Torrey by MGB

Jenny and I joined the British Motor Club of Utah for a tour down to Torrey, UT over Memorial Day weekend, 2011. It was our first long drive in the MGB, and we had a really nice trip. Proof that these old cars still have some life in them yet.

Day 1, Saturday: 250 Miles

Memorial Day, the traditional start of the summer season, a great weekend to head into southern Utah for a road trip. So on a beautiful sunny and warm Saturday we headed out...

Okay, it really was 45 degrees and overcast, with rain and maybe snow forecast throughout the weekend. We were headed out with the British Motor Club of Utah for a weekend trip to Torrey, Utah, which is just outside of Capitol Reef National Park. This would be our first road trip in the MGB, and our first time on this annual outing with the club. An MGB doesn’t have lots of space, but we’re used to traveling light. Too light as it turned out, but more on that later.

MGB packed and ready

The group met up in a mall parking lot on the south end of the Salt Lake valley. We were a mix of folks doing the full weekend tour, a few who were along for a day, and some just there for the morning send off. In the truest spirit of adventure one group had tried and failed to get a room reservation, so they packed up their RV, hooked up their MINI, and came along. That’s the spirit!

Getting ready to head off

We’re normally not the most organized club, but tour master Roger Davis provided just enough structure to make the tour safe and functional. We don’t try and keep the group together while we’re traveling, but Roger had set up some nicely planned stops to regroup and make sure that everyone was still running well. Our overdrive-equipped MGB wound up spending most of the time up with the fast group. The first leg was the only interstate section of the day, and included a long stretch of construction through Provo. Traffic was still moving smoothly and we all made it to the first stop with no issues, other than Rob leading David off on a slightly more scenic tour of greater Springville due to a missed exit.

Our next leg was a pleasant run down to Fairview via Rt 6 and Rt 89. The weather was holding nicely and all the cars were running well. The Memorial Day weekend traffic wasn’t too bad, and though cool (yes, we had the top up) the wet weather we’ve been having was nowhere to be seen. Everyone made it to the gas stop in Fairview, and we prepared for the run up the canyon.

Fairview Canyon is a lovely but steep drive, with a summit around 9600 feet. Even in the cool spring air we had some cars getting hot on the way up, but everyone made it to the summit where we enjoyed the view and the crisp air. From there it was down through Huntington Canyon to our lunch stop in Castledale at Big Momma’s. The group would split at Castledale, with some folks looping back up to Salt Lake and the rest continuing on down to Torrey. We had a nice lunch and enjoyed the warm sunshine.

On the pass between Fairview and Huntington Canyons

From Castledale down to Torrey our MGB wound up leading Rob and Nan’s Mini and Pugs and Diane in their Crossfire on a truly stupendous stretch of driving. A bit of cruising from Castledale down to the crossing with I70, then a magnificent run over route 72 through the Fishlake National Forrest. Smooth pavement, flowing curves, great cars, and no traffic -- the sort of day we live for.

We arrived at the hotel to find that the manager was temporarily out, with only the cleaning staff (who spoke no English, and we spoke no Spanish) available. The guy was very helpful, though, and went over to the store next door and got someone to help us out. We got our rooms sorted out and started to get settled in -- which was where we realized that we were sharing the hotel with a group of bikers from the Mongol motorcycle gang who were in town along with a police presence pulled from all over the state. At least we wouldn’t be keeping the other guests up at night.

Soon the rest of the group started to arrive, as did the hotel manager and owner. Rooms were arranged and the serious business of standing around with drink in hand talking cars got started. Various dinner plans were made and the group split off to enjoy the town and the evening.

Day 2, Sunday: 200 Miles

Before I get to the day’s events, I need to explain a bit about the club as we’re not your average car club. We have just two founding principals: we will never have a judged car show, and every drive will include food. That’s it. We have just enough organization to make things happen, but only ever just as much as we need. Sunday was a great example of this philosophy, with nothing officially planned. We wound up joining a group that was heading down Route 12 through Escalante -- one of the best drives in the entire state.

Before we headed south we decided to swing into the park to see a waterfall that Roger had noticed when he was down scouting out the location. The morning started cool (top still up on the MGB) as we headed into Capitol Reef National Park. Visibility out of the MGB isn’t great with the top up, but the scenery was still something to behold. If you’ve never been to the park, you owe it to yourself to add it to your list. Utah has an abundance of parks, and Capitol Reef is my favorite.

After the short walk out to the waterfall we took the top down for the first time on the trip and had a wonderful drive back through the park. There’s nothing like top-down motoring through a narrow canyon. Truly stunning. A quick fuel stop back in town saw us heading down Route 12. I’ve done this route on a couple of different motorcycle trips, and never tire of it. Twisty, steep in places, and finished up on the southern end with the craziest piece of road I’ve ever been on -- one lane in each direction with steep drops on each side, draped over the white rock of Escalante. Marvelous.

The first half of the drive from Torrey to Boulder was chilly and windy, but still lovely. We stopped for a moment in Boulder to regroup and while we were stopped Larry came up and let me know that my muffler seemed quite low. Sure enough, the rear hanger had snapped in half. Out came the tools and bailing wire (yes, I’ve had this happen before on the Sprite so I’m prepared). With Rich's help we had the muffler secured again and ready to go. We also had some help from a local dog who figured that we had stopped just to play with him. Very friendly little guy.

Fixing the exhaust on the roadside

At this point the group split off with half heading on towards Escalante and half heading down the paved portion of the Burr Trail. We joined Kevin and Marie in their Healey 100M and Rich and his friend in his TR250 on the road down to Escalante. The views did not disappoint, though the wind was getting to all of us. When we stopped at a little cafe for lunch (slow, but decent with a great view) the top went back up on the MGB.

On the way back to Torrey we ran into our friends at the restaurant in Boulder, and they let us know that the Burr Trail road was well worth doing. It proved to be a 15 mile stretch of decent pavement through some stunning red rock canyons. Magnificent views, and well worth the diversion. After this side trip it was time to head back to Torrey. We got stuck behind a couple cars that did not understand proper mountain road etiquette -- the Triumph and Healey were able to get around them but the MGB didn’t have quite enough grunt to pass safely in the few short stretches where passing was safe. We relaxed a bit and enjoyed the view at a slower pace.

Stopped for lunch

MGB on the Burr Trail

Southern Utah at its best

Dinner with a view followed, a nice ending to a great if windy day.

Day 3, Monday: 200 Miles

Monday dawned cold but dry. Did I mention it was cold? 38F according to the Weather Channel. Torrey is at 6500’ in elevation, so even though it is further south that elevation does cool things off. Makes it quite lovely in July, but a bit chilly during a cool, damp May.

Cold but ready in the hotel parking lot

The trip home was not going to be a group drive -- some folks would caravan together, and others would make their way home by themselves. Jenny and I are early risers and wound up deciding to head off on our own, trusting to the MGB’s toughness and the fact that we’d be in cell phone/AAA range for most of the drive if we had any issues. So car packed and top up we headed off.

Our route would be the most direct home, 200 miles that included a longer stretch of I15 but would take the least time. The roads were wet in places but otherwise clear and smooth. We saw plenty of snow on the fields next to the road, and were glad of the MGB’s top -- though the draft coming in from the back of the side windows was a bit much during the colder stretches. A strategically placed towel took the edge off the chill as the heater struggled to provide actual heat. We both made mental notes to pack more warm clothes on the next trip. Lots more clothes, in fact. The MGB’s trunk had plenty more space, and some gloves and an extra jacket or sweater would have been welcome.

Snow in the passes, warm-ish in the MGB

We tried to top off the fuel tank in Scipio, but we were thwarted by what we later learned was a wide-spread power outage. Luckily the MGB’s tank gives us plenty of range so we jumped onto I15 for the blast north. The car settled into a comfortable cruise at 3500 RPM (72 mph as per iPhone GPS), plenty fast enough even with the 80mph speed limit on some stretches. No trouble keeping up with traffic, and we were reasonably snug in our little mobile tent. The MGB’s top may not be the simplest to set up but it does do the job.

Other than a nasty stretch of construction-narrowed road through Provo the drive home was uneventful. We rolled into the garage at 11:30 am, after just a touch under 4 hours on the road. The MGB didn’t miss a beat all day, and cruised comfortably even in the unpleasant weather.

What a fun weekend. Sure, the weather could have been better (I’d take a bunch less wind next time) but given the cold wet spring we’ve been having no one was complaining. We put around 650 miles on the car with only our broken muffler bracket to slow us down. I believe that was the worst issue of the group, with a few carb issues as the only other slowdowns. We saw beautiful natural scenery, and drove through some of the more remote areas of the continental United States, all in a 40 year old British sports car with the steering wheel on the other side. We also got to relax and enjoy the company of some fine folks, proof that the old car hobby brings together the best of people.

Home at last, safe and sound