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Rush’s Trip to Road America

ROAD TRIP

by Rush Pond

Just saying those words out loud is enough to make lots of people giddy with excitement. Now add in a few modifiers like, PCA, Road America, HPDE, Friends, and you might just shout, “SIGN ME UP!”  Well that’s what I did last year.

Each year Niagara Region PCA does a “Road Trip”. This is a trip to an HPDE at a track that is not typically traveled to due to its geographical location. Well last year the Road Trip was to Elkhart Lake Wisconsin, home of the famous Road America (RA) road course. The trip was set for Labor Day weekend. The HPDE was actually a 4 day event that was being done congruently with a PCA Club Race. As impossible as this might seem, Chicago Region pulled it off flawlessly.  We all got plenty of track time and all the Club Racing went on without a hitch.  Pretty impressive.

RA is a special place for me. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and have fond memories of going to the CanAm races there with my Dad, and brothers. Later I would go there with friends from college. And later, when I got my 914-6 and joined PCA, I learned about track driving at RA. It became my “home” track. It had been a long time since I’d driven at RA so I was pumped!  Since I had driven RA many times in the past, the others in our group were kinda looking to me for advice. My advice was, “Don’t drive too fast, too fast”. That became our “mantra” for the weekend.

We were a group of seven, two of which were also Club Racers. Everyone, except for me, trailered their cars out to Road America. It was a long 15 hour trip for me. I got to the track just in time for final Tech Inspection at 6:40 pm the night before the event. (PHEW, that first beer sure tasted good!)  We rented a (VRBO) house in New Holstein for the weekend and commuted to the track.

This was considered an Advanced HPDE meaning you had to be approved as being an advanced DE driver in order to be considered for the event. Local instructors were available to show you the way around the course if you wanted a little help. But basically, we were on our own to learn how to drive the track safely.  The HPDE was held in conjunction with the PCA Club Race and spanned the full 4-days of Labor Day weekend. The weather was good (most of the time) and we learned the track quickly. We followed each other and paid attention to the lines the locals were driving. RA is a WONDERFUL track. It has every kind of challenge a road course could offer and it is huge. The course itself is over 4 miles long with 14 turns and lots of elevation changes. The track surface is smooth and well maintained. The Chicago Region members were very accommodating and friendly. The bratwurst is the best – period. We even had bratwurst breakfast sandwiches. Oh Baby!!! In the evening we dined at local restaurants and resorts which were excellent. PCA put on a great buffet on Saturday night at Seibkins Resort.

On Friday night we happened to find a shop in the Village of Elkhart Lake called The Throttle Stop. The shop had closed for the day but as we peered into the windows we could not believe our eyes. It was like looking into a museum full of exotic cars and motorcycles. We went back the next day when they were open and discovered that everything was for sale! We’re talking Porsches, BMWs, Vipers, Fords, a ’57 Corvette, Mercedes, Camaros, Jags and racks and racks of all types of motorcycles. They were all perfect and they were all for sale! (See photos) It was unbelievable that a company with all these amazing cars and motorcycles was nestled into a side street in this little Village of Elkhart Lake. What a treat for us!  Check them out at   www.thethrottlestop.com

Well we had perfect weather for 3 days. Since everyone else was pulling trailers they left on Monday morning (Labor Day) in order to get through Chicago before the holiday traffic got too bad. I elected to stay Monday and drive one or two sessions. But just as I was about to enter the track it began to rain. My rear tires were quite worn and I didn’t want to push my luck on the track so I bailed out.  My plan all along was to drive 40 minutes over to Manitowoc, WI and catch the SS Badger Car Ferry over to Ludington, MI.  Not being in a big hurry to get home and not wanting to deal with the traffic between Wisconsin and Chicago on Labor Day – my plan was to take the ferry across Lake Michigan to Ludington. It was delightful. The trip across the lake took 4 hours and was very relaxing. There was a restaurant, a bar, a (free) movie theater, a little museum, and plenty of room to move around and to sit or take a nap.  And the before you know – you’re in Michigan. I drove a few more hours, overnighted in Flint and then continued on home the next day via Canada.  A great Road Trip with a great bunch of guys.

This year the Road Trip is to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They have a road course in the infield of the main track which utilizes the front straight of the speedway.  Sounds like fun to me. I’m going and will file a trip report after I get back.