Tuesday
Feb232010

Dallas Road Trip 2009

Six intrepid CRMC members in four Miatas set out from Calgary in May 2009 to attend the 20th Anniversary Miataworld meet in Dallas, Texas. Our group included Richard Dear, Gordon Choate, Wendy and Fraser Cutten, and Paul and Helene Cartwright. We had a 4,500 mile round trip planned and with only limited time available decided to spend a fair deal of time on the fast US interstate road system.

We got an early start and, appropriately fortified with coffee, set out south for Billings, Montana our first day and then on to Boulder, Colorado. Boulder was one of the pleasant surprises of the trip, The town had a lot of green space and there is a pedestrian mall in the heart of the old town that has interesting shops and restaurants. I could easily spend several days there on a future road trip.

The next day, we paid a visit to the Red Rocks Amphitheater, a spectacular setting and a place that had hosted many rock legends in live concert. Attending a concert there would be magical and has been added to the “bucket list”.

From Red Rocks, we took the twisties south over the high plains up to 11,000 feet elevation. This was the most scenic drive of the trip. Unfortunately, Gordon’s ECU (engine control unit) did not welcome the change in ambient pressure but it was testament to his engineering and driving skills that he was a able to adjust fuel ratios on the fly and keep up with the rest of us! Our final destination was Roswell New Mexico, a small city, with the main attraction being the UFO museum that is worth a visit.

From Roswell, we continued to Midland Texas, a school friend put us all up and arranged a fantastic behind the scenes tour of the Jim Hall Chaparral Car museum. The Chaparral cars were definitely ahead of their time in aerodynamics and it was an experience not to be missed. 

Midland’s other claim to fame is the CAF - Confederate Air Force (rechristened “Commemorative” by the politically correct Americans). We spent an enjoyable morning there having a look a Mitchell Bombers and one of only two flying B-29 left in the world.

Historic Austin around the Riverwalk and the Alamo is one of the prettiest cities in the USA, we were fortunate to find the Gunter Sheraton hotel at a reasonable price situated five minutes from the Riverwalk.

Two days in Austin was hardly enough time but we had to get to Grapevine on the outskirts of Dallas the next day for the Miataworld event. Well were all made to feel like “21” again when we all got ID’ed at the river walk restaurant and pub. Unfortunately, one of our gang forgot their ID in the hotel and no amount of gray hair would convince the manager to serve us a drink! We finally found an Irish Pub where common sense prevailed.

Austin was our most southerly destination and the road north to Dallas was very pretty with rolling hills and some curves. We even were able to stop at the world famous Cooper’s BBQ for the ultimate meat eaters lunch.

The Gaylord Texan resort was huge even by Texan standards and easily swallowed up the 360 Miata owners that attended the meeting.

Overall, the meet was quite well organized but the recession had thinned out the ranks of the aftermarket vendors on site. Bill Cardell, of Miata tuner "Flyin' Miata" was there with his Corvette engined NB and was offering test drives. My favorite event was the track day at Texas Motor Speedway where we were able to do some laps on the high-banked NASCAR oval.

Dallas is at 3000 feet elevation so the weather in May is very pleasant and identical to Calgary in August, a real bonus for those of us without air-conditioned cars. My other highlight was being able to meet Bob Hall, regarded and the father of the Miata as he convinced Mazda to build the NA.

I am now the proud owner of the trunk signatures of the three most influential Miata personalities, Bob Hall, Takeo Kijima – the chief engineer of the Miata and Tom Matano – the designer of the NA.

We decided to shorten the trip home and did a marathon day from Dallas to Colorado Springs, the local Mounties lived up to their reputation as I got a souvenir from them to remember West Texas!

We decided to drive up Pike's Peak on the famous hill climb route that tops out at 14000 feet. Unfortunately, it was snowing at 10,000 so the rangers closed the road at the tree line. This will also be on the list of things to do if we go back later in the season. Wendy and Fraser left us here as they were visiting family so the other three cars retraced the route via Billings and then on back to Calgary.