The E60 M5 has a voracious appetite for roads. Especially roads which utilize all 3 dimensions. I knew before beginning this adventure that my car was up to the challenge. I’ve had a few, much shorter, road trips that confirmed for me that this was not just a car that is very comfortable, but is one that cantake on any road that is offered.

For those of you who are not motorheads, the BMW E60 M5 is a 500 BHP Sedan (Saloon to our British friends). It offers 100 HP/Passenger when fully loaded. You cannot name another 4 door Sedan that delivers this level of performance. I’m sure the guys at AMG are hard at work to remedy this. The transmission has 2 basic modes: Automatic, and SMG. You know what Automatic is. SMG is “Sequential Manual Gearbox”. It’s the paddle shifting technology you may know from things like Formula 1. Think of it as a manual gearbox where instead of a stick, you have an upshift paddle and a downshift paddle mounted on the steering wheel, and the clutch pedal is replaced by some pretty amazing electronics. In the M5, there are 6 different levels of “aggressiveness” that you can select for the gearbox. Level 6 is only available when you turn off Traction Control, so I drive it in L5 unless I want to leave most of my tires on the local roads.

There are many things I love about this car. The first, and most important, is the feel of the drive. The power, the precision and the pure pleasure make driving something that I look forward to. Of course, rush hour in any major city completely neuters any great car, but I am fortunate enough to live in a place where traffic is rare. Because of my work commitments, I really haven’t enjoyed this car the way I should have. And this trip is a significant remedy to that situation.

Ok, enough about the car, as much as I’d love to keep going.

This morning, Ravindra and I started our day at 8am MDT in Salt Lake City. Once again, Mother Nature smiled upon us and we had a glorious day for driving. I knew before the trip that today was going to be the longest drive. It would also be the one with the most variety. We would have mountains, desert, hills, empty Interstates and urban congestion.

The thing I have looked forward to the most was arriving at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. This is the home to Speed Week, where motoring enthusiasts gather with every conceivable form of transportation to run them flat out on the salt flats. It’s a race against the clock, and not against other vehicles. There are many different classes to compete against, and it’s all great fun. It’s also serious business. There have been fatalities, but these guys died doing what they love, and you have to respect their commitment.

In my pre-trip research, I called the Utah Bureau of Land Management who own/oversee the salt flats. I wanted to know if you could pull off I-80, drive onto the flats, and press the right pedal hard and long. It was good news and bad news. The good news was, yes, you could drive on the slat flats. The bad news is the salt flats will likely be under 3″ of water.

As we drove passed the salt flats, we could see that the ground conditions would prevent us from driving on the salt. Having the car stuck in the muck was not part of our plan, but I still wanted to drive on the service road to the entry point to the flats, and take some pictures. We did this. And the service road is long, flat and pretty smooth. The next time you see me, ask about what occurred next ;)


After the exhilaration of the Bonneville Speedway was behind us, it was into Nevada and onward. The Nevada stretch was pretty dull. The mountains were distant from the Interstate, and it was pretty flat, uninteresting driving. Ravindra and I amused ourselves by spotting dirt devils off to the side and rating them on the tornado “F” scale. Most were F0.2. The most powerful tornadoes are F5. Fortunately we had music too. I’m pretty confident that there were no other Canadian geeks bombing down I-80 in an M5 listening to Queen’s Greatest Hits. But I’m willing to be proven wrong.

I was looking forward to reaching Reno. Think of Reno as Vegas-lite. It’s a pretty weak imitation, but it’s the point where you start the hike up the mountains and into California, which was the last state of our trip, and our final destination.

We climbed, though not nearly as high as in Colorado, but it was once again breathtakingly scenic and fun. We would reach just under 8000′ ASL today. The best part is the rapid decline. You are dropping like a stone (ok, that’s an exaggeration) towards the San Francisco Bay, which due to its direct connection to the Pacific Ocean is 0′ ASL.

While we saw exactly 1 State Trooper in Utah, and he was just taking his jacket off and putting it in the back of the car, within 1 hour of crossing into California, we say SIX CHP, and FIVE of them were extracting revenue from customers. Happy Easter.

But once again, I had lots of notice of the traps thanks to the Beltronics. Did I mention how much I love this device. It’s killing me that I can’t use it in Ontario. What would the call be if I have it surgically implanted inside me. I’m willing to be a cyborg to enjoy the ability to exercise due caution and care while driving above the arbitrarily set limits on our roads.

Alas, as we approached Sacramento (the state capital), we were greeted by traffic. I expected this, but it was certainly killing my fuel usage, and ate my fuel reserves for the final stop in San Jose.

Eventually, we got to the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge. Ravindra had the cameras going, and he recorded our voyage across the bridge. As promised, I paid the toll for myself, and for the car behind me. I never stick around to see if they respond, although I’d like to. I like to imagine their reaction and leave it at that.

We had “The Rock” on the right side, and the city growing large in front of us. I truly love San Francisco. It’s such a unique city. When we lived in California, we would love to visit the city to shop and eat. It’s so multicultural, and for a major US city, incredibly safe. I will never grow tired of spending time there. If you have never been, you MUST go.

Despite the multiple GPS devices best council, I wanted to take Ravindra to his hotel in Palo Alto via 280 South. You can take 101, but it’s nowhere near as nice. 280 runs approximately parallel to 101, but is further west, and meanders through some beautiful scenery. I pointed out several notable sites, including the exits I would take for both of the places we called home in California. There are some loose ends that I will tie up this week. I will take pictures of the houses we lived in, and the hospital that our daughter was born in. There’s some other places that are special to Helen and I that I will stop by for a quick picture.

As I sit here in the Fairmont in San Jose, the whole trip seems to have gone by so quickly. I am so happy and proud to have actually done this trip by car. It is my nature to like happy endings and no loose ends, and driving here has given me an opportunity to see and enjoy the country I’ve spent so much time working in, and reflect on the incredible experiences and wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I can’t wait to pick Helen up on Friday. This is her adventure as much as mine.

So, in closing, this trip and the memories, pictures and videos I have of it will be treasured forever. It also gave me a much overdue chance to spend alot of quality time with a great friend who I haven’t spent near enough time with over the last 10 years. These are things you can’t buy, and are more precious than any object you can. This trip reminded me of that.

mJm

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