And so I’m back from outer space

I'm not really back from outer space, just the top of Pikes Peak which is approximately 14,000 feet (4340 meters) higher than my underground lair in Minnesota. Needless to say, I got very little programming done while curled up in the fetal position gasping for air. To make matters worse, I barely had access to a computer all weekend. I couldn't check my email, or chat on IRC, or anything that makes life worth living.

I have a friend named Scott Putnam who is a car salesman. He sells Subarus, and has a website called Somehow he became convinced that I was the man to bring his website out of the early nineties and into this century. Taking over a website dug up from the dawn of the internet is like getting into a land war in Asia. I worked on a little at a time, chipping away at the Frontpage rendered html like a prisoner marking days in a windowless cell. Eventually Scott and Al Kintigh put together a new server running NetBSD, so I learned how to administer NetBSD by thoroughly breaking it and putting it back together.

The new NEW version of is still not finished, but as an intermediate reward, Scott flew me to Colorado for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC). My dad is continually suprised by my ability to travel while only partially employed, but he doesn't know about the weeks that I spent beating my head against that server getting everything working. For the most part I earned it.

In preparation for the trip I bought a used Canon D30 digital camera. This was a major purchase and I'm still nervous about it, one week and 2000 photos later. Don't get me wrong, it is a terrific camera, and absolutely worth the money, but there are a lot of other things on which I could have spent that money. Hookers and beer come to mind.

On the Tuesday before the PPIHC I washed clothes. I dug into the cache of dirty laundry that I conveniently keep close to my bed and found several loads of clothing to wash. Socks, underwear, pants and shirts all went into the washing machine in a big jumble of whites, darks and light colors. Three loads later and I had harvested almost enough clothing to fill my duffle bag. I tend to triple count my items of clothing, and I always have spares, especially when attending a rally.

Since it wasn't an early flight I wasn't in a big hurry. I chatted online while the last load tumbled in the dryer and a thunderstorm raged outside. At around two AM I went to retrieve that last load of clothing. I was greeted by squishy wet carpet. A stream of curses escaped my lips as I gathered up everything that I had laid out mere inches from the advancing water. I picked up the spare blankets and throw rugs and did my best to clear out anything in immediate danger of drowning. After an hour or two I woke up my roommate Kory and told him through his closed door that there was water in the basement. He responded by answering the phone.

After giving him a guided tour of the new wetlands I set up some fans and sent him back to bed. I finished packing and fell asleep on the loveseat. By that point the sun was coming up and the birds were chirping their “ha ha you haven't gone to bed yet you sorry bastard” song. I closed my eyes and woke up two or three hours later to find my ride to the airport asking me why I had slept on the loveseat. I wiped the sleep out of my eyes and the drool off of my cheek and asked her what day it was.

A quick shower and ride to the airport later I was seated next to two members of the Rally America staff in the next to last row of a very warm plane. Kristi and Heidi were busy planning something, so after reading the flight safety card I closed my eyes and woke up in Colorado.

The first thing that you notice when you land at the Denver International Airport is the massive teepee-shaped driving range. I'm not a big fan of golf, but anything of that scale is quite impressive. Inside we found famed America rally photographer Morgan Segal and a long line at Hertz. Morgan waited in line while my travel companions expertly mocked the clothing of passers by. I tried to join in, but lack of proper sleep had disabled most of the higher functions of my brain. I was reduced to the level of early humans - simply grunting and throwing poo to show dissatisfaction.

At some point we climbed into a gold Ford Taurus and headed down E470 to Colorado Springs. There isn't much to see on E470, so I closed my eyes “real quick” and woke up on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. I apologized for snoring and looked eagerly for mountains. I had been on the ground for almost two hours in Colorado and I still hadn't seen any mountains. It was too dark and too cloudy to see anything.

Morgan and I were sharing a room for the weekend. The room only had a king-size bed, so I claimed the infinitely more comfortable couch as mine and refused to pull it out into a second bed. Morgan settled for the overly soft bed. Before we could make use of our sleeping arrangements we had to check in with Scott Putnam and Doug Havir of CPD Racing.

Morgan and I got a little lost on the way to the Heuberger Subaru dealership. We started a pattern of U-Turning that would haunt us all weekend. I blamed the poor maps from Hertz and Mapblast, but I think that Morgan blamed me. After much shuffling of matchbook sized maps we figured out where we were and turned off of a dimly lit sid street into sudden artificial daylight.

At night the strip of dealerships in Colorado Springs feature more lighting than a dozen minor-league baseball stadiums. The lots stretch off into the distance in a haze of exhaust and new car smell. Multi-level parking ramps raise new and used cars into the sky by the thousands. Bunting hangs from every pole and balloons fly on hundred foot streamers. Add in a little more neon and some dancing girls and it could be Vegas.

Some of the CPD Racing crew was at the dealership working on the team's yellow subaru. The car had a massive new 2.8 liter engine with a giant new turbo, but it refused to make the kind of crazy boost that it should have been making. Instead, it generated 22 pounds of backpressure and only 5 pounds of boost, which is sort of like trying to swim in a bathrobe with bricks in the pockets. We left the crew to sweat out the whys and wherefors, since the morning would come very early for us.

I awoke with a start to find Morgan staggering around the room and muttering to himself. It was four-thirty in the morning, and we had to be on the mountain in an hour. Morgan and I piled into the car and headed out. 5AM found us hurtling through the fog on our way up the mountain. The start line was packed with people. Open-wheeled cars were being pushed by small crews of mechanics and wives as drivers belted themselves in and psyched themselves up for their practice run up the mountain.

The morning was cool and misty, with a thick fog wrapping everything in soft focus. Open exhausts bellowed and screamed as car after car left the line at the direction of a skilled flagger. I tried out my new long lens on the last of the open-wheeled cars and the two semis with mixed success - I was certainly documenting the fog well. Before long, that run group was finished, and it was time for the SCCA rally drivers to strut their stuff.

Morgan and I walked up the Pikes Peak Highway about half a mile while the previous run groups came back down the mountain. Morgan claimed a nice downhill sweeping right into a sweeping left. I went around the next corner and the muountain smacked me in the face. The fog had cleared and I had found a break in the trees. Finally, I saw the mountain that I had been expecting, and it was breathtaking. Verdant foothills rose to a umber peaks - streaked with snow and draped with misty clouds.

I hollered back to Morgan, but he was too far to hear me. I marched on to where I thought that I could get a better idea of the upcoming turns. I got into place just in time for a red and silver Mitsubishi to rocket past and howl its way around the corner. I snapped pictures as I could. The new camera was simultaneously simple and complex and it seemed all I could do to snap one or two shots as the rally cars screamed past.

Next: practice wrap-up, vertigo, dizziness, and day two.

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