Recently we had the privilege of participating in the Sun Valley Tour de Force, in Sun Valley, Idaho. The SVTdF is a wonderful event which raises money for a great charity, The Hunger Coalition, and helps a large number of people in need. The SVTdF is in its 6th year and is a three day event which runs Thursday – Saturday, capping off on Saturday with a “No Speed Limit”, closed road, runs followed by a gala dinner and charity auction that night. We decided to take the three day event and turn it into a weeklong road trip in which we covered just over 2,000 miles in the McLaren 765LT Spider. The following article is part I of IV and covers the first part of the road trip. Part II will be on the Sun Valley Tour de Force, Part III is the road trip back, and Mrs. SSO will be posting Part IV on the hotels we stayed at.
Day I – From Sun Valley back to Park City
If the drive to Sun Valley had a certain amount of practicality in terms of “we need to get there and can’t risk any delays”, we had more flexibility on the drive back to Denver. This allowed us to choose a longer route with what we hoped would have a few more interesting and challenging roads.
We departed Sun Valley for Park City mid-morning on the Sunday. Traffic on RT 75 was quite light and it did not take long until we reached the junction with RT 20. RT 20 is a wonderful, well maintained road that meanders through farms carved out of the valleys in the foothills of the Pioneer Mountains. It’s a wide open road that flows smoothly across the landscape making it a pleasure to drive. Passing is easy as the sightlines are quite good so our progress was on the rapid side. With the top down on the 765LT Spider, the morning air still on the crisp side, all seemed right in the world. RT 20 turned into RT 26 as we now traversed across the north side of the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve. The landscape turned from farmland to the haunting remains of ancient lava flows. The Preserve is well named as it does look like a lunar landscape, and I can’t imagine building a road through it was any fun. However, as a place to drive, it was quite spectacular as our black ribbon of pavement wound its way through the cooled black lava. The McLaren 765LT Spider was completely in its element here. It was all 4th or 5th gear territory depending on if we were cruising or needed to get around slower moving traffic. Towns along this route were few and far between and the few we did see all looked like their glory days were long past. One that did catch my eye was Atomic City. While the small town did not look particularly interesting, the large security gatehouse in front of a long driveway that disappeared into the distance was a clear indication that there was a lot more going on in the area. Given the name of the place and our lack of interest in glowing, I decided this was a good time to let the 765LT Spider stretch its legs as we looped down towards Blackfoot and the junctions with I 15.
After about 20 minutes on I 15 headed south, it was time to feed both the humans and the machine. Mrs. SSO found what appeared to be a cute little lunch place in Pocatello conveniently near a Shell Station. Lunch was completely forgettable other than it reinforced that you shouldn’t try to take orders or make sandwiches when you are really stoned. The Shell Station on the other hand was quite nice and the 765LT Spider not only got a few compliments but also had its picture taken a few times.
The balance of the drive down to Salt Lake City on I 15 was unremarkable. The only part worth mentioning was once you turn off I 15 and start heading up I 80 to Park City. This stretch has to be one of the windiest highways in the US. It’s all uphill with traffic moving at very different speeds which makes it a challenge to navigate. With 750 bhp, the 765LT Spider flattens uphill climbs out extremely well and we were pulling up to the Pendry Park City again in no time.
Day II – Across the Rocky Mountains to Denver
As the route we had planned for the Monday drive back to Denver looked like it was going to take around 8 hours, we were up and on the road early. Leaving Park City, we hopped back on I 80 for a short stint before exiting onto RT 40. RT 40 runs across the Rocky Mountains and has to be one of the more spectacular roads I have ever driven. I don’t think there is a single flat stretch that runs for more than a mile as you drive through the valleys, over the hills, and alongside the rivers that cover this area. Wildlife warnings are common, and we did spot several deer feeding alongside the roadway. On the one hand, it’s brilliant driving territory, on the other its demanding with a very high level of concentration needed as things can go badly wrong quite quickly. The McLaren 765LT Spider might have been designed for tracks but all the same attributes make it a brilliant mountain car. Light weight, highly responsive, huge amounts of power, the ability to change directions instantly, great slight lines, and supportive, comfortable seats is a magical combination. I can’t think of another car in which I would have had the same level of trust and confidence.
After about 4 hours, we left RT 40 behind and headed south on RT 13. As wonderful as RT 40 was, RT 13 was bad. A significant part of the 40 miles we spent on RT 13 were under construction, so progress was both slow and frustrating. There was one 10 mile stretch that had been taken back to gravel, and not the smooth well packed down type. It was as close to off roading in the 765LT Spider I ever hope to get. Much to the amusement of all the people in pickup trucks in our little convoy, I slowly, picked my way around all the potholes. The extra care and effort were well worth it as we did not scrape once. A quick lunch stop followed our “off roading” experience and from there it was out onto I 70 and headed to Denver. I 70 is a spectacular feat of engineering as for a significant part of it, it is carved right out of the Rocky Mountains. With light traffic, it was a joy to drive in the 765LT Spider as it winds up, down, and through the mountains. It’s also the only time I have sensed the 765LT Spider straining a bit as spent a considerable amount of time at elevations well over 10,000 feet. In the thin air with temperatures pushing triple digits, we did see a number of cars on the side of the road overheated.
After about 150 quite enjoyable miles on I 70, we dropped out of the mountains and into the western sprawl of Denver. As it was now rush hour, progress became more opposing and there was plenty of stop, start, and crawl involved. At this point the 765LT Spider had already put in 500 miles of hard work but it continued to behave splendidly. Right before we ventured onto I 70, we had put the roof up and the air conditioner kept us more than comfortable in the strange Sahara like tempatures up in the mountains. As we pulled into McLaren Denver to drop the car off for its trip back to the East Coast, I really didn’t want to let it go. Over the week we had completely bonded.
Over the course of the week, we had covered a bit over 2,000 miles. The McLaren 765LT Spider performed brilliantly in a range of different driving conditions. We had pushed it to its limits on the high speed runs in Sun Valley, driven it hard through the mountains, at heights where many people suffer from elevation sickness, run through a lunar landscape, and done all this with the frunk filled to the absolute max. Despite outside temperatures reaching over 100°F, the cabin stayed ice cold and the water and oil gauges never moved past normal, even as we cruised past other cars that had expired in trying conditions. We did all the highway driving with the roof up so we could converse, but once onto smaller roads it was roof down with the rear window up. This provides a huge amount of buffering and even with the roof down you can still carry on a conversation and hear the stereo. The P1 seats are excellent, the driving position is very comfortable, the controls easy to reach and intuitive. With the handling set to “comfort” and the transmission in “sport” the 765LT Spider cruises effortlessly and can even handle the occasional gravel “under construction” road. I can’t think of another car I would have preferred to take on this trip.
Next: The Hotels
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