Third Annual Driving for Kids Rally - September 22-24, 2018

A summary by Norm Balvin

Bill and I have completed our odyssey of noble intentions and questionable methods as part of Driving For Kids in support of the Roundup River Ranch. I am proud and grateful to say that with the support of our wonderful families, friends, and gullible acquaintances, we raised over $1,600 for this Worthy Cause. We even got an award for raising the third most money (actually the fourth most, but the organizer abstained from the tally) of the 15 teams. As a group we raised over $35,000, and presented one of those Big Checks like they use for the Publisher's Clearinghouse to the officials at the Ranch. For those who didn't manage to donate, our Team Sidewinders Crowdrise donation website at https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/driving-for-kids is still open until the end of October. Please donate, it's not too late!

We spent three days and drove about 670 miles in the glorious mountains of Colorado in the fall. We had beautiful, sunny, and unseasonably warm weather with highs near 80 degrees, a true blessing considering that Bill's Westfield (Lotus) Super 7 Replica has no permanent doors, windows, top, or even a heater. We did discover on the last day that the tiny windshield wipers actually work! Bill's wife Becky and my wife Jeanne followed in Becky's Honda Pilot, providing our own personal support vehicle. They dispensed sunscreen, cold drinks, articles of clothing, encouragement, sympathy, or derision as required. Thanks girls!

The first day we met Saturday morning at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post just outside Colorado Springs. The owner was a participant and one of the original Rally organizers. He's an old Manitou Springs hippie with a gray ponytail named Tim and he's quite a character. The rally was restricted to British cars and cars of British origin (they let a couple of modern Mini Coopers, our Lotus replica, and even a lone Mazda Miata in, because, more donations). Tim drove a beautifully restored bright yellow Triumph TR-6, to which he has cannily fitted a supercharger and a Large American Carburetor. This allowed the engine to make about the same horsepower as a modern Honda Civic and made the car one of the most powerful in the group- he was great fun to chase! We drove west on Highway 24 and then cut across a beautifully paved winding road about 35 miles long past Tarryall Reservoir. Bill let me drive this stretch, and we were behind the first part of the group as we had been stuck behind a beautifully redone but mechanically troubled Austin Healy 3000. The Healy had plenty of support including a chase vehicle manned by a real (patient) British car tech named Ted, so we passed and gave chase. I got to whip the Westfield through the corners the entire distance and had a ball! We made our way on back roads to Fairplay and stopped for lunch, then Bill took the wheel and we went across the Continental Divide at Hoosier Pass and on to Breckenridge through hordes of tourists. Ross, the Rally organizer, was having clutch troubles in his pretty red Lotus Elan, and how he negotiated that stop and go traffic with no clutch is completely beyond me! (As you may have surmised, British cars are notoriously unreliable, there are many jokes about leaking, electrical problems, quirks, and outright dangers. Because of this, some rallies for British cars are known as Reliability Runs, tongue only slightly in cheek.) From Breck we hit I-70 West and got buffeted for miles at freeway speeds. I speak from experience when I say that it's a little unsettling to pass a semi truck at 75 on a curvy mountain road in an open car originally designed in 1957, which is barely 3 feet tall and weighs about 1300 lbs.!

Despite, or because of, these trials, we made our way to Roundup River Ranch to meet some kids, get a tour, and present a Big Check. The Ranch was really the highlight of the trip, our raison d'etre. It was a family week and kids with respiratory illnesses were there with parents and families. We must have lifted 20 kids into the Westfield for their chance to sit in a real sports car, and we only quit when there were no more kids in line. This put us behind schedule for our tour of the facility, but the smiling faces of the parents and the shining faces of the beautiful children completely outweighed any other concerns. We felt like we were part of the mission of the Ranch, giving kids some fun and respite from their pain and troubles. I'm having difficulty expressing just how joyous it was, truly magical.

The Ranch itself sits on 125 acres near Gypsum, CO in a canyon along the Colorado River at an elevation of 6000 feet. There are several large dormitory style cabins for campers and staff, a fully equipped hospital disguised as a train depot, a meeting/dining hall that looks like a barn, and other generally rustic appearing but thoroughly modern structures. There are hiking trails, a pond for fishing and kayaking, stables for horseback riding, an outdoor obstacle/confidence course, an archery range, and even a yurt for artwork. They take campers from age 7 to 17 from June through October, at NO CHARGE, even transportation to and from camp is covered. Paid as well as volunteer staff do everything they can to give kids a fun experience in a beautiful setting away from the sterile and impersonal environments they are usually subjected to. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals donate their time to make sure the kids get all needed medical care while they're there. If a camper has a medical issue they try to render aid on site so the kid doesn't have to endure yet another visit to a hospital setting. Truly compassionate.

Anyway, we got back on I-70 and spent the night in Glenwood Springs, addressed various mechanical and service issues (British cars) and then hit the trail in the morning, driving farther along I-70 and then hitting the back roads bound for Gunnison. We were on the Western Slope of Colorado (we crossed the Continental Divide numerous times) and drove along the Grand Mesa on this part of the journey. Despite having lived in Colorado for 30 some years, I had never been to this part of the state, and it was truly spectacular! We drove on twisting two lane roads along cliffs thousands of feet high, through vivid yellow aspen groves set among dark green pines and multicolored rocks, with views for hundreds of miles. It seemed like another incredible vista was around every corner. Wow! We had lunch a bar/restaurant called Old Mad Dog Cafe in Crawford that used to be owned by 60's and 70's rock singer Joe Cocker. Remember the album Mad Dogs and Englishmen? It can't be a coincidence. Remember John Belushi imitating Joe Cocker alongside him while he was singing on Saturday Night Live? Hilarious! Well, they didn't do that there, but it's still funny to recall.

So we made our way to Gunnison for the night, arriving at the Holiday Inn early enough for a happy hour hosted by organizers Ross and wife Ann. Ann is a former hospitality industry exec and it showed, she made all of the arrangements for meals and lodging for the rally and there was nary a hitch. Everyone brought snacks, and many margaritas were drunk, stories were told, and friendships were made or continued. I talked to the Miata guy, and found out he has owned dozens of British cars including many Loti, so his bona fides were legit. He also threw thousands of dollars at the car he brought and it was by far the fastest of the group. Another character! In the morning as we organized in the parking lot a group of 911 Porsches on their way to a big festival for that marque in California saw us and stopped to see what we were up to. They even tossed some cash our way for the cause, proving that the joke about porcupines and Porsches is not necessarily true (if you don't know the joke, ask).

We set out on back roads again for Buena Vista, fortunately stuck behind "civilian" vehicles at the point that County Mounties patrolling for speeders went by in the opposite direction. We stopped for gas and I had a nice chat with a guy who brought a beautifully restored red Jag XKE Series I roadster, one of the most desirable and collectible British cars of all time. He said he'd rescued it from under a wood pile and lost count of the made to fit custom metal patches after 30 something. Really cool that he brought it and drove it after such a painstaking restoration, instead of making it a car show trailer queen. Kudos! We all met up in Buenie for one last meal together before hitting the road for home, some bound for Denver, some for the Springs, and even a long distance die hard going to Austin (but with his car on a trailer- not a foolish die hard). Bill and I scrunched down below the windscreen and buckled our 5 point racing harness seat belts one more time, dodged some commuter traffic and raindrops, and headed for the barn.

We had an epic journey, met some great people, raised money for a great cause, and wound up tired, creaky, windburned, and happy. I told Bill afterward that it was simultaneously one of the most fun and most meaningful things that I have done. Sincere thanks to all who supported us, and don't be surprised if you get a similar plea next year. Happy trails!