Alex, the Viper and Timberline Lodge


My 23-year-old daughter Alexandra has had a summer of milestones. First, she graduated from Oregon State University, with a B.S. in Business Administration with a focus on Entrepreneurship and a minor in Writing. (Two years ago, following a year studying in France, she earned a diploma in International Business from L’École de Management in Grenoble.)

Then, just last week Daimler Trucks North America offered her an internship in project coordination in their IT department. She starts September 8. It’s a good opportunity with a real company, and she is beside herself with excitement, anticipation and of course trepidation.

I asked her how she wanted to celebrate these momentous occurrences, and she replied, “Let’s take the Viper out for a drive – I’ve never had a chance to be behind the wheel.”

Since I assume that everyone reading this blog is a gearhead to one degree or another, you can imagine how long it took me to say “Yes.” I threw in an overnight at Timberline just to make a mini-roadtrip of it.

SCM sold its Isetta at Gooding Scottsdale last year, and American Car Collector sold its 1964 Nova wagon at Barrett-Jackson. We took the money and, through a 1031 exchange, bought a 2000 Viper GTS ACR for ACC, along with a 1967 Volvo Amazon for SCM.

There were only 218 ACR models built. They feature a slightly more powerful engine, at 460 horsepower, plus track-friendly modifications to the suspension. Ours is a black coupe with black interior and no stripes. ACR cars were a/c delete, but ours was ordered with the a/c installed.

With a base weight of just 3,400 lbs, 0-60 of just over 4 seconds and a manufacturer’s declared top speed of 180 mph, around the office we just call it “The Beast.”

It had only 1,800 miles on it when it arrived a couple of months ago. The odo now reads over 5,000, as the ACC staff has taken it on various trips to destinations as far away as Reno for Hot August Nights.

This would be my first time behind the wheel for an extended period.

On the Road

As Alex was moving the seat, we discovered that the pedals have 4” of adjustment through a knob under the dash. This was quite a remarkable feature, as it allows those of smaller stature to find a comfortable seating position without being smashed against the steering wheel to push the clutch in.

It was 80 degrees and getting hotter when we left – the a/c was a welcome feature. Our route took us up I-5 North to Vancouver, WA, then on SR 14 along the Columbia River.

This is a winding road, well-known mostly for its revenue-producing speed traps. Alex found the Viper easy to drive, as the copious horsepower and torque meant it didn’t really matter what gear you were in. Staying below 80 mph was no easy task, as the Viper seems to view that as its idle speed.

Alex liked the view over the hood and was immediately comfortable. We got a chance to discuss the theory behind passing on two-land roads, and then put it into practice.

Her daily driver is a 1995 BMW 318i, a nicely-balanced 4-cylinder, 5-speed car that she has put 50,000 miles on. Passing in that car is always an adventure, requiring being in the right gear, at the right time, and being aware of just how little acceleration you have to work with.

The Viper was a complete different matter. Alex found she could be in 2nd, 3rd or 4th. Give the car gas, and whoosh – she had shot by the car or cars in front of her.

Up the Mountain

The V10 engine in the Viper is not known for its sexy exhaust note, but the aftermarket Corsa exhaust on our car rectifies that. It sounds almost Ferrari-like as you run up through the rev range.

After a stop at the always-top-rate Celilo restaurant in Hood River, we set out on Highway 35 following parts of the Barlow Trail up the north side of Mt. Hood.

It’s a road with many long, sweeping turns, perfect at 80 mph in 4th gear. Alex said that the car felt solid, and it had a quick and assertive “bite” when you put it into a turn. She wasn’t eager to learn what the limits of the no-traction-control Viper were, and I was glad about that.

Timberline Lodge was built in just two years, 1935-37, as a WPA project. It showcases the woodworking and wrought-iron skills of Pacific Northwest craftsmen. I have always felt that the Lodge is underappreciated here – if it were in Europe, we would spend thousands of dollars and travel thousands of miles to visit it.

The rooms are all furnished in the original “Timberline” style, and much of the furniture in the Lodge is original. Film aficionados are aware that the exterior was used in the filming of “The Shining,” starring Jack Nicholson, while the interior shots were done at a different location.

We checked in, had a leisurely dinner in the Cascade Dining Room, then retired.

The next morning we enjoyed our coffee while basking in the sun, looking at Mt. Hood’s Palmer Snowfield and watching skiiers ride up the Magic Mile chairlift.

Huckleberry Pancakes

Alex asked me to drive the next section so that she could enjoy being a passenger. We went down the curvy road to Government Camp, where we made a traditional stop at the Huckleberry Inn for pancakes made with freshly-picked huckleberries.

We took what I call the “Alfa way” back to Portland, going up Lolo Pass Road to Marmot Road, and then staying on back roads until we entered Troutdale.

I have a video of me driving my 1965 Alfa Giulia Spider Veloce along a stretch of this road. It shows me quite busy as I work to keep the 1,600-cc engine in its 4,500 – 6,000 rpm power band, using the barely adequate brakes as little as possible.

The Viper was different. I just left it in 3rd and motored serenely along. My only speed limiter was fear of understeer causing the tail to swing out and remove a row of fence posts.

Soon enough we were home. Once again, a car had become a key to an adventure. The Viper turned a scenic drive into an amusement park ride.

I’m very proud of Alex and what she has accomplished, and I’m pleased that she would choose to share this time with me, as we motor along the road of life.

(To see the full Facebook photo gallery from the trip, click here.)

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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