They call it Thursday, but it ought to be re-named Thirsty. 95+, both in humidity and temperature. The course felt brutal in that environment, with long stretches that really tested the driver’s ability to hold speed forevvvvver (my problem – no one ever called me too steady), and a real test of the navigator’s alertness to the next instruction event (NAvvyDave Ullman’s problem – no one ever called him too attentive). We both failed the test, missing an ‘easy’ speed change from 30 to 40 mph in the middle of a loooooong run through the woods. The boys (my son, Ethan and Nick Jones – team 63, Hudson Commodore) were right behind us in the run order, and they got that change correctly, so they came right up on us and by the time our brains shifted back into drive, they had passed us! We realized we needed to be ahead of them, and blasted by, just as we reached a checkpoint – BOTH cars passed there side-by-side. Gotta be tough to call that – sorry, checkpoint folks.
On the other hand, we got an ace on one easy leg of just a few minutes length, with one turn and one speed. The boys missed that by a single second which means no aces yet for them: a constant source of frustration for Ethan & Nick.
It has always seemed that after a good day (like Wednesday), when we start to think we know what we’re doing, we have a poor performance (like today). Maybe those who play golf can appreciate this feeling. Dumb, dumber, dumbest. But we keep coming back to it, knowing it really IS possible. Dave is a good sport and diligent navigator, but after we both blitzed out on the speed change, we missed a corner, too – partly due to interference with an ambulance, but really now… Because he was getting sleepy during the long, straight runs, I tried to keep him alert by asking for capital cities of obscure countries (Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur; the country formerly known as Burma – Napiydaw, and so on). Good plan in part: it kept him awake, but we weren’t really alert to the activity at hand. Whoops, we missed that speed change. Awake but no focus.
The mighty Imperial is holding up for the most part, but the brakes are in desperate need of adjustment and we still have no spare tire/wheel. I worry each time we pull off the road at a start point – fearing we might collect a bottle or nail and that would be our final demise! The brakes are very low in the pedal now – no grab, but scary to use as the pedal is nearing the floor and getting variable, due to the amount of shoe lining we have worked away! I try to remember to pump them up before applying, but sometimes I forget and the pedal goes WAAAY farther down before there is any stopping effect, then comes on like a drag chute! Just look at these wheels – brake dust has blackened the whitewalls, and hot bearing grease is coloring the rim with streaks like a Spin Art machine from the 70’s!
The sun is unforgiving and in-your-face on this southbound run. My left arm (the “driver’s arm”) is beginning to resemble some food product you could buy at Chick-Fil-A or KFC. The sun is strong: my skin is weak. And I despise the slime of sunscreen. We kept the top up today, more for potential rain shelter than sunshade – but it served both. We had some mammoth waterballs hurled at us one time, and that wimp rag served us well – at least until our brains failed us anyway.
Nice venue and a welcoming crowd here in Wilmington, NC. Not much for dinner, but there are some fine restaurants nearby. We found one and spent way too much on food, beer and wine. Is that why we came on this trip? Well, maybe partly so. Tomorrow, it’s press on to Mount Pleasant, SC – a town I visited hundreds of times during my tenure as a steward on the Auto-Train in the 1970’s (good grief, I’m getting old!). The hotel situation here is a bit screwy – we’re in a condo, “managed” by the adjacent Hilton, but not really a Hilton, if you know what I mean: (you’ll be see this posting a bit late because of wi-fi issues), no food service, and no Hilton Honors benefits (I travel a lot for work, so I’m a super-deluxe gold, chairman’s preferred, ultra-zippy, we-love-you-really, Honors club member with Hilton – but that’s no good tonight). No matter – I get to sleep on a sofabed that I made myself with sheets from the closet. Beats camping with the BSA! Tomorrow, we take on state # 10: South Carolina, here we come, ready or not!