We read and understood the instructions, at least we thought we did. Take a look at the scan of the instructions (click to zoom), I think you can read them pretty good.
All but the first few instructions consist of a picture, a direction (right or left) and a number. The number represents the opportunity after the picture at which you should turn in the direction specified. … Pictured objects may be on either side of the road. Opportunities: Paved streets and roads on the same side as your next turn are opportunities. Dead-end or “no outlet” streets or roads, if paved are opportunities. Driveways, entrances to parking lots, and unpaved streets or roads are not opportunities. Opportunities are reset by a numbered instruction.
What we both knew would be trouble was the way the photos were to be followed. On the front there were two rows of three, the back consisted of 3 rows of 3 columns and you were supposed to read them the way they are numbered, in columns.
For a change of pace this time, Donna drove and I acted as navigator, she wanted me to experience the pressure of responsibility instead of just whistling while I drove. We left the start point first brimming with confidence.
We spotted our first picture with ease after exiting the interstate and then the trouble began. I started counting opportunities when the driver questioned my counting method, ie. she wanted to know why we weren’t counting on both sides of the street. While I explained my interpretation of the rules to her she kept driving. During this brief interlude I could not maintain 100% vigilance on opportunity counting. Uh-oh, 4 miles into the event and we were already in a cloud of uncertainty.
We arrived at a major intersection which seemed to be a natural spot for our turn, but I was only at 6 and we needed to take the 7th turn. We turned anyway. After driving about 5 miles we started to worry, we had not yet spotted the next clue, a water tower. Was that opportunity 6 we turned at instead of the correct #7? We agreed to go to the top of the next rise and if there was no tower we would turn around. Well there was no tower so Donna did a u-turn. Half way back to the scene of our supposed mistake we passed car #2 going in the opposite direction (the one we used to be traveling in.) We have finished 2nd or 3rd to the couple in this car the last 2 years. The uncertainty clouds just thickened a bit.
Pressing on, hoping that they miscounted too, when we got to the spot where we turned, we took a left and started looking for what might be the 7th left opportunity. We passed a lot of dirt roads, a few driveways and we also passed going in the opposite direction from us, car #3. They obviously thought this was a wrong course of action. We kept on and when we found what we thought would be the “correct” left turn, it was a dead-end. While dead-ends are opportunities, driving down one at this point would not be a good idea. Time to turn around again.
Sure enough, the other turn was the correct one, not a mile past were we had turned around, was the water tower. As we passed opportunity #3 and on our way to taking the next right, we came up behind car #4. They turned and we turned right behind them. I told Donna to go around them so we could make up the time we had lost in our ill-fatted attempt at the start. She gunned it and zipped on by. We were back in the hunt.
But not for long, I then did exactly what we thought I would, instead of going to the top of the third column, I reverted to my early childhood training and read from left to right, skipping right to clue number 8, bypassing clue 7 entirely. Even though we didn’t take a left because of the missed clue we ended up on course somehow, but we started counting opportunities too soon. Wen we got to where the next clue should have been, we found the railroad tracks, but the road in the background looked different than what was in the photo. Figuring it was just parallax error we turned right as if everything was hunky-dory. Sure enough the next clue, #10, was on the road we were on.
We found number 11, 12 and 13 before not seeing #14 at all. Figuring we missed it and coming to a tee intersection, we took a right because that was what we were supposed to do at the first opportunity after the missing clue. Hot-diggity, clue #15 was right where it should have been which led us to number sixteen and then #17 and the end of the rally.
In spite of the “detour” we were the first car to finish and because of a clue at the end of the instructions, we thought we were early. Knowing this and that we missed some clues possibly shortcutting the route I took our time and distance figured and padded them using a SWAG (scientific wild ass guess) and handed in our sheet. In the end, even if I handed in our true figures, we would have still ended up in third, but only because car #3 arrived a full two and a half hours after we did, having made four attempts at running the rally until they were successful just so they wouldn’t have to open the emergency envelope.
Wait’ll next year.
Started up, went down, back up, back down, still down.
Miata Top Transitions since 01/01/08: 130