Even though Vicaribus isn’t finished with it’s makeover, there’s no reason it should remain confined to it’s claustrophobic backyard parking pen. Sure it gets it’s daily Home Depot run and the odd overnighter at the shop, but sometimes a bus just has to get out and stretch it’s legs and see the world.

Rather than warming up with something simple for our first real excursion, we decided that we might as well just dive in and give Vicaribus a real challenge. The challenge we came up with was driving up a big ass mountain and spending the night at 11,000 feet in elevation. There was a valid reason for this, however. We’ve been meaning to check out the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb while we still live in the area, and this year Heather was wise enough to put in on the calendar.

For those who don’t know, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a timed race up Pikes Peak, a 14,000 ft mountain just west of Colorado Springs. It’s been running since 1916, making it the second longest running race in the U.S. I want to say there are 159 turn and 12-ish miles. (This is information that can easily be confirmed or denied). All types of vehicles run the race, from motorcycles, to quads, to factory-esque and custom built race cars. The current record is 8 minutes and some amount of seconds, set by Sebastian Loeb a few years ago in a fancy Peugeot. Sometimes people drive off the mountain and die, but not this year.

There are a handful of camping areas on the course during race weekend. We chose one called Ski Area, which apparently used to be the bottom of a, wait for it… Ski Area.

Here it is.     

The actual race is on a Sunday, and campers must arrive between noon and 6:00PM on Saturday. We left Denver for the couple hour drive pretty early so we would have plenty of time for mishaps and shenanigans, as there were concerns over a leaky wheel hub seal and the fact that this giant ass little bus was going to have to climb up a giant ass big mountain.

To our relief, we really didn’t have much trouble. Getting to the mountain was fine, and climbing it only required a couple pull-offs to cool down on some of the steeper sections. Flooring the pedal at a max speed of around 25 mph for a few minutes will do that. I may have suffered a brain-fart and cut of the engine during one of the over heatings, causing a temporary boiling over of the coolant… whoops.

Arriving early-ish, we grabbed a pretty decent spot and hung out the newly boarded up deck and got to know some of our neighbors, including another mini-skoolie.

We called it a night pretty early, anticipating minimal sleep since the gates reopened at 3AM for those just coming up for the day. It was also in the low 40s, or upper 30s, which doesn’t generally help one sleep. The anticipated minimal sleep did come to fruition and the race kicked off at 8:00AM.

We also got to try out our new fishing pole light.

The race was neat, video below. Essentially you see a vehicle fly by every few minutes or so when things are running smoothly and people aren’t driving off of the mountain and dying. Much to our and everyone else’s surprise and happiness, the torrential amounts of forecasted rain were relegated to a short period of the gates of hell opening at the top of the course near the end of the running. There was about an hour delay and then it wrapped up.

We waited until pretty much everyone left before attempting to make our exit; mostly, because I got crazy nauseous right at the end. I say attempted because there were some bus related shenanigans that had to be overcome before getting going again.

Naps were in order.

There is a known issue with Vicaribus’s Glow Plug system, being that it doesn’t work. It’s not the Glow Plug Relay or the Glow Plugs themselves, but the signal coming from the ECU that is the problem. This is generally not an issue in the warmer weather and lower altitude of Denver. (How often can you say “the warmer weather and lower altitude of Denver”?) However, up there it was could, and well, way up there, so the engine just wouldn’t crank without those glow plugs warming things up. Luckily, or wisely I suppose, the night before we left I verified a hunch that you can just jump the Glow Plug Relay with a screw driver to get them warmed up. After a few attempts with some shaky hands with this technique, we were on our way.

We were one of the last folks off of the mountain, and bought some pickles at the pickle shop at the bottom of the mountain. They’re pretty good, and the folks manning the shop were pretty nice.

You can find a gallery of stills from the race here: gallery of stills from the race.

Here is a supercut of the drive up, some clouds rolling, the racers racing, and some happy folks at the parade at the end.