The Trans America Challenge 2018
27 May - 17 June 2018
JUNE 6, 2018
Austin to Wichita Falls
Don’t mess with Texas
We enjoyed a 9.00am start today which allowed any rush hour unpleasantness in the Austin area to sort itself out and thereby gave us a clear run straight out of the hotel and into what was to be an epic day. Perhaps this wasn’t the longest of endurance rallying days but the immensity of the landscape and the roads less travelled which we were using allowed it to punch well above its mileage.
There were three passage controls before lunch to make sure that we were all on the right track and the first of these was in a peculiar place called Dead Man's Hole which may have marked the site of a Civil War era mass grave. Shortly after we crossed the Colorado River and headed to the second, more cheery control, in the sleepy Hoover Valley Country Store and Cafe where we all kicked ourselves for not being able to return for the ‘all you can eat catfish special’, on Friday night.
The big draw in these parts is Ink Lake which hosts all manner of watersports but today, the remote shoreline rang to a different tune, that of squealing tyres and revving engines as the rally headed down to the third Passage Control in Old San Saba Road before pulling into the lunch Time Control in, Lampasas Country Kitchen and Cafe.
It was turning out to be another hot day and as we saw yesterday, a simple hostelry was a welcome oasis of cool. Despite the heat, it was clear though that everyone had enjoyed the ride so far and, shuffling along the buffet line with the rest of the crews, Janet Howle was fulsome in her praise of the route which the organisers had chosen for the day.
Once the last of the iced tea had been drained and the crumbs of lemon meringue pie hoovered up, then the clock started ticking again. There were two Regularities this afternoon and at the first, Ranch Lands, the ERA medic, Sarah Ormerod was not only counting down the start times but was also dispensing bottles of chilled isotonic drinks to anyone and everyone who wanted one.
Once out of the Ranch Lands then it was on to Grid Lock, the second Regularity which tantalisingly featured a ford in the route book soon after the start. Anyone anticipating a cooling water splash though was bitterly disappointed as this river crossing was as dry as everything else around here.
The rest of the section though served to put a smile on everyones face as they were forced to press on through thick woodland on a gravel road with many turnings to be considered, other than those noted in the route book.
When the final timing point was reached there were some crews who, strictly between themselves, could only ask ‘how did that happen’?
Two more time controls kept the Rally together on the drive into Wichita Falls, the Dairy Queen cafe in Hamilton and the Longhorn Inn at Thurber Lake which churned out ice cream and banana splits at an incredible rate.
Soon enough though the hotel carpark appeared in the windscreens and there were plenty of crews who postponed their regular spanner checks until after they’d had a dip in the pool and an iced water or two.
As far as the results go, the bigger picture is the same as it was yesterday with Jim Gately and Tony Brooks in first place ahead of David and Jo Roberts, with Mike and Lorna Harrison just behind them in third.
A special thanks today must go to the 48 hour car. Manned by Dick Appleton and Paul Heal this vehicular vanguard has well and truly earned its keep by providing us with a lengthy yet precise re -route past some extensive and unexpected roadworks.