We drove the car out to the Vegas to Reno from Illinois again. Wednesday we got to Vegas about 3 in the afternoon. We put in the harnesses, door bars, lights, etc to get the car ready for tech.
After we registered and went through contingency and tech we met with Baja pits. Our plan was to stop every third pit (about every 100 miles) for fuel and switch seats and they would have a tire at those pits that
we'd shipped out before the race.
We had the afternoon to kill so we checked out the pinball hall of fame. Neither of us is a huge pinball fan, but they had some cool old mechanical arcade games ca 1970. They use blacklights, belts, tilting tables, reflections/projections. As a mechanical engineer that was cool to see. Then we went to the driver's meeting. They warned us about some crazy sounding obstacles on the 540 mile course. There was a supposedly really torn up / soft section of powerline at mile 140-144. At about 170 there was a highway underpass immediately followed by a boulder field that the motorcycle guys would probably have to walk through. The last 20 miles of the course was supposed to be extremely rocky, worse than most years. On the plus side the pit closing times were much more generous than last year and we would only have to average 24mph to finish. That night we had dinner with an off road racer who lives in Vegas we used to race super buggies with in CORR/TORC. He told us if we made it 100 miles that would be a victory.
Friday morning we made the two hour drive up to Beatty where the race started. On the way the odometer turned over 230,000. Filled up the car at the gas station and drove to the staging area. Put on our drivers suits, used the port a potties, packed everything securely in the car, and waited to start. We entered Sportsman again. The car fits the 7200 class, which would have allowed us to start at least an hour sooner, but then we'd have 100+ faster vehicles behind us and we'd be ruining their race. Plus the Sportsman entry fee is about 40% of the normal entry fee. So we started in front of about six trucks with 350 ahead of us tearing up the course.
My friend started the race. A few of the faster sportsman guys passed us, the push to pass worked well. Less than ten minutes into the race the temp gauge started creeping up, there was a lot of soft ground and some climbs. Turned off the AC and temps were good the rest of the race. Also very early on the HVAC blower motor stopped working. We tried rolling down the windows but then it got even dustier. When we went through the silt sections dust came in the car and took forever to get out since the blower wasn't working, which made it hard to read the GPS. My friend was driving the car hard, it is a race and we wanted to keep up a good pace so it didn't take us 23 hours. Just before the first public road crossing and pit the tire pressure monitor started beeping, the left front was flat. We couldn't find Baja pits in the pit so we put
on the spare using the electric jack, which was a big improvement. He drove the next sixty miles or so to pit 3 with no other major problems. The course was rough though, nothing that we doubted we could make it through, but in that first 94 miles to pit 3 maybe 5 miles were smooth. My friend was pretty beat by the time we made it to pit 3, we both just sat down, drank a lot of fluids, and ate some food. Baja pits fueled the
car and swapped out our flat spare with a good one. We noticed some of the suspension bolts were loose and the strut tower was starting to split from the rest of the body at the seams. We couldn't think of any
realistic way to fix that in the pits. After it cooled off a bit I took the radiator cap off the expansion tank and all sorts of coolant boiled out. We took the bleed plug out of the radiator and filled it back up with water. We sat and talked with Baja pits for a while about what we should do, eventually they convinced me we should go to the next pit 60 miles away and see if the frame got any worse. I am glad we did, that next sixty miles was a lot of fun, maybe 20 miles of it was rough. There were long stretches of 50-80mph running. Even in the rough sections where I thought I was going slow I was going 30. The longest, fastest gravel road we got on I had the gas pedal to the floor for what felt like a couple minutes. There was a guy resting in the shade of his broken trophy truck, he'd probably been there for hours, and when he saw us coming he stood up and cheered for us as we went by. We got that reaction a bunch of times during the race and that was really cool. About halfway down that gravel road was a cattle guard with a two or three foot gentle rise. Hit it about 80mph and got good air off the backside. The six cylinder was definitely an improvement, made it more fun but made it a lot easier in the soft terrain to power through or even just go up the grades without relying entirely on momentum. I also got to go down through a pine forest on a narrow dirt road with a bunch of sharp turns. My friend really got the short end of the stick driving. Near the end of that leg was the dreaded mile 140-144 rough powerline section. Seemed no worse than most of the rest of the course, which made us wonder how bad the other sections would be. We made it to pit 4 at probably an average of 40mph and feeling good until we looked at the body again. It had split considerably more, and what we'd just driven through was not super rough and I was trying to go easy on it in the
rough. Just ahead was the boulder field, we weren't sure if we could do that on a good day. It probably would have gotten to the next pit, maybe the next couple pits, but the odds of it lasting another 400 miles on
that course seemed very slim. We decided this would be a good place to stop while the car was still intact and head home. We stopped in Tonopah for gas and took 6 to Ely. There were no rooms available there so we drove up to Wendover.
Here is the only picture I've taken that shows how big the crack in the body is. Goes almost all the way up and down behind the RF strut tower.
In the morning we took the HVAC blower out. There were a few rocks in it, hotwired it to a switch and it worked. Headed back east in the morning on 80 through Utah. At this point we realized the V2R still wasn't over. We were looking for a place to stop and take a little hike to stretch our legs along 80 so we went to the Firehole gorge NRA on the Green river. The whole NRA is crisscrossed with dirt roads and trails so we wound up spending all afternoon driving around there. We did a few things we probably shouldn't have with the car in the condition it was in, but most of the trails were fairly smooth, very smooth by V2R standards. The whole area was beautiful with not many other people on the roads/trails. Saw a lot of elk, some large fish jumping straight up out of the water, and saw a coatimundi crossing the trail right in front
of us. I had told my friend about Dinosaur national monument, at that point we weren't too far away so we drove down to Vernal to spend the night. We noticed the brake lights, fog lights, and dome light had
stopped working too.
Couple pictures at Firehole Gorge:
Hill/mountain we tried to climb there:
Sunday morning we messed with the wiring a bit, eventually my friend figured out the fusible link was blown. We replaced that and everything but the gauge lights worked. There was a brochure in the hotel about an arch just north of town that you can drive to in an ORV or hike the last part. There was a rough wash crossing about a mile from the arch that we decided would be very hard on the car on the way back so we parked at the car parking area and hiked up. Arch was very cool. Then we drove to the DNM visitor center and saw the quarry building. Not as good as I remembered it but definitely unique. I wanted to go back to Harper's corner trail in the middle of DNM, my wife and I had been on it years ago so we headed that way. We were looking for county road 16 off of 40 and I got us off on some dirt trail headed sort of the right way. A while later we were in a wooded wash with a bunch of trails that just kept getting rougher and weren't really going the way we wanted to go. We headed back towards the highway and found some other dirt roads that eventually got us to 16 and we went up to Harper's corner trail. It was just as dramatic as I remembered it, if not better, one of the best hiking trails I've ever been on. We had been debating driving Echo Park / Yampa bench roads to the southeast part of the park, but weren't sure if we'd want to do it with the Subaru and knew we had to make some progress towards home. While we were on the Harper's trail we could see part of the road that went through the bottom of a canyon and I decided we had to try it. We drove down the “dugway” which was just a bunch of switchbacks on a smooth gravel road. We went into Echo canyon, checked out the cave and river, definitely worth the drive. We went to the other overlooks along the Yampa bench road, they were all amazing, certainly by Illinois standards! I think there were a few slightly soft muddy sections along the road. You could have driven it in a normal street car, but it would be a rough and/or slow ride. We saw a badger running down the road right in front of us and some cows in the road. Stayed the night in Walden, still 1000 miles from home.
Arch north of Vernal:
Echo Park / Yampa road as seen from Harper's corner in DNM:
View from Harper's corner:
Looking out of whispering cave:
Looking back on Yampa road, Haystack rock (I think) in the middle:
Monday we got up at 5AM, checked over the car, and went up to 80 for the trip home. We were running later than we'd planned since we'd spent most of Saturday and Sunday trail riding and only progressed about 300 miles east. On the plus side this meant we'd be in a good time and place to see the solar eclipse. When it started we stopped to get gas and put the cameras on the car. I dug out a piece of welding glass so we could look at the sun. Not very dramatic, sky just slowly got darker and then lighter over an hour or two. Could see the headlights on the road but you could see fine without them. It was kind of cool to see the sky dark behind us and light ahead, and then the opposite as the moon moved out of the way. The downside of this is that people from all over the midwest, particularly IA and MN judging by licence plates, had driven to NE to see this, and were then headed back east at the same time we were on 80 and then had to go through Lincoln and Omaha. This caused us a couple hours of delay and I got home just before midnight. My friend drove home from here.
I think given a very well prepared car and good drivers, a team could definitely finish the V2R in a Subaru in the time limit. We had just as much fun trail riding the next two days though, and a lot less wear and
tear on the car and bank account. We might go to the Texana ranch and try that course, but I think this car's days of Nevada desert racing are over.
We have a lot of video from our UP trip, the V2R, and trail riding on the way back. It might be months before I get any of that edited and posted, but it's coming eventually.