Jeff’s Blog: Viper Trails to Spokane, Washington

No one ever likes to hear of a family member’s death. I received news of my 95-year-old grandmother’s passing on June 9. There was to be a memorial service on June 16 in Spokane, which meant I needed to take some time away from my magazine layout and art duties here at ACC.

I didn’t really want to take my daily-driver ’99 Mustang all the way up to Spokane, so I asked publisher Keith Martin if he had any vehicles in the stable that needed to be exercised. He said, “Why don’t you take the Viper?” How could I say no to that?

Our 2000 Dodge Viper GTS ACR had just been serviced by local Viper guru Ken Klickman. He’d installed a new battery and given the car a general once-over. Ken pointed out a few upgrades on the car: rear brakes are Viper 3rd gen, and, after raising the car on a lift, we could see an aftermarket front brake cooling intake and hose system. Ken confirmed that the previous owner installed all the right upgrades on the car and that it’s a car that should be driven. So we continue to drive it.

The odometer before my trek showed 3,100. The car had approximately 1,760 miles on it when delivered to ACC headquarters. Proof, in the short time that we’ve owned it, how user-friendly and enjoyable it really is to drive.

My navigator on the trip up north and back was my cousin, Doug. He’s an early riser and he and I both agreed to get an early start… really early. We wanted to be on the road by 5 a.m., which meant I was getting up at 4:30. I tried to be as quiet as possible with the Viper — which, with its Corsa cat-back, is nowhere near quiet. A quick turn of the key with the Viper already in reverse and I was out of my driveway quickly without disturbing anyone. Or so I hoped.

I picked up Doug just after 5 a.m. Surprisingly, his six-foot-three 250-pound frame fit comfortably inside the car (entry and exit notwithstanding), thanks to the added space of the double-bubble roof of the GTS body.

After finding an open gas station to top off the tank, we finally pointed the Viper east on I-84 at 5:30. The trek started out a little damp, but by the time we closed in on Hood River the sun was shining and the highway was nice and dry.

We made our first stop at The Dalles for a quick coffee and pastry to tide us over for the rest of the trip. My wife texted me to confirm that I didn’t wake her when leaving… Good news. Getting back onto the freeway, I rowed through the gears and had a devilish smile each time the exhaust growled. The car is very direct in how it handles and feels — driving it is a lot like riding a sport bike. You really have to drive it the whole time — with both hands on the wheel — but it’s a rewarding experience when you do. And I’d even say it was pretty comfortable, too.

With the continuous conversation of catching up with my cousin, beautiful Columbia River Gorge scenery, a couple more stops for fuel and the fun of the Viper, we hit Spokane at 11:30 a.m.

Once in Spokane, it was great getting to see family, celebrating my grandmother’s long life and learning even more about her, plus giving rides in the Viper to family members. The Viper attracts attention everywhere I’ve gone in it, and the attention is always positive.

After a couple days spent with family, the trip back in the Viper was much the same as our trip up. Wonderfully uneventful, surprisingly comfortable for a 700-mile trip, and with many smiles and thumbs-up from other road-trippers. I couldn’t think of a better way for me to say farewell to our family’s matriarch.