Good news: not so hot as yesterday.
Bad news: same long hauls (transits disguised as rally legs).
Busy stop in HOT Savannah for lunch. Big crowd by the water. Nice sandwiches. Tangles of traffic both in and out. First big Live Oaks, dripping with Spanish Moss. We’re in the Deep South, now!
Today could almost have been run without a navigator. It was really a test of the human cruise control, with long legs of steady speed down single ribbons of asphalt that split the eternal piney woods. I do think some of those places haven’t seen humans (other than Rallymaster John Classen) since they were first paved. Before we got deep in the trees, we did pass some old plantations (HUGE land and houses), yet cheek by jowl with shacks and humble homes. Hmmm… We also saw lots of interesting historical markers on the road side, where we learned that: On This Site… …something or other (we can’t stop to read them y’know – Angela the Teacher would be dismayed at that).
While the scenery was maybe a tad un-interesting, it was NOT at all un-challenging! Staying alert in the heat and drone of steady speed is just as tricky as executing well-timed turns and stops. To stay focused, we tried counting the pines, but lost count at 23,672,475,893 plus 6 or 7 stumps (with zero people or dwellings). AUUGGHH #1! Here’s a few of the highlight views:
Yes, you’re right. They do all look the same. And then, just when you think, “this road goes on forever!” It doesn’t. We missed a turn (cleverly hidden in the trees and disguised as an ordinary road; signaled by a curve sign that we blitherated right past). We weren’t alone, though. We rolled about 5 minutes down the wrong road before concluding we were deaf, dumb, and blind (that we can drive vehicles at all may explain why there’s braille keys on drive-up ATMs). AUUGGGH #2!
Fortunately, this is not our first rodeo, and practice does improve the product. We knew to take careful measure of our speed and time back to the scene of the crime, so we knew exactly (more or less) how far late we were at that point where we ought to have turned in the first passing. On the way, we passed two other cars that made the same error, still en route to their realization of the same Big Whoops.
The fact that it was more than 11 minutes delay before we were back on course would suggest to any sane people present that we had really blown that leg. But wait! WE are Great Racers and by definition may not be wholly sane, which gives us certain special dispensations regarding bending the time-space continuum. After dithering about it for a while, thinking that with nearly dead brakes we should just relax, be totally safe, and calm; and let that leg go, etc., etc., suddenly came Dave Haverty, who we last saw heading for the weeds as we returned therefrom, now blasting by at full throttle. Hmmm… Maybe the checkpoint isn’t so near and recovery isn’t truly impossible…
Now before I continue with the main tale, let me explain a bit about error correction. Say you’re supposed to be going 30 mph, but you know you’re behind a few seconds (10 for instance) – perhaps from a slow corner or waiting for traffic at a stop sign. Those can easily be made up by going 10% over the normal speed for a time of 10x the delay, or 20% overspeed for 5x the delay. So, in this example, the 10 second delay can be balanced by going 33 mph, not 30, for 100 seconds; or 36 instead of 30, for 50 seconds. Easy, right? Well, 11 minutes late is 660 seconds, so even at 20% overspeed, we’d have been correcting for 5×660, or 3300 seconds (almost an hour). It seemed hopeless, as we were sure to hit a checkpoint before that was done.
Then Dave (that’s Dave Ullman with me, not Dave Haverty who was long gone ahead, leaving a blue-smoke vapor trail like a Sabrejet with afterburners on): my Dave noticed there was an untimed transit ahead with a planned length of 45 minutes. Aha! IF we were lucky, there’d be no checkpoint before then and the transit would open a window for significant recovery. Hark! Pedal to the metal! More than ten cars behind, we passed them all on course or in transit (handily on I-95 where the big Imp earned its stars at *AHEM* notable rates of speed) We arrived in time to cool the motor before our restart which we timed off the few cars that we watched leave ahead of us in the right order and time (most notably Grand Champs, the Jasons). We scored just 2 seconds for that leg. A well-earned ‘hack’ job. The Boys in their Hudson rolled in behind us. They were one of those we 10 cars we dusted off in passing, but they were suffering multiple minor mechanical maladies. Hey, they’re big boys, too. We left them hood open, tools out, and tinkering, and didn’t see them again until Evening in Jacksonville.
In other news, the throttle pedal is getting sticky as a thrilling complement to the dodgy brakes – sometimes it doesn’t quite return to idle. That makes holding 4o mph for a long time a brake-dragging exercise as much as a gas pedal holding task. Don’t even ask about the brakes. They’ll probably make the last day, but I have to pump them for every stop now.
We made one other dumb-bunny move today. We thought we had filled up last night, but apparently not. One of the key rules for success in this game is to never run out of fuel. We got close! Where we normally take on 7-10 gallons at lunch and dinner, we took on 18+ at mid-morning break today. The tank holds twenty. Almost A Big Whoops!
You might be wondering why I didn’t know that just by looking at the gas gauge. Silly you, assuming we have a working gas gauge! It’s actually been out since the 2011 Great Race. And we’ve had no time to fix it since we grabbed this car in a hot sweat after the Buick split its axle in Maine. So we’ve been flying the gas tank on dead reckoning. I just reckoned wrong this time. Magically, just when we needed it, it suddenly began working again! It quit soon after, of course. Gotta fix that one of these days.
We rolled into Jacksonville, Florida (JAX to its friends) to a STUPENDOUS welcome – the incoming street was lined with people and local specialty cars and cruisin’ goin’ on all over! Hootin’ and hollerin’ One angel on the sidelines brought us cold wet towels! Draped around our necks, they pulled our brain temperatures back into double digits, as we slowly passed the appreciative gauntlet. Sorry, no pix – i worked hard not to crash into anything or anyone, pumping my brake pedal like a pipe organist. The finish was a joy as well. A handsome street by the water and mall: cool air, food court – who could ask for more? Dave even recruited a team of locals for next year! He’s also great with the spectator kids, who like to try on our big boat for size. Likely he enjoys that play as much or more than the kids he entertains!
Eric And Jeff Fredette, who were our mentors in our rookie year are in the lead! They parked next to us – Go Fredettes:
Of course, it’s VERY close – the Jasons might yet snatch a third victory…
We had a good day, too – another ace (no, not the leg we hacked!) and 12 seconds overall. Having missed the first day, we are still at the bottom in the overall ranks, but we were near the top today! The boys did well, too, despite their hardware limits – no ace yet for them, though. Cruel, cruel race.
Tomorrow it’s our final day – a shorter run as we wrap up this rolling weight-loss project (we’re a hot-rolled steel mill on parade). Perseverance is the name of this game! And rehydration. I’m looking forward to a dip in a cool swimming pool at the end at The Villages, – win, lose, or just plain lost in the Great Race 2014!