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August 9, 2008

Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally: Day One

Filed under: 08 Monte Shelton,Cars — chuck goolsbee @ 11:36 pm

(Sorry no updates in a timely fashion… Internet access was problematic on Friday night. =\ )

Morning came very early. Dad & I had breakfast at the hotel, then drove across the Columbia & Willamette rivers to Downtown Portland for the start of the rally. While Dad concerned himself with items of navigational interest (namely official Rally Time) I took some photographs:

Above: Dad checks Official Rally Time, while I admire the BMW 327.

Above: Here’s today’s puzzle for the car-spotters: name this car.

Dad reported to me that our radio-controlled clocks were 52 seconds off of Official Rally Time. He figured he could compmesate, but that is an odd drift to deal with. I took my clock, and over-rode the radio control and manually set it to within a half-second of ORT after several tries. We were car number 46, so we had a bit of time before the start. They handed out route instructions 15 minutes before your start time, so I whiled away my free time shooting photos while Dad waited.

Above: Kevin Blount & Paul Brewer in a 300sl coupe fly off the start line.

Above: James Cameron & Brian Lorenson prepare for the start in their ’68 E-type coupe

Above: Ralph Inman & Bryce Cameron in their gorgeous 300sl roadster. While the “gullwing” coupe gets all the press, I really think the roadster is a far prettier car. A truly iconic shape.

Above: A typical scene at the start of a rally. The Monte Shelton is really a Navigator’s Rally. The driver you will note is just sitting around, inching the car forward when required. The navigator however is consumed with calculations and planning. Working as far ahead as possible.

Above: The lineup is now up to car # 41, so it must be time for me to stop shooting photos and get to work! Note the immaculately straight exhaust on this pretty black ’66 E-type. I only mention this because mine is so crooked!

The first stage is a transit that takes us out of downtown Portland, north along I-405 and I-5, into Washington, then off east and north towards Mt. St. Helens. While we waited for the TSD to start, my Dad had a brilliant idea. Based upon my re-calibration of the clock, he had me re-calibrate the OTHER clock we had to “Car Zero” time. So we had two clocks, one set to ORT and the other to “Car Zero”… this really REALLY helped him keep his calculations simple. We really only had to correct for my odometer now, as time was pretty well set. The only risk now clock-wise, was the radios overriding my input and setting them back to NIST time. The clocks have a lock button, but if we accidentally unlocked them we’d be screwed. Thankfully that never happened. Dad’s watch is radio-synced to NIST too, so we had a reference there just in case.

At a break between segments I took a few photos:

Jionathan Reingold & Lauren Fine prepare for the next segment in their ’66 230sl.

Above: Apparently driving a Morgan qualifies you for handicap parking! 😉

Above: The Norman’s big ’64 Bentley dwarfs the ’59 Turner Roadster of Kevin & Sue Randich.

The next segment was a long TSD, and we got off to a bad start, with me not going fast enough as the roads had quite a few stop signs. Before I could make up time, we came across a checkpoint very early on the stage. It is ironic, since I’ve always thought it would be cruel to have a checkpoint in the first couple of miles sometime, and sure enough they picked this time to spring it on me! We were 12 seconds late. I made up the time and for the next set of checkpoints we had very consistent scores: 5, 5, 5, & 7. I don’t know if those were early or late, but so long as they were single-digits we would do very well!

Note: I only know these scores now a full day after the day in question. At the time, we had no idea how well we were doing!

For once we felt like we were on our game on the first day of a rally! Usually Dad & I take a day of half-assed fumbling around to start getting things right. For some unknown reason today we just fell into a groove. We spotted the traps and avoided the off-courses. We anticipated the navigational challenges and made all the right choices. The second segment was a long Monte Carlo section. Monte Carlo segments have no intermediate hidden checkpoints, just a start and specific finish time. We messed up just a little bit on this one, as Dad neglected to read to me the SPECIFIC end-point instructions, but we were close enough, and received only 7 seconds of penalty time. It didn’t help that two rally cars were sitting parked right at the finish (VERY BAD rally etiquette!) and so I was searching for the finish point, which I assumed was just ahead, when in fact were already there. Oh well. At least we did not fall into a really bad off-course that nailed just about half of the pack.

Above: On the transit stage back to Oregon.

The next segment was a transit, back to Oregon, followed by another Monte Carlo, this time a short one, and mostly along the freeway, I-84. That presented a conundrum. Smart Monte Carlo rallyists drive fast to a stand-off far out of sight of the finish, but close enough to figure a short run to the finish. Interstate 84 through the Columbia Gorge really doesn’t have nice wide spots to sit by the side of the road. Additionally we didn’t want to get nailed off-course by exiting the freeway. Thankfully a very wide shoulder area near an exit about two miles from the finish presented itself. Dad & I sat there for about 5 minutes calculating our finish. The finish was at a state park, and we rolled up in what we thought was a ZERO time, but in fact was 4 seconds off.

Above: More Alfa Romeos than you could shake a stick at! Here’s a contest for you: How many Alfa’s are in this photo? (sort of like guessing the gumballs!)

Above: How many here?

Lunch was in a great spot along the river. We had salmon (of course!) and actually had 90 minutes to sit and chill after the morning’s taxing rallying. Fun to be able to chat with folks.

After lunch we had a long TSD that climbed up out of the Gorge via some steep, switch-backing roads. We were trapped in a bit of traffic and were over a minute late through an early checkpoint. Once out in the countryside we were able to make up time. Our next penalties were very tolerable: 3, 10, 1(!), and 5. What makes those scores even more amazing is that the route was… insane. We looped south, then east, then north up around Mt. Hood. Through the Clackamas River canyon, then along a Forest Service road that went on for over 50 miles.

Based on my hazy memory, here is the route (you will need to scroll around or zoom out to see it all):


View Larger Map

It was confidence-shaking, as it was *barely* a road, even though it was paved. Very narrow, frequently one-lane wide, and had many navigationally-challenging choices to make, with minimal direction from the course sheet. The checkpoints were all VERY well hidden. In fact we didn’t see any. I thought I caught a glimpse of a blue car up on a gravel road hidden in the trees, and asked the Rallymaster later if that was a checkpoint, and he confirmed it. Tough course! Thankfully Dad was on top of it and kept me right on time. On any other previous technical TSD rally we’ve done, we’d have racked up a few minutes on a segment like that, so coming away with less than 20 seconds of penalty time was a “personal best” for us.

We arrived at the hotel up near Mt. Hood in Welches, Oregon and parked all the cars out on a lawn. I put the tonneau cover on (a stroke of extreme luck as it turns out!) and grabbed a few photos before heading to the room for a nap before dinner.

Dinner was in a big tent out by the cars. They had a silent auction for the March of Dimes. I put down 500 dimes on a really nice steering wheel from an Abarth Zagato, and ended up winning it. Not a bad deal for fifty bucks!

Dad & I split a bottle of wine between the two of us and were shocked when they handed out the results from the first day. I guessed at a total penalty time of 210, and Dad guessed 150. We were blown away to see our result of 131. That put us in 11th place. The highest we’ve ever placed in this rally, and an amazing tally given that there were over 80 cars. Of course there is still tomorrow and who knows how bad we can screw up!

Until then, here’s me, saying goodnight:

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