The Trans-America Challenge 2012
7th May - 8th June 2012
New York to Frederick
MAY 8TH, 2012
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.