Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pikes Peak-the best road to film a car shoot....

Dear Reader,

Pikes Peak in Colorado, is one of those locations that anyone with a TV has seen on a commercial.  Usually it is a car racing down a winding road, a sheer cliff revealing nothing but certain death if the driver loses control. The car industry loves this road because it is unique, it has the reputation as being the best place to show off vehicles with its step inclines, tight turns and beauty. Pikes Peak is the definitive location for anyone who always wanted to know what their sports car could do up an eleven and a half-percent incline.  Once a year “The Race to the Clouds” is held at Pikes Peak, the race has a 156 turns, it is 12.42 miles to the summit, with an average grade of 7%.  

I made it up Pikes Peak in a forty-foot diesel powered motor home. Normally vehicles over thirty-five are not allowed on the road, but I was able to get special permission to since my client paid for the film permit and paid the extra fee to have two rangers lead me up the pass.  In winter the road to Pikes Peak is opened except when there is too much snow; however work crews are quick to clear the pass.  I admit, I was very apprehensive about going up Pikes Peak, I was not sure how the motor home would handle the thin air and if it would overheat.  I decided to take it easy, I watched my water temperature, the transmission temperature, the PSI gage for the turbochargers, and the other gauges.  At mile eight my engine peaked at 233 degrees, I could not take any chances, I pulled over and ran my Cummins at high idle.  I radio the ranger to inform him and her that I needed to let my engine cool off.  A few minutes later I was ready for the last two miles, I had to go wide on some of the turns, the rangers blocked traffic for me, and the engine did not go over 217 degrees, my decision to stop at mile eight payed off, I finally made it to the main parking lot.  I let the Cummins run at high idle before I turned it off ten minutes later.  The reason, this applies not only to diesel engines, but gas engines as well, if the engine is too warm and you shut it off too soon, you can crack a head or warp the turbo’s.  This practice also cools off the engine and other components.

A brief history about Pikes Peak, it was created about one billion years ago, not as a volcano, but as molten rock twenty miles below the earth surface.  A process known as uplifting caused the mountain to be pushed upward and after millions years Pikes Peak is the mountain we know today.  In 1803 Pikes Peak was obtained from France in what was and is called the Louisiana Purchase.  In 1860 the first road known as Ute Pass Wagon Road (now known as U.S. Highway 26) took miners to the gold mines.  In 1887 the first road to Pikes Peak was built, it was crude made of gravel and one had to pay an astronomical $1.00 per use.  

What makes Pikes Peak such a great place to film is the scenery, as I mentioned the winding roads, the 11% grade, the iconic view of Colorado Springs.  It is beyond a pretty location, it is a place that has a lot of  attitude, can a location be sassy?  Yes it can when it is Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak appeals to film makers because it is a one of a kind location, it cannot be duplicated. In my career I have been to some of the best roads, (for filming car shoots)  but Pikes Peak is the Rolls-Royce of roads . 

A few things to keep in mind about Pikes Peak, because the elevation is 14,115 feet winter is not the time to shoot at this location.  The best time to film at PP is the summer,  any other time of the year is a gamble because of the weather.  Hire a local crew who is familiar with the terrain and has the right equipment for the elevation.  There is a size restriction for large vehicles, thirty-five is the maximum length, however, larger vehicles are allowed with permission and a fee.  I was allowed to drive up Pikes Peak even though my motor home is over forty-feet.  I had a ranger in an SUV in front of me to stop the traffic as I had to go wide on some of the turns and a ranger in a truck behind me to make sure the vehicles behind me would see me.  I am glad I had a big diesel engine with plenty or torque to navigate up this mountain, because I needed every 950 pounds of power that my Cummins could deliver.  I also had to monitor my gauges, when I felt the engine in the RV was getting too warm, as a precaution I pulled over and let it cool off on high idle.  When I drove down the mountain, I put the transmission in the lowest gear possible with the exhaust brake engaged to keep me at a steady speed.  I did not want to overheat the brakes and get what is called brake fade.  

The best town to lodge your crew near PP is Colorado Springs about two hours south of Denver.  We stayed at Hyatt Regency in Colorado Springs, (719 265 9385), the hotel was clean, the service was good, there was even a complimentary breakfast.  The parking lot was adequate for all of vehicles including our car carrier, several grip trucks and my RV.  There are several gas stations nearby that sell diesel and a couple of restaurants in walking distance. For more information about filming at Pikes Peak call the Colorado Springs Film Commission at 719 685 7630.  If you need a motor home or you want my insight regarding Pikes Peak or surrounding area call me Mike Green at 818 317 7099.

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