Updated 17-Jun-2014 ==== Copyright (c) 2014 Corvairs of New Mexico  
Jim Pittman


We always say, when preparing to go to a Tri-State, no, we won't caravan. You
always travel slower in a caravan. You want to leave at seven, they want to
leave at eight. You don't need this gas station, they need to get gas here. You
want to keep on driving, they want to stop for lunch. You really need a potty
stop now, they don't need to stop for another half hour. You want to stop for
photos, they want to observe the scenic sights from afar. You are comfortable
driving seventy-five, they want to drive eighty. Someone takes a wrong turn, the
others stop to see what happened. In a caravan everyone travels at the lowest
speed prevailing on each leg of the trip, and a slowdown by one is a slowdown
for all.

But this year it seemed appropriate to make an exception. John Wiker was driving
his mellow yellow 1966 Corsa and Tarmo Sutt was trailering his still-brand-new
1966 turbo Corsa (24 miles on the engine?!) and a meeting at the Chevron station
in Pojoaque at 9:00 AM was proposed. Who could turn down the chance to drive six
hours in the company of two bright and shiny 1966 Corvairs? We agreed to be

We left Albuquerque at about 7:20 and went via Tijeras, Madrid, Cerrillos and
the NM 599 bypass around Santa Fe. We arrived in Pojoaque pretty much on time.
We soon saw the Wiker yellow coupe approaching. By the time John had filled up
with gas and checked the oil the bright red truck towing the even brighter red
Corsa convertible was pulling into the station. Soon the white Huyndai SUV chase
car pulled in. Conversation and photo sessions followed. While this was time not
productively used driving down the road, the day was young, we were happy to get
a few more photographs of the Corvairs, and we needed to compare notes on how to
get through Espanola without taking a wrong turn. Tarmo said he knew how, so we
all followed his lead. He made all the tricky turns perfectly and soon we were
all headed north on US 285 through the northern New Mexico version of the Top of
the World. It was fun trying to catch photo opportunities along the road where
both Corvairs were visible and there was nice scenery in the background.

We approached Tres Piedras, a wide spot in the road in the middle of nowhere at
the very Top of the World. The red truck and the yellow Corvair and the white
pit crew vehicle pulled into the left turn lane. What the heck?! That's the road
to Chama. Here I made Mistake Number One: I failed to follow them through the
turn and flash my lights to signal them to pull over to tell me what they were
doing. Then I made Mistake Number Two: I failed to be confident of my own
knowledge. Despite knowing perfectly well that there are only four possibilities
at Tres Piedras (Espanola, Taos, Antonito or Tierra Amarilla) we pulled over and
stopped to consult the map. Yep, the map verifies that I was right. But now the
caravan is long gone, out of sight. What to do?

There were several possible options at this point. Option One was to call them
on our mobile phone. But on Top of the World there's no mobile phone service.
Option Two was to abandon the caravan and just head north to Antonito by
ourselves, then proceed to Alamosa and Salida. But, once you are in a caravan,
you can't just quit it with no explanation. Option Three was to assume they must
have taken the wrong turn by mistake. Well, then, it was up to us to catch up to
them, point out their mistake and help them fix it.

We took the third option: we would race to catch up to them and flash our lights
to get them to stop. Then we'd all turn around and go back to US 285. But this
was Mistake Number Three. Really, it is hopeless to expect to catch a 60-mph
group that has a five minute head start. Mathematically, you can't do it.

We tried anyway. We raced along US 64. I had forgotten what a curvy, uphill
highway it is out of Tres Piedras heading west, but we made the best time we
could. It was a long way before we could see a fairly straight stretch far
enough ahead to see that we definitely could not see a three-vehicle
red-yellow-white caravan. Drat! They must be going really fast. We tried the
mobile phone from time to time. There were no Verizon bars, there was no Verizon
signal. The answer to the "Can you hear me now?" question was clearly, NO.

Eventually we realized that there was no way we were going to raise them by
phone and there was no way we were going to catch up by speeding around the
curves. (Did I mention that, while the 2003 Civic was speedy enough on the
curves and the downhills, on the uphills we could only manage what felt like a
modest crawl.) We were by now, we thought, much too far along this road to
consider turning back. We had to face up to the realization that we had served
ourselves up a big juicy lemon. And there's not much to do with a big, juicy
lemon other than make lemonade.

I went into rationalization mode. Look, I said, here we are on one of the
prettiest highways in the country. It's green springtime up here, the aspens are
just leafing out and just beautiful. The weather is perfect. There's little
traffic. The car is running okay. We just should relax and enjoy the scenery.
We'll go on to Tierra Amarilla, turn north to Chama, then turn northeast and
head for Antonito where we'll get back on US 285. The road from Chama to
Antonito is sort of parallel to the Cumbres & Toltec narrow-gauge railway. Hey,
maybe we'll even be able to see the train!

So that's what we did. We drove through miles of beautiful scenery, passed
through Tierra Amarilla without incident, looked over Chama with a thought of
how it would work out as the site for the 2014 Tri-State, saluted the train
station as we went by, crossed over the railroad tracks several times (didn't
see the train, though) and stopped for photos at the Cumbres Pass train station.
Eventually we arrived in Antonito where we picked up US 285 again.

Somewhere along the way we were able to get Tarmo on the mobile phone and learn
that they simply turned west at Tres Piedras to make a potty stop at a ranger
station they knew about, and then they got right back on US 285 and continued
north. By now they were in Alamosa and had stopped for lunch. Well, we did not
know about the ranger station and we didn't see them as we went by. We told him
we'd be getting into Salida a couple of hours behind them and not to worry about

By the time we got to Alamosa our estimated six hours driving time from
Albuquerque to Salida were all used up. My budgeted energy level was totally
depleted. We made the rest of the trip on automatic pilot. We eventually got to
Salida pretty much exhausted. But, old friends were there, several nice Corvairs
were to be seen and our spirits rose to the occasion -- at least temporarily.

So, Day One, we arrived safely at the Tri-State. Two more days to get rested and
then we'll have another six-hour drive back home to look forward to.


Friday morning and we are still tired out from the drive yesterday. Heula is
able to go to the motel lobby for breakfast but I'm still trying to get some
sleep. Finally I drink some coffee and eat a banana and begin to feel maybe half
human. I decide although it's late in the day (8:15 is "late in the day" to me)
I should go for a walk and maybe find the Arkansas river. I head west then north
then east then south, but never find a way to get to the river. I finally ask
someone riding by on a bicycle who points to a building half a mile away and
says he thinks you can get to the river from there. I say, "Maybe on my next
walk." He says, "Welcome to Suh-LIE-duh" which I suppose is the preferred
pronunciation hereabouts. I go back to the motel for another half-cup of coffee
and some more sleep.

By noon or so I seem to have recovered enough energy to suggest we drive around
a little, then fill up with gas so we won't have to fill up on our way out of
town on Sunday. We drive toward the building landmark the bicycle man pointed
out yesterday but we see no way to get to the river from there. So we drive on
through town and out into the country. As we are admiring the snowy mountains in
all directions I see a tall smokestack off to the left and spot a brown sign by
the side of the road, "Historical Site." We follow the sign to a turnoff, see
another sign, and approach the smokestack. By now it is apparent it is HUGE and
I can't remember being able to get so close to such a thing before. We drive up
to the base of this monster and park in its shade. We get out and look UP and UP
and UP some more, and there's the most amazing illusion that the thing is
falling on us! I could hardly stand to look at it! And the closer you are to the
base, the harder it is to look up at it. I can't remember ever seeing such a
powerful illusion. Maybe the slowly moving clouds produce the illusion. Photos
simply don't give a hint of the feeling you have standing near this gigantic
ancient artifact and looking UP and UP and UP and seeing all those bricks just
eager to fall at you! Turns out this smokestack was built in 1917 as part of an
ore smelter and was only in use for a few years. Several other smokestacks that
were part of the smelting complex in the 1920s have long ago been demolished,
but this one remains, its condition and long-term future questionable.

Who could have built this thing, brick by brick up to the thousandth and
millionth and hundred millionth brick? Who could climb the iron rungs set as a
ladder in the south side, reaching to the top? Not me. I could never do that.

We left the smokestack ruins and drove around for awhile, marveling at the lush
grass, green trees, rocks in fields everywhere, acres of cattle, irrigation
pipes stretching over fields, ranch-sized farms, those snow-tinged mountains
always looming in the distance. We thought we'd drive up to the gazebo or
whatever it was at the top of a little mountain but never found the right road.
(LeRoy Rogers reported that he did find the right road and drove up there, and
the view was spectacular!) We drove east and found a place to look at the river
and waved to rafts below. We found a convenient Conoco station and filled up. We
went back to the motel. Many more Corvairs were there by now and there were
several old friends to talk to. We found Steve Goodman and helpers manning the
registration table. We registered.


On Saturday morning there is steadily increasing activity as all find breakfast
and clean up their cars (there was a nasty dust storm around midnight) and move
them to the east side of the motel parking lot. President John Wiker asks how
the numbers compare to earlier Tri-States. We have 33 today. I go to look in my
briefcase for last year's Red River report and find that we had 34 registered
Corvairs. One more Corvair arrives! Now we have 34 here today.

We wander around, taking photos, meeting old friends, telling stories of Corvair
activities recent and long ago, asking for news of people who did not make it to
this event.

John Wiker sees a woman with a little boy admiring his car. "You want to sit in
it?" he asks, and opens the door so the little boy can get in the driver's seat.
"Grab the steering wheel," John says. The kid's expression is priceless.

"Want to sit in the trunk so your mother can get some pictures? The trunk is in
front, the engine is in the back," John explains. He lifts the kid into the
trunk, grabs his yellow-and-black bumblebee toy for a prop and lets the mother
make more photos. They leave happy. John always lets children sit in his car as
he explains the rear engine concept. For the finishing touch, John says, "And my
car has two rear engines!"

Anyone seriously trying to make a fair comparison of the cars to vote on as best
early open, best early closed, best late open and best late closed has a real
chore on their hands. Picking the best Lakewood is hardly easier. Picking the
best FC is a breeze, though, because for the first time in living memory a
Tri-State Corvair Show has not a single Forward Control. Amazing. I wander
around trying to make honest choices on the ballot. Only one choice seems to me
to be unquestionably correct (maybe I'm prejudiced) and I do the best I can with
the others.

The car show gradually winds down. People leave to go to lunch or drive downtown
for shopping or to see the sights. Pat and Vickie Hall (CNM members from Los
Lunas, New Mexico) express an interest in seeing that infamous smokestack. They
offer us a ride in their Brand-X if we'll show them the way. So we have another
ride in the country. At the site of the smelter smokestack we make more photos
including some from the graffiti-littered ruins in the back of the building
("What NO TRESSPASSING" sign? We didn't see any sign) where you could actually
go into the middle of the smokestack (the bottom is littered with what looks
like coarse fireplace ashes) and look up 385 feet to the circle of sky above.

Pretty soon we see a Corvair approaching and it's Linae & Eric Schakel who have
come to see what all the smokestack falling fuss is about. We all read the
plaques: Constructed between June 21, 1917 and November 14, 1917. In use as a
smelter until March 1920 -- only three years! The chimney's octagonal portion is
75-feet high and the walls are 6-feet thick. The circular part of the smokestack
tapers to a diameter at the top of 17-feet with 3.5-feet thick walls. It is made
of brick (264 railroad car loads) and has steel reinforcing rods the full height
of the stack. The foundation is made of concrete, 40-feet wide, 30-feet deep,
with railroad rails for reinforcement, set on bedrock. For comparison, the
plaque says the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa is only 179 feet high, while
the Washington Monument is 555 feet high. The plaque offers several more
building heights including the mind-boggling information that the world's
tallest smokestack, built in 1987, is at a power plant in Khazakstan and is
1,377 feet high. That is more than three times as high as the monster we are
looking at! Heula and I remember the awesome ride on the elevators to the top of
the Louisiana State Capitol building in 2004. Google tells me it's 450-feet.

We make our departure from the seventh wonder of the world (or certainly, one of
the wonders of the Salida portion of the world) and drive back toward town. We
look for a way to get close to the Arkansas River. We find the river just behind
the parking area at the back of the imposing Salida City Hall. We spend some
time in a shady spot listening to the quiet gurgle of the river.

Later we find what may be the best restaurant in Salida and have "fish and
chips" which are delicious. We make our slow way back to the motel.

Heula Pittman

In my opinion, one of the highlights of the Tri-State events each year is the
banquet. This was true this year with everyone coming together, enjoying a meal,
visiting and catching up with each other.

As we gathered at the door to the banquet room, Jim (a certified car nut) spent
five minutes taking pictures of a little red sports car. He said it was the
final version of the Pontiac Fiero. He proudly recalled that he wrote articles
for our newsletter back in January 1984 when the Fiero was introduced explaining
why (and why not) it was/wasn't a worthy successor to the Corvair.

When all were present Steve Goodman, as usual, did an excellent job emceeing the
event. He paid special attention to recognizing the folks who were instrumental
throughout the weekend at making sure everything worked out. Steve has done this
so many times, I'll bet he could do it in his sleep! We appreciate all his time
and energy and especially the trips he made to Salida to make everything work so
well. Those of us who have helped prepare for and conduct a Tri-State event know
just how much effort goes into it. Thanks, Steve!

Our tasty dinner was presented buffet-style and consisted of a choice of
entrees: barbecue brisket or pasta, a green salad, potatoes and bread. Dessert
was cookies and brownies. I understood that a keg of beer was in the banquet
room and anyone who wanted a sampling was welcome to it. For those of us who
preferred iced tea, that was available too.

The time came for the two Steves (Goodman & Gongora) to be recognized as the
only members who have attended every Tri-State since the first one in 1976 in
Montrose, Colorado. That's dedication and quite a record.

The host club, Rocky Mountain CORSA, won the attendance award, with 33 members
present. They took the attendance award back from Corvairs of New Mexico who won
last year at Red River.

Steve summarized the history of the Boydston Award (named for Saint Francis of
Corvair) and presented the 2012 Award to the Wilshire family for all they have
contributed over many years to their club and to Tri-State events. Laura and
Joan Wilshire accepted the award. Our congratulations to the Wilshire family.

The drawing for the last afghan Ruth Goodman made was done and John Hesco of
PPCC won it. We all missed Ruth's presence at this year's Tri-State, especially
because she had attended all previous Tri-States.  I felt that she was there in
spirit as many of us exchanged and shared stories about her.

Steve's vivacious helper for the distribution of door prizes was seven-year-old
Neyla Olwine. She did an excellent job of calling out the numbers and then
presenting the prizes to the various members. Her father tells us that this is
her eighth, well, maybe her ninth, Tri-State. Is that a record-setter or what!
Thank you, Neyla.

Special thanks go to all who donated items for the door prizes.

The 50/50 drawing was won by Cheryl Halpin  of RMC and the total came to $132.
Our congratulations go to Cheryl.

Patricia Fox, President of Pike's Peak Corvair Club, announced that the 2013
Tri-State would be held in Cripple Creek, Colorado. It was held there in 2004
and many of us remember it vividly. Patricia passed out flyers and encouraged
all of us to plan to attend, especially since it will be after school is out:
the first weekend of June, 2013!

Thanks to Steve Goodman and Rocky Mountain CORSA for a terrific "laid back"



Best Early Open:     Dave Olwine...........1963 Spyder
Best Early Closed:   Jean Olwine...........1963 Monza
Best Late Open:      Tarmo Sutt............1966 Corsa
Best Late Closed:    Larry Yoder...........1966 Corsa
Best Lakewood:       Tim Shortle...........1962 Monza wagon
Best FC:             There were no FCs this year
People's Choice:     John Drage............1962 Monza convert
Longest Distance:    John Hesco............Greybill, Wyoming
Hardship Award:      There was no hardship this year
Attendance Award:    Rocky Mountain CORSA, Denver

  Rocky Mountain CORSA..........33
  Pikes Peak Corvair Club.......21
  Corvairs of New Mexico........24
  Bonneville Corvair Club........2
  Mid Continent Corvair Assoc....4
  Ute Trails Car Club............2

  1960....1     1965...13
  1961....1     1966....6
  1962....5     1967....1
  1963....2     1968....1
  1964....4     1969..NONE

  EARLY: 13     LATE:  21

TOTAL: There were 34 Corvairs on display

(Steve Goodman provided the details on this year's awards and statistics.)


Not much to say about the trip home except that we left Salida at 4:30 AM and
arrived at home at 9:45 AM. In past years we dreaded driving into the summer sun
in the heat of early afternoon. We missed that this year! We had beautiful
weather, very little traffic. We drove 710 miles for a trip average of 40.7 MPG
in our "Brand-X" automatic 2003 Honda Civic.

Thanks to all who attended and helped to make Tri-State Salida another great
Corvair weekend.