Vette News - Rock On - The Hwy 191 Adventure

This is a personal story submitted by Phil Ellison. Other NMCA members should feel free to submit their own "interesting" stories for publication on the club website.

The early months of 1980 saw my 1969 427 4 speed on jacks, as the engine was out and being rebuilt and slightly "modified'. Skip ahead to May 1982 when I had a road trip to take, and started looking at the map for some open road. 1982 - no Internet, paper maps, and leaded gasoline was next to impossible to locate. My trip was from Albuquerque to Seattle. To make it scenic I planned my trip through Yellowstone. I was traveling alone. After much homework, my plan was formed. Rock Springs, WY to Pinedale, WY - highway 191 - a nice, relatively straight good two lane road without many interruptions. I drove hard the first day, making it from Albuquerque to Rock Springs in about 11 hours. This was my first extended trip in my '69 (fresh engine, new shocks, all systems "go"). I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that by the time I got to Las Vegas, NM, my butt was aching. GM didn't spend any extra on the seats for the C-3!

I awoke in Rock Springs, WY on Friday May 28th - a gorgeous day. Rock Springs to Pinedale was 99 miles - minus a couple miles on either end to "get out of town". I also had my newly purchased Escort radar detector acting as my watchdog (which picked up the new X band radar - I was untouchable)! It was just me and a 99 mile stretch of flat inviting pavement - the only two considerations I had were #1 - at 120 mph, I'd eat gas at 6 mpg - call it 17 gallons with a 20 gallon tank. And #2 - what exactly was the price to be paid if for some reason my co-pilot (Escort) failed me and I was face to face with the law? Hey - when you're 20 something - #2 didn't seem like such a big deal - so with a full tank, a clear sky and my mind focused on the next 40 minutes, I set out.

Rock Springs had several access points leaving town, so I burned the first 3 or 4 miles playing it cool. Finally I passed what I believed was the last civilization as I headed north on 191. Slowly the right foot got heavy on the pedal. I believe the speed limit was 45, but that was just a suggestion as far as I was concerned. 80 - 90 -100 - running strong and smooth. I am king of the world. I could see for what seemed like miles ahead - and far in the distance, but getting closer by the minute was a bunch of dust, like from a side road. Sure enough, a very large, very much unwanted dump truck (a big sucker) had pulled onto the highway, headed north. Ok, so I get to pass someone - this will make his day I thought. Now I'm about half a mile behind him, slowing a little just for safety sake. All of a sudden large round rocks are bouncing past me on the road - golf ball sized. The dump truck was loaded - no - overloaded with rock. He lost more rock than most people ever buy in a lifetime for landscaping. The brakes go on - I'm down to under 30 mph and I can't get any closer than about 500 feet. This poor old boy was working by the hour, and was in no hurry. Each time he shifted another barrage of rocks rained off his truck, bouncing all around me. One rock would take out my windshield, and maybe me with it. I was stuck. This truck lumbered along, finally reaching the blazing speed of 40 mph, and all along continuing to throw rock. No way on earth could I pass him without certain fiberglass repairs in my future. My options actually included turning around and going back to Rock Springs to sit for a few hours, or to hope he would turn off before too long. I did have a timetable, so sitting around for 2-3 hours wasn't really an option. By now there are 10 cars behind me, all knowing exactly why I (and they) couldn't pass and were staying far back. This killjoy drove almost all the way to Pinedale, completely killing my highlight of the entire trip. But - I didn't suffer any damage, I didn't get a ticket, and I managed 12 mpg. All along I'm thinking that if I'd departed a minute earlier - this story would be dramatically different. I can also report that I saw very few cars coming the other direction - and the long arm of the law was never seen once. My 40 minute dash with high octane pouring through 4 barrels of excitement became a 2+ hour slow crawl of sorrow. I even started thinking the truck driver was some sort of anti-Corvette twisted individual!

To add insult to injury, as I went over Yellowstone pass about 90 minutes after Pinedale, it started to snow - and snow hard. May 28th and I'm in a semi white-out, still climbing, spinning my wheels, white-knuckled and wondering how my day had gone so badly. I did make it over the pass with a new appreciation of how poorly my C-3 handled in the snow.

Ahhhhh - the "interesting" priorities of a mere youngster, who happened to command a 427 cubic inch rocket ship. (PS: I plan to return to Hwy 191 someday to complete the zippy trip I initially envisioned - after all - I still have the Vette, and I still have that Escort!)

Source: Phil Ellison

Submitted by Phil Ellison