Sunday, April 5, 2015

Dazed, on the road, knowing only where we have been!

March was a time to travel and once again it was a case of packing all we needed into the Jeep. The weather can turn on a dime and the forecast in the days leading up to our time on the road looked anything but promising. However, after the record breaking snowfalls of February, the month of March, which is the snowiest month of the year for the Colorado front ranges, saw very little snow but that didn’t mean we missed out on further cold snaps.

It’s to be expected living in the foothills, with multiple peaks passing 14,000 feet the thermometer can head to the negative blue graduations pretty quickly, but all the same, it’s a time to enjoy home cooking and we certainly didn’t lack for anything as the weather kept us indoors. The picture above is of Margo throwing on a big pork chop that she was adding to a panful of spices and vegetables, mostly onions naturally, while on this occasion, even though I was out of sight, I mixed the evening’s martinis.

However days on the road soon became a case of dazed on the road as we rolled the dice and elected to skip the mountain passes in favor of heading south, all the way to the outskirts of El Paso, Texas, before turning west for the run through Tucson and into Phoenix. I was to attend another banking conference as part of the press contingent so I couldn’t risk being left snowbound on the side of the road and as the passage via Flagstaff, Arizona, was looking pretty terrible, going as far south as we did was a blessing even though it meant we were behind the wheel for a third day.

Turning from I25 south onto I10 west took us into a very heavy stream of traffic and it wasn’t just the big rigs, but the almost continuous line of RVs we encountered. RVs of every size and configuration, from the million dollar diesel pusher Class A forty-plus footers to boxy looking Class C minivans, to monster fifth-wheel caravans! We saw them all and yes, passed them all. Dazed? Well, maybe a stretch and yet, astounded and bemused just doesn’t sum up the way we felt as we watched them slipping by.

Of course, there was a tad of jealousy mixed in as well as we knew our RV was still tucked away in storage and on a battery trickle-charger. It was still many weeks away before we would de-winterize the vehicle and prep it for its first road trip. After three summers and with almost 30,000 miles on the odometer it has become a rite of spring to head down to southern California and if all goes to plan, we will be doing that once again as the weather warms and the roads clear. 

As we awoke for the trip there it was, a very white landscape as overnight a storm front passed through the foothills leaving our plants, desperately wanting to bud, lying deep beneath freshly fallen wet and heavy late winter snow. This was the final kicker that led us to take the route we did, but having prepared for this outcome the drive didn’t prove as difficult as it could be – the snow diminished to next to nothing by the time we left our Starbucks coffee shop in Santa Fe. 

Eating well has always been a hallmark of the Holen-Buckle family. Since the first time we had an opportunity to share a range, we cooked, and we haven’t let up since. As the picture atop this post demonstrates, there’s always an occasion to cook something special and with just the two of us most of the time, it provides us with scope to experiment and to try something different.

When we overnighted in Albuquerque Margo looked for a farm-to-table restaurant as we had tired of eating at the restaurant chains and fast-food outlets. As she searched almost immediately came up the restaurant,
Farm & Table. Situated north of the town and a short distance east of I25 it was a little tricky to drive to it as recent road modifications meant a trip through the back roads, but it was well worth visiting. The food and the service were top notch and we really enjoyed the time spent with the staff looking after us.

Based on the experience we enjoyed in Albuquerque Margo went looking again for a farm-to-table restaurant in Phoenix, one that was close to downtown and the convention center where we were staying. This time, she came up with Beckett’s Table. Given the weather was much warmer and the nights were no longer chilly the sides of the restaurant had been opened and the atmosphere was hard to beat. The picture above is of me, at our table just in front of the open kitchen whereas the picture below is of Margo as she enjoyed a good drop of red wine.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone to read that our return trip to Boulder took us through Las Vegas. Three visits in three months, but with convention business picking up in Las Vegas we expect to be visiting the town as many as eight or nine times this year. With clients in southern California and some terrific camp sites for the RV, our company command center, it’s only logical to plan trips around Las Vegas. So much has changed since my first trip to the strip to where today it’s more akin to Disneyland than say, Monte Carlo. Yes, there’s evidence of gambling everywhere you turn, but today it’s more to do with the events, the entertainment and of course, the restaurants.

But then there are still surprises and we drove right into one on our last night at the strip. Turning north onto Las Vegas Boulevard, we couldn’t help but notice crowds lining both sides of the road, all wearing the recognizable jackets only supporters of NASCAR would put on. Yes, it was Thursday night and the traditional drive of the big-rig transporters was about to start. Pulling into the garage of the Wynn hotel we asked a police motorcyclist what it was all about and with a broad smile and thinking he was addressing a tourist from out of town, he gave us a complete rundown of what to expect.

The picture above is of Margo as the transporter of the Crispy M&M’s sponsored Car 18 passed by. According to our friendly Police motorcyclist there would be 56 such rigs rolling through town tonight and what a blast! Literally! With every light possible flashing and a cacophony of diesel air horns resonating from the buildings we felt the onrush of vehicles well before the first pulled into sight. I had ample time to point my trusty iPhone at the line of big-rigs and the short video I took you can view below, even if it doesn’t do justice to the overall impact made by such colorful and loud transporters.    

With the coming of spring man’s thoughts once again turn to racing. Well, perhaps a terrible misquote of a popular line, but all the same, at this time of year we are rearing to go. However, fate has once again stepped in and the program is on hold for a while. It may come as news to few who follow my posts and commentaries but Margo’s daughter, Anna, is expecting identical twin boys and with one infant under 2 years old on her hands she is going to need all the help that can be mustered.

Rather than having Curt from the Corvette Spa dropping by to take the ‘Vette to the shop for a major check-up, the ‘Vette remains on the battery tender but there has been some change. To those who have seen the car the biggest change has been the removal of all decals and track-affiliated paraphernalia, including numbers and club associations. Since we elected to downsize the garage now that we live in just one home, the Viper and the Nissan GT-R have both been sold leaving us with just the Jeep, the Maserati Grand Tourer and the Corvette sports car and this will likely be all you will find in the garage for some time.

There had been some speculation about this in previous posts, with the lease on the GT-R about up, but now the deed has been done and it really was about time, but already I have begun to drive Margo crazy with what next might find its way into the garage as there’s still the thought of adding something very special – an Audi R8 V10? A Gallardo? Both have seen new models introduced, so these once stellar performers are entering the realm of reality. And what about an automatic convertible Z06 Corvette? In blue? Again, I am driving Margo insane with my proposals but that’s about all that they are these days. Proposals; Margo, dazed and very confused, just lets me be …  

On the subject of racing I cannot miss this opportunity to provide an update on the grandson, Colton, of our good friends, Brian and Jan Kenny. Colton Herta is now in residence in the UK where he has just turned 15 and in a few days’ time he will be on track at England’s famous formula one track, Brands Hatch, campaigning Britain's new MSA Formula series with Carlin in 2015. Tweeted over the weekend by Carlin:

Happy Birthday to the truly ancient Hurricane Herta!! @ColtonHerta turns 15 today - just in time for the @MSAFormula season opener! 

Hurricane Herta? That’s news to me even if an American commentator referred to Colton as the Little Assassin. Like every other family member we will all be watching and cheering Colton on comes the weekend’s event. Mark my words, and I’ve said it a couple of times before, without putting the mockers on him, as we Aussies often say, I think we will see big things from Colton not just this year, but in the years to come. Margo and I already wondering whether we will need a place to stay in Europe in a couple of summer’s time – it sure would be a treat to hang out with Colton and the rest of the clan.

And now for some late breaking news – this just in from the UK! Colton has completed his first weekend series of races in the MSA Formula but following some issues mostly tire related and the accompanying set up for qualification, Colton had to grid mid pack for the actual races. Furthermore, so I have been informed, an as then unidentified problem with his front wing – yes, not only was the weather a factor but running cars developing serious downforce, a bad choice in tires for qualification together with a difficult-to-drive car (aero downforce helps provide the grip), saw Colton come up short in the first race.

However, in the second race, he picked his way through the pack, and past team members, to score a 4th place. Yes, Colton did a Colton, as I am only too quick to remark and for anyone who has seen Colton race karts, they will know all too well what I mean by that. The third and final race saw Colton forced to pit and I am still waiting to hear more – but all up, there was more than enough excitement coming from the only American competing in the series to keep me glued to my PC. Expect more on this in coming posts to this blog but before closing, well done, Colton and yes, a very impressive start – did I mention that during that second race, he recorded the fastest lap that was only beaten late in the event. 

There’s no escaping how serious Colton is taking his career in motorsports and this recent photo clearly illustrates the intensity radiating from a very young competitor in a very serious sport. But dazed isn’t something you will likely ever see in Colton when it comes to being in a car. Margo and I may have glazed over a couple of times with the repetitive nature of motoring down some of the long stretches of interstate highway that we drove this past month but this was more a byproduct of staring at the skies, wondering whether a new storm is about to overpower us at the least opportune time.

We have additional grandchildren on the way. We have an RV about to come out of storage. We have a Corvette that is back to doing time as a sports car. And we have a track program that is in temporary hiatus. However, there are still great meals to cook and there are new sites to see and who knows, we may even take in one more visit to Las Vegas – no confusion about that as the plans are coming together. There’s a line in the Led Zeppelin song, Dazed and Confused, that simply says “Don't know where you're goin', only know just where you've been” and for Margo and me, this pretty much sums up all that we anticipate with the coming of spring – we sure do know where we’ve been but where we are going? Well, that’s going to have to wait for a future post - as of right now, who can say!