Following the Lewis and Clark Trail
Days 1, 2, and 3
I decided to take a long trip in my NSX before selling it. There was no set plan, just to drive and enjoy the car. My grandmother is turning 102 this year and she wanted to see me. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, about 2200 miles from where I live in Sunnyvale, California. Sounded like a good place to start.
I remember from my history lessons that St. Louis was also the starting point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. They were chartered by the Jefferson, the president of the United States, to explore the land he recently purchased from Napleon ($.03 an acre), and to see if there was an easy way to reach the Pacific Ocean. I grew up on the Western end of the trail, and was curious about the exploration. I bought the Lewis and Clark diaries, in anticipation of reading about their experiences as I was traveling the same route.
I described my trip to the NSX list on the Internet. Several members suggested I post daily reviews of my adventure to the list as they occured. I took along a Macintosh and took a couple of minutes every couple of days to post. I almost took along a digital camera, but decided too much production might take time away from the purpose of my trip, to drive the car.
Here follows the postings. Please forgive my ramblings. In general, I was tired at the end of the day and was only able to tickle the keys for a short time. I did not review my postings and often was too tired to even make sense. And I have not touched the results, hoping to give a sense of the experience to you.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Michael Sands) Date: Mon, 9 Sep 1996 07:02:44 -0800 Subject: [NSX] on the road in an NSX
(This was moved forward, as I took few pictures at the start.)
I am on the road with my NSX for the next two or three weeks. Sort of going where the car takes me, and no real plan. The first day is done and I am sitting in Green River, Utah. I did about 1000 miles today, most of it really fun. I am surprised how easy it was! Well, I guess I should not be, given how fun the car is to drive.
So, depending on how easy this is, I will drop a note from time to time. Look for me zipping by if I am in your neighborhood.
My trip started with a visit to the dealer. I needed an air cleaner. As several of you have remarked, the price of parts is high. Well, $75 for an air cleaner is a bit excessive. Sandard part with a corner taken out. I can see Honda's cottage industry, a bunch of old ladies, cutting off a corner and gluing on the rubber gasket. There has to be some reason for the expense.
I left Sunnyvale, California about 4:30 am, too excited to sleep any more. Driving up into the Sierras was fun but I have done it so many times. Then on past Reno, Nevada. There I decided to take Highway 50. This road is so lonely, it has signs all over the place proclaiming how lonely it is. There is a pay phone out in the middle of nowhere, with a sign above it. The terrain is 20 mile wide valleys with ridges between them. So you get sports car roads, with a break to drive fast. There was so little traffic I could drive ten miles with out seeing a car.
The Nevada Open Road Challenge was last weekend. I saw one Camero coming towards me. No other interesting cars. I talked with some of the locals about the race, they help staff the course, and they told me of a woman getting a Camero up to 240 mph. Impressive.
I managed to get to Ely, the starting point of the race, by early afternoon. Not bad, California and Nevada in a day. I wondered if I could finish Utah as well. Nevada speed limit is 70, and I was always under 80 when there were other cars around.
Next came Utah. What a drag! 55 mph speed limit if it is not freeway. Freeway is 75. I cruised down the Santa Fe trail as the sun was setting. What an impressive sight! The red rocks, setting sun, columns and all.
Now this stretch is 109 miles of no services! Imagine taking this road with another exotic. The only events were a squeek coming from my competition seat belts. They are stashed behind the seats when not in use. It turned out to be the crotch belt clinking against the fire extinguisher. Took me a while to find it.
The other was not so much a problem but an observation. Some of these passes are over 7000 feet. This country is high desert and the air is a bit thin. I noticed a distinct lag in acceleration just before the VTEC comes on above 5000 rpm. Not bad, but you could tell the engine was working up until then. Then at 140 mph it starts running out of steam. I did not push it much beyond that, as I did not have on my safety gear. But driving the NSX sure is fun!
Dirty! There was road constuction in Nevada, just before Ely. There were also scattered thundershowers. The rain was comming down in splats, not drops. The car is covered in fresh dirt, with oil to glue it to the body. The rain came down so hard, it washed away all the stuff on the front. I have a car with dirt flames down both sides. Gary, this traveling stuff is not for the faint of heart.
Tomorrow, I look for a car wash, and try to make it half way to St. Louis. My grandmother turns 102 this October. Figure I stop in and say hellow.
From: email@example.com (Michael Sands) Date: Thu, 12 Sep 1996 23:27:44 -0500 Subject: [NSX] Day Two in an NSX
Kansas was terrible for the car...
(This picture also was moved forward. I promise this is the last one...)
When last I wrote, I was still in Utah. I woke and was ready to go at 7:00. I still had 96 miles to go to Grand Junction, Colorado, still following 50 and soon to be Interstate 70.
The road winds its way through the mesas and river valleys. It was absolutely beautiful, with the sun coming up, the rocks turning blue and red matching the sunrise, and clear road. I made the 96 miles in less than an hour, encountering no cars! It was what the NSX was made for, grand touring. It was the last bit of fun I was to have all day.
I was disappointed traveling through the Rockies. The speed limit in Colorado was generally 75mph. But every time you come to a mountain pass, they slow you down to 55 or 60mph. The ski resorts are pretty (rich?) around Vail and going up to the pass. Even the pass was gone, with a long tunnel going through the dirt instead of over.
The transition before and after Denver is astonishing. First you are in some of the biggest mountains around and then suddenly, you on on flat land, that seems to go on forever!
I covered over 800 miles today, all of it seeming to go in a straight line and at a speed of 70 mph. I could not help thinking this was a sad way to use the capability of the car. Better to fly there and have the car ready and waiting. I thought of putting the car on a train, similar to what they do in Europe, traveling to where the car can best be used.
The only humor of the day came at a rest stop in the middle of the plains. I was cat napping in the shade of a small tree next to the car. I overheard an older couple talking. He said, in a nice British accent, "Honey, that car will go 140 mph!" and she replied, then why is the driver sleeping over there? He chuckled and said something about having the time to sleep when you get there so quickly.
Kansas' roads are wide and straight. But there are cracks every 20 feet or so, where the road has dropped a couple of inches. This causes a thumping. It is worse in the slow lane, where the trucks have bashed the road, but is terrible enough in either lane. It really is hard on the car, affecting the suspension and shocks. It was even uncomfortable in the car.
So I am now in Salina, Kansas, the autocross capital of the world. This is where all the autocross faithful gather once a year to see who is the best. Unfortunately, I am not the best and this is not the right time of the year. And the NSX is not my weapon of choice. So I will pass on through, and will make St. Louis tomorrow.
I wonder if the phone at my table, here in the truck stop, will allow my modem to dial out? Do truckers keep diaries on their portables and email to the home office?
And if you are fed up with my ramblings, tell Gary, and he can call my wife by land line (a local call), and tell her to shut me up...
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Michael Sands) Date: Thu, 12 Sep 1996 23:27:56 -0500 Subject: [NSX] Day Three in an NSX
The drive across Kansas and Missouri was uneventful. The closer you get to the Missouri River valley, the nicer and more varried the terrain gets. The road is still basically straight and flat, but the traffic is heavy and the radar plentiful. I cruise at four or five mph over the speed limit.
I arrived in St. Louis at 1:00, having completed over 2100 miles in two and a half days. I visit with my 102 year old grandmother and an uncle and his children. The cousins want a ride in the NSX, but express concern. How could I spend this much money for a noisy and rough riding car? And it is not very big inside! (My car is a bit noiser than most because of the installation of the competition seat belts. The rear soft trim just under the rear window is removed, and the metal fire wall exposed. This causes a bit more engine noise to enter.)
My uncle and aunt comment on reliability. Making this trip in any car is a risk and they are amazed I did not bring a phone along. I did see many flat tires across Kansas. I also saw bodies of headless elk and deer along the road in Nevada and Utah, apparently the victims of trophy hunters. But so far, no near misses or even far misses for me. I have come across some animals on the road but always had plenty of time to stop.
Lewis and Clark started their expedition in St. Louis and followed the Missouri. Tomorrow I go to where the Missouri River joins the Mississippi to view a marker, and then start to follow 94 along the Missouri. Unless something remarkable happens with the car or I experience some new revelation, I will be quiet for a bit, sparing you the meandernig thoughts of a traveler.
(Lewis and Clark Memorial where the Missouri joins the Mississippi.)