From a half mile away, it looked like Porsches shot out of a cannon.
First a silver Boxster rocketed out from behind the canyon wall in
front of me and up the hill, then another, and another, then an arena
red 964 turbo, a zanzibar Boxster, a black 911 cab, and a root beer
911 customized to RS specs, all one after another, each a second apart.
As I rounded the sweeper left, I could see the "cannon"
ahead, a quick right sweeper leading uphill and into a fast straight.
Ahead of me was a metallic blue 964, a blue-green Targa SC, and a
white 968, each accelerating hard out of the turn and up the hill.
We were on our way to Jackson on a IRPCA tour, and this was the defining
moment of the trip for me. Eleven Porsches twisting along a canyon
carved by the white water below, the high rpm wails of the engines
from different Porsche generations echoing off the canyon walls to
achieve a symphonic crescendo as stirring as anything I have ever
heard in a concert hall. There are benefits to driving sweep on a
We gathered for bagels and coffee at 7:30 am on Saturday, July 21.
When I arrived, five other cars were already in the parking lot, their
occupants sitting inside the bagel shop mostly talking to the person
riding in the car with them. People were introducing themselves, but
the conversations were reserved. As more people arrived, those of
us that had been on the Red Rock Caravan earlier this year (see Jason
Kingan's article in the May issue of Zeitung) took the volume up a
notch and started introducing ourselves around. Michael VanTyne, tour
organizer, arrived and started handing out the directions. People
were up and mingling, going to the rest room, applying sunscreen,
and setting their radios on the contact channel for the drive. The
time for departure was coming and the buzz was starting. Ten Porsches
in the lot, each here with a purpose. No one lagged behind when it
was time to hit the road. (Note: We picked up an eleventh car, which
did not arrive in time for the start, along the route.)
Departing the Ogden area, the first leg of the trip was east on I-84,
which winds up the deep canyon carved by the Weber River. The ten
Porsches were close together as we began the drive, flowing together
over the smooth asphalt of the interstate as if pulled by the lead
car. The five Boxsters and the 911 cab were running top down, the
Targa had his top off, and all the 911s had their windows down as
we worked our way through the high speed sweepers in the lower canyon,
the temperature in the 60s and the tires warming up for the miles
of undulating, twisting roads ahead.
We left the unblemished surface of the interstate at Mountain Green
for Utah 167 and the two lane highways where Porsches do their best
work. Utah 167 climbs up the mountains that separate Weber Canyon
and the Ogden Valley in a series of wide, sweeping switchbacks that
were seemingly designed for Porsche fun. From my position as designated
"sweeper" for the tour, I could see a line of Porsches stretched
out for over a mile, each gracefully swaying to and fro as the cars
shifted weight from one sweeping turn to the next.
Halfway over 167, Utah 228 intersects to the left and leads to Snow
Basin. The road to Snow Basin has been widened and was freshly paved
only a month ago. As the major access road for the Olympic venues
at Snow Basin, it is a tamed road, but it also can provide some interesting
sprint opportunities for a group of Porsches warming up for the day.
On the far side of Snow Basin, the road converts to a more natural
state, a series of turns and hairpins so chaotic you almost expect
to end up back where you started. Indeed, from the vista where we
assembled for a group picture, it seemed several miles of road were
visible. It was as if a ribbon of asphalt had dropped from the sky
onto the rugged terrain of the valley. With very little traffic early
on weekend mornings, this highway is worth the trip for the beauty
of the surroundings and the character of the road. You probably will
not get out of second gear, but you will have as much fun as running
in triple digits at Laguna Seca. Well, maybe not as much fun, but
more fun than is generally allowed in Utah.
State 228 terminates at Utah 39 along the shore of Pineview Reservoir.
Anyone familiar with the area can easily guess the next objective,
Monte Christo Pass. Utah 39 runs through the Ogden Valley and into
the Wasatch National Forest. It passes through all manner of Utah
terrain, sage desert, red rock formations, and winds in and out of
the small canyons formed by the various tributaries of the Middle
Fork of the Ogden River. Winding up into the mountains, the vegetation
becomes more lush, with expansive groves of aspen trees intermingled
with evergreens and wild flowers. Monte Cristo Pass cuts across the
Wasatch Range, but unlike a typical pass through a mountain saddle,
Monte Cristo runs along a ridgeline and as a result has stunning vistas
to either side. Like any mountain road, Utah 39 is guaranteed to put
an ear-to-ear grin on any Porsche driver blessed, as we were, with
little traffic on a wide open road. Throw in the vistas, the voyeuristic
pleasure of watching Porsches ahead and behind twisting and dipping
with the road, and the sheer joy of driving a Porsche on a road that
demands gear changes every 1-2 minutes, and you have an hour of Nirvana.
After finishing our run across 39, we headed north around the western
shore of Bear Lake. Bear Lake is an unworldly shade of turquoise blue,
a color that looks like the scenery was maliciously altered by someone
using PhotoShop. As we rounded the Lake and left Utah behind, we started
running into the traffic that would define much of the remainder of
the trip. It was on this trip I realized just how spoiled we are by
the conditions in Utah. Not only do we have well maintained roads
through spectacular mountain areas, we also have relatively little
traffic on our backroads, something not true for many areas of the
Stupid Human Tricks
We just thought we had some excitement when a deer decided to bolt
into the middle of our caravan. After watching 8 Porsches fly by on
Utah 30 east of Bear Lake, a form of deer logic undoubtedly very helpful
to predators dictated a dash in front of Dennis and Danny, who were
doing about 70 mph in their beautiful blue-green 911 Targa. I was
right behind them and immediately on the brakes. Fate was running
the show in front of me. Luckily, the deer was just quick enough to
get beyond the right front fender as Dennis swerved left. In the end,
pun intended, the deer's fur did a nice job of dusting off the right
side of Dennis' car, Dennis got a free jolt of adrenaline that was
much better than a pot of coffee, and those of us at the rear of the
pack got a reminder about maintaining spacing in the caravan. If the
deer was a male, I doubt reproduction is in its future.
It was heading out of Montpelier on U.S. 89 toward Jackson that two
candidates for a future Darwin Award decided to scare the daylights
out of everyone with a stupid human trick. As we drove through the
outskirts of Montpelier and out of town, I saw a black Chevy pickup
with two young men at a cross street watching our procession go by.
I looked in my mirror a few seconds later and saw the truck coming
at a high rate of speed behind me. Not sure what to expect, I radioed
the caravan to watch out. We were on a two lane road going around
a series of blind corners at the speed limit of 55 as the truck closed
behind us. No shoulders, no room for error.
The truck zoomed into the left lane at about 70 mph and proceeded
to pass the entire caravan of 11 Porsches spaced over a half mile,
careening around blind corners and weaving all over the road in the
process. We all did our best to get over and out of the way. Thank
goodness there was no traffic coming the other way, although a car
did come from the opposite direction four seconds later. Again, fate
was smiling benevolently on our caravan. No side swipes, no one off
the road, and no need for artificial stimulants for the rest of the
afternoon. A mile up the road, the truck was off to the side of the
road, the occupants waving as I went by, then turning around and heading
back to town. Let's hope reproduction is not in their future.
On to Jackson
With the stupid humans safely behind us, we had a great run up Montpelier
Canyon and over Geneva Summit. A creek was visible from the road for
much of the drive up the canyon, and the road followed the logic defined
by the creek: none. Twisting and turning back on itself, then running
straight for a quarter mile, only to break into another riot of hairpins
and dipping sweepers, the road was constantly in motion like the creek
below. Except the white water on this strip of asphalt was our group
of eleven Porsches. This was no orderly drill. It was the churning
and lunging of eleven individual machines, showing grace and stamina
as they charged up the jumbled trail. Serious thrills for the twenty
minutes we were climbing to the summit.
After lunch in Afton, where 11 Porsches in the parking lot attracted
the attention of most of the town and those passing through town,
we headed for the Snake River Valley, driving along the base of the
Salt River Range. The canyons and gorges along the Snake River are
magnificent. Carved on a gigantic scale and highlighted by conifers
and distant peaks, the roads were beautiful, but also on a grand scale.
The road going into Jackson has the characteristics of a four lane
super highway, but the reality is a two-lane highway with the traffic
of a four-lane highway. Big power turns and long climbing straights,
each filled with campers, trailers, SUVs, and on this particular day,
eleven Porsches anxious to arrive at their destination. Unfortunately,
our pace car was an overloaded RV, which meant plenty of opportunity
to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
After arriving and having a quick beer, we showered and joined up
for dinner in a local brew pub. What had been a quite group that morning
was now loud and boisterous, trading opinions on the stupid humans,
laughing, talking cars, and getting to know one another. For some,
the evening would stretch into the next morning, while others called
it an early evening. There was plenty of room in the camaraderie for
individuals styles, and just about any style you can imagine could
be found in this group of individuals. The thread that connected us
all was a passion for our Porsches and a love for Porsche people.
Grand Teton National Park
We started the morning with a hearty breakfast of sourdough pancakes,
which when washed down with strong cowboy coffee (I still am not sure
what I was drinking, but am certain I do not want to know) seemed
to pump new life into even those that spent most of the evening sampling
the Jackson night life. After breakfast, we headed north to Grand
Teton National Park.
If there are mountains more jagged than the Grand Teton peaks, I
find it hard to imagine what they might look like. The Grand Tetons
barely look real, so jagged that they are almost a caricature of what
mountains should look like. Kind of like the mountains most first
graders draw, all points and no slopes. After making a quick stop
at the visitor center, we spent about an hour slowly winding through
the park. We made a stop at the summit of Signal Mountain to enjoy
the panoramic view, then drove the park's narrow roads to Jenny Lake
where we embarked on a quick group hike. The impeccable road manners
of the driving group were quickly abandoned when we became a hiking
group: passing on the right, passing on blind corners, failure to
yield the right of way, and excessive use of speed where all readily
apparent. Fortunately, the group was able to restrict its excessive
competitiveness to the hiking trails, an appropriate venue for this
type of behavior. Unless, of course, a track opportunity is nearby.
On the hike back to the car, I found myself beside Rod, whose Kumhos
interested me. We had a long conversation about wheel and tire combinations,
and I discovered Rod has a long history of driving in SCCA National
Autocross competitions. I have only been autocrossing for a year and
am no expert. But I am to the point where I now the questions to ask,
and I had a great time trading information with Rod and finding out
I can hold up my end of the conversation with someone that really
knows their stuff. It was just one of many conversations I had with
different people on the tour, each of whom had a passion for their
car and something to say about Porsches and Porsche driving.
Jackson to Idaho Falls
After seeing the traffic the day before on U.S. 89, the eight of
us heading back to Salt Lake City decided to explore the route from
Jackson through Idaho and connecting with I-15 for the drive back.
Heading west from Jackson on Wyoming 22, we were immediately in the
midst of the steep climb up to 8429 foot Teton Pass. The road is mostly
fairly long straightaways and big power turns, but it was so steep
that we were running mostly in second and third gears. Fortunately,
you can have a lot of fun in second and third gear when you are driving
a high revving Porsche.
After clearing the summit, we had a nice run down the mountain with
virtually no traffic, ending up in Victor, Idaho. From Victor, we
headed west on Wyoming 31, which winds through the foothills and the
Targhee National Forest. While not the spectacular mountains behind
us to the east, the roads on this stretch of road had enough up and
down and round and round to qualify as a decent roller coaster ride.
With not a lot of traffic and numerous passing opportunities, our
caravan was able to enjoy the challenges of this highway, including
getting past a caravan of campers and RVs when a perfectly timed passing
lane just long enough for us to all get by presented itself. This
stretch of road alone was enough to convince me avoiding US 89 out
of Jackson was the right decision.
Coming out of the foothills and heading west on U.S. 26, we found
ourselves amid miles and miles of wheat fields. On first glance, I
thought I was looking at a field of perfectly mowed grass that had
been perfectly raked, but why? Then I realized I was looking at a
field of wheat planted in parallel rows, each plant identical in height
to those around it. The uniformity of the plantings and the wonderful
contours defined by the faint row spacings was mesmerizing, and it
stretched for miles. Fortunately, holding my position within the caravan
also occupied my attention, preventing me from spending too much time
contemplating the advantages of planting wheat in my backyard to avoid
mowing for a season.
We rolled into Idaho Springs at about 3:30 in the afternoon. Everyone
pulled off for gas, realizing this was the termination of the tour.
We still had three hours ahead in order to reach Salt Lake City, but
the hours would be spent in the anonymity of the interstate, grinding
out the miles on roads more attuned to minivans than horizontal sixes.
Our two days of driving were devoted to roads where the speed limits
were mostly in the 40s and 50s and the curves posted in the 20s and
30s, roads where a Porsche is an extension of the will of the driver,
a finely crafted machine capable of extraordinary composure where
ordinary cars come undone. Saying our good-byes, we headed out in
small clusters onto Interstate 15 going south.
If you missed this tour, make the next one. There is something special
about driving in a caravan of Porsches that is hard to appreciate
until you have experienced it. It was inspiring to look ahead on that
one turn and see Porsches rocketing into view and up the hill, thrilling
to look in the rear view mirror and realize there was another Porsche
behind me as I wound through a series of hairpin switchbacks, and
satisfying to sit at a table of fellow enthusiasts at the end of the
day and talk about cars and Porsche experiences, including the stupid
tricks inspired by a pack of Porsches running free.
As I pulled off I-15 in Salt Lake City, only Jason and Jon were still
with me. "See you next week at autocross" was the last broadcast
over the radio as they whipped past me headed south. Yes, indeed.
It's not the cars, it's the people.