Well, I’m home at the breakfast table. Home for me is just 30 miles from our finish line in Bennington, VT; so we rode in last night while most others stayed in local hotels there.
We did it! Corky announced last night that the rally ran to 1,750 miles. With our 950 mile, 18 hour blast down to Chattanooga for the start, that means Dave and I put about 2,700 miles on NO XQS (and on US!). True to her name, this stately Imp soldiered on despite her intrinsic handicaps for this kind of work and the new abuse heaped on in the name of Rally Fun. We have a list of now-due maintenance and repairs to attend to, of course, but we’re back home safe and as sound as we left, and we make No Excuse for any of it!
This day (yesterday’s final leg, #7) began VERY early – we were up at 5 for a 6:00 start – with a light rain falling and that followed us most of the morning. We make no excuse for that either, as we do have working wipers that are very effective, so long as the drops only come about one per minute. The clicking in the rear wheel bearing is still there, but not much worse, and we decide to ignore it in certain faith that it probably won’t fail catastrophically on some mountainside hairpin. Naaah, go for it!
From Saratoga, we blasted up the Northway for our timing run, then rolled off to loop around Fort Ann (entering the village in the same spot twice!). Some of John Claussen’s best loops and turns today – masterfully laid out to present the maximum possible opportunity to lose confidence (as other cars pull in from other roads or are seen in the distance rolling away down a turn we must pass by now, only to take on the next loop!). Dave adopted a new technique, anticipating the stop-and-go time losses at corners ahead, doing it where we can see there are no checkpoints, so we’ll not be carrying the lag if we do meet a check elsewhere. He is really on his game today!
We rolled through Granville, and the big slate mines, with the huge piles of broken rock that couldn’t be turned to usable roofing (almost all older houses here have local slate roofs). Over the line into Vermont and we passed Jim Menneto’s speedster dead on the shoulder – will he be late for his own party (Hemmings Motor News is HQ’d in our finish-line town of Bennington).
We met a major delay that stacked up 9 cars at a dead stop, as a tree-cutting crew completely blocked the road for a while. We caught the mark as we unexpectedly decelerated and again once we broke free, so in theory we could treat it as any other stop-and-go, just longer (over 7 minutes) that we could put in as a forced time delay adjustment. We haven’t done that before – will we get it right?
On the Dabney-Pawlet road, we passed “John Corey Road” Who knew? We’ll have to come back one day off the clock to learn more about this oddity! Soon after, we passed the last checkpoint and rolled into Manchester, where we were greeted by streets lined with cheering clusters of enthusiastic Vermonters (people, not those cows that give fresh ice cream and outnumber the humans). Our bearing click has now changed -and not for the better- and the exhaust gasket has blown out completely on one cylinder, so we sound like a steam locomotive when we’re on the gas.
We run up the slope to Stratton Mountain Resort for lunch, and take the gondola ride to the top. The clouds that gave us a rainy morning are still a thick fog up there, so I take a snap of Dave there; to represent his peak performance days, with his head in the fog! Fortunately, he’s a very good sport, especially when he’s awake!
Our finish at Bennington is the most rousing and crowded of the whole race (as well it should be!). With our travelling announcer ‘Motormouth’ we are greeted by the Governor of Vermont and Miss Vermont (Dave got Miss VT, I got the politician……). During the parc fermé, I was interviewed by Susan Keese of Vermont Public Radio, who, though very nice, seemed totally astonished and confused by the whole concept of the Great Race (and maybe cars in general?).
You can read the official results at greatrace.com – Super Howard Sharp won in his 20th consecutive run at it, driving the ASTONISHING 1911 Velie, a 100-year old car, which he will now retire from racing. We placed 28th overall (of 60), 8th in Sportsman class (of 25), and we tied for 3rd place in Aces won (with our 4, behind a 7 for the Fredettes and a 6 for Knowles/Gentry). Our total time error was 3 minutes, 30 seconds. With our new-ish car (hey, it’s only 50 years old), our factor was .955, for a final score of 3:20.55. The winners had a raw time of 1:29 and a 0.61 factor (hey, theirs is ONE HUNDRED years old), for a final score of 0:54.29. WOW! Interesting factoid: for us, the factor made NO DIFFERENCE: no one placing above us in score had a higher raw time, and none placing below had a lower one. Clearly, travelling in the lap of luxury, even with a high factor, was the right thing to do! We did get teased about our big old car a lot, and folks tended to settle on a few repeating questions; so we acquired a small library of rimshot lines for banter with the spectators:
When asked “What year is it?” we’d looked shocked and say, “2011. Try to keep up.” Of course, then we’d really answer the implied question. When folks said “It’s really big” we’d say, “Yep. Got its own zip code” or “Yep. it’s hard to time in this race because the back arrives several seconds after the front.” When asked if the trunklid decoration really had a spare tire under it, we’d say “that’s not a spare, that’s a landing pad for our support helicopter.” When asked “Where’d you find it?” I’d always say “Right here, just where I parked it.” And when folks commented on the size of the trunk, we’d claim Jimmy Hoffa was buried in it, or that a spare Mini was tucked in one corner in case we ran out of gas. All in good fun (we can’t afford the helicopter, anyway).
We had our Farewell and Awards banquet at the Mt. Anthony Country Club. We successfully avoided winning any heavy awards we’d have to carry home. We ran a really good final day, with seven legs, where we scored a 1, 2, –3, -6, -8, and a zero (our 4th Ace! – and on the leg with the 7-minute forced delay!), but still, we won nothing at all. Officially that is – in fact we won further friends, increased appreciation for each other, renewed humility for our own limitations, greater love for the beauty and scale of America, and a grand experience of the sort that makes living and working worth the effort. Not bad prizes at all.
Final thoughts (of less grand nature).
* I forgot to pack my comb for this trip, but found a quick pass with my ten fingers in the morning worked just as well – I guess I really AM bald now.
* Ethan is ready to go next year: another generation has hopped on the bus!
* Dave, when asked, said he’s ready to do it again, too – I do believe he’s had fun!
* I think I may have to retire NO XQS and build a proper speedster like Chad Caldwell’s Auburn (just what I need: another project!)
* I’ll add some pictures to the blog version of this story, posted at greatrace.com; once I finish catching up on sleep.
* Thanks, Dave. Thanks, Sue. Thanks, Ethan. Thanks Corky, Jim, John, and the whole GREAT RACE FAMILY!
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