Larry J 1931 Ford Tudor

Pike's Peak or Bust

My wife and I were on our way to the 1995 High Country Tour in Breckenridge, Colorado. We arrived in Colorado Springs in the evening of June 16, 1995 with "Willie" (our 1931 Model A Ford standard Tudor) in tow. The next morning we awoke to cloudy skies and light rain. From the parking lot of the motel, I could see the top of Pike's Peak was completely covered by clouds. Soon the rain began to move out and the sun was trying to break out from behind the clouds. I decided to go over to Pike's Peak to see about driving to the top in Willie since we had never done that in any vehicle. When we arrived in the parking lot at the beginning of the Pike's Peak Highway, the sun was shining brightly. I went into the visitor's shop and talked to a Ranger about going to the top in my 1931 Ford. He was amused when I told him what car we would be driving. "We had a little weather on top and it should blow out of there by the time you get up there" he said. I paid the fee, got my pass and brochures and started up the road in the bright sunshine. I had been advised of water stations along the way to be used in case the radiator lost water from boiling over. At each mile there is a marker with the mile number and elevation. About ten miles up the mountain, I pulled into the water station and there was a local TV mobile unit truck hosing down his brake drums. He asked where we were going and I said to the top. Shaking his head, he said that there was a storm up there and "you can't see your hand in front of your face" - it's a blizzard and the wind is blowing ninety miles an hour. It might blow out by the time you get there he said. Good luck. My water level was fine and off we went in the bright sunshine. We stopped (I think it was at mile 13) and went into the gift/coffee shop to inquire about the weather. We were told that it should be clear by the time we reached the top about seven miles away. We pulled up to the inspection station booth and the ranger said we could proceed to the top. Everything was going fine as we passed the next two mile markers and the sun was still shining bright. Around mile marker 16, we started driving in and out of clouds. With the sun shining on the clouds, it was like driving into high beam headlights on a dark road. At mile 17 we started getting into light freezing rain and snow and by the time we reached 18, sleet and snow were beginning to pile up on the gas tank and against the windshield and back fenders near the running boards. The wind had picked up and it was snowing hard with a high wind and I could not see Willie's radiator cap or anything ahead of me. I rolled down my window and with my head out the window, I started following a tire track on the dirt road since I could not see anything to the right or left as the snow was blowing almost parallel to the ground. I did not see mile marker 19 because of the blowing snow. Meanwhile two dim circles about the size of my little fingernail appeared in my rearview mirror. At this point I was traveling about ten mph with my head still out the window (it was full of snow and sleet by now) and I though I saw a marker between the blowing snow gusts to my left. I eased to a stop to wait for the next opening in the blowing snow. Immediately from the blowing snow an SUV passed me on the right and I could hardly see the driver as it inched by me. As soon as it passed us, it disappeared into the blanket of white. Another vehicle was right behind it and also disappeared into the white curtain. I kept watching for the marker that I thought I had seen when I stopped and between wind gusts I saw the summit marker - elevation 14,110 feet. I still could not see past the radiator cap and snow was now about halfway up on the windshield and piled high on the running board against the rear fenders. Since two cars had passed me on the right and I knew approximately where the marker was on my left, I decided to turn around and head back down since I didn't know what was ahead. I did not want to risk driving off the mountain. I contemplated the U turn and decided to risk getting T-boned. I turned around and headed back down following tire tracks on the dirt road. About two miles down the storm was easing up and as we were getting nearer to the gift/coffee shop where we had stopped going up it was all clear again. All cars coming from the top must stop at the inspection booth and the ranger checks (feels) your brake drums. If they are too hot, he directs you to the parking lot until you are ready to continue. Willie's brake drums were fine since I had been in low gear and finally into second gear as we drove out of the storm. At the check point I said to the ranger, you can't see your hand in front of you face. He said "yea, I closed the mountain just after you left here".

At the bottom of the mountain in the parking lot where we started, I hooked up Willie and headed to Breckenridge. The next morning's headline on section C of the Denver Post read - Olympic Torch Glows In Blizzard. A ceremony to start the 1995 Olympic Festival had been scheduled on Pike's Peak with the lighting of the Olympic torch and runners carrying the Olympic Torch down the mountain into Colorado Springs. Of the 170 people who rode the cog railway to the top, only 30 got out for the ceremony. Some say the torch blew out and some of the runners got frost bite. In 2004 we returned to Colorado for another Model A Ford meet. That time we again drove up Pike's Peak under clear blue skies and paved roads (almost to the top). Returning to the top allowed me to see where I had been in the blizzard. I was able to determine that when I saw the summit marker through the blowing snow, I was within 50 yards of the gift shop on top of Pike's Peak. This time I went in and bought a "I made to the top" magnet that I proudly display on Willie's dash rail. I also have a copy of the Denver post and brochures from the ticket office. There were some other members of the Dallas Model A Ford Club who were going to drive to top in 1995 and after hearing of the weather on top rode the cog railway. They did get off the train and go into the coffee shop while the ceremony was going on. They couldn't believe we drove Willie to the top in that weather. I think I overheard a comment later about someone being crazy. I can't imagine who they were talking about.

Larry and Barbara Jones

Irving, Texas 75061

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