Rennsport V Roadtrip by RRR Members
By Rick Dobel and Anna Fuller
It has happened four times previous and with each version, the legend grows. The latest version of Rennsport Reunion “V” was the greatest yet! Rennsport Reunion began as a dream of the late Bob Carlson in 2001 at Lime Rock. After the versions in the east side of the USA, Rennsport IV moved to Monterey California and specifically, Laguna Seca Raceway. After a modest attendance at the first three Rennsports, Rennsport IV grew to an attendance of approximately 12,000 and Rennsport V saw almost 60,000 Porsche enthusiasts invade the Monterey area, with a virtual overload of Porsche everything.
The journey began with 4 Red River PCA couples departing Winnipeg, Friday September 18th, for a cross country drive to the Pacific Coast in their favourite Porsche. Rick & Lorrie Dobel and Vic & Linda Enns had previously attended Rennsport and managed to convince Paul & Sue Thiessen and Peter & Anna Fuller to come check it out. There was not much convincing needed!
The departure saw the usual gaffs such as forgetting passports, and cell phones etc, but finally, the convoy was underway towards south western Manitoba and our evening stop in Montana.
The objective was to see as many great sites and twisty roads as possible on our route, plot our course through wine country and enjoy the special characteristics of our Porsche vehicles. Day one proved to be a great day to shake off the dust and get a feel for the trip, and the group made it to the western edge of Montana in an effort to take advantage of as much daylight as possible for the scenery to follow on Day 2. We followed highway 2 across Montana through Glacier National Park and the famous “Road to the Sun”. The mountain foothill scenery provided for an amazing backdrop to the beginning of some great uninhabited roads. Montana is not a traditional tourist location, but the visual stimulation is among the best in North America, and the roads provide for the excitement that only a Porsche can create. Very early on the group decided that our mantra was that speed limits posted were “merely suggestions”!
We concluded the day in Kennewick Washington, which is located at the start of the Columbia River and the famous Columbia Valley Gorge. Our chosen route took us along the north side of the Gorge, as highway 14 certainly has more curves and hills. I didn’t think any of us had expected to encounter so many vineyards in Washington. Washington is historically known for some tasteful wines and our route took us through the heart of the region.
The Gorge region is virtually a mini Grand Canyon with steep banked slopes and numerous waterfalls. None of us had been through the area before and the views were truly spectacular. Mt. Hood was visible in the horizon for virtually half our day.
We jumped across the Columbia Gorge into Oregon at Portland and made a straight shot to the coast.
The feeling is always the same, once you arrive through trees and hills, and first lay your eyes on the ocean. Seeing the sun glistening on the vastness of water and watch the sun sink into the sea, provides a huge sense of awe and relaxation.
Timing could not have been more perfect as the skies were clear, the sun was out, not a drop of rain as we enjoyed another several hours of driving right along the coast through quaint Oregon villages, with the sun setting to our right and the wind in our hair!
We had pre-booked rooms along the way with Paul & Sue setting out our destinations for each night. We left Crescent City quite early because today was the day we drove the “Redwoods”.
Everyone has seen pictures of these magnificent trees but driving “The Avenue Of The Giants” for a hundred miles, on perfect asphalt through a maze of eight foot diameter evergreens is quite an experience. They just don’t look real. Sadly, after a full day of exposure to these magnificent trees, they seem so common as if they are everywhere.
Highway 101 in Northern California heads further inland and our desire to stay in the coast required us to turn into the beginning of California Highway 1 at Legget California. We knew from the maps, this road was twisty, but had no idea what lay in store. Thirty one miles of 200 degree switch backs on narrow two lane asphalt through massive redwoods and almost no traffic, except the occasional truck that needed both lanes around corners.
Needless to say the pace quickened, as the driver’s grins grew and the passengers nerves and stomachs began to unsettle. There was both dismay and joy at the conclusion of those thirty one miles, which now is etched in the “bucket list” of roads to drive for some of us!
The drive along California 1 is unparallel. Mile upon mile of curvy blacktop. We stopped in Fort Bragg to see the famous “glass beach” developed by years of indiscriminate dumping of waste, and specifically glass bottles. The waste has been cleaned up, but years of pounding surf, has shaped pieces of glass into smooth colored beads of every variety. The entire stretch of beach of approximately ten kilometres is all glass beads!
We arrived in our next destination to prepare for a couple of days of sampling some of California’s better agricultural products. Sonoma is very famous for its excellent wines and quaint surroundings. Paul had arranged some winery tours for the day, which saw us all enjoying the nectar of the grape and a bit of down time from driving. We spent the first part of the day visiting Stonestreet Winery, sipping wine and enjoying a spectacular view of the valley. In the afternoon we took a tour of the Benziger Family Winery which boasts an amazing location in the Sonoma hills. There we sampled more fine wines, learned about micro-climates, biodynamic farming (a step above “organic”) and the wine making process.
Our next stop was down the coast to San Francisco. We arrived mid afternoon, found a parking spot to provide our steeds with rest, and began our whirlwind sightseeing tour. We spent the evening at the waterfront and Fisherman’s Wharf and had made a decision to hire a driver and vehicle to tour us through San Francisco’s sights and sounds. Our guide was excellent, as we covered the entire city and then dropped us for the ferry to Alcatraz. We embarked for an evening tour and were all truly amazed at the history, and actually walking through this famous prison, which has been the backdrop for countless movies. We ended the day having our driver take us to Sausalito for an evening of fine dining at Scoma’s, which sits on a pier over the bay. Once driving around San Francisco, as a Porsche driver, it is now very clear as to the benefits of PDK and not having to look like an octopus with a drum kit dealing with clutch, steering wheel, gear shift, and hand brake all simultaneously!
Today was the day we arrive at Meca. Monterey was now insight and with each mile we traveled, more and more Porsche’s invaded the roads. Literally ever third car was a Porsche. We all felt like one of those bobble head dogs, with our necks straining in every direction to view the eye candy.
Anna had secured special assigned parking at Laguna Seca in one of the more than twenty specific model and production series parking lots. Never had we seen so many Porsche’s in one place. It took several hours just to walk through the parking lots and absorb all of the models, colours and variations.
The gates opened at 8:00 a.m., however, previous experience dictated we had better be there earlier, as the best souvenirs and posters disappear by noon. There was no difficulty waking anyone up as the enthusiasm kept some from sleeping. We arrived at 7:00 a.m., and sprinted to the souvenir stand as we took turns waiting in line.
By now, many of you will have read numerous details regarding Rennsport Reunion V and seen pictures about the cars, the drivers, the races, and the facility. Every Porsche influenced magazine has covered the event, and having read them all, they still do not do justice as to being there.
If you like Porsche’s, this is the single event that is the pinnacle of all things Porsche. Even the factory museum in Stuttgart does not compare to Rennsport. Imagine, any historic Porsche ever built. All of them in one place. All of them for you to touch and even sit in. All of them with the drivers that made them great, and all of them in full use, giving it their all. It is a car event unlike any other. No manufacturer or collector or organization has ever, ever come close to such a display.
This Rennsport theme was “Le Mans winners”. Porsche has now won seventeen Le Mans races. Imagine, all seventeen Le Mans winning cars available and every living driver that won those races!
We had several of our group that could not stop vibrating the entire time, nor resist buying every possible souvenir available. The Rennsport experience is one that none of us will ever miss.
Bob Carlson’s dream has certainly gained traction with attendance up now to 60,000 people, and the next Rennsport certain to eclipse those numbers. Unfortunately, we have to wait for the next four years to pass.
Exhausted and having walked numerous miles at Laguna, we now prepare to split our convoy with couples heading in opposite directions. The Dobel’s and Fuller’s were destined for Escape in the Black Hills and the Thiessen’s to San Diego and The Enns’ to Phoenix. After touching our feet in the ocean, we said our goodbyes and best wishes for a safe drive and headed our separate ways.
Our smaller convoy of two, now headed to Yosemite National Park, truly another must see with its pristine pine forests and amazing rock formations. We spent the day touring the park, jumping in and out of the cars at every photo opportunity. We arrived at Mammoth Lake for the evening during a quiet “off-season” time for this normally bustling ski town. The elevation at all of these alpine destinations, certainly alleviate any sleeping issues, as bed time came early.
If you check the map, getting from the Mammoth lakes east provides several opportunities and the one that provided the most excitement was Death Valley. The name alone makes you wonder if you should even be within a hundred miles, let alone in a car that most definitely does not have a supporting repair center nearby. We forged ahead through the vastness of desert, through the hottest spot in North America. You’d almost think you were on another planet, as the Porsche’s ripped along, unfaltered, onward past Las Vegas to our evening destination, Zion National Park.
We arrived earlier than anticipated, which greatly aided our scheduling problems. We needed to get from Zion, Utah to Vail, Colorado and see Antelope Canyon, Monuments National Park and do the “Million Dollar Highway”. We checked in and threw our bags in the room and proceeded to do an abbreviated tour of Zion. Zion is quite unique in that it is a northern escarpment of the Grand Canyon. It is a combination of granite cliffs and sandstone bluffs that have created a truly unique visual experience. The principal roadway winds its way through Zion with some unbelievable switchbacks and breath taking views. The later stretch of roadway travels through topography that actually looks like it was created for an amusement park. We decided to treat Peter & Anna to a little known hiking trail that hangs precariously along some smaller cliffs, but eventually ends atop a 3000 foot cliff overlooking Zion’s main valley. This hike can help anyone overcome their fear of heights.
With Zion out of the way the night before, we let the Porsche’s breathe on the way to Page, AZ. Page is a small town with great sites. Lake Powell is at Page and is the start of the Grand Canyon and the Great Condor. Horseshoe Bend is a well photographed landmark that can be hiked to in fifteen minutes, but our target was Lower Antelope Canyon, just east of Page and we wanted to be there near daybreak. Antelope is a slot canyon forged by flash floods eroding the sandstone in a fifty foot deep crevasse in the middle of the desert. When the sun reaches specific points in the sky, the walls of this canyon are illuminated in spectacular spectrum of light that further enhance what the waters have carved. We had a terrific Navajo guide, Brittany, whose experience down in the crevasse, provided invaluable for our picture memories. As many times as you can go to Antelope, it is always sensational.
We concluded our tour and let the Porsche’s take us across the vast mesas of Navajo country in Northern Arizona, our next destination, one of the most awe-inspiring high elevation roads in the world. The road is aptly numbered 550, perhaps a tribute to one of Porsche’s best road cars and stretches from Durango Colorado to Ouray, also known as Little Switzerland, due to its resemblance to a Swiss Alpine Village. The road is eighty two miles long at an average elevation of 10,000 feet above sea level, with hundreds of turns and no guard rails (to aid snow clearing). Seems again we hit the timing right as the mountains were vibrant with full fall colors. The frost had not yet shaken the leaves off the aspens and we enjoyed mile after mile of spectacular colours.
We made it to Vail late that night and relaxed in the knowledge we had completed our days objective and without issue, albeit, a long day.
We woke to a frosty but sunny day knowing we had a leisurely day of travel to Rapid City South Dakota, site of this year’s PCA Escape. We planned another course through twisty mountain roads and quaint towns as well as a route to bypass Denver. Our route from Vail took us through Niederlander Estes Park and Cheyenne Wyoming into the Southern Black Hills.
Our adventure was not just an excursion to the most incredible Porsche event ever, but a chance to thoroughly enjoy what Porsche has created on some of the most inspiring roads in North America. Spectacular scenery, spectacular roads, spectacular autos and spectacular companionship. We’re all committed to doing it again, four years from now!