Today was so hot and sticky that the water was wrung out of the sky twice, just to add a poaching effect to the basic broiler action. By the end of the day, we were human french fries (crispy, oily and salty on the outside, all hot and mushy in the middle). The route was very challenging, despite a total of only about 3.2 inches of net elevation change. I grew up in Virginia (decades ago), and we call this country the Tidewater. It’s so flat and low the rivers run both ways, in and out with the tides. So Rallymaster John Classen added extra challenge by looping us back and around through the fields and woods – we passed one checkpoint three times!
We made a strategic decision this morning to run with the top up as the overcast heat and humidity made it way more than a 50:50 chance we’d have some sky sparks, cloud clashes, and liquid sunshine pellets on us. Good choice. We got two of Mother Nature’s speedy car washes, and only one was so strong that the wipers were victims of Shock and Awe. Nice – I’m glad we had that top up. We both thought maybe we were lucky we have the Imperial instead of the wounded, open speedster… The guys in open cars are awesome Gods of Pain Tolerance!
We had a batch of corrections and adjustments today: construction-blocked stoppages, interference with rookie cars that were way out of place and off-pace, giant car-eating combines bearing down on us while straddling the whole road (we collected a little grass in the wheel wells for those). We made one wrong turn, but we recovered quickly AND correctly, timing from the moment of mistake to the return to course, then correcting with offsetting overspeed. By the late legs we were babbling fools and starting to trip over our instructions and responses. But Hey! – We won our first Ace of this race! AND we ran two other legs of the seven with single-second scores! It’s almost like we’re competent!
On top of all that (dare I even mention it?) – Nothing Broke At ALL! Even the brakes behaved fairly well (a little erratic, but no major grab or stick). Just look at the accumulated brake dust on our once-upon-a-time whitewalls – even behind the door! This car used to be white (so did the tire sidewalls).
I think the no-broken-stuff day must be because we fixed that pesky taillight last night, setting the mood for attention to detail and resulting good scores. Or not. I dunno. I know we didn’t get the one big correction right (many minutes stopped for construction), so our total for the day was not as good as out other legs suggest (coulda, woulda, shoulda, I know). Still, our faith in our potential is restored – we can do this, at least in the mornings – before the dehydration and brain boil reduces us to zombie clones.
We spent some hot minutes waiting for our starts, out in the cornfields of North Carolina. Sometimes we’d be lucky and find a shady spot, but not everyone was lucky all the time. Still, it’s lovely country and nobody minds a chance to stand, stretch and appreciate the view (check out those cloud – like a Wyeth painting).
What a great selection of cars and crews we have this year. Some years ago, I made a point of getting a close-up grille shot of all the cars running and assembled them into a poster of the cars’ “faces.” I hope to do that again. We have teams (and cars) from Japan, the UK, and all over America. New friends, new fun. Do you think I could get shots of all the REAL faces too (drivers, navigators, crews)? There’s a challenge – we’re rarely all in one place at once!
New Bern, NC (birthplace of Pepsi-Cola) was our night stop and they had a terrific and welcoming crowd for us, filling Middle Street with gracious hospitality. We enjoyed a delicious Carolina barbecue meal (I LOVE that, we can’t get it done right up in New York – but then they can’t seem to do a decent bagel or pizza here, either). We met up with my other Brother-in-Law (he lives nearby) and he gave us clues to good spots for food and fun. Really nice town, I think I may bring Sue here someday soon. Being Swiss, she’ll appreciate the Swiss heritage here – the city hall seems to be a replica of the original in Berne, Switzerland. Check out the cast iron bear, life size, over the door! I could imagine living here. New Bern wins my vote for Best Town So Far.
Tomorrow we’ll cross this state to Wilmington. It’s the only two-nights state on the route. I’m hoping for some cool, deep Live Oak glades and old antebellum scenery, but if John Classen is in full form again, we’ll likely be too busy (with all three hands each) to take in all the sights. We’ll pack plenty of water and likely keep up the wimp rag (cloth top) to ward off storms or sun-soaked heat – either or both of which we’re sure to have again. I LOVE this stuff! Til the ‘morrow, jc