Who would have imagined that sedate old David Mendosa would some day race at the Bonneville Speedway! Well, he did, and that day was today.
He didn’t challenge the Bonneville Salt Flats record of 630.389 miles per hour that Gary Gabelich set in October 1970. But he did achieve a personal best of 101 miles per hour in his unmodified 2003 Toyota Highlander SUV “Susie.” Actually, Susie could have gone even faster. But David chickened out, remembering when at age 16 he got his first car, a 1941 Buick. The first time he ever raced it he blew a rod.
This newly minted speed demon would have never even considered racing on the speedway at the Bonneville Salt Flats if he hadn’t encountered a family from Glenwood Springs, Colorado, at the Bonneville Salt Flats rest stop off Interstate 80. The young father told him that at the very next highway exit he could drive right out onto the speedway.
“It’s a lot of fun,” the father of the twins told David, “but I got turned around on the way back.” David thought that with his good sense of direction that couldn’t happen to him.
But it did.
After driving for about 20 miles on the salt flats where David, Susie, and 159 square miles of salt flats was a complete description of the environment, he stopped to take a picture of today’s fastest (and only) vehicle on the speedway. Since nobody was within miles, no one was able to get take a motion picture of the scene.
When David decided to turn around, he couldn’t see any landmarks. Then, to the south he saw a row of big rigs moving along the highway, so he knew where Interstate 80 was. He went west until he came to the western edge of the salt flats.
“I thought I could see the entrance road,” David relates, “but instead I encountered soft, wet sand, and I kept losing traction. Even with the pedal to the metal I couldn’t go faster than 40 mph. Eventually, the fastest I could go was 35 mph, and I knew that if I ever stopped, I wouldn’t be able to get going again.”
But after a few minutes of sweating David made it out of the wet sand. He continued to drive north along the western edge of the salt flats.
“Seeing three cars parked at the end of the road gave me a great sense of relief because I knew that I had finally made it out. What a relief!”
So, yes, it was a lot of fun. And just a little bit scary.