Pikes Peak International Hill Climb: Day One

“I was, after all, a professional journalist; so I had an obligation to cover the story, for good or for ill.” That’s what the good doctor said, some forty-five years ago.

Oftentimes, I wind up in situations beyond my scope or skill. That’s how this morning is going. I’m sitting in an airport with a few thousand dollars worth of camera equipment, about to fly to Colorado to cover the 100th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. I’ve never covered a race before. I’ve never shot with a 400mm telephoto lens before. I’ve never met the hard driving, hard wrenching, hard drinking Texans I’ll be living with for the next four days.

For a bit of background, last year I interviewed Wil Kitchens about his Pikes Peak escapades. In a world of rampant commercialism and corporate sponsorship, it turns out there’s still a place for the little guy. It just requires that the little guy be more motivated and more aggressive than anyone else. That article got Kitchens a bit of attention, including a new sponsor for his time attack racing. See kids? It pays to work with me.

Will Kitchens Honda CRX
Will Kitchens (Quite) Modified Honda CRX Pikes Peak Race Car

I was supposed to take the hill climb car out for some track time, but scheduling conflicts and mechanical maladies kept us apart. But when Kitchens decided to tackle the mountain one more time, I got the call to fly out. I may not be the brightest knife in the cadaver, but I know when to just smile and nod. There’s a life lesson, folks: take any opportunity you’re offered.

A wiser man might be concerned with knowing what the week would entail, but I’ve got a reputation for being wildly unprepared for trips, and I’d hate to break that trend. I once flew to Germany with no plans beyond knowing where I was spending the first night. I just planned to Couchsurf my way around the country for a couple weeks. I’ve ridden a sportbike across three states, starting at two in the morning. That one almost did me in. So the prospect of flying to another state, to cover an event I know nothing about, and living with people I’ve never met, seemed terrifyingly exciting. Like trying to seduce a badger.

“Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

Will Kitchens Honda CRX

(The actual event starts in two days!  Stay tuned to Right Foot Down for daily reports from Pikes Peak! If that’s not often enough for you, follow RFD and Andrew Fails on Twitter. -Ed)