Mustang Challenge | Stood Up in Denver

Denver will forever be remembered, naught for the sights or the activities in which we participated, but rather for several, select individuals to whom we had the pleasure of meeting, and one we did not meet at all.

[You’re reading part of the Mustang Challenge series, a loosely bound concept that was created to inspire others to get out and explore the country in their cars. In this Mustang Challenge, two Canadians are touring the USA for the first time, traveling for 26 days through 13 different US cities while traversing over 8,000 miles behind the wheel of a 2016 Mustang GT. This is one post in a series of many. To read the previous articles and to follow the series, jump to the bottom of this page.]

As has become the norm, we rolled into Denver just past supper time. We had stopped in Salt Lake the night prior to get some rest and had left there early-ish in the morning. The drive over was quite enjoyable – the sky was crystal clear as we carved up and down through the Salt Lake region mountains. At one point we came across a freight train running parallel to us and, with a mountain in the backdrop, it looked exactly like a scene from an old western (except our pony had 4 wheels and not 4 legs). We were half expecting to see John Wayne come barreling out down the hill, stallion lightly foaming and at full gallop, in pursuit of a band of rap scallions attempting to hijack the train. Alas, this of course did not come to pass, but the landscape was beautiful nonetheless.

Gorgeous views just outside Salt Lake City.

We arrived the night of a preseason Broncos game and learned real quickly just how big football is in Denver. The streets were plugged everywhere! In fact, the digital road signs had scrolling messages saying that there was a Broncos game tonight and to expect delays. Once we arrived at our motel (which was probably the most destitute of all lodgings we had stayed at to date) we immediately logged online to see if we could buy tickets for the next Broncos game, which was being played the next day.

Unfortunately, even cheap Broncos tickets aren’t that cheap, at least for two misers like us. Thus, we forewent the pigskin tix and instead pulled up the Rockies schedule. Well, lo and behold, at $18 USD a ticket (center field), we finally had something we could afford! It was set. We’d be watching the Rockies play the Diamondbacks at Coors field the following night. Alex was pretty excited; me – not so much. I like playing baseball, but in all honesty, I find it pretty boring to watch.

Furthermore, I had been messaging a guy I called ‘Denver Dave’, who came recommended to us from my friend, Erin, back in Portland. Erin had given us his number and advised him prior to our arrival in Denver that we would be in contact. Thus, tentative plans had been arranged that the three of us would meet up somewhere after the Rockies game, all I was to do was message or call him once the game was over (if I recall, he was watching college football that night). He was keen to meet us and show us around, as he put it. Sounded great.

The next day, prior to the ball game, we took the ‘Stang into town so that we could meander about. On our way, we happened to pass through the Denver art district, where some astoundingly intricate wall art (aka spray painting) caused us to momentarily deviate from our route (much to Siri’s chagrin) and check out the neighborhood. Neither of us possesses the skill to make art as such, but we sure are able to appreciate it.

I think this shot speaks for itself…

We ate a fat meal at the Cheesecake Factory before heading over to Coors stadium to take in a major league baseball game. I haven’t been to a major league game since the Expos left, which was back in 2004. Arriving a couple innings into the game (we lounged for a bit too long at dinner, very much stuffed to the brim), the Diamondbacks had the lead. Things turned around pretty quick though, and the Rockies soon tied it at 5-5. Not bad, not bad. I was starting to get more into it.

Well, the baseball gods must have been watching, because the game ended with a Rockies walk-off, final score: 14-7. That’s right, a total of 21 runs were scored in a single game. I couldn’t believe it – never in my life had I seen or heard of such a high scoring game, and that is part of why I never really found baseball interesting. Many games go 3+ hours and end something like 3-0 or 5-2. The jumbotron then lit up, announcing that all in attendance were entitled to a free taco the following day at Taco Bell. Best. Game. Ever. But still not the highlight of Colorado. No, that was still to come.

14-7 win for the home team! Last pitch (strike out) of the game.

Game over we head back to the ‘Schtang and try and get Denver Dave rung up on the telephone, ready to begin phase two of the night. The last message received from him was during the baseball game, where he advocated to us his support of the Diamondbacks and wished them triumph over the Rockies. Well, we aren’t quite sure what happened to Denver Dave, as we never heard from him again. Perhaps he was so disgruntled over the defeat of the Diamondbacks he shut down. Perhaps the looming reality of meeting face-to-face with two Canadian icons became too intimidating, our alpha male status causing him to abandon ship last minute amidst a nervous breakdown. Perhaps one of those special Colorado dispensaries had given him some bad crop and he was KO’d for the night. Sadly, we’ll never know for sure. All we know with great certainty is that we got stood up by Denver Dave. Sorry, but that is just so rude.

Curious as to Dave’s whereabouts, the two of us ambled around for a bit before heading back to our Motel 6 to begin planning for the next day. We backed into our parking spot and shut off our rumbling V8 at precisely midnight. Alex immediately headed upstairs, mumbling something about his stomach and dinner, whereas I stuck around a bit longer to collect some items out of the Mustang.

I emerged from the driver seat and was greeted by our neighbors, who were standing outside hacking a dart. Like many before (and like many will), these two guys complimented the car and followed up the praise with a challenge to race. Slightly preoccupied, I glanced over my shoulder at the Explorer parked in the next spot over (and which they were leaning against), chuckled and answered “yeah, that thing, no problem, I’ll kill it”. They didn’t react, so I took a closer look. Yup, my initial assessment was correct. I was looking at a ’98 or ’99 Ford Explorer, that frankly, looked like it had already been to the scrap yard and somehow escaped.

Still, these two guys continued to smile, and to cover all my bases, I asked them to confirm the year. The older of the two, Jon, confirmed my suspicion that it was indeed a ’98. Right, so a 1998 Explorer, maybe it had my beloved pushrod 5.0L, or maybe the boat anchor V6. Regardless, it didn’t really matter. This thing would be a slug. But still, just to be absolutely sure of myself, I asked what was under the hood.

Upon my uttering of that question, the two of them stepped forward and I got my first good look at them. These were some rough looking dudes. Dudes that, on paper, you probably wouldn’t want to encounter with a fancy car in a dark neglected parking lot of a run-down motel. Dudes who had probably done some time. And yet, here I was, completely alone and exposed in this Hollywood-esque scenario. (initially, some very morbid thoughts flashed through my head.)

Excitedly, Jon (the older and rougher of the two) began listing off a bunch of modifications that had been done, starting off with a Ford crate engine. The roll-over king also had a police interceptor transmission, a larger throttle body, some suspension work and some kind of tune. All in all, Jon was explaining that this was a beast. Immediately, my curiosity was piqued and I asked to see the engine. What lay under the hood was certainly a surprise. Sitting there, in all its glory, was a large mass of metal, semblance to an engine, with wires and plastic tubes shooting off in all directions. A mess, yes. Extraordinary, no. I asked if it was a V8 and what size and the answer was that they weren’t sure but it was wicked fast. In fact, they had just recently smoked a Corvette, as the story goes.

I asked what year Corvette, thinking that yes, maybe they beat a late 70’s or early 80’s Corvette off the line (you know, back when the Corvette was an absolute dog). They answered it was a ZR1, and figured it to be roughly a 2014. Not wanting to be confrontational, I pretended to be amazed. In reality, I was holding back a good laugh. I had just counted the exhaust primaries, and there were 3, meaning that this beat-down Explorer was packing a mighty V6. Ah jeez, so naive.

Just passing through.

Nonetheless, my new found friends were super enthusiastic not only about their car, but cars in general. I stood out there for a solid three quarters of an hour, just chatting with them, shooting the breeze. We spoke about cars for a while before they began regaling me with their stories of their run-ins with the law, of which there were many. Jon quickly explained that he was an ex-criminal, and pulled down his lower lip to confirm this fact.

Unfortunately, I am very ignorant when it comes to the inner workings of the “system”. Rather, some of Jon’s teeth were rotting, and I thought he was showing me this, perhaps insinuating that damaged teeth were a sign of prison because the food was bad or there were no toothbrushes there, or something to that effect. Realistically, he was probably showing me some kind of tattoo either on the inside of his lower lip or on his gum. I don’t know. It was Alex who had to explain that to me when I recounted the story to him (he laughed really hard).

We talked some more and I learned a little bit more about the justice system before I excused myself to rejoin Alex. If there is one thing that I learned from these guys, when standing in front of a judge, always plead down to a misdemeanor. All in all, that was probably the most interesting conversation I had throughout the entire trip. And of course, it all started with the Mustang. It’s really cool to see that people from all walks of life can come together over the very simple topic of a Mustang.

Follow The Series

Be sure to check back to the blog on Tuesdays and Fridays for updates. You can also follow Connor and Alex on their adventure by checking in on Twitter and Instagram @MustangMounties

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