The 2nd Trans-America Challenge 2015
7th - 28th June 2015
Day 10 - St Ignace to Duluth
The longest day
Today we faced 711km today of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota on a long run west towards Duluth on Lake Superior. We all knew it was going to be a long haul and we had to get on with it but before the serous travelling started there was just enough time to get down and dirty before lunch and squeeze in some more forest road fun.
Mud, mud glorious mud, so the song goes, there's nothing quite like it for ....getting a car (or three) stuck.
The heavy rain of the last few days meant that there were one or two sticky patches to be negotiated on the run into the second of the two Regularity sections.
Michael and Marlies Kershaw were the first to get stuck. Their little MGC GT, suffering from lack of ground clearance slithered, ground and crunched its way to a halt in what would have only been a big puddle yesterday but today had turned itself into a car catcher. Rally Officials were quickly on the scene and, with the help of the MG’s tow rope and a bit of rocking, the little red car from Abingdon was set free to further enjoy the forest.
Five kilometres further up the road though we found a sizeable traffic queue of rally cars, with Greg Newton, barefoot and ready for action at the front of it clutching a tow rope. His low slung Jaguar E Type was stuck fast along with John Henderson and Jeff West in their equally ground hugging Corvette. Michael and Lorna Harrison had gamely tried to pull them out with their Volvo PV544 but for obvious reasons, mainly to do with engine power, had not been able to finish the job.
Those same rally officials set to again though with the tow ropes provided and swiftly cleared the track.
But the fun wasn’t over by any means as by this time word had got round that this was a good spot to watch so typically, in the spirit of the Rally, the crews stood around and cheered each other on as they took their turns to pass this ‘obstacle’. For the Endurance Rally veterans it was a chance to show off; for the less experienced crews this was a chance to earn their spurs.
The Regularities themselves though were almost as testing as the drive to them. Sand, gravel and tarmac combined to give a stiff navigational and driving challenge and, at the end of the day only one crew, Jean and Anne Steinhauser managed a perfect zero for all four of today’s timing points.
With the days action over and done with then it was time to take some lunch, in the excellent Sydney's restaurant, in Munising on the shores of Lake Superior where the crews were found buzzing with excitement and bravado. Soon after, full of lunch, gasoline and coffee the Rally struck west along the pristine coastline of the biggest of the Great Lakes and under full sun through the Hiawatha National Forest when we soon we arrived at Christmas. Or at least a town going by that name, complete with a huge Santa Claus figure standing proudly next to a row of shops selling gifts and trinkets. The run into Duluth was a long one though so we couldn’t stop and browse, this is a big country and it doesn't give up its distance too easily even on the Veterans Memorial Highway complete with a full size Vietnam era Huey planted by the roadside.
Such a collection of cars always attracts local attention and today we saw that Alan Beardshaw's magnificent James Bond - esque Aston Martin DB5 had caught the eye of the local Sheriff who pulled him in for a closer look and the briefest of quick chats. Wisely Alan didn’t show him the rocket launcher which we all know is built into the grille.
Along the road though there was plenty to see and to hold our attention such as the craft stalls selling full size carved bears, screaming eagles and grazing elk; but the hands down winner was Barb's Jugs, a pottery store just off the highway. Despite the catchy roadside entreaty to "come and see my jugs, and you'll be sold”, sadly the schedule didn't allow for such diversions so we ploughed on to Duluth where we found that another hotel approach entailed crossing another mega bridge, this time the John A Blatnik Bridge which spans the Saint Louis Bay between Superior in Wisconsin and Duluth in Minnesota, the fourth state we’ve visited so far.
With their Alvis out of action and on a trailer on its way back home the crew of car number 5, Richard Martin and Travis Cole have found themselves a rather pretty, orange Datsun 240Z to drive the rest of the Rally with. Spare parts and upgrades are arriving at each hotel so slowly but surely it’s being turned into a rally car. By the time we get to San Francisco they’re hoping to have it just about finished and plan to take it on the Rally of the Inca’s next year.
The leaderboard tonight is unchanged. Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown lead from Peter and Zoe Lovett by a slender 20 seconds, while Alan and Tina Beardshaw hang onto third just 26 seconds further back. In the hard fought pre-war Vintage class the agile Alvis Speed 20 of Jan Woien and Jan Hansen has taken the lead from Martin and Olivia Hunt who’s somewhat heavier Bentley wasn’t best suited to today’s forest road conditions