2020 Lewis & Clark Rally: Day One.

The car started fine this morning. That’s always a good way to start the day.

I knew the rally would be odd, given the pandemic, as so many aspects would change due to the requirement of “social distancing”… for example the rally check-in last night was a drive-through affair, rather than the usual cocktail party at the exotic car dealer. They did have an impromptu gathering, but it was in a freeway rest area off of I-5. We showed up and applied our rally number decal but left soon afterward. Our hotel room literally overlooks the rally start point, so we waited until very close to the last minute to head over. They had already been handing out rally route books before we showed up.

Route Book in hand.

We’re literally the last car in the TSD competition group, so the tour cars were leaving as we arrive for “breakfast” and last minute prep. We depart and head off on a freeway circumnavigation of the Portland metro area for an odometer calibration transit.

Leaving Ron Tonkin Grand Tourismo at the start.

Oddly, we’re heading northwest down the Columbia River which is the opposite direction of our destination, but that’s rallying for you.

The first regularity immediately separates the field as we see several cars clearly off-course. Stew and I don’t make any navigational errors but who’s to say how we’re doing time-wise (as it turns out, 34 seconds early).

On the second regularity we do make one wrong turn, but recover swiftly. (5 seconds late)

On the third stage we feel like we are doing really well (and are proven correct; 1 second early).

The fourth stage is REALLY difficult in terms of road conditions, with an average speed of 39 MPH but with a VERY rough road, where I’m dodging potholes and frost heaves while climbing and descending outrageous hills. (4 seconds early).

Lunch is at the site of the former Trojan Nuclear Power plant, which felt odd…

After lunch we have a transit that takes us over the Columbia at Longview, WA where I find a gas station that has non-Ethanol premium, and even a pump for 110 Octane Leaded fuel (if I had the E-type I’d be buying that!)

On the fifth stage I somehow find myself right up behind the car ahead of us, a ‘67 Mini Cooper and am convinced that they are late, rather than us being early. The reality is that I am wrong. (53 seconds early.)

On the next segment we are dead on, until we are suddenly stopped in “traffic” where a construction vehicle has blocked the road for what is clearly several minutes. Multiple rally cars are stopped dead in the road while this vehicle is navigating a very tight turn. Fortunately for us, it moves aside soon after we arrived, so we get underway again and I’m left trying to decide if it is worth it to try and calculate a time declaration for the segment. The thing is you have to make “decs” in 30 second increments and I think we are within that margin of error already. Sure enough the checkpoint is there just down the road and I decide to just keep going. (33 seconds late. Had I declared 30 seconds we’d have only had a 3 second penalty!)

The next segment feels off from the start. Again we catch up to the Mini, and I keep telling myself “run our own rally, don’t worry about others” but the whole time I have extreme doubt. (Somehow 1:08 early… facepalm).

The remaining segments are all backroads through the national forests around Mt. St. Helens. Deep forest. Winding roads. Minimal navigation. Just driving. There is a fair bit of traffic but the speeds are low, so I’m being “pushed” a bit by non-rally traffic. I pull over when I can to let them by. Lots of pothole and frost heave dodging in difficult lighting to round out the driving difficulty. (23 seconds early, and 3 seconds early subsequently).

A transit to the hotel traverses the very same roads that Christopher & I did in the 65E close to twenty years ago on our very first rally together (“The Run to the Gorge”)

View from the hotel in the Columbia Gorge
Provisional results. No podium finishes this year!

Hopefully we’ll do better tomorrow.

2020 Lewis & Clark Rally. Getting there.

Yes, I know I never finished last year’s story about the rally, sorry. We finished Third in Class (again, for a “ThreePeat”).

Now for this Pandemic Year things are different. Linda decided to skip it, and both my other family navigators passed as well, so I’m training a new Navigator, Stewart Ross (Linda’s kid, though hardly a kid as he’s in his twenties.) We’re driving the 320i again, as it is the most reliable of my vintage cars at the moment. I’ve taken it on several shake down drives this spring and it has performed flawlessly. The E24M has a bad power steering pump, and the 65E needs a float replaced in the SUs. Both items are on my to-do list.

Continue reading “2020 Lewis & Clark Rally. Getting there.”