Story by: Davin Patton
Origonal Source NAGTROC.ORG 2000 Miles of Discovery Thread
Morning came fast in Denver. Then again, it tends to do that when you go to sleep at 3 or 4 in the morning. When I got up, Chuck and his friend were already out checking out the GT-R. I knew it wouldn’t be long before they were back and we’d be off again. I looked outside not knowing what to expect. It seemed pleasant enough so I took the risk of opening the door, preparing to be met by freezing weather.
It wasn’t freezing at all though. It was warm, well into the 70s, and the sky was deep blue and crystal clear. I was confused. Was this really Denver? This wasn’t the Denver I had in my mind.
Chuck returned, we reloaded our things in the GT-R and departed toward downtown.
Denver is a beautiful city. There are many cities they say that about but Denver is the real deal.
Having lived there before, Chuck remarked on how much he missed the sights. Snow topped mountains towered off into the distance as we made our way through the modern, clean city. The roads downtown were decent, but a few were less than ideal. It didn’t matter though, the JRZ based suspension managed to handle everything with great composure. I was really starting to appreciate how it did that.
Chuck did the driving as we made our way through the city and away into the mountains. He explained that his first month in Denver was spent exploring all of the roads. He told me that there were places there, roads and passes, where you could spend all day driving and never get bored. It was a claim I had no trouble believing: There are some states that have less interesting back roads than Denver’s highways.
We left the outskirts of the city to find some driving roads to take the Alpha-9 GT-R on. It didn’t take too long before we found a very special one… Squaw Pass Road.
Chuck said that he used to have a Gixxer Sports Bike and spent many a day driving the road. Not knowing what was in store, I sat relaxed as we drove down some side roads before stopping at what I understood to be the base of the route. The sign next to our stopping point said West Chicago. Was this a sign of what the car was made for? We got out, attached some camera gear, then set off.
At the beginning, it started innocently enough. If you consider 775 horsepower very innocent.
For the next five minutes the Alpha-9 GT-R hurled us over 1,500 feet vertically into the mountains. As we set off, Chuck held little back with the car. Long straights separated turns ranging from 30 degrees to over 90 degrees as we went higher and higher. This was a fast road. And we were doing it in a fast car. On the straights he’d free the VR38 to unleash all the power that the Dunlop 7010s could handle, and at times, more. The Shepherd built transmission didn’t seem to have a problem with any of it, moving torque around continuously from end to end, in search of more grip. Coming out of corners, Chuck would hold the throttle before letting it go again, just as he thought the car would be able to take it. Sometimes he’d let the power down on wet surfaces, and as one would imagine, the tires would give in. As we climbed the road, it wasn’t long before snow started to become more prevalent. At one point, snow even stood on the road. It didn’t matter though, we continued on and drove though it anyway. That’s what these Dunlop 7010 All Season tires were for, right?
Well sort of. Under load, the addition of snow and water to the mix threw the car off. Usually there was just a little tire spin but at times the whole car would slip. It didn’t phase Chuck though, as he’d apply a touch of counter steer and off we’d go, deploying a massive amount of power on a less than ideal surface again. As we got deeper into the route, sometimes the GT-R would slip some more, but for the most part it remained well composed. As we slowed our pace to a fast cruise, we joked about how well an 800+hp Corvette, Viper or 911 would manage on that hill. It was purely GT-R territory…
Eventually the road took us to a snow covered place where there were some small single cabins and a frozen lake. We stopped the GT-R to get out and take in the scene.
There was anywhere from one to three inches of snow on the grounds. The lake was frozen over. Our altitude was about 10,600ft above sea level. Our density altitude put us a couple thousand feet higher than that. It was cold but not too cold. The scale of what I was looking at kept me warm. Mount Evans. Despite having climbed for thousands of feet, wed come to the base of a mountain. And this lake- Echo Lake- greeted us in pristine form.
There was a turn off from which you can climb Mount Evans. The route is only open in the summer. Apparently, it gets exceptionally cold there, and it’s not uncommon to find snow, even on a 90 degree day in Denver. We stopped again to enjoy the views. From where I was, I could see for what must have been a hundred miles. There were mountains both hundreds of feet lower and higher surrounding me, all filled with thousands and thousands of trees. Some of them were in excess of 2,000 years old. As the wind blew I could almost feel a gentle, endless wave of movement from the forests. I tried to listen to their secrets, blowing in the wind. I wanted to take something with me of what I was seeing. I had my camera but I knew it wouldn’t be enough.
Once at the top of the pass, it was my turn to drive. I took us back down. On an unfamiliar road with water, ice, and seemingly random rocks thrown down, it was easy to appreciate the display put on by someone familiar with the area. I didn’t really get into it much and simply took us out of there and into a town called Vail, where the GT-R was treated like a rock star.
The snowboarders were there in force when we drove through. They all seemed to love the AMS GT-R. Strangely, this was one of the only places where the car got any real attention. We toured the area as the incredible views of Colorado continued to unfold.
I could see how Chuck spent a month driving there. I couldn’t have blamed him if he spent ten. In Vail we navigated the faces of snow filled alpine white mountains, which at times would take us above the tree line. Even there, we could see we were hundreds of feet below the mountain peaks, which bore down on us from all sides. All of the roads, even the highways there, were deeply alluring. They all flowed with the Earth and unveiled breathtaking views of the mountains and towns surrounding the area. I didn’t want to leave. The hours that followed continued to reveal a massive natural beauty unlike anything I imagined I’d see.
Somewhere along the way I forgot I was driving an Alpha 9 GT-R. I forgot I was driving a GT-R at all. With the car in automatic mode we toured places so amazing that I forgot where I was and where I was going…
We resumed our drive and explored a town not far away called Leadville. Leadville’s claim to fame is that it’s situated nearly two miles above sea level. In air that thin, most cars would see massive power loss. But that didn’t matter to us in the GT-R. In and around that town, the Alpha-9 GT-R had no shortage of awe inspiring power. We continued to cruise the countryside, well over 10,000ft above sea level, where my portable weather station was showing a density altitude beyond +13,000ft.
The further we went, the more exquisite the scenes became. There were roads that cut straight across mountains, following bridges off into other mountains… and we followed plains, thousands of feet above sea level, to discover secret lakes and rivers that were hidden from us. As we drove, gently winding roads continued to show us a pure, unadulterated beauty that left me stunned and without words.
Slowly, the sun began to set on us as we continued our journey westward.
We drove, into the night, until we got to our next stopping point: Grand Junction, Colorado.