Cascade author Lisa Haight chronicles the 'mostly true' tales of the Hill Climb

June 27, 2014 Updated: June 28, 2014 at 7:45 am
photo - Red Bull Motorcycle Jumper Rich Kearns at Fan Fest. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)
Red Bull Motorcycle Jumper Rich Kearns at Fan Fest. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) 

Lisa Haight will have plenty more tall tales for her next book.

"There is already enough for another," Haight said. "And they will mostly be true."

It was natural for the Cascade author to pen a history called "Tall Tales from Pikes Peak: Mostly True Stories of Hill Climb Racing."

Haight is the daughter of Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame member Nick Sanborn, a Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb icon.

She grew up around the Hill Climb and heard tales from her father and his friends. The history of the climb is well documented by Stanley L. DeGeer up to the late 1990s.

After her father's death in 1999, Haight realized those fun stories were disappearing and needed to be documented in her 38-page book.

The 2012 publication, available through the Pikes Peak Library District, opens with a first-person account of Mike Ryan's memorable 2002 crash at the finish line. He avoided killing a spectator by rolling his semi truck cab over the hill climb's timing equipment.

"Ten years later people still accuse me of doing the 'stunt' on purpose," he wrote. "If they could have seen the look that Molly (Morter) and the rest of the racers gave me as they caravanned down the hill, they would know it was just me, being dumb-assed me."

While the first-person accounts show the personalities, Haight also wrote about oft-overlooked pioneers, including the first female motorcycle competitor, Annie Brokaw, and the first woman to race a car; Joyce Thompson of Woodland Park.

Some stories did not make the book. Of those, her favorite is about her father cooking a roast on his car's engine block as he raced up the mountain.

"There are just so many about so many others, I had to leave that one out," she said.

The book is an extension of her volunteer work with the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Historical Association, which worked hard to help open the new Penrose Heritage Museum on race day Sunday. Other association leaders include Don Sanborn and Charley Tutt.

"They all went beyond the call of duty," curator Jason Campbell said.

The now 8,500-square-foot facility features the new Pikes Peak Hill Climb Experience, a tribute to the competitors and their historic vehicles.

There are several new exhibits, including a 1906 Readings Standard motorcycle and the Ducati Multistrada that became the first motorcycle to break the 10-minute mark in 2012 and the mangled remains of the vehicle Jeremy Foley drove off the highway that year.

Displays include two cars suspended from the rafters and a third on the wall. The museum layout mimics the 12.42-mile race course.

The Broadmoor Hotel donated the land and the El Pomar Foundation gave $3 million to double the size of the former Carriage Museum. The Broadmoor is owned by the Denver-based Anschutz Corp, whose Clarity Media Group owns The Gazette.

Campbell said drivers were eager to loan their vehicles. The 5-10-year agreements allow the museum to rotate its exhibits.

One exhibit features the car driven by Bobby Donner when he died in a crash at a different hill climb. Campbell said the Donner family put the vehicle back together to work through their grief and loaned it to the museum as a tribute to him.

"It's such an honor to have it here," Campbell said.

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