The 2nd Trans-America Challenge 2015
7th - 28th June 2015
Day 12 - Grand Forks to Bismarck
North Dakota, ours to enjoy. All day long
Competition is so intense at the top of this Rally that every second really does count. Navigators are therefore very demanding of their trip meters and will brook no error, no matter how slight. Cutting a corner or a worn tyre can result in a slight change in the reading.
So by popular demand, the organisers had set up another two calibration zones on the way to the Regularity just to give the crews that extra peace of mind as we drove out past Grands Forks Air Force base with a massive Cold War bomber guarding the gate.
For most of the morning we a zigzagged our way through a network of minor farm roads. Metalled and unmetalled, it made no difference, every turn was a sharp 90°. The grid system is alive and well in North Dakota.
Our destination was the Regularity in Griggs County which gave us the chance to use the steering wheel for some more of what it was designed for. Despite being in the flatlands this is a pocket of small hills, with narrow dirt roads hugging the contours of the terrain, taking us from farmstead to barn and back again. White clapperboard building sat in perfect contrast to the deep blue sky and the bright green knee high grass.
Stephen Partridge was enjoying himself immensely on the now twisting route that formed the Regularity. Wrestling rather than driving the big open topped Galaxie Sunliner around the course, we could clearly see him with sweat on his brow and his forearms tensed as he slewed the big car round the bends. Corgi on the clocks passing on precise time and distance comparisons.
Stephen's got a lot of affection for Betty, the car he picked up in Cleveland Ohio before the Rally started despite his colourful description of her. "She's a low slung, tail dragging bitch of a car and has already dropped 100mm at the back since we started". How low can Betty go we wonder.
Richard Taylor and Carol Wilson unfortunately collected a penalty at the end of the Regularity when they missed a slot and approached the time control from the wrong direction.
David and Jo Roberts came out on top in the Regularity. They had taken advantage of the recalibration zone so were pleased to see the improvement in their results so quickly. No one achieved the ideal time at all three controls though.
Today's final Main Time Control was in Jamestown in the heart of the Northern Plains or, 'where east meets west' according to the sign in the carpark. The last section of the day, the 163 km into the night halt in Bismarck, was not timed so that crews could sample the delights of the authentic Frontier Village, marvel at the world’s biggest buffalo (concrete of course) or gasp in amazement at the rare albino buffalo in the National Buffalo museum.
Lunch was not organised by the Rally and most crews took advantage of what was on offer locally and went for a steak sandwich.
The fun and games for the day weren't finished with our arrival in Bismarck. A river boat cruise had been planned on the Missouri River.
As we docked back at the Bismarck quayside the leaderboard remained unchanged. Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown from Peter and Zoe Lovett from Mark and Colin Winkleman.