The Trans-America Challenge 2012
7th May - 8th June 2012
Memphis to Eureka Springs
MAY 13TH, 2012
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......