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Driving the USA Pro Challenge, Day 5: Rock, row, top down

Driving on US 50 from Salida to Colorado Springs, Colo. during the USA Pro Challenge.

The drive from Salida to Colorado Springs, Colo., is only 100 miles. But the navigation system on my 2014 Lexus IS 350C detailed that it was a 2 1/2-hour drive.

It didn’t make sense because the majority of the route to the start and finish of stage 4 of the USA Pro Challenge was on U.S 50 and then on state route 115.

The reason it took so long is because the roads wind through the Rockies and along the Arkansas River. The roads weave past old towns, rafting rental equipment outfits, general stores and roadside cabins for rent.

Driving the 2014 Lexus IS 350C through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado
Driving the 2014 Lexus IS 350C through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. All images © James Raia/2014.

It was my fifth day driving the Lexus IS 350C, the carmaker’s entry-level retractable hardtop convertible. And after an hour or so on the road, it was time for the some convertible time.

Approaching the small city of Cotopaxi, I noted a cleverly named business, “Rock and Row,” an ideal name for an outfit that rents outdoors equipment. After a late breakfast at the Cotapaxi General Store, I re-packed my luggage from the trunk to the front and back seat of the Lexus IS 350C. The trunk was needed for the convertible top, of course.

A vintage VW bug advertising Pizza Madness in Canon City, Colo.
A vintage VW bug advertising Pizza Madness in Canon City, Colo.

There’s a learning curve for using a retractable hardtop, and it took me a few times to get it right. Since the hardtop has to fit in the trunk, the luggage rack and screen have to fit firmly in dedicated positions in order to the hardtop to detract.

A billboard advertising in Canon CIty, Colo., a few different concepts.
A billboard advertisement  in Canon CIty, Colo., promoting a few different concepts.

After a few mistrials, the top was down, a sunny and warm day unfolded and I was maneuvering through the rock formations without worry. There were rafters and fishermen. I had a new appreciation for the serenity of the mountains.

Amid its beauty, rural Colorado also has its share of broken down ranches, personal junk car yards and signs for taxidermy businesses with large fake examples of the animals they stuff as billboards. And there are always old cars and weird billboard signs. It was a great day for a drive and few laughs along the way.

DRIVING THE USA PRO CHALLENGE, DAY 1

DRIVING THE USA PRO CHALLENGE, DAY 2

DRIVING THE USA PRO CHALLENGE, DAY 3

DRIVING THE USA PRO CHALLENGE, DAY 4

 

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