Story by: Davin Patton
Origonal Source NAGTROC.ORG 2000 Miles of Discovery Thread
The weather in Grand Junction seemed to be a repeat of Denver. It was actually a little colder but with clear light blue skies all the same. That said, it clearly wasn’t Denver: when I looked outside for the first time that morning, the mountains were a bit further off into the distance than I expected. The land around looked relatively flat but very green. For some reason I always thought Utah was a barren desert, so the thought of being this close to Utah and it being so green was quite unexpected.
We got our things together and again reloaded the Alpha-9 GT-R. It occurred to me that we could have fit more in it if we wanted to. As I was thinking that, a brilliant pearl white GT-R showed up.
Matt and his wife Erika got out and casually said Hi. It seemed like we already knew them, but we didn’t. That’s the funny thing about the internet and one of the great things about online communities. You get to meet people who you otherwise would never meet, and can share things that could otherwise not be shared.
Matt is a true Nissan enthusiast, having come from the Z family prior to his GT-R. That morning, he’d get a taste of AMS’s latest work, and he was excited. After breakfast, we’d be taking a road that would take us through the Colorado National Monument. This was a route Matt knew very well from his weekend drives. Listening to him talk about it, the area sounded like a treat but I wasn’t sure what to expect exactly. I’d already seen many amazing things.
Once breakfast was finished, Chuck gave Matt an introduction to the Alpha-9 insanity as Erika and I tried to play chase in Matt’s GT-R. It wouldn’t take very long for us to reach the Monument. The drive gave me an opportunity to snap some of the only external shots I’d get of the Alpha-9 GT-R in action…
As we made a casual turn heading out beyond the city limits, I watched as the Alpha-9 GT-R suddenly roared and instantly put three full car lengths on us. By the time Erika reacted, the Alpha-9 seemed to have put another three cars on us and was leaving fast. Then, just as soon as it started, it was over. I looked at the Alpha-9 GT-R as we re-entered into formation. It was another reminder to me of just how aggressive the car can be. It was an impressive display. From the driver’s seat the Alpha-9 had always felt fast, and while it felt even faster from the passenger seat, it was obscene to observe from the outside. I couldn’t help but think about how shocked people will be when they come across high powered GT-Rs like the Alpha-9 on the street. You would never be able to tell just what you’re lining up against. From the outside there are absolutely no clues, and you’d never know if you were going up against a 500 horsepower GT-R or an 800 horsepower GT-R.
Matt was, predictably, even more surprised by the display than I was. I think the Alpha-9 GT-R left a big impression on him and I couldn’t blame him for that. It’s savage in the way it flips from completely ordinary driving to dispensing tremendous performance. As a passenger, there’s no warning of any kind and you would definitely have no idea what you were riding in… even if you were a GT-R owner yourself. **
As the sun moved to its late morning position, I would have liked to have been below the passes on the Monument. It must have been a spectacular aural experience, hearing the sound of two modified GT-Rs chasing each other through the sandstone rock formations hundreds of feet above. The sound echoed off of the smoothly eroded monolithic rock walls and the only thing more crisp than the bright blue sky was the sharp, rapid downshifts of the two VR38s being taxed.
Back in the Alpha-9 GT-R, the drive was intense. I tried not to look off to my right. When we were lucky we had a few feet buffer, but beyond that the ground ended abruptly in a cliff with a 500 foot drop. And at times the drop was significantly higher.
The pass we followed wound next to the cliffs and, in a few places, cut through the rock formations next to us. The views throughout were panoramic, providing an excellent view of the very canyon we were driving around. Sometimes we would be on the edge of one side of the canyon, able to look across to the other side to see just how close to the edge we had been before. Then the road would again cut into the rocks with tunnels hiding the way. There the aggression of the AMS and HKS exhaust was magnified about three hundred times before we’d blast back out into the daylight.
Knowing what GT-Rs are capable of, and bearing in mind the absolute and certain penalty for any mistakes, we didn’t push the limits. But it was a great time to explore the GT-R’s performance, with the safety of following someone who knew how to navigate the area.
By this point I was accustomed to the power and the immediate way in which it was delivered. It never felt like it was too much for the GT-R but the chassis definitely started to feel alive. I could feel that there was something great going on in and around me but the package was so tight, so well controlled, that the power delivery never felt too overwhelming.
I couldn’t help but feel that the transmission played a key role in that. Sometimes, at ordinary speeds, it felt a touch more clunky than a normal GT-R transmission. Other times it felt smoother. The net effect was that the transmission felt more purposeful. When deploying the full power of the Alpha-9, that feeling persisted, as if the transmission was built for it. Perhaps that’s because it was. Under stress, the Shepherd built transmission was more than willing to oblige with whatever we wanted. Whether that amounted to flat foot upshifts beyond 7,000 rpm or multiple downshifts under braking, twenty feet from death on the side of a sheer walled canyon, the GR6 seemed to define efficiency.
In this environment the JRZ suspension was choice. Its focus on enabling the driver to maintain chassis control and getting the car to do what was needed made the experience one that won’t soon be forgotten. It was almost magic the way the GT-R came together, deep in the passes on those rock faces…
The adrenaline flowed well on the Monument that day.
That afternoon we made our way West into Utah, finally heading for Las Vegas. We were told that there would be next to no cell coverage, and that it would be a straight open shot. At this point in the trip I expected to experience the boredom that so many warned about…but I didn’t.
From I-70 we found an exit to a place called Moab. Chuck, who happened to be driving at the time, said it was a pretty cool place and that we could head there if we wanted to. He said it would add a few hours to the trip. Not minding a night time entry into Las Vegas I said sure, let’s do it.
I had no idea what I’d be in store for.
Minutes later we took an exit and drove for several miles before Chuck pulled over, stopping the GT-R randomly. It wasn’t long after midday. I got out the car to see what was so interesting, wondering why we’d pulled over. I was thinking I’d be looking at the views of mountains off in the distance. But then I was hit by it. Silence.
The sky was clear. Besides the random patches of grass, there was nothing around. The desert was empty except for a single road. You could see for miles all the way to mountains, towering in the distance. But there was no wind, no noise, no sound at all. It was silent. We could whisper to speak, even though we were over twenty feet away from each other.
I heard a car coming from miles away. It drove past and on into the distance, and again we were left in silence. I’d never heard silence outdoors like that before. It was astonishing. We stayed there for a few moments before getting back in the GT-R and continuing our drive.
Despite being in a desert, the road wasn’t straight. It moved around the Earth and it wasn’t long before it navigated hills and valleys, then mountains and lakes. Visibility on the road was outstanding. I started to push the car as hard as visibility allowed, and we soon found ourselves deep in real passes, with green land surrounding us, lakes below us, and red rock formations all around. Meanwhile the road continued, with seemingly endless winding and curving in front of us. Time stopped as we drove a perfect machine through a perfect place.
Just when I thought I’d seen what we came for, it got better. We entered Moab and continued to Arches National Park. The road continued to wind and curve with the land. At one point we started to climb a cliff face, hundreds and hundreds of feet high, to one of the most incredible vantage points of the entire trip. With miles of open visibility on the roads below, I could see all the cars well on their way to wherever they were going.
As I kept looking I felt like I’d gone somewhere else. Maybe this was where Pixar went to be inspired for the movie Cars?
The place where Lightning and Sally took their picture perfect drive exists, and I saw it with my own eyes. I was speechless.
That day we drove the park, seeing one wonder of natural design after another, until we ran out of road to drive. And that evening, exhausted from everything we’d seen, we returned to the highway, to find our way back toward Las Vegas.
But even then the amazing scenes continued. I watched as clouds formed over mountain ranges that paralleled the highway miles away. I saw the clouds bring rain from those ranges all the way to where we were. Our GT-R, ready for the conditions, pushed through them like a Lear 35 through low ceilings. At times the rain came hard, but despite cruising at over 90mph, the GT-R took it in stride. It was only when the rain got intense and we hit standing water did the car begin to lose its sure footedness, and only for half a second at a time.
We continued to drive into the sunset with plains, mountains and all sorts of rock formations all around us. I wondered what it must have been like hundreds of years ago, when the Indians had the land to themselves and wildlife filled the landscape.
The computer inside the GT-R indicated that the temperature dropped into the 40s as we continued westward. But, inside the GT-R, I couldn’t feel it at all. Isolated from the elements, I continued to gaze out the window of the Alpha-9 GT-R to the hum of the GR6 until the night permitted me to see no more.
Once night fell, I turned down all of the brightness settings in the GT-R’s cockpit. I inverted the color of the moving map display and darkened it. On one of the darkest settings, everything still showed up clearly, and we continued into the blackness.
Some hours later, while I was driving, I saw a mountain ahead of us in the distance. I wasn’t sure at first what I was seeing and why I could see the mountain so clearly, even though it was absolutely black outside. I cross checked the moving map display and saw we were getting close to Las Vegas.
Something was lighting up the entire mountain from behind, but I couldn’t see what. I picked up the pace, staring into the distance. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. An entire mountain was being turned into a silhouette in the empty blackness of night. I thought to myself that it must have taken the brightest light on Earth to do that.
We crossed over the mountain and before us an entire city revealed itself, spread before of our very own eyes. I looked down on the city and there was nothing to say. It was clear what I was looking at. I started to identify the lights, MGM, Caesars, Bellagio…
We had arrived. Las Vegas, Nevada.