The Trans America Challenge 2018
27 May - 17 June 2018
Day 1 - Charleston to Charlotte
1663 saw King Charles II in generous mood. So generous in fact, that he gifted eight of his most loyal friends the territory of Carolina. The first settlement, ‘Charles Town’, was founded in 1670 and its name was later shortened to Charleston. In recent history, this beautiful port city has been voted America’s ‘Most Friendly City’ no less than four times, so competitors are assured of a very warm Southern welcome. Crews will undertake some regularities and tests during the day as the route heads north to Charlotte and in the evening there’s a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Day 2 - Charlotte to Asheville
After leaving Charlotte, the route heads north through Mooresville before turning west to finish up in Asheville – the largest city in western North Carolina and based in the region’s world-famous Blue Ridge Mountains. Crooning about Lonesome Pines optional…
Day 3 - Asheville to Nashville
Today is all about crossing mountains, Great Smoky Mountains to be precise. This breath taking range rises along the North Carolina-Tennessee border and draws its name from the blue smoky mist that hovers over peaks and valleys. The famous and challenging ‘Tail of the Dragon’ road will form part of the route through to Music City itself, Nashville.
Day 4 - Nashville Rest Day
The first of the Rally’s four rest days will give crews the chance to rest and soak up the atmosphere in Country Music’s Capital of the World. There are trips to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Jonny Cash Museum on offer but for those who want to strike out on their own, the city is packed full of over 130 music venues as well as numerous cafes and bars.
Day 5 - Nashville to Memphis
Today’s route takes the suitably rested crews from Nashville along the Natchez Trace Parkway to cross the Tennessee River and through the Shiloh National Military Park, considered one of the best preserved battlefields of the Civil War. The Rally then heads onwards to Memphis, famous for blues, soul, and rock and roll music as well as being the home of one of the most famous mansions in the world: Gracelands.
Day 6 - Memphis to Jackson
A busy day for crews, especially co-drivers! The route twists and turns through rural back roads and through the Holly Springs National Forest before once again following the Natchez Trace Parkway into Jackson. Named after General Andrew Jackson, this is the capital and the largest city in the state of Mississippi and the welcoming locals are proud of their city’s reputation as the ‘City With Soul’. It’s also packed full of authentic blues bars so for those with a love of walking bass lines, there’s a joyful evening just ripe for the picking.
Day 7 - Jackson to New Orleans
Today’s roads are most definitely off the beaten track as the route pushes onwards through more wiggly back roads to a spectacular finish: 38 kilometres over Lake Pontchartrain along the world’s longest continuous bridge over water. Once safely across, New Orleans beckons. Known as the ‘Big Easy’, New Orleans is a melting pot of different cultures and is known for cuisine, music, nightlife and of course, Mardi-Gras.
Day 8 - New Orleans - Rest Day
There’s so much to do in this vibrant city, this ‘rest day’ should really be called ‘quest day’! The locals will without a doubt unleash the very best of southern welcome to ensure you take home wonderful memories. The city’s unofficial motto is ‘let the good times roll’ which says it all, really.
Day 9 - New Orleans to Galveston
Having let the good times roll, it’s time to get wheels rolling once more and the Rally continues onwards through the Mississippi Delta to the lowlands of ‘Louisiana’s Outback’ and then through the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. Crews are advised to make it snappy round these parts, because it’s alligator country! Onwards to Port Bolivar and crews take a ferry across Galveston Bay to Galveston on the Gulf Coast of Texas.
Day 10 - Galveston to Austin
What could be nicer than a morning drive along the Gulf of Mexico, heading to Surfside Beach where the only speedos of any note will be on the dashboard! The route then turns westward along the rural roads of eastern Texas to the city of Austin, the state capital of Texas. Austin has a very laid-back attitude, is known as the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ and has a rather unusual slogan… ‘Keep Austin Weird’ was devised to encourage support for local business and small business owners over large corporations. Formula One fans will of course know that Austin is also home to the Circuit of the Americas, home of the US Grand Prix.
Day 11 - Austin to Wichita Falls
The morning is all about taking in Texas’s famed Hill Country which is a land of spring-fed rivers and wooded canyons, considered by many to be the beating heart of the state. In the afternoon, the route pushes onwards through Johnson City - home of former US President, Lyndon B Johnson - and then heads north through cowboy country to Wichita Falls, which takes its name from the indigenous tribe that originally inhabited the area.
Day 12 - Wichita Falls to Amarillo
Happily, the organisers of the event definitely know the way to Amarillo and from Wichita Falls, the route takes crews across the Red River into Oklahoma and through the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, home to free range buffalo, Texas Longhorn cattle, prairie dogs, elk and deer. After passing over the Quartz Mountains, it’s back into Texas to cross the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River a couple of times before heading onwards to Amarillo.
Day 13 - Amarillo to Santa Fe
Things may be a little bumpy today as the Rally leaves Amarillo and heads northwest over the Canadian River and into New Mexico where unpaved roads are a feature. From here, the route approaches Las Vegas (New Mexico), takes in part of the Santa Fe Trail, travels through the Santa Fe National Forest and crosses the Pecos River before coming to a well-earned halt for the night.
Day 14 - Santa Fe - Rest Day
Founded as a Spanish Colony in 1610, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in North America and the oldest European community west of the Mississippi. As you would imagine, it is awash with history, culture and architecture. There’s a lot to do in this bustling, beautiful city with numerous galleries, craft shops and cultural cafes for the browsers and plenty of excellent restaurants for the foodies.
Day 15 - Santa Fe to Colorado Springs
Onwards and most definitely upwards is the order of the day for the next few days. Today, the route starts by taking the high road to Taos and onto the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. In contrast to the 13,000 ft peaks are the small towns that the route takes in, which still retain the flavour of the early Spanish settlers who arrived here about 400 years ago. The route then heads east to Cimarron to follow the Mountain Branch of the old Santa Fe Trail, crossing the 7,800 ft Raton Pass into Colorado, through the San Isabel National forest, the 9,900 ft Cucharo Pass and the 9,400 ft North La Veta Pass. Once safely over the Royal Gorge Toll Bridge – over 1050 ft above the river below – crews will drive through the Cripple Creek area into Colorado Springs which sits at a lofty elevation of 6,035ft. Goodness, what a day!
Day 16 - Colorado Springs to Aspen
There’s definitely ‘summit’ worth noting on the left hand side this morning and it’s the legendary Pikes Peak, where the famous motor sporting hill climb is run each year. An ascent is most definitely on the itinerary. Towering over the region, this awe-inspiring mountain is one of Colorado’s 53 ‘fourteeners’: mountains that rise to over 14,000 feet above sea level. Legend has it that it can cast a whopping 50-mile shadow at sunrise. Today, the route heads west to the Rocky Mountains, follows the Arkansas River north before turning left to storm the 12,100 ft Independence Pass over the Continental Divide and into the famous ski resort of Aspen.
Day 17 - Aspen - Rest Day
The final rest day of the Rally is in Aspen, a year-round destination for lovers of the great outdoors. Tucked in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the town offers visitors lots to see and do. As well as energetic activities, there are lots of boutique shops, wonderful restaurants and cultural diversions on offer, so crews will have no trouble finding ways to fill the day.
Day 18 - Aspen to Sundance
The route follows the Roaring Fork of the Colorado River this morning, then turns west through the forest roads of the White River and Grand Mesa National Forest. Passing to the north of Grand Junction into Utah, the road continues into the San Rafael Swell, up the Castle Valley and across the Wasatch Plateau before coming to the night halt east of Provo, on the evocatively named, Sundance Mountain.
Day 19 - Sundance to Boise
Leaving Sundance, the Rally heads to Dugway then turns north and west to cross the iconic Bonneville Salt Flats, home to many land speed record attempts. The route then heads north through the sand dunes, Grouse Creek Valley and into the state of Idaho. From here, crews continue to the Snake River Plain and join the scenic Sawtooth Drive into Boise. Before bedding down for the night, there may be time to visit the Old Idaho Penitentiary - allegedly the most haunted building in the state - and test your nerves in its Solitary Confinement Experience. Sleep tight!
Day 20 - Boise to Bend
Today starts off by crossing the Snake River and entering the state of Oregon. The route follows the Malheur River Valley, skirting the south side of the Malheur National Forest and then heads through the Ochoco National Forest to the Crooked River Valley, turning into Bend near Bear Creek Butte. Sitting on the edge of the Cascade Mountains, Bend is full of outdoorsy charm.
Day 21 - Bend to Newberg
From Bend, the route extends north and west over the Santiam Pass into the Marion Forks area and Mount Jefferson Wilderness. It then joins the Clackamas River Valley, heads onto some of the roads in the Mount Hood National Forest, returns for a run along the Clackamas River and then heads westwards, skirting Portland, on the way to Newburg.
Day 22 - Newberg to Seattle
A spectacular final day in store as the road heads towards the Pacific Ocean and turns north along the coast road. The Rally takes a detour into some of the remote areas along the Nehalem River before returning to the shoreline and crossing the Columbia River at its mouth on the Pacific and then entering into Washington. Once in Washington, we start to work our way inland to Mount St. Helen’s volcanic area and Mount Rainier district and onwards to Seattle. Overlooking Elliot Bay, Seattle has many ‘must-see’ sights so we recommend you make the most of it tomorrow, but this evening we all celebrate a well-driven Rally with the Gala Dinner and Prize-Giving Ceremony.