A while ago Jalopnik posted "Ten great driving roads you've never heard of" and usually these articles don't find traction with me. This isn't a knock against the writers, the contributors, or Jalopnik, I just have no retention when it comes to leisure reading. However, that article in particular was one that stuck and I found myself thinking about it on and off for a whole year. When summer came I knew it was time for a road trip.
What would it be like to actually drive one of these roads? Which road would I choose?
Luckily, deciding on the road was the easy part as a few on the list were close to me, but one in particular caught my eye above the rest... #7... River Road between White Bird and Route 95, Idaho..
"It was like someone dropped the Stelvio Pass in the Rockies"
Such a beautiful line. Never having driven the Stelvio Pass and probably never will, I decided that I had to do this. Finally here was a road that wasn't in Europe, finally here was a road that was accessible by me, and here was a road that looked absolutely epic.
Now for the car...
I've always been in love with Aston Martin. Ever since I saw the DB5 in Goldfinger I knew that one day... if fortune smiled upon me... I would buy an Aston. It was the 1980's and I was 8 years old...
Fast forward a few years... I remember very clearly the first time I saw the V8 Vantage Coupe, I was surfing the web in 2004 one night and it was love at first sight... the same feeling I felt when I was 8 years old crept over me... I loved the lines, the exhaust note, the fact that the front grill just seemed to have a beguiling smile.. a smile that made you wonder how awesome it would be to take it into a corner at speed... for me... it is simply pure perfection on wheels. Years later I was lucky enough to make my dream come true...the only thing left was to take it on an epic road trip.
The Road Less Travelled... and a lucky encounter..
Finding the road was fairly easy, google maps makes it so simple (the sat nav in the Aston on the other hand is truly worthless by the way and IS the worst sat nav in the world). We woke up to sunshine that day and no traffic... it seemed that everywhere in Idaho was deserted. It was prime for a great day of driving. We stopped in White Bird to attach the camera and luckily bumped into a biker who had heard of and was searching out the same road. A conversation lead to a suggestion by me and a deal was struck. We would take turns driving ahead of one another using the handsfree walkies I brought to warn each other should there be any on coming traffic for our runs (safety first and all rules of the road need to be strictly adhered to).
We flipped a coin to see who got to go first, I lost so I went up as the lead with the biker following a few moments after. True be told, I was glad to go first so I could memorize the corners. As it turned out, we barely needed to warn each other as there was hardly any traffic.
This road is seriously epic. I recommend that you drive at a moderate speed a few times before you engage in spirited driving at or below the speed limit (never exceed the speed limit.. that would be illegal).
I brought the right car!!!
Once you get into the rhythm of the corners though, it is something special... this car and this road is probably as close as I've ever gotten to automotive heaven. With every left leading itself into a small straight and then a right hander, and with 420 bhp at my disposal... this was more fun than any track day I've ever had... accelerating into another left and a right.. switchback to switchback.. Every turn was making me thank the universe that I had splurged on the sport pack... and more importantly... had waited for the 4.7L..
Into another corner... .. A quick heel toe... Braking... A blip of the gas... Downshift from fourth to second and back on the throttle.. forcing that V8 engine into a fierce howl... feeling the smooth 6 speed snicking home with every gear change... into a hairpin... the traction control allowing just enough slip to kick the tail out making things interesting but never too much that you're fearful for your life.
All told, we drove the road for what seemed like an eternity. The biker and I taking turns leading one other and radioing each other the all clear. At the end we exchanged grins and each went about our separate ways. The day ended with one last run as the sun was setting.
A quick word of warning, always drive within your limits, with the 4400 ft elevation change, vicious corners, and switchbacks, this isn't a road that you take liberties with. You need to be keenly aware that with one wrong move you'll fly off the edge of a cliff that has no guard rails. This certainly is a road where you have to be on point at all times. However, I will guarantee that you will have a smile from ear to ear that will last for months and possibly for a lifetime if you drive this road. Especially, behind the wheel of an Aston Martin...