My Mother Road

Sarah and I were charged with retrieving a brand new 4×4 Sprinter van from Mercedes-Benz of Temecula and delivering it to my brother-in-law in Cedar City, Utah, equidistant between the Benz dealer and Jeffie and Kevin’s mountain home in Old Snowmass, Colorado. I drove the Sprinter and Sarah followed in Vanna White. After we dropped the tall Brotwagen off to an eager Kevin in the Beehive State, we got in Vanna and wandered south into Zion National Park. It was there I found my white whale.

I can hear old Vanna whining now: “hey, I resemble those remarks!” Not the Transit. I’m speaking of Kolob Terrace Road, that dances in and out of Zion on its way northward around the reservoir and back toward Cedar City. It’s a road for the ages. The topography ranges from fast, beguiling off-camber sweepers reminiscent of the greatest hits of Scotland or Storrow Drive, on down to five-mile-an-hour switchbacks to make the Stelvio Pass blush. This is the ride I’ve been looking for.

Scenery crossfades from pastoral meadowland to staggering mesas in the span of a three-two gearchange. Watch for errant beef cattle and burros and pensioners choogling along in rented Wanderlodges. Once the road clears and your cams can sing, you’ve got a daring dash that the drivers of long-nosed British GTs awaken from sweaty dreams about. I put the hammer down. The road is mostly empty since the virus is keeping folks away, and any dawdling sightseers graciously give way to our streaking Sedan Delivery. Vanna summons her European heritage, picks up her anti-roll bars and makes deft work of the enchanting tarmac, despite her industrial nameplate, much to the hand-wringing of Sarah. My respect for this athletic little Spanish-built truck is again renewed. A commercial vehicle has no right having a bit of a steer as smartly as the Transit Connect does. It is predictable yet engaging, even with no weight in the back, dancing its estampie over the broken tarmac like it was built for Imola rather than industry. The howl of its dual overhead cams on a long, high-altitude pull through third gear will have to do as a substitute for an Alfa Romeo’s aria. And she could do this with a Hammond B-3 in the hold.

There’s even a bit of a dirt rally as we explore the possibility of camping the night, but COVID has got the site roped off. Back down the way we came, snapping through the gears with a gasping woman to my right, I know the road now and surely set a world’s record for traversal of the span in a van. Man, it’s a hoot. Go to Zion and see what I’m talking about, whether you drive an Aston or an Accord, a Veyron or a van. The old craftsmen like to go on about The Right Tool for the Job. Yes, a lithe Lotus Seven or twelve-cylinder Ferrari would be a better car here, but the old racers have a saying too: run what you brung. Just give way to Vanna.

Author: Bunny Butler

I'm the last of the good old-fashioned steam-powered trains.