countenances preserved in granite never fails to impress. Taking the path to the sculptor’s studio and then to the base of the faces, 432 steps up and down each way, one gets a totally different perspective than that from the main viewing area. It is worth a Google to understand how the mountain was carved if you don’t know the story.

On to our next target…Sturgis. Famed for the motorcycle gathering each August, I was anxious to see this motoring mecca. The wind had increased along with the traffic, rain and more. Then we blew into Sturgis. My expectations were too high by at least two orders of magnitude. Sturgis is but an ordinary small town one might find anywhere in the Dakotas, Nebraska or Kansas. And when the bikers are not here, it is a virtual ghost town. We could only find one restaurant open – the Knuckle Saloon. With about 2/3 of the seats cordoned off for a graduation party, we scattered around and got lunch. Up on the stage was a figure of a rock legend…Elvis was in the building. I had the house specialty, Sirloin tips with blue cheese and tater tots uummmmm! We departed on a wonderful road to Deadwood, a gambling town overlaying a historic town, which soon became a goat path requiring a lifted 4 X 4, but the M100 made it through about a mile of the goat path and got back to smooth, curvy, US 385 all the way back to the hotel. We bypassed the Crazy Horse monument, the magnificent sculpture that dwarfs Mt. Rushmore, since it is quite visible at no cost from the highway and we were told it was $28 to visit and has been barely changed in many years. Started in 1948, it hasn’t progressed much since I saw it 7 or 8 years ago.

With a bit of time left in the afternoon, Mike and Jenny O’Neill joined Ann and me and we retraced the best part of the Needles highway again, both ways, but this time with the intent to meander at tourist pace. It was spectacular and totally different. As Mike said, “Wow, I didn’t see any of this last time. I was focused on staying on the road!” We finished the day with a group dinner at the State Inn Park Lodge AKA State Game Lodge, too classy by half for a LOCO group but a wonderful dinner in a special place.

On Monday the 18th, the third day, the plan was “Go west young man” then north to Sundance. This part of the state was much prettier than I expected with rolling hills beautiful meadows and pine trees galore. As we rounded one curve there was a trio of Pronghorn Antelope right in the middle of the road. Dashing one way then another we weren’t sure what to do to avoid them, we stopped abruptly and an oncoming red SUV barely stopped in time to avoid hitting them as they leapt off the road to avoid suicide. We were just as relieved to avoid Lotus damage! Onward we sped to Devil’s Tower. I had only seen pictures and they, of course, didn’t do it justice. From the river level at the park entry it rises over 1,200 feet in height. The road to the base of the rock formation provides ever changing views and when we arrived at the car park it simply towered above us. Fantastic! We took a lovely mile and a half walk around the base had a picnic lunch in the warm sun in a grassy spot by the car park. It was a perfect mix of drive and time out of the car. Wow!

We drove another great road along the Belle Fourche River driving to the town of the same name and then south on US 85 to Spearfish. Leaving Spearfish we came to one of its best attributes - the spectacular Spearfish canyon. It is a narrow, deep canyon with the river running alongside, the road winding and twisting to match. Top down again for a stunning 18-mile cruise through towering limestone walls and dense deciduous forest. We stopped halfway to walk to a waterfall soak up the sun, and then got back in the car for more beauty and road fun. Not only was the drive wonderful, I also was able to get my 1 ½ mile walk in twice! In order to go south to Custer we had to go northeast to Lead and through another road construction area where we had a detour through a couple of alleys to lead us back to the highway. See what I did there? That is, the town of Lead rhymes with bleed not sled.

Back to the Bavarian Inn where we got the weather forecast for the morning; possible snow. Tim Haas, who was driving one of two S3 Elans on the trip, (John Fornarola had the other) had owned his Elan for five years but never had the top up. Even through the rain showers and wind on this trip, he simply wrapped a scarf around his hat and kept on going. I was concerned that the same approach would be lacking on the long drive through Wyoming and Colorado in crummy weather. So Bill Aspinwall and I struggled and stretched the virgin top into place. Once we were certain he was snug, we all headed downtown Custer for Pizza and a beer…what a perfect day!

Remember when I said that springtime in the Rockies is like a weather pinball? Well, Tuesday the 19th, we got a Tilt message in the morning - Snow! Oh, No! Leaving Custer we followed some big trucks with lots of splashback. Descending from the Black Hills to the Wyoming plains, and heading southwest as well, the temperature got just enough warmer that before long we only had rain. But then we had long, long Wyoming! Droning on and on through the driving rain, every time a truck passed the opposite way a wall of spray would smash into our little cars. And then, we violated the “hour and a half” rule! LOCO has found that whether or not the cars need fuel, the drivers definitely need a bathroom. We passed through Lusk at about the right time to stop but kept on going to Torrington. By the time we got there, there was desperation…particularly in some of the passengers. And it was raining as the line formed for the one bathroom at the little gas station where we stopped. Peter Monson said the pump was the slowest he’d ever used and the line for the bathroom moved about the same pace. I couldn’t even get the pump to start so I went on to a station which had a canopy, several aisles of pumps and two bathrooms indoors! Refilled and relieved, Ann and I waited for the train of cars to come by and tagged on the end.

More Wyoming wind and rain prevailed but about ten miles from our Interstate 25 junction we compounded the misery with a Rotomilled road filled with potholes to spice up the wind and rain. Finally we stopped in Cheyenne for lunch. We had a nice warm stop for comfort food at the Village Inn and a great respite from the rain which subsided while we dined. Taking Interstate 25 the rest of the way to Denver we kept going south while others peeled off to the east and west or just stopped there. Taking Santa Fe to CO 105 we finally felt a bit of nostalgia for South Dakota roads that are much like one of our favorites, CO 105. We got home at 4:30 after just over 1,400 miles in four days. We had travelled through Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. We experienced warm sunshine days, cold, even snowy, days, rain or even just brisk days. We were comfortable in the M100, top up or down, A/C or heat, twisties or Interstate. She handled it all with aplomb!

It was the Seventh Good but bigger and longer than the previous six. I guess it deserves an upgraded name…It was Great!
EM One Hundred
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Re: The Good Seven

Postby Rambo » Wed 08.07.2015, 18:07

Any photo's of your trip ?
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Re: The Good Seven

Postby EM One Hundred » Thu 09.07.2015, 02:59

Devil's Tower.JPG
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Re: The Good Seven

Postby EM One Hundred » Thu 09.07.2015, 03:01

Eye of the Needle Tunnel.jpg
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Re: The Good Seven

Postby EM One Hundred » Thu 09.07.2015, 03:02

M100 on Norbeck Highway.jpg
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Re: The Good Seven

Postby EM One Hundred » Thu 09.07.2015, 03:02

Carhenge.jpg
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Re: The Good Seven

Postby EM One Hundred » Thu 09.07.2015, 03:03

Bison on SD87.JPG
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Re: The Good Seven

Postby John_W » Thu 09.07.2015, 17:51

Fantastic pictures. I love the scenery in the USA.

Here's a Scottish equivalent to your last photo.

John
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