12 June 2007
After my nephew Eric’s graduation party Diane and I jumped in her car and headed south and east to Virginia and Virginia International Raceway, the next track on the tour. The plan included sightseeing via a route that added ten hours of driving but featured excursions in the Grand Tetons, a peek at Yellowstone, perhaps a shy glance at Mt. Rushmore. But our enthusiasm for added driving evaporated while rolling along in the flat morning light outside Twin Falls, Idaho. A continental breakfast from a highway motel is thin gruel for optimism–we reassessed the time available and decided to blast across on the short route.
The Bentley Continental Flying Spur is fabulous for cruising across the country. Besides the creature comforts, the wonderful W12 motor adds incredible depth to the gas pedal–at 90 MPH the car is loafing, getting 20 miles to the gallon. I expected lousy mileage with this three ton, 535 horsepower, twin turbo behemoth, but it sips gas until you do silly things with the accelerator. Use up a little more pedal and you’re doing more than 140, as I did when Diane dozed as we ran along a wide, flat desert road with no cars visible on the horizon. She’ll probably only sleep in heavy traffic from now on, I made the mistake of telling her. Otherwise, she’d have never known, the car feels no different at 145 or 55. And there’s still lots of pedal left, all the way to 195 according to Bentley. At those speeds this car would be a reasonable alternative to commercial airlines–but not in the USA.
We spent the next night in Steamboat Springs. We deviated from our minimum time route to take in some of the continental divide. Cut down past Flaming Gorge (amazing–I’d like to spend some time there soon) and down to the spectacular mountains of Colorado. Stayed in an expensive but unattractive Sheraton–built for skiing no doubt, with the last remaining “popcorn” textured ceiling (I hope) in any hotel in America. Had a nice meal in town and off to bed.
I’m not getting any exercise on this trip. eating dinner and hitting the hay has got to be the fast track to blubber. I need to fix that.
After you leave Colorado it’s a long, uninteresting drive, several very forgettable meals (you get very spoiled living in Portland–we have great restaurants) to Nashville, our next stop. I really enjoyed Nashville the last time we were here, and the Country Music Awards were going on, so the town was packed. I’m not a fan of shitkicker music, but there’s a lot of great music in this town, so we were looking forward to a night out. But we stayed a few minutes too long in our room, collapsed and wound up watching a movie. What a couple of slugs.
We decided to modify our route a little and take in some of the Smokey Mountains. Unfortunately, we chose to enter the park through Gatlinburg which meant we went by Dollywood. Bumper to bumper rednecks. Took forever to get past the hundreds of tacky attractions that were being picked over by fat families that looked like they should never have reproduced. Oppressive. Both Diane and I had stiff necks from the ugliness of the place. One of the businesses we passed was “J. Floyd’s Golf and Guns”. Seriously, I can’t make this kind of stuff up. You don’t want to slow play on that course.
It’s probably not ideal to travel through the Smokies two days after you cross the continental divide. Pretty, but not that impressive. It would take a lot of mountains to scrape off the slime of Gatlinburg.
We made it to Raleigh and picked up my truck at the airport, then beelined to VIR. I picked up the trailer from the raceplex and went looking for the Friends of Triumph folks. We parked close by our friends and started setting up. It was oppressively hot and humid at the track, but what a facility! It’s the most beautiful race track I’ve ever been to–lovely grounds, wonderful buildings all done like an upscale country club. I got Peyote unloaded, replaced the seal and driveshaft, got it all buttoned up and we’re ready to race.