My Own Pikes Peak Hill Climb

17’ Winnebago
My first trip up Pikes Peak was in 1970, occasionally perched on the engine cover of a 17-ft. long Winnebago, marginally powered by a 300-cubic inch six-cylinder engine on a Ford parcel van chassis.  The toll booth agent pointed out at the at the bottom of the 19-mile road that “only half of this type of vehicle make it to the top,” but my adventurous father said, “Oh, we’ll go for it.”  The last 12 miles, unpaved, were memorable, with washboarded hairpins where the Winnebago would skate toward the unprotected edge, andr the penultimate hairpin at 14,000 ft. where, foot to the floor, chug-chug-chugging along at five miles an hour, at the last second my father pulled out around the cars that were stalled, and we DID make it to the top.

My first DRIVE up Pikes Peak was in 1979, in my mother-in-law’s Buick packed for her move to California, with three of us across the front bench seat.  Loaded, that trip was pretty basic, while basically pretty.

Honda Accord Hybrid
My second DRIVE up Pikes Peak was in 2010, in my father’s Honda Accord Hybrid. Wanting to document the spirited trip for him to enjoy later, I strapped a flip cam on a tripod into the passenger seat. Cloudy and rainy at the top, the drive back down was highlighted by encountering six Chevy Volts arriving at the top, doing real-world testing four months before their official release. I wrote that EV (albeit hybrid) conquest up for the Edmonds.com auto website, and that video had over 8,000 views! (The Accord Hybrid is pictured here with my brother, sister-in-law, and my father.)

My most recent drive up Pikes Peak allowed me to celebrate the acquisition of our Tesla Model 3, climbing to the clouds just days before the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Breezing past the bails of hay along the, now, fully paved roadway, I felt a kindrid spirit with those who would be racing the clock in a few days.  
VW I.D. R racing car on Pikes Peak
It is particularly satisfying knowing that an EV purpose-built by Volkswagen, the I.D. R, set the all-time fastest time for the 12-mile Hill Climb run, just under eight minutes, averaging over 90 mph.  I, too, got to experience the full effect of the electric motor, unhindered by compromised carburation of an internal combustion engine struggling at 14,000, the way we had 48 years earlier in the Winnebago at that very corner, two hairpins from the top, where I encountered the Chevy Volts in 2010.       

I’ve edited together the downhill video of both the 2010 and 2018 drives here:

6 Volts and a favorite hairpin on Pikes Peak


And here’s video of the last three miles of my own cruise to the clouds in the quick and quiet Tesla Model 3, which used 20% of it’s 75 kW battery on the way up, but recaptured almost half of that on the way back down:

Tesla Model 3 Topping Pikes Peak

Peter Lafford


    
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