Pikes Peak is one of the oldest and most historic races in North America. When I landed in Denver, Colorado for the Flyin’ Miata Summer Camp event, I decided that I couldn’t be this close to the mighty mountain without seeing its summit.
So there I stood, holding the keys to a supercharged Miata , and I was only an hour away from one of the highest roads in the United States. I pointed the nose of the racing-liveried NC south, and started my mountaineering adventure.
Thanks to a series of storms that were dumping record levels of wet stuff in the area, I figured the mountain was going to be treacherous, but I also assumed it was going to be mostly empty. Upon arriving at the toll gate to the twisty piece of pavement I found that my predictions were mostly correct.
What followed was 19-miles of automotive nirvana and incredible scenery.
Continue reading to hear about my incredible journey to the top of Pikes Peak.
When you arrive at the entrance to the Pikes Peak toll road, you are not quite aware of just how far you are from you’re the end of your journey. You can’t see the summit, you can’t see the myriad of twists and bends in the road, and you certainly can’t see the incredible drops that await you if you get it wrong.
As I predicted, the foul weather had driven most of the tourists away from the mountain. During my entire climb, I encountered less than a dozen vehicles. This empty expanse of slithering asphalt, gave me the chance to really push Flyin’ Miata’s Targa-prepped NC “Nancy.” With a supercharger bolted to the engine, Nancy was far peppier at altitude than any naturally aspirated engine could ever hope to be.
With a full FM II suspension setup in all four corners and sticky Dunlop Direzza tires, I was making the most of that extra grunt to power my way up the peak. The drive started off mildly with gentle slopes and surprisingly shallow turns, but the higher I climbed, the more demanding the road became.
After a few miles of motoring to get a feel for the road and the car, I arrived at the reservoir and the checkpoint gate. This is the official start of the hill-climb course, and the beginning of the most treacherous sections of the road. Soon after leaving the checkpoint, I approached the timber line and the trees that kept me from seeing just how high I really was begin to thin and then disappear. It’s at this point that the road became a series of extreme switchbacks with a near-constant grade of 6 percent and a higher.
The farther and farther I climbed, the harder and harder I pushed. Nancy was a willing dance partner; the extra power and slightly greasy road allowed for a few moments of power oversteer when exiting a sharp corner.
Thanks to a sky full of storms and rain, the air was humid and the majority of the run was fog covered. It was a surreal experience to charge headfirst toward the top of the peak in a cross-country rally car . Turns would appear from nowhere, the immense drops would show themselves for only moments, as if they were reminding me what waited beyond the foggy abyss if I pushed beyond my talent.
Sadly, this is a public road, and as I approached the end of the summit my fun run was ended. A pair of meandering drivers stood between me and a full-on attack to the top. It was for the best, as soon after we cleared the misty air and the slower speeds allowed me to better appreciate the grand views of the Colorado countryside that had been laid out before me. It doesn’t take much to make you feel small and insignificant when your view encompasses the distance of miles outward, and thousands of feet down.
At the top of the peak, I slowly rambled through the gravel lot and brought Nancy to a halt. As I allowed the car to cool, we made our way into the summit store for what I was promised were some of the best donuts in the world and small souvenir. While the donuts where not as great as those from Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty in Wisconsin, they were satisfying and the feeling of conquering a petrolhead bucket-list item made them all the sweeter.
After a few quick poses for a photo or two, I loaded back into the little Miata and began the journey back down. On the way back down, some more of the clouds and mist had begun to clear, providing me with some incredible views of the mountains, and the epic road that had been carved into them. After a few stops for photos, and the mandatory brake temperature check at the halfway point, I had arrived back at the base of the mountain just outside of Colorado Springs.
The trip was better than I ever expected, and the mountain did not leave me disappointed. Still, this was only my first day in Colorado, and there was much Miata hoonage awaiting me in Grand Junction. I pointed Nancy into the setting sun and headed toward the western horizon.
It was a perfect end to what felt like quite a perfect day.