In the Great Race, there are always good days, but not always good luck or good scores. Last night, it was a little cold, and the parking was on a slope and I was tired, so I left til this morning the task of fixing the worsening misfire in our engine. New rule – NEVER put off til tomorrow what you can fix tonight!
This morning with only a fraction of an hour until time to leave the hotel, I tried to pull the #8 plug that I suspected of fouling. But the insulator broke right off, leaving most of the useless thing still in the head! Fortunately, the hex was still there and OF COURSE we brought spare plugs. So Dave hitched a ride to the main hotel to collect his day’s instructions, while I worked out the stump and fit a new plug. The idle immediately settled down to an acceptable lope and the engine ran smoothly all day! Was that plug cracked all along? I dunno – I finished the swap with no time to spare, so in rushing to collect Dave and the instructions, I left the dead body on the ground at our hotel. No body – no crime.
Today was another driver’s day. LOOONG, steady runs, punctuated by moments of sheer terror when Dave had to wake up and we had to do something. That’s actually a big part of the challenge on a long run – just keeping your concentration on finding the next marker. We did OK and missed only one, which we could fix easily by doing a timed step a little further down the road to no loss.
We did get a little behind in one leg today, our first after lunch – which is always tough for us – somehow the combination of fatigue from the morning plus a full belly from lunch can dull the edge a bit in our minds. So we usually end up fixing that with a big, unintended jolt of adrenalin when we make some gross error right off the line. We managed that today, too, though I’ve already forgotten the details (something about going out faster instead of slower from a stop, to adjust for being early on our launch). We were starting right behind some past champions in car 58; and with today’s LOOONG roads, we could see them ahead in the distance once in a while, so once we were all out of whack, we performed the time-honored (if not particularly glorious) maneuver called a ‘hack.’ That is, we timed the passage of car 58 past a fixed marker (shadow line on the road), then timed ourselves to that same point; and adjusted so we were close to one minute behind them (as we had been when we started). There are no atheists in foxholes, they say. As it turned out we won an Ace on that leg, but as it wasn’t REALLY earned on our own; we inverted the stickers when we put them on our car!
I mentioned the long runs today, usually looking for a specific yellow diamond road warning sign (you know, the bends left, twisty road ahead sort). We passed so many that weren’t quite right (a Rallymaster Classen style of psychological warfare) that we began to say ‘that’s not it, either’ over and over with each one, to be sure we were still focussing and not losing concentration. That works!
It paid off with better scores than yesterday, but it seems everyone is in on the secret. Despite a 12 second total today, all signle digit scores, and another Ace, we dropped a few places in the standings. This is a tough sport! Of course, we have the advantage of a comfortable and relatively reliable car, but no factor like the old cars. When we first ran this Imperial (in 2006), it was the newest car in the Race. This year there’s a wide mix and quite a few newer. But there’s one REALLY old one – a 1907 Renault (yes, both ancient and French-built!) – these folks (a married couple!) are brave, indeed. Brave, that is, as in that borderline sort of courage that sometimes looks like plain Nuts to us mortals. Here’s an image of us passing them as they barrel along at 50-60 mph on a freeway, during timing runs this morning. Wow!
The Renault did break down today – maybe because we were in francophone Quebec and the old car wanted to rest where it could be understood in its native tongue? It was fixed and motored into our hotel this evening on its own, though. That’s the Great Race spirit!
We crossed the Mississippi River today. That raised some eyebrows, because we’re on the wrong side of some big lakes from the one we all know and love all the way to New Orleans. Turns out there are two Mississippi Rivers, this one a little tributary to the Ottawa – not connected to the big one at all (except via the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea). We also crossed over some of the power dams here that give Ontario much of its electricity.
We had a great park-in show this evening in Kanata; hometown of our mighty announcer Brian Goudge, AKA Motormouth. The local car clubs turned out more cars than the 90+ we run in the Great Race and there were some mighty interesting items – antiques to exotics to rods (perhaps my favorite was the 54 split-window VW bug in flat black with a full-chrome V8 in front – or the perfectly restored ’31 Chrysler, or the rare Puma, or… well, you get the idea). We got a chance to practice some of our favorite gag lines (folks tend to ask the same questions everywhere). Here’s a sampler:
This car is so long, it has its own zip code.
People say this is a boat like the titanic, but its really the white iceberg that sank it.
I can’t open the trunk for you, because Jimmy Hoffa is buried in there.
What year is it? 2012, of course….but this car is a ’61
That decoration on the back? – it’s our helipad, so we can get in to smaller harbors
How long is it? Oh, from here (front) to there (back)
When the hotel’s too pricey, we sleep more comfortably in the trunk
Does it have a hemi? No, the whole engine’s in there.
—and so on – folks are good-natured and this big old car is a great conversation piece.
Tomorrow, we will re-enter the USA and New York, our home state. So we run first out and first into the finish lines (if we stay on course).