Now that spring has sprung, it’s time to pull off those car covers, dust off the maps, and hit the road. To help, we’ve assembled a few of our favorite roads within about an hour of the Twin Cities. Depending on where you’re from, we picked multiple routes to be convenient but they’re all worth exploring if you can find a spare hour or two for a cruise.
East of the cities, near Afton Alps is Stagecoach Trail which snakes around the hills and bluffs near the St Croix River. Admittedly, at only a little over 15 miles, you’ll probably spend more time driving there than you will on the road itself, but it’s scenic enough that it’s worth a few laps on its own. And then when you’re done, just hop back onto Hwy 10 or 94 and head home. Or stop by Afton State Park for some beautiful scenery along the river or load up the golf clubs and play a round on the nearby golf course.
For those seeking a longer route, take Stagecoach Trail south to Hwy 10 and cross the river into Prescott, WI and enjoy following the other side of the St Croix River south along County Hwy 35. The alphabet soup of great driving roads – including County Roads O, OO, K, VV, C, EE, and A – are all easily accessible from County Hwy 35 and serpentine through the hills while offering some challenging drives and beautiful scenery near the Lake Pepin area.
Heading straight west out of the cities on 394 will take you onto Hwy 12 out to County Rd 6. Follow that west to Watertown, before turning south onto County Rd 25 for a couple miles to Hwy 7 which will take you back towards the cities. It’s an easy loop around Lake Minnetonka but the real highlights here are the number of great little diners and cafes along the way to stop at for a bite to eat, or take any number of little side streets to find access to the lakes in the area. This isn’t a route that is meant to be at all challenging or a test of a driver’s skills, but it’s great for a casual cruise on a warm summer evening.
If you’re on the west side of down and looking for something a bit longer, take Hwy 7 west out to County Rd 11 and head south to Hwy 5 in Victoria where you’ll take a left followed by a right to stay on County Rd 11/Victoria Drive and keep heading south for as long as you like. Depending on how much time you have, you can cross the Minnesota River into Belle Plaine on State Hwy 25 and head back on 169 N or continue south down to Henderson or LeSeur and follow the river back however you’d like.
We hope to see you out on the road this summer! And obviously, Morrie’s Automotive Group advises you to follow all posted speed limits and obey all traffic laws while you’re at it.
In a word, it’s tough. It’s grueling. It’s dirty. The rally will come to an end and you’ll wonder what you actually just saw and why you’re covered in an inch-thick layer of dust and you feel like you’d been wading through a swamp. But wow, what an experience. There’s nothing else like it.
Go to spectate or shoot any road race on a conventional circuit and it’s a walk in the park. To get from one corner of the track to another, it might be a 5 or 10 minute walk. Everything is paved, well marked. Go up in the grandstands and you can probably see the majority of the track. The same cars go by lap after lap for hours on end. Whichever car or team you’re focused on, you know exactly where they are in the standings each time they pass because you can see the rest of the field go by at roughly the same time. If all else fails, there’s usually a big scoreboard or an app for whatever series you’re following that shows the timing and scoring for the race.
Now try to follow the action in a rally. You’re often driving 20+ miles in between stages on poorly marked roads trying to find the lone spectator area for each stage. You can go hours on end without seeing any rally cars whizzing by. And unless you have a teleportation device or a time machine, chances are you’ll only get a chance to watch the cars fly by two or three times all day. And every time you do see one of the cars fly by at breakneck speed, you’re choking on dust clouds and getting pelted by rocks left in their wake. At least checking the standings throughout the weekend is as easy as checking Rally America’s website on your phone… As long as you can get signal in any of the remote areas where the stages are held.
It’s not all bad though. Sure shooting at a circuit is easier, but with rally, you’re experiencing the great outdoors. You get to drive on a lot of the same (or very similar) roads that the rally uses for stages. Fellow rally spectators are some of the kindest and most enthusiastic fans I’ve ever met, often because they’ve put in the work to get to the same remote area as you, for the same reasons. And because the cars aren’t really racing head to head, wheel to wheel, like they would at the track, the viewing experience is much more relaxed. You’ve got time in between cars to have conversations with people, to grab a drink, move around a little. All with beautiful, scenic landscapes all around you.
As a photographer though, this presents a significant number of challenges. What sort of gear do I bring? How do I want to capture the car in a way that shows both the speed and spectacle in which it goes by while also showing the natural beauty of the surroundings? None of the stages feature much by way of protection between the fans and the cars ripping by, hanging on by a mere thread of control, so often times the crowds are pushed further and further back, far away from the action. Being out in the elements has its perks, but you and your camera will also be exposed to uncontrollable rain, massive clouds of dust, the blazing sun, and frigid winds. It tests your character, forcing you to endure.
No doubt about it, shooting rally racing is an endless struggle, but get things right – or at least a bit lucky – and the results can be well worth it. You can snap away until the memory cards are full and the batteries are drained and only go home with a handful of shots you’re proud of but on the long drive home, there’s a sense of accomplishment, of camaraderie, of witnessing something special. There’s something magical about rallying that makes it unlike any other form of motorsports. It’s the way the wind laps at your face. The way crisp country air, untamed brush, and speckled wildflowers mix with the hazy clouds of dust and race gas. The way the serene stillness of an untouched forest is broken so abruptly by the staccato engine notes of highly-strung race cars hammering between gears. There’s something about that dichotomy between the tranquility of nature and the wild frenzy of motorsports that created a unimaginable combination that will keep you coming back for more.
Eurowerks Wednesday Night GTGs – Wednesday, April 27th
Eurowerks is one of the most anticipated European car shows in Minneapolis every summer attracting a wide range of euro cars new and old. The group recently kicked off a twice-monthly Wednesday night get together for euro loving car nuts to hang out, talk cars and show off that spot free shine (or lack thereof). It just might be a perfect event to take the MHCC Porsche 911 coupe, VW Thing, Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio, or well, you get the idea.
Purple Rain at the Uptown Theater –Friday, April 29th
Uptown was the first single off of Prince’s third album, Dirty Mind, and it’s also one place you can see his movie Purple Rain on the big screen this Friday night. It’s playing at the Uptown Theater at midnight and if you’re hoping to get a seat you should act fast. We’re sure it will sell out before you can say little red Corvette.
Tunes n’ Toons Brunch – Saturday, April 30th
Few things kick off a Sunday morning better than a good brunch. Throw in some classic cartoons, a soundtrack from local vinyl aficionados and you’ve got a recipe that will satiate generations of hungry bellies. Swing by the Turf Club beginning at 10am Saturday for its weekly Tunes n’ Toons Brunch.
Russian Grand Prix Viewing Event – Sunday, May 1st
This weekend we’re hosting a BYOB party – Bring Your Own Borscht. That’s right, this Sunday morning Formula 1 makes the trip to Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix. Fortunately, you don’t have to travel all the way across the world to enjoy it. Simply stop by our humble little “Dojo” beginning at 6:30am Sunday to watch the race from flag to flag.
Although it’s not required to have a deep appreciation for cars to work at for a dealership group like Morrie’s, a lot of us are absolutely fanatical about cars. While some of us diligently wash and wax our favorite cars before a car show or enjoy a serene cruise around town, we have some serious motorheads amongst our ranks who can only satiate their need for speed at the race track. Perhaps the most die-hard of them all are the rally enthusiasts, most typically found at our Minnetonka Subaru store. Scott Putnam, the fleet sales manager at Morrie’s Minnetonka Subaru invited us out to Michigan earlier this year to watch his team, CPD Racing, as they tackled a number of snow and ice-covered rural roads in their Subaru WRX STI during the first round of Rally America’s 2016 championship. A few weeks later, they were in Salem, MO for the 100 Acre Wood Rally. Scott invited us back to follow the team around the hills outside Portland, OR this past weekend during the Oregon Trail Rally, the 3rd round of the 2016 Rally America series.
The Oregon Trail Rally is an incredibly challenging and grueling three day event that follows the narrow fire roads that flank the Columbia River. While the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, these roads often feature blinding dust, slippery rocks, and sheer rock faces inches from the edge of the road. It’s a harrowing drive for your average driver, even more so while carrying triple digit speeds, sideways, while choking on the dust of the car you’re chasing down for a spot on the podium. Instead of CPD’s usual ace driver, Lauchlin O’Sullivan, Road & Track Magazine sent in contributing editor Jason Harper to mix it up in the dirt for an upcoming article.
The first day comprised of a few stage laps around Portland International Raceway with some added jumps to spice things up. You know, because rally. The turnout was great with lots of spectators lining the track well into the night. Jason and Scott kept things tidy and made up a few spots on the grid during the four stages held at the circuit.
The following morning, we headed into the hillside on the northern side of the Columbia River in Washington where Jason and Scott would be tackling a mix of windmill-lined gravel roads before ending on the private Maryhill Loop hillclimb stage for stages 11 and 12. The ominous silhouette of Mount Rainier always looming in the background, setting the stage for a clash of titans of the dirt. Maryhill Loop would cap off the day with an epic serpentine bit of tarmac that wound its way back and forth up the hillside of a private piece of land. Typically, this narrow two-lane road is used for downhill longboarding competitions and filming car commercials where a closed road is needed. For us however, it was an all-out, full-speed assault to the top.
For the final day, Jason and Scott went back across the river towards Dufur, OR to race through a mix of picturesque vineyards and silty hillsides. When all was said and done, CPD Racing didn’t make a podium spot but Jason was ecstatic each time he climbed out of the car. He drove cleanly and brought the car back in one piece. Mighty impressive for a novice rally driver, given the treacherous terrain and unforgiving conditions. We’re looking forward to checking back with the team in a few short weeks for the Mount Olympus hillclimb!
It’s been a long time in the works but Morrie’s Minnetonka Subaru’s remodel, transforming it to the biggest, most modern Subaru dealership in the Midwest is just about done. We’ve appreciated all of our customers’ patience as we’ve completely renovated not only our show floor but also our service and parts area. Before, we had two separate show floors and a tired service area that was dirty and poorly lit. Here’s what we used to look like:
The plan for construction was to clear out the service area behind the bigger of our two show floors and expand back, with more room for customers, including a new customer lounge, a playroom for children, and new finance offices. We also added a new area for our service advisors and cleaned up our service drive. We expanded our service center with more lighting and windows, as well as more lifts to work on cars to speed up service. To top everything off, we freshly painted the whole building and updated our signs and facias to give our dealership a bold, new look.
And now, we’re up and running on our new show floor with plenty of space both for all of our amazing customers as well as the latest and greatest Subaru models! Stop by soon and see for yourself!
Despite the frigid temperatures, howling wind, and momentary blizzard-like conditions, we kicked off the first MN C&C of the year in style! Thanks go out to everyone who braved the conditions and came out to the event.
After each major auto show, we like to sit back and simmer on what we saw for a little bit. It’s important to think about what we saw and where we think the auto industry as a whole is headed. Oftentimes, an auto show will have an underlying theme or trend beyond the glitz, glamor, and luxury of the latest and greatest new cars. For instance, last year in Detroit, the North American International Auto Show was all about sports cars. The Los Angeles Auto Show tends to alternate between driving fun, sporty cars or big, lumbering crossovers. The New York show, a one-to-one transfer of urban and affluent world around it, was loaded up with high-end luxury vehicles and sports cars. And with over 25 new vehicles making their debut in the halls of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center this year, we figured we should pick a few highlights from the show that warrant a closer look.
Most Fun: This has to go to the new Mazda MX-5 RF. Although the beautiful flying buttresses and hardtop mechanism add an estimated 100 lb weight penalty to the lightweight roadster, we’ll gladly take the extra style and security of a hardtop in this case. Mazda took a car we already loved to drive and gave us a reason to drive it even more.
Best Concept: This was a tough decision between the Lincoln Navigator and the Genesis New York Concept but the Genesis wins because it’s the one we most want to drive. We like the edgy, overstyled design cues and high-tech futuristic tech but what really got our attention was the 3.3L V6 making 365 HP that we were promised. While we’re not sure if Genesis will actually implement technologies like gesture control and a 21-inch curved 4K display sprawling across the dash, we’re looking forward to seeing a production version in the near-ish future.
Best Overall Booth: It’s pretty safe to say that Nissan had the best booth of the entire show (they actually had two booths). We loved Nissan’s booths so much because for the 2017 GTR unveiling, Nissan brought out six vintage GTRs from 1969 all the way up to 2014 to show their lineage. While we were impressed by the 2014 Nurburgring record-holding GTR NISMO and enjoyed a bit of nostalgia for the R32, R33, and R34 models that we idolized in Gran Turismo video games, the true stars in our eyes were the 1969 KPGC10 and 1974 KPCG110 models that just ooze style.
Most Luxurious: Now the Lincoln Navigator Concept gets its chance to shine. Aside from the huge gullwing door opening, Lincoln Motor Company’s tagline “Quiet Luxury” couldn’t be more fitting for this SUV concept. The interior design is pure opulence while the exterior styling makes more of a statement than any Rolls Royce. Assuming Lincoln stays true to this design for the production Navigator like they did with the Continental, we’ll be happy campers.
Driver’s Choice: As you might know if you follow our Morrie’s Heritage Car Connection blog, a bunch of us here at Morrie’s love to get out and drive. Many of us are also loyal Porsche enthusiasts which is why the new 911R spoke to us the most as the car we wanted to get in and drive at the 2016 New York International Auto Show. A 4.0-liter, naturally aspirated Flat-6 generating 500 HP carries over from the street-legal race car GT3RS but what makes the 911R special is that it’s linked to a model-exclusive 6-speed manual transmission instead of the usual PDK gearbox we see in Porsche’s GT models. It’s meant to be driven hard and put away wet, and that’s what we’re all about.
Unobtanium Award: Just because we’ll probably never see another one of these again, we’ve got to pick the Koenigsegg Regera (and its One:1 stablemate) as the biggest jaw-dropper of the show. Something about having well over 1,000 HP packed into a lightweight, carbon-fiber shell with loads of other technologies including a hybrid drivetrain that eliminates the need for a transmission, and this is pure, unfiltered, car-nerd dream fodder. More than any other booth at the show, we probably went out of our way to walk past the Koenigseggs the most. Soak it in, my friends. This thing is wild!
While Day 1 at the 2016 New York International Auto Show was packed to the gills with all sorts of major reveals, there were only a handful by comparison on Day 2. This left us with more time to wander the showfloor and see anything we missed in the chaos on Day 1 while also making sure to see what had just been revealed. For instance, we couldn’t keep ourselves away from the rows of supercars where we saw a Bugatti, a Spyker, and two brand new Koenigseggs on the stand. The same was true for the Porsche stand which drew us in with the rare and beautiful 911R and the new 718 Boxster S. We also got to spend a little more time with the Maserati Levante, where we checked out the gorgeous Zegna-trimmed interior (it’s pretty dang nice!)
We also circled back to Genesis – Hyundai’s new luxury brand – to check out their New York Concept vehicle that we ought to see hit the compact luxury sedan segment in the next couple of years. Although this was very much a style exercise for the show, Genesis already had a list of drivetrain specs as well as a beautifully designed interior, although it’s unlikely many of the interior details (like the 21-in curved 4K display from LG on top of the dash) will make it to production.
We’re in New York this week covering the 2016 New York International Auto Show during the press preview. In addition to creating a ton of fresh video content from the showfloor, we made sure to snap a ton of photos of our favorite new (and some old) cars that we found at the show. Now, we love the big international auto shows as much as anybody but we’re going to walk you through some of the highlights so keep reading!
First up, Mazda excited us with the MX-5 RF, a retractible hardtop model that carries more of a targa look when the top is stowed. It’s a great new look for our favorite convertible and we think Mazda really outdid themselves this time. How could you not love that shape?!?
Nissan also rolled out another updated version of the GT-R. With more power, more comfort, and more luxurious materials throughout, the GT-R continues to justify its existence for another year while we wait with bated breath for a completely new version that is rumored to come out next year as a 2018 model. Still, it’s hard to fault Nissan for building a bright orange, 580 hp rocketship, but the real stars of the Nissan booth were all the vintage GT-Rs they brought out for the show, dating back to 1969!
Cuban Film Festival – Thursday March 24th
The Minnesota Cuba Committee, in partnership with the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul and the Cuban Film Institute, presents the 7th edition of the Minnesota Cuban Film Festival. This Thursday marks the fifth film screening in a series of six. Just bring your Spanish translator because the films are in Spanish.
Macy’s Flower Show – Now until April 3rd
You don’t need to go to Denver to enjoy some good greenery. Over the next few weeks the eight floor of Macy’s downtown will come alive with grasses, tropical flowers, cacti, and other green and not-so-green flora. It’s too bad we don’t have a VW bus in the MHCC fleet. It would fit this event perfectly.
Smoke Signals BBQ and Brewfest – Saturday, March 26th
Generally we’re not fan of smoke, whether it’s blue smoke from a tailpipe or any other variety, but we can’t turn down a little smoked barbeque. This Saturday Indeed Brewing is paring some of the finest BBQ with some of their tasty suds at Smoke Signals. Throw in an outdoor bonfire for good measure you’ve got a great trifecta.