Jeff and John 2018: What is This? A Car for Ants?

Day 4: April 27, 2018

Destination: Amarillo, TX

End of Day Odometer: 174,009 km

Progress Map:

Now that we’d finally reached larger civilization, I checked out to see if there were any interesting locations in the Denver area that had been on Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives. There are quite a few but not a lot were breakfast appropriate and so I decided to check out the new location of a restaurant I had previously visited, Steuben’s. The new location is much larger than the original restaurant-in-a-garage, but it was well decorated and had a modern feel while still looking very much like a classic diner. I had a breakfast sandwich with a biscuit with gravy on the side, Dave had eggs, potatoes and his first ever biscuit with gravy. Thankfully the gravy wasn’t like drinking motor oil, though there was definitely a hint of grease going on.

Meanwhile in Calgary… John was grabbing a mostly tasteless, suspiciously slimy, factory fresh banana loaf at the airport before being drop-shipped into this American adventure already in progress. After these messages, we’ll be right back!

Following breakfast, we drove over to the airport and located the WestJet arrivals area in Terminal West. After sorting out my uncle’s flights and checking him in, John’s plane landed and I gave him a call. “I’m in the terminal,” he said, though as it would turn out, not the terminal I was in, and in fact, the “WestJet” pickup location means absolutely nothing, it’s just a random sign. The flights all get funneled into the same spot and you could come out anywhere, assuming you’re able to follow the signs past “boot.” A Facebook quiz on how many Star Trek characters I could name kept me busy while John navigated the terminals.

It was time to get motorin’! (What’s your price for flight?) By the time we met up, it was after 1:00 pm, and Pikes Peak stops letting vehicles up at 3:00 pm in April. Traffic was a bit worse than I had been hoping for, but with only slight mistakes on route (and some drivers liberally expressing their freedom along the way) we managed to get there at 2:55 pm, paid our $20 and we were in.

I’m not sure Pikes Peak can ever provide an experience quite as religious as the first time we went up with the Supra in 2015. It was a couple of days before the annual hillclimb race and so the road had already been set up with hay bales and there was minimal traffic. It really gave us the chance to experience what Pikes Peak can be. The Yaris on the other hand is most certainly not a hillclimb car. When approaching an ascending gradient, the Yaris finds itself to be accelerationally challenged. Both deficient in horsepower and gearing, you find yourself either screaming at redline in 1st gear to well below the powerband in 2nd gear. The large gap in available power has a couple of possible solutions, add power or fix the gearing. I suspect we’ll probably end up doing both in the form of a turbo/supercharger and a C56 transmission with a 4.30:1 final drive.

Because of the added traffic, we decided to pull over for a few minutes to gain a bit of a gap between us and the slow moving obstacles before us. Since we were in such a rush to get to the mountain, there was little time for lunch and John grabbed a couple of ham and swiss truck stop sandwiches during a quick pit stop for fuel. Now I’ve had a bad sandwich or two in my day, but these were another level of bad. The meat was barely meat, I’m not entirely sure what it was, but it had a texture and appearance like an old crusty sock you spent all last Saturday hiking in. There were no other toppings aside from cheese, and the bread was mysteriously soggy. The entire thing was dry, yet magically the bread was soggy. I took a bite. Why did I take a bite? I wish I knew; I wish I hadn’t.

We ate a bag of chips and went on our way. No more manufactured food for us!

Once we reached the top of America’s Mountain, we had victory Twinkies. Okay, no more manufactured food, starting… now. I also made sure to give John a proper greeting with the gift of Sarsaparilla. What once eluded us was now flowing freely! One thing I wasn’t really expecting, though it makes sense with the reduced atmospheric pressure, was how much more fizzy it seemed at 14,000 feet. After the victory snacks we loaded up and headed down.

While there were moments of excitement on the way up, the way down really took us to a different place. The Yaris really shines on the downhill, though traffic did hold us up quite a bit. One road obstacle in particular proved to be a bit more than we could handle: a Honda HR-V whose owner did not know how to get it to hold a shorter gear. He was riding the brakes the entire way from the top to the brake temperature checkpoint. The smell of burnt brakes overwhelmed our sense of smell and began attacking our sense of taste. It was intense. Once at the checkpoint, there was a good amount of smoke pouring out from the front wheels; we contemplated talking to the driver, but thankfully the brake station operator took care of it for us.

Overall, Pikes Peak was a worthwhile experience, though I think after doing it three times in three different cars, I think I am probably okay not to do it again for a while unless I have a really good reason to do it, like I just built a Pikes Peak hill climb car and I need to, you know, climb a hill with it. Back on solid ground, we made our way towards Amarillo, TX and the second best ribs I am aware of in the country at Tyler’s BBQ. Unfortunately we weren’t going to make it in time to actually eat there tonight, and so we stopped in some random town at a combo KFC/Taco Bell. Back in 2009 I was in California with my brother and had a late-night craving for a chicken burrito supreme and was sadly disappointed with what I received. Because of that experience I went in cautiously, but I was pleasantly surprised by the (completely non-authentic) taste of the Quesarito and Nacho Fries Supreme I was handed. John went for the chicken route; sure 11 herbs and spices are hard to turn down, but hasn’t he heard of the Quesarito?!?

And so, we made it to Texas. It was a late night of driving, but there is a lot to look forward to tomorrow. Sweet, sweet barbeque.

Day 5 Destination: Fort Worth, TX

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