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Thread: A dream drive

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb A dream drive

    Winter in Montana comes early and lasts long, so finding ways to pass the hibernation time is critical to a Z8 driver's sanity. One of the best is to daydream about favorite drives and I thought I'd share one with those who might be interested.

    In anticipation of the long day's journey ahead, I rise before dawn and prepare my Z8 for the adventure to come. Tire pressures set, oil checked, tank full, I press the magic button to awaken the heart of my steed and listen to the mechanical sounds of M-Power coming to life. Driving shoes snugged up, driving gloves pulled on, sunglasses in place, I point her down the winding road leading from my mountainside home outside of Bozeman, Montana. We drive slowly along the rural blacktop, giving the oil temp time to rise, and I listen carefully to the mechanical tune my Z8 is playing to be sure she is up to the challenges ahead.

    By the time I reach Bridger Canyon Road (Hwy 86), the engine is warm and my steed is eager to be let loose. I point my Z8 North on this winding two-lane running along the valley floor of Bridger Canyon. Rising up on one side are the rugged Bridger Mountains which remain snow-capped most of the year and on the other side are the rolling hills of the Bangtails. Traffic is light and we soon pass our local ski area, Bridger Bowl, one of the best kept secrets in the ski world. Now the canyon narrows down as the Bridgers turn into wilderness and the road becomes serpentine.

    I know every inch of this pavement like the back of my hand so with no traffic in sight, we begin to dance. The road rises and falls to follow the rugged terrain and my Z8 is glued to the undulating surface. Wild flowers fill the fields, eagles soar above, and it's hard to keep my eyes off the spectacular Bridger Mountains. Thrilling bursts of speed are followed by practiced heel and toe downshifts leading into precisely carved turns, again and again. As we leave the canyon, the valley opens up into a pastoral setting of old-time ranches and farms with rippling fields of wheat and grazing cattle. In the distance I spy the Crazy Mountains and after a few more miles of high speed cruising we reach Hwy 89 where we head South. Gliding along this beautifully paved road which cuts an arrow-like swath through the verdant Shields Valley, we soon reach the next leg of our journey, Interstate 90.

    While this is my least favorite part of the drive, I take solace in the smoothness of the recently paved road and the ever-changing Western vistas. There are mountains everywhere I look and the highway closely follows the meandering Yellowstone River, the longest undammed stretch of river in the lower 48. Lewis and Clark traveled this same route on their epic journey and I am reminded of the adventure to come. Upon reaching the town of Columbus, we turn South on Hwy 78 and take the opportunity to top up the gas tank, always a good idea in this wide-open part of the country.

    The Z8 looks strangely out of place next to the tractors and worn-out pickups, as if aliens from another planet had stopped by in their sleek exploration craft. Accelerating out of town, the road winds among the rolling hills with picture-perfect equine settings around every bend. Here we pass through some real Montana towns with a single main street, lots of bars, and locals sitting out on their porches. At Roscoe the road turns East and with no towns for the next 20 miles, I give my Z8 free rein!

    As we fly across the lush green landscape linking one high speed sweeper after another, I feel almost giddy knowing that as good as this feels, it will only get better up ahead! Soon we reach the charming tourist town of Red Lodge whose main street is a quaint mix of mining era store fronts including a penny candy store, hand-made toy store, and a Harley Davidson dealership. Time to top up with fuel again as we are about to head into a very remote area where gas stations are a rare sight. Leaving Red Lodge, we cross the fast-flowing Rock Creek and head East on Hwy 308 heading for the town of Belfry.

    This stretch of road runs through high desert and the parched environment is essentially barren save for the remnants of a few old mining towns slowly returning to dust. The road is a bit rough from neglect and the contrast with where we've come from is startling. At Belfry we turn South on Hwy 72 which becomes Hwy 120 at the Wyoming border. This road follows the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone River through gently rolling hills with the spectacularly rugged Beartooth Mountains as a backdrop. Although the speed limit drops as we enter Wyoming, up ahead lies one of the most amazing stretches of road I have ever driven, a ruler straight and flat 10 miles of beautifully paved 2 lane that is a full 4 lanes wide surrounded by wide open expanses of unpopulated sage country. Lightly traveled, I have often found myself alone on this road and the temptation to stretch the Z8's long legs is irresistable. It's like your own private Bonneville Salt Flat! At the end of this dreamlike straightaway, the road enters a winding canyon through the foothills of the Beartooths and soon I spot the turn for my favorite driving road,

    Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (296). This 63 mile road twists and turns its way through some of the most idyllic mountain scenery in the world. I find myself shivering in anticipation and my Z8 responds with eagerness. Back and forth, up hill and down, we cling to the road as it leads us on a merry chase. All around us are picture post cards but the road demands most of our attention. Climbing to 8000 feet, we pause to catch our breath at the scenic Dead Indian Pass lookout.

    After waiting for traffic to clear, we plunge down the other side of the pass heading for Sunlight Basin. The descent consists of a never-ending series of hairpin turns linked by short straights and we have left a great deal of very expensive rubber behind as evidence of our passing. At the bottom we cross the highest bridge in Wyoming and pick up the Clarks Fork River as it carves its way through the Absaroka Mountains creating 1200 foot high canyon walls. The views here are breathtaking and I prefer to relax and enjoy the scenery rather than push for speed. Along the way I spot a sparkling waterfall and park alongside to enjoy a well-deserved bite of lunch. Under way again, the road soon T's into Hwy 212, better known as The Beartooth Highway.

    Turning East, we will follow this remarkable road back to Red Lodge on a drive described by Charles Kuralt as the most beautiful in America. As the blacktop snakes its way towards its highest point of 11,000 feet, it clings to sheer cliffs, is swallowed by thick forests, and crosses high alpine meadows bejeweled with impossibly blue alpine lakes, cascading rivers, and rock-strewn fields vividly painted with extravagant wildflowers. The ever-changing views of the Beartooth Mountains are indescribable in their beauty. At the top, the panoramic view and eagles soaring below really do convince you that you have reached the top of the world.

    After trying to soak in as much of the grandeur as my over-loaded senses can endure, I urge my Z8 down the mountain in a series of impossibly tight hairpins which require full concentration rather than sightseeing. The final descent to Red Lodge is a real test of man and machine featuring sweeping switchbacks clinging precariously to the sheer cliffs of Rock Creek Canyon. At last I reach the valley floor where cascading Rock Creek provides a welcome spritz of refreshment in the breeze as we take a cool down lap back into Red Lodge. After refilling an almost empty tank with premium, we prepare to retrace our steps to home.

    The return trip provides a chance to reflect on the day's adventures and catch up on some neglected tunes. Upon reaching the welcoming sight of the Bridger's, I sense that my trusty steed knows the way and I settle back to soak up the late afternoon rays as the Z8 wisks me home. Stepping from the car, tired but happy, I listen to the soft tinkling of cooling metal parts coming from beneath the Z8 and offer my heartfelt thanks for all the work she has done. Next comes a well-deserved wash of those voluptuous curves then I tuck her into the garage where she can dream of our next adventure. We both can't wait for Spring!

  2. #2
    Z8 Ate My Homework! Norcal's Avatar
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    Great story, thank you. I'm too wrapped up in preparation for the holidays to get out now for that sort of thing. Reminds me of the MITM and my extended trip with Andrew up into Colorado. Perhaps the most beautiful roads I've ever driven. Your route sounds even better (which I didn't think was possible). I'll need to get out there some day in the Z8.

    Thanks again for sharing. Any pictures? or only the ones in your memory?

    Ian

  3. #3
    Googlemaps helped me see the route from above.....wow, what a drive, and a lovely description too!!

    Maybe the next trip we do after Monterey 08 should be to Montana?
     
    Andrew Macpherson

    Expert Z8 Inspections, with full support for both Z8 sale and purchases.

  4. #4
    Z8 Ate My Homework! Norcal's Avatar
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    Sounds good to me!

  5. #5
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    Fascinating view from above! To really appreciate all there is to see along the way, I would suggest staying overnight in Red Lodge. The Pollard Hotel is a refurbished "Grand Dame" right downtown, the Rock Creek Inn is a bit more private in a lovely setting, or there are lots of rustic cabins available. That way you can drive the spectacular parts a second time and then continue West on 212 which will take you through Yellowstone National Park and back up through Paradise Valley to Bozeman or South to Jackson Hole which would take you through Teton National Park, another spectacular drive. All that rugged looking terrain to the West and South is Yellowstone and Teton. One thing to keep in mind, time of year is very important. The Summer months are very crowded with tourists and this really impacts the driving enjoyment. Spring is nice but Beartooth Hwy. doesn't open until they can clear all the snow and that can be well into May or even June. I think Fall, September and October, are the best months. Kids are back in school and leaves are turning.

    As for Colorado, I used to live there (Aspen), and I must say the scenery is absolutely gorgeous! Not sure Montana/Wyoming is better, just awe inspiring in its own way.

  6. #6
    Z8 Addict Z8doc's Avatar
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    Talking That is indeed a FANTASTIC drive.

    I have driven it a couple of times for some flyfishing trips for Cutthroat trout in Yellowstone or Rainbows / Browns from the Spring creeks at Livingston or on the Madison or Gallitan -- fly into Billings, rental to Yellowstone via the Beartooth Passage -- is truly magnificent!! End of June, always allow time to stop in Red Lodge for the Mountainman Festival, is always enjoyable, everyone in there costumes (or maybe not!). Just absolutely beautiful country -- right now is the great time to take the Snowmobile or SnowCoach from the Tetons north to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge -- a wonderful time too!
       
    Best Regards,

    Jeff
    61995 Silver /// Rot - Original Owner
    Z8 Club of Germany e.V. #102

  7. #7
    Z8Mania
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    WOW! Nice drive!

  8. #8
    Well that's decided then, Meet in Montana - 2010!
    Andrew Macpherson

    Expert Z8 Inspections, with full support for both Z8 sale and purchases.

  9. #9
    Z8 Addict Z8doc's Avatar
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    Talking I'll be there!

    Quote Originally Posted by macfly View Post
    Well that's decided then, Meet in Montana - 2009!
    That will be a great drive!
    Best Regards,

    Jeff
    61995 Silver /// Rot - Original Owner
    Z8 Club of Germany e.V. #102

  10. #10

    Just a first thought...

    Depending on whether we do one destination with day trips in each direction, or a tour starting and finishing in the same place, here are a couple of thoughts.

    1. Stay at one spot, maybe something like this with suitable girl/spa activities etc - and do day trips for four or five days.

    2. Ship the cars somewhere easy to load and unload, like say Miller Motor Sport Park in Salt Lake City, and do a week long tour through the mountains.
     
    Andrew Macpherson

    Expert Z8 Inspections, with full support for both Z8 sale and purchases.

  11. #11
    Z8Mania
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    I love that you plan this stuff so far in advance. Maybe one day Ill be there!

  12. #12
    Team Z8 KenZ8's Avatar
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    Don't miss this one

    Great idea. Glacier , Jackson Hole, and Yellowstone are three of my favorite memories from vacations past. I can't even imagine the fun that revisiting those places in the Z8 with the group would bring. Great roads, magnificent scenery, adventurous friends;Jerry, don't miss this one! We might even bend the rules and let you bring the 599.