As the route book points out, Arizona is a state full of contradictions….and today certainly proved that.
The morning started with our drivers meeting to discuss possible black ice and low temperatures in the morning, before heading off to the mountains and cactus before we finished the day in Tucson. Fortunately the sun decided to shine enough to chase away the worst of the ice, leaving just enough chill in the air for the Egg’s temperature to maintain happily at the halfway mark. She’s a trooper, and smiled sweetly as we were passed almost immediately by the big Bentley, D-Type and Pantera when we reached the open roads….but at least they all waved encouragingly as they left us in their rear-view mirrors!!
From Flagstaff we headed out to National Forest, and within ten miles found ourselves on a fabulous stretch known as Lake Mary Road. Snaking through the forest surrounded by pine trees and enjoying big sweeping curves, it was almost automotive heaven. Despite her 1600cc engine, the Egg isn’t fast like her 911 cousins, but she still loves this kind of driving, as every change down to third sticks her to the ground like glue. All weather tyres have certainly added an additional sense of security, and I’m happy to report that we more than held our own amongst the fir cones.
However, there was a slight blip on the horizon, when we found ourselves stuck behind a Camry. The combination of limited passing options, and the car travelling just those couple of miles fast enough to limit any slick maneuvering resulted in us staring at the back end for slightly longer than appreciated. When the opportunity finally presented itself, we were able to slide past and glance across at our conquest. A rather grumpy looking individual, who clearly didn’t appreciate the moves quite as much as us….but then, they were in a Camry whilst we were in the Egg; so no matter which side of their car we sat, they were going to be miserable!
The temperature continued to rise gradually through the morning to more comfortable mid to upper 70’s as we followed the trail through Devils Canyon and it’s “hoodoos”. According to the route master, they are the result of freezing and thawing of water, with differential resistance to erosion. At this point I have to confess that I’m not completely sure what that really means; but they are big, red, odd shaped rocks that resemble a kid’s idea of the terrain on Mars; and shouldn’t be missed!!!
The afternoon took us on towards Tucson through ranch country, copper mines and endless cactus (or would they be Cacti?). At this point I have to divert slightly and mention that Copperstate is a well oiled machine, and part of its success comes from the 100 plus volunteers supporting the entire event. This includes 8 motorcycle highway patrol officers, who come with their badges and bikes, and are only interested in ensuring that everyone is having a good time! Throughout the event they’ll ride past, or be positioned at various junctions to ensure our navigator isn’t holding the map upside down.
For safety, the local constabulary are also notified of our whereabouts; and the combination of fast cars, open roads and opportunity to enjoy both could easily become the speeding ticket equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. So, every morning our trusty Captain (or maybe he’s a Sergeant), would also remind us of the varying speed limits throughout the route, to ensure our pocket money wasn’t unavoidably diverted to the local police collection bucket.
Back to the driving……………and as the terrain became more desolate, the sizes of towns diminished. With each new location I was expecting to see a sign informing us that population was no more than one person. Ironically, the names started to also become more familiar as we passed signs for Mammoth, Miami and Sherwood Forest (that scored a ten on the bizarre scale)!!
Although Miami has a sister in Arizona, they clearly weren’t twins. Other than a faded sign pointing to a downtown arts district, there was nothing else in common. Beaches have been replaced by desert sand, art deco replaced by stucco….you get the picture. However, no matter how small the location, there was always a gas station, and it clearly is a worthwhile business, because everyone is trying it. Proven absolutely as we tore through one particular almost ghost town when I spotted a bright red sign proclaiming “God’s Filling Station”.
Outskirts of Tucson, and the sun is starting to set. Almost three hundred miles under our belt today and the Egg seems to be stable. Will be checking the oil before we set out tomorrow, but for now it’s cocktail time!
Saturday…prep day, and I was ready to officially start my eggadventure!
A typically entertaining Southwest experience with our inhouse comedian Bob the flight attendant, was followed by a quick taxi ride to Tempe stadium. Cars had already started to be placed on the in-field, race decals were being fixed, and everyone was smiling. Joining the line of registrants, I waited to collect my goodies; race jacket, the route map and of course, my number!
The register came back with my bag, and a slightly peturbed look on his face. It seemed that for some reason, #23 had not made it to the check in. My heart sank, as the idea of driving naked was not something I’d anticipated, or was even sure would be allowed in the rule book. Fortunately, I was in the hands of professionals, and whilst ideas involving paper cut-outs and sharpies percolated my brain, an alternative was located…..and in less time than it takes to say “happy birthday”, I’d gone from 23 to 29. Still consideraby younger than my real age, so no complaintes here!
Once the Egg was dressed, we started to investigate the rest of the entrants, and by the end of the afternoon had met a great mix of newbies and rally regulars. It soon became apparent that I’d selected a more fun than furious option; as all the stories contained the same ingredients – good people, great roads, and the only requirement was to enjoy every moment. By the end of the afternoon, I’d also had a pretty good lesson in American geography, as the other drivers had come in from, literally, all four corners of the country.
My years of trawling auctions with Bud, or hanging out in garages and racetracks, have clearly served me well; as I came to realise that not only do I know the difference between Pininfarina and Bertone, I can completely appreciate the phrase ‘Zagato Jaguar'(and it is really is exquisite)!! However, the high spot of my day started when a total stranger walked up and said, “so I’m glad to see you haven’t cracked the egg”. He introduced himself as one of the Copperstate organisers, and let me know that he’d not only found the blog completely by accident…he was still reading it!!
Sunday..first rally day. Our route was to be 300 plus miles from Phoenix to Flagstaff, taking us through some beautiful countryside and on one the most fun roads I’ve driven, EVER…….! The morning started early, as the stadium opened at 8am to the general public; and by 9am we’d all assembled for the drivers meeting.
After we were all instructed (avoid speeding tickets, don’t panic if you break down, remember to stop for food), everyone headed back to the cars and waited, not all so patiently, to head out of the stadium to a combination of waving and cheering. Once out of Phoenix we turned off the freeway and headed out to driving country.
The routes are selected to give all the cars an opportunity to stretch their pushrods. No matter what the marque, the variety ensures that all the vehicles are able to be pushed to the limit of the driver. I’m happy to report that we did a fair amount of overtaking, and the Egg seemed more than happy to sing at 80 plus. However the piece de resistance of the day was our lunch bookend. Heading north on I-93, you’ll come to a right turn onto the 97 to Bagdad; and it’s sublime. A collection of gentle sweeps and slightly more aggressive switchbacks combined with dips that create a slight “rollecrcoaster sensation”. The road seems almost too good not to have been manufactured, except that the surrounding countryside is just as spectacular.
The afternoon took us on to Flagstaff. Clouds in the distance inevitably crept closer, and snow began to appear on the side of the road. Fortunately the 6 – 8 inches that fell last night hadn’t all remained, and I finally realised the value of all weather tyres. Sleet and rain interspersed, but the Egg continued unperturbed. In fact, I think she actually quite liked it…temperature gauge sat happily at mid range, and no sense of a slippy back-end.
Pulling into the final stop, I’m happy to report that although Porsches hadn’t fared too well today (three being worked on by the mechanics), mine wasn’t on that list. Most of the cars already parked for the night were at the bigger end of the engine scale, or had fancy Italian pedigrees..so I didn’t feel too bad with our performance! On to tomorrow………..