The winner of the TCL poll from a couple months ago was the STI for this Rockies trip, and that's what I ended up with. It definitely worked out quite well and I even received a few waves from fellow STI owners. The Turo experience was pretty straightforward as long as the owner is on top of things and responds quickly (which mine did).
Here's the route I did over 3 days (Tuesday - Thursday):
Flew over Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam.
Landed in Denver, then got a shuttle to the FINE parking lot (name still makes me chuckle) and walked towards the lobby. Their indoor parking is pretty large and includes Tesla charging stations.
Upon inspecting the car, I noticed the plate didn't match what was shown on the app. This will become important later. Took some general photos to document the car's condition and uploaded to the app. Car had 66k miles on it which is quite healthy for a 2016 model and the clutch was recently replaced (wonder why? ).
Not sure how someone broke this but it made an annoying rattle unless I kept my elbow on it.
Normally I'd check all fluids if I were going on a road trip myself but trusted the owner that it was taken care of and I didn't run into any issues.
Unfortunately the car still had winter tires (Yokohama BluEarth) and it felt a little loose when I got on it a bit on the first sweeping onramp. I eventually got used to it and I know the weather can be unpredictable, but since I didn't experience any inclement weather, grippier tires would've been nice.
On my way to the hotel in Alamosa, stopped for a late lunch in Pueblo, then saw some interesting sites in Walsenburg. I'm sure Mr. Stanley is hilarious...
...but is he as entertaining as this smorgasbord of machinery?
I should've taken a close-up photo of the FS sign but I was too confused about what was going on. I bet it handles like a dream though.
Back on the road where I was treated to a nice sunset.
Did not expect to see an R8 at the hotel, but it was cool nonetheless. Less cool was waking up to its cold start at 7:34 am the next morning. The flight wasn't too long but I was delayed an hour and had 250 miles to drive, so I wasn't exactly "fresh" when I got there.
On Wednesday I headed towards Durango for lunch, but stopped at one of the scenic overlooks on Highway 160. The actual entrance was blocked for vehicle access but walked over for a shot.
Hey numbnuts, throw away your ****ing beer cans!
Stopped for lemonade in Pagosa Springs and got a solid dose of sulfur from the hot springs.
Found a little restaurant in Durango for lunch and got there 20 minutes before they closed for the afternoon. Sat at the bar where one of the waitresses caught my attention. After I was done with my mixed green salad and ginger-chicken potstickers glazed with hoisin sauce, I stalled for a few minutes to let other patrons leave the joint. Then I told Ashley the bartender I'm a photographer from LA and showed her this photo of Herb from my Arizona road trip for some credibility, explaining I'm trying to photograph bartenders and interesting people on my travels.
Then I just asked if she and anyone else would mind if I took their photo. She had no problems with it and immediately said "I bet Hannah would be interested." I didn't know which one was Hannah, but I had my suspicions.
Since I wanted an action shot, Ashley made a drink and poured a ton of alcohol in there. We did more photos after this one and she just kept pouring more and more vodka. I really hope she shared that drink with a few people as it was strong! And yes, that's an avocado tattoo on her right bicep.
Then moved outside to the patio with better lighting for Hannah. Even though the place was closed, she still had to help clean up so this was slightly rushed but glad it worked out.
Best way to make someone smile is tell them to be "super serious."
And a final one inside. Not too happy with this as her eyes aren't in focus.
Then it was time to enjoy the Million Dollar Highway towards my next hotel in Montrose. Stopped by Haviland Lake.
At this point my bladder was ready to explode since I drank so much damn water stalling at the restaurant. Drove by Silverpick Lodge and entered Sow's Ear where I decided to hang out for a bit. They were playing the Soon It Will Be Cold Enough album by Emancipator which I was just listening to on the way there. Started talking with the waitress who was really helpful and gave me tips on scenic locations/roads, and well my previous lunch wasn't that substantial, so went ahead and ordered a filet and enjoyed the view.
Back on the road and really enjoyed seeing the storms off in the distance.
Lack of any traffic wasn't too shabby either.
Many parts of the road were pretty unforgiving. I guess this is why the car still has winter tires.
Someone needs to restart the system.
The waitress from Sow's Ear highly recommended taking photos of the town of Ouray known as "The Switzerland of America."
I'm guessing it's due to its resemblance to Lauterbrunnen?
I started to head towards the hotel and figured I'd wait till it got dark, then head back for a night shot. But it had already been a long day and decided to just chill in the car for a while. Then I took this 550-second exposure in honor of the highway.
It was a full moon a few nights before this so too much light pollution to see the Milky Way, but still saw some meteors. Being at 8,000 ft doesn't hurt either.
Packed up my gear and headed down the hill. As I left Ouray and drove towards Ridgway, I noticed the speed limit went from 60 down to 45 mph. Figuring this might be a speed trap, I made sure to reduce my speed to around 40. Didn't matter, because I got caught going 68 in the 60 zone.
After explaining what I was doing and not being from around here (like that matters, haha), I got off with a warning. The cop didn't know what Turo was so after I explained it to him, he's like "so it's like Airbnb, except for cars?" Yyyyyyyeah...yeah, whatever helps us build some rapport. Then he told me the license plate didn't show up in the system and the tags are expired. Told me to tell the owner to get his **** together and after thanking him for letting me know he recently saw bears crossing the road and to be careful, I was on my way again towards another free night at Hampton Inn (because points).
The next morning I got on Highway 50 towards Gunnison. Milder elevation change but still very scenic with sweeping curves and good asphalt. I came upon 2 SUVs and was waiting for a good moment to pass. As the road turned left, I noticed a little red Porsche in front of them. The SUVs exited and I quickly caught up to what I could now see was a 912. Kevin was wearing a t-shirt and driving with both windows down and his left hand holding the roof. Seemed like he was just out for a leisurely drive on a pleasant Spring morning. I stayed behind him for a couple miles and admired the view, then gave him a solid thumbs up as I drove by him in a passing lane. He acknowledged the interest and off I went.
Then a crazy idea popped into my head: I should try to get a panning shot of him as he drives by. He seems cool, he won't mind, right?
So I pop the car into Sport Sharp mode and start gaining separation, aided by the uphill portion of the road where the STI had no problems. Then I get stuck behind not 1, but 2 RVs and by the time I found a turnout, parked, popped the trunk, and got my camera out, Kevin whizzed by me, giving me a honk and a wave. At this point we're like best friends.
Hop back into the car and after passing a very slow Cherokee and the 2 RVs that Kevin had also passed, I was back on his tail. Now an even crazier idea pops into my head: I should just straight up ask him if I can take photos of his car. And so I did.
Rolled the window down, asked nicely, showed him my camera the same way a gangsta shows off his gun, and he agreed. Pulled off next to the river, chatted for a bit where he told me it's a '68 (IIRC) and while it's in decent shape, it needs some TLC. He had to jump start it in the morning and kept it running while I was taking photos. The thing was idling all over the place too. Gave him a business car and hope he gets in touch so I can send these to him. He was really cool about it and excited that someone recognized and appreciated the car.
Arrived in Gunnison and had lunch at Firebrand.
Then went through Monarch Pass.
Back down in the valley where the clouds continued to be awesome.
Stopped by Roark Creek.
And finally after dropping the car off, asked my friend to pull over on E 56th Ave. so I could take one final photo to end the trip. After going through a rough patch recently, being on the open road is exactly what I needed.