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August 14, 2008

Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally: Results & Trip home.

Filed under: 08 Monte Shelton,Cars — chuck goolsbee @ 11:29 pm

Rally results were not available at dinner on Saturday night. Instead we were treated to a guest speaker, Bill Warner. Mr. Warner is an noted Automotive journalist and photographer, racer, and founder of the Amelia Island Concours. He treated us to stories about running the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Sea Memorial Dash back in the 1970s. It was quite enjoyable.

We also learned from the rallymaster that the problematic pre-lunch segment from that day was going to be “taken care of”… which was good news for us. Apparently our instinct that the timing was off (even before we got lost in the “free zone”) turned out to be right. The rallymaster had apparently made some timing errors in the TSD calculations and it was indeed a violation of the laws of physics to stay on-time on that segment. With that tantalizing tidbit in our minds we finished our wine and went off to bed.

The next morning I got up and moved the car closer to our room from the parking area in the field (I placed our car’s rose on the Mercedes 230sl being navigated by Lauren Fine, parked next to the 65E… I figured she’s appreciate it more than Dad!) and wandered off to breakfast and the awards ceremony.

There were 80 cars in the Rally (and another 5 in the Tour), and “medals” were awarded to the top 50. Places 1-though-10 received Gold; 11-25 received Silver, and 26-50 Bronze. Last year we earned a silver medal by finishing in 18th place. Our goal was to improve on that. In this year’s other technical TSD rally we managed to improve just one place from the year before. We hoped to do better than that for this year’s Monte Shelton, and we felt confident in our performance. We were in 11th place after the first day and would have been very happy maintaining that. Given our run yesterday though we didn’t have a lot of hope though. Of course the unknown factor to us was just how much everyone else screwed up, or did better as the case may be. The key to winning at any competition is not only doing well yourself, but also making fewer mistakes than the other competitors.

They read off the places in descending order so we kept expecting to hear our names in the “silver” category… but it never came. Then when they named the 9th place finisher they called us out. NINTH place! Out of 80 cars and only on our second time to this very tough rally! We were, and still remain, ecstatic about this result! We racked up 240 penalty points. The 1st place car had 82, second 138, third 145, fourth 158, fifth 162, sixth 168, seventh 223, and eighth 228. Had we not collected that off-course penalty we would have placed seventh. So Dad got us to seventh place, but I dropped us to ninth.

Unfortunately we had a long drive ahead of us and the prospect of the traditionally BAD northbound I-5 backup on Sunday afternoon, so we had to leave the breakfast and dash.

Dad was still packing while I was out playing Tetris with the E-type’s minimal boot. I had packed light, even leaving out a day’s shirt on the assumption that I’d get one from the rally this year. Of course, Murphy’s Law kicked in and we didn’t get shirts (I had to wash one of mine in the hotel sink and hang it up to dry!) but instead they gave us blankets. I always carry a blanket (from the 2006 GTTSR) so the last thing I need right now is two MORE blankets. Thankfully the GTTSR blanket has nylon webbing straps and buckles around it, so I just snapped it to the luggage rak to make room in the boot for our luggage plus two new blankets! (and no shirt! =P )

While I was handling that situation, Vidur Verma and his navigator Cecilio Rodriguez arrived to start packing up their 1938 BMW 327/28 which was parked next to the 65E. We spoke for a bit as I admired his car. They too were going back to the Seattle area and were thinking of alternative routes. I told him how we planned to go, and shot a few photos of his car.

Shocking what changes happen in 30 years of car design, isn’t it?

We chose this route, which avoids the trouble-prone sections of I-5 for weekend traffic:


View Larger Map

Additionally, is route brings us close to the Windy Ridge observation area on Mt. St. Helens… a truly amazing place. Dad has never seen the devastation area up close, so it was a worthwhile trip. Unfortunately we found two issues once we arrived: The mountain was completely shrouded in clouds, and the road to Windy Ridge was closed. Oh well, this route was still a far more enjoyable romp through western Washington than I-5!

We looped south and east around Mt. Hood, also shrouded in clouds:

Then down to Hood River, over the bridge there, then along Washington State Route 14 along the north shore of the Columbia River through the Gorge. This was familiar territory to me, as my son Christopher & I traveled it back in 2003 in the Jaguar on our first rally together, The Run To The Gorge. This section of road, along with the tunnels have been immortalized in a semi-famous YouTube video:

The fun starts around 2:30.

We did not have a video camera this time, but the route, road, and tunnels were just as fun as they were five years before. Just past them Dad’s phone rang and I had to slow down to quiet things for him to talk, eventually pulling off to allow him to carry on a conversation. Good thing too as there was a Washington State Patrol car waiting there:

We drove up and past Mt. St. Helens, enjoying every inch of that wonderfully twisty road. People rave about roads like Deal’s Gap, but I have to say I’ll take these roads out west over those anytime. Unlike there, I had over 100 miles of twisty two-lane, with lots of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th gear driving, all while tugging the steering wheel this way and that with a smile plastered across my face… and we saw MAYBE three other cars. It was heavenly!

We dropped down the other side to Randall, then up through Eatonville (where a Local Cop gave us a “thumbs up” as we drove by… even though he had another car pulled over for a ticket!) then up to I-5 north of Puyallup. I dropped Dad off at my sisters house, and headed home to Arlington. The E-type is resting in the barn now, with a few minor bits of work to do before the 2008 GTTSR. I’ve placed our “Gold medal” next to last years’ Silver in my “trophy case”:

…and the Abarth Zagato steering wheel I bought at the auction is now on my office wall:

This rally was a ton of fun! I’d love to run it again next year. HUGE kudos and thanks to my AWESOME navigator, my father Charles Goolsbee. He is the one truly responsible for our excellent placement in the standings… he tells me where to go and how fast… I just press the loud pedal and turn when he tells me to.

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…

(more…)

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:

August 7, 2008

Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally: Day Zero

Filed under: 08 Monte Shelton,Cars — chuck goolsbee @ 10:38 pm

I left Arlington around 9 am and drove south to Seattle, stopped at my sister’s house and picked up my Dad, and we drove down to Portland, Oregon for the start of the 20th annual Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally. This evening was just a reception, driver’s meeting, and tech inspection.

We passed tech (because I thought fast and bought an air horn at the hardware store last weekend. When my intermittent horn failed to blow when I pressed the horn button, I just hit the air horn and “presto!” I pass. 😉 )

I grabbed a few photos to capture the scene at the tech inspection/reception, and whet your appetites for mechanical wonder over the next two days:

street scene
street scene

Above: The scene looking east along Alder.

Lancia
Lancia
300 sl
300 sl
BMW
BMW
huh?
huh?

Above: Can you name that car?

Gorgeous XK 140 Jaguar
Gorgeous XK 140 Jaguar

Above: Love the paint on this Jaguar XK 140.

Inline 12?
Inline 12?

Above: While I was looking at this a bystander asked “Is this a 12 cylinder engine?” I let him know exactly what it is. Do you know?

Afterwards we went back to our hotel across the Columbia in Vancouver WA, after filling up the Jaguar. 21 MPG on the trip down(!)

See you tomorrow (provided I can get online at our next hotel, which is in the boonies.

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