Yes, there are at lest two ways to interpret that posting title, but I meant it to be about crossing the Sierra mountains today. From the hot dry California coast to over 8000 Ft in elevation, and then back down most of the way in Nevada. We started in Sacramento, and drove through open chapparal, studded with live oaks. Unlike the day before we saw no circling buzzards, either. it was sure to be a good omen!
We climbed into cool forests on the windward side of the Sierras, where the rain is stopped by the cooling air as it and we rise in the west wind. Fat Farley, our faithful dash gnome (gift of the Trim-Tex team) stood slack-jawed at the beauty ahead of him all day long. You’ll see him struck speechless in many of today’s blog pix (he speaks only a vinyl dialect of Swedish, alas, so I will have to do the writing).
Sven the Skveelar, our noble Volvo was a trooper today: the patch to his coolant-dripping aorta last night with epoxy and hose clamps seems to be holding, so he stayed as cool and dry as if we’d dipped him in anti-perspirant! Notably, his vinyl seats did not do the same for our backsides in the sun, though (we upgraded to breathable cottom covers by stretching our size L Great Race tee-shirts over the seatbacks: another successful improv!). Sven hauled us up the steep slopes without complaint, only once declining to maintain the requisite speed of 40 mph. We allowed continuance at 36, and made it up by running 44 for an equal time on the downhill side. That compromise suited the car and the Race equally. More impressive than the sturdy performance of our machine was the many cyclists we saw riding along the same roads. There was a biking rally “Ride the Sierra” going on at the same time. Those are some TOUGH bikers, even without Harleys.
We crossed the Carson Pass, topping out at 8574 feet above sea level. As we gathered at an overlook (and bathroom break) and cars came and went in the thin air, we were pleased with the self-compensating SU carburetors on the Volvo. We have those on our injured Speedster, too (sigh). These are variable-venturi units that automatically compensate for thin air in the mixture. That lesser air in each gulp still reduces power, but the engine runs as smoothly as at sea level. Not so for many of the others with conventional carbs – they sputtered and gagged a bit as they were run to the limits of their mix.
As we headed back down through steep canyons and past GORGEOUS mountain lakes, it was tougher than usual to hold speed as the vistas were so engrossing and beautiful that our attention was drawn to them, not the Timewise speedo. At least there were no buzzards.
The land flattens out pretty fast, opening out into a wide open valley. We looked back, while Fat Farley counted power poles on the roadside.
We steamed into Gardnerville, Nevada for lunch. As it happens, I have a pal named Dave Gardner, who’s at Le Mans this past week (where Ford AGAIN beat Ferrari, on the 50th anniversary of the original GT40’s doing that the first time: ahem…). He is a regular press aide volunteer there and keeps us up to date on all the event’s news and color. We sent him this picture of Sven in Gardnerville, so he can imagine what a REAL motorsport event is like.
We passed through Genoa, NV, the first settlement in Nevada (1851), and it got me thinking about my mother, who was born in Lovelock, Nevada in 1919 (and died just this past March, at age 97). The world has come a long way since then (Well actually, not so much in Lovelock – it’s still a post office, gas pump, and roadhouse – not much more). Can you identify what they drove in Nevada in 1919, in this picture of my Mom and her parents then?
After lunch, with full bellies and foggier heads, we missed a critical speed change and ran about 12 minutes at 30, not 40! That put us back almost 3 minutes! We started to overspeed 20% to make it back, but came into a looping section through residential blocks with multiple stops and turns. Oh, the Math of It All! My brain overloaded and I missed a step, so we went off course and ended up another several minutes off. We corrected as best we could but still ended up off about 30 seconds on that leg -EARLY, no less, despite all those late-making errors! Doing all that fast calculation in the midst of all that action would be a LOT easier if we had ever run this car in practice and had tables to work with, instead of figuring on the fly. Next time.
After the last checkpoint, we rolled down the freeway into Reno, and stopped for dinner and a tour at the National Auto Museum (the old Harrah’s collection, once 1400 cars!). Wow. While there, a local couple, Ray and Pam Horstmeyer approached and told us (as many have done already) that they had the same Volvo model we’re now driving. In this case, though, they have them now, and they had a replacement heater pipe fo our patched one. And they offered to run home and get it for us! So now we are ready – though we’ll keep the patched unit for now to avoid intentionally dumping coolant to do the change. If this one goes out again, we’ll be ready! Thanks, Ray! That’s the Great Race Spirit!
For the night, we’re in a big tall casino-hotel. Fortunately, we DON’T NEED TO STAY UP WORKING ON THE CAR TONIGHT!!!!! We did change the fuel filter, but that’s just minutes. Here in Reno, the sunset was gorgeous – it has to compete with those mountains! And to welcome us, it even had a racing stripe:
That’s all for now – a middling score (with another 1 second leg – no Ace yet). Tomorrow is another Great Race day (and likely a hot one). jc