A Million Dollars Worth of Cars

Just got back from one of my favorite events of the year, the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience. Sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press group, it’s a chance for car writers to meet and hobnob with reps from all the major car manufacturers and have a great time driving lots of different cars, ranging from the budget minded Nissan vehicles to breathtaking Mercedes convertibles. Yeah, it’s quite a lot of fun!

Since I drove so many cars, I’m going to write about the vehicular side of the experience in a separate post, so this will focus on the event and how it’s organized. With almost 30 cars involved, logistics is a big part of the RMDE event, and this year we all met in Golden, Colorado and were assigned a car to drive up and another car to drive down.

badge, rmde 2017, driving

I lucked out on the lottery, being assigned a sleek 2018 Acura TLX for the drive up and the Mercedes E43 AMG for the drive back down. Our destination: The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and about 71 miles via the lovely Peak to Peak Highway.

Imagine walking out to a parking lot full of brand new cars, gleaming in the morning sun, knowing you’ll be able to drive as many of them as you’d like:

parking lot, rocky mountain driving experience rmde, golden co

On the drive up we had two mandatory car swaps, where I switched from the Acura to a Land Rover Discovery, and then to the BMW 530E. No complaints, though the Discovery was a bit clumsy when compared to all the sleek sports sedans I drove!

On the ride back I started with the Mercedes E43 AMG and ended up back in the BMW: one swap was plenty after two days of non-stop driving around the Rocky Mountains and scenic little Estes Park.

One of the most beautiful hotels on the entire Front Range, The Stanley Hotel is also famous for being used for exterior shots in the horror film The Shining, and they play that to the hilt at the hotel! It is a bit creepy inside anyway, as you can see:

the stanley hotel - lodge - interior staircase

The exterior might be a bit more familiar looking if you’ve seen the film:

stanley hotel, exterior, nissan

Yes, that’s a 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport in the foreground! Nice parking spot, for sure.

After a tasty lunch, we were pointed to the RMDE parking lot where every car was sitting with keys on the seat, ready for us to drive around, 15-20 minutes/vehicle. One or two vehicles I took into town, but Estes Park even on a quiet weekday is jammed with tourists, so that wasn’t much fun as a driving experience.

Behind us, however, just a few miles away, were some gorgeous mountain roads with great visibility and scenery worth a million bucks:

a road in the mountains, estes park, colorado

A day of driving trucks, SUVs, sports cars and more, and we were all ready for a quiet evening. Happy hour and dinner were at the Estes Park landmark The View, and while I popped into the famous Stanley Hotel whiskey bar — with over 1000 whiskeys! — I was wiped after a day’s activity and passed out around 10pm.

Next morning we were all up, fueled by a good breakfast and ready for more driving. I started in the 2017 Mercedes SL450 again, because, well, convertible. Mercedes. Need I say more?

dave taylor in mercedes sl450

Right about when we’d all had our fill of driving and checked off just about every vehicle in our to-drive lists, we were done. A quick sandwich bar for lunch and it was back down the Peak to Peak Highway and back into Golden, where I reluctantly turned in the keys to the BMW 530E and got in my Toyota Sienna minivan for the drive back to Boulder.

All in all, a fantastic event, really great fun, powered by dozens of really fascinating people, both fellow car writers and journalists and reps from all the companies represented. RMDE is always a highlight of the waning days of summer and this year was splendid, thanks to the work of the RMAP board.

And now, about those individual cars…

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