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August 13, 2008

Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally: Day Two

Filed under: 08 Monte Shelton,Cars — chuck goolsbee @ 9:49 pm

The day started wet and miserable, and finished wet and happy. Go figure. Day two was also completely different than day one, route-wise, but let’s start at the beginning…

We woke up and girded ourselves for what was going to be a rough day. The night before the Rallymaster had sent us to bed with this warning: “Tomorrow is “off course day”… there will be more off-courses than checkpoints.” Last year we had been nailed at an off-course ON A TRANSIT STAGE, which really pissed us off. We were following a transit, and I needed batteries for my camera. I spotted a Shell station, and aimed the car for it when a course worker jumped out from behind a parked pickup truck and hit us with a 60-second penalty. Needless to say we were furious. Careful reading of their rules however revealed that this was how they did things… so at least now we were prepared.

I walked out of the hotel room towards the car and noted that it was a misty, rainy, typical Pacific Northwest day. Great. I HATE driving this car in the wet. For one thing I know that Dad will insist upon putting up the top. I don’t fit in this car with the top up. Additionally it makes for limited “situational awareness” since the view is so restricted. Hard to see street signs, impossible to shoot photos, etc. Then, to add a heaping helping of STRESS to the situation my cell phone blew up once I was outside and got a signal. I won’t go into details but my office had been trying to reach me for a couple of hours… we had a full-blown emergency going on and I had been unreachable. I spoke to some folks there on and off for the next hour or so while I prepped the car and had breakfast. Not a great start to my day. Speaking of the car, I had snapped the tonneau cover over the interior before I left it for the night – stroke of luck… but the only luck I was having at the moment. I put the top up, and could not find my tape I usually store in the car to leak-seal it. Thankfully the rally goody-bag contained a roll of BRIGHT yellow duct tape inside. I used this to seal up the top and then checked the oil, applied Rain-X, and whatnot. Dad & I ate breakfast, and I spent the time between then and the start of the rally talking on the phone to the office. In fact as we were in the lineup for the start I was blabbing away on my bluetooth headset and about 10 other rally participants walked by and started talking to me (usually about the bright yellow tape sealing the car’s lid) … and I had to brush them off with that “I’m on the phone” pantomime. I felt like such an ass. I couldn’t really effectively assist the situation 180 miles away, so in the end I just had to hang up and … drive.

Dad was not distracted as I was, he was on his game and ready for the day. Me however? I was just plain distracted. The rain. The cramped quarters. The situation at work. I was in no condition or frame of mind for vintage rallying! This showed about 4 miles into the first section, which could have been a TSD or a Transit for all I remember… Dad gave me an instruction to take a left at the first opportunity. The hopped-up Volvo guys were right on my tail as well, which always makes me nervous… and I rolled straight through an intersection where I should have turned RIGHT based on Main Road Rules. As soon as I was halfway through the intersection my Dad said out loud: “Why did you do that?”

Sure enough, as I attempted to correct my error an off-course worker jumped out from behind a bush, and I started spewing #@&%ing obscenities. I was SO pissed off at myself for that blunder!

The only consolation prize was the Volvo boys, Tim Sigler & Clifford Rhoton followed us right into it. Misery likes company you know.

Back on course, I resolved to shed all thoughts of the situations at work, far beyond my control. CONCENTRATE on the task at hand. I vowed to pass the rest of the day without making a similar bone headed mistake.

The segment was long, and the route convoluted. We wound our way down off Mt. Hood to the west and north, then south and west, eventually arriving in Oregon City. In hindsight we basically followed the old Barlow Road of the Oregon Trail. The segment ended at a gas station with a HUGE parking area. It was an ideal spot for a rally segment pause, since it had lots of parking, gasoline, food, and rest rooms. I went in and grabbed a soda (I needed a caffeine infusion really), and I saw as I walked out the door free popcorn. Since I’ve been a kid I’ve always known that my Dad loves popcorn, so I grabbed a bag of it. Oddly though when I offered it to him he refused. I guess he’s on some sort of diet that precludes popcorn. Oh well. I ate part of it and closed up the bag and threw it in the trunk (and I just realized, now many days later, that it is still there!) I noted that the sun had come out, and my twenty-plus years of living in the Pacific Northwest told me that it was here to stay. Still some clouds in the sky, but they were incapable of producing rain. Dad acquiesced to dropping the top, and we rearranged the car’s configuration. (And there was much rejoicing.)

The next segment was a TSD, which started with an error in the instructions almost at the start. Thankfully the route itself was pretty obvious, and the next instruction confirmed that we were in the right spot. Unlike the previous day’s rural, and back country routes on long Forest Service roads, this day’s travel was through the suburbs of Portland, tracing along (but not ON) I-205 south and west through the hills along the Willamette River. A little ways in we came upon what looked like a trap. No route instruction, and an ACUTE “T” intersection. Rally cars were crossing the “T” at our bow, and something told us that turning right, the seeming least-resistant path was wrong. Dad said that we should continue straight along the “right” turn and see if the next instruction makes sense. Not me… I could hear the words of Admiral Ackbar, that loveable lizard-thing in my head: It’s a trap! I pulled over and started looking around. Thankfully, with the top down I could put my head on a swivel and SEE my surroundings. Sure enough, the seemingly “straight” right turn was protected by a stop sign, and the ACUTE LEFT had no such protection! I turned the wheel full-lock left and swung out into the intersection and continued on our way. In the rear-view mirror I saw a car getting an off-course penalty in the trap. VINDICATION! REDEMPTION! I was back on my game.

Above: Men At Work. Just another day having fun taking this stuff seriously.

Not long after, a route instruction set us ONTO a named road. This is the ultimate trump car in vintage rallying. If you get sent onto a named road, you follow it, no matter what (unless it becomes unpaved.) We rolled up to an odd 5-way intersection, festooned with Stops and Yeilds, with an obvious least-protected route presented as a bear-left turn. However, placed at an odd angle and hard to see from the car was the named road, going off not quite straight ahead (just cocked off at a slight bear right.) As we rolled up my first thought was to follow the least protected, but the “onto” instruction echoed in my head and I scanned the signs… sure enough, there was our named road! A quick conference confirming what I made of it and my Navigator agreed. The rallymaster had found a great one-two punch… a devious DREAM combination, and we managed to navigate it perfectly. It filled us with confidence! We nailed the checkpoints and finished the segment feeling GREAT.

Above: Navigator Bill Vilardi works ahead through the calculations while at a pause between segments. This team won the 2008 Classic Motorcar Rally in June.

The next segment was a Monte Carlo, and we felt like we nailed it, only to discover by the rules of this rally that a Monte followed by a TSD is not timed. huh? So much for our efforts. Here we arrived at the exact right point, and nobody was there to check us in. Oh well.

The next segment then…. well it just unraveled into an unmitigated disaster. It started well, with us falling behind a little bit, then me speeding ahead to catch up… literally JUST as we caught up to perfect time we came to a checkpoint. What luck! But then we felt like the timing was off. The indicated average speed was 50 MPH, but the road was straight and fast. I kept it throttled back and hung at 50. Then, suddenly it became a tight, twisty, and hilly path where it was literally IMPOSSIBLE to stay at 50, but the route instructions said so. Then of course we came into traffic. A pickup truck lollygagging along at 25 MPH. The route indicated pauses, 20 seconds here, a minute there, two minutes here… but it would defy physics to stay on time with these pauses. We were driving like madmen and still falling behind! Then we popped out of the unknown and into Wilsonville. I knew some of the topology here as I’d spent a few weekends here with my family at an event last summer. The route book indicated a “free zone” meaning no checkpoints or traps… common in a densely populated area such as a town center. The route said “take a right at the first opportunity after such-and-such road, towards such-and-such place”. We missed seeing that road… kept driving until nothing made sense. saw a few other rally cars similarly lost. I dredged my memory of last summer and could recall seeing those names, but for the life of me could NOT find them. We drove back and forth several times. We finally backtracked almost back to the previous route instruction, and along the way saw the road we could not find earlier. The “first opportunity right” was in fact the I-5 freeway southbound. The place named was a sign about a mile down that freeway. We were so pissed off at ourselves for not seeing the sign (it was obvious) but also a bit miffed about the direction, as freeways are RARELY used in vintage rallying. In fact they are usually avoided. Grrr. We’d blown the segment completely. We fell in with a group of other rally cars, most of them driving like complete lunatics. They were also late, but we were at the point of giving up. I didn’t drive like a lunatic. Of course our little wad of cars came upon a truck, towing a huge boat, plodding along at an unreasonably slow speed. Several rally cars passed it, even on a double-yellow line… something I refused to so. Eventually we made it around the boat. Even though we never saw another checkpoint, there had to have been one on the second half of that TSD and we were more than 5 minutes late (the maximum penalty) anyway… no need to risk life and limb.

Lunch was next, and we felt like crap. Our place near the top of the standing MUST have been blown by our 10 or 15 minute excursion around Wilsonville looking for an obvious right turn(!) To add punctuation to the situation my hamburger fell on the ground when the cook tried to hand it to me. This was perhaps not my day?

I coped with things by attending to the car. Checking oil, topping it off, trying to adjust my exhaust which keeps getting crooked no matter what I do. Dad sat in the navigator’s seat and sorted out our afternoon’s calculations. We went up to the park entrance and set off on the long segment. Again, I have no recollection if it was a Transit or TSD, just that we were hyper-vigilant for off-course traps. I recall seeing a “black jack” … meaning an off-course that was visible and manned. These are tempting for rallyists to visit as they think they are timing checkpoints, which are however just off-course penalty stops. I also recall a series odd multi-step intersections. One was a in reality a roundabout, but the route instructions made it appear to be a series of lefts and rights. It all made sense in real-time, but was baffling to read in anticipation. The next oddity was a highway intersection that had a series of diagonal approach roads with varying yields and stops, with a main highway crossing a “Y” sort of like a “T-within-the-Y” … while I never confirmed it with the Rallymaster, I’m fairly certain there was an off-course penalty hidden in the first-option turn. If it was a trap, we avoided it. Oh, and I remember a situation where we figured we were ahead on our timing, so we needed to slow down (so it was a TSD!) and I started slowing down… then crested a hill and saw a checkpoint at the bottom of it! The other blue E-type (a coupe) comes roaring up behind us right then. They are car #38, so they are OBVIOUSLY LATE, while we are obviously early! I wave them to pass us, but of course there are non-rally cars going the other way so they CAN’t pass us. Of course I can NOT stop either as it will cost a penalty if we stop rolling in sight of a checkpoint! Gah! I have to rol the car as slow as humanly possible. The other Jag gets around me and flies off through the checkpoint, and I s l o w l y c r a w l f o r w a r d. The Checkpoint workers get a chuckle out of this. We are going so slow that we can carry on a conversation with them as they sit in their lawn chairs by the side of the road. One of them says “I have to see those spokes turning!” As I approach and Dad confirms that we are still 20 second or so away from our theoretical perfect time I realize there is no way I can slow the car enough. We roll through 17 seconds early. Oh well.

From our lunch stop somewhere between Portland and Salem, we wandered north and east back towards Mt. Hood. At a segment pause, a stop at a Shell station, I wandered in to buy some engine oil for the car, as I had used all of what I had with me. I didn’t find any oil, but I did (finally!) start taking some pictures… something I was too preoccupied with rallying to do much of up to this point.

Above: The excellent rallying team of Alan Chockie and Antoinette Slavich in their ’58 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider. They were two cars ahead of us in the rallying order, and we always loved to follow them because they ALWAYS finish better than us in these technical rallys! Somehow this time we managed to get ahead of them. Wonders will never cease!

Above: I THINK that this is Chuck Putney’s ’61 Porsche S-90 Roadster, as it was the closest black Porsche in numerical order to us, but without a car number visible I can’t be positive. If you know the identity of this car and driver, let me know!

Above: Rick Martin and Diana Mati spent the rally one car ahead of us in this gorgeous Maserati Mistral. This is the car sporting that straight-six twin-plugged engine you all guessed at from the tech inspection on Thursday night.

Above: One of the Tour Group cars, Bill Farr’s ’72 MGB gets a ride on the flatbed.

This final section was a Monte Carlo, from Estacada, Oregon, back to the rally’s hotel, The Resort at the Mountain in Welches, Oregon up on the slopes of Mt. Hood. Based on my hazy memory, the route was something like this:


View Larger Map

Given that it was a Monte Carlo, we didn’t worry about driving times and pace, we just drove. As a result we ended up sort of in a big bunch of rally cars rolling along together. At one point along the way, as the route took a left turn onto Marmot Road I noticed the right rear wheel of the Maserati in front of us wobbling. All I could assume is that his knock-off was loose, a very dangerous if not damaging condition. I tried for several minutes to get his attention with my lights (remember… my horn doesn’t work most of the time, and my temporary boat horn had broken in Dad’s hands earlier in the day… cheap plastic stuff… grrr!) Finally a minivan a few cars ahead of us paused to take a left into a driveway and we pulled up alongside and got the driver’s attention. They found a spot to pull off and have a look. Our good samaritan motorist duties complete, we roared off to finish the segment. We found our way back to very near the hotel and parked in a Chinese place’s parking lot as the stand-off to soak up the rest of our time. We gave ourselves two minutes to complete the rest of the segment’s road, and pulled out. I let a couple of cars by to keep the slow pace we required. The “finish line” was right at a speed bump, and another rally car was sitting right on it! We did our usual “Vintage Rallies slow roll with a burst” to ensure a zero, which was odd going over a speed bump. I think the course workers were not accustomed to that sort of finish as it shocked them a bit. The actual checkpoint people were hidden behind a hedge and another worker was out welcoming people near the speed bump, handing out Roses and Chocolates. I had to back up to retrieve ours.

Dad hopped out of the car and took off for the room, while I pulled into the car wash area the rally organizers had setup. I gave the Jaguar a quick bath (and enjoyed a beer!), then pulled out to allow somebody else to wash their car. This gave me time to shoot a few photos…

Above: The unmistakable bulging bonnet of an E-type…

…in this case Robert & Annie Bridgeford’s black ’65 FHC.

Above: Ralph Inman pulls out of the car wash ih his gorgeous black ’57 Mercedes-Benz 300sl roadster.

Above: This remains a mystery car. I posted a pic of it from the Thursday night Scrutineering Session (I will admit to photoshopping out a badge in the interior to hide its identity a bit) and nobody has yet guessed it. C’mon folks! Name that Car!

Next up, I’ll post the wrap-up and results… stay tuned!

4 Comments

  1. Hi Chuck, I just updated my profile in your site. It’s my first comment, but I visit very often you blog. Congratulations. — I’m Brazilian, 36 years old, a Car nuts (as everybody else around here). I like muscle cars , also Sports/Europeans cars. I really enjoy you blog and the pictures you took. I admire your devotion to your family, e65 and your Work. BTW, I’m also a TECH geek, love Apple computers; carry a MCSE+SEC certification since 2001 and work for ExxonMobil as an EMAIL (Domino/Notes) Admin.

    Comment by carlos.beuter — August 14, 2008 @ 3:02 am

  2. Welcome Carlos! Check back to this entry some time in the very near future, as I’ll finish the story.

    –chuck

    Comment by chuck goolsbee — August 14, 2008 @ 6:27 am

  3. Chuck, you’ve got me *completely* stumped, as to the ID of the C in the CPoD!

    It’s BRG….I’t’s got a cute fender….:)I think it’s British. I’m done!

    Comment by vrooomie — August 15, 2008 @ 4:50 am

  4. Hints: It is British.

    In fact I had never seen a POST-war iteration of this Marque in the flesh until now (though they continued in business until the 1960s). This model had some very awkward proportions, so I can see why it was not a big seller. The body was built in Coventry.

    Comment by chuck goolsbee — August 15, 2008 @ 7:55 am

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