Lewis & Clark Rally: First Day.

Photos soon!

We just arrived at the hotel at the end of Day One. We feel pretty confident about our performance today. We know we were quite a bit (up to twenty seconds) late for the first timing control of the first TSD stage… why? We are car #12 and it seems car#13 thought we were on THEIR minute. They were yelling at us that we were late when we start, despite the fact that according to our timing we are at the correct start time. Then, he pulls out right behind us and rides my rear bumper and then passes us. I keep saying to Linda, my Navigator “run our own event, not anyone else’s!” So we press on, regardless. Sure enough a while on down the road Car #13 starts slowing down and looking confused… of course while we are on course and on time, and there is nowhere to safely pass. He almost comes to a full stop, and I honk at them. They pull off and we get around, now at least 5–10 seconds behind. Then the Rally Gods smite is with a “local hillbilly traffic control”, meaning a local, driving a green f-150 who decides they are going to make sure we keep to the speed limit. The rally route speed are actually BELOW the posted limits, but I really need to get moving for about a mile to catch up to time. Every passing zone the F-150 speeds up to not allow me to pass, but then slows back down when I’m back behind them. So infuriating! They delay us about another ten or so seconds and sure enough, a checkpoint appears within a mile. Oh well.

On the next segment the car ahead of us (#11) leaves REALLY early. Like close to two minutes early, which, combined with the previous one where #13 was shouting that we are late cast us into deep doubt. Did I set up the clocks wrong? Am I a minute off? We furiously recalculate, and double check our numbers (while on route) and come to the conclusion we reach before: Run our own event, and disregard all the other cars!

The rest of the route (which compromise eleven total TSD Regularity segments) we drive pretty clean and on at least two regularity segments we are very close to zeroes on our route controls. We fell for NO traps, and stayed on-course all day.

Since we are driving the “Ur-3-Series BMW” (an E21, 320i) we decide to “theme it up” and dressed as “Yuppies”. For anyone who lived back in those days, the 3-series was as much a social statement in the 1980s as a Prius was in the early 2000s, or a Tesla is today. It pegged the driver as a “Yuppie” back then, so Linda & I dressed in period-correct Yuppie Clothes. I was in Izod shirts (yes, two of them at once!) and pleated chinos with Boat Shoes. Linda wore a denim skirt over white aerobic shoes and a polo shirt, along with big hair.

I even shaved off my beard, but left an 80s stache.

We should have provisional results soon, and I’ll post them and pictures after dinner.

2019 Lewis & Clark Rally: Registration and Reception.

The Rally Registration & Cocktail Reception is at Ron Tonkin Gran Tourismo in Wilsonville. We arrive a bit late due to traffic. The cars are a mix of familiar and new to us, and BMWs are aplenty! A pre-war BMW, a couple of 2002s (including a tii), our 320i, a couple of M5s as well. We sign the waivers, gather our Car #, which is “12”, our bag and a cocktail. Linda and I share a Margarita while we wander about and ogle cars, snack on nachos, and finally (miss)apply our car number.

2019 Lewis & Clark Rally: Getting There.

We drove over the mountains today, via Santiam Pass, after a late start. The weather was horrendous. Sheets of rain, which made driving hazardous to say the least. From the Cascade Crest all the way down to around 1k’ altitude it poured so hard the road was covered in flowing and standing water. I had to pull off and let quite a few cars pass us. This car (a BMW 320i) has never been very good on wet or icy roads. More to do with the tires than the car really. They’re great on dry, but terrible in conditions like this. Once we arrived in the Portland metro area it was the height of rush hour. This car is also terrible in traffic. I was pretty exhausted by the time we arrived at our friends house in Beaverton. Thankfully they greeted us with wine.

Forecast for the rally weekend is partly cloudy with little chance of rain.

What were they thinking?

Engineering Idiocy. I know I’m late to this particular party, but I had not encountered this until today. Several years ago, after picking us up at the Houston airport, Linda was riding in the rear seat of my father’s BMW 535i, and casually said “Charlie, I love your car. If you ever think about selling it, I’ll buy it from you.”

Long story short, we bought the car from my mom not long after he passed away last summer. We drove it home last autumn, where it spent most of the winter parked in my shop as it isn’t really an ideal winter car. For that we drive her old Subaru.

This 5-series is several years old, but has very low miles. We literally doubled the odometer driving it from Texas to Oregon. It is likely overdue for an oil change in time more than distance. I looked up the oil required and bought two large jugs of it yesterday. I had stocked up on filters from BavAuto (R.I.P.) soon after we bought it. I opened the hood in the shop to be presented with…

NO DIPSTICK!

I recall lots of complaints in Roundel (the BMWCCA magazine) about this issue back when BMW started doing this, but I didn’t give it much thought.

So I was sort of stuck. The owners manual doesn’t list the engine oil capacity(!) and everything BMW presents you with basically says “bring it to the dealer for oil changes”… grrr.

I’ve been changing my own oil since I was a teenager. It was the first thing I learned about automotive maintenance. For me it is almost a therapeutic action. It is good for the car, it is good for me. I drive away with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. But now I’m just confused.

Thankfully I have the Internet. The Internet tells me I need 6.5 Liters of oil for this engine. Typical of how I’ve always done this I’ll fill it a bit short of what should be “full” and then top it off in small increments to avoid overfilling the engine.

However without a dipstick, there is no way to actually do this. To measure the engine oil you have to be in the car and use the onboard computer. Not only that, the car has to be on level ground, engine on, and UP TO OPERATING TEMPERATURE. ????

This is sort of stupid. I let the oil drain out overnight. The engine is cold. In fact it got below freezing last night, so the engine is about as cold as it will ever be. I feel stupid starting a cold engine with at least a half a liter short of the correct amount of oil… then letting it idle for long enough to warm it up.

The dipstick is a perfectly adequate tool for this task. It takes seconds to measure oil levels with a dipstick, and it poses ZERO risk to the engine to use it. While I’m not really scared of damaging this car, doing this for the first time ever does make me feel… mild trepidation mixed with annoyance for some engineers in Munich.

So here I KNOW I shorted the amount by 500ml, so I expect the car to tell me to add that after I perform the check…

…and…

Now I’m REALLY annoyed. How can I trust this thing? It’s like those temperature gauges they program to stay right in the middle unless something really bad is happening. I know I’m 500ml short, but the car tells me “I’m at 100%” (note the lack of actual measuring units).

I guess I’m going to have to check often to see if it changes.

So happy that all the other engines I care for have dipsticks.

An impromptu solo mini-cannonball. (Part Three, the actual Cannonball part)

Yesterday’s drive wore me out, and after a Mexican combo plate dinner weighing my gut down, I fall into a deep slumber instantly upon laying down in bed. Unfortunately, I bolt wide awake around 4 am. Sunrise is still hours away and I want to experience some daylight for the first stretch of road. US Highway 50 west of Delta, Utah into Nevada is a mind-blowing place. The very first time I drove it was on the aforementioned Cannonball Classic with my father in 1999. It is an enormous, austere, and desolate landscape unique to the American West. LONG stretches of arrow-straight asphalt, flying off to the distant horizon. Very little flora, and almost no fauna. Mountain ranges rising as if to block your path, and then the road rises directly into them, and snake through, over and down again into the expansive basins, only to resume the arrow-flight westwards. The experience is visceral and very visual. Driving there is a challenge and an adventure. I long to do it again, which is precisely why I chose this route. I could have continued north on US 6 and Utah 36, on to Tooele (a section that remains UN-highlighted in my atlas), but US Highway 50 is beckoning me back. Night driving is unsatisfying however. When your vision is limited to only what your headlights reveal your world shrinks to that minute speck. It is just asphalt, stripes, reflectors and roadsigns. Without those wide open vistas there is nothing at all special about any road, much less US 50.

Continue reading “An impromptu solo mini-cannonball. (Part Three, the actual Cannonball part)”

An impromptu solo mini-cannonball. (Part Two, the actual Cannonball part)

So I’m alone, in Albuquerque, with a nice car and no co-driver. Our plans have gone awry, and I have a few choices of what to do next. One is to just continue on to SoCal and visit friends. I’ve already seen the Grand Canyon, so no need for that side trip. Another option is to drive straight home by the most direct route. It’s between 1200 & 1400 miles, depending upon which “direct” route I choose. But here is where I have to admit a personal quirk: I like to drive on roads I’ve never driven on. I’ve been wandering all over this continent in a car since I was a kid, and it never ceases to amaze me at the wonders one can find by taking a road you’ve never been on before.

Continue reading “An impromptu solo mini-cannonball. (Part Two, the actual Cannonball part)”