The Adventure Wall: Pikes Peak Highway

Pikes Peak is one of the most famous mountains in the country, if not the world. Some Coloradans get snotty about it being famous since it sits near the bottom half of the 55“fourteeners” (mountains 14,000 feet or higher in elevation) in Colorado, measuring in at a mere 14, 115 feet. It tends to loom over Colorado Springs and anyone seeing Pikes Peak at sunrise when it turns red and gold will forget any negative opinion.

Not only is the mountain well known to the point of having “Pikes Peak“ settings on treadmills, the road up to the peak is famous amongst car enthusiasts. Every year, they gather and race 12 miles to the peak in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The climb is run by every class of car and motorcycle imaginable and has been driven by some world famous drivers, Mario Andretti among them. The current record holder zoomed to the top in just over ten minutes in the 1,000 horse powered Suzuki XL7.

I really like cars. And driving. So, this Adventure Wall edition was amazingly fun.

The drive up was fantastic! My friend, Ruth, who has managed to be along for every Adventure Wall edition so far, and I started at a good pace. It takes a bit to make me nervous in a vehicle of any kind. The truck did a fair share of fishtailing and tire spinning and as I got closer and closer to the edge, I decided to sober up and slow down a little. Ruth was starting to get a little carsick, so I also thought it would be nice to take a little tamer pace. Sorry, Ruthie! J

Like I said, I love cars, driving and roads and I’ve seen a fair number of fantastic roads, but Pikes Peak Highway takes the prize. The term “hairpin turn” had to be coined on these roads since there are 156 turns on the trip up. They look a little like this:

There are straightaways to pick up a little speed. There are curves that hang out literally over a thousand foot drop and the caretakers of the highway have a rather casual attitude towards barriers.

I was loving the driving, but since Ruth’s stomach doesn’t do real well on curvy roads, we needed to get to the summit before the barf bag was needed. One final hill…

…and we were there! The view was icing on an already incredible cake.

Ruth took a deep breath and expressed her hope that she would feel a little better now that the truck had stopped moving. I got out of the truck and with what must have been a puzzled expression, I slowly fell over. Ruth was still in the passenger seat and laughed as I clutched the door and said, “Oh yeah, altitude!”

High altitude buzz is a totally unique feeling. I get dizzy, light headed, my ability to be klutzy only increases, and I tend to get really silly. When I describe how I feel people either say they will stay at sea level for the rest of their lives or say, “Duuuuude. When can I get some of that?” Most people feel like they’ve had one too many slices of pizza prior to one too many Gravitron rides and that feeling is only fun if accompanied by one too many beers. Since there is no alcohol allowed at the peak, the fun is rather short-lived and everyone gets pretty stinky. At the gift shop, I overheard two grown men arguing over a photograph that was to be a gift for their mother and finally one said, “I don’t give a #$&% what we get for her, let’s just buy something and get the $%#& off this mountain”. With that, we renamed the gift shop, “The Crankiest Place On Earth”. Ruth and I didn’t last much longer than the cranky brothers and we bought the required famous donuts whose recipe only works at high altitude, a jar of jam for Ruth’s mom (no arguing required) and we headed back down the mountain. But, not before hanging out with this little guy.

The trip down was even more stunning. Since we were out just before the peak closed, we were one of the last cars down the mountain and when we stopped talking, we could pull over, take pictures, and look at the scenery. One of the best things we saw was this guy perched about 50 feet up in the air talking on his cell phone. What better place can you think of to talk on the phone?

I was in a picture taking mood all day and here are a few of my favorites from the trip.

The trip, whether you race it or take it a little more slowly is worth the price of admission as well as any carsickness or high altitude weirdness you may experience. It’s fun, has great places to stop and enjoy the view, and it’s one of the most beautiful places one earth.

Ruth and I give Pikes Peak Highway three thumbs and a barfbag up and would encourage anyone in the area to make the trip!

Good Things To Know Before the Drive:  It costs $12 per person to drive up the highway, but it’s worth every penny.Don’t make the trip if you are struggling with altitude sickness.  Wear warm clothes since the peak is at least 30 degrees cooler than the base. Plan to stay around forty-five minutes at the peak. Any longer and the altitude will kick you in the teeth. Have a high altitude donut. Plan for at least four hours for a round trip so you can take pictures, walk around or visit the gift shops. If you get carsick, you’ll get REALLY carsick, so take your drammamine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to The Adventure Wall: Pikes Peak Highway

  1. ruth says:

    I totally agree…so glad I was along for this one and no worries about the drive up I would have been going just as fast if I were driving…what a grand road! I call dibs on the drivers seat next time:) Please note that while it begins as a grand motorcycle drive be ready for mud,slush or dust depending on the season and the washboard ruts can get pretty gnarly when it turns into a dirt road

  2. ruth says:

    I totally agree…so glad I was along for this one and no worries about the drive up I would have been going just as fast if I were driving…what a grand road! I call dibs on the drivers seat next time:) Please note that while it begins as a grand motorcycle drive be ready for mud,slush or dust depending on the season and the washboard ruts can get pretty gnarly when it turns into a dirt road

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