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2005 POST-STAMPEDE REPORT

April 1, 2005

The Stampede was a blast, figuratively and, I am afraid to admit, literally. This year’s Stampede could not take place on the originally scheduled day due to nearly 1.5 inches of area-wide rain, but that didn’t stop 12 committed Bull Riders from riding this year’s Raging Bull, a 275 mile route consisting of some of the most challenging and scenic roads across four counties in Texas. The challenge to all of us was clear: How well can you ride the Raging Bull?

There were 21 drivers signed up for the original date.  Then, when the weather forecast showed a nearly 100% chance of rain, it got rescheduled to Sunday. Amazingly, 12 cars showed up on Sunday morning. There were six drivers from Austin and two each from San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas.  The group totaled 19 people including navigators. The stable was made up of two 350Zs, two 300ZX Twin Turbos, one 300ZX 2+2, two 240SXs, three G35 Coupes and two G35 Sedans. After a drivers meeting, where detailed maps were handed out, the group saddled up on the Raging Bull and departed the starting point at 10 am.

It was in the low 40s, the ground still slightly wet from the previous day's all day rain, and the sun was trying to peak through the clouds.  The good news is that by the time we got the tires warmed up and started enjoying the fun country roads, all the water and wetness on the roads had dried up, ensuring a fun and safe day for the rest of the day.

After the first hundred miles, we had lunch at the famous and historic Stagecoach Inn in Salado, Texas.  After lunch and a group photo by the waterfall, we noticed a group of two Corvettes, a Viper, a Lotus Elise, and Honda S2000 drive by us and waved.  A couple minutes later, to our surprise and delight, they came back to meet us.  After some salivating over all of the sports cars by both parties, we hopped back on the Raging Bull and drove on some of the most scenic and challenging remote roads of the hill country in Texas.

Our drive was "spirited", to say the least. Renee, who drove down from Dallas in her Anniversary Edition 350Z (the first one to be delivered in Texas), was accompanied by her mother Pat as navigator.  Pat said to me during lunch, in a gentle, motherly, and somewhat concerned tone, "I think you’re driving a little fast". She most likely noticed that the Raging Bull was like a training ground – the more we rode it, the better and more confident drivers we were becoming, which was not helping her concerns one bit. Lots of blind turns and peaks ensured maximum concentration and excitement. The number and sharpness of the twisties made us appreciate the lateral support of our seats. Sitting next to drivers whose hands were practically glued to their steering wheels, many navigators reported experiencing periods of extreme fear.

We encountered little to no traffic throughout the Stampede. At one point during the afternoon we stopped for a breather right after a particularly challenging leg, only to notice that smoke was coming from the brake pads of one of the cars. Some wanted to drive the same leg again!  No one was surprised because it was the most challenging and exciting section of the Stampede.  Later, we took a 15 minute break to stretch our legs and get some snacks before completing the third and last 100 mile leg.

The adrenaline rush persisted through the end of the day until we arrived at The Oasis at 5:30 pm for dinner and the approaching beautiful sunset. The physical demands of executing hundreds of precise steering wheel movements by arms acting like high precision servo motors, harmoniously synchronized with carefully dispensed braking and split-second downshifting, followed by upshifting back to regular speeds, all performed through 5.5 hours of nearly non-stop concentration on the roads and landscape rushing towards us resulted in mental exhaustion and overwhelming satisfaction that could probably only be likened to a fighter pilot successfully executing an attack mission and returning home with several kills.

In the morning, when it was still cold, damp, and mostly cloudy, I was wondering whether by the time we arrived there in the early evening we would be able to withstand the cold and breezy deck of The Oasis overlooking Lake Travis from 450 ft. above.  Imagine being delightfully surprised to enjoy a wonderful sunset in 60+ degrees weather. To my surprise, again, all but one driver decided to attend dinner at The Oasis after an exhausting day of driving 275 miles.

Guess who showed up unexpectedly while we were still in the parking lot of The Oasis: Rick Kulach, Dealer Operations Manager, South Central Region for Nissan North America, Inc. Apparently, he saw (or maybe heard, felt?) us drive by on the infamous Lime Creek Road, Austin’s 10.4 mile version of the Tail of the Dragon.  He graciously accepted our invitation to join us for drinks and dinner at The Oasis where we also did drawings for 16 prizes, including a JWT G35 ’03 Pop Charger air filter w/heat shield (donated by returning Bull Rider John Huckelba), two Igloo PlentiKool coolers (donated by Mike Morrison at Maxwell Nissan in Round Rock), and several Nissan shirts and accessories and two tickets to the next night’s Texas vs. Oklahoma college basketball game (all donated by Rick Kulach from Nissan North America).  There was a lot of "car talk", of course, in addition to sharing stories of close-calls and unusual and unexpected incidents of day (ask one of the Bull Riders about the taxi cab pulling on to the road heading towards us in our lane - while the cab driver was looking away from us - and the split-second decision-making and maneuvering everyone had to do; it was an unbelievable and unforgettable moment).

The Raging Bull Texas Stampede II was absolutely, without a doubt, a great bunch of serious and skilled drivers in a group of great-looking cars riding a sometimes nasty Raging Bull in near-perfect weather. I think Floyd, a Bull Rider from San Antonio, best summed up the experience of the day: “The best part of the whole day was the overall feeling of camaraderie through the group…the bonding of everyone there to work together and complete the Stampede, that is what I'll remember well past the time I attend the next Stampede. No one goes to show who's the best driver, who has the fastest car, who has the most mods. We all go to enjoy our cars for their purpose: to be driven. We truly are the Nissan/Infiniti owners as we each hold Nissan's slogan close, DRIVEN...”


The Tourmaster





Image used within Raging Bull Texas Stampede logo belongs to Jeff Bucchino.
The rest of his artwork can be viewed at www.wizardofdraws.com.
Website by Vkoslak.