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The 2nd Trans-America Challenge 2015

7th - 28th June 2015

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The Trans-America Challenge is an exciting classic car rally from sea to shining sea, through the spectacular sights of the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’, organised by the hugely experienced ERA team with over 65 international events under their belt.

The journey from Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the east coast of Canada, to San Francisco on the west coast of the United States will take the participants through some of the best and most spectacular scenery and roads that both the Canada and the United States has to offer in the company of fellow enthusiasts.

Among the Participants

Entries for the 2nd Trans-America Challenge reached the Rally Office from as far afield as Japan and America. Paul and Sandra Merryweather who led our first Trans-Am into Vancouver have returned with their Mercedes 450SL; Richard and Isobel Squire have entered a Shelby Mustang GT350. The second placed crew in 2012, Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown, who drove an E-Type, and who went on to win the Peking to Paris in a Fangio-spec Chevrolet Coupe, have entered again… returning this time with a most unusual car choice: a Triumph Stag. This surprised us so much we went away to drill down into the archives on this website and couldn’t see any other attempt to finish a rally in a Triumph Stag, so, Triumph history of sorts could be made on this event. Michael Eatough and Morgan Roberts and have entered a Fintail Mercedes.

Find the latest list of Trans America Challenge crews and cars on the Participants page.

Trans America Challenge 2015 Participants

Updated 3rd June 2015

Num Participants Motorcar Engine size
Vintageant Cars (pre-1941)
1 Martin Hunt(GB) / Olivia Hunt(GB) 1927 – Bentley 4½ Le Mans 4398
2 Hok Kiang Sia(MY) / Eric Kuan Rong Sia(MY) 1934 – Rolls Royce Phantom II 7668
3 Jan Woien(N) / Jan Hansen(N) 1935 – Alvis Speed 25 3571
4 Melvin Andrews(USA) / William Brandt(USA) 1935 – Bentley 3½ 3669
5 Richard Martin(GB) / Travis Cole(USA) 1936 – Alvis Speed 25 3571
6 Paul Hartfield(GB) / Chris Hartfield(GB) 1936 – Packard Super 8 Sedan 120 5240
Classic Cars to 3000cc (pre-1975)
9 Roger Clark(GB) / Christian Clark(GB) 1963 – Daimler SP250 2548
10 Michael Harrison(GB) / Lorna Harrison(GB) 1963 – Volvo PV544 1778
11 Mike Killingsworth(AUS) / Mike Armstrong(AUS) 1964 – Holden EH 2940
12 Gavin Henderson(GB) / Diana Henderson(GB) 1965 – Porsche 911 1991
14 Michael Eatough(GB) / Morgan Roberts(GB) 1966 – Mercedes 230 Fintail 2306
23 Mick de Haas(NL) / Grace de Haas(NL) 1966 – Mercedes 230 SL 2300
21 Ed Howle(USA) / Janet Howle(USA) 1967 – VW Beetle 1600
16 Marco Marinello(CH) / Carol Marinello(CH) 1968 – Porsche 912 1600
15 Mark Winkelman(NL) / Colin Winkelman(USA) 1968 – Porsche 912 1971
17 David Roberts(GB) / Jo Roberts(GB) 1968 – Triumph TR250 2498
18 Richard Taylor(USA) / Carol Wilson(USA) 1968 – Volvo 122 2000
19 Peter Holmes(GB) / Graham Clifton(GB) 1968 – Volvo PV544 1780
20 Tom Van Den Berg(NL) / Femke Schepers(NL) 1969 – Mercedes 280 SL 2778
22 Michael Kershaw(GB) / Marlies Kershaw(GB) 1969 – MGC GT 2950
24 Jean Steinhauser(LU) / Anne Steinhauser-Collard(LU) 1970 – Mercedes 280 SL 2778
25 Peter Lovett(GB) / Zoe Lovett(GB) 1973 – Porsche 911T 2500
26 Emile Ensink(NL) / Maria Ensink-Droge(NL) 1976 – Mercedes Benz 280SL 2800
27 Phil Garratt(GB) / Kieron Brown(GB) 1977 – Triumph Stag 2997
Classic Cars over 3000cc (pre-1975)
30 Phillip Haslam(GB) / Yvonne Haslam(GB) 1954 – Jaguar XK120DHC 3442
31 Albrecht Haase(D) / Christine Haase(D) 1958 – Jaguar Mk1 3524
32 Stephen Partridge(NZ) / Corgi La Grouw(NZ) 1961 – Ford Galaxie Sunliner 3520
34 Richard Worts(GB) / Nicola Shackleton(GB) 1961 – Jaguar MkII 3781
35 Marco Halter(CH) / Claudia Engelhardt(D) 1963 – Ford Falcon Coupe 3800
36 Alastair Caldwell(GB) / Dorothy Caldwell(NZ) 1963 – Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III 6230
37 Alan Beardshaw(GB) / Tina Beardshaw(GB) 1965 – Aston Martin DB5 3995
38 Richard Squire(GB) / Isobel Squire(GB) 1965 – Shelby GT 350 4700
39 Greg Newton(AUS) / Liz Newton(AUS) 1967 – Jaguar E Type Roadster 4200
40 Clint Smith(GB) / Dawn Smith(GB) 1967 – Jaguar E-Type 4235
41 Trevor Finn(GB) / Lorna Hackett(GB) 1968 – Chevrolet Camaro 5500
42 Nick Marmont(GB) / Dom Marmont(GB) 1970 – Ford Mustang Boss 302 5000
43 John Henderson(AUS) / Jeff West(AUS) 1973 – Chevrolet Corvette 5733
44 Anthony Verloop(NL) / Sonja Verloop(NL) 1973 – MGB GT 3528
45 Paul Merryweather(GB) / Sandra Merryweather(GB) 1974 – Mercedes 450 SL 4500
PAUSE PLAY

Part One – JULY 12TH 2014 – Kim Bannister
from Buffalo, NY

Weather dominated the first few days of the trip. Running from Hurricane Alfred, dodging fallen trees, reversing out of muddy roads and waiting for a Tornado to hit, all thankfully freak weather at any time but most certainly not likely when we start the rally in June 2015.

Halifax to Moncton

Where to start and where to stay? We are talking to the local authorities about starting from the world famous Halifax Citadel, right in the centre of the city, and are waiting for news. Where we stay has been arranged and our home will be on the waterfront with easy access to all Halifax has to offer during the day and evening. We have negotiated a fabulous Welcome Dinner for you overlooking the harbour.

With little time to explore the whole of Nova Scotia we thought a little local knowledge would be useful. The Concierge of the hotel proved invaluable, he had been there 27 years, and suggested “go east young man” and that is what we did.

Heading east from the start took us around Cole Harbour and through the beautiful Lawrencetown area on the southern coast. We then headed north over the superb Mooseland Road to our first planned circuit of the event near Shubenacadie. This 11 turn, 2.4 kms track will be great fun and provide the first “medal section” winners.

Lunch is planned in a small restaurant in Shubenacadie before heading north and out of Nova Scotia into New Brunswick. A scenic run down to the Bay of Fundy, which has the largest tides in the world, finishes the day before we head to our hotel for the night in Moncton.

Moncton to Edmunston

Today will re-start from our second circuit of the event at the Petty Raceway, a tarmac oval circuit around 30 kms from Moncton. Another “medal section” will be decided here before heading off to a Passage Control at Magnetic Hill, an amazing optical illusion where you appear to be rolling uphill backwards, very strange.

The rest of the morning was spent plotting a route through the maze of roads and sandy tracks in New Brunswick before a chance to get some lunch in Rogersville.

After lunch we headed west along Route 108 passing Kennedy Lakes which is the only road in this area, we had to avoid fallen trees for 35 kms; nature had created some fantastic chicanes!  Although the storm had passed less than 24 hours before, the locals and the New Brunswick authorities had already cleared a path for one way traffic and I expect all evidence of any storm damage has long been cleared away now.

Our final stopping point of the day was in Grand Falls where there is the most spectacular waterfall right in the centre of the town, all with easy parking so you can take plenty of photos.

From Grand Falls it was just a short run on the Trans-Canada Highway to our overnight halt in Edmundston, a town so close to the US border that the nearest fuel station to the hotel was in America rather than Canada.

Edmunston to Quebec

We used a road that stayed alongside the US/Canada border, so close to the US that you feel you could almost swim the narrow river and land in someone’s back yard. Then into Quebec Province and the sudden realisation that everything is in French and many of the locals do not speak a word of English. No problem for many of our competitors but very strange none the less.

Our first all gravel “jogularity section” was found before we headed to the shore of the St Lawrence River.

Our first plan had been to take the rally across the St Lawrence on a ferry from Riviere du Loup. When we investigated further we found that the boat ran only twice a day, once early morning and again in the evening, and held a maximum of 42 cars, so too small for our event.

Instead of the ferry we used the road alongside the St Lawrence with some great views of the river and its many islands. Lunch can be taken in one of the many restaurants and cafes in Kamouraska before we finally do get the chance to take a ferry with the short crossing of the St Lawrence from Levis to Quebec. Our hotel for the next two nights can be seen directly across the river, Le Chateau de Frontenac, one of the finest in Canada. You can be forgiven for thinking that you are travelling along the Loire Valley; it looks just like a French Chateau. This hotel, built at the end of the 19th century, is in the old walled town of Quebec , so there is much to explore on the first rest day of the event.

Quebec to Old Forge

An early start took us over the old Pont de Quebec and away from the city, a really easy way to avoid the traffic. A run along the St Lawrence then gave us a chance to look at the race circuit at Ste Croix, right on the river bank. Negotiations to use the circuit are ongoing but are looking good.

We needed to drop south away from Quebec and Montreal, so jumped on  the Trans-Canada Highway for a short distance before heading south to our second circuit of the day at Sanair, near St Pie.

I had a chance to meet with the owner here and discuss our plans for next year, he seemed very keen and we were shown round an area which could be used with both an oval and road track, another medal section will be decided here.

From the track we used the back country roads of Quebec to head to a border crossing at Rouses Point to go into the US; we were the only car there so the crossing was matter of a few minutes.

Once into New York State we turned south west and made for the Adirondack Mountains and enjoyed a superb evening drive along roads that curved and dipped through the Eagle Bay area to our stopping point in Old Forge, the largest town in the Adirondacks and home of an annual classic car show. Much enthusiasm was shown for our event, so expect a great welcome here.

Old Forge to Buffalo

Heading out of the Adirondacks we used some lovely New York back roads to find another two gravel jogularity sections before discovering a stunning lunch stop on the banks of Sodus Bay, the largest on Lake Ontario. Crews will enjoy a buffet lunch overlooking the marina from the restaurant’s sun deck.

A final run through New York State roads took us to Buffalo and the hotel for our next day.

The original plan was to stay in Niagara Falls but a meeting with a man called Jeff Mahl, the great grandson of the winner of the 1908 Great Race from New York to Paris, gave us the opportunity to arrange a dinner at the world famous Pierce Arrow museum and stay in the city of Buffalo with its excellent infrastructure. Crews wanting to visit Niagara Falls on the rest day will be able to do so as it is only a short drive away and transport will be laid on. To be honest with you, the town of Niagara was a disappointment, we couldn’t book hotels of the standard we wanted for a 2 day stay, so now we are looking at a Grand Hyatt in Buffalo, so hope to secure that. The Falls are really stunning though.

Tomorrow we head back into Canada before continuing our journey to discover more interesting back of America, this time in Michigan.

 

Part Two – JULY 19TH 2014 – Kim Bannister
from Bismarck, ND

Buffalo to Bay City

After the bad weather of the first few days it was great to leave Buffalo in beautiful sunshine as we crossed the Peace Bridge into Canada. When the rally crosses here it will be Sunday morning so a very simple entry back into Canada is expected.

We then headed into the maze of straight roads that form this part of Ontario, imagine a typical US city grid system and apply this to a whole province and you will have some idea of the accurate navigation required to make the route notes for today. We used traffic free back roads and even a small amount of gravel to avoid any major towns and continue to head west towards the pretty lake side town of Grand Bend on the shore of Lake Huron.

We also took the chance to visit the Grand Bend Motorplex and talk to the owners about using the circuit on the event. They are going to check their programme for 2015; we would be arriving at the track on a Sunday, but they hope to find a way of working with us as they are very keen to have the cars visit the track.

After lunch in Grand Bend, where there is a large choice of restaurants and cafes, we headed west along the shore of the lake to cross back into the US at Sarnia. The crossing was busy as we were there mid-afternoon on a sunny July day, but the crossing was quick and efficient, as you would expect, and we were soon heading into the Michigan countryside.

The run to our overnight hotel near Bay City took us through some quiet roads before the final run-in on I-75 past Saginaw, made famous in the Simon and Garfunkel track “America”.

Our hotel tonight was a golf club so crews arriving early will be able to play 9 holes or more before dinner on the terrace overlooking the course.

Bay City to St Ignace

After the less competitive day of yesterday we were determined to pack as much as possible into today, and I think we succeeded.

Heading north away from the hotel we used a short run on the Interstate to get us into the countryside, away from traffic and along the edge of Saginaw Bay.

Our first gravel jogularity will run through the Au Sable State Forest, lovely sandy tracks making for a great fun section.

Heading further north we went into the Huron National Forest and found three potential sections before lunch in Hillman.

After a well-earned lunch it was back into the woods for more exploring, this time in the Mackinaw State Forest, and a further two excellent roads were noted as possibles.

Just to put the icing on the cake of a really great day we found a tarmac oval track near the town of Onaway where cars were practicing. The lady on the gate turned out to be the owner and she was delighted to think we would bring the event to her facility to finish off the competition for the day.

We then had a short run along the shoreline of Lake Huron before crossing the Mackinac Bridge, which separates Lakes Huron and Michigan, and on to our new overnight halt in the lake side town of St Ignace.

Our original plan had been to stay in Sault Ste Marie but having travelled to the city and stayed there ourselves we felt that St Ignace was a much nicer option.

At this point we also made a major decision to continue in the US rather than crossing back into Canada and driving around Lake Superior to Thunder Bay.

The reasons we made the decision were many, but principally we felt that just driving along the all tarmac Trans-Canada Highway, with less infrastructure in the way of fuel stations and stopping places, was not as good as heading back into the Michigan countryside for more of their excellent gravel roads combined with far more fuel options and lunch places.

St Ignace to Duluth

Within 4 kms of the re-start we were back onto gravel roads for the first section of the day skirting both Round and Beaver Lakes in the Hiawatha National Forest.

A short run through the small town of Trout Lake and we were in the Lake Superior National Forest for our second run on gravel before turning west  to find our third and final jogularity finishing near the town of Creighton. Smooth tracks and flowing bends were the order of the day and justified our decision to remain in Michigan.

As there was still a good distance to run before our overnight halt we headed west along the southern shoreline of Lake Superior, the largest lake in the world which holds 10% of the earth’s fresh water, and into the town of Marquette where lunch can be taken at any one of a number of restaurants or cafes.

The rest of the day was a straightforward run along good tarmac roads to our overnight halt in Duluth, just over the border in Minnesota, on the west shore of Lake Superior.

Duluth to Grand Forks

Having made the change from Thunder Bay to Duluth it allowed us to get further west than originally planned to another new overnight halt at Grand Forks, just across the border into North Dakota. It also allowed us to explore the beautiful lake area in and around the Land O’Lakes Forest.

Despite a day when it rained for most of the time, we were able to enjoy numerous smooth tracks, made slippery by the weather, and some wonderful scenery before finding a quirky lunch stop in the town of Park Rapids.

The afternoon was spent heading north into the Itasca State Forest where we found more testing gravel sections, then we headed west to our new overnight halt in Grand Forks, the third largest city in North Dakota.

Grand Forks to Bismarck

Just for once we stayed a whole day in the same state.

North Dakota is very similar to Ontario for road structure, endless straight roads in a grid pattern and we looked long and hard at a route to make the day as enjoyable as possible.

We combined good, traffic free, tarmac roads with some great straight gravel ones and even discovered a wonderful jogularity section through smooth flowing gravel farmland roads to end the mornings run.

We decided to finish the day at Jamestown so crews would have time to visit the various attractions in the area; the Frontier Village and Buffalo Museum were two highlights, before having the chance to get some lunch at one of the many restaurants in the town.

In the afternoon we have decided to give crews two route options, one along the Interstate or the other along the miles of straight gravel and tarmac roads which run through the countryside of North Dakota to our overnight halt in the state capital Bismarck.

Discussions are taking place with a local boat company for us to charter their fantastic old paddle steamer to take everyone on an evening Lewis and Clark cruise, named after the famous explorers who visited the region, a lovely way to finish off the day.

Rest Day

As this is written we have decided to move the rest day to Rapid City in South Dakota to allow crews more time to explore the wealth of attractions and sight-seeing opportunities in the area, something that was not available in Bismarck. Unfortunately, Bismarck lacks charm; it’s a typical American city – great infrastructure but nothing much to do or to see.

South Dakota and the wonders of Mount Rushmore and Little Big Horn are waiting for us over the next few days and will be included in our next report.

 

Part Three  – JULY 29TH 2014 – Kim Bannister
from San Francisco, CA

Bismarck to Rapid City

Leaving Bismarck behind us we headed straight into glorious North Dakota countryside and used some superb gravel farm roads for the first 100 kms before emerging onto tarmac near the wonderfully named town of Flasher.

We then needed to head south towards our next state, South Dakota, and did this on fast straight tarmac roads through the vast farms of the area. No traffic and a speed limit of 65 mph made the miles disappear before the chance to get some lunch in the town of Faith.

Continuing west we decided to take the route through Sturgis, home one of the world’s largest motorcycle gatherings which takes place in August each year. From Sturgis we headed to the famous old cowboy town of Deadwood and the final control of the day at the “Days of 76” Museum.  Crews can then take their time to look around this historic and fun town before heading through the Black Hills National Forest to our overnight stay in Rapid City.

We also gained another hour as we had entered “Mountain Time” which gave us even more time to take in the sights and sounds of Deadwood.

Rapid City – Rest Day

Moving the rest day from Bismarck to Rapid City seems to have been the right decision as there is much to see and do in the area, including a lovely old downtown area of Rapid City to explore for those not wanting to stray too far and some interesting places to go to, Keystone in particular, for those prepared to drive a little way out of town.

Rapid City to Sheridan

We had taken the opportunity to explore the area on a day off so have planned a route which we think takes in the best of the area for our route away from South Dakota and into Wyoming.

Heading south from Rapid City we visit Mount Rushmore and the carvings of the presidents in the rock face. Crews can take photos from the road as we approach or there is the chance to stop and get a little closer for a parking charge of $11. Time will be allowed for this.

After Mount Rushmore the route goes through the Needles Highway, an incredible drive through sheer rock faces and wonderful scenery in a National park. There is a small charge for using the road but it is a fantastic drive.

Our plan is to then re-group all the cars at the Crazy Horse Memorial, a huge rock carving still in progress, before heading west for the rest of the day.

Lunch can be taken in the town of Moorcroft before heading into the gravel roads west of Gillette for some jogularity sections, with a nice all tarmac alternative route for those who want to take it.

The original plan had been to spend the night at Gillette, but when we drove through we decided to look elsewhere, you will drive through the area and will see why we made the decision.

We ended up in the town of Sheridan in Wyoming, a great location for our plans for the following day and which also allowed us to take the event to the town of Cody in Wyoming, much closer to Yellowstone than our original stop of Billings.

Sheridan to Cody

This was one of our favourite days, although this is a very personal opinion, as we headed off into the traffic free rolling hills of Wyoming before crossing into Montana to visit the historical site of “Little Big Horn” and “Custer’s Last Stand”.

Time will be allowed to visit the various areas of the battlefield before re-grouping at the Battlefield Museum a little further south in Garryowen where we can get coffee and snacks or spend money in the excellent well stocked gift shop.

We then headed into the Big Horn Mountains as the road climbed ever higher with snow still evident on the mountain tops, we reached over 2600 metres (8500 feet) before dropping slightly to the Shell Canyon and Falls with stunning views all around.

We also explored a wonderful twisting gravel road which started at a height of 2400metres and dropped slowly to the finish some 20 kms later. This will make a fantastic and testing jogularity section, as long as the snow has gone.

We had decided to move the end of the day from the rather ordinary town of Billings to the cowboy town of Cody, named after William “Buffalo Bill” Cody.  A nightly gun fight is played out along the main street outside the Irma Hotel for the visiting tourists. The Irma is named after Buffalo Bills daughter and we had originally looked to stay there but the hotel is too small for our needs and a much nicer alternative was found.

As Cody is known as the ‘Rodeo Capital of the World’ we just had to arrange to take everyone to see the rodeo show in the evening after dinner. Hopefully, another night to remember.

Cody to Idaho Falls

On the event we have decided to make this a transit day so crews can spend as much or as little time as they want in Yellowstone National Park.

We have planned a route that takes in most of the highlights of Yellowstone but crews will be free to take other routes if they want to.

Our route headed north west from Cody over the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway and the romantically titled “Dead Indian Pass” before entering Yellowstone at the Silver Gate (North East) entrance and then headed south west past Yellowstone Lake and Old Faithful before leaving at the western exit and the town of West Yellowstone, where a great lunch can be taken if you have the time.

In Yellowstone we saw stunning scenery, wonderful lakeside views, a wide variety of animals, no bears this time but they will be about when we visit and geysers spurting water into the air.

From the park we used the freeway to get to our overnight halt in Idaho Falls.

Idaho Falls to Elko

Today will be a long day on the event as we need to head west into the open vastness of Nevada and the gateway to California.

We found a dirt oval track just outside Idaho Falls but unfortunately there was no one there to talk to so we took details and will try and find a way to use the circuit on the event for some fun on our journey west.

After a short but polite chat with an Idaho State Trooper we continued on our journey. All State Troopers have radar which detect a cars oncoming speed, so be aware of this.

Our route continued west through the “Craters of the Moon” National park, an amazing drive through lava fields and great scenery before we had to decide the best route into Elko.

Our original plan had been to visit the Shoshone Falls near the city of Twin Falls. We went there on the route survey but there are notices everywhere showing the work that will be carried out in 2015 which would make the area more of a building site than a tourist attraction. We decided then to change the route for the afternoon and will head west to the town of Mountain Home and approach Elko from the north. This will also give us the opportunity to run at least one jogularity section on the tarmac road through the Mountain City area.

Our overnight stop will be in the town of Elko, generally used as a stopping point on the way to Reno, just as we are doing.

Elko to Reno

To reach Reno we needed to head west across the vast openness of Nevada, 70 mph speed limits on many of the roads helped us to cover the distance quickly.

Our journey took us past another Eureka, the Nevada one, before heading into the Green Mountains on a wonderful traffic free side road and the chance to run an all tarmac jogularity through the hills before the chance to get fuel and food in Fallon.

After Fallon we decided to take the road through Silver Springs and Virginian City, what a great decision. The road to Virginia City twists, turns and climbs before the lovely old town where we took the opportunity to stop and wander around, we will add time in so crews can do the same and enjoy the experience.

From Virginia City there were more twists, turns and climbs before joining the I-580 and the last leg of the trip into Reno, the “Biggest Little City in the World” and our hotel at one of the casino resorts that are all over the city.

Reno – Rest Day

Our contacts from Buffalo also have friends at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, where the Thomas Flyer, the winner of the 1908 Great Race, is on display. It would be great to join the circle having seen the Pierce Arrow museum in Buffalo and then to see the winning car in Reno. We are working on a number of ideas, including dinner at the museum and a visit to the exhibition halls.

Those wanting a quieter day will find plenty to do in the hotel, not just playing the tables unless you want to.

Reno to Eureka

From Reno we took the Interstate out of the city, we will be leaving on a Saturday morning so traffic will be lighter than during the week,  and headed into our final state of the event California.

A wonderful sweeping gravel road into Taylorsville will be our first jogularity of the day, but crews wanting to stay on tarmac can enjoy a stunning drive through the Lassen National Park and the town of Quincy before meeting crews from the gravel road.

Our next stop was in Red Bluff, the birthplace of Tom Hanks, where lunch can be taken, before we headed onto one of the most enjoyable driving roads we have seen, the fantastic highway 36 which sweeps and swoops through the California countryside.

Our second section of the day will be over the all tarmac South Fork Mountain Road, although crews wanting to avoid this can continue on the amazing highway 36 to the evening halt in Eureka.

The run in to our hotel in Eureka will give crews the first sight of the Pacific Ocean in the Humboldt Bay, an area which produces 93% of the Oysters eaten in the US and nearly 60% of all seafood consumed, so expect some fish on tonight’s menu.

Eureka to San Francisco

After a short run along highway 101 we turned onto the “Avenue of the Giants” for a 50 kms (30 mile) run through the mighty Redwood trees which abound in this area. This road was a little slower than using the parallel highway, but the view was much better.

The final day of the event needed to be special so we decided to get off highway 101 and onto the iconic route 1 along the “Pacific Coast Highway”. The views of the Ocean were amazing with waves crashing onto the rocks only feet away from the car and glimpses of hidden coves and beaches far below the road.

Route 1 can be slow going though, there will be traffic returning to San Francisco on the Sunday evening, but the drive is worth it.

We entered San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge, surely the only way to go, before heading downtown to our finish hotel where the world famous Cable Cars run nearby and the hills made famous in “Bullitt” are to be found.

Now we are in San Francisco we can look back on an incredible “Road Trip” which has taken us from the Atlantic coast in Nova Scotia to the pacific coast in California, truly “Sea to Shining Sea”.

All we need now is a great group of people to complete the picture.


For more detail on the 2015 Trans America route follow the Route Survey link above to find Kim Bannister’s reports.

Day Date Route Kms
06 June 2015 Halifax – Nova Scotia
1 07 June 2015 Halifax to Moncton – New Brunswick 530
2 08 June 2015 Moncton to Edmunston – New Brunswick 493
3 09 June 2015 Edmunston to Quebec – Quebec Province 357
4 10 June 2015 Quebec  –  Rest Day
5 11 June 2015 Quebec to Old Forge – New York 590
6 12 June 2015 Old Forge to Buffalo – New York 472
7 13 June 2015 Buffalo  –  Rest Day
8 14 June 2015 Buffalo to Bay City – Michigan 549
9 15 June 2015 Bay City to St Ignace – Michigan 453
10 16 June 2015 St Ignace to Duluth – Minnesota 674
11 17 June 2015 Duluth to Grand Forks – North Dakota 575
12 18 June 2015 Grand Forks to Bismarck – North Dakota 445
13 19 June 2015 Bismarck to Rapid City – South Dakota 577
14 20 June 2015 Rapid City  –  Rest Day
15 21 June 2015 Rapid City to Sheridan – Wyoming 488
16 22 June 2015 Sheridan to Cody – Wyoming 443
17 23 June 2015 Cody to Idaho Falls – Idaho 519
18 24 June 2015 Idaho Falls to Elko – Nevada 656
19 25 June 2015 Elko to Reno – Nevada 609
20 26 June 2015 Reno  –  Rest Day
21 27 June 2015 Reno to Eureka – California 562
22 28 June 2015 Eureka to San Francisco – California 491

DAY

22

Easy, like Sunday morning

Day 22 - Eureka to San Francisco

Sunday mornings are usually a chance to grab an extra few minutes in bed with a coffee perhaps, or some other distraction. It’s a time to kick back and chill out, perhaps even to go to church….

But not this morning. We had a Rally to finish, miles to be done and the Golden Gate Bridge to be crossed. So, despite the damp foggy weather and the effects of the tailgate party last night we downed an omelette and a strong coffee and made for the carpark where all manner of last minute, end of Rally tinkering was going on. No one wanted to breakdown today – of all days.

Albrecht Haase’s Sunday though wasn’t going to plan. His Jaguar wouldn’t start because, last night he’d freewheeled into town having run out of fuel at the top of the mountain. As a result his battery was flat and it was going to need more than a cup of coffee to get it going. What he needed was a bump start and, the sweeps were happy to oblige.

From Eureka, it was a pretty straight drive down the coast to Mendocino where the final MTC was located. Firstly though we had the pleasure of driving through the Humboldt Forest with its amazing giant Redwood trees, one was so big that you could actually drive a car through it, although not a Malaysian Rolls Royce Phantom it would seem.

Once we’d cleared these amazing trees in the aptly named Avenue of the Giants it was down onto the coast and, with the fog gradually lifting we enjoyed a superb run down Highway One towards San Francisco.

This is a must do drive, the Tarmac is exceptional, the views across the water and over the craggy shoreline are amazing and there are plenty of places to stop, eat and take it all in. We weren’t in a hurry today as there was no competition so we could really enjoy the journey to the Golden Gate alongside the Ocean.

Pulling up to the finish arch outside the landmark Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, our worthy winners were Peter and Zoe Lovett. This is their second consecutive long distance win and they were naturally thrilled saying that “this was a habit that they could get used to”. The equally well travelled and indefatigable Martin and Olivia Hunt meanwhile topped the Vintageant Class in their Medcalf prepared Bentley.

We were very pleased to see some old friends in the crowd outside the hotel who’d flown or driven to San Francisco to welcome the crews home. Lloyd and Treacey Reddington were trying out their car for a second Peking to Paris ‘assault’. They’d driven down from Canada and were pleased to report no problems. We look forward to seeing her again next year. More P2P veterans, Robert and Jane Abrey had driven their own Coast to Coast route in their Flying Scotsman, crowd pleasing Chalmers whilst Hayden Burvill was also there checking up on his Porsche engines and cheering on Alastair Caldwell with whom he’d also driven the London – Cape Town World Cup Rally.

An excellent dinner tonight was served on the 24th floor of the Fairmont Hotel overlooking the Bay and Alcatraz Island and, as the silverware was handed out by Kim Bannister, the Clerk of the Course, a long night and happy looked likely.

The discretionary spirit of the Rally Awards were won firstly by Sia and Eric in the Phantom. They’ve not had an easy ride in their Rolls Royce but have enjoyed every minute of it and have been great company. The second went to Richard Martin and Travis Cole for their well documented efforts with their Datsun 240Z.

It’s been a great Rally.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

21

California dreaming

Day 21 - Reno to Eureka

We received a couple of workshop updates this morning even before the fruit salad and coffee had been served for breakfast. There’s bad news from Marco and Carol Marinello. Their Porsche can’t be fixed, but they’ve rented another car and will make it to the end with us.

Also, Richard Martin would like it known that there was a lot more than a bit of ‘light spannering’ going on in the car 5 pit yesterday. The 240Z rebuild continues apace and yesterday both he and Travis were hard at it till the evening. Gentlemen we salute you, this will be the best prepared car in the car park by the time we pull into the Fairmont Hotel.

Once we’d digested this news then it was down to some real eating and, with this finished we pulled out of Reno and found the City to be traffic free, bright and clear. It was a case of straight onto the Interstate which fairly whizzed us Northwest to the California State line.

We had a busy day planned. Three Regularities and a total, distance of 601 km.

As we approached the ‘border’ we checked our guns to make sure we only had the regulation ten rounds in the magazine before proceeding to the fruit and veg checkpoint where they keep an eye open for any of those dangerous apples and pears from Nevada.

From the State line the landscape changed very quickly. We left behind the desert and entered the forest and began climbing over the Beckwourth Pass to Portola where we joined Grizzly Road and went onto the gravel running along Lake Davis through a dense pine forest.

Almost 44 km of sandy gravel also took in the first Regularity section at Beckwourth which reached slightly less than 2000 m altitude. It was a tough regularity with lots of navigational input required and no one managed a perfect score.  Alan and Tina Beardshaw and Paul and Sandra Merryweather tied with a two second penalty.

Alastair and Dorothy Caldwell came home with three seconds but declared that this was the best road they’d driven since leaving Halifax.

“Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft” the song says and, driving the county roads along the Last Chance River via Genesee, Taylorsville and Greenville we could see what they meant. The countryside was simply beautiful as we sped past Lake Almanor in the Lassen National Forest and through the town of Canyon Dam, with the magnificent Lassen Peak looming on the horizon.

Before we pulled into the lunch control in Mineral, we crossed another landmark, the Pacific Crest Trail. The long distance path made famous by the recent film, Wild.

After lunch there was another Hollywood connection we could claim as the Rally progressed down across the Sacramento Valley and into Red Bluff, the town where the actor Tom Hanks was born.

From here it was uphill and down dale for the rest of the day. Through the Shasta Trinity Forest to our second Regularities which came along the long ridge overlooking Humboldt County. The first, on Whiting Ridge was a 12 km broken Tarmac, roller coaster. There was no let up for the crews. The clocks, the throttle and the brakes were all called upon in equal measure to meet the required time and it was hard task. Alan and Tina Beardshaw clearly had their act together today and we’re the only crew to hit the target time. The second Regularity, along Friday Ridge was much the same with the added problems of some 180° hairpins thrown in. Two timing points in a section measuring a shade under 8 km called for precision driving. Mick and Grace de Haas along with Marco Halter and Claudia Englehardt were joint winners with only a three second penalty each.

From this last Regularity then it was, quite literally downhill for the rest of the day. The Pacific Ocean pulled us down into Eureka where the end of Rally celebrations have already started with the Sweep crews hosting a tailgate party down in the carpark.

Finally, we’ve been asked to pass on some greetings for tomorrow. Happy birthday to Lorna Hackett. Lots of love mum and dad. xx

Tomorrow we finish in San Francisco but there’s a lovely drive down the Pacific coast to be enjoyed first.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

20

Reno Rest day

Day 20 - Reno - Rest Day

We’re into the endgame now. This final rest day was one for making sure that nothing goes wrong on the way to the Golden Gate.

Known as the biggest small city in the world, Reno is a casino and entertainment town of the kind that is common in Nevada. It could best be described as Las Vegas Lite in that it’s still got some sense of decency and reality about itself and indeed, the hotel we’re staying in, The Peppermill is very good with plenty to do, see and eat under the one huge roof and, it’s a lot colder inside than it is outside.

Spannering was pretty perfunctory this morning. Lubing, checking and cleaning were pretty much the order of the day. In the shade of the multi storey carpark we saw Albrecht Haase who had called upon two friends to help with a bit of axle greasing. Our newest co driver, Samantha Winkelman got to grips with a dipstick once the wheel bearings of their Porsche had been adjusted and Anthony Verloop was busy checking the front wheels and brakes of his pokey little V8 MGB GT. It’s a good car and he knows it inside out.

There was probably more activity with the washings machine than with the toolbox, which is a good thing at the end of a long Rally.

No news on the Marinello Porsche though which suffered a small engine fire yesterday. It was taken off site to be looked at by one of their friends who runs a Porsche garage – that’s a useful friend. Hopefully they’ll be back with us in the morning.

Ace sweep team, Jamie and Owen Turner were found fixing a new clamping device to the tailgate of their truck, they’ve just got the one. Apparently it’s their only vice.

Tomorrow we start our two day home run through the beautiful landscapes of Northern California to Eureka. We can then quite correctly boast that we’ve achieved the continental crossing, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

19

Every One's a Winner

Day 19 - Elko to Reno

Every One’s a Winner

Nevada is to gambling what Yorkshire is to cricket or France is to cheese wine and industrial action, or Rotterdam is to shipping, so as we awoke this morning and took breakfast we were relieved to see that everyone in the Rally still had the shirts on their back and had resisted the temptations of the tables or the call of the croupier.

Even David and Jo Roberts had managed to stay away from the slot machines and they had more reason than most to feel lucky as they’ve been double winners so far on the Rally. They won the fancy dress competition and the Yellowstone quiz “about the only thing we can’t win is a rally” quipped David.

Everything seems to have a Casino tagged onto it here. Day care centres, dentists, gas stations, fast food outlets; they all use the suffix ‘….. & Casino’.

Because they often attract the weak, vulnerable and feckless the gaming establishments have strict admission criteria and wisely limit the numbers of those who don’t fall into that category.

One of the last businesses we saw though, Randy’s Ranch which flashed by on our right as we pulled out of Elko didn’t have a casino and, I bet they don’t have any animals either.

Anyway, straight down the road – and I mean straight – we had the first Regularity of the day. The 15 km Garden Pass which took us along part of the Old Pony Express Trail. This was a broken, hilly track with corkscrew turns and short punchy straights. Keeping to the average speed set by Kim Bannister, the Clerk of the Course, was a tough ask but six crews managed it with aplomb only dropping one second. Among them were Mick and Grace de Haas and Richard Worts and Nicola Shackelton. I bet they’re pleased with themselves.

The Winkleman Porsche was left by the side of the road for a few minutes, possibly with a stone in his hoof. Mark has left the Rally and Colin has been joined by his wife Samantha as co-driver.

In the Toiyabe National Forest, which is strangely short of trees we found Stephen Partridge and Corgi Le Grouw by the side of the road attending to a fuel starvation problem with Betty the Ford. There was fuel in the tank but it wasn’t getting to the carburettor. Nick and Dom Marmont had sportingly stopped to help along with Peter Holmes and Graham Clifton. This was a long hot drag to the Austin Summit before the long hot downhill to the coffee halt and Time Control down in the town of Austin. Betty recovered once she had cooled off a little.

Pulling out of the TC onto Highway 50, The Loneliest Road in America we headed for the second Regularity of the day at Eastgate, just along from the Reese River and alongside one of many shimmering white dry lake beds. This was fast tarmac territory which took us over the Churchill County Line and back onto Highway 50 to Fallon the Oasis of Nevada where we were to have lunch in Jerry’s diner.

Signs by the road warned us to look out for low flying aircraft through the Fallon Naval Air Range and right on cue, today’s Top Gun top cover was provided by two Blackhawks and Two Apache helicopters test firing and manoeuvring at low level. We could almost claim it as a fly past as we progressed dodging the wild horses on the road to Carson City and over Geiger Summit into Reno.

This is another gambling town but tonight we had something closer to home to enjoy. A visit to the Reno Motor Museum where we sat down to a silver service dinner alongside the original Thomas Flyer Motor car (see Syd’s passim).

There have been problems for some today along the road, the most serious concerning  Marco and Carol Marinello’s Porsche 912 which suffered a small engine fire. Damage was thankfully slight and it’s already in a Porsche workshop in Reno where it should be repaired in time to take the start again on Saturday morning.

Tomorrow is the long awaited Reno rest day. I bet we’ll all enjoy it.

Syd Stelvio

 

DAY

18

The heat is on

Day 18 - Idaho Falls to Elko

The heat is on

A lazy start to the day in the sense that the day’s Regularity was way down the road after lunch. The morning therefore was taken up with a long roll out through miles of flat Idaho farmland and, as if to underline the difference to yesterday’s scenery, a crop dusting plane had replaced the eagles as it wheeled and strafed the wheat below.

We were set pretty much due west as we pulled out of Idaho Falls, through the National Laboratory and past Atomic City on our way, via the town of Arco, to the first time control and coffee halt in Carey.

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) itself is an 890-square-mile nuclear facility which employs more than 8,000 people working on projects related to nuclear power. It’s cutting edge, state of the art and pretty secret.

Arco, on the other hand is a small town to the west of this and boasts its own unique attractions. The Pickle Place, for example, The Home of the Atomic Burger and it was also the first city in the world to be lit entirely by atomic power.

We travelled the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway on our way to Carey which originates in the Lost River Mountain Range and takes in the Craters of the Moon National Monument with lava flows and high mountain desert along its length.

At the coffee halt the State Troopers paid us a visit along with the local Sheriff. They were just patrolling their patch and, on seeing the cars had popped in for a chat. The open top cars; the Rolls Royce, the Bentley and the Alvis etc really captured their imagination and they were keen to learn about the Endurance Rallying scene. We were equally as keen to stay on the right side of them and took a mental note to keep an even closer eye on the clocks as they were last seen heading up along Rally route!

It is hay making season in Idaho and the local farmers were out in force turning and bailing the already cut grass along our route on the Main Oregon Trail. As usual in America though the sheer scale of it has to be seen to be believed. Whatever the crop there’s a lot more irrigation in the fields now and the low distant hills have a more brown tinge to them than we’ve seen so far.

Mountain Home was the main junction for the day where it really began to get hot and where we turned due south over the Snake River towards the Duck Valley Indian Reservation and the State of Nevada where we had an agreeable lunch in the Gas & Go Cafe where gallons of cold drinks were consumed and litres of sunscreen applied.

The Regularity we mentioned earlier was a tarmac one. A steady 16 km climb alongside the Owyhee River in the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest. Four timing points, sweltering heat and a winding road kept the crews very much under pressure after an already long day but the dynamic duo of Holmes and Clifton In their Volvo PV544 and the Dutch Flyers Tom van Den Berg and Femke Schepers managed to keep their cool and come out jointly on top. The US Air Force kept watch overhead, the Nevada Desert is an important training area and we counted more than four con’ trails tightly woven together as a result of their high altitude high jinks.

With the business of the day concluded then it was a home run to the night halt at Elko, over the 1965m Adobe summit.

Our one time Rally leaders, Phil and Kieron are back with us tonight although not on the top spot. They pulled off a superhuman feat overnight and in the early hours of this morning to get back on the road and in their own words this is the story so far.

“……. After being trailered yesterday at warp speed behind a 7 litre turbo-charged pickup, we got to the hotel in time for dinner, then we went down to the UPS depot to see if the second hand differential we’d tracked down in Arizona had arrived. Triumph Stag parts in America at rare but fortunately it emerged at 9.30am. We’d already removed the old diff’ in readiness for the ‘new one’ and had borrowed a ramp at a friendly local garage. An hour later the new diff’ was installed and we were on our way. It howls like a hyena and drips a bit of oil, but it seems to work. Differential failure is not a known Stag weakness, so it’s just one of those challenging adventures of Endurance Rallying but it’s a reminder to, just how friendly, enthusiastic and interested in helping all the locals are…..”.

As for the leaderboard then, we now have Peter and Zoe Lovett leading from Paul and Sandra Merryweather while Alan and Tina Beardshaw regain their third place

Today is also Albrecht Haase’s birthday. We take his opportunity to wish him many happy returns.

Tomorrow we’re off to Reno, “The Biggest Little City in the World”.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

17

Park Life

Day 17 - Cody to Idaho Falls via Yellowstone

Park Life

Today we had a transit day, an opportunity to gain some distance without any timing, thereby allowing the crews some time to appreciate the beauty of the world famous Yellowstone National Park which we would pass through in the way to Idaho Falls.

So, unusually we left Cody without seeing so much as a timing chip or a control board and passed over the Shoshone river and into Shoshone country by way of The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway named after the leader who, in 1877 led his tribe, the Nez Perce in an attempt to flee the US Army and resettle in Canada. Dead Indian Pass with its breathtaking mountain views and long looping turns allowed us into Yellowstone whereas Chief Joseph used it to escape from the same. The Rally organisers had also arranged for fresh Tarmac to be laid that very morning which added to this very special driving experience through the Absaroka Mountains.

The Bear Tooth All American Road led us into Cooke City, the Coolest Small City in America according to the town sign, and out of Wyoming into Montana. Cool it may be but Cooke City can certainly lay claim to having the best bakery we’ve seen since Halifax. The  Bearclaw Bakery excelled itself in every respect save one. Their espresso machine was out of order until Thursday. After a busy few days it had burned out over the weekend.

Full of pastry and filter coffee we ran along the road into Yellowstone and were straight back into Wyoming.

Yellowstone National Park covers an area of some 3,500 square miles, it was established as a National Park in 1872 and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. At the centre of the park is the Yellowstone Caldera, which is still considered to be an active volcano despite the fact that the Yellowstone lake sits right on top of it. Year round it hosts millions of visitors who, like us come to enjoy its stunning surroundings.

Far from being a theme park however, Yellowstone is also stuffed to the brim with wildlife and natural forces. Buffalo stepped out in front of us with their calves tagging along nervously behind. Eagles soared overhead scanning the grassland for potential prey, geysers blew and hot springs bubbled.

The Rally crews were free to explore the Park however they wished although an official route had been provided by the Rally Organisers taking in some of the best roads and sights. The big geyser, Old Faithful proved a very popular draw for many and, with a display every hour and a half or so there was plenty of time to grab some lunch and a coffee.

Most of the crews thoroughly enjoyed the day, but for the Rally leaders it was to spell possible disaster. After weeks of nursing their Triumph Stag through long days on the road, in and out of tight Regularities and mixing it up during hectic track sessions Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown broke down today. Or at least their Triumph did; it lost its transmission and, ended up on a flat bed truck heading straight for Idaho Falls.

The news might not be all bad though, we hear that a differential and seals are being shipped in from Arizona on an overnight service and that a garage in Idaho Falls where they ‘work on old cars’ has offered to help them put it all together.

We’re all willing them on to the finish line but this is a tough repair to make in the time available. The clock starts ticking again tomorrow and with only seven seconds on the Lovett Porsche their lead is all but over. They’ve never not finished an Endurance Rally and we fully expect that they won’t change this habit.

We leave for Elko tomorrow. It’s a long day of around 655 km into Nevada.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

16

Day 16 - Sheridan to Cody

Rolling rolling rolling…. keep those dogies rolling.

Within 60 km of leaving Sheridan. The King of the Cowboy Towns, we were help up by a herd of cows complete with a couple of cowboys chasing down one last recalcitrant dogie. How very appropriate?

The whole of this morning’s route was like driving through a movie set, we wound our way through shallow hills covered with pine forest. Drove alongside log cabins and ranch buildings sat in the clearings and, watched as herds of cattle moved slowly along  well trodden and dusty trails to their watering holes. This was the scene as the Rally entered the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation and Crow Country on their way to the Little Big Horn battleground and museum.

Most crews took the opportunity to visit the graves, take in a loop of the battlefield itself and listen to the audio visual commentary in the visitor centre. If they missed this however they can always see it on the TV as there was a British production team there shooting a documentary with Tony Robinson.

There was only one Regularity today, on Black Mountain in the Big Horn National Forest. It was set along a looping gravel road and it took us to new heights, around 2712 m, almost the height of the Stelvio Pass. Marco Halter and Claudia Engelhardt piloted their Ford Falcon to the top spot with Alastair and Dorothy Caldwell and Mark and Colin Winkleman trailing in their dust.

Once through this section and out onto the tarmac we swooped into Big Horn County and took coffee and ice cream – it’s getting very hot now – in the delightfully named Dirty Annie’s Country Store. Most of the Rally were able to kick back and relax for a few minutes here but Alan Beardshaw had to call on the sweeps to check his engine mountings. Somewhere in the forest he’d hit a bump which caused the engine block to move upwards slightly and had punched two little dents into the bonnet lid. Space under the hood of this Aston is tight to say the least but the sweep, Owen Turner quickly established that there was nothing to worry about.

There was a long, hot, straight run into Cody following this little break via notable towns such as Grey Bull, the Hub of the Big Horn Basin. This also is home to The Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting. Among the exhibits we found here were two C119 Flying Boxcar aircraft which had seen service in Vietnam and later as a Forestry Service firefighting platforms as well as a Twin Beech aircraft similar to the one in which Amelia Earhart was flying in when she disappeared in 1937.

The town of Emblem, with a Population of 10 and its own Post Office, will live long in our memory.

Once we got to Cody, the Rodeo Capital of the World, the fun and games were really set to begin. After an evening meal of bacon and beans, a Wild West staple, we boarded the bus for the rodeo. The dress code? Cowboy / cowgirl casual – ie check shirts preferred and Stetsons supplied by the Rally organisers.

The two hour show was a thrilling end to an action packed day and, as we unrolled our bedding, kicked out the fire and settled down for the night there were more than a few of us who would never watch The Big Country in quite the same way again.

The leaderboard. No change, Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown lead from Peter and Zoe Lovett but their lead is now down to a slender seven seconds. Mark and Colin Winkleman remain in third.

Tomorrow we transit Yellowstone National Park. There’s no timing so we can take our time and enjoy this remarkable area.

Syd Stelvio.

DAY

15

Day 15 - Rapid City to Sheridan

Welcome to Trans America Country.

As we pulled out of Rapid City, voted the most patriotic in the USA, a change of scene as dramatic as anything we’ve seen so far was in store for us today and, after a productive, resting, entertaining, infuriating or stimulating – delete as appropriate – day off, the crews were full of beans and raring to go.

Within a few miles the full extent of just how much this was classic Wild West cowboy country became apparent. Through the Black Hills Gold Mining area, the shops, restaurants and hotels were almost all decked out as they would have been when the West was being won. The Sitting Bull RV Park and Caverns reminded us that there were two sides to this story though.

Once we’d passed through the town of Keystone, thankfully without encountering the Cops and, skirted the National Presidential Wax Museum, the Mount Rushmore monument loomed large in our windscreens and some crews took the opportunity to pay a quick visit and get a little closer to Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

From here we progressed along the Needles Highway. A beautiful road the twists its way through a series of narrow one lane tunnels and canyons and an aptly named hole in the wall picnic area. Hairpin bends, great views, whispering pines and babbling brooks took the Rally to the Time control and Coffee halt at Legion Lake and over the Galena French Creek Divide.

Before long we hit Custer, a town with surely as many RV parks and multi coloured bulls on the sidewalks as any other in the USA. This was also the starting point for the route over a high plains plateau which took us into Wyoming. Proudly boasting that it is Forever West and that we’ve entered Beef Country. Which brings us neatly to lunch, taken in Remy’s Diner in Upton, Wyoming – population 1100 and the self-proclaimed ‘Best Town on Earth’. They were, to put it mildly, doing a roaring trade. Rallying is hungry work.

The afternoon run to Sheridan, our night halt, was broken up by two Regularities. The first at Echeta Road was a 20 km section and the second, at Buffalo Creek was a shade over 17 km. They were both wide open, roller coaster sorts of roads and, approaching Sheridan, we got our first glimpse of the snow-capped Rockies.

Martin and Olivia Hunt took the honours on the Echeta Road Regularity with Michael Eatough and Morgan Roberts a respectable second. The Buffalo Creek result was a seven way tie with the very same Eatough and Roberts figuring highly again.

The leaderboard hasn’t changed, but Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown have lost three seconds to Peter and Zoe Lovett and Mark and Colin Winkleman.

Syd Stelvio.

DAY

14

Day 14 - Rapid City - Rest Day

Tales from the Car Park

Today dawned bright, clear and fresh after a spectacular electrical storm last night complete with rain and hail but very little thunder. We awoke to the busiest car park scene we’ve encountered so far on this Rally, perhaps not surprising as we’ve had six straight days of driving. Long days with lots of dirt road driving takes its toll on both man and machine and, while the man can be repaired with a cold beer and a hot bath, the machine needs bit more care and attention.

So it was this morning then that air filters were being set out to dry, oil was changed, coolant checked, brakes were adjusted and tyres rotated. Richard Worts, our defending champion, fitted a new trip meter probe. Nicola Shackleton his navigator is a stickler for precision and on such a tight event as this she knows that they need to be inch perfect and to the second.

For most then the day ran smoothly, Colin and Mark Winkleman lubed and checked their Porsche. Maria Ensink polished the windscreen of the big red Mercedes and Andy Inskip helped Jan Woien and Jan Hansen to make a bracket to fix a loose mudguard on their Alvis. So far so good; busy but controlled.

Things were about to go wrong for one man though. Martin Hunt had the rest day from hell when a routine maintenance job went awry. While rotating the tyres as per the approved Medcalf Service Schedule, his big Bentley rolled off the jack and, upon impact cracked the differential housing. After kicking himself he quickly set his mind to a repair and, with the help of Peter Lovett found a Knight in shining armour. Chris Knight to be precise, a local welder whose father happens to be British. He saved the day with a neat bit of aluminium welding and the Bentley lives to fight another day.

Travis Cole was also hard at it under his car also rebuilding his differential, although for very different reasons. The Datsun 240Z that he and Richard Martin bought to replace their Alvis was always a bit of an unknown quantity and, they took it on it knowing that they’d be working on it every spare minute that they had. Last night, he and Richard found a breakers yard who stripped the right parts for them before delivering them to the hotel carpark. They worked for as long as they could into the night only stopping because the storm forced them indoors. With the dry dawn though they were back on the spanners.

So another heroic day from the sweeps then but today they had their own guardian angel in the shape of Jo Roberts who gathered their laundry had it washed, dried and ironed before delivering it to their respective rooms.

Over a well used box of tools, our Rally leaders Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown took time to tell us a little bit more about their car. ‎They’ve had it for 25 years and have used it for less intense European events in the past. But, while competing on the Peking to Paris 2013 (in which they topped the Vintageant category) they struck up a conversation with Rally Director Philip Young. Philip was lamenting the lack of Triumphs on ERA events and, when he found out that they owned a Stag and were doing Trans America he put two and two together and came up with a Rally leading formula.

As some of you may well know, in its day the Stag had a reputation as one of the most troubled of British Leyland’s cars from the 1970s, so no wonder many eye brows were raised at the prospect of such a car competing on an ERA rally. Indeed our records show that this is the first time a Triumph Stag has competed on an international endurance rally.

So it is indeed something remarkable that a Stag had not only reached Day 14 but it has also dominated the top slot of the daily results sheets so far. The car has been well prepared though by EJ Ward Motor Engineers who have sorted a lot of the inherent problems already built into this car when it left the factory.

The question on this rest day, as we see the boys lying under the car in their overalls, is whether this will be the first Stag to both start and finish an Endurance Rally never mind winning it.

Tomorrow, we’ll be one step closer to finding out.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

13

Day 13 - Bismarck to Rapid City

“The road goes on forever and the story never ends”

Another day of mile munching, continent crossing road trip today when the sheer size of this country was rammed home over 580 km of buttock numbing, awe inspiring, endless horizon driving. Our constant companion today was the curvature of the earth.

But, to wake us up we had a Regularity a mere 35 km out from the hotel and we had a rather lovely drive to get to it which was punctuated by a relatively busy railway line which we crossed and re-crossed three times. The freight trains are long round here and very slow and, by the time the road was clear there was a sizeable backlog of Rally cars waiting to pass.

The Lyons Road Regularity, to give it its full title, was set within a 9 km section and, as yesterday the undulating nature of the terrain surprised us. For as far as the eye could see this land was flat but here we were driving through hill country, hugging the gravel track between interlocking spurs and over small creeks.

The many changes of direction and the three unannounced timing points called for constant changes of pace to keep up with the demanding schedule set by the organisers. At the end of it though it was Peter Holmes and Graham Clifton in their Volvo PV544 who, after tight scrap, emerged as top dogs; narrowly beating Philip and Yvonne Haslam in the Jaguar XK120DHC into second and Jan Woien and Jan Hansen in the Alvis into third.

So, fun and games all finished with, we hit the pavement and pointed our noses south to Rapid City down arrow straight highways past thousands of curious cattle.

Towns such as the magnificently named Flasher, Raleigh, McIntosh and Isabel disappeared beneath our wheels through Sioux County and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation where we crossed the State Line into South Dakota.

This is still prairie land though and despite the few trees scattered around the banks of Grand River and Moreau River in their big, wide shallow valleys there was nothing but grass as far as we could see, a vivid yellow and green mixture.

Lunch was taken in the Branding Iron Cafe in Faith and was very good, but surely the highlight of this control was the florist shop over the road. Crews beat a path to its door when they discovered that it not only sold flowers and gifts but it also had an espresso machine. Perhaps the only functioning coffee maker of this type for 1,000 km. An incredible thought.

Refreshed, refuelled and recaffeinated the Rally saddled up and hit the trail to Deadwood. Another drive of epic proportions. We trailed in behind Tom van Den Berg and Femke Schepers who had enjoyed an afternoon of open top motoring of the very highest calibre with the rim of the Rockies just beginning to poke over the horizon and the Black Hills National Forest awaiting our arrival.

The legendary Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane frequented Deadwood and, until today, were the biggest thing to have happened to the town.

As we saw yesterday the MTC was not at the night halt hotel. Rather the days timing was finished by the time we got to Deadwood which left us a short trip of around 77 km to Rapid City where we are to have our rest day.

Keen geographers might be interested to hear that today we set a new altitude record of 1,756 m since leaving Halifax which is at sea level. Rapid City itself sits at 1,000 m.

Today’s leaderboard? Unsurprisingly nothing has changed. Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown lead from Peter and Zoe Lovett with Mark and Colin Winkleman in third.

Tomorrow we rest and fix cars.

Syd Stelvio.

DAY

12

Day 12 - Grand Forks to Bismarck

North Dakota, ours to enjoy. All day long

Competition is so intense at the top of this Rally that every second really does count. Navigators are therefore very demanding of their trip meters and will brook no error, no matter how slight. Cutting a corner or a worn tyre can result in a slight change in the reading.

So by popular demand, the organisers had set up another two calibration zones on the way to the Regularity just to give the crews that extra peace of mind as we drove out past Grands Forks Air Force base with a massive Cold War bomber guarding the gate.

For most of the morning we a zigzagged our way through a network of minor farm roads. Metalled and unmetalled, it made no difference, every turn was a sharp 90°. The grid system is alive and well in North Dakota.

Our destination was the Regularity in Griggs County which gave us the chance to use the steering wheel for some more of what it was designed for. Despite being in the flatlands this is a pocket of small hills, with narrow dirt roads hugging the contours of the terrain, taking us from farmstead to barn and back again. White clapperboard building sat in perfect contrast to the deep blue sky and the bright green knee high grass.

Stephen Partridge was enjoying himself immensely on the now twisting route that formed the Regularity. Wrestling rather than driving the big open topped Galaxie Sunliner around the course, we could clearly see him with sweat on his brow and his forearms tensed as he slewed the big car round the bends. Corgi on the clocks passing on precise time and distance comparisons.

Stephen’s got a lot of affection for Betty, the car he picked up in Cleveland Ohio before the Rally started despite his colourful description of her. “She’s a low slung, tail dragging bitch of a car and has already dropped 100mm at the back since we started”. How low can Betty go we wonder.

Richard Taylor and Carol Wilson unfortunately collected a penalty at the end of the Regularity when they missed a slot and approached the time control from the wrong direction.

David and Jo Roberts came out on top in the Regularity. They had taken advantage of the recalibration zone so were pleased to see the improvement in their results so quickly. No one achieved the ideal time at all three controls though.

Today’s final Main Time Control was in Jamestown in the heart of the Northern Plains or, ‘where east meets west’ according to the sign in the carpark. The last section of the day, the 163 km into the night halt in Bismarck, was not timed so that crews could sample the delights of the authentic Frontier Village, marvel at the world’s biggest buffalo (concrete of course) or gasp in amazement at the rare albino buffalo in the National Buffalo museum.

Lunch was not organised by the Rally and most crews took advantage of what was on offer locally and went for a steak sandwich.

The fun and games for the day weren’t finished with our arrival in Bismarck. A river boat cruise had been planned on the Missouri River.

As we docked back at the Bismarck quayside the leaderboard remained unchanged. Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown from Peter and Zoe Lovett from Mark and Colin Winkleman.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

11

Day 11 - Duluth to Grand Forks

River Dance

A very gravelly morning was in store for us as we made our way from Duluth to the Minnesota Lakes.

We were routed along the little used byways of St Louis County west of the Arrowhead through a series of passage controls around Swan River, Willow River and Moose River but not before we’d enjoyed a drive through Floodwood, the self proclaimed Catfish Capital of the world. Soon after it was across and alongside the yet very young Mississippi River. We’d crossed a much more mature Mississippi on the 2012 Trans America when we visited Memphis, so it was nice to see how the Old Man River started out.

This is backwoods country and the twists and turns through farmland dotted with Dutch style barns and woodland full of deer and wildfowl took us on and off the Tarmac with a satisfying regularity. An almost complete absence of traffic made this drive a quite remarkable one and we had two graders working flat out to keep this piste smooth, just for us.

A fantastic morning’s driving then was crowned by lunch in the West Forty Restaurant in Park Rapids. Hearty American food was served up in the usual man sized portions to the hungry Rally.

Soon after, very soon after in fact, we were back into Regularity mode for the two timed sections of the day in the Itasca State Park, where the actual headwater of the Mississippi is located. This is a fantastic piece of land, no tarmac, no people, lots of bugs. Small lakes, swamps and creeks flowed in and out of each other like the bends of the road past cabins, barns and lodges.

The first based around Sugar Bush Lake gave us more than 17km of track to enjoy while the second along Height of the Land Road came up just short of 17km.

Top of the tree then for these two sections were Peter and Zoe Lovett, Clint and Dawn Smith, Martin and Olivia Hunt, Gavin and Diana Henderson, Philip and Yvonne Haslam and Alastair and Dorothy Caldwell.

Once out of the woods we could almost see the finish line in Grand Forks, North Dakota, a mere 168km away on superb American “pavement”. We’re on mountain time now but this afternoon we drove through the Minnesota prairie lands which are as flat as anything we’ve seen so far and the sky was as big and blue as you could have wished for.

Car washing, refuelling and a quick coffee then was the order of the day in Fosston, the last town of any size on the way into the night halt and some of the crews remarked that this was the best days driving so far. Certainly we’d be happy to agree with this sentiment.

As is our custom, we crossed a river to get to the hotel in Grand Forks, North Dakota; although the bridge which we used tonight was the least grand of all so far. Spanning the Red River of the North, the Red River Bridge, also known as the Sorlie Memorial Bridge, is a mere 86m long. Arthur G Sorlie was the 14th Governor of North Dakota and  “was a true friend of better roads and bridges”.

There have been a few of issues today with a couple of cars. The Rolls Royce of Hok and Eric Kiang Sia was suffering from ignition problems. We saw them by the side of the road before lunch being helped by Paul Hartfield but they made it to the night halt under their own steam.

The new Datsun 240Z of Richard Martin and Travis Cole is receiving attention from the sweeps this evening. There’s something not quite right with the rear axle they tell us but as the car wasn’t ‘prepared’ they’re not quite sure what they’ll find.

The Mustang of Nick and Dom Marmont developed a problem with the camshaft which means that the car is sadly now out of the Rally but the crew hope to rejoin in a rental car. Roger and Christian Clark, whose Daimler blew a gasket three days ago are also back with us in a rental car.

The leaders tonight have had a bit of a swap around.  Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown are still on top spot with Zoe and Peter Lovett in second. Mark and Colin Winkleman however have slipped neatly into third place. Their consistency in the smooth running Porsche 912 has finally been rewarded while Alan and Tina Beardshaw in the Aston have slipped into fifth.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

10

Day 10 - St Ignace to Duluth

The longest day

Today we faced 711km today of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota on a long run west towards Duluth on Lake Superior. We all knew it was going to be a long haul and we had to get on with it but before the serous travelling started there was just enough time to get down and dirty before lunch and squeeze in some more forest road fun.

Mud, mud glorious mud, so the song goes, there’s nothing quite like it for   ….getting a car (or three) stuck.

The heavy rain of the last few days meant that there were one or two sticky patches to be negotiated on the run into the second of the two Regularity sections.

Michael and Marlies Kershaw were the first to get stuck. Their little MGC GT, suffering from lack of ground clearance slithered, ground and crunched its way to a halt in what would have only been a big puddle yesterday but today had turned itself into a car catcher. Rally Officials were quickly on the scene and, with the help of the MG’s tow rope and a bit of rocking, the little red car from Abingdon was set free to further enjoy the forest.

Five kilometres further up the road though we found a sizeable traffic queue of rally cars, with Greg Newton, barefoot and ready for action at the front of it clutching a tow rope. His low slung Jaguar E Type was stuck fast along with John Henderson and Jeff West in their equally ground hugging Corvette. Michael and Lorna Harrison had gamely tried to pull them out with their Volvo PV544 but for obvious reasons, mainly to do with engine power, had not been able to finish the job.

Those same rally officials set to again though with the tow ropes provided and swiftly cleared the track.

But the fun wasn’t over by any means as by this time word had got round that this was a good spot to watch so typically, in the spirit of the Rally, the crews stood around and cheered each other on as they took their turns to pass this ‘obstacle’. For the Endurance Rally veterans it was a chance to show off; for the less experienced crews this was a chance to earn their spurs.

The Regularities themselves though were almost as testing as the drive to them. Sand, gravel and tarmac combined to give a stiff navigational and driving challenge and, at the end of the day only one crew, Jean and Anne Steinhauser managed a perfect zero for all four of today’s timing points.

With the days action over and done with then it was time to take some lunch, in the excellent Sydney’s restaurant, in Munising on the shores of Lake Superior where the crews were found buzzing with excitement and bravado. Soon after, full of lunch, gasoline and coffee the Rally struck west along the pristine coastline of the biggest of the Great Lakes and under full sun through the Hiawatha National Forest when we soon we arrived at Christmas. Or at least a town going by that name, complete with a huge Santa Claus figure standing proudly next to a row of shops selling gifts and trinkets. The run into Duluth was a long one though so we couldn’t stop and browse, this is a big country and it doesn’t give up its distance too easily even on the Veterans Memorial Highway complete with a full size Vietnam era Huey planted by the roadside.

Such a collection of cars always attracts local attention and today we saw that Alan Beardshaw’s magnificent James Bond – esque Aston Martin DB5 had caught the eye of the local Sheriff who pulled him in for a closer look and the briefest of quick chats. Wisely Alan didn’t show him the rocket launcher which we all know is built into the grille.

Along the road though there was plenty to see and to hold our attention such as the craft stalls selling full size carved bears, screaming eagles and grazing elk; but the hands down winner was Barb’s Jugs, a pottery store just off the highway. Despite the catchy roadside entreaty to “come and see my jugs, and you’ll be sold”, sadly the schedule didn’t allow for such diversions so we ploughed on to Duluth where we found that another hotel approach entailed crossing another mega bridge, this time the John A Blatnik Bridge which spans the Saint Louis Bay between Superior in Wisconsin and Duluth in Minnesota, the fourth state we’ve visited so far.

With their Alvis out of action and on a trailer on its way back home the crew of car number 5,  Richard Martin and Travis Cole have found themselves a rather pretty, orange Datsun 240Z to drive the rest of the Rally with. Spare parts and upgrades are arriving at each hotel so slowly but surely it’s being turned into a rally car. By the time we get to San Francisco they’re hoping to have it just about finished and plan to take it on the Rally of the Inca’s next year.

The leaderboard tonight is unchanged. Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown lead from Peter and Zoe Lovett by a slender 20 seconds, while Alan and Tina Beardshaw hang onto third just 26 seconds further back. In the hard fought pre-war Vintage class the agile Alvis Speed 20 of Jan Woien and Jan Hansen has taken the lead from Martin and Olivia Hunt who’s somewhat heavier Bentley wasn’t best suited to today’s forest road conditions

Syd Stelvio

DAY

09

Day 9 - Bay City to St Ignace

Middle Earth

A full day was planned today, a very full day indeed comprising three Regularity Sections and a race circuit Special Test. It really was a case of pay attention and keep up at the back.

After leaving the hotel, the Rally struck north up the Saginaw Bay past miles of typical US ribbon development. Boat sales, RV sales, storage yards and John’s hubcap store, which boasts more than 60,000 of the very same in stock ready for collection TODAY! A proud boast indeed. Further up the road, the environment softened a little with more grass and trees in evidence. The Golf Course Diner exhorted us to adopt the golfers diet, to live on greens as much as possible. The when we hit Pinconning with its well stocked cheese shop, we turned off the main highway and onto the sandy, rutted and remote backroads that we’d all been looking forward to.

The population density in these parts is low so anyone who passes inevitably stops and asks about the Rally. One impromptu Rally fan therefore, in the regulation beaten up truck duly stopped and commented that “we don’t get many nice cars in these parts and even if we did we wouldn’t drive them on roads like this”. Vive la difference we say. Nice cars and dirt roads – a marriage made in heaven.

The three regularities today all took place on these same tracks, sand rather than gravel which was damp enough not too kick up the dust but dry enough not to get too boggy. In other words the conditions were perfect.

Wild strawberries once again lined the tracks and those manning the control points enjoyed more bug life than a Wolfsburg VW festival.

Michael and Marlies Kershaw enjoyed the woods so much that they spent an extra two hours deep under the forest canopy after taking a wrong slot in their MGC GT.

Dorothy Caldwell meanwhile, our oldest navigator, scored a perfect zero today on the Meaford Road section.

Leaving the woods behind us on the way up to St Ignace there was one last treat in store, the track at Onaway with the banked oval we’ve come to expect. This was a real blast, two laps as fast as you like with a couple of chicanes to keep you off the straight and narrow.

Peter Lovett might have been fastest here along with Alan Beardshaw, but the most entertaining drive was given by the Jaguar MK1 now shorn of its roof rack in an attempt to save weight and tyre wear. Albrecht Haase, who pirouetted his way round scoring top marks for artistic merit if not technical ability commented that the spin was caused “because we’re still too heavy” as he pulled into the control.

St Ignace sits on the Straits of Mackinac between Lakes Huron and Michigan and to get to it we crossed another monumental bridge, the Mackinac. They certainly know how to span a river up here.

There is a change to the leaderboard this evening. Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown still lead from the Peter and Zoe Lovett but Alan and Tina have swapped third for fourth place with Clint and Dawn Smith. A slight navigational error was the undoing of the Aston Martin in the second Regularity which just shows how much you’ve got to be on it in an event like this.

Sadly we’ve lost Roger and Christian Clark, their Daimler SP250 has blown a head gasket and is unable to continue.

We crosssed the 45th parallel today which is the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

08

Day 8 - Buffalo to Bay City

A Tale of Two Lakes

Today we play name that tune as we drive the route between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron and slipped seamlessly between two unlikely lyrical bedfellows. Simon and Garfunkel, the pride of Queens, New York and The Bay City Rollers – once the pride of Scotland, in 549 easy listening kilometres.

We enjoyed an early start as there was a lot to get through today and, following the visit to the museum last night it was a case of So long Frank Lloyd Wright as the Rally pulled out of Buffalo at precisely one minute intervals and turned onto the Peace Bridge, which led us right back into the country of the Maple Leaf. We’d enjoyed Canada so much that we couldn’t resist spending a few more hours there on our way to Bay City, and it was also the shortest way to get there. By a happy coincidence, the uncle of Marco and Carol Marinello runs a service station on the route and he was kind enough to host the Rally for an impromptu halt where we found a warm welcome and fresh cookies. Many thanks from all of us.

There were two gravel Regularities today. The first one at Grand River and the second one at Old Stage Road. We slipped and splashed our way across flat, fertile and wide open farmland with the thread of gravel rising and falling its way to the horizon.

Three crews managed a perfect zero for the entire day, Greg and Liz Newton, Jean and Anne Steinhauser and Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton, our defending champions. Could they be staging something of a fightback?

Unfortunately the rain, as you will have gathered, fell in buckets again today but spirits weren’t dampened by this and, by the time we’d finished lunch, in the North Star Restaurant in Elginfield the Rally was raring to get going once again.

Sadly, the highly anticipated test at the Grand Bend Speedway had to be cancelled because of the heavy rain, so David and Jo Roberts reluctantly stowed away their nitrous bottle and rejoined us on the road back to the USA. ‘Slow Down you’re moving too fast’, rang in their ears as we made our way out of Canada and across the Blue Water Bridge which spans the St Clair River a full 64m below and leads into Port Huron with a cheery ‘Welcome to the USA. Pure Michigan’ signpost letting you know that you’re safely in.

For some, the border crossing wasn’t without drama though. Trevor Finn and Lorna Hackett blew a top hose from the engine of their Chevrolet Camaro only a few metres from the crossing point and, as green river of coolant spread beneath them a queue formed behind them. Luckily a sweep crew was minutes away so they were quickly back on their way.

It might have taken Simon and Garfunkel Four days to Hitchhike from Saginaw but once we got onto the Interstate we motored right on past it in about ten minutes and, by the time we reached the hotel we’d all become Bay City Rollers. Especially the sweeps who are still busy rebuilding a magneto for the Malaysian Rolls Royce of Hok Kiang Sia and Eric Rong Sia.

Nothing has changed on the leaderboard this evening. Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown still lead from the Peter and Zoe Lovett,  Alan and Tina Beardshaw look comfortable in third place while Clint and Dawn Smith are holding on to fourth.

There was a Monsters Ball theme to dinner this evening. Some of the attendees have hideously huge, mis-shapen facial features, missing teeth, deformed bodies and wild and unkempt hair; and the costumes they chose tried to reflect this. A good effort all round. David and Jo Roberts were declared the winners based on the audience clap-o-meter response.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

07

Day 7 - Buffalo - Rest Day

Another rest day; so soon after the last one, you ask? Well there’s a good reason, a very good, good reason for this. One that pours away around 2400 cubic metres of water every second, that forms a border between Canada and the USA and drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario.

No visit to Buffalo therefore, is complete without a trip to America’s oldest State Park at Niagara Falls and a jaunt aboard the Maid of the Mist. Donning the regulation blue capes, our plastic wrapped rallyists joined the throng of tourists and day trippers waiting in line for the chance to get thoroughly wet on a voyage which proudly bills itself as the most amazing boat ride ever. The falls themselves are only around 50m high but they are wide. The three individual parts;  Bridal Veil Falls, Horseshoe Falls and American Falls span slightly more than 1km from the USA to Canada.

Apparently 90% of fish which find themselves being swept over the edge survive the fall as have a number of people who, for one reason or another, have found it necessary to fling themselves over the same in a barrel. It’s illegal as well as downright foolhardy but to date, no fish has actually been prosecuted for this crime.

Back in the carpark of the hotel though there was serious and perhaps some not so serious spannering going on. Hok Kiang Sia had received a package from an American Rolls Royce enthusiast and was looking to fit the new push rods he’d been sent. This could be described as serious. Marco Marinello was seen to be adjusting and cleaning the carburettors of his Porsche trying to squeeze out every last BHP for the coming days whilst John Henderson and Jeff West, more concerned with stopping than going were planning to replace discs on the Corvette.

Roger and Christian Clark tell us that their Daimler SP250 is perhaps burning bit too much oil but generally it’s doing very well and today’s maintenance was fairly minimal. A wash and brush up with a bit of Rainex applied to the screen. This clearly falls into the not so serious category.

We are pleased to report the return of Richard and Isobel Squire, their – Shelby 350GT Mustang was fitted with a new differential in Montreal and they spent the morning drying out the footwells like so many others.

The rest day concluded with a trip to the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Motor Museum and we were treated to a fascinating talk and slideshow given by Geoff Mahl recounting the experiences of his great Grandfather, George Schuster, in the 1908 New York to Paris Race which he won in a Thomas Flyer. We expect to see this very car when we visit Reno next week.

Long distance driving against the clock? It’ll never catch on.

In 2011, Ed and Janet Howle ‘re-enacted’ this Great Race along with Geoff in the very same car, a VW Beetle, that they are driving with us today.

The museum itself is packed to the running boards with fine examples of motoring history and has an installation of the 1927 Frank Lloyd Wright filling station which was actually never built but has been expertly recreated here. As an added treat, one of the great architect’s cars was also parked up on the forecourt.

Tomorrow we point ourselves westwards and head towards Bay City in Michigan.

Press on, it’s a Rally.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

6

Day 6 - Old Forge to Buffalo

The net closes in

We woke this morning to the news that the authorities think that they’ve got the two fugitives surrounded in a 30 acre section of woodland just up the road from our hotel. The local news channels were buzzing with talk of road closures and local lockdown so immediately we started looking at the possibility of re-routes etc but luckily all of the action was in the wrong direction.

After the Old Forge Fire Department BBQ last night spirits were high but the clouds were low and rain looked likely at some point in the day; but we had better things to worry about than the weather. Two regularities were planned, in quick succession, to focus the minds and sharpen the eye.

Sweeney Road was the first of them and, following the instructions in our super accurate route book we duly turned down into Moose River Road at precisely 17.39km to follow a well metalled road lined with cabins and trailers. Banners reading welcome friends and God Bless America hung from some of the dwellings many of which looked a bit “off Grid”.

The Regularity itself was fantastic, wide turns on good gravel and the sun shone.

We met up with Frank Beyer by the side of the road, a local man and a very well informed ‘Rally Master’ who’s been watching our progress on the web. Along with one of his ‘buddies’ he decided to make a day of it and parked up to watch the sport whilst waxing lyrically about the cars he’d already seen.

As we waited we had the pleasure of nibbling tiny wild strawberries and swatting mosquitos seemingly big enough to carry off a child.

Hard on the heels of this first section though and with little time for the crews to gather their thoughts they were straight into the second Regularity at Goodhines Road. Where the wild turkeys seen by the side of the road reminded us that there are only 195 days left till Christmas.

Results from this morning show that as well as those who have done a lot of ‘this sort of thing’ the newcomers are quickly learning the craft and doing well. Indeed on today’s first regularity there were five people who achieved a perfect score including Tom van Den Berg and Femke Schepers who are shaking things down for next years Peking to Paris. The Malaysian Rolls Royce only dropped one second which is not a bad result for such a big old bus. As for the second regularity it was a collection of usual suspects who all claimed a clean sheet but included the @touring’ category Land Rover Discovery of Paul and Chris Hartfield.

These two sections had certainly whetted the appetite so it was lucky that today lunch was provided in a lovely lakeside restaurant on the shore of Lake Ontario. Vineyards and  groves of soft fruit led us to a selection of superb refreshments at Dockers Restaurant. Post lunch apples were generously provided by the good folk at Thomas Farms and they certainly hit the spot as the heat built throughout the rest of the day.

It was hard to drag ourselves away from lunch but we all managed it and took to highway 104. The American legion highway and then across a fantastic set of county roads with lefts and rights every few km. Over bridges and though fields swamps forests and villages. Signposts warning us to look out for slow moving Amish horse drawn traffic sat incongruously next to automotive forecourts bursting with the newest sleek and highly waxed vehicles.

When we began this missive, we did mention that rain was threatening and as we neared our night halt in Buffalo the heavens opened. Through a curtain of water, possibly the heaviest rain that an ERA event has seen in ten years of driving around the world, we pulled into the hotel car park. Niagara falls are just up the road and it felt as if we’d actually driven through them to get here.

Finally we welcome Gavin and Diana Henderson back to the Rally after their breakdown yesterday and forced overnight stay in Montreal. Emile came up trumps with a new drive shaft and they rejoined at us lunchtime. Their Porsche is now running as well as ever.

Overall then we have a shift in the top three. Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown still lead from the Lovetts but Alan and Tina Beardshaw have now slipped into third place whilst Clint and Dawn Smith have dropped to fourth.

Tomorrow is a rest day. Time to look at the Falls, do some fettling and sort the laundry but at least the cars won’t need washing. A light wax should suffice, anything to keep the water off.

Syd Stelvio.

DAY

05

Day 5 - Quebec City to Old Forge

Break for the Border

We bid farewell to Quebec this morning and drove out along the Chemin de Roy through the city walls and along the St Lawrence River. We were heading to the Border with the USA and, along well surfaced flat and straight roads three sets of crossed arrows had been set up by the 24 hour advanced car marking out the three calibration zones for any tripmeter fine tuning that crews felt was required.

The fun and games in store for the crews today was the Special Test at the Sanair Super Speedway motorsports complex complete with a banked oval and drag strip. The Rally had organised a two lap sprint around the bowl with a wicked slalom in the middle thrown in for good measure. It was about driving fast and listening to your navigator. Navigating the marker cones and changes of direction meant that this test was really a team effort. Tyres squealed and fought to free themselves from their rims as drivers tried to stay as tight as possible to the cones without hitting them. Some managed this a little better than others.

Top of the tree for this section were Clint and Dawn Smith by a convincing three seconds in the primrose E-Type.

There were some who sadly had a few problems today. Albrecht and Christine Haase had a problem with the brakes on their Jaguar which was quickly rectified by the sweep crew at the track while Gavin and Diana Henderson broke a half shaft on their Porsche which was impossible to repair by the side of the road. A quick call was put into Porsche supremo Francis Tuthill in the UK who recommended that they call a low loader to take the car to a dealer in Montreal where he was to ask for Emile. When we have more news we’ll let you know.

David and Jo Roberts in the Triumph TR250 meanwhile suffered with electrical problems all day. Firstly on the way to the Super Speedway and another two times after leaving it. Plugs, leads and fuel pumps were all checked, inspected and where necessary were changed with help from Richard Martin and Travis Cole now travelling in a rental car who stopped to help. Their Alvis blew a gasket way back on day one of the Rally and it has proved impossible to find a spare.

So to the border then where we enjoyed a swift passage through the small and usually quiet Rouses Point US Border Post. The procession of Rally cars had made quite an impression on the staff on duty at the border especially the last car through, the big Malaysian Rolls Royce Phantom of Hok Kiang Sia and Eric Kuan Rong Sia and, Alastair Caldwell’s Silver Cloud.

Once safely into the land of the free and the home of the brave we enjoyed a lovely fast drive through the Alder Brook Mountains and the Adirondack Park en-route to the Waters Edge Inn at Old Forge.

There was some excitement on the way though in the form of an unexpected road closure as the U.S. Authorities hunted two fugitives who are on the run after a dramatic prison break. Towns in the region are under lockdown and there are hundreds of State Troopers manning roadblocks and conducting vehicle searches while Fox News, CNN and a host of others news media teams looked on. We all kept our eyes peeled – obviously – but saw nothing.

By way of a change tonight we enjoyed a fireman’s BBQ at the Old Forge fire station which was indeed a memorable meal. Chicken beans and potatoes were washed down with free beer and wine as crews mingled with the locals who were eager to hear about the cars and the adventures they’d been on.

The leaderboard then remains the same then but the gaps are closing. Phil and Kieron are still in first place but have lost those three precious seconds to Clint and Dawn.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

04

Day 4 - Quebec City - Rest Day

Break for the Border

We bid farewell to Quebec this morning and drove out along the Chemin de Roy through the city walls and along the St Lawrence River. We were heading to the Border with the USA and, along well surfaced flat and straight roads three sets of crossed arrows had been set up by the 24 hour advanced car marking out the three calibration zones for any tripmeter fine tuning that crews felt was required.

The fun and games in store for the crews today was the Special Test at the Sanair Super Speedway motorsports complex complete with a banked oval and drag strip. The Rally had organised a two lap sprint around the bowl with a wicked slalom in the middle thrown in for good measure. It was about driving fast and listening to your navigator. Navigating the marker cones and changes of direction meant that this test was really a team effort. Tyres squealed and fought to free themselves from their rims as drivers tried to stay as tight as possible to the cones without hitting them. Some managed this a little better than others.

Top of the tree for this section were Clint and Dawn Smith by a convincing three seconds in the primrose E-Type.

There were some who sadly had a few problems today. Albrecht and Christine Haase had a problem with the brakes on their Jaguar which was quickly rectified by the sweep crew at the track while Gavin and Diana Henderson broke a half shaft on their Porsche which was impossible to repair by the side of the road. A quick call was put into Porsche supremo Francis Tuthill in the UK who recommended that they call a low loader to take the car to a dealer in Montreal where he was to ask for Emile. When we have more news we’ll let you know.

David and Jo Roberts in the Triumph TR250 meanwhile suffered with electrical problems all day. Firstly on the way to the Super Speedway and another two times after leaving it. Plugs, leads and fuel pumps were all checked, inspected and where necessary were changed with help from Richard Martin and Travis Cole now travelling in a rental car who stopped to help. Their Alvis blew a gasket way back on day one of the Rally and it has proved impossible to find a spare.

So to the border then where we enjoyed a swift passage through the small and usually quiet Rouses Point US Border Post. The procession of Rally cars had made quite an impression on the staff on duty at the border especially the last car through, the big Malaysian Rolls Royce Phantom of Hok Kiang Sia and Eric Kuan Rong Sia and, Alastair Caldwell’s Silver Cloud.

Once safely into the land of the free and the home of the brave we enjoyed a lovely fast drive through the Alder Brook Mountains and the Adirondack Park en-route to the Waters Edge Inn at Old Forge.

There was some excitement on the way though in the form of an unexpected road closure as the U.S. Authorities hunted two fugitives who are on the run after a dramatic prison break. Towns in the region are under lockdown and there are hundreds of State Troopers manning roadblocks and conducting vehicle searches while Fox News, CNN and a host of others news media teams looked on. We all kept our eyes peeled – obviously – but saw nothing.

By way of a change tonight we enjoyed a fireman’s BBQ at the Old Forge fire station which was indeed a memorable meal. Chicken beans and potatoes were washed down with free beer and wine as crews mingled with the locals who were eager to hear about the cars and the adventures they’d been on.

The leaderboard then remains the same then but the gaps are closing. Phil and Kieron are still in first place but have lost those three precious seconds to Clint and Dawn.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

04

Day 4 - Quebec City - Rest Day

Rest and be Thankful

Chateau Frontenac, the ‘most photographed hotel in the world’, was opened in 1893.

Designed by the architect Bruce Price as part of a series of “château” style hotels for the Canadian Pacific Railway company the chateau sits in a grand location overlooking the St. Lawrence River providing great service, well appointed rooms and lightning fast internet access. At a dizzy 54m high the restaurant in the citadel of the hotel was an excellent place to plan a day off over a leisurely breakfast complete with good coffee and endless pastries.

Obviously there was work to do for some today and that had to be taken care of first. Laundry and running repairs being the most pressing and while the housekeeping department was able to help with the former, the latter came, as usual, under the remit of the ERA sweep crews.

Andy Inskip, Tony Jones and Owen and Jamie Turner spent a subterranean three hours lending a hand in the underground carpark. There wasn’t anything too serious that needed doing as far as we could see but Richard Taylor and Carol Wilson’s Volvo needed the air filter blowing out and the temperature gauge repairing. They then got through yards of Gorilla Tape with Mick de Haas whilst rebuilding his headlamp lens. One of the hotels Valet parking trucks had clipped his car during the night and while spares have been arranged the bodyshop skills of the sweeps proved themselves invaluable once again.

Lunchtime was the natural cut off for car maintenance and most crews set about exploring the streets and city walls of old Quebec, the only fortified city North of Mexico, before tucking into something from one of the many fine cafes which line the streets.

To work up an appetite for dinner the only solution was a walk along the ramparts and take in the views of the river on a fine and sunny afternoon.

Tomorrow we leave Canada as we head to Old Forge in New York State in the USA.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

03

Day 3 - Edmundston to Quebec City

Riverdance

Last night we finished with torrential rain so whatever happened today was definitely going to be an improvement.

Thus we started this morning in the mist. Low lying cloud rendered the top of the paper mill chimney all but invisible and, as Marco Halter fired up his Ford Falcon with a pistol like shot from the exhaust, and the good folk of Edmundston sought whatever cover they could we started the drive to Quebec and our first rest day.

This was to be a short day and with the lure of a sumptuous hotel at the other end everyone was keen to get moving along the Route de Frontiers an imaginatively named stretch of road because… it runs along the frontier with the USA.

Skirting Lac Baker with its RV campsites and slipways this fast flowing blacktop delivered us to the dirt and our first, indeed only,  regularity of the day at Glendyne. A willowy deciduous forest, as dense as anything in the tropics teeming with both bird and insect life gave up around 11km of rolling track where the phrase, ‘grinding it out on the gravel’ once again rang true.

Driving through countryside like this is always very special and one sharp eyed rally aficionado commented that this landscape was exactly the same as that used by the 1000 Lakes Rally held in Finnish lakeland where the recently departed Eric Carlsson became the first non Finn to take the honours in 1958 in his Saab 93.

The 2015 Glendyne Regularity had an even more remarkable result though with six crews all achieving a perfect score. Kiang and Kuan Rong Sia in the big Rolls Royce, Michael and Lorna Harrison in the Volvo PV544, Mark and Colin Winkleman in a Porsche 912, Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown in the Triumph Stag, Albrecht and Christine Haase in the Jaguar Mk1 and Marco Halter and Claudia Englehardt in the Ford Falcon.

This means that our overall leader board is unchanged from last night although Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown have slightly extended their lead over Clint and Dawn Smith and Peter and Zoe Lovett.

After the rolling wooded hills we’d become so used to it was something of a surprise to emerge onto a treeless plain alongside the misty St Lawrence River. On the way to the passage control in Kamouraska on highway 132 we saw flat meadows, grain silos and herds of black and white Friesian cows. Just because it was flat and open didn’t mean it was dull though, we swapped dirt for tarmac, tarmac for gravel and dirt back for tarmac as we ploughed on through the Canadian wilderness heading north by north west to the lunch halt in la Roche a Veillon where boiled dinner was the house speciality served by a team of costumed waitresses.

Crews suitably refreshed and, in one case, cars suitably washed we sped towards Levis where a quick ten minute ferry crossing aboard the good ship NM Alphonse-Desjardins, took us from one side of the St Lawrence River to Quebec on the other to the fabulous Chateau Frontenac… our hotel for the next two nights.

Dinner tonight was superb and included a fine selection of fresh salad leading some diners to wisely choose a local speciality, Thousand Island dressing no less, to accompany their meals. Seemingly named because of its origin somewhere within the 1,000 islands of the St Lawrence Estuary this popular, yet slightly unremarkable product could possibly be the most successful export that Quebec has ever produced.

Tomorrow is a well-deserved rest day and there’s plenty to do and see in this charming old city.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

02

Day 2 - Moncton to Edmundston

The Spirit of Brooklands.

Pulling out of Moncton, just inland from the Gulf of St Lawrence the cavalcade that is the Trans America 2015 headed out of town. The sun was shining, the Canadian women’s soccer team had just beaten China in the World Cup and we were in for a treat. We were going racing… Stateside style.

An oval banked track means many things to different people. To Bradley Wiggins it means one hour of pain which results in a new world record of 54.526km. To Jimmie Johnson it means seven straight Nascar Championship wins. To a Vintage Bentley enthusiast such as Martin Hunt it means Brooklands…. to the Trans America Rally it simply meant a lot of fun.

This morning we took a rare – for an ERA event – excursion to such a banked track at the Petty International Raceway, a quarter mile asphalt oval that dates back to 1983. They host Mascar events here – miniature American stock car racing – but nothing could have prepared them for the eclectic collection of racers that turned up at their raceway this morning.

In a classic ‘run what you brung’ sprint the rally cars lined up to take to the bowl cheered on by their fellow drivers.

Stephen Partridge enjoyed it so much in his Galaxie Sunliner he even did an extra lap. A victory lap? Unfortunately not. That honour would have gone to Peter and Zoe Lovett who are obviously getting their eye in and posted the fastest time just ahead of three cars who all posted exactly the same time…. the Garratt and Brown Stag, the Clint and Dawn Smith E-Type and the Halter and Engelhardt Ford Falcon, one second behind the Lovett Porsche.

From these early mornng fun and games on the track the competitors made their way to Moncton’s Magnetic Hill, a stretch of road which is a local phenomenon. The idea is to roll down to the ‘bottom’ of the hill then come to a stop. Put the car into neutral and release the brake. As if by magic you roll back up the hill you’ve just come down. Incredible – and even more incredible is that it only costs $5.00. The truth behind this bending of the laws of nature is a little more credible. It’s an optical illusion and you’re really just rolling down a very shallow hill. Damn!

Many cars tried it out and most managed to add to this local legend by rolling ever so slowly back to the start point. The big Malaysian Rolls Royce however succumbed to the regular laws of physics, mass / velocity gradient etc. Magnetic hills clearly don’t apply to a car which weighs in like a pocket battleship so reverse gear had to be engaged.

Things became a bit tougher after this though as we took to the less travelled country and back roads on the way to the lunch halt in Rogersville. Muddy and somewhat rutted in places after a very severe winter you could just about believe you were back on the roads in Northern Kenya. One lady competitor was heard to ask a bystander if they had a spare sports bra that she could borrow. Unfortunately the reply, also overheard was a negative one.

It was here that we found Gavin Henderson who had pulled over to offer assistance to fellow Porsche drivers Marco and Carol Marinello who were a bit worried about their exhaust note after a muddy section. Nothing was amiss though and the pair from the Stuttgart stable carried on without further ado.

The lunch halt restaurant was doing a brisk trade as almost 100 hungry rally crew members descended on them while sweeps Owen and Jamie Turner busied themselves in the car park fixing all manner of minor mechanical ills.

From here we took to Route 108, a long, straight road that threads threads its way through a birch and pine forest which could almost be described as Taiga. The tarmac here was also of “variable quality”. After regular harsh winters the word is that the ‘Report a Pothole’ scheme hasn’t been rolled out in New Brunswick yet.

The weather took a turn for the worse on the way to the afternoon regularity test and our westerly progress became very wet indeed although we had the road almost to ourselves. One loose moose jogged along bedside us as we ploughed on to Plaster Rock, home apparently, to the worlds largest fiddlehead. An edible fern considered a delicacy in these parts.

At this point the border with the USA was just to our left as we turned North to Edmundston via the town of Grand Falls where the St John River tumbles 23 metres through a rocky cataract from the foothills of the Appalachian mountains.

Before turning in for the night though there was one more activity to be enjoyed which was about as far from a banked oval as you could get. An excellent regularity section through the woods complete with covered bridges, tight bends, slippery climbs and steep descents, 9.24km of fabulous wet gravel with just enough give in the turns to be exciting and to keep the drivers on their mettle and the navigators usefully employed. The ever precise Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown were matched to the second for top spot here by Clint and Dawn Smith in the striking custard yellow E-Type Jaguar.

We’re in Edmundston this evening, a city on the same St John River where there’s a thriving paper industry, a carpark full of wet and dirty rally cars and a hotel bar full of tired and happy drivers. Tomorrow it’s full steam ahead to Quebec via a short ferry ride over the St Lawrence River.

So, the results sheet remains unchanged at the top with Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown our overnight leaders still there followed by Clint and Dawn Smith. Alan Beardshaw though has slipped from second place overall to joint 5th. Peter and Zoe Lovett are sitting pretty in third.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

01

Day 1 - Halifax to Moncton

A Wild and Distant Shore

Cometh the hour, cometh the man they say and, at 8.01am precisely, the flag dropped on a dry, chilly and clear morning in Halifax. Those who’d accepted the Trans America Challenge 2015, were sent on their way at one minute intervals by Fred Gallagher with a cheery wave of the Maple leaf, or the l’Unifolié.

Ahead of the 45 crews who pulled out of the Halifax Citadel lies 22 days and around 10,000 km of the best driving roads of North America.

Sharp eyed rally fans may have noticed that we have three defending champions with us on this event, Peter and Zoe Lovett won our recent Road to Mandalay, Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown hold the Peking to Paris trophy whilst Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton are looking to hold on to their Trans America silverware from back in 2012. Add to this mix Alastair Caldwell who took top spot in our 2005 World Cup and the 2012 Flying Scotsman and you can see that this Trans America might just shape up to be quite a tussle.

Time is of the essence in the rally world and today’s sport was to be found initially on the rolling gravel at Mooseland. A regularity set up to gently ease the crews into their stride and it Jean and Anne Steinhauser in the Mercedes 280SL who showed that they’d got the measure of things.

Hard on the heels of this came the Atlantic Motorsport Park…. a superb little ‘rollercoaster’ race circuit. There were two visits scheduled to this venue, one either side of a very agreeable lunch at Shubenacadie where the very same Fred Gallagher was to be seen chipping and clocking for all he was worth as those around him tucked into fresh salad, roast chicken, beef and salmon.

The morning, or pre-lunch, circuit session was timed to the second and gave the crews a chance to open up the throttle and blow away any lingering cobwebs. Clint and Dawn Smith posted the best time here in their Jaguar E Type while the Aston Martin of Alan and Tina Beardshaw were snapping at their tail pipe in second. Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown took their Triumph Stag to third.

Back at the circuit for the afternoon, sensitive to the digestive needs of the drivers, was a slightly more sedate but still brisk regularity test that saw the yellow Porsche 911 of Gavin and Dianne Henderson achieve the best result

A small crowd had gathered to watch proceedings both times with the Rolls Royce of Hok Kiang Sia and Eric Kuan Rong Sia getting the biggest cheer which absolutely befits what must be the biggest car on the Rally.

Once out of the race track environment it was back on the highway for the drive to Moncton, motto is “our tide is rising’. This is big blue sky country and the land we were lucky enough to be driving across was surely at its best today. Small neat settlements, widely spaced property – no need for fences – muddy creeks and fast flowing rivers. There are big tidal bores around here and some of the rivers we crossed experience a bore twice daily, with some reaching up to 3m in height.

For a while we motored up the 104, the Miners Memorial Highway which cuts right through Oxford County proud of its claim to be the Blueberry Capital of Canada. Turning off the freeway we took a beautiful gravel road around the Bay of Fundy and the Cumberland Basin on a spectacular route which led us through low forest, over scrubby marais and along a sun soaked seashore past the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, a Unesco World Heritage site.

We’re sharing our hotel in Moncton this evening with the English and French Women’s national soccer teams. They’re taking part in the Fifa Womens World Cup and tonight China play their Canadian hosts, in the first match of the tournament. Let’s see who scores first.

The Francophone influence has been slowly making itself felt today, indeed on the approach to Moncton we even passed through Dieppe albeit via Dorchester.

Although the day has been a resounding success for most there was one crew who suffered a misfortune when their head gasket failed. We came across them by the side of the road suffering from a lack of power early on in the day but tonight we hear that Richard Martin and Travis Cole along with Alvis Speed 25 are on a truck heading to Quebec and hope to rejoin when the car is fixed.

Mike Armstrong sadly didn’t even make the start line though, personal reasons meant that he had to leave the Rally and fly home to Australia even before we’d started. We wish him well and hope to see him back with us soon.

At the end of our first day then we have Phil Garrat and Kieron Brown in the Triumph Stag in first position followed by Alan and Tina Beardshaw second and Clint and Dawn Smith in third.

Tomorrow we leave for New Brunswick and get the chance to enjoy some of the 68 intersections controlled by traffic lights and 1,803 stop signs in the Moncton area.

Syd Stelvio

DAY

00

Trans America 2015 - Car Collection Day

Singing in the rain

Welcome to Trans America 2015, the second time the ERA has driven this coast-to-coast event across America and the ERA’s second long distance rally of a very busy year. As we’re on the continent of the cowboy, we can say that it’s great to be back in the saddle – so to speak.

Competitors have come from far and wide to rendezvous in Halifax, Nova Scotia and it’s great to see so many old friends and their cars back with us from so many past events, but it’s also lovely to welcome the fifteen or so new crews who have come along to join us for the first time.

The mixture of cars is well up to our usual standards and ranges from a 1927 Bentley Le Mans to a 1977 Triumph Stag, fifty years of worldwide motoring exotica represented on a single start list from the definitely stately, the desirably sophisticated through to the downright spritely. The Canadian Grand Prix is held on Sunday but all of their cars look the same.

Getting to the start is often part of the fun of long distance rallying and even before the flag has dropped we’ve heard some interesting tales; Stephen Partridge for example. Rather than ship “Denise” his venerable Peking to Paris Morris Oxford all the way from New Zealand he’s gone native and has bought a car in the USA and he’s spent the last few weeks working on it, a Ford Galaxie Sunliner, in a lockup garage in Cleveland Ohio. We’re enjoying a fantastic choice of fresh seafood up here on the Atlantic coast which is great because Stephen tells us that he’s heartily sick of the bacon sandwiches he’s been living on while preparing his car.

Philip and Yvonne Haslam and David and Jo Roberts have driven here – from New York –  taking four days to get themselves and their cars all of the way up the East coast and by the looks on their tanned faces they’d enjoyed every minute of it and had seen some pretty good weather to boot.

For those who shipped their cars in the more conventional manner though today’s car collection day has been eagerly anticipated. A mixture of nervousness, excitement and anticipation ran through the bus as we made our way to ‘the compound’ an old gold mine just out of town. The drivers know that their pride and joy is sat ready and waiting form them behind the metaphorically locked doors of the equally metaphoric customs shed. As we’ve reported in the past the bulk of the work, the unloading and form filling had once again been ably handled by Melvyn Palmer of Cars UK, which left only a few minor formalities to be tied up before the keys were handed back to the rightful owners and they were slotted, with crossed fingers and a little trepidation, into the ignition barrel.

For most of the cars what happened next was exactly what should have happened next, but for some of the unlucky ones which didn’t follow the script a full complement of ERA sweep mechanics was on hand to provide a jump start to any whose batteries were a bit flat after the journey. Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton, the defending champions no less, knew this feeling only too well and had spent the day before looking for a new race battery to replace the one that had given up the ghost.

Peter and Zoe Lovett our Road to Mandalay winners are back with another Porsche – what else – but this one is red and unusually for a Lovett car was misbehaving itself as they tried to pull out of the collection compound. Andy Inskip and Tony Jones diagnosed water in the engine which is odd for an air cooled vehicle but given the torrential nature of the rain in Nova Scotia perhaps not surprising. A bit of light wrenching soon had them on their way.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for some of our other crews though. Paul and Chris Hartfield were meant to be driving a Packard Super 8 sedan but now find themselves in their very own touring category having to ‘slum it’ in a modern Land Rover Discovery. Engine build problems meant that their Packard just missed the shipping date – this time – but they assure us that it all be sorted for their maiden Peking to Paris run next year.

From the collection compound a set of tulip notes for the 16km journey back to the hotel got the crews safely into scrutineering and signing on in the harbour front hotel where the pastry chef had gone to the trouble of baking us a cake to celebrate our arrival. Thanks very much Marriott Harbourfront and thanks for the fine lobster last night, served whole to each diner, which was as entertaining as it was tasty.

Some other crew and car changes for us to get used to include Clinton Smith and Trevor Finn who usually drive as a team on events such as Vintage Cape Horn and the Flying Scotsman but this time they’ve split the team up and brought their wives along instead so we can look forward to a bit of friendly rivalry between their respective Jaguar E Type and Chevrolet Camaro.

We last saw Mick de Hass on the 2013 Peking to Paris in a red Mercedes 280 SE. This time he has brought his wife Grace along with a different red car. It’s another Mercedes but this one is a 230SL. Anthony Verloop, his P2P navigator, is now in charge of his own destiny alongside his wife Sonja in an MGB GT.

Marco Halter and Claudia Engelhardt did the first Trans America in a Camaro, the Classic Safari in a Volvo PV544 but this time they’ve got a 1963 – Ford Falcon Coupe to play with.

Greg and Liz Newton usually reside in a Holden but this time they’re in a sleek and stylish Jaguar E Type. Alan and Tina Beardshaw have an Aston Martin Ulster which they use for The Flying Scotsman, they also have a Sunbeam Alpine which we saw on the Classic Safari. This time they’re in Roland the Rally Car, an Aston Martin DB5.

The flag drops at 8am tomorrow from the Citadel, a fortification dating back to 1749 that sits atop the city of Halifax. Our destination at the end of the first day is Moncton, a rally route journey of some 530km.

Syd Stelvio

PAUSE PLAY

Eureka to San Francisco

The Final Overall Classification at the end of Day 22 – June 28, 2015

Click the Trans America Results Book to download the complete event results book.

Num Crew
Car
Leg
Total
Overall
Total
o/a
pos’n
Cls pos
/Cls
25 Peter Lovett / Zoe Lovett
Porsche 911T
0:00:00 0:09:07 1 1/c2
45 Paul Merryweather / Sandra Merryweather
Mercedes 450 SL
0:00:00 0:10:05 2 1/c3
30 Phillip Haslam / Yvonne Haslam
Jaguar XK120DHC
0:00:00 0:10:11 3 2/c3
35 Marco Halter / Claudia Engelhardt
Ford Falcon Coupe
0:00:00 0:10:16 4 3/c3
36 Alastair Caldwell / Dorothy Caldwell
Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III
0:00:00 0:10:50 5 4/c3
40 Clint Smith / Dawn Smith
Jaguar E-Type
0:00:00 0:11:14 6 5/c3
43 John Henderson / Jeff West
Chevrolet Corvette
0:00:00 0:11:22 7 6/c3
17 David Roberts / Jo Roberts
Triumph TR250
0:00:00 0:11:37 8 2/c2
23 Mick de Haas / Grace de Haas
Mercedes 230 SL
0:00:00 0:11:45 9 3/c2
37 Alan Beardshaw / Tina Beardshaw
Aston Martin DB5
0:00:00 0:11:50 10 7/c3
24 Jean Steinhauser / Anne Steinhauser-Collard
Mercedes 280 SL
0:00:00 0:12:26 11 4/c2
10 Michael Harrison / Lorna Harrison
Volvo PV544
0:00:00 0:12:29 12 5/c2
15 Colin Winkelman / Samantha Winkelman
Porsche 912
0:00:00 0:12:33 13 6/c2
20 Tom Van Den Berg / Femke Schepers
Mercedes 280 SL
0:00:00 0:13:05 14 7/c2
1 Martin Hunt / Olivia Hunt
Bentley 4½ Le Mans
0:00:00 0:13:23 15 1/c1
26 Emile Ensink / Marianne Ensink-Dröge
Mercedes Benz 280SLC
0:00:00 0:13:54 16 8/c2
3 Jan Woien / Jan Hansen
Alvis Speed 20
0:00:00 0:14:04 17 2/c1
19 Peter Holmes / Graham Clifton
Volvo PV544
0:00:00 0:14:26 18 9/c2
39 Greg Newton / Liz Newton
Jaguar E Type Roadster
0:00:00 0:17:15 19 8/c3
11 Mike Killingsworth / Jennie Killingsworth
Holden EH
0:00:00 0:17:34 20 10/c2
14 Michael Eatough / Morgan Roberts
Mercedes 230 Fintail
0:00:00 0:17:51 21 11/c2
34 Richard Worts / Nicola Shackleton
Jaguar MkII
0:00:00 0:20:57 22 9/c3
44 Anthony Verloop / Sonja Verloop
MGB GT
0:00:00 0:24:25 23 10/c3
32 Stephen Partridge / Corgi La Grouw
Ford Galaxie Sunliner
0:00:00 0:29:49 24 11/c3
41 Trevor Finn / Lorna Hackett
Chevrolet Camaro
0:00:00 0:46:35 25 12/c3
31 Albrecht Haase / Christine Haase
Jaguar Mk1
0:00:00 1:14:46 26 13/c3
4 Mel Andrews / Dennis Conley
Bentley 3½
0:00:00 1:22:37 27 3/c1
27 Phil Garratt / Kieron Brown
Triumph Stag
0:00:00 1:23:07 28 12/c2
22 Michael Kershaw / Marlies Kershaw
MGC GT
0:00:00 3:00:54 29 13/c2
21 Ed Howle / Janet Howle
VW Beetle
0:00:00 3:18:02 30 14/c2
2 Hokkiang Sia / Eric Kuanrong Sia
Rolls Royce Phantom II
0:00:00 5:07:53 31 4/c1
12 Gavin Henderson / Diana Henderson
Porsche 911
0:00:00 13:41:09 32 15/c2
38 Richard Squire / Isobel Squire
Shelby GT 350
0:00:00 15:59:01 33 14/c3
16 Marco Marinello / Carol Marinello
Nissan Rental
0:00:00 Touring ~ ~
42 Nick Marmont / Dom Marmont
BMW X5 Rental
0:00:00 Touring ~ ~
9 Roger Clark / Christian Clark
GMC Rental
0:00:00 Touring ~ ~
5 Richard Martin / Travis Cole
Datsun 240Z
0:00:00 Touring ~ ~
6 Paul Hartfield / Chris Hartfield
Land Rover Discovery 4
0:00:00 Touring ~ ~