2013 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet: Road Trip to New York, Will Day 1 Never End?
April 10, 2013
If you didn't read Part 1 of this 2013 Porsche 911 Goes to New York series, let me catch you up: It is 8:49 p.m. mountain time and I am 568 miles into a 973-mile drive from L.A. to Salida, Colorado. I'm in eastern Utah and I'm convinced that the 911's 3:10 a.m. (adjusted for mountain time) arrival estimate is way off. At least that's what I tell myself.
Eventually, I arrive in Grand Junction, Colorado, and exit Interstate 70 in favor of the far more scenic U.S. Highway 50. I know it's very scenic, because I've read about this highway, and occasionally during this drive, I catch sight of some really tall snow-covered mountains when the moon hits them just right. I can't believe how many Fourteeners this state has. In California, we have five (my favorite being Mt. Shasta). In Colorado, they have 25. The reality, though, is that it is completely dark, and I totally miss out on some cathartic moments as I'm unable to take in the magnificence. (Already I'm lobbying my spouse for a road trip on U.S. 50 this summer. He'll come around.)
Also, it doesn't take long to understand why the Porsche's nav system has decided it will take me so long to get to Salida. First, there are a lot of speed traps. Getting through Grand Junction alone takes at least a half hour, as U.S. 50 is a major surface street here, and littered with traffic lights and low speed limits. It's maddening for the hurried traveler (tip: don't be in a hurry). Second, within an hour or two, I'm aware that we're gaining elevation. It has started to snow and the temperature is dropping fast.
This is also about when U.S. 50 gets really remote and quite twisty. It would be great fun in drier, milder weather with the 911's standard-issue summer tires, especially since the 3.4-liter boxer six-cylinder is barely fazed by the increasing altitude. I notice I'm carrying a few more revs, yes, but it still feels very potent.
But right now there's a layer of snow on the road and it's about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I turn off my Baseball Tonight podcast and focus on driving well. The 235/40R19 (front) and 285/30R19 (rear) Pirelli Sottozero Serie II snow tires we put on prove their worth here. There's plenty of grip, and the only time I need to do any extra steering is when I hit a patch of straight-up ice. Which happens a few times like I figured it would. Overall, though, I feel confident and relaxed, or as relaxed as you can be on a narrow, slippery mountain road where no one would find me for days if I went off.
The real challenge of the night, though, comes right before I get to Salida. I think I've heard of Monarch Pass, but until now, I really had no idea it was 11,312 feet at its summit. Also, it is -1 degrees F. at the summit, and on this evening, chains are required on all commercial vehicles driving the pass. But there's no such restriction for passenger cars, so off we go.
Soon, I encounter a plow and decide to pass in what I believe is the passing lane. Honestly, it's hard to see the lines, and for most of this stretch of U.S. 50, I'm just guessing at where my lane should be and assuming drivers coming the opposite way will do the same. I pass four more plows headed west before I arrive in Salida, which is at the bottom of the pass. The 911 does fine here, too, even at the summit, as its snow tires track nicely through the layer of snow that wants to freeze as soon as it hits the ground. I'm being careful, of course, keeping my pedal and steering inputs as smooth as smooth can be.
I really want to stop at take pictures when I catch sight of the Monarch summit marker signs. But it's dark and slick, and with only two driven wheels on our 911, I'm afraid of getting stuck in snow piled up on the shoulder. Nor would I like to get hit by another car distracted by the sight of a 991-generation 911 convertible on the side of the road. So I have no great photos of this adventure, which is all the more reason to repeat the drive this summer.
Apart from the effective winter tires, our 2013 911 Carrera Cabriolet's adaptive bi-xenon headlights really make the evening for me. They are bright with a nice, even spread of light even on the low-beam settings. The high-beams are great, too, especially during the portions of U.S. 50, where I drive for 20 minutes without seeing another car. I use them to help me figure what line to take through the turns.
Finally, I arrive at the Super 8 approximately 16 hours after I left my house in L.A. The nav system was right. It's about 3 a.m. It's so late the night desk clerk taped my key packed to the office door. I don't think I'll make breakfast.
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 4,576 miles