Riding and driving

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So I’m on the road for the next couple of days testing out the new 2011 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup truck models from General Motors, and already entered some “never been done before” notations in my “ride and drive” ledger.

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Like showing up in my soccer coach uniform, for starters.

Yes, yes, I know – youth soccer coaches wear UNIFORMS? Well, not in the sense that baseball managers do. It’s really just a golf shirt emblazoned with the club’s logo. But what can one do? There wasn’t enough downtime to get changed – and it didn’t matter anyways, since dress is decidedly “informal” for such events.

[Though my hosts noted that if I’d shown up in a REFEREE uniform, it would’ve been very different.]

While I can’t share my driving impressions until June 14, according to the rules of this ride and drive, I can tell you we got a very lucky break with the weather. I arrived in Baltimore, MD for the start in the event in a driving thunderstorm – weather that delayed a lot of flights for both GM representatives and journalists alike.

Fortunately, as we were heading west to Rocky Gap, MD (where I’m sitting now, coffee in hand), we left the rain behind and enjoyed a sunny yet cool day.

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We took I-70, through the rolling farmland of western Maryland, with a brief stop outside Sharpsburg MD for a McDonald’s iced coffee – a scant 10 miles from the battlefield of Antietam. In the Civil War, the Confederacy always named battlefield locations after the nearest town, while the Union chose the nearest river or creek.

In this case, Antietam is the name history remembers for this tragic place where 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862. Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led to Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Temptation knocked mightily on my mind’s door as I stood in the parking lot looking down the road. Antietam is just 10 miles away, I thought: I haven’t been there in years. I could even take a quick tour of the site – perfectly preserved, looking just the way it did on the horrible September morning so long ago – before getting back on track to Rocky Gap. No one would miss me.

But I resisted and moved on.

A while later, I-70 gave way to I-68 and we punched up through Sideling Hill; a 2,321 foot rise in the Allegheny Mountain range, capped with a 340-foot deep roadway notch excavated from its ridge. It is notable as an impressive man-made mountain pass, visible from miles away, and is considered one of the best rock exposures in Maryland and the entire northeastern U.S.

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I pulled in to the rest stop there to take some photos (as you can see in this post) enjoying the view and marveling yet again at some of the engineering feats of mankind. Looking at how much stone had to excavated to make this roadway cut is just staggering; requiring determination and patience in equal measure to accomplish.

We capped the day’s drive (some 130 miles or so – a very scant measure in the trucking business) at the Rock Gap resort, which sits on a 243-acre lake (translation: it’s HUGE) in the foothills of Rocky Gap State Park. It’ll be our “base camp” for running routes in three states – Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Maryland – to put the Silverado and Sierra models through their paces, with plenty of steep grades to measure engine power, braking, plus ride and handling.

We’ll see how these trucks perform.

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