Donna and I read the rally instructions when they were first posted on the Club website. We then read them again last night when I printed out a copy for us to put on our clipboard. We were ready.
At the Rally start point we had 8 Miatas, seven that were going to “compete” and our Rally Masters David & Ellie Brock. There were 4 cars from the Masters Miata Club (Donna and I, Don & Kay Boltz, Teri & John Bozzarello and Mike & Shirley Dyer) and 3 cars from elsewhere who found out about the fun from Facebook. There was a couple from Asheville, one from the Atlanta area and a father/daughter pair from Lexington.
David asked for a volunteer that was familiar with Rallying to go first because even though they had rechecked the course just the day before, you never know, something could have changed and this way the first out could call back and some adjustment for mileage might be made. Seeing as Donna and I had done most every rally John and Jackie Nichols ever put on for the Club before, had done a couple put on by the Miata Club of America back when that organization existed and had even designed one for our Club back in the 90’s, we opted to go first. We were ready.
When we have run rallies in the past, because the real pressure is all on the navigator we have been swapping responsibilities back and forth, for this one I was going to navigate and she would drive. I snapped my smart phone into the Garmin GPS mount (go figure, it fit perfectly), attached it to the windshield and started the Google Driving App. We rolled to the start line and were handed the cue sheet:
1. Set trip odometer to zero.
2. [odometer and driver] (odometer must be legible)
6. L (Off course clue: T)
9. Horse barn
10. R (Off course clue: T)
11. [navigator and fisherman]
Donna reset the trip odometer and then we had to be reminded by Ellie that the next thing we needed to do was take a picture (that’s what the bracketed phrases meant.) This should have been our first clue we might be just a little over confident about how ready we were. There was no time component, so we gathered ourselves and because Cue #3 was N, I told Donna to turn right out of Gregs Gas Plus and we were off. Cue #4 was R, so 100 yards later we turned right on Gregory Lake Road.
The next one was a plus followed by an L, so I said our next instruction is to look for a cross street and turn left on to it. After our left turn we started looking for the number 2880, but the house numbers were in the 1900s. It didn’t feel like the right road either, too narrow and the map showed it looped almost right back to Gregory Lake Road. We had traveled a mile and a half and were already off course.
We get back onto Gregory Lake and look for the next cross street. There it is, turn left and the first thing we see is a “look out for tractors” sign. Tractor, that starts with a T, does that mean we are still not on course? I tell Donna to press on. Maybe we’ll see 2880. We don’t, but the next cue is L so I instruct Donna to take the next left. And I start looking for a horse barn. We don’t see a barn by the time we get to a T in the road. Nice navigating Brian, where the heck are we?
I look a little further down the cues and see #11 and just know because of where we are and where we started the fisherman in the picture is the sign in front of Old McDonalds Fish Camp, so I tell Donna to turn right. She takes my picture in front of the sign. Alright, now we are cooking. From here I kept us on course by luck and familiarity with the area for the next couple of cues. But one too many critical words on Donna’s driving forced us to swap seats not long after we didn’t find the next required picture.
With Donna now navigating we stayed on course for about the next 20 cues and gathered the next 4 photos before we missed a cue and actually hit one of the off course markers several miles down the road. Thankfully Cue #39 was a set of coordinates which we knew we could type into the Garmin GPS and find. This let us get the next picture, so we were starting feel good again. It didn’t last long though as we never found Cue #40, never saw the off course marker and drove and drove until we ended up in downtown Harlem, GA.
At this point we had now been on the road for 2 hours and had traveled around 75 miles and knew we were way off course. Reading through the rest of the cue sheet we saw numbers #52 [car and windmill] & #54 ‘continue to the Sonic Drive In’ and used our area knowledge to use the GPS to take us to the Sonic on Washington Road in Evans.
We were the 4th car to arrive at the ending spot. We ended up getting 7 of the 9 required photos and drove 94.8 miles instead of the 54.2 of a clean run, so I think the number 4 is probably the order we finished in too. The couple from Asheville nailed the thing getting all nine photos while traveling less than a mile more than a perfect run taking home a nice set of engraved glasses.
But how we did was secondary to having a beautiful sunny day to drive around on nice two lane back roads of the CSRA in a Miata. If the Brocks decide to do this again, in spite of the low Club turnout, we will be sure to be there and hopefully do better.