Well, Pardner, I reckon we’re in the True West now! One of the reasons I particularly wanted to run this Great Race with my son, Ethan, was to introduce him to the great West of America. Today was the day we moved that from “Why?” to “Wow!”
We left the Great Desert and entered the high prairie. Here, it’s green enough to imagine making a living with the land, though I’d not look forward to Winter. Lots of Tablelands and rolling hills: open range with cattle meandering freely and the odd antelope or few thrown in here and there for variety. We even saw a group of wild horses working their way from one somewhere to another (a different kind of Mustang than those on our Race). Look closely for the steel cowboy below (yup, steel. But the cattle are real). Hey, the high prairie is ENORMOUS. The scale is such that knee-high wild meadow grasses look like a smooth golf green!
Great names for places out here. I’m sad to say we missed the great Chili Cook-Off (June 18) in Chugwater, Wyoming.
We rolled through a state park built around the Guernsey power dam, which has turned a deep multi-fingered canyon into a reservoir and recreation site. The road hugs the shoreline and lets us occasionally see other cars.
In a transit on a state highway, there was a one-lane temporary passage (taking turns by red light). The cycle was very short at two minutes, so only a few cars could pass each round. We sat through nine cycles (with our doors open to catch the breeze). A local in the car behind us saw that, ran up during one halt, and gave us bottled water – the kindness of strangers in action! The delay was over 18 minutes so we missed our start by about 7 minutes. We think we made most of it up, and put in a minor time allowance for the rest, but so many were caught up in that mess that the whole leg was tossed out of the scoring (too bad, I’m SURE we aced it!). Lots of construction delays today.
We had lunch in Lusk, Wyoming, a little town of just 1567 hardy souls at an elevation of 5015. Best lunch so far, including a selection of tasty cookies (one of my staple foods, alongside ice cream).
Next, we rolled into South Dakota and up the Needles Highway to Mt. Rushmore. We were really glad to climb up to cooler air again. Personally, I was starting to feel like yesterday’s jelly donut left out on the windowsill: all sticky and crusty on the outside, and just gooey mush inside. We passed yet another forest fire area, with blackened trees reminding us how easily thing can all go up in smoke!
We entered Custer State Park (yep, named for THAT General Custer). Sue and I camped here long ago, when we got out of school and took a Summer lap of the Lower 48 in our little 70’s hatchback, complete with dog. It was our favorite spot on the whole trip then. This visit, almost 40 years later was more brief and we didn’t enter the main valley, but we passed grazing bison (also known as Buffalo, perhaps via the Witness Protection Plan – don’t let on about their real identity). We were close behind some other Racers, due to a congested start, and that made for some great pix.
The Needles, fantastic otherworldy pillars of stone piercing the forest canopy are flat-out magic! Ethan grinned ear to ear, with wild disbelief and booked a return plan for hiking and camping. We passed through the Eye of the Needles at 6400 ft; a partly man-made tunnel in the rock that opens to a natural cleft. It’s almost like being on Tatooine in Star Wars! So weirdy cool! We shot a brief video (just 20 seconds) to give you taste.
Last we rolled into Rapid City, WY for the biggest welcome party I have ever seen on any Great Race. Multiple streets were closed and multiple bands were playing and thousands of people were in the streets. I’m told this town rocks EVERY Thursday eve in Summertime, but adding the Great Race made it special, for them and us. And they had great ice cream! Thanks Rapid City, you have my vote for best host so far, by far!
Sven the Skveelar, our mighty Volvo, has proven quite trustworthy. Whether holding 65 on the interstate for hours, sitting in hot construction stops, or crawling the mountain pass twisties at 15, it just starts on the key and keeps on rolling (BTW, Volvo is Latin for Rolling). Rhody Ringrose did us a grand benefit in allowing his recently bought car to come with us, enabling us to run this Great Race at all. Thanks again, Rhody! Totally Cool!
Well actually, we had a bit of a fright as we pulled in to our hotel this evening. We were looking forward to a third no-repairs evening, but as we unloaded, we heard periodic sizzle sounds coming from below the car. We thought the coolant leak was back, maybe this time dripping on hot exhaust. Nope. It was water on exhaust alright, but it was weepage from our styrofoam cooler in the back seat, having worked its way down and dripping on the muffler. No problem, no harm, no foul and no repair. Hilariously Cool!
By the way, if I haven’t said it before, I am thoroughly impressed and proud of Ethan on this trip. He’s done all the driving, most all the diagnosing, and most all the fixing. Some say it’s a difficult moment when the son surpasses the father: nonsense. It’s wonderful – And Truly Totally Cool!
We had a decent score today, except that last leg, where we got a late start in a congestion caused by rapture of the mountains! The leg with traffic congestion showed we can manage delays – we came in 5:14 late, but put in for a 5:20 delay, so we scored 6 seconds! And we scored our first Ace on another leg today! Completely Cool!
We’ll Get Up Tomorrow and Kick It Again! jc
Injured racers passed on the roadside today:
and others not remembered. This race is tough on old hardware (like me). I think we’re down to under 100 still running of the 120 that began (And that doesn’t count our pre-race speedster collapse).
Your Team 39 Grest Racers, J & E Corey
Or as Motormouth would say, How COOL is THAT?