The Trans America Challenge 2018
27 May - 17 June 2018
We’re in no doubt at all… this, the third edition Trans-America Challenge, is set to be the best yet.
Pre Start – Charleston, South Carolina
The Dewberry Charleston hotel is the venue we have selected as the start hotel of this iconic drive. It has a great location and there’s lots of parking for the pre-event scrutineering and fettling…
Day 1 – Charleston, South Carolina to Charlotte, North Carolina
Thanks to Irma, the greatest hurricane in the Atlantic since 2005, mayhem reigned supreme over our carefully planned recce preparations. But undeterred, we tweaked our schedule in deference to Mother Nature and her severe flood warnings and started the recce a day earlier than planned.
This first day of the rally is geared to settling in with just a couple of short regularities to negotiate as we head towards Charlotte, driving through flat country littered with mobile homes and tiny churches.
A visit to the spectacular NASCAR Hall of Fame will mark the end of the day’s motoring before we make tracks to our hotel for the night.
Day 2 – Charlotte to Highlands
Today will be mainly… tremendous! Get ready for the fabulous rally roads that await you.
Carrying on the ‘tremendous’ theme, our lunch halt will not disappoint. Organised in a quirky venue in Asheville, it’s the sort of place made for Endurance Rally Association events. Repleted, we head onwards through yet more mountain roads to the fabulous hotel we’re staying in, located in Highlands, North Carolina.
Day 3 – Highlands, North Carolina to Nashville, Tennessee
During our recce, the weather upon departure was a bit miserable but then the sun broke through and the stunning scenery took our breath away!
During the morning we remained in the mountains and tested a scenic half gravel/half asphalt regularity alongside a river. It’s a lovely road, set amid a backdrop of beautiful scenery and ticks a lot of boxes on our ‘great ERA road’ checklist.
The Dragon’s Tail pass between the states of North Carolina and Tennessee is legendary. A bit too legendary, as it turns out, because it was packed with bikers, camper vans and very slow traffic. Obviously, NOT something that we want to encounter on our adventure, thank you very much…
So, we backtracked and took an alternative pass, the Cherohala Scenic Skyway that climbed to 1500m/5000ft with plentiful twists and turns before another riverside regularity on smooth asphalt which is sure to keep you entertained!
The afternoon’s route takes us into the flat lands and then onto a couple of dirt oval race circuits so we can kick up our wheels and get dusty. The final regularity is laced with a potentially tricky final timing point that should make for lively discussions in the bar of the hotel in Nashville tonight!
Day 4 – Nashville - Rest Day
The first rest day of the event will give us all the chance to kick back in the home of country music. There’s loads to do in this interesting city - not all of it involving guitars! Soak up the atmosphere and take a load off.
Day 5 – Nashville to Memphis
During the recce, we found a fabulous parkway where we covered almost 100km/62mi without encountering any traffic, fast food stops, advertising hoardings etc. Utter bliss.
Testing out the regularities we built up quite an appetite. Fortunately, we came upon the Pickwick Dam where we enjoyed a wonderful Southern home-cooked meal. One of the popular offerings on the menu was a local dish of “waffle” fries served with pulled pork and topped with melted cheese – it was deliciously not good for you.
The afternoon’s challenge comes courtesy of a few more regularity tests before an easy arrival into Memphis and the Mississippi River.
Our overnight halt is the Peabody Hotel; the grand old lady of Memphis. With a bit of luck, we’ll get there early enough for one of us to be crowned ‘The Duck Master’ during the curious late afternoon ceremony held at the hotel. Yep, it’s quackers.
The famous Beale Street is only a block away for some late night entertainment.
Day 6 – Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi
Quite by chance, on our route south and away from the highway, we discovered the little town of Tunica. Within minutes, the Town Clerk, Chief of Police and Deputy Mayor all agreed we should have a morning stop there. So, that’s what we’ll be doing!
We then went to the banks of the Mississippi and drove along a levee – sadly, in a Ford not a Chevy… Leaving the great river behind us, we travelled through some of the more remote areas of the South before coming across the Native America equivalent of Stonehenge where there is a curious museum. Perfect for an outdoor lunch!
Acres of farmland, some gravel roads and a basic afternoon ‘grocery’ stop make up the afternoon’s route before the final gravel regularity of the day and a really easy route into our hotel for the night in Jackson, Mississippi.
Day 7 – Jackson, Mississippi to New Orleans, Louisiana
We’ll have a very easy exit from Jackson, using the splendid Natchez Trace Parkway we encountered on day five. Minor roads then take us cross-country to our lunch halt in an art gallery/coffee shop, which will kindly open especially for us today!
Rested and reloaded, we head to Lake Pontchartrain, crossing the longest over-water road bridge in the world; a staggering 42km/26mi long! We motor onwards into New Orleans and our overnight hotel, which is situated in the heart of the French Quarter and has a decidedly colonial-era feel to it.
Turn left out of the hotel and you’re on Bourbon Street which is host to loads of bars, lights, music and a great party atmosphere. Turn right out of the hotel and head one street parallel and you’re on Royale which, with its galleries, antique shops and fine restaurants, caters to those looking for a quieter experience.
Day 8 – New Orleans - Rest Day
There is so much to see and do in this great city that the only recommendation we have is to embrace the city’s unofficial motto and ‘let the good times roll’.
Day 9 – New Orleans, Louisiana to Galveston, Texas
Today, we follow the Gulf of Mexico coast through swampland where there are lots of deserted roads and, unsurprisingly, lots of swamps! Our recce threw up plenty of ‘alligator evidence’ but we weren’t lucky/unlucky enough to see one. However, the lady in a fuel station said they see them every day. Note: the first person to utter a ‘make it snappy’ pun will be severely penalised...
We’ll likely partake of a picnic lunch in a national park overlooking the Gulf before following the coastline and hopping on a couple of ferries (dolphins can be seen following the ships) to Galveston, a pleasant seaside resort with a grand Art Deco hotel which will host our overnight halt.
Day 10 – Galveston to Austin
Today, we follow the coast for nearly 60km/37mi along the Gulf of Mexico before heading north-west.
We have planned three regularities during the day; ‘Texas Flats’, ‘Texas Ranch’ and ‘Texas Vines’ and the roads get progressively more interesting as the Texas Hills approach.
We are negotiating a visit to an asphalt test venue before ending the day at a grand, hillside hotel on the outskirts of Austin.
Day 11 – Austin to Wichita Falls
Today, the hills continue and we will be almost spoilt for choice with gravel roads.
During the recce, we found a pleasant lunch stop in a German café before we entered the flat, fairly unremarkable part of the USA that is encountered on any trans-continental trip. The good news is that there will only be two of these on the rally and the second part has some great entertainment along the way.
Day 12 – Wichita Falls to Amarillo
Today includes some straight roads to start with before we get to a small, isolated mountain chain featuring herds of roaming buffalo! We then enter a park where we’ll visit the impressive Quartz Mountain resort which offers breath-taking scenery and a great lunch venue.
After a short regularity test in the afternoon, we head on to the town of Turkey which is home to the famous (?) ‘Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys’. Their 1950s tour bus sits in a restored fuel station across the way from a fine little café. Western (no Country & …) music memorabilia lines the walls.
Our hotel and a great steakhouse will be most welcome after a long day of driving.
Day 13 – Amarillo, Texas to Santa Fe, New Mexico
The road out of town follows the route of the old Route 66. Along the way, we found lots of interesting/slightly weird sights, including the strange Cadillac Ranch and lots of eerie deserted hotels and gas stations!
Further along, we found a superb, 1960s-style diner which we’ll visit for an early lunch and an authentic milkshake.
After lunch, the route winds gradually upwards with a (fairly) grand canyon along the way before we hit the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The local vintage car club are looking forward to meeting us!
Day 14 –Santa Fe - Rest Day
Being the oldest capital city in North America, we’re sure you’ll agree that Santa Fe is the perfect location for the rally’s third rest day. The city is brimming with history, culture and architecture, plenty of good shops, all kinds of bars and restaurants and lots of green, open spaces. Enjoy!
Day 15 – Santa Fe, New Mexico to Colorado Springs, Colorado
An interesting mountain route will take us up to Taos where we’ve identified a fabulous hotel for the all-important morning coffee stop.
The scenery remains spectacular as we follow ‘The Highway of Legends’ with a couple of passes around the 3000m/9843ft mark. Then, we take in a couple of gravel regularities before reaching Colorado Springs and our fine hotel for the night, which features an impressive mountain backdrop.
Day 16 - Colorado Springs to Aspen
Very soon after leaving the hotel, we passed a few of Colorado’s legal marijuana stores before arriving at the mighty Pike’s Peak. This one-way, asphalt road twists its way to over 4300m/14,108ft! On your way up, try to fathom exactly how Sébastien Loeb drove 19.99 kilometres in a time of 8m13.8s to average 140kph through the 156 corners. Yes, it’s worth reading those statistics again…
The views from the top are said to be extraordinary but during our recce in late autumn 2017 we were greeted by fog, ice and snow and thus, saw nothing - roll on spring 2018!
We will then loop south to the fascinating town of Cripple Creek where we’ve built half an hour into the schedule to allow for a smidgeon of exploring. Afterwards, we climb the Independence Pass and the Continental Divide before a narrow descent into the elegant ski town of Aspen. Our hotel is top class and the good news is that tomorrow is a rest day so you’ll have plenty of time to thoroughly enjoy your stay.
Day 17 – Aspen - Rest Day
This final rest day of the rally will give you a chance to explore Aspen and dine at one of its many great restaurants. This town is full of attractions, including a fabulous bookshop café.
Day 18 – Aspen, Colorado to Park City, Utah
Fully refreshed, we head north and into Utah’s Dinosaur Country … anyone who spots a live one wins the event! A simple lunch stop is followed by a pair of regularities before we arrive in Park City, host to the 2002 Winter Olympics for nearby Salt Lake City.
Day 19 – Park City, Utah to Boise, Idaho
On the recce we bypassed the morning traffic by wiggling up some Alpine-style mountain roads before descending into Salt Lake City and its fast-flowing ring road.
We visit a splendid motor sports complex and negotiate a couple of tests before we head west. We’ll have a time control at the famous Bonneville Salt Flats, where Captain George Eyston broke the World Land Speed Record three times in 1937 and 1938. ERA’s HQ is located within the grounds of the Eyston family seat in East Hendred – indeed, our offices are the Old School House where the great man learned to read and write, so we couldn’t not go to this location! Eyston left the record at a 357.5 mph (575.3 kph); a brave man indeed.
We’ll have lunch at the Salt Flats Café where lots of great speed record memorabilia plasters the walls. This place offers authentic Mexican cuisine and if time allows, you may be able to visit any of the many establishments along the Utah/Nevada frontier.
A simple run north will take us to Boise; a great little city in the agricultural lands of Idaho.
Day 20 – Boise, Idaho to Bend, Oregon
Out of Boise and we’re straight into fruit country where a huge challenge awaits; namely, which is the best fruit pie? Both the morning coffee stop and the lunch halt offer up worthy contenders so you’ll have a tough time making your choice! Our ‘Pie of the Recce’ was a draw but make sure your research includes the Marion Berry/Rhubarb pie which is only available locally. The ERA will award a competitor-voted, ‘Pie of the Rally’ Trophy which will be posted to the deserving recipient afterwards.
In the afternoon, we found the rally’s final, long, smooth gravel sections through the Ochoco Forest and then, on our way to Bend we discovered a time-warp general store in the middle of nowhere. A stop is obligatory.
Our hotel in Bend is set just above the regenerated riverside area with restaurants and shops galore. We have arranged for our hosts to provide drinks and canapés by the cars so we can all make our own choice of dinner venue.
Day 21 – Bend to Newberg
A couple of long, asphalt mountain passes are on the menu today. The scenery is spectacular and the traffic is light; just as we like it! After a coffee stop at a very welcoming biker pub, we found the event’s final regularity on a quiet, twisty mountain road.
Just before the day ends we hope to be part of a classic drag race meeting with the chance to discover your car’s Standing Quarter Mile abilities.
Then, we make tracks to our fabulous night halt amongst Oregon’s vineyards. Cheers!
Day 22 – Newberg, Oregon to Seattle, Washington
Today features a lovely route through forests up to the state border and a spectacular Meccano-style bridge. Small spanners at the ready! Then it’s highway to Seattle and our prize-giving gala dinner in the downtown Fairmont.
Be proud of your achievement, whatever the leader-board may say, tonight is for celebration! You and your vintage or classic car made it, from sea to shining sea.