Last weekend, a group of Saab nuts gathered to take a drive up scenic Mount Washington, New Hampshire. It was a somewhat hastily organised event, promoted pretty much via Facebook and a few other postings here and there.
Nine cars came, with owners and others from six different states. One estimate is that the combined mileage put in that day would have got one of them to California and part-way back again.
I love Saab gatherings.
The drive was organised by a guy named Luke L. Another guy named Jim C went along, too – I met Jim in Boston at Swedish Car Day along with his pristine Saab Sonett III…… magnificent!. Jim put this writeup together, along with the video below. I’ve thrown in some photos from Luke for good measure, too.
You know, there just may be something to this Social Networking thing. Just two weeks ago a few New England Saab enthusiasts posted a Facebook inquiry to see if anybody wanted to take a trip up to the summit of Mt. Washington in northern New Hampshire.
Mt. Washington is the tallest peak in the North East and the longest road above tree line this side of the Rockies. It’s also home to some of the world’s most inhospitable weather. Over the next few days word spread to some of the Saab online forums and Swade was even kind enough to post the link to the Facebook invite for our little unsponsored road trip on Saabs United (eventually! – SW).
As a result we ended up with close to twenty people and cars from all six New England States plus New York. Pretty astonishing considering many people would be covering over 500 miles over the course of the day. Those who were on the fence about coming and elected to do something else missed an epic day.
Everything came together perfectly.
We picked three rally points and by 9:30 we had all assembled in Hooksett NH and were ready to head into the heart of New England on the peak foliage weekend of the year. I was selected to lead the convoy and told to keep the boost needle off the left side stop pin. Why they picked the red car (Saab 9-5) to lead I’m not sure. But in no time we were blasting thru Franconia Notch where I kind of missed not seeing the “Old Man on the Mountain”. This rocky outcropping in the form of human head perched high on a cliff above the Notch was New Hampshire’s official symbol forever. But it tumbled to the valley floor a few years ago. Gravity. It’s the Law! But Franconia Notch is stunning this time of year even without the Old Man’s watchful eye.
We then skirted around the north side of the White Mountains and arrived at the Mt. Washington base visitor center, along with about 100 other cars. Weather all week was miserable so it appears everyone was making up for lost time. Great minds think alike. It was 51 degrees at the base but the summit is typically 30 degrees cooler. This is also the home of the highest sustained wind (237 MPH) ever recorded.
After getting out some winter jackets and hats and spending 25 minutes in the queue we paid the toll and headed up as a group. The auto road is 8 miles long at an average grade of 12%, with some sections well over 20%. The first 4 miles are through beautiful forests and the colors were stunning. The second half of the road is above the tree line and much of it unpaved. New England did not escape the deluge that hit the east coast last week but even the gravel sections were it was in remarkable shape. But at an average of about $35 per car I guess they can afford the upkeep.
Probably took the group a bit over 25 minutes to reach the summit. That’s a bit slower than Travis Pastrana did it a few weeks ago in Rally Car. But that’s OK. At some points 20 MPH was just fast enough thank you. We lucked out and found a section to park our cars together.
Astonishingly, it was just a few degrees cooler than at the base and I could have held a lit candle. We all walked up the last hundred feet to the official summit to get a group shot. Then we realize we really needed something to “Saabify” the picture. Do you think anybody thought to bring a banner or even a T-shirt to hold up? No! Best we could do was send Luke back down to grab his spare Viggen wheel with on of the now iconic SAVE SAAB stickers on it. Told him to make sure he didn’t drop it or it might end up killing somebody in Canada. It is no doubt the oddest of the hundreds of pictures taken at the summit that day. We were getting some mighty funny looks.
After about 90 minutes spent marveling at the views (visibility = unlimited) we headed back down the auto road. Again I was thinking how wise I was to resist the temptation to drive my ‘73 Sonett. Only three people have died on the auto road. I didn’t want to be the fourth. Confident in the 9-5 I let my Kiwi co-pilot Wayne take the helm so I could enjoy the views. He’s a Mini owner. Mini has a similar annual cruise to the summit with 250 cars! I’d love to see Saab do something similar.
Wayne handled the Saab just fine, but then again kind of a no brainer coasting in low gear for 8 miles. I was last in line and could smell hot brakes but I think it was the Bimmer that snuck into our convoy. Next year we are going to pass out some of those funeral procession flags.
After that is was a quick stop for fuel (car and body) in North Conway and around 6:00 we all scattered off in our different directions.
All in all I don’t think we could have asked for a better day. There was great driving, fantastic weather and spectacular views. Best part for me was getting together with some people who I have talked Saab with over the last few years online but had not personally met. What a pleasure.
Let’s do it again next year – and they rest of you? Join us!