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The Trans-America Challenge 2012

7th May - 8th June 2012

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From Coast to Coast across America and on to Alaska

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 New York, on the east coast of the USA, to the furthest flung point of Alaska in the 50th State will take the participants through some of the best and most spectacular scenery and roads that both the United States and Canada has to offer in the company of fellow enthusiasts.

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Route Survey News and Reports

Kim Bannister and Roger Hunt left on 1st June to begin the Trans America route survey. Their aim is simple, to explore the hidden delights of America, using back roads away from the main tourist routes wherever possible. Check their progress on our Route Survey Map

JULY 3RD 2011 – Kim Bannister

From Anchorage, Alaska

 

We cleared Vancouver easily leaving via Stanley Park and onto the “Sea to the Sky” highway through Whistler, venue of the recent Winter Olympics. The road was twisty with wonderful views all the way to Lillooet where we took the opportunity to re-fuel and have a cup of coffee; there were 8 different blends to choose from, in the local gas bar as they are known in these parts.

When we reached the town of Clinton we headed onto some wonderful gravel roads heading north to the town of Williams Lake. We stopped and chatted to some locals on the road only to find out that one of them was the person in charge of roads for the area who gave me her card and asked me to remind her when the event is coming and she will try to make sure the gravel is in pristine condition. We re-joined the tarmac road at Williams Lake and then headed north to our hotel for the evening in Quesnel.

For those crews wanting an all tarmac option then the route is slightly longer but you have the chance to stop for lunch at the Corral Restaurant in the town of 70 Mile and meet Joan Zelmer who will certainly brighten your day.

Leaving Quesnel we headed west and straight onto gravel roads, for those who want to use them, heading up the “Blackwater Highway” all the way to a stop for a very nice lunch in Fraser Lake. The gravel roads were in great condition and we didn’t see another vehicle all morning.

The alternative tarmac route goes via the largest town in the region, Prince George, and is a little longer but well surfaced and almost traffic free away from the towns. One final gravel section was looked at after lunch and then we used highway 16 into the Bulkley Valley and the town of Smithers for the night. Smithers is surrounded by the Bulkley Ranges and there was fresh snow on the tops when we left the following morning.

 

Our original plan had been to look at the gravel roads between Smithers and the town of Terrace a little further to the west. Local information suggested that the roads were not in good condition after a hard winter and this proved to be the case as we punctured both rear tyres and had to be recovered to Smithers where we swallowed hard and paid to have some proper 10-ply all terrain tyres fitted to make sure we completed the journey.

With the roads in a bad condition we decided to change our planned route and head directly from Smithers to Watson Lake missing out a night in Terrace. This made sense as we continued to head north all the time rather than west.

On the way we tried the gravel tyres on a loop off the main road near New Hazleton, those wanting to stay on the tarmac can simply continue on the main road, then headed north up the “Cassiar Highway”, now all newly surfaced, stopping off at a café and gas station in Bell II where the fuel pumps were disguised in stone and the hotel sold bells which you apparently strap to your body so that any Grizzly Bears minding their own business in the woods are not startled by your sudden appearance as they hear the bells first!! The run to Watson Lake was a long one, over 500 miles, but there was no other place to stay which could accommodate the whole rally.

At Watson Lake we checked the available hotel options, the largest one named after the town burnt down last year, then took some photographs of the amazing Signpost City, where travellers from all over the world have left signposts to their home towns. One read “Alaska or Bust” a most appropriate thought for our journey.

Leaving Watson Lake there were two very different route options. For the more adventurous there is a wonderful drive on mostly gravel roads via the “Robert Campbell Highway” to Ross Lake and then the “Canol Road” to Johnsons Crossing to re-join the tarmac.

 

The “Canol Road” was constructed during the Second World War by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to build and service a pipeline bringing oil from Norman Wells to a refinery in Whitehorse, Yukon. Though built at huge expense, the pipeline suffered from shoddy workmanship and technical difficulties. It was abandoned after only thirteen months of operation. The steel pipe was salvaged, but abandoned trucks, pump stations and buildings remain along the trail. The all tarmac, shorter, route goes via Teslin Lake with an opportunity to stop for lunch and watch the fisherman on the pier.

Our stop for the night was the city of Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory. On the rally crews will enjoy a well earned rest day. Whitehorse has many attractions for the visitor, museums, boat trips, walking tours, floatplane rides and even a golf course so the rest day should be a busy one. In the evening there is a great show called the Frantic Follies, a vaudeville revue, if you want a change from the normal routine.

From Whitehorse we continued to head north up the now all tarmac “Klondike Highway” and into the heart of the gold rush country and the town of Dawson City.

Arriving in Dawson is just like stepping back in time to the end of the 19th Century. The streets are unpaved and all the buildings look like they have stepped straight from a John Wayne movie. Luckily our hotel was just old looking on the outside but very nice and modern on the inside with all the usual facilities required.

We will spend two nights in Dawson as there will be an optional 100 mile gravel loop to drive in the morning and then a chance to enjoy the delights of Dawson in the afternoon. Crews opting not to do the gravel loop can enjoy another restful day spending money or even panning for gold in the river where the 1896 gold rush began. In the evening there will be a chance to lose the gold money earned during the day with a visit to Diamond Tooth Gerties, a casino with a difference as all profits are invested in community attractions and visitor services.

 

We woke to a lovely morning after heavy rain during the night; it was amazing how quickly the dirt streets dried out, but my thoughts were on how high the Yukon River was as we queued for the George Black Ferry for the short crossing on our route into Alaska.

The ferry was another free one paid for by the local government and we were very quickly across and on our way over the “Top of the World Highway”, so called because you are running on a ridge with stunning views on both sides. The road is mainly gravel, very well maintained, and all cars will need to use it as there is no other option. The border was reached before opening time so we talked to some other travellers including a retired couple from Wyoming who thought our planned route was wonderful and were very happy that we had taken the time to see as much of Yellowstone as we did.

Once the border opened, at 9.00 Yukon Time 8.00 Alaska Time, we were looked after with the usual efficiency and courtesy and were on our way in less than 5 minutes. The border area has a sign proclaiming that it has a population of 2 which must swell to at least 10 during the few months this border crossing is open.

The road after the border was again gravel until the small town of Chicken in Alaska where we have promised to stop at the Chicken Creek Café for a late breakfast. You should have seen the size of the Hot Cakes our retired friends from Wyoming were eating as we left. Chicken was supposed to have been called Ptarmigan after the local bird but the first inhabitants couldn’t spell Ptarmigan so Chicken it became. After Chicken the road becomes fully paved and it was then a fast run to our hotel in the city of Fairbanks.

 

Our hotel in Fairbanks is a resort which includes a wildlife centre, bird spotting areas and even a wonderful museum full of pre-war American built cars including a Cord. We were introduced to Willy the museum curator and he has promised any interested crews a full tour of the museum and restoration workshops.

As we left Fairbanks for the final run to Anchorage we wondered what the last day of the trip would bring as there are no route options but the main road.

Our first surprise was a café we stopped in at Nenana. This was run by Joe a former US Navy officer from Florida who is a car nut, he has owned an XK150 in his time, and the walls are lined with photographs of 1950s and 1960s American Muscle Cars. Joe has insisted we stop there on the event so he can add more pictures to his wall and thinks the sight of some lovely old cars parked on the main street will be wonderful for the town.

Continuing south we entered the Denali State Park where the views of Mount McKinley were awesome. We thought we needed yet another cup of coffee by this time so stopped at the McKinley View Restaurant where we could sit and stare at the mountain.

The owner has invited us to stop there on the rally where crews can get a lovely home cooked lunch and has promised us that she will have a new outside deck built by next year so we can sit outside and enjoy the scenery, weather permitting of course.

The final run in to Anchorage was on a 4 lane highway but we did not need to navigate round the city streets as we found a superb finish location on the main route in with a large parking area and easy access to the International Airport for the flights home.

As we sat in the hotel bar enjoying a well deserved beer later that evening we wished we could be flying out from Anchorage, unfortunately our hire car has to go back to Seattle so we have a long journey ahead of us but with so many memories of where we have been over the past month that we will have something to talk about all the way back.

JUNE 21ST 2011 – Kim Bannister

From Vancouver, British Columbia

We left Great Falls on a grey morning and headed west crossing the Missouri River which was running high and fast.

A fast run up Highway 89 took us to the optional gravel sections of the day starting near Bynum and then continuing via Heart Butte to a coffee stop in East Glacier, the archway opposite the café calls itself the “Gateway to Glacier National Park” We climbed Looking Glass Hill and got our first glimpse of the majesty of the mountains in the park.

 

A lovely run up the hill took us to St Marys and the entrance to the “Going to the Sun Road” which runs right through the park. Unfortunately the winter has been very bad in this area and the snow was late and deep so not all of the road was open, we hope it will be when we return on the event. We followed the Park Rangers advice and drove a little further north to investigate “Many Glacier Road”, an area famous for numerous lakes and waterfalls and were not disappointed as the views were incredible. We later met a local who considered this to be his favourite area in the park and is usually open earlier in the year than the main road through.

We then used Highway 2 which skirts round the south of the park and stopped for lunch at the “Halfway Motel”. The owner told us of his very recent sighting of a “blonde” Grizzly Bear in the area to the rear of the café and later sent some photographs. We also sat and watched deer and even Hummingbirds flying around while we enjoyed some great home cooking. On our run in to the town of Kalispell for our overnight stop we just had to do a bit of train spotting and we sat and watched a huge freight train go past with 3 engines pulling and 2 pushing, it seemed to last forever and must have taken at least 2 minutes to pass us, incredible.

Leaving Kalispell the next morning we drove west through the Flathead National Forest and past the Lost Trail National Wildlife Reserve using some wonderfully smooth gravel roads, crews who want to avoid this can do so by continuing on Highway 2.

Then it was into the Kootenai Forest before heading through the town of Libby before turning south into the Cabinet Mountains and a lunch stop at Little Joe Montana, another great family run restaurant who regularly look after touring groups. As we left the restaurant the owner told us to call in to look at the Ross Creek Giant Cedars many of which are as wide a car and many hundreds of years old. Photos did not do them justice, you will have to go and have a look for yourself.

 

We finally left Montana and crossed into Idaho as our route for the rest of the day followed the top of Lake Pend Oreille to finish in the resort town of Coeur d’Alene on the shores of the lake of the same name. We plan to stay in the resort spa and golf hotel which is located on the banks of the lake where the amount of activities available are just staggering, you can even take a seaplane flight from the lake. The great thing is that crews will have a rest day to try and sample as many f these delights as possible.

Leaving Coeur d’Alene we used the Interstate to cross into Washington State, the last of the “Lower 48” we will visit and through the city of Spokane before heading into the wonderful scenery of the Spokane Indian Reservation and the Camas Valley before crossing the Columbia River and Franklin Roosevelt Lake on the Gifford Ferry. This is a free service which takes about 15 cars across the river at one time; as usual we took the opportunity to talk to some locals about road conditions and the best route to take to the border with Canada. The Franklin Roosevelt Lake is the reservoir of the Grand Coulee Dam which was completed in 1942 and is the largest electricity power generator in the US.

We continued westwards on traffic free back roads through the Colville Indian Reservation and then turned north to the town of Republic where there were many cafes in which to enjoy a quick lunch stop. Then it was over the Wauconda Pass and through the town of Tonasket before we found some superb gravel roads to end the day.

A final short trip took us across the very efficient US/Canada border just north of Oroville and in to Osoyoos for our overnight halt. Osoyoos is a lovely little resort town at the northern end of the lake that shares its name and the hotel we have chosen sits on the lake with spectacular views of the mountains as a backdrop to an evening cocktail on the terrace.

 

Osoyoos is also in a famous wine growing region so there will be an opportunity to sample some of the local produce from the hotel’s excellent wine list. The run from Osoyoos to Vancouver was an easy one using the main road between the two points.

The views leaving Osoyoos though were wonderful and we stopped to drink in the scenery before heading into the big city. Along the main road there are many wine producers and crews should have plenty of time to visit some of these and purchase the local specialities as this will be a relaxed day on the rally itself.

We headed along the highway into Vancouver, the city seems to begin about 60 miles out, and although the traffic was heavy it kept moving. The good news is that it will be a Sunday when we use this road on the rally so there should be few problems for even the oldest vehicles. The highway took us to within a few miles of the hotels we plan to use on the waterfront in Vancouver and the run in was simple.

 

Vancouver is a lively, bustling city so there will be plenty to do on the rest day planned. Or you can just relax before the final leg of the journey north.

We leave Vancouver in the morning to head northwards into the wilderness of British Columbia and on to Alaska.

JUNE 16TH, 2011 – Kim Bannister

From Great Falls, Montana

Our day in Page started with a trip to the local airport to check on the availability of flights into the Grand Canyon. There appeared to be a large choice for those wanting to make the trip both on fixed wing and by helicopter.

We also checked on the boat trips on Lake Powell and found these were also readily available so there will be plenty to do on the day off, unless you just fancy lounging by the swimming pool or doing your laundry.

 

From Page we headed west out of the town and then onto a superb gravel road through Cottonwood Canyon with the rocks turning redder as we drove further in. The gravel road route is much shorter than the optional tarmac road and is smooth enough for almost any car, if taken at a sensible speed. Once away from the canyon we drove into the Bryce Canyon National Park before heading north through the Dixie National Forest, Antimony and Nephi to a lovely drive over the all tarmac Nebo Loop which goes round the snow capped Mount Nebo at a mere 11,980 feet. It was then a short hop on the Interstate to our hotel for the night at the town of Provo just south of Salt Lake City. Provo is home to the Brigham Young University so is a lively student town.

The next morning we left Provo for the run on the Interstate through Salt Lake City. On the rally we will do this journey on a Sunday when there will be little traffic. We then found a newly graded gravel road to use near East Canyon, touring crews can stay on tarmac all the way as usual, then on northwards and through the wonderful Logan Canyon which ends with breathtaking views of Bear Lake.

We kept to the west of Bear Lake and entered Idaho before stopping for lunch at a great café in the town of Paris; the café was opposite the Paris Tabernacle a famous old church and well worth a visit. The lady who owns the café is shortly going to visit London so we had a long chat about home before an excellent local meal. She will be happy to see any crews who want to call in next year and I have promised to put a note of her place in the route notes.

The rest of the day was spent crossing into Wyoming and the journey north to our hotel in the ski resort of Jackson. Jackson is a lovely town with a lively town square and many fine old buildings. Everyone should visit the Million $ Cowboy in the main square and enjoy a drink at the bar sitting astride a genuine saddle, a very different way to enjoy a beer.

 

From Jackson we headed into the wonderful world of Yellowstone National Park. We stopped first at Old Faithful to see what time the next eruption was only to be told that Beehive Geyser was due to go off in 10 minutes and that it is often more spectacular than the old master. Well everything the park ranger said was true, almost to the minute Beehive started to gush hot water and steam into the air in a display which lasted a full 3 or 4 minutes, I took a few photos but these can not do justice to the real thing.

We stopped for a cup of coffee in the café near the geysers, a real surprise as prices were far lower than in normal tourist destinations, before deciding to do a complete tour round the central loop of the park arriving back at Old Faithful in time for lunch.

On the trip round the loop, an excellent tarmac road with speed limits of 45 mph in many places and 35 mph in some, we saw Wolves, Buffalo and a very large Brown Bear. You can always tell when there is anything to see as the traffic suddenly stops and everyone jumps from their cars with cameras at the ready. After lunch we then headed out of the western entrance of the park into Montana and on to our stop for the night in Bozeman, another university town.

We left Bozeman in the first rain we have seen on the trip, although this quickly cleared to leave a cool day. We first explored some roads to the north of the town and found a fantastic gravel section which is currently being re-graded and should be finished well before next year. We also drove over a lovely tarmac alternative, away from the major highways but through the most magnificent Montana countryside, no wonder it is often called the “Big Sky State”.

We finished the day with even more superb traffic free gravel skirting the Helena National Forest to finish in the town of Great Falls for the night. Crews wanting an all tarmac alternative will find the road through the Lewis and Clark forest a delight with little traffic and wonderful views.

Great Falls is the gateway to the Glacier National Park which is where we are headed tomorrow.

JUNE 13TH, 2011 – Kim Bannister

From Page, Arizona

We left Eureka Springs on a lovely sunny day for the long drive to Dodge City in Kansas. We began by heading west and crossed into Oklahoma.

Near the town of Chelsea we used a small part of the historic Route 66, the only time we will see this particular road on our journey, and celebrated by having a cup of coffee in the Prairie Rose Grill on the roadside. We continued our journey as quickly as possible through the Tornado Belt bypassing the recently damaged town of Joplin and then entered Kansas near to Arkansas City before a run north west through Medicine Lodge, this is in the heart of Comanche country, and on into Dodge City.

 

We spent some time looking around the Boot Hill historic town exhibition, complete with gunfight (simulated for the visitors of course) then ran into a group of MG owners driving to Reno who were staying in the city overnight. Leaving Dodge City the following morning we continued the long journey through the mid-west as quickly as we could going via Ulysses and into Colorado and our first optional gravel section.

A superb section running North West from Pritchett through the Comanche Grasslands. As always we have found a nice tarmac alternative for those who just want to tour.

A final section running alongside the Colorado Canal bought us to Pueblo and then on to I-25 for the short journey north to Colorado Springs and our stop for the night.

In Colorado Springs crews will have the opportunity to visit and drive up the world famous Pikes Peak if they would like to.

There are a number of conditions attached by the park authorities though; firstly there is a toll to pay for using the road, secondly there is a 15 mph speed limit and drivers must take at least one hour to complete the climb or they are fined. Pikes Peak has also been tarmaced for about 80% of its distance and only remains gravel above the tree line.

For those crews who would prefer to relax there is much to see and do in the area. As we left Colorado Springs there was an air of excitement in the car as we headed into the amazing scenery of the Rocky Mountains. There are many superlatives which could be used; amazing, breathtaking, stunning, fantastic and awe inspiring, all of which were used at least 10 times during our run to the lovely old mining town of Durango.

 

We also managed to fit in at least two wonderful gravel sections for crews to drive if they want to, both through such magnificent countryside, before dropping down from over 11,000 feet into the town of Silverton and on into Durango. As we drove down the road into Durango we passed trains of the historic Silverton to Durango Railroad, still using original steam trains and carriages from the towns mining heyday. Our hotel is close to the station so crews can always enjoy a short train ride before dinner.

Durango was experiencing one of those fantastic Colorado days when we left the hotel, cloudless blue sky with a little chill in the air, wonderful weather for our drive west via Cortez into the Navaho Nation and Utah.

We found a great selection of gravel back roads though canyon country on the way to Blanding before a run west and then south using the state 95 and 261 roads and into Glen Canyon. The road suddenly becomes gravel, there are numerous hairpin bends and the most jaw dropping site as the countryside spreads out below you, everyone was stopping to take photographs and just soak up the spectacular view. The gravel only lasts for 3 miles and is very smooth so everyone should be able to manage it.

After leaving the canyon area we headed south west towards one of the highlights of the trip so far, Monument Valley, made famous in just about every cowboy film ever made. We are planning to have lunch in the restaurant overlooking the valley with wonderful views of the incredible rock formations. Crews can also either drive the 17 mile road through the valley, a bit rough in my opinion, or take one of the organised tours in a 4×4 vehicle.

Our day finished in the town of Page in Arizona on the shores of Lake Powell and where flights into the Grand Canyon can be arranged, something we will investigate tomorrow.

JUNE 8TH, 2011 – Kim Bannister

From Eureka Springs, Arkansas

We headed west away from the New York area on a beautiful sunny day leaving New Jersey behind and entering Pennsylvania before a quick stop for fuel and breakfast in a truck stop, how many ways can you serve an egg?

 

Once we were in Pennsylvania we left the Interstate and headed into the back roads, suddenly the traffic disappeared and the clean and tidy homes of the locals were scattered around instead. This was “Bridges of Madison County” country and we made sure the route included at least one for a photo opportunity.

A little more Interstate followed to get us around the town of Lancaster then it was back into the countryside and more empty roads on the way to Gettysburg for a look around one of the many museums and a chance to re-fuel both the car and the body, there is a great choice of restaurants in the old town area. We left Gettysburg via the main battlefield area; the wooden barricades used are still in place in many areas, to head into Maryland for a run through the Catoctin Mountain Park before stopping overnight in the town of Frederick close to the border with West Virginia.

The next day dawned hot and sunny as we headed through a part of West Virginia before crossing into Virginia, our 5th state in 2 days, and on to the Skyline Drive, a fabulous tarmac road run through the Shenandoah National Park, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The $15 toll was a cheap price to pay when we saw a Black Bear walking along the road together with numerous birds of prey and even wild Turkeys.

 

We continued our drive along sweeping tarmac roads on the Blue Ridge Parkway through the George Washington Forest before encountering our first gravel section of the event near Buena Vista. A final run through empty Virginian country lanes led us to the incredible facility at Virginia International Raceway. We are currently in discussions with the circuit management about how we can best use the facilities but the plan is to have competition on both the evening we arrive and the next morning as we leave.

The next morning we headed west away from the circuit skirting the towns of Danville and Martinsville before heading into North Carolina and re-joining the Blue Ridge Parkway before stopping for lunch in the town of Jefferson close to the Tennessee border. After lunch it was into Tennessee and back into wonderful scenery as we drove through the Cherokee National Forest, part of the Appalachians, and then headed west through Sevierville, the birth place of Dolly Parton, to out overnight halt in Knoxville, a former host of the Worlds Fair.

We left Knoxville the next morning on a very hot day and continued our journey westwards through the lovely Tennessee countryside before joining the Interstate, one of the few we will use on our planned route, going via Nashville and on into Memphis for our overnight stop at one of the many excellent hotels in downtown close to Beale Street, a well known name for all part lovers everywhere.

Leaving Memphis the next morning was a real surprise as there was little traffic and we stayed close to the road we needed to head west, crossing the Mighty Mississippi and into Arkansas for the rest of the day.

 

A run through the flat Arkansas countryside, watching the antics of the crop sprayers in their small planes and wondering how good their nerves were, led us to another excellent gravel section, there will always be a simple alternative tarmac route to avoid these if you want, and to lunch in the area of Greers Ferry Lake.

The afternoon was then one of the highlights of the trip so far as we ran through the Ozark National Forest; we managed to find some outstanding gravel roads here as well, before arriving at a wonderful town called Eureka Springs close to the Missouri Border. Eureka Springs is an old 19th century town with a wonderful hotel in the centre, built in 1896, and a lovely collection of old stores to look around and swap some dollars for goods in.

The final surprise of the evening was a meeting in a local bar of a lady who was able to give us the phone number of the local mayor who is a great motoring enthusiast so we can expect a very warm welcome when we return. Today we are continuing the journey westwards and plan to go through a part of Oklahoma before entering Kansas and heading to an overnight halt in the world famous town of Dodge City.

 

The Route Outline – Day-by-Day

Day Date Day Route State Miles Kms
7th May Mon Newark, New Jersey – Collect vehicles
Day 1 8th May Tue Newark to Frederick Maryland 268 432
Day 2 9th May Wed Frederick to VIR West Virginia 347 559
Day 3 10th May Thu VIR to Knoxville Tennessee 358 577
Day 4 11th May Fri Knoxville to Memphis Alabama 427 688
Day 5 12th May Sat Memphis, Tennessee – Rest Day
Day 6 13th May Sun Memphis to Eureka Springs Arkansas 322 519
Day 7 14th May Mon Eureka Springs to Dodge City Kansas 498 803
Day 8 15th May Tue Dodge City to Colorado Springs Colorado 354 570
Day 9 16th May Wed Colorado Springs to Durango Colorado 365 588
Day 10 17th May Thu Durango to Page Arizona 332 535
Day 11 18th May Fri Page, Arizona – Rest Day
Day 12 19th May Sat Page to Provo Utah 302 487
Day 13 20th May Sun Provo to Jackson Wyoming 346 558
Day 14 21st May Mon Jackson to Bozeman Montana 314 506
Day 15 22nd May Tue Bozeman to Great Falls Montana 210 338
Day 16 23rd May Wed Great Falls to Kalispell Montana 255 411
Day 17 24th May Thu Kalispell to Couer d’Alene Idaho 261 421
Day 18 25th May Fri Couer d’Alene to Osoyoos British Columbia 269 434
Day 19 26th May Sat Osoyoos, British Columbia – Rest Day
Day 20 27th May Sun Osoyoos to Vancouver British Columbia 247 398
Day 21 28th May Mon Vancouver, BC – End of Leg 1 – Rest Day
Day 22 29th May Tue Vancouver to Quesnel British Columbia 414 667
Day 23 30th May Wed Quesnel to Smithers British Columbia 304 490
Day 24 31st May Thu Smithers to Watson Lake Yukon 530 855
Day 25 1st June Fri Watson Lake to Whitehorse Yukon 435 702
Day 26 2nd June Sat Whitehorse, Yukon – Rest Day
Day 27 3rd June Sun Whitehorse to Dawson Yukon 370 596
Day 28 4th June Mon Dawson to Dawson Yukon 108 174
Day 29 5th June Tue Dawson to Fairbanks Yukon 389 627
Day 30 6th June Wed Fairbanks, Alaska – Rest Day
Day 31 7th June Thu Fairbanks to Anchorage Alaska 360 580
8th June Fri Anchorage Prize Giving

LEG 1 – New York to Vancouver 22 days

Day 0: Newark NJ

Today we collect the vehicles for the crews who have shipped them in followed by documentation, safety checks and a competitor briefing for all entrants. The evening will feature a welcome cocktail reception and gala dinner before an early night ready for the rally start in the morning.

Day 1: Newark NJ to Frederick MD 268 miles (432 kms)

The first day on the road sees the event leave Newark for the fairly short journey to Frederick in Maryland allowing time to visit Gettysburg for lunch and keeping most of the afternoon free to visit the various battlegrounds and museums in the area. We leave Newark on the highway before heading into the wonderful Pennsylvania countryside and “Bridges of Madison County” land before our stop at Gettysburg.

Gettysburg was the scene of the most famous, or infamous, battle in American history where for three days on July 1st to the 3rd 1863 165,000 soldiers of the Union and Confederate forces fought each other with devastating casualties on both sides. The latest estimates suggest that there were over 46,000 casualties over the three days and the battle is often seen as the turning point in the civil war. There are over 40 miles of battlefield roads to explore together with numerous museums.

From Gettysburg it is only a short run on the highway to overnight halt at Frederick.

Day 2: Frederick MD to V.I.R. VA347 miles (559 kms)

Leaving Frederick we head southwest passing Harpers Ferry, where John Brown made his ill fated raid on the arsenal in his quest to abolish slavery.

We then head into the Shenandoah National Park, part of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, using the scenic Skyline Drive, where we might be lucky enough to see Black Bear or even Mountain Lion before continuing south through the George Washington National Forest and our first optional gravel section of the event. Continuing south the route goes through lovely traffic free Virginia country roads before arriving at the fantastic Virginia International Raceway (VIR), one of Americas finest race circuit complexes, for some evening fun and our overnight accommodation.

Day 3: V.I.R. VA to Knoxville TN 358 miles (577 kms)

We plan to use the circuit at VIR again before we leave the area and then head west to re-join the Blue Ridge Parkway. Another optional gravel section loops off the road before we continue west into North Carolina and a chance to stop for lunch in the town of Jefferson. Continuing west the route enters Tennessee passing the birthplace of the famous Wild West pioneer Davy Crockett then into the town of Sevierville. Sevierville is the birthplace of Dolly Parton and everyone in the town is very proud of her, the main road is named after her, and she contributes much to the local economy.

Our stop for tonight is in the town of Knoxville in Tennessee. Knoxville was named after the first Secretary of War, Henry Knox, and was formerly known as the “Underwear Capital of the World”

Day 4: Knoxville TN to Memphis TN 427 miles (688 kms)

A longer day today as we drive west across the width of Tennessee. Oour optional gravel sections for the day, includes a road called Bear Knob with a total of 15 hairpin bends one after the other, a fantastic driving road. Another optional section follows before we join the Interstate for the rest of the journey to Memphis. Timing for the day will stop at the end of the second gravel section so that those crews who want to visit the Country Music capital of Nashville can do so before heading to the overnight halt.

Crews not wanting to visit Nashville can continue at their own pace to our hotel for the next two nights in downtown Memphis and relax for the rest of the day.

Day 5: Memphis TN  –  Rest Day

Our rest day in Memphis is planned for a Saturday so there will be plenty to see and do. Elvis fans will have the chance to visit Gracelands and those in need of a bit of retail therapy can shop till they drop in the city’s superb shopping area.

The evening is free with no organised group dinner so crews can enjoy the delights of Beale Street, less than one block from our hotel, where you can listen to wonderful authentic blues music until 5am if you want, as well as enjoy a meal at one of the excellent restaurants that line the street. Just remember we have a reasonably early start the following day.

Day 6: Memphis TN to Eureka Springs AR 322 miles (519 kms)

Today begins with the short trip across the “Mighty Mississippi” and into Arkansas and then continues west to our first gravel section near Heber Springs on the shores of the Greers Ferry Lake. Lunch can be taken at one of the restaurants near Greers Ferry before we continue through the town of Clinton and into the magnificent Ozark National Forest where we will spend most of the afternoon.

A second optional gravel section follows; a superb road through the forest, but the all tarmac road is also wonderful drive on a sunny afternoon. Our halt for the evening is the lovely old world town of Eureka Springs where our hotel is at the top of a hill with the original buildings of the town spread out below. A very pretty setting for an early evening stroll before the serious business of dinner.

Day 7: Eureka Springs AR to Dodge City KS 498 miles (803 kms)

A long day through the flat lands of the Mid-West. The roads are excellent tarmac for the whole day and with little traffic the miles quickly disappear. We use part of the historic Route 66 and there will be a chance to have coffee in the Prairie Rose Grill before continuing the drive towards our overnight halt of Dodge City.

Dodge City was made famous as a frontier town in the Old West and famous residents included the Earp brothers, Wyatt and Virgil, Bat Masterson and the infamous Doc Holliday. Today you can see a re-enactment of an old style gunfight each evening in the historic “Boot Hill” area which is just a short drive from our hotel.

Day 8: Dodge City KS to Colorado Springs CO 354 miles (570 kms)

Today the route continues to go west leaving the flat lands and straight roads of Kansas behind and enters Colorado near the town of Walsh. We enter the Comanche National Grasslands near the town of Springfield and then turn north onto superb, fast gravel roads to the first optional section of the day.

Staying in the Comanche territory we head through the town of La Junta and a chance to get some lunch and have a break before our second optional section which runs alongside the Arkansas River. After leaving the section the route takes highway 50 to the town of Pueblo and then joins I-25 for the short run to our overnight halt in the wonderful city of Colorado Springs. Crews who want to take the opportunity to drive the world famous Pikes Peak can do so this afternoon. The road climbs to over 14,000 feet but can only be driven at a leisurely 15 mph, the Rangers time cars and anyone taking less than an hour from bottom to top is fined, but the views are incredible and it is well worth the small toll fee.

Day 9: Colorado Springs CO to Durango CO 365 miles (588 kms)

Day 9 begins with a run into the Rocky Mountains before we take to county roads and the first optional section of the day near Wagon Tongue. We continue to head west through Salida crossing the Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet before entering the Gunnison National Forest and enjoy some superb driving roads and our second section.

Lunch can be taken in Gunnison before our final section of the day takes us across country to join state road 550 for the run through the old mining town of Silverton before reaching our overnight stop in the city of Durango. Durango is the end of the historic Silverton to Durango railway and the old style steam trains can often be seen running alongside the road into town.

Our city centre hotel for the night is close a large number of bars in which to enjoy a drink before the group meal.

Day 10: Colorado Springs CO to Page AZ  332 miles (535 kms)

We start Day 10 heading west into the Canyons of the Ancients and cross from Colorado into Utah. The road is a smooth tarmac road as far as McElmo Canyon and then becomes gravel for those who want a little competition; there is an all-tarmac alternative as usual. Our first section ends at Blanding and the route then continues west past Black Mesa before turning south into the Valley of the Gods and the Glen Canyon.

The view as you crest the hill at Moki Dugway is breathtaking with the valley spread out below you, stopping to take photographs and take in the view is an absolute must.

Our journey continues via Mexican Hat along highway 163 to one of the true natural wonders of the world: Monument Valley. This area provides some of the most enduring and definitive images of the American West. The isolated red mesas and buttes surrounded by empty desert have been seen in countless movies but only by visiting the real thing can you truly experience the colour and majesty of the area.

Timing for the day will end at the entrance to the valley so crews can take as much time to explore the area as they would like. Lunch will be taken in the restaurant with fantastic views of the whole area and there will be 4×4 vehicles available to hire for crews wishing to take a drive right into the valley, a trip of about 17 miles each way. From Monument Valley our route heads into Arizona to our hotel for the next two nights in the town of Page on the shore of Lake Powell.

Day 11: Page AZ   –   Rest day

Lake Powell is the 2nd largest man-made lake in the USA. There are 96 major canyons to explore and boats are available from many locations along the shoreline. Rest, relax or repair the choice is yours today however, you could also decide to take a flight to see the Grand Canyon in all its majesty. Many people who have visited the canyon come back and say the very best way to fully appreciate the enormity of it is to see it from the air. Helicopter and fixed wing flights are available from Page.

If a flight to the canyon is not for you then other options include Colorado River Rafting, visiting Antelope and Bryce Canyons or enjoying a round of golf at the local 18 hole course.

Day 12: Page AZ to Provo UT  302 miles (487 kms)

After a traditional breakfast we will head north away from Page using the excellent gravel road through Cottonwood Canyon. There is an all-tarmac alternative but it is much longer and there will be plenty of time allowed for those crews who wish to take it easy.

We next go through the Bryce Canyon National Park and then through the Dixie National Forest and a chance to have a well earned rest and lunch at Salina. The Bryce Canyon National Park features a number of horseshoe shaped amphitheatres where erosion has carved the limestone into thousands of spires, fins, arches and mazes. Collectively called “hoodoos” these unique formations are tinted with colours too numerous and subtle to name. After lunch the route skirts the San Pitch Mountains before our final section of the day over the lovely Nebo Loop Road through the Uinta National Forest.

This wonderful tarmac road climbs to over 9,000 feet as it twists and turns its way around Bald Mountain before we drop down onto I-15 for the last few miles into Provo on the shores of Utah Lake. Our hotel for the evening is in the city centre and there will be time to do a little exploring and enjoy a pre-dinner drink or two in one of the many bars in this University City.

Day 13: Provo UT to Jackson WY  346 miles (558 kms)

We leave Provo on a Sunday morning which means we should have a traffic free run through the suburbs of Salt Lake City before heading into the Wasatch Range and a short optional gravel section leading to East Canyon State Park. Continuing northwards the route goes into the Wasatch Cache National Forest and our second section on wonderful smooth gravel roads through the Ant Valley. The all-tarmac alternative route will take cars through Brigham City, named after the founder of the Mormon religion Brigham Young following his last speech there in 1877.

Both routes will join at Logan for a run through the magnificent Logan Canyon down to Bear Lake. Bear Lake is the second largest natural freshwater lake in Utah and has been called the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for its unique turquoise-blue color, the result of suspended limestone deposits in the water. Its water properties have led to the evolution of several unique species that live naturally only within the lake.

We follow the shores of the lake into Idaho before a chance to get lunch at the Paris Café in the town of the same name, a very traditional diner with a new and enthusiastic owner, the food is really good as well. Our journey for the day finishes in the ski resort of Jackson, often known as “Jackson Hole” where our hotel is in the lovely old-world town centre.

You must try an early evening drink at the Million Cowboy bar in the main square where the bar stools are real saddles you sit astride as the cold “Bud” slips down.

Day 14: Jackson WY to Bozeman MT     314 miles (506 kms)

As we leave Jackson the views to our left of the snow capped Teton Mountains are spectacular and are a reminder of why this is a ski area in the winter months. Today there is no timing so crews can enjoy the beauty and splendour of Yellowstone National Park which we will enter by the south entrance. A toll of $25 per car is payable but it is well worth the money. Yellowstone was the first National Park created in March 1872 and is most famous for its wildlife and geothermal features especially the geysers.

Most of the park lies at an altitude above 7,500 ft so the weather can change very quickly and crews should be prepared for a colder day than normal. Our route takes crews to the site of Old Faithful, the most well known and regular of the many geysers in the area, the time of the next eruption is displayed in the visitor centre and there are seats all around to get the best view. Crews will have the option of driving the Grand Loop Road, a distance of just over 90 miles, which goes round the interior of the park.

Expect to see Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, Wolves, Bison and Moose. Both Lynx and Mountain Lion are in the park but are shy creatures and rarely seen in daylight. After leaving the park the route heads into Montana and the Gallatin National Forest leading to our overnight halt in Bozeman.

Montana is the largest land locked state in the US and has the third lowest population density so the roads outside of major towns are traffic free.

Day 15: Bozeman MT to Great Falls MT   210 miles (338 kms)

Day 15 is one of the shortest days as the route continues its journey north. As on other days there are two different routes, one containing a number of gravel road sections, the other all tarmac. The gravel sections begin just outside Bozeman heading through rolling countryside to the tiny settlement of Maudlow and then through the Elkhorn Ridge of the Gallatin National Forest to re-join the tarmac at Ringling. Continuing north past Black Butte Mountain the routes separate again at White Sulphur Springs with the gravel roads alongside the Helena National Forest through such places as Mud Gulch and Wagner Gulch.

The all tarmac route follows highway 89 through the Little Belt Mountains and the Lewis and Clark National Forest, named after the famous explorers, before reaching our overnight halt in Great Falls. Great Falls is named for a series of waterfalls that the Lewis and Clark expedition took 31 days of hard work to portage around. It is also known as the “Electric City” due to the five hydroelectric dams that are nearby.

Day 16: Great Falls MT to Kalispell MT    255 miles (411 kms)

Day 16 sees the route stay in Montana to enjoy more of the empty roads and wonderful scenery. First we pass Freezeout Lake before a short optional gravel loop and then into the Blackfeet Indian Reservation lands and Heart Butte to arrive at East Glacier Park, the gateway to the Glacier National Park and a nice place to have a cup of coffee and a short break. From East Glacier the route follows Looking Glass Hill, a road generally closed in the winter months, to the gate of the stunningly beautiful Glacier National Park.

We plan to use the famous “Going to the Sun Road” , one of the most scenic roads in the whole of the United States, which goes through the 6,646 ft Logan Pass and crosses the Continental Divide. Should the road be closed, as it can be if the winter has been severe, we will visit the Many Glacier Road. Many Glacier is surrounded by the high peaks of the Lewis Range, and numerous hiking trails can be accessed from the area. The region is noted for numerous lakes, waterfalls and dense coniferous forests interspersed with alpine meadows.

After leaving the park the route heads west along highway 2 around the northern edge of the Great Bear Wilderness to our hotel for the evening in Kalispell, one of the fastest growing communities in Montana.

Day 17: Kalispell MT to Couer d’Alene ID    261 miles (421 kms)

After a leisurely start to the day we head west into the Kootenai National Forest and the Lost Trail Wildlife Refuge. Lunch can be taken in the town of Libby before heading into the Cabinet Mountains and a stop at the Giant Cedars with over 100 acres of these immense trees growing alongside the Ross River, many being over 200 years old. Leaving the cedars behind we drive along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille to our hotel for the night in the resort town of Couer d’Alene in Idaho. Barbara Walters, the journalist and TV news anchor, called Couer d’Alene “a little slice of heaven” and included it in her list of most fascinating places to visit.

Our hotel is the main resort located in the old town with plenty to see during a pleasant pre-dinner stroll among the many shops and buildings.

Day 18: Couer d’Alene ID to Osoyoos BC    269 miles (434 kms)

Today we leave the US behind and head into Canada, but first the route goes west away from Couer d’Alene crossing into Washington State and through the city of Spokane. After a stop for coffee in Springdale we cross the Columbia River using the Gifford Ferry, which is a free service provided by the local community, and then onto the wonderful scenic drive through Bridge Creek before turning north to cross the Wauconda Summit at 4310 feet and the border town of Oroville.

For those looking for some competition there will be two optional gravel sections in the Okanogan National Forest which then re-join the tarmac alternative just before the border crossing. Our hotel for the next two nights is in the town of Osoyoos located in the heart of the Desert Wine Country so there should be a good wine list with our dinner tonight.

Day 19: Osoyoos BC  –    Rest Day

Our hotel is on the shore of the lovely Osoyoos Lake, the warmest fresh water lake in Canada. Enjoy a relaxing day off on the lake, you can wakeboard or parasail and even spend the day fishing. For the golf minded there are two golf courses in the area or you could always go and try some of the local wine direct from the growers.

Tonight is a free evening with no group meal so crews can enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants in the town or just outside.

Day 20: Osoyoos BC to Vancouver BC   247 miles (398 kms)

An easy final day for those crews taking part in the New York to Vancouver leg, as we use roads close to the US border to arrive in Vancouver in time for a late lunch and a chance to explore the downtown area before dinner.

Day 21: Vancouver BC   –   Rest Day

For those crews joining the rally for the Vancouver to Anchorage leg today will be taken up with checking of the cars, documentation and event briefing before everyone meets up for dinner in the evening. The dinner will be a welcome for those joining us and a farewell and prize giving for those crews who are doing only the New York to Vancouver leg. Those crews going the “whole way” can just enjoy a nice free day and leisurely dinner.

LEG 2 – The Klondike Rush – Vancouver to Anchorage 9 Days

Day 22: Vancouver BC to Quesnel BC    414 miles (667 kms)

So much to see, explore and savour From Vancouver we head north into the wide open spaces of British Columbia. We pass Horseshoe Bay and take Highway 99, the “Sea to the Sky Highway” through Whistler, venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics before taking to gravel roads for some of our journey to the overnight halt in Quesnel.

Located in a quiet valley surrounded by beautiful green mountains and lush forests Quesnel was the last stop on the Fraser River for gold prospectors to stock up on provisions.

Day 23: Quesnel BC to Smithers BC    304 miles (490 kms)

The planned route for today uses mainly smooth gravel roads to a lunch halt at Fraser Lake. This town was originally a fur trading post established in 1806 and is the easternmost point the Lake District, a land dotted with lakes, rivers, mountain ranges and valleys. After lunch we head west towards Houston and then join the Yellowhead Highway to our overnight stop in Smithers. Smithers rests at the foot of Hudson Bay Mountain which will provide a truly spectacular backdrop for your evening pre-dinner cocktail.

Day 24: Smithers BC to Watson Lake YT    530 miles (855 kms)

The longest day of the rally faces us today as we head even further north and into gold rush territory. We leave Smithers on the Yellowhead Highway taking in some gravel roads near Hazleton before joining the scenic Cassiar Highway at Kitwanga and will stop for lunch at the Bell ll lodge which also serves fuel in this remote area. After lunch the long journey continues leaving British Columbia and entering the famed Yukon Territory and into our hotel in the town of Watson Lake.

Day 25: Watson Lake YT to Whitehorse YT    435 miles (700 kms)

Our journey today takes us up the Campbell Highway to the picturesque town of Ross River. This is a wide fast gravel road through stunning scenery of rivers and mountains. Lunch will be found in Ross River as will the only fuel in the area so make sure you fill up before leaving. After lunch we head south down the Canol Road, built during the construction of the North American Pipeline to the Arctic oilfields.

We re-join the Alaska Highway at Johnsons Crossing and then head west to Whitehorse for our hotel for the next two nights. Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon and home to some of the most spectacular scenery in Canada. Often called the “Wilderness City” Whitehorse nestles on the banks of the Yukon River surrounded by mountains and clear mountain lakes.

Day 26: Whitehorse YT   –  Rest Day

Whitehorse was established as a trans-shipment port during the Gold Rush of 1898, it was given the name “White Horse” by miners who thought the rapids in Miles Canyon looked like the manes of charging horses. As the capital of the Yukon Whitehorse has many attractions for a restful day.

A visit to the Copperbelt Museum takes you back in time to the Gold Rush era and this could be followed by a trip along the banks of the Yukon River on the Waterfront Trolley. For the more energetic a walk along the Millennium Trail is a must or a visit to the Miles Canyon to cross the suspension bridge over the rapids which gave the town its name.

The evening is free so enjoy one of the many restaurants in the old area.

Day 27: Whitehorse YT to Dawson YT   370 miles (596 kms)

Today we continue through the Yukon wilderness and even further into gold rush territory as we head north using the Klondike Highway. A stop for lunch in the town of Carmacks then continue passing a number of abandoned old mining towns before crossing the Yukon, Pelly and Stewart Rivers before arriving in Dawson for the night halt. Dawson was where gold was first discovered in 1896 which triggered what was arguably the world’s greatest gold rush as nearly 100,000 people descended on the territory looking to find their fortune. The town retains a feel of the Wild West with raised wooden walkways and saloon swing doors on many buildings.

Day 28: Dawson YT to Dawson YT   Loop – 108 miles (174 kms)

A short gravel road loop out of Dawson today, for those crews in the Sporting Category, although any tourers may join us if they wish to. The route runs through the Bonanza Creek gold discovery area before returning to Dawson for lunch and an easy afternoon. Those crews in the Touring Category who do not want to join in today can choose to take advantage of the day to explore the town or even try a little gold prospecting of their own.

Day 29: Dawson YT to Fairbanks AK  389 miles (627 kms)

Today we cross back into the USA following the “Top of the World Highway” and then join the excellent gravel roads of the Taylor Highway through the town of Chicken, one of the few remaining true gold rush towns, and a chance to get a cup of coffee and world famous cinnamon roll at the café. We will stop for lunch in Tok, a town that started as a camp during the construction of the Alcan and Glenn Highways in the 1940’s, before we head up the Alaska Highway to Fairbanks.

Fairbanks is called the “Golden Heart of Alaska” a reference to the character of the people, and is only 188 miles south of the Arctic Circle so the days during summer are very long and surprisingly warm.

Day 30: Fairbanks AK  –  Rest Day

As it may be a long time before many of you return to Alaska we have taken the opportunity to have an extra rest day in Fairbanks, Alaska’s second largest city. Our hotel has a wonderful car museum on site which is well worth a visit together with a wildlife area to stroll through.

Those looking for a little more adventure can book a whole range of activities from a Gold Mine Tour, a Riverboat Discovery Tour, a flight over the Arctic Circle and even a trip to Barrow in the remote north. As befits any US city Fairbanks has a great selection of retail outlets to reduce the bank balance and a superb range of restaurants to have a quiet lunch or lavish dinner.

Day 31: Fairbanks AK to Anchorage AK  360 miles (580 kms)

The last day of the rally as we head south to our finish venue in the city of Anchorage. We use the George Parks Highway, passing the Denail National Park and Mt McKinley, which offers unparalleled views of the Alaskan landscape. A lunch stop is planned about halfway along the highway to enjoy the views and a final rest before the run in to Anchorage and the finish.

Anchorage is a truly wonderful place in which to complete such an adventure as the city is embraced by mountain ranges and with a maritime climate that makes the evenings very pleasant indeed. This evening is a last chance to relax with your new found friends and colleagues and swap some of the “tales of daring do” from the rally as we plan to have our gala dinner and prize giving tomorrow morning so that no one has to rush or worry about missing out on collecting any hard-earned trophies.

 

Questions & Answers

Here are the answers to the questions we are most often asked. If your question is not here or if you just want to chat about any aspect of the Trans-America Challenge do please send us an email or call the full time Rally Office during business hours. We’ll be pleased to hear from you.

 

Can anyone take part ?

Yes, this route is suitable for both newcomers and experienced crews. The roads are mostly good smooth tarmac with a few tests on gravel sections, plus some circuit tests. A simple tulip route book marked in miles (with kilometres in brackets) is supplied which is easy to follow, even fuel stops are indicated. We give every novice entrant a booklet packed with hints and tips on navigation, and every driver a car preparation book with full instructions on how to prepare the car specifically for this route. You do not need a Garmin GPS satellite system, but you may bring a GPS if you wish.

What about the Medal sections ?

The Medal Sections are optional and we don’t have these every day, only where the route and road conditions permit. You can drive these as often or as little as you like, make your mind up on the day, if you choose to miss out a section then you simply head off to the Hotel. Medals are presented to the winners at evening meals.

What equipment do I need ?

Simply a suitable car fitted with a tripmeter such as a Monit, a Halda or a twinmaster; a 1.75 litre fire extinguisher; First Aid Kit; 2 x warning triangles; a tow rope and an under car mat to catch leaks. You don’t need a competition license, helmets or fancy overalls. Full harness seat belts must be fitted to all cars except Vintageants. We strongly recommend Vintage cars have a seat belt and a rollover bar, and a hoop or full roll cage is strongly recommended for all.

What if I break down on the event ?

We do expect you to be able to change a wheel, the points, plugs and air filter yourself, but we are taking our own mobile mechanical support vehicles each with two highly skilled mechanics for anything more complicated. Their vast experience will keep you on the road, even if it means working all night. You simply have to bring the spares from the list we issue and they will do the rest!

What about Shipping my Car ?

You can use any shipping agent but we can recommend CARS UK who have handled our shipping for 15 years. They are efficient and slick and can ship your car from anywhere in the world to the Leg 1 start in New York, the Leg 2 start in Vancouver, or home from Alaska. They handle all customs, insurance, import charges etc, you simply hand over your keys. They personally attend at the port to do the “hustling”. Contact Jeremy Barker: Tel +44(0)1284 850760 or email [email protected] for a quotation.

What about Visas ?

Holders of British Passports usually travel to the USA free of charge on the Visa Waiver program but there are conditions so please check with the American Embassy website. Non UK entrants should check Visa specialist website www.travcour.com which lists which nationalities require visas for the USA and Canada or visit the official embassy sites.

What about the compulsory travel and medical cover ?

The insurance brokers Campbell Irvine Ltd offer a Travel/Medical insurance policy which covers you for rallying anywhere in the world, with full repatriation cover. Full details will be sent to you nearer the start date. You may source your own policy but it must cover Medical repatriation so the ‘Flying Doctor’ service can attend to you. We will be taking our own fully qualified Doctor and Nurse on the event, who will supply you with full medical notes, a list of any recommended vaccinations and details of the type of first aid kit you need.

 

How can I insure my car ?

Vehicle insurance is NOT included and you must arrange this yourself by extending your existing motor policy with your insurer. If you want to buy Fully Comprehensive cover then you can arrange this with Marcus Atkinson at Hagerty International Ltd, Tel: 08700 420 220. Marcus or Phil Dunne can arrange cover for any car wherever in the World it is registered. Contact Phil by email [email protected]

What else do I need to Know ?

Further information about suitable clothing, currency, fuel availability, satellite phones, accommodation etc will be sent out to all entrants in regular newsletters. Anything we think you need to know, any forms to fill in are all supplied by us and sent to you. With 60 worldwide events under our belt we are here to help you reach the start fully prepared.

What Vehicles are Eligible ?

The event runs two categories, Vintageant for cars up to 1941 with classes based on engine size and a Classic Category for cars up to 1975 model types. Cars of a later date, but unchanged mechanical specification, will be considered at the organiser’s discretion. Classes will be formed based on engine size, within these categories

There will be two options so entrants can choose the type of event they would like to participate in:

Please explain the Sporting option ?

The route includes Time Trial tests, some them on smooth gravel roads, and race circuit tests. Performance on the tests and maintaining the overall schedule will determine the final classification.

And the Touring option ?

This is for those crews who want to make the most of the scenery and the fascinating places the event visits without the need to worry about the clock. There will be a set route with full route notes supplied. It is hoped that all cars, either ‘sporting’ or ‘touring’ will meet for lunch most days and get together in the bar each evening. There will be no competitive sections although in some remote areas the tourers may use the same route as the sporting event. Crews will nominate when entering which option they wish to take up, this would not prevent any touring crew deciding to take part in any test section or anyone on the sporting event from deciding to have an easier day sightseeing, although they will receive timing penalties.

What is included in the entry fees ?

A twin/double room including breakfast for 22 nights for Leg 1, 12 nights for Leg 2. Secure parking, group dinners for all nights except rest days, New York welcome party, prize-giving dinner and ceremony in Vancouver and Alaska. Several group lunches, metal rally plates, competition numbers, decals and ID tags. The services of our on-event mobile emergency repair shops, support from our mobile medical crew. Finishers medals, road books, navigators wallet, rally and vehicle preparation notes. Competitors will be responsible for any shipping costs, visa applications and costs, vehicle insurance, travel insurance, some lunches and fuel costs.

 

The Participants

Num Crew Car cc.
Trans America – New York to Anchorage
Vintageant Cars (pre-1941)
1 Sonja Schaefer(D) / Claudia Schaefer(D) / Marlene Schaefer(D) 1924 – Bentley 3-4½ 4398
2 Martin Hunt(GB) / Olivia Hunt(GB) 1927 – Bentley Le Mans 4500
3 Bert Kersten(NL) / Huibert van Vroenhoven(NL) 1927 – Bentley Speed Six 6500
4 Hermann Layher(D) / Michaela Zingerle in Layher(I) 1929 – Mercedes S 7100
5 Bruce Washington(NZ) / Judy Washington(AUS) 1937 – Dodge Coupe D5 3570
6 Tom Gatsonides(NL) / Rosalie Gatsonides-Langenberg(NL) 1937 – Alvis Tourer VDP 4338
Classic Cars to 3000cc (pre-1975)
9 Nicholas Pryor(GB) / Lesley Stockwell(GB) 1962 – Volvo PV544 1780
15 Ian Brawn(GB) / Jan Smith(GB) 1965 – Porsche 911 1991
16 Michael Eatough(GB) / Morgan Roberts(GB) 1966 – Mercedes 230S Fintail 2306
17 Terence Wright(GB) / Sheila Wright(GB) 1967 – MGB GT 1795
18 David Inns(GB) / Pamela Wallis(GB) 1967 – Volvo 144S 1780
43 Ed Howle(USA) / Janet Howle(USA) 1967 – VW Beetle 1600
14 Keith Ashworth(GB) / Norah Ashworth(GB) 1968 – Mercedes 230 Fintail 2306
20 Werner Esch(LU) / Patrick Fischbach(LU) 1968 – Mercedes 280S 2778
21 David Roberts(GB) / Jo Roberts(GB) 1968 – Triumph TR250 2498
22 Jose Romao de Sousa(PT) / Maria Romao De Sousa(PT) 1968 – Volvo 142 1993
23 Roy Stephenson(GB) / Peter Robinson(GB) 1971 – Datsun 240Z 2393
24 Stephen Hyde(GB) / Janet Lyne(GB) 1972 – Porsche 911 2700
25 Hans-Erik Rhodius(B) / Sabine Letzer(B) 1974 – Ford Escort Mexico Mk1 2000
26 Peter Lovett(GB) / Zoe Lovett(GB) 1974 – Porsche 3.0RS 2997
Classic Cars over 3000cc (pre-1975)
29 Gerry Leumann(CH) / Helen Leumann(CH) 1954 – Bentley Continental Sports 4886
30 Phillip Haslam(GB) / Yvonne Haslam(GB) 1954 – Jaguar XK120DHC 3442
31 John Raker(GB) / Melinda Raker(GB) 1960 – Jaguar XK150 3781
32 Richard Worts(GB) / Nicola Shackleton(GB) 1961 – Jaguar MkII 3800
33 Alastair Caldwell(GB) / Dorothy Caldwell(NZ) 1965 – Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III 6230
34 Michael McInerney(GB) / Eunice McInerney(GB) 1966 – Ford Mustang Convertible 3273
35 Paul Kane(GB) / Mary Ellen Kane(GB) 1966 – Ford Mustang GT350 4700
36 Hans Middelberg(USA) / Jurgen Grolman(D) 1967 – Ford Mustang Convertible 3273
37 Phil Garratt(GB) / Kieron Brown(GB) 1970 – Jaguar E-Type 4200
39 Gerry Crown(AUS) / Matt Bryson(AUS) 1974 – Leyland P76 4400
40 Terry Ward(GB) / Geoff Nicholls(AUS) 1974 – Mercedes 450 SEL 4600
41 Paul Merryweather(GB) / Sandra Merryweather(GB) 1974 – Mercedes 450 SL 4500
Touring
44 Do Meeus(NL) / Els Meeus(NL) 2006 – Toyota Landcruiser 4164
Trans America – New York to Vancouver
Vintageant Cars (pre-1941)
7 Caroline Greenhalgh(GB) / Tania Slowe(GB) 1938 – Alvis 4.3 4300
8 Michael Hurdle(GB) / Barbara Hurdle(GB) 1939 – Bentley Derby 4¼ 4250
Classic Cars (pre-1975)
10 Jonathan Auerbach(USA) / Jake Auerbach(USA) 1951 – Chrysler New Yorker 5800
11 Bernard Irthum(LU) / Philippe Irthum(LU) 1952 – Jaguar XK120 (FHC) 3442
12 Keith Piper(GB) / Jason Piper(GB) 1960 – Aston Martin DB4 4200
19 Jean Steinhauser(LU) / Anne Steinhauser-Collard(B) 1967 – Jaguar MkII 3781
42 Marco Halter(CH) / Claudia Engelhardt(D) 1969 – Chevrolet Camaro SS-350 5733
27 Lord Irvine Laidlaw(GB) / Wilson Laidlaw(GB) 1969 – Mercedes Benz 280SL 2800
28 Lady Christine Laidlaw(IRL) / Patricia Woollett(USA) 1970 – Mercedes Benz 280SL 2800
45 John Rowe(GB) / Isabelle Rowe(GB) / Judith Rowe(GB) 1960 – Jaguar MKII 3781
Trans America – Vancouver to Anchorage
Vintageant Cars (pre-1941)
47 Jan Voboril(USA) / Meredith Voboril(USA) 1916 – Lancia Theta 4700
Classic Cars (pre-1975)
53 Frank Gump(USA) / Betse Gump(USA) 1965 – Volvo PV544 1583
48 Wolbrand Van Der Vis(NL) / Jeannette Van der Vis(NL) 1965 – Ford Mustang Convertible 3273
49 Brant Parsons(USA) / John Parsons(USA) 1965 – Porsche 911 2000
50 Douglas Hampson(GB) / John Hampson(GB) 1966 – Volvo SD 122 1995
51 Richard Taylor(USA) / David Pierce(USA) 1968 – Volvo 122 1800
52 David Rayner(GB) / Sarah Rayner(GB) 1970 – Ford Capri 2600
54 Klaus Von Deylen(D) / Maja Von Deylen(D) 1973 – NSU RO80 1900

DAY

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Car Collection Day

Day Zero - Pre-Start formalities…

Our first day together has seen the crews of 51 cars meet up for the first time, firstly with the process of passing through the formalities, including a whole-car X-ray in the hands of  American customs officials, and  then driving on to our hotel on the outskirts of the city, where safety checks, scrutineering and documentation, together with an hour long route-briefing, has kept everyone fully occupied.  We then all began the hard task of getting to grips with the social aspects of historic-rallying – firstly with a group dinner, and then a night-session from the bar.

We have a route plan of over 8,000 miles that takes in some of the most breathtaking roads in America – so remote, the detailed route-book  that has taken months to stitch together lists only one roundabout, and that is soon behind us on Day One.  Blended into this mix are just over 1,000 miles of timed competition.

 

Crews from all over the world include the highly experienced, who have won outright past international events, together with first-timers on their first rally. Cars range from a 1923 7-litre Mercedes S which won a top award at the Pebble Beach Concours, to a 1967 1600cc VW Beetle, with the most popular marque of choice being Mercedes, with seven different examples, Jaguar, with six different examples, and five Bentleys. Among the later rarities, a Leyland P76 of Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson, a car we haver seen before on a long distance marathon…. the car is a replica of the works-car that figured in the epic 1974 World Cup Rally, the first double-crossing of the Sahara.

A few teething troubles concerned some crews who found the long sea voyage inside a baking hot container was hardly ideal conditions, and the three-strong team of mobile workshop mechanics have been busy fettling a broken exhaust on a Jaguar XK120 and several cars that had developed electrical faults.

There is a mood of mounting excitement as the day has now almost arrived for the flagging off with everyone keen to get underway. The hotel staff have never experienced welcoming a rally before and have totally underestimated all of us…. in the bar last night, the barman solemnly announced that we had drunk him dry – he had run out of beer.

DAY

1

MAY 8TH, 2012

New York to Frederick

The first car, the Bentley of Sonja and Claudia Schaefer, was flagged away at precisely 8.01am and promptly stalled within a yard of the start line. 

 

Quickly restarted the crew pulled out of the driveway leaving behind the dull brown edifice of the Newark Double Tree hotel. Today’s route took us straight onto the freeway where crews had to deal with the busy  morning traffic as they made their way South Westerly towards the tree lined lanes of Pennsylvania with manicured lawns, freshly painted and well-kept houses and miles of twisting empty tarmac.

We rolled through open farmland, meadows and old deciduous woodland to an agreeable roadside diner for a coffee stop and passage control at Leesport crossing a traditional Pennsylvania covered bridge on the way.

This short refreshment break set us up for the 106 miles afternoon leg to Gettysburg where many crews took lunch by candlelight in the underground restaurant of the Civil War era Dobbin House Tavern.

Unfortunately the clouds had been threatening all day and then the rain duly came, steady drizzle at first then torrents of it. Hoods were quickly fastened into place and wet weather clothing gathered. The road alongside the Sasquehanna River resembling at times the river itself.

 

On the approach to the civil war battle town of Gettysburg today we also encountered what route designer Kim Bannister assures us is the only roundabout of the entire rally.

Of course there were tales of car problems from the road but none of them serious and most could be described as either shakedown or teething problems. The Dodge of Bruce and Judy Washington wrong slotted ‘more than once’ during the day but they quickly refound the route only to run out of fuel due to an ‘operator error’ on the part of the filling station attendant. The Beetle of Ed and Janet Howle had a windscreen wiper linkage problem which was quickly solved by the sweep crews.

The Ford Mustang of Michael and Eunice McInerney has driven much further than the rest of us however, an over reading trip meter lead them astray more than once. They were last seen heading out of the hotel to recalibrate the trip before dinner but all was not well with the Mustangs 3.2L engine. Diagnosed as overfuelling the investigation and repair looks set to roll into day two.

 

Paul and Mary Ellen Kane’s Mustang lost a fan belt early on by the side of the freeway but this was quickly remedied by the crew with minimal fuss.

Despite the weather, the car park of Hampton Hotel here in Frederick was a hive of activity for an hour or so before dinner as crews busied themselves with routine maintenance with Caroline Greenhalgh and Tania Slowe being among the first to don their overalls and get the spanners onto the Alvis.

In sporting terms day one was deliberately designed as a relaxed start to the event and all the crews are currently unpenalised, sharing equal first place.

Tomorrow’s early start takes us to the first Time Trial of the Rally then on to some sporting action at the Virginia International Raceway via the beautiful 105 mile Skyline Drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park.

DAY

2

MAY 9TH, 2012

Frederick to V.I.R.

An earlier start today as crews began to leave the Hampton Hotel at 7.01am. Last night’s rain had stopped but the air was still damp and a mist hung over the fields as we pulled out towards the South West. 

 

After a short freeway section it was straight up onto the Skyline Drive for a 105 mile (35mph) scenic extravaganza through the Shenandoah National Park.

For the early starters though many of the undoubtedly fine views offered by this route were obscured by dense cloud and fog. It’s hard to exaggerate though the quality of the Tarmac as the road swooped through the trees gaining and losing height from one set of bends to the next. Most sang the praises of the route however the Volvo crew of Nicholas Pryor and Lesley Stockwell found the drive particularly tough as they coped with almost non-existent brakes.

Coffee and a bowl of chilli at the Montebello mid-morning PC led the rally straight into the first timed regularity section at Panther Falls. Smooth graded gravel took us down to a sharp left hand turn as once more we ducked and dived our way through dense forest. Fully expecting to encounter our first bears this section went on for 11 glorious miles and saw the Eagle Engineered E Type of Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown move into the lead with a well-judged effort.

 

Once again the weather gods chose not to favour us and from the end of the Panther Falls section to the VIR we all got a good soaking. At the VIR a circuit consistency test gave the crews a chance to change up a gear and to stretch their legs enjoying several laps on the beautifully cambered and engineered raceway.

At the end of a long but satisfying day most crews sat down to a very welcome beef salad buffet and a few beers while the Mercedes of Herman Layher and Michaela Zingerle was being worked on by the sweep crews trying to plug a punctured fuel tank.

Other incidents of note from the day’s activities include a broken clutch for Terry Ward – Geoff Nicholls powerful Mercedes 450. They’ve had to lay up for the night and will rejoin the Rally as soon as they can. Steve Hyde and Janet Lynne in the Porsche survived a warning light scare on the VIR. Once they’d pitted they discovered that the auxiliary belt had become detached but it was an easy fix for the sweep crews to deal with.

Tonight we stayed at the Virginia International Raceway as tomorrow there are more tests on the circuit before we head further west to Knoxville, Tennessee.

DAY

3

MAY 10TH, 2012

V.I.R. to Knoxville

With the first car due to leave for their track test at 7.01 am it was another early start but the Virginia International Raceway looked a hundred times better this morning than it did last night. 

 

The simple application of some sunshine and blue sky transformed the venue from the damp and dull circuit of yesterday to a much more inviting prospect all round. As we made our way to breakfast and the temperature rose with the sun the impeccable grassy run offs, the trees surrounding the perimeter and the track itself began to shed their misty veils.

With such a backdrop to play against the Rally couldn’t be anything else than in good spirits and soon the air was filled with the barking and growling of 30 or more cars eager for their turn on the curves and straights they’d first experienced last night.

With a reseed now in place the Rally was led away by Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown in the E Type which scythed its way through any lingering mist. Ear to ear grins were the most common feature at this finish control. David and Jo’ Roberts gushed that it was a beautiful track and were pleased that they only dropped two seconds but Roy Stephenson and Peter Robinson along with the aforementioned E Type both cleaned the regularity.

 

Once the ‘play time’ on the track was over though it was back to the more serious business of getting across America and we started out towards the night halt at Knoxville on the banks of the Tennessee River.

The route once again offered us an embarrassment of scenery as we plied our way along the Blue Ridge Parkway lined as it is with trees, ‘chocolate box’ houses and the odd tortoise which was saved from certain death by your very own correspondent.

As we crossed and then re-crossed the State lines of North Carolina and Tennessee the temperature climbed and a definite dry feeling took over.

Claudia and Sonja Schaeffer in the no. 1 Bentley removed the hood of the car and covered up instead with factor fifteen. They still managed to arrive at the MTC however with slightly pink faces.

Alastair Caldwell and his mother survived three unusual brushes with the law, their Rolls Royce proves to be an easy target for curious policemen looking for…. photographs.

More good news comes with the return of Terry Ward and Geoff Nicholls who made it to the VIR night halt with a repaired clutch and managed to get themselves out onto the track this morning for their share of the fun.

There have been some minor issues along the way though and these include a defective fuel pump for the Steinhauser / Collard MkII Jag’ which managed to repair itself just as the sweeps arrived. A mysterious knocking from the rear afflicted the Halter / Englehardt Chevrolet Camaro which turned out to be a loose anti roll bar. Ever resourceful they had a new mount fabricated en route. Jose and Maria de Sousa needed to reattach their steering column this morning before their track session.

Tonight in the Knoxville Marriott the buzz around the bar is not inconsiderable.

DAY

4

MAY 11TH, 2012

Knoxville to Memphis

Pulling out of the hotel on a second consecutive warm and sunny morning – let’s hope this sets a pattern – we drove the first 30 miles or so through what Jake Auerbach (a New York native) described as ‘ribbon mall development’ and what was on offer along the road was truly varied and diverse including a drive through ice store.

 

We’re skirting bible belt now and as we passed through the beautiful rural Tennessee countryside we were exhorted by many a roadside sign to fear God, love our wives and do good to all men. We pondered this a while as we drove along but after then being told that “God knoweth our every thought” decided to just agree with it.

As the Rally has rolled along we’ve all been touched by the helpful and friendly nature of the American people. This morning for example a team mowing the grass verge agreed to hold back until the regularity section had finished. But as both George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill both observed we are indeed two nations divided by a common language. Two of the marshals, Peter Stone and Jim Smith engaged the team in conversation and explained that we were driving more than 40 classic cars to Alaska. The workmen were astounded and one of them turned to his colleague and said, “did you hear that, they’re taking 40 cows to Alaska”.

Leaving linguistics aside however there was some competition today which saw Piper and Piper in the red Aston Martin doing particularly well dropping only three seconds through the twisty regularities.

 

Paul and Sandra Merryweather took their Mercedes 450SL to second place overall by dropping only four seconds all day. Steve Hyde and Janet Lynne in their beautiful (yet thirsty) Porsche 911 ran out of fuel on one of the sections and lost 1m57 on the day. The E Type of Garratt and Brown however still tops the results.

Away from all of this hectic activity we chanced upon John & Isabel Rowe calmly sat by the bank of Morrison Creek enjoying a picnic lunch.

Bad news however reached us this morning when we heard that the #1 Bentley of Claudia and Sonja Schaefer had been hit by a local car. Details are still sketchy but we know that both girls are being well looked after being quickly taken hospital in Knoxville.

Later in the day on the run to Memphis we came across car 11 sat by the side of Pea Ridge Road with a slight overheating problem caused by a broken cooling fan. The sweep crew of Rob Dominy and Bob Harrod soon had them going again for the long blast down the interstate.

We’re now well settled into Memphis and as tomorrow’s a rest day this should give our old friends tinker and fettle a chance to get busy with the spanners. The rest of us will probably head into town and enjoy. Incidentally, Memphis is in the Central Time zone so we are now six hours behind UK time.

As a one-time famous resident of Memphis said ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.

DAY

5

MAY 12TH, 2012

Memphis Rest Day

Waking up in Memphis after the seemingly all night party on Beale Street several crews made it to the sixth floor parking area to sort out some niggling problems and attend the routine maintenance that is so essential to keeping an old car on the road.

 

The Auerbach’s Chrysler New Yorker needed some help to trace and remedy a minor electrical fault, Andy Inskip fashioned a lens cover for the headlamp of the Bentley of Martin and Olivia Hunt from a mineral water bottle. The Stockwell / Pryor Volvo had some attention for a faulty master cylinder while Ed Howle, tried to sort once and for all the windscreen wiper issue that had dogged his VW Beetle since day one. Looking at the forecast this could be a timely repair.

Keen to embrace as much of the American way of life as possible we thought we’d take in a few trips to the mall. Specifically, and using the American right to bear arms as an excuse we turned up at a gun shop – wearing short sleeve shirts.

 

Tommy Bronson’s shop is well known in hunting’ and shooting’  circles and the firepower packed behind his counter is nothing short of awesome. From tiny guns for your ‘purse’ through guns disguised as a wallet to foil a mugger, right up to the proverbial big guns, he had them all. To European eyes this sort of open display of weaponry is alarming but we left in no doubt that it was an integral part of life in these parts.

A large and leisurely lunch at Swanky’s Taco shop set us up for the afternoon and we headed back to the Westin Hotel and Beale Street but the rain has set in once more and this may dampen tonight’s revelry.

Tomorrow we cross the Mississippi and enter a new phase of our challenge where we’re told that the roads will be flatter and the traffic will be even lighter.

DAY

6

MAY 13TH, 2012

Memphis to Eureka Springs

We crossed our very own Rubicon this morning. The mighty Mississippi, and by doing so clearly signalled our intent to conquer the West. Within one beat of that aforementioned V8 you’re out of hip & happening Tennessee and most definitely into farm and folksy Arkansas.

 

The change from one side of this watery milestone to the other is both sudden and dramatic. Gone are the city blocks, the urban sprawl and indeed the people. In come long straight (empty) grid roads, pancake flat rice fields and most importantly some blue sky and sun shine. In fact by midday we’d see the thermometer hit a very agreeable 24°C.

These roads led us through lush farmland to the first test, a short but sweet gravel section. A Time Control and lunch halt at Janssen’s cafe was most welcome and crews enjoyed the ‘eat till you bust’ all day buffet under the watchful eye of “Tim, the fat guy flipping the omelettes” on the terrace overlooking the lake at Greers Ferry.

Some 50 miles from lunch came test two. A longer gravel test taking in more than 11 miles of beautiful flowing hairpins and a very challenging climb through the Ozark Forest. As we sat and waited for the cars at the mid-point nothing stirred save for the butterflies, the lizards alternatively basking and scurrying around in the heat and the woodpeckers knocking themselves senseless on a nearby tree.

 

In this silence the first car through, the Mercedes 450SL of Paul and Sandra Merryweather gave us plenty of warning of its approach as it slid through the bend in a symphony of throttle control, steering input and traction. The following dust however proved less attractive. The next car on the road, the E type of Garratt and Brown however had a slight coming together with a tree on a corner but they soon got it back onto the road. Nothing important is bent and the crew reckon a bit of filler and a good session with the T-cut should be all that’s needed. This has slipped them from 1st to 5th place on the leader board but we expect them to be lining up tomorrow for the long drag to Dodge City.

Another Jag’ casualty came in the shape of a cracked rear axle for the Worts / Shackleton MkII. They limped 90 miles into the night halt having rigged up a ratchet strap to hold the two sides of the car together. Tomorrow they’ve got a welder booked so fingers crossed that works out.

Steve Hyde and Janet Lynne were unusually late into the second test in their Porsche, the reason – a broken gear lever linkage. Steve, Geoff Nicholls from car 40 and the sweeps were onto it as soon as they pulled in for the night and we expect to see them back to full strength tomorrow. Finally, the Chevrolet Camaro of Marco Halter and Claudia Englehardt needed some attention for a leaky power steering system.

Tonight we’re in Eureka Springs, a Victorian sort of town with a frontier feel to it. It’s charming and anywhere less like Memphis is hard to imagine and we rounded the night off with Andy Actman on guitar and the town mayor singing hotel California in the bar. A pretty good way to round off a very good day.

Most of the Rally are in the Basin Park Hotel but some of us are in the supposedly haunted Crescent Hotel……

DAY

7

MAY 14TH, 2012

Eureka Springs to Dodge City

Over the Rainbow

Pulling out of Eureka Springs this morning we were promised a long flat day and, mile after mile after mile it didn’t disappoint. We managed three states today dodging armadillos, tortoises and farm dogs. Kicking off in Arkansas, passing through Oklahoma and finishing in Kansas we touched (briefly) on Route 66, enjoyed coffee in the Prairie Rose Cafe and drove through Barnsdall, the former home of Clarke Gable.

 

The day was punctuated with a series of passage controls strategically place to relieve what I’ve heard the Americans describe as “truckers ass”. At a shade under 500 miles the danger of this condition getting a grip today was very real but at each halt the crews managed to gee each other up for another session behind the wheel.

Once into Kansas made famous by the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz,  we followed our own yellow brick road and, we even brought our very own cast, well part of it at least.

We have Dorothy (Caldwell), Wizards of Oz ….take your pick from Gerry Crown, Matt Bryson, Geoff Nicholls, Terry Ward; several Tin Men and quite a few Cowardly Lions. As for the Wicked Witches and the Scare Crows we’ll let you decide there. Past the nodding donkeys, through the massive wheat fields, along the endless Tarmac and Over the Rainbow we continued our westerly path.

Problems have been thankfully few and far between today. John and Isabel Rowe needed a bit of attention for a loose roll bar mount on their Jag’, while at the same garage we came across Marco Halter & Claudia Englehardt in the Chevrolet Camaro with a minor fuelling problem. Neither issue held the cars up for long however.

 

We witnessed a remarkable meeting however as Tom and Rosalie Gatsonides in the Alvis encountered some of their old rallying friends driving a Landcruiser along the road to Schidler. As far as coincidences go this must rank right up there with the best of them.

Finally arriving in Dodge City, the birthplace of Dennis Hopper and the setting for the TV series Gun Smoke we knew we were in the heart of the one time Wild West. The city is proud of its history. Cowboy memorabilia is commonplace, there’s a Boot Hill Museum and frequent re-enactments of some of the gun battles which made the town famous. Sadly we didn’t have time to see much of it arriving as we did so close to nightfall.

The run into town though is lined with abattoirs and meat processing plants and one of the locals kindly gave us a quick rundown of the food production process pointing out that “you can’t eat em if you don’t kill em”. With that in mind we sat down to dinner; a cheese salad for me thank you.

Not quite the Emerald City we thought we’d find but a great place for a night halt.

DAY

8

MAY 15TH, 2012

Dodge City to Colorado Springs

Planes trains and automobiles, today we see them all.

Like countless outlaws who’d gone before us the road out of Dodge City was a welcome sight this morning. As the day dawned bright and clear the first thirty miles saw us running alongside the railroad and passing many massive roadside grain silos and prairies full of wind farms. On the road to Montezuma we began to pass the cattle, thousands, tens of thousands maybe lined up at feed troughs or just lying in the dirt. Turning off towards Ulysees we crossed another railway line, we passed prairie sized fields full of irrigation booms and we passed yet more cattle.

Navigation in these parts isn’t difficult. A compass is as good as a GPS as the roads run so straight but signs for Moscow had us worried for a minute but soon we were safely in Ulysees where a pink pig shaped VW Beetle caught our eye. Shortly afterwards we crossed into Colorado – and the mountain time zone – and spotted the first of many mile long cargo trains creeping their way along the tracks.

 

Further along the route a bright yellow crop dusting plane caught our eye as he wheeled and skewed his way between the irrigation booms, the power lines and the highway. He’s got to be low to spray effectively but he’s also got to remember he’s an airplane. There were times we worried that he hadn’t got the balance right. As we stood and watched we began to feel like Carey Grant in Hitchcock’s North by North West.

Miles of beautifully graded, dead straight gravel took us to the first regularity test and en route we saw an eagle having a prairie dog lunch – a little early we felt but we decided not to make a fuss.

At more than ten miles long this loose and flowing route took us through Baker Canyon. This is real cowboy country so we tethered the horse and sat down to watch the cars come through only to be warned off by an unmistakable and chilling rattle from the scrub…… We checked with a passing local “Do you have rattlesnakes here”? “Hell yeah. They’re kinda’ brown and stripey so y’all know what to look for next time”.

 

Once we’d steadied our nerves and selected another seat the action began. Most of the crews made, light work of the regularity but it wasn’t without incident. Keith Ashworth, drove the whole section with a stuck throttle linkage. He controlled his speed with the brakes but by the end of it had boiled the fluid and we found him and the sweeps hard at it trying to get back on the road only to run out of fuel a little further on. Other incidents of note include the Washington’s Dodge which required a new fuel pump, a 6v pump had been fitted to the 12v system!

The beautiful no. 11 Jag’ of the Irthums broke a rotor arm shortly before the night halt but the sweeps got it going again and all’s well with them.

 

The veteran Alvis of Greenhalgh and Slowe briefly lost a wheel in the car park. More embarrassing than damaging they got it screwed back on very quickly and agreed to say no more about it.

On the run in to Colorado Springs we caught a glimpse of the looming Rocky Mountains with just a hint of snow on the tops and as we’re staying at the excellent Cheyenne Mountain Resort some of the crews who arrived early enough took it upon themselves to drive the renowned Pikes Peak climb.

A taste of things to come perhaps?

DAY

9

MAY 16TH, 2012

Colorado Springs to Durango

Welcome to the big country. “The land of many uses”.

 

We all felt sad to be leaving the Cheyenne Mountain resort with its lavish breakfast buffet and excellent coffee this morning, but the pull of the mountains proved too much to resist – and we have a schedule to keep to so we saddled up and headed up the trail. Up, being the operative word.

When we left the hotel the gps sat around 5000ft but within ten miles it had climbed to 6500ft. Over the next ten miles we’d still be climbing and by the time we’d stopped counting at twenty miles we were at 8500ft. In fact this would be about the lowest point we’d see until we reached the hotel in Durango. The long steady climb out of town cut through red sandstone, pine trees and past the snow covered Pikes Peak to our left. A full day was promised and soon we were into the first test, a sublime loop into the woods on well compacted red gravel. We even passed a monastery, “The protection of the Holy Virgin” but the Gods weren’t smiling on us and the reason the gravel was in such good condition was that it was being graded. With such large earth moving equipment in the vicinity the organisers had no choice but to call a halt to the regularity although the crews did drive through, keen not to miss what was on offer.

 

On the way back down the hill we passed a llama farm and then a fox enjoying a middle of the road mid-morning snack, something small and furry that hadn’t quite made it… The run along Route 50 to Salida a real drivers road with see through bends and well engineered cambers it closely followed the Arkansas River where we saw white water rafting, fishing and rock climbing on offer. All the while though, we were heading towards the snowy peaks that we could see dead ahead.

Through Swissvale and into Salida where we were intrigued to see a sign for www.webuyantlers.com. Take a look yourself, we have. From here it was up to Monarch Pass, through the beautiful San Isobel National Forest with snow sitting in the shadowy pockets and on past a less than beautiful quarry and mineworks. Monarch Pass is one of the highest points of the Rally at 11312ft and also saw us cross the Continental Divide which marks the watershed point of the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Passed the very tempting dirt road to ‘old Monarchs Pass.

On the way to Black Sage Pass, the venue for today’s second regularity, we saw that we truly were in the heart of Marlborough Country. It’s big, it’s wide and it’s open and it’s called “the land of many uses”. It’s so vast and empty it made Mongolia look busy! But we took note that building and sceptic tank permits were required in Sagauche County.

 

While on the subject of Real Estate we passed a lovely chalet ranch building for sale on the meandering road into Gunnison. Features included parking for several cars and access to miles of well graded gravel. For further details contact……

Through the Curecanti Park and along the shores of Blue Mesa Lake, where we noted that all motorised watercraft were subject to compulsory mussel inspection, we made our way to the third regularity section of the day. Like the first though this has to be cancelled. A rock fall made it passable only with care in a 4×4 so we diverted along the main road straight to Durango but this wasn’t exactly dull as the road began to rise up once more to the Red Mountain Pass  at 11018ft.

On the way to it, the ‘Welcome to Ridgeway’ sign boasted that ‘what we lack in wineries we make up for in whiners’. Claiming to be the gateway to the San Juans it was established 1891. This is where the real climb begins and we caught up with Martin and Olivia Hunt’s Bentley just as it began to ‘relieve’ itself from the expansion tank. Nothing to worry about, Martin assured us, it was just the heat and he put in a spirited performance hauling the Peking to Paris veteran through hairpin after hairpin with Olivia expertly hanging out as a counterbalance.

So we really were on the home run to Durango now, only one more pass to storm, the 10910ft Molas Pass, down past the miners shrine on the highway adopted by, among others, the Silverton Gunfighters Association and the Durango Photography Club. They’d both find a lot to shoot in a place like this.

We hear of a few problems from along the road today. The red Jag’ of Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton needed two new fuel pumps but made it to the hotel in good time while the blue convertible Mustang of Hans Middleberg and Jurgen Grolman has suffered with what they describe as an overheating problem. A head gasket was suspected for which a can of K-Seal has been prescribed. A little more investigation may be required.

Winners and losers from the day; a missed PC for the Ian Brawn & Jan Smith Porsche 911 saw them drop from 15th to 22nd place while car 23, the Datsun 240Z of Roy Stephenson and Peter Robinson has fallen from 2nd to 9th place following a slight mishap on the slippery gravel that added a couple of minutes to their total.

After a day like this it’s safe to say that Colorado has left a big impression on us all.

DAY

10

MAY 17TH, 2012

Durango to Page

The sign on the way out of Durango said ‘come back again and again’ and given the memories of yesterday I’m sure many of us would like to. Like all Rally days though our sleepy reluctant departure was tempered with the thought of what lay ahead. And anyone with a guide book or a high school geography qualification knew that what we were about to witness was going to be epic.

 

Out of Durango, and while not exactly straight as an arrow we headed west to Mancos over a high pine covered plateau. The morning light as sharp as anything we’ve seen so far. We touched on part of the old Spanish Historic Trail as we made our way along highway 160 to ‘Historic Mancos where the west comes alive’. A retro’ VW camper van with surfboard on the roof caught our eye, we liked their style but thought its a long way from the sea buddy.

The landscape was changing, slowly but surely. Gone were the snowy peaks and the alpine switchbacks and in came the classic Western scrub with low gnarled trees and a more  reddish brown desert appearance.

On turning left to Hovenweep National Monument a signpost urged motorcycles to use caution as the road was ‘curvy’ ahead. That’s fine, that’s what we came for! Onwards; past the Canyon of the Ancients to the first regularity section at Ismay, a dry loose and sandy section with some tricky hairpins, off camber turns and sheer drops to the side. Car 10 the Aurebachs’ Chrysler New Yorker put in an ‘entertaining’ effort while car 22 the de Souzas’ Volvo ended up with a maximum time penalty. Overall this regularity put a smile on many a face and somewhere after this we slipped quietly into Utah. Then, only 12 miles down the road was test 2. More of the same, desert track with sand but this time some of the crews weren’t smiling. A tricky regularity caught them out with only car 22, David and Jo’ Roberts achieving a clean sheet.

 

So, with the competition out of the way we made our way to lunch at Monument Valley the eighth wonder of the world and the MTC. There were some fantastic views on the way with Moki Dugway taking top honours here. After a tarmac climb over the plateau we were treated to a gravel hairpin descent with views bigger than big and wider than wide. We could see Monument Valley approaching for around 20 miles.

South on route 163 to the Mexican Hat fuel station which was a hive of activity as cars were filled with gas and windscreens cleared of bugs. As usual we attracted a lot of attention and one ‘oldtimer’ remarked “You guys look like you’re having too much fun”. How right he was. Then we ran into Monument Valley itself with the buttes and towers rising from the sand and shimmering through the heat haze. There were clouds but they were more window dressing and did little to shield us from the burning sun as the mercury rose above 30°C. The final MTC of the day was here so the afternoon was free for crews to explore the area, the heart of Navajo Indian territory.

 

In this spirit of exploration, we took in part of the 17 mile drive through the valley on a rough and sandy dirt road and wondered where does that $5.00 entry fee go? We saw cars 21, David and Jo Roberts & 22 Jose and Maria became the first classics to compete in the first hill climb at Monument Valley. They finished in first and second place respectively although needed several attempts to get up.

So much for a bit of playtime but we still had to get to the night halt in Page Arizona, some 123 miles further along the road. The views of the monuments in the rear view mirror were better thanks to the shifting sun than they had been on the approach and we even passed a lineman, a long way from Witchita though.

Our night halt of Page was only founded in 1957 so it’s quite a spring chicken…… Which brings me on to some birthday greetings for the evergreen, 80 years old, Gerry Crown, and for once on an event he’s not the oldest participant. Many happy returns Gerry.

Tomorrow is a rest day and many of us will be boating on the beautiful Lake Powell or taking a drive to the Grand Canyon, or fixing cars. As I write Andy Actman is once more letting rip in the bar. Jimmy Hendrix eat your heart out.

DAY

11

MAY 18TH, 2012

Page Rest Day

Going deep. A land to inspire our spirit.

 

Rest day mornings are generally slow affairs but today’s was perhaps a little slower than usual it being the morning after the night that was Gerry Crown’s birthday celebration. A civilised breakfast in the lovely garden area of the Page Marriott however cleared most of the ‘cobwebs’.

Once you’ve fixed the car and done your laundry – no tumble dryer required in Arizona – there are a couple of ‘obvious’ things to do when you’re in this part of the world. One is to take a boat trip out onto Lake Powell and the other is to visit the Grand Canyon.

We chose the latter and headed down the 89 to Bitter Springs, across the Colorado River on the Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon (the only bridge for 600 miles standing 143m above the water) up through the pink desert to the North Rim on the Kaibab Plateau, generally considered the less fashionable but entirely more exclusive part of the Canyon. It also stands 1000ft breath taking feet higher than the Southern Rim and is approached through lush meadows and pine forest, in stark contrast to the desert floor below.

 

Looking out and over the Canyon was an amazing experience and quickly brought out the amateur geologist in us as we theorised and studied the rock formations some of which have stood for around two billion years. It was established as a National Park in 1919.

There’s also a 400 strong herd of beefalo, a hybrid introduced to the area in 1906. They’re not making themselves popular though by fouling water supplies and trampling delicate vegetation. They’re also big and fast and you’re warned to stay at least 75 feet away.  Euphemistically we’re told that the park authorities are working to ‘eliminate’ their impact.

The sweep crews put in a half day today to tend to the walking wounded. Thankfully problems were few and far between. Car 6, Tom and Rosalie Gatsonides Alvis required a new fuel pump. The Car 45 Jaguar of John and Judith Rowe needed some minor brazing to the radiator overflow pipe and many other crews wisely chose to inspect and overhaul their brakes after the ups and downs of the last few days.

So it’s an early night tonight and an early start tomorrow. We head North to Provo in Utah.

The adventure continues.

DAY

12

MAY 19TH, 2012

Page to Provo

Another blue sky morning dawned and after the rest day there was a lot more energy in the air. Well rested crews were up early and keen to get on with the business of the day.  

 

Andy Actman’s refresher course on regularity timing held last night had gone down well and over breakfast many crews said they’d found it quite helpful. We’ll find out at today who really was paying attention.

In the carpark Martin Hunt was looking forward to trying out his new tyres. He’d had six of them flown in from the East Coast, ‘maybe we’ll be able to get the back end out a little more’ he quipped. It’s going to be another hot day and Ed’ Howle is still worried about the fuel vaporisation problem his Beetle is suffering with.

So out of the hotel and past the greenest and, Lake powell excepted, the wettest place in Arizona, the National Golf Course. A little incongruous amid the pink desert but if you like that sort of thing I’m sure it was quite tempting. Over the Lake Powell bridge with the impressive Carl Hayden dam on the right and North on the 89 with the sun on our backs. Soon we hit the Utah state line, “life elevated”. This was the 45th State to join the union, is the 13th most extensive, the 34th most populous and the 10th least densely populated. So now you know.

Turning right off the 89 into Cottonwood Canyon and through the valley known as the Cockscomb, dune buggies played along side us like dolphins ‘buzz’ a fishing boat as we followed the shallow Paria River. Recent landslips had been cleared and there were some soft and sandy sections to keep crews on their toes. There was a lot of dust though and Judith Rowe wisely sailed by sporting a pair of pretty industrial looking goggles. Later in the day she was to take the helm and let husband John have his turn on the clocks. Further into the Canyon we came across Peter and Zoe Lovett in their Porsche broken down by the side of the road in the lovely red section. Fuel vaporisation and or an electrical problem was suspected. Simon Ayris was quickly on the scene though and had the car up and running with a new rotor arm in no time.

 

The road surface changed from pink to rust to white back to pink again as it wound its way through the scrub and, fresh from a relaxing spa break the all girl crew of Tania Slowe and Caroline Greenhalgh in the Alvis were making good progress through the bends. They seem to know their car inside out and have had little trouble thus far.

Back onto the tarmac and the Kodachrome basin state park was an interesting option on the way onto Cannonville, but we’ve got a schedule to keep and had to press on to the PC at Clarkes Cafe where we enjoyed a welcome coffee and wished we could stay in the area a little longer to sample the nearby Bryce Canyon National Park. The road through it was sensational so heaven only know what it’s like off the beaten track. We made our way through the Dixie National Forest, past the Lovelady Inn in Antimony and the Otter Creek reservoir.

Once through Koosharem it was left and northwest onto the 24 past the eponymous Reservoir to the TC and lunch halt in Mom’s Cafe Salina, a traditional American diner where crews tucked into a hearty fare. Next door was Burns saddlery which boasted 50 used saddles in stock. Sadly we had neither the need for one or the time to look.

Back on the road, still heading northwesterly through the Juab Valley to the Nebo Loop test. A beautiful sinuous all Tarmac regularity through the Uinta National Forest. The views were stunning (we’ve come to expect nothing else). Then on to the night halt in Provo where we can report that the Ed Howles Beetle has received attention for the fuel vaporisation issue, a spacer has been fitted to the engine compartment lid meaning that more air should be able to circulate.  Bruce and Judy Washington have had the sensor refitted on their trip meter having just about managed so far without one. The MGB of Terry and Sheila Wright needed the Andy Inskip fine adjustment tool to knock their exhaust back into place aft it was ‘shifted’ by a rock in a hard place. Keith and Nora Ashworth struggled on the regularity this afternoon due to overheating. Nora didn’t see much of the scenery on the way in tonight as she couldn’t take her eyes off the temp’ gauge. The garage they visited tonight was closed however so they’ll retry in the morning.

Overall another epic day, the scenery was absolutely fabulous and we’d echo the sentiments of Nicholas Pryor who declared that he was running out of words to describe it.

Having visited the USA many times on business he now feels as I’m sure many of us do that he’s seeing the ‘real America’.

DAY

13

MAY 20TH, 2012

Provo to Jackson

Utah, Idaho, Wyoming. Three more steps along the road.

Oddly, given its status as one of the least populated states in the Union (see Turini passim), the run out of Provo was perhaps the busiest, in terms of infrastructure, shopping malls and traffic lights that we’d seem since we left Memphis. With the Salt Lake on our left we headed up to the Wasatch Cache National Forest. In total we had 50 traffic free miles of urban sprawl and six lane highway to negotiate before we broke into the mountainous ski areas of the Wasatch.

 

Once off the interstate at Summit Park we were straight into the first regularity through a lush green valley. This little canyon, part of the bigger East Canyon was used by the pioneers in 1847 on their way to Salt Lake City. An ‘oldtimer’ we met with a 007 license plate filled us in on the history of the place, showed his gun and told us he was missing so many teeth because he’d spent all of his money on tyres and gas. They seem to like their cars around here and we saw plenty of muscle cars out and about, Vipers, Chargers, Corvettes and Mustangs were quite obviously enjoying themselves through the turns much as we were so it was a surprise to see “fun free family activity” advertised on a billboard.

Once we’d seen the road to Monte Cristo we knew we could count on having a great time through the second test at Ant Flat, a reddish brown ribbon of gravel snaking through the Bear River Range with tufted alpine meadow and small stands of poplar on either side. The long range views were also fantastic across to snowy peaks and rolling hills. On the descent from the test we followed a crystal clear stream, Mill Creek which tumbled and twisted down the tarmac road to join the Logan River through the Canyon of the same name which took us up to the PC overlooking the beautiful turquoise Bear Lake where we spotted a Chipmunk looking for some treats. So, with all crews present and correct we pressed on down the hill towards the lake shore and into Idaho (“Too Great to Litter”) through a town known as the City of Paris where we looked in vain for the Eiffel Tower and a croissant.

 

There were still miles to be driven though, through the Caribou Forest, over the Geneva Summit and into Wyoming. (“Forever West”). 156 miles from Yellowstone. We’re on part of the old Oregon Trail now and we crossed the Salt River Pass which was part of this essential route for settlers and traders coming from the East, before the railroad was completed in 1869. Dropping down from the pass we passed through Afton with an elkhorn arch ie an arch over the main street made from elk horns, with two fighting elk on top. You really can’t miss it.

The route took us North across the Salt River Range plateau and as before, all around us were snow-capped mountains. We rolled through the aptly named town of Alpine before turning to Jackson over the Snake River bridge and through yet another endless tree lined canyon. Jackson, our night halt, is a skiing and mountaineering sort of town. There are plenty of bars and hotels. It’s a lively place made more so by our arrival. We took over the Wort hotel where we dined on the rarest buffalo with delicious apple cobbler for desert. Having had another great day on the road and some more quality miles under our wheels the atmosphere in the bar was highly charged.

Many crews are sporting Stetson hats both to shield them from the intense sun and perhaps to blend in little with the locals. Bruce Washington however has taken this blending process to a totally differ level and arrived in the dining room dressed in a pair of leather chaps, a waistcoat, a boot lace tie and toting a six shooter for good measure.

Tomorrow the day is free of timings and controls as we drive through the magnificent Yellowstone Park. We’ll need all of our concentration for the scenery.

DAY

14

MAY 21ST, 2012

Jackson to Bozeman

There was a distinct chill in the air as we left The Wort Hotel this morning although this obviously related to the temperature rather than the ambiance. 

 

Some of the crews claimed that this hotel was the nicest of the trip so far. Traditional yet efficient and we couldn’t say anything to disagree with this. Many crews had spent the previous evening in the Million Dollar Bar and over breakfast discussed the saddle seats and the stuffed bear which, according to legend, had been killed by a man with his bare hands.

There was no timing today with the idea that crews were free to see as much or as little of Yellowstone as they wanted to so the departure was quite leisurely. The road out of Jackson was as spectacular as the road into it. The Teton range is everything a mountain range should be. Tree lined, jagged and snowy set against a blue sky. Throughout our US trip we’ve seen ‘Adopt a highway’ signs along the road but have never witnessed his scheme in action. Today we did, once a year, one mile either side of their ranch a family of five were voluntarily litter picking. Rat really impressed us.

Until we’d seen what we’ve already seen Yellowstone was going to be one of the highlights of the trip so we were worried that it might not live up to its billing. Fools that we were! The approach through the Teton National Park was breathtaking and once in Yellowstone continued in the same vein as we crossed the Continental Divide three times and thereby in and out of and back into Montana. Established in 1872 the Park is a massive wilderness most famous perhaps for two things other than its landscape. Firstly it’s home to the world’s largest collection of geysers and there was something strangely symmetrical in the fact that there we were chatting to Steve Hyde as Old Faithful blew again. Once the hot air and steam had cleared we turned our attention back to the geyser. Secondly, the wildlife, in particular the bears, wolves and bison.

 

Statistically, the website tells us we were most likely to have an encounter with a bears at the roadside, well that figures – it’s a Rally. The advice was that if you see a bear while driving do not stop. If the bear is within 100 yards, watch and take photographs from inside your car. Don’t get between a sow and her cubs.

There’s a lot more info’ on the subject of bear safety, you can ask a Ranger – the guys in the big hats and the Park also has a useful set of PDFs which can be downloaded covering topics such as: Understanding the bear’s mindset, reacting to a bear encounter at a distance, reacting to a surprise encounter with a bear at close range, selecting proper bear spray, how to react to a charging bear, etc. The route book took us through the southerly Grand Loop so bearing all of the above in mind we proceeded with caution and needless to say throughout the entire day we didn’t see one single bear although some crews were more lucky and did.

Wolves were introduced in 1995 and they’ve successfully established a population of more than 300. We didn’t see any of them either but we did see more Elk and Bison. From the West exit we had a simple run back up the 191 along the Gallatin River to the night halt at Bozeman.

While most of us had a fantastic trouble free run through the day some weren’t so fortunate. Car 14, the Mercedes, overheated all day and Keith and Nora Ashworth arrived at Old Faithful desperate for both lunch and a view of the Geyser. Andy Inskip and Jim Allen had been in attendance most of the way up the valley and eventually they removed the sumpguard in the carpark to get more cool over the radiator. They’ve booked ahead to Great Falls and have parts waiting for the radiator. They were also called upon by Car 19 the Steinhauser Jaguar which suffered a leaking brake seal. Andy and Jim T’d off the offending part and new parts will arrive tomorrow.

Superlatives were the order of the day over dinner this evening and the Rally went to bed tired but happy.

DAY

16

MAY 23RD, 2012

Great Falls to Kalispell

Through the Blackfeet Nation.

It was much colder this morning but it was dry at least. We were heading north west all the way to the Glacier National Park and we could see the mountains in the distance almost from the hotel car park. 

 

This was planned as a short but intense day, the MTC was at lunchtime so we could take time to explore the Park in the afternoon so we set out along the good, fast and straight interstate 89 past the aptly named Freeze Out lake. We were still in Montana and still under those wild skies although today they did have much more of a threatening snowy look to them.

Through Choteau, the Teton ski area, through Bynum and past the Two Medicine Dinosaur Centre to the first test at Gypsy Basin. This was 7.5 miles of regularity played out against a very dramatic backdrop. Glowering mountains on the left, bright green fields of young wheat along the road and beyond that, bleak barren open farmland. This epic gravel track swept us past an incongruous drilling rig with a couple of wide turns and a switchback hairpin. The wind was strong and knifing cold. The crews in the open top cars suffered but not many of them bothered with the hood. The temperature of 10°C was much lower when you added in the windchill. This looked like it was going to be a tough day in the mountains.  On finishing the first section there was a short Tarmac stretch but then it was straight back to the gravel.

The second, Heart Butte regularity came soon after and in its ten mile length there was the usual well graded gravel and long straights heading initially south westerly and then north westerly towards the mountains rather than running alongside it. Then we got into the hills and enjoyed poplar and birch lined hairpins as the route rose and fell with the broken landscape. It was a tricky piece of timing work and only three crews cleaned this section Paul and Sandra Merryweather car 41, Alistair and Dorothy Caldwell car 33 and Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson car 39 with the rest losing a few seconds here and there.

 

Car 25, Hans-Erik Rhodius and Sabine Letzer in the Ford Escort Mexico Mk1, however was another story and just made the time control, due to a navigational error they ended up 15km off course. When they realised their mistake they made every effort to get back on schedule and slithered into the control seconds before it closed. From the end of this section it was a short hop to the MTC in the Two Medicine Grill where the atmosphere was, to say the least highly charged. Soup, burgers and grilled chicken are all you need when you start with gravel, altitude, fine roads and exquisite scenery. The crew of car 20, Werner Esch and Patrick Fisbach were looking very pleased with themselves and had thoroughly enjoyed the morning.

John and Melinda Raker who are driving the touring route in their Jaguar were once again delighted with the scenery, especially a ‘found metal’ sculpture of two Native Americans on horseback that they’d spotted alongside the road.

This is Blackfeet Country, the tribe indigenous to this region who’s ‘nation’ spreads throughout Montana into Alberta, Canada (where they’re called Blackfoot). They originally owned the land which became the Glacier National Park but they sold it to the US Government in 1896 who hoped to find mineral deposits. None were found however and the land was set aside as a Park in 1910.

 

After lunch we joined much of the Rally on the drive up to the Glacier Park and Logan Pass. The road wasn’t completely open due to snow that hadn’t been cleared since the winter so we couldn’t do the entire route but what we did see left us wanting more.

Sadly though the rain that had been threatening finally came and many of the fine views were obscured by low cloud, rain and even sleet. This weather followed us all the way back to the night halt in Kalispell and while it may have dampened our clothing it did nothing to dampen the memories of another fine day in the high country.

Incidents today were thankfully few and far between Car 18, the Volvo of David Inns and Pamela Wallis suffered a puncture today and spent most of the evening sourcing a new tyre. When they sat down to dinner they’d manage to find one to fit with a little help from the hotel although the profile is not quite correct.

Finally we hear that Terry and Sheila Wright are due to receive parts for their MGB GT tomorrow and will catch the Rally at the rest day in Osoyoos.

DAY

17

MAY 24TH, 2012

Kalispell to Coeur d'Alene

Rockfalls, regularities and rivers. But still no bears.

Our last day in Montana, a State which has proved to be so popular with the crews and as we drove up the Bitteroot Valley many of us looked through the rear view mirror a little more than usual.

 

But on to the Rally, both of the tests scheduled for his morning were a proper test of precise navigation. Only those with exceptional powers of time and distance judgement would stand a chance of achieving the target time. This was going to be about pinpoint accuracy with the stopwatch and the throttle.

Yesterday and the day before was about the wide open spaces, the ‘range’ and the mountains, today was about the woods. Enclosed and dark with no chance to see round the next corner to get a fix on your time or position. You were, if you like, flying on instruments. The tests themselves were short, there were relatively long Tarmac sections which allowed you to make up time, while the brief but twisty gravel ‘deviations’ allowed you to lose time.

It’s surprising how tight a regularity can be when you throw in a few hundred meters of forest floor, hairpins and off camber corners. Big old cars turn surprisingly slowly and if anyone doubted that a regularity section so slow and so short could be so closely fought then they only had to witness the reaction of Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson who, at the finish of the second test, whooped with delight when they learned that they had taken precious seconds from Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton while Alistair and Dorothy Caldwell also lost a few seconds. Unsporting? Not really. All of these crews are serious competitors and at the very least there’s a lot of professional pride at stake. Most crews made a decent fist of the sections but some – no names, no pack drill – were seen to head up into the hills only to return minutes later cursing their lack of attention.

 

So with the business of regularity over it was time for lunch and today we had the pleasure of convening in Little Joe’s Cafe in Troy where once again the simple fare on offer was more than adequate after the mornings excitement and once again Rally spirits were high with Irvine and Wilson Laidlaw full of praise for the mornings route which had to be tweaked at the last minute because of land slip / flood damage.

We also chatted to Geoff Nicholls, car 40 who had replaced the clutch way back at the Virginia International Raceway. The car was going well but the new clutch still felt a bit sticky sometimes and he was debating whether to leave well alone or take another look.

With lunch and pleasantries out of the way we crossed into Idaho during the afternoon on our way to the night halt at Coeur d’Alene a town which stands on the beautiful lake of same name. We’re staying at Coeur d’Alene Resort Hotel (something of a pattern emerging here) and, with our clocks going back an hour most crews were able to get in a couple of well deserved sundowners out on the deck with powerboats and float planes providing a little extra wow factor.

Incidentally, the town was discovered by French Canadian fur traders and its name translates to ‘Heart of an Awl’, the local tribes were considered to be tough businessmen. More recently though the town has found fame by having some of the best Christmas light displays in the USA so there is a soft side to it.

Problems during the day were once again few and far between. Car 8 Barbara and Michael Hurdle suffered a puncture which was repaired by the sweep crews. Keith and Nora Ashworth in car 14 needed a new brake calliper and late last night serendipity smiled upon them. A chance encounter with a local man who also owned a Classic Mercedes led them to his house and the exact replacement part.

Tomorrow we move to Canada and the first leg of the adventure begins to move to its finish.

Let’s hope the bears know we’re coming and finally show themselves.

DAY

18

MAY 25TH, 2012

Coeur d'Alene to Osoyoos

A tale of two cities. Both of them on a lake.

Coeur d’Alene was as beautiful in the morning as she was the night before; and you can’t say that about many things. So we polished off a great breakfast in the restaurant –  overlooking the lake, packed our bags and set off for Canada, out of Idaho and through Washington State.

 

After a swift passage Westwards down the 90, through the town of Spokane and a cross country romp through the Huckleberry Mountains we took the Gifford Ferry across the Columbia River. Remarkably, in this day and age, this is a free service run by the community. Without it the drive around and over would add hours to the journey so it’s a big thank you from all of us to the good folks who pay for it. From the landing stage on the aptly named Ferry County side, the West Bank, it was 67 beautifully twisting miles to the town of Republic and the lunch halt TC which was at the Mexican themed Esther’s cafe.

While we waited for some of the crews to arrive we took the opportunity to walk down Main Street (Clarke Avenue actually) and paid a visit to Hardings Hardware. There’s not a lot that you can’t buy in a shop like this. We came away with a new clipboard, a paintbrush and ever the optimist, a can of bear repellent just in case we were to see one and it showed more than a healthy interest in us. Missy, the proprietor was delighted to see us and she, along with some customers, was very keen to hear of our adventures thus far and reckoned that the bear spray was a darned good idea.

 

With lunch done and dusted then it was on the the regularity sections and that tricky business of juggling speed and distance. Unlike yesterday though we were now out of the woods and into the low hills that form the Okanogan Forest. The track was a good one, wide, well made and well maintained. But it was still very tricky to hit the target time and when Hans Middleberg and Jurgen Grolman from Car 36 arrived they punched the air with joy when they were told that they’d ‘cleaned’ the section i.e. had arrived at the precisely the right  time. We learned later that they’d actually cleaned both of the afternoons sections. A remarkable feat.

After the regularities we crossed quickly and efficiently into Canada through a quiet little border post only a couple of miles from the hotel in the town of Osoyoos which claims Canada’s warmest welcome and, as soon as room keys had been collected many crews were found down in the garage busy fretting and fixing including David Roberts whose transmission parts for the Triumph had finally arrived. The interior was quickly stripped out with the transmission fully exposed. David worked up top while Andy Inskip worked below. Keith Ashworth was found sawing and cutting bits of radiator hose to see if he could improve the cooling situation his Mercedes seems to suffer with. Werner Esch and Patrick Fisbach from the other Mercedes (car 20) were under the bonnet of the white Jaguar XK120 of Bernard and Philippe Irthum but there were only minor problems to sort out here.

There was one mechanical incident out on he road however but not a serious one and the resourceful Hans Erik Rhodius and Sabine Letzer from the Escort stopped in Tonasket just after lunch to have a wheel bearing changed.

Before dinner we sat down for drinks, Osoyoos is a well known wine producing region and then we dined al fresco- overlooking the lake.

Tomorrow is a rest day and as we’re on a lake the choices include a day of watersports or motorboating.

DAY

20

MAY 27TH, 2012

Osoyoos to Vancouver

The Mounties always get their man. Tina finally gets her bear.

Welcome back. We had a lovely restful day yesterday sitting on the lake shore in the sunshine, drinking coffee and playing party games in the bar and on the lawn.

 

Some of us weren’t so lucky however and David Roberts, Andy Inskip et al spent the day in the bowels of the hotel car park rebuilding the gearbox to the Triumph.

It was a messy and tricky job but they’re all pretty confident that it’ll work. Keith Ashworth was still wrestling with the radiator and cooling problems on the Mercedes.

He’s temporarily fitted a new larger unit to the exterior of the car. It’s not pretty but if it works…….

So today we leave Osoyoos and strike west for Vancouver.

We say goodbye to old friends and hello to new ones. For some it’s the last day of the Rally. The first leg finishes here so tonight it’s the prize giving gala dinner. For the rest of us it’s another chance to chill out, relax and await leg two which begins on Tuesday with another eight cars joining us for the push up to Anchorage.

 

The drive to Vancouver was leisurely with two passage controls to make sure we were all on the right track. Firstly in the style of a wine land tour through the flat and fertile valley of the River Similkanee we passed neatly tended roadside vineyards beneath rocky cliffs. Then from the PC at Princeton we climbed over the beautifully Alpine Hozameen Range on lovely Tarmac to the second PC and coffee halt in Hope. Through Manning Park and the Gibson Pass ski area. The high point of the day came when we crossed  Alison pass at 1342m (we’re in Canada now and it’s metric). Given our previous experiences, we thought that the sign “Caution, bears in the area” was more in hope than expectation but today our luck changed. Just before the Roadside Rhododendron Attraction we spotted the first one. It ran off though. Then some ten miles further on we saw another bear which was more than happy to to hang around and pose for pictures. Mission accomplished.

The rest of journey was obviously an anti climax and we pitched up at the dockside Pan Pacific hotel eager to try some city break five star luxury and to sit down to the gala dinner. The catering effort was superb and after the speeches, prizes, farewells and welcomes most of the rally moved into the bars to discuss the finer points of life.

Finally we must say a big happy birthday to Judith Rowe. At husband John’s behest we all signed a pair of overalls for her this morning.

He told us that he’d been struggling with an idea for a present and reckoned this was the perfect gift, what a lucky woman.

DAY

21

MAY 28TH, 2012

Vancouver Rest Day

Rest days are always a special event on a long distance Rally and when you have one in a big city like Vancouver you really do have to make the most of it. 

 

Cars can be fixed in ‘main dealer’ type facilities. Laundry can be done properly. Spares and extra clothing can be acquired and, if there’s any time left at all then you can leave the world of cars and clocks and maps behind and do something completely different for a few hours. In short you get a bit of “me time”.

With last night’s farewell, welcome and prize giving dinner behind us we wake up this morning and find that we’re in Vancouver for a whole day, we have a long leisurely breakfast and then we set about dealing with all of the above. The shopping and dining is quite good in Vancouver and the day passed a little too quickly. It also rained most of the day though and because of the associated heavy cloud, the planned float plane sightseeing tour had to be postponed. Maybe we’ll have more luck when we’re in Alaska. The hotel also has a spa and we spotted one or two members of the Rally soaking away those aches and pains in the jacuzzi.

For those who’ve just joined us though and are not quite so travel stained there were some important pre Rally procedures to complete. Cars had to be scrutinised for safety and eligibility, documentation had to be signed and the all important ticket to get out of the car park in the morning had to be found.

Kim Bannister and Lee Vincent held a briefing for the newcomers to explain the ins and out of regularities, roadbooks and timing. For some this was pretty old hat and it shouldn’t be any problem at all for them to slip back into it. For others it wasn’t and we await with interest to see how things develop.

Unfortunately, as well as the scheduled departures of the crews who planned to leave us in Vancouver a couple more cars have had to withdraw from the event. Paul and Sandra Merryweather have had to leave at very short notice as sadly Paul’s mother is seriously ill. We wish them well on their flight home.

Also, the crew of the little green MGB, Terry and Sheila Wright have decided to call it a day and not to go any further. Worries over the long term ‘health’ of the car have forced their hand after the timing chain issues they had last week. Flights home have been booked for tomorrow and Cars UK have arranged to bring the car home. Again we wish them well and hope we see them again soon.

Tomorrow is another day though and at 07:01 we’ll be off again to see what British Columbia has to offer. We’re heading for Quesnel a drive of some 414 miles.

DAY

22

MAY 29TH, 2012

Vancouver to Quesnel

An early start and another grey day. As we left Vancouver it was damp and drizzly with the threat of more serious rain hanging in the air. 

 

Traffic was very light though and we quickly made it through Stanley Park and onto the 99 North to Whistler. There were spectacular views over Horseshoe Bay and Howe Sound along the Sea to Sky Highway which threads its way through cliffs and creeks.

The low cloud and mist added to the drama and as we passed Furry Creek the aforementioned threat of more serious rain become reality. We pitied the open cars and those crew members we saw buying waterproofs yesterday got to try them out sooner than they might have wanted to.

Re-starting after the day off however was not what car 33 the Rolls Royce wanted. Half a mile from the Pan Pacific hotel was all Alistair Caldwell managed before the wiring loom went into meltdown. The Silver Cloud stopped dead with dud electrics. Alistair replaced the fuel pump before discovering a short circuit. He managed to get it going and made the lunch checkpoint on time.

By the time we got to Squamish (which claims to be the outdoor recreation capital of Canada) things were looking up. The clouds were lifting and the distant snow-capped peaks stuck themselves into a pale blue sky. The road signs here are in two languages, standard English and St’at’imc (it’s not pronounced as it looks) which is also the name of the Native American Nation who lived here first.

 

Through Brackendale, the world eagle capital; through Whistler in the Blackcomb Mountains the venue of the 2010 Winter Olympics and up the hill to Lillooet along a road described as a “Winding highway, caution when passing”.

There was still plenty of snow here and it was cold. Duffy Lake had mounds of snow slipping into it but back down the hill there were vineyards and wine tasting in Lillooet which was most unexpected.

In ‘Historic Clinton’ the local community had laid on an excellent BBQ for our lunch. And we must again thank them for their generous hospitality.

Afterwards it was straight onto the gravel and into the regularity sections. Just like in Montana we had it all here, wide open tracks, trees, lakes and rivers. The sections were long, the views outstanding and the hairpins plentiful. No one finished with anything less than an ear to ear grin. Only one crew however managed to finish with a clean sheet for the entire day, Martin and Olivia Hunt in their Bentley which was a remarkable effort. But today if they got close to the ideal time most crews seemed happy.

 

The glorious gravel continued until the city of Williams Lake where we came upon Bruce and Judy Washington in their Dodge, broken down with an alternator problem. All three sweep crews however had stopped to offer help so they were back on the road in next to no time and they arrived at the MTC in the nick of time to avoid incurring any penalties.

It was also good to see the newly arrived Ford Capri of David and Sarah Rayner enjoying the backcountry. At the end of this, their first day, they lead the Vancouver to Anchorage crews. Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson lead overall by a slender five seconds over Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton who had to tighten up some loose wheels on their Jaguar at the mid morning passage control only to discover that what they thought was a sticky brake caliper turned out to be a servo failure. This needed some attention from the sweeps and by bypassing the unit they were able to continue for the rest of the day.

At the night halt in Quesnel the hotel car park saw the usual fixing and fettling as the old crews and the new crews mixed and swapped tales from the day. They’re all in it together now.

DAY

23

MAY 30TH, 2012

The Trans-America Challenge 2012

Straight from the hotel and onto the gravel after only 16 miles of tarmac set the tone for the day. It was then another 29 miles – of gravel – through the beautiful Blackwater forest to the first of three tests planned for the day. 

 

Two before lunch and one just after. They were all forest road regularities of varying lengths and all set to get the best from the crews and their cars.

Throughout the day we passed lakes, creeks and critters and there’s an ever increasing sense of wilderness as we drive North and today some crews were lucky enough to see not just one, but a whole family of bears, a pair of eagles and several moose as they progressed though the dense woodland. Crews may have noticed however that many of the trees were diseased and damaged. They’ve been attacked by the Mountain Pine Beetle, or to give it it’s correct name Dendroctonus Ponderosae. Initially the beetles attack weakened trees but once they have a hold in a forest they can, through sheer numbers go for the healthy trees and infest their bark as well. Sadly the problem is spreading slowly to the East and the North of the British Columbia epicentre. There are management techniques but the twin constraints of space and time mean that we can’t go into them here.

Thanks to the advance car we were able to run all of the sections today without interruption. Yesterday as they drove the route they came across a tree which had crashed down and blocked the road, Andy Actman and Ed’ Rutherford bought an axe and with the help of some locals the log jam was cleared and the report sent back to Rally HQ.

 

Lunch and the midday Time Control was at Tony’s Restaurant in Fraser Lake. As usual the cars parked up outside generated a lot of interest and many admiring comments from the locals. In the land where the V8 crewcab pickup is king a two seater open tourer is just too good to miss and some of the ‘spectators’ called friends to come down so as not to miss the occasion. The ‘blogosphere’ in this part of the world should be full of classic and vintage machinery tonight.

At the lunch halt we also heard that David and Jo Roberts had been held up with yet more trouble for their Triumph TR250. Having already replaced the gearbox, the overdrive and a wheel bearing, today it was the turn of a shock absorber mount to break on the first regularity. David removed it to finish off the mornings sections and had it welded at the lunch halt. They’re having a real run of bad luck but their trademark cheerfulness is still in evidence.

Anyway, once we’d finished at Tony’s we turned North on the Yellow Head Highway and on to the third and final test which unfortunately had to be cut a bit short because a herd of cows was seen wandering around a bit too close for comfort. We take bovine health and welfare very seriously in this Organisation.

 

At the night halt in Smithers under some massive snowy mountains the car park was busy. As well as the usual daily checks and preventative maintenance Bert Kersten in the no.3 Bentley needed a damaged rim repairing after it sustained some minor damage this morning but he looked happy enough this evening. Jan Vorboril, the 2007 Peking – Paris veteran, was seen running his eye over the engine bay of his 1916 Lancia Theta.

Car no. 34, the red Mustang was being worked on by the sweep crews, the problem was a slipping power steering belt.

It needs replacing but it also needs the tracking to be adjusted. Both jobs for tomorrow morning.

For some old hands in the Organisation, Smithers and The Hudson Bay Lodge hotel brings back happy memories. They stayed here on their epic Round the World in 80 days Rally in 2000. Dawson, the road to Chicken and the Yukon will rekindle even more memories.

The results published tonight make interesting reading for Gerry Crown who has extended his slender lead to ten seconds ahead of Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton with Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown still in third place.

As usual we’ve met some fantastic people again today. Interested, helpful and in some cases informative. The woman with fourteen children for example explained that the summers here were short and the winters long and dark.

They can be cut off for long periods evidently. Madam we salute you.

DAY

24

MAY 31ST, 2012

Smithers to Watson Lake

Into the Yukon. Larger than life.

Under the looming bulk of the 2560m Hudson Bay Mountain largely swathed in cloud but with just enough blue sky and sunlight to make it interesting we pulled out of Smithers on the 16 Trans–Canada Yellowhead Highway. 

 

There are a couple of glaciers at the top of this mountain and we could just glimpse them to our left as we passed the airport and the aptly named glacier view RV Park. Today was the longest day of the Rally at around 533 miles so an early start was called for and we answered.

The 24 hour car once again saved our bacon today and we were forced to make a fairly big change to the schedule. Ed’ Rutherford and Andy ‘Axeman found a large part of the route along the Kitwanga back road had been washed away. Gone, finished, not there anymore. Even their 4×4 couldn’t get through. There was no alternative other than to reroute along the Tarmac for the whole day so the planned regularity section had to be cancelled.

By the time we got to the right turn onto the 37, the Alaska Highway, the rain had started and the mercury had fallen to a chilly 9°C. This turning after 60 miles was worth noting as it was the first of only three we’d have to negotiate during the day. This is straight line country and make no mistake.

We spotted a Black bear just before the Nass River bridge chomping its way through its own body weight in grass, it didn’t seem bothered by us and was too busy eating to pose for pictures. Another three arrived in quick succession after that but by then we’d lost interest and didn’t even bother raising the camera.

 

The TC and lunch buffet at Bell 2 was a superb effort. Quite the epicurean delight. There was home made beef soup, chilli and a finger buffet. Our hostess with the mostest, Sally, was delighted to have us there. We drank the coffee pot dry (free with fuel), hoovered up the buffet and drained most of the aforementioned fuel from both of the two pumps. This stop was just the thing to warm up the open top crew members such Meredith Vorboril and Olivia Hunt who arrived looking frozen and counted no less than seven layers of clothing as well as two hats. Rosalie Gatsonides also a member of the chilled and topless brigade declared that it was a marvellous lunch and just what she needed.

David Rayner had discovered that he’d lost a wheel nut from the Capri on the way to lunch and as we left he was picking through his box of spares looking for a replacement. Momentarily distracted by this we almost missed the sow (female bear) with her three cubs trotting along behind. This has greatly upped our bear tally since we left Yellowstone but the thought of another 300 miles kept our foot on the gas and eyes fixed firmly ahead as we headed past the Tatogga Lake resort where the Round the World in 80 days Rally had a lunch in 2000.

The lake at Gnat Pass was still partially frozen but we didn’t need a visual clue to how cold it actually was just before mid-afternoon coffee at the PC at Dease Lake. When we arrived we saw Paul Kane’s Mustang up on the axles stands with Andy Inskip underneath looking to repair the starter motor. At the queue to pay for fuel Philip Haslam was breathless in his praise of the road so far. Many crews also took the opportunity to fill a Jerry can or two as tomorrow we drive deeper into the wilderness and as the old saying goes a can in the boot is worth two back at the gas station.

 

The road from here to the hotel was just as stunning, maybe more so because the sun shone brightly between the showers. Great tarmac, wide and mainly well made, tree lined but with good visibility through long sweeping bends to lakes and snowy mountains.

At times it had a roller coaster quality and we swooped and dived past many logging encampments but nothing in the way of a permanent settlement.

This is wilderness and we love it.

In the town of Watson Lake, the night halt, which is slightly less than a one horse town, we learned that Steve Hyde had a magnesium wheel collapse, ‘at speed’. He did well to bring the car to a safe stop and now he’s on the lookout for some spares. Other than that the Rally is looking pretty shipshape.

We also visited the massive and world famous Signpost Forest where some crews had put up their own memento.

DAY

25

JUNE 1ST, 2012

Watson Lake to Whitehorse

Yukon if you want to. We certainly did.

The reasons why you have to run a 24 hour car in this part of the world have become clear over the last few days. 

 

Word came in last night from the Rutherford / Actman combo that the road to Ross River was still under extensive repair and while the town was expecting us – we’d been trailed on the local radio – the feeling was that the graders, diggers and diversions over such a long section of the route would have made it pretty unpleasant.

Additionally they discovered that the Canol Road was closed completely after suffering an exceptionally hard winter. The alternative was either a 600 mile reroute or to take a shorter more leisurely tarmac touring option.

The feeling of the Rally was very much to take the latter route.

It was a beautiful day anyway and route 1, the Alaska Highway, opened up before us across miles and miles of rolling pine clad hillsides. The road itself was built by the US army in 1942 and they didn’t hang around, 1534 miles were laid down in only eight months and twenty three days. We all made light work of the journey as well but no one seemed to be in too much of a hurry. With scenery like this it’s a case of slowly slowly, it’s too good to miss.

 

Lunch was at the Yukon Motel next to the longest span bridge in Canada. We found great food and a well stocked gift shop waiting for us.

The hamburger soup proved popular as did the tea towels and fridge magnets. The local taxidermist had been busy and there was an excellent display of moose, wolf, bear and a couple of nice beavers for us to enjoy.

Tonight and tomorrow we stay in Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon. Surprisingly given its sub arctic status this ranks among the driest cities in Canada thanks to its position in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains.

 

It also claims to be both the “land of the midnight sun” and the “home of the Northern Lights”. It’s a good job the hotel has blackout curtains.

When gold was discovered in 1896 the settlement near Miles Canyon was changed forever. Gold fever brought in thousands of miners and entrepreneurs and between them they built the city.

Whitehorse was named after the spray from the rapids on the Yukon which was reckoned to resemble the mane of a white horse.

The rapids are now covered by the Schwatka Lake formed as part of a hydro electric project in 1958.It’s a pretty busy place but still small enough to walk around. Set on the Yukon River, which eventually disgorges into the Bering sea, it’s a pretty busy place but still small enough to walk around.

Ideal for a rest day and we reckon that the local garages will be busy with last minute maintenance tasks such as oil changes, brake checks and maybe the odd tyre fitting or two.

DAY

27

JUNE 3RD, 2012

Whitehorse to Dawson City

God Bless you Ma’am

So another rest day passed, slowly and peacefully in Whitehorse. We found a lovely coffee shop, a brilliant restaurant and a Walmart! 

The hotel laundry went into overdrive and the internet went into meltdown. When we left this morning the feeling that we’re coming to the end of the Rally was backed up by the feeling that we’re at the end of the world. Mile after mile of nothing but trees, lakes and rivers. The sky was grey, the rain light and the wind none existent.The dustv trails from the cars hung around for a long time after the cars had passed. Two regularity sections which totalled something like 40 miles took the Rally well off the beaten track around the shores of the beautiful Frenchman Lake.

 

Flying the flag, quite literally, for the Queens Jubilee (you might have seen something about this on the news) were Roy Stephenson and Peter Robinson. They sailed through the whole day with Union Flags flying from their Datsun.

When they got to the night halt we found them in the car park with the wheels off the car checking out a ‘funny noise’. Nothing untoward was found though and they put the whole thing back together before tucking into BBQ salmon in the Dawson Westmark dining room.

The Mounties paid a visit to the Rally today at the PC at Mamma’s Kitchen and very pleased we were to see them. Two RCMP Troopers including the Pelly Crossing  Detachment Commander Cpl J.B. Waldner saw the first few cars arrive and hurried home to change into full dress uniform. When they returned they were more than happy to pose for photographs and do more than a bit of glad handing.

 

Other important news is that the leader board has changed after the regularities. Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson have lost their lead by 13 seconds to Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton who’ve been sniffing around the top spot all week.

Tonight we’re in Dawson the one time capital of the Yukon. It’s a real frontier town with working gold mines. The treets are dirt and the sidewalks are boardwalks.

As we write we’re sat in Bombay Peggy’s a ‘saloon bar’ with Who Bear tuning up and jamming in the background. Theyre a local five piece band who’ve only been together for three weeks so they haven’t got anything on iTunes yet.

With rhythm guitar, drums, double bass, violin, ukulele and keyboards they’ve certainly got the full set and they know how to use them. They’re playing live at 8.00pm which unfortunately is when we sit down to eat so we’ll miss them but the rehearsal was pretty good.

Philip Young the Rally Director has found his niche tonight. He’s been driving the shuttle Landrover between the hotel and Rally carpark. He last visited the town in 2000 as part of the Round the World so finally  he’s putting his local knowledge to good use.

DAY

28

JUNE 4TH, 2012

Dawson City Loop

Dawson City, a drinking town with a gold mining problem

 

We woke this morning to the sight of ‘them thar hills’ shrouded in a thick dense fog and a very damp feeling in the air.

A long gravel loop was planned for the morning and as we sat down to breakfast in the Westmark Inn we all hoped and prayed that the mist would lift before we got going.

We’ve become used to fine long range views and we didn’t want anything to spoil our day of romping down the remote tracks that circle through the forests south of Dawson.Once the cars had been coaxed into life it was up into the sound of the basoons from the Bentleys in the street outside reverberating off the wooden clapboard houses heralded the start of another day.

As we headed towards the old Klondike hills via Bonanza Creek Road and Adam’s Gulch a bright golden sun shone through and the mist began to lift. What lay ahead of us were two regularity-test sectons through working gold mines and past excavations of exhausted hopes up to a high ridge… here a view stretching to the far horizon gave us all a glimpse of the snow covered Ogilvie mountains to the North and the darks slabs of Tombstone mountain was just about visible among them.

Bonanza Creek Road was so named because in 1896 one of the biggest ever gold deposits was found just off this ridge by Skookum Jim, Dawson Charlie and George Carmack, and the hunt for gold continues today with rally-crews looking to strengthen their grips on the medals they’d earned over the last four weeks.

 

The leaderboard remained unchanged with the red Jaguar of Richard and Nicola Shackleton still leading the blue and white Leyland P76 of the all-Australian crew of Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson. The Jaguar crew reckoned they dropped a few seconds and at the end of the run looked apprehensive, knowing the Leyland team were keen to regain the lead. The Leyland is a replica of the car Matt’s father, John, navigated on the epic 1974 World Cup Rally, the first-ever event to make a double crossing of the Sahara Desert. We could hear the unmistakable growl of the Rover-V8 engine powering the big car up the side of the mountain as the crew hunkered down to another day of intense concentration.

We returned to Dawson after the fun and games of the morning to sit down on the cafe boardwalks in the sun, drink coffee and eat the locally made cakes. All very agreeable. A stroll around the dirt-roads walking the wooden boardwalks of a town that looks and feels just like a film-set from a Western is like a step back in time… with most of the town being totally original.

Dawson is situated at the meeting point of the Klondike and the Yukon rivers. A grave-yard of old broken wooden stern-paddle steamers, is just outside the town.

Tomorrow we take the ferry of a more modern sort to cross over the Yukon into Alaska… Canada will be left behind as we re-enter America for the final few days to Anchorage.

DAY

29

JUNE 5TH, 2012

Dawson City to Fairbanks

The home run.

We crossed another Rally Rubicon this morning when we boarded the George Black ferry to take us across the Yukon River. Wide, deep and fast flowing the power of the water forced the ferry to trace a long sweeping arc across the gorge and like countless bounty hunters before us we pressed on in search of our very own El Dorado. 

 

Once up and out of the cutting the views from the other side let us see how important the river was to the town as it sits between Klondike and Yukon. Before the roads came to the area, river travel was the only way.

So, how did the day pan out? This was the final day with Time Trials, one in Canada one in the USA. Both sections on twisty gravel that swoops and rises over blind crests… By now most crews are getting the hang of this but the day was to prove something of a game-changer. The Jaguar crew of Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton still holds the lead, but the battle for second overall became intense, the Leyland P76 of Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson ended the day on exactly the same penalty total as the Jaguar E-Type pairing of Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown, who put in a good effort all day to close the gap on the Australians.

To get to the US border we had to first drive the Top the World Highway and this proved to be one more epic climb to add to long list we’ve already ticked off on our odyssey along with the Skyline Drive in Virginia, the Monarch Pass and the Red Mountain Pass In Colorado, the Moki Dugway in Arizona, the Grand Loop in Yellowstone, the Going to the Sun Road in The Glacier National Park…

 

The border itself was uneventful, no Canada out control only a USA in and the Rally sailed through with no fuss at all. A house at the Poker Creek border post proudly proclaimed its status with population of just two, and an elevation of 4127 ft. We would have drawn quite a crowd if there’d been anyone else available. Straight after the border was test 2, long and gravelly – what else. We were in Forty Mile River Country “the land shaped by the power of running water” and we made our way gently towards the river bottom and along the creek passing the mine workings along the way.

The lunch in the three-hut village of Chicken was fantastic. This is a legendary old staging post but now a destination in its own right as the two tour buses parked up proved. The cafe had buffalo chilli, fruit tarts and good coffee. Just the stuff  to refuel a hungry rally. In the next door gift shop the sheer volume of fowl related miscellany was staggering. From the fridge magnets bearing inscription I got laid in chicken to the Chicken key fobs and T-shirts it had to be seen to be believed. Sue, the proprietor remembered our Round the World Rally coming through town 12 years ago and she was pleased to see us again. A bar lined with hats and underwear completed the madness that is the town of Chicken. Everyone enjoyed this stopover and many said that if they’re ever in the area again they’d most certainly drop in again.

But it was on to Fairbanks after lunch and we still had some miles left to crunch through the Alaskan wilderness on a very good tarmac highway. The great snowy Wrangell mountain range lay ahead of us in the distance. We crossed the Robertson River only half full of ice, great thick chunks of it like icebergs pouring meltwater into the murky brown ferment.

On the run in to Fairbanks we passed the Eielson airforce base as first a transport plane then a fighter took off as another two landed. There’s a NATO exercise happening at the moment but it’s a bit ‘hush hush’ if you know what I mean. Needless to say we heeded the signs prohibiting stopping, slowing or photographing.

Tomorrow is a rest day. Then one more session takes us to Anchorage and the prize giving.

DAY

31

JUNE 7TH, 2012

Final Overall Results

Fairbanks to Anchorage

The end of the road. Thank you and good night.

In the land of the midnight sun it’s hard to say that another day dawned when the previous day didn’t seem to end. Anyway, it got a bit brighter around 5.00am so we figured that it was time to get up and after breakfast we all pulled out of the Wedgewood Lodge for the 350 miles drive south to Anchorage.

It’s the last day of Trans America today, there are no time trials so we’re touring down route 3, through the Denali wilderness with the obligatory snowy peaks and silver shining rivers as our travelling companions. Somewhere in that huge mass of snow and rock was Mt McKinley, the highest point of North America. We’d hope get a closer look at it from the terrace at the lunch halt but it was still pretty much hidden by cloud.

Unbelievably we drove across the Tenana River into a town called Nenana where a boat called the Yanana was parked up on the shore. Into the cafe for a quick banana milkshake.  Lunch itself was a very agreeable affair in the McKinley View Lodge with soup and rolls and fresh coffee and fruit pies bringing up the rear.

We arrived in Anchorage with the usual mixed emotions. The sense of relief and pride at having made it so far is tinged with the sadness of leaving behind the friends we’ve made along the road and the reassuring Rally bubble. Class winners, medal winners, the special award winners …… you’re all winners.

Everyone has been truly bowled over by the sheer variety of scenery and the way the route plan weaved one remote road into another that often proved even more remote. There were many highlights – from the Blue Ridge, to Yellowstone, to the Grand Canyon, but everyone has been in full agreement that the driving under big skies down totally empty roads has been a resounding success.

The evening saw the Gala Prize giving dinner where the silverware was handed out. After a month on the road, the two lads in the E-Type, Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown were stunned to find that they could not find a single second to open up a clear margin and had to settle for a dead-heat second overall with the most experienced rally driver on the event – Gerry Crown. His big Australian Leyland being one of the more unusual cars on Trans America. The Leyland and the Eagle-prepared E-type both finished behind the winning Jaguar Mk2 of Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton and is the first time there has been a Jaguar 1st and 2nd result on any Endurance Rally Association event. For Richard, who used to rally Triumph Dolomites and Triumph TRV8s, it’s his first “big win” and he was understandably delighted modestly ascribing the victory to a dose of good luck when he managed to find somewhere to weld up his rear axle in Eureka Springs.

Terry Ward and Geoff Nicholls in the blue Mercedes V8 saloon won the True Grit trophy after dropping two days to fix a clutch and then playing catch up – and Spirit of the Rally was a special award that went to Dorothy Caldwell aged 94, who ran the clocks and the maps from the co-driver’s seat in the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud that allowed her son Alastair to stroke it home to 6th place, and the highest position for a Rolls Royce on an international timed event since a works Silver Ghost won the Austrian Alpine Rally in 1913, according to our resident rally historian, Syd Stelvio, who no doubt recalls that triumph well. “This has been a wonderful event, with a terrific atmosphere, and I’m planning to come back and do it again in five years’ time,” said Dorothy at the prize giving.

So that’s all folks. Thanks for reading and maybe we can do it all over again sometime soon. Finally if you’ve been one of our Facebook Friends or have Twittered news of the event thanks very much.

Final Overall Results

No. Crew Car Leg O/A  Pos Cls M
New York to Anchorage
32 Richard Worts / Nicola Shackleton Jaguar MkII 0 0:03:21 1 1/c3 G
37 Phil Garratt / Kieron Brown Jaguar E-Type 0 0:03:59 2= 2=/c3 G
39 Gerry Crown / Matt Bryson Leyland P76 0 0:03:59 2= 2=/c3 G
23 Roy Stephenson / Peter Robinson Datsun 240Z 0 0:04:06 4 1/c2 G
9 Nicholas Pryor / Lesley Stockwell Volvo PV544 0 0:04:46 5 2/c2 G
33 Alastair Caldwell / Dorothy Caldwell Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III 0 0:05:59 6 4/c3 G
2 Martin Hunt / Olivia Hunt Bentley Le Mans 0 0:06:05 7 1/c1 G
35 Paul Kane / Mary Ellen Kane Ford Mustang GT350 0 0:06:27 8 5/c3 G
21 David Roberts / Jo Roberts Triumph TR250 0 0:07:20 9 3/c2 G
20 Werner Esch / Patrick Fischbach Mercedes 280S 0 0:07:33 10 4/c2 G
14 Keith Ashworth / Norah Ashworth Mercedes 230 Fintail 0 0:08:25 11 5/c2 G
25 Hans-Erik Rhodius / Sabine Letzer Ford Escort Mexico Mk1 0 0:12:08 12 6/c2 G
24 Stephen Hyde / Janet Lyne Porsche 911 00 0:13:43 13 7/c2 G
30 30 Phillip Haslam / Yvonne Haslam Jaguar XK120DHC 0 0:14:07 14 6/c3 G
5 Bruce Washington / Judy Washington Dodge Coupe D5 0 0:15:12 15 2/c1 G
22 Jose Romao de Sousa / Maria Romao De Sousa Volvo 142 0 0:21:01 16 8/c2 S
6 Tom Gatsonides / Rosalie Gatsonides-Langenberg Alvis Tourer VDP 0 0:24:21 17 3/c1 S
15 Ian Brawn / Jan Smith Porsche 911 0 0:35:48 18 9/c2 B
16 Michael Eatough / Morgan Roberts Mercedes 230S Fintail 0 0:38:24 19 10/c2 B
18 David Inns / Pamela Wallis Volvo 144S 0 1:14:59 20 11/c2 S
3 Bert Kersten / Huibert van Vroenhoven Bentley Speed Six 0 1:22:04 21 4/c1 B
36 Hans Middelberg / Jurgen Grolman Ford Mustang Convertible 0 2:56:12 22 7/c3 B
40 Terry Ward / Geoff Nicholls Mercedes 450 SEL 0 12:09:40 23 8/c3 B
26 Peter Lovett / Zoe Lovett Porsche 3.0RS 0 16:20:16 24 12/c2 ~
31 John Raker / Melinda Raker Jaguar XK150 12 32:53:06 25 9/c3 ~
34 Michael McInerney / Eunice McInerney Ford Mustang Convertible 12 53:35:49 26 10/c3 ~
43 Ed Howle / Janet Howle VW Beetle 0 54:52:18 27 13/c2 ~
Vancouver to Anchorage
52 David Rayner / Sarah Rayner Ford Capri 0 0:01:35 1 1/c7 S
49 Brant Parsons / John Parsons Porsche 911 0 0:06:32 2 2/c7 S
47 Jan Voboril / Meredith Voboril Lancia Theta 0 0:37:45 3 1/c6 S
54 Klaus Von Deylen / Maja Von Deylen NSU RO80 0 2:44:52 4 3/c7 B
53 Frank Gump / Betse Gump Volvo PV544 0 16:45:00 5 4/c7 ~
51 Richard Taylor / David Pierce Saab 96 12 49:52:00 6 5/c7 ~
PAUSE PLAY

During May and early June the Trans America Challenge participants will be driving 8,500 miles across America from New York to Alaska.