Well. We made it to Nova Scotia! Bender ran well today. We kinda did, too. This is the second year Dale and I have run the Great Race, and we have gotten our communication conventions quite well-tuned and concise. At least for the basic operations (turns, signs, speed changes, etc.). Today, we were challenged with handling more unexpected events, too.
The day opened lovely and bright. Bender started OK, though felt a little rough until warmed up. We avoided all the chaotic confusion of yesterday (I made sure to pack my bag in the car….). We were out 67th in the order, about midway through the parade as we left Moncton, bound for Dartmouth Nova Scotia (just across the river from our last finish spot for tomorrow in Halifax). As we drove along the freeway for speedo calibration, and again at unscored transits, I was amazed at the floral density of the roadside margins. It’s hard to capture while rolling along, but I did finally get one shot that begins to suggest the bright colorful lupines that seem to own the unmowed world here. On the other hand, there sure were lots of bugs terminated on our windshield and front fenders. Even our mascot, Bender-on-the-Fender, felt that. Still, I suppose that could have been worse.
We ran six legs today, as the sun’s heat grew ever stronger. For the first time this year, we encountered the French Fry effect, where our outsides are greasy and salty, and our insides (brains anyway) get all mushy. Both Dale and I fumbled a bit through the afternoon, but we caught each other and no scores suffered significantly. It’s tougher for us now than in prior years because we have apparently committed the sin of competence (last year we won Sportsman Class 2 days of 9, and Dale and his wife Candy won Sportsman once when they ran together). That means we’re up against real experts! And Expert Class teams can drop only their 4 worst scores, where Sportsmen can drop 5.
Going back-to-front, I can tell you that we did just fine in the latter four legs today (4, Ace, 2, & 2). It was the first two legs that may keep us out of a top-20 finish overall. On leg 1, we came up behind a slow moving dump truck, which we normally handle by dropping to half speed (where we lose one second for every two we spend at half speed), but the truck turned at our turn, and stopped a LOOONG time at the traffic light right after that. So we had a long zero speed section on top of a half-speed section. Then when we left that light (at last!), we ran right into a tag sale that had cars in front of us slowing, stopping, and leisurely contemplating pulling over to shop! We now had three uncalculated timing events to resolve, so we, too pulled over at the tag sale to figure it out. While there, we were boxed in by more arriving shoppers, and we couldn’t get back on the road for several minutes (and as several other Race cars rolled on by). Even when we did get to pull back out into the traffic, the compounded composite events made any accurate measure of total time lost a WEE bit suspect. We put in a 3 minute, 30 second delay, and got a 12 second score – no doubt, we could have done worse.
Then on leg 3, as we rounded a country bend, we were confronted with a need to stop again, this time by a wreck in front of us! Worse, it was one of our Great Race competitors! The emergency crews were already there (The accident car was nominally 30 minutes ahead of us in the order, 33 minutes ahead given our delay on the first leg). Major kudos to the local first responders, who clearly got there just minutes after the event. We were so focused at first on evaluating what we saw and assuring that we were not needed to help, that we lost the time mark for stopping (both driver and navigator of the wrecked car got out under their own power, banged up a bit but alive to tell the tale). We had to guess from memory how long we were delayed there. You know they say time slows down in such situations. So, when I guessed we had been held about 15 seconds, I guessed short. And we ended with a 20 second score for the leg. OK, but it sure could have been much worse!
We had more roadside spectators along the way today than I can remember in any stretch of a Great Race since maybe 2006. Really fun to wave and honk to people who have just figured out that something is going on and pull up a chair on their lawns, or pull over their own cars, to greet us and snap their own pictures as the parade goes by (over a two-hour period). And seeing them can be very reassuring on longer stretches where you wonder if you’re still on the right track, too! Without them, we could be much worse!
Lunch was in Truro, NS – a nice looking town. We parked on the green and had a British pub style lunch (beef pie, curry, fruit – oh and BROWNIES – I LOVE brownies). The stop was coincident with the Truro Farmers Market and we had time to stroll there and talk with some of the vendors. It was cooler under their shade! It was still hot, but it could have been worse.
After lunch break, we restarted scored travel with a leg beginning at a drive-in movie (age check: who remembers going to drive-in movies?). As it happens Ken Creary and Lauren States (our pals and fellow NY’ers) parked beside us there to wait our turns. So I captured these two momentous teams’ superb race vehicles in a rare moment together. The position and lighting is really quite good, eh? (Well, OK, but it could have been worse).
Our evening stop was in Dartmouth, across the river from Halifax (Wait! I already told you that. Please disregard this extraneous information. It will not be repeated again). Nice waterfront, in recovery as are so many such spots that were once purely industrial/commercial, but are now being valued again for their recreational and residential opportunities. Dinner was OK, and alas, the ice cream machine wasn’t working. Still, it could have been much worse.
While there, I asked Carolyn and Bill Croker to pose for a portrait with the Halifax skyline behind. Bill land Carolyn are the nicest people on the planet, and they have been doing Great Race for many years in their mighty old Packard coupe. Bill also runs the rookie mentor project, linking newbies with more experienced racers who can help them learn how to make similar mistakes the same ways we do. The Crokers’ Packard suffered an engine fault in a Spring weekend rally, and despite herculean efforts to ready it for this Great Race, it just couldn’t be done. So they borrowed a car from another Great Racer (that’s just how we are in this group). The 38 Ford had run successfully in previous Great Races, but seemed disinterested in continuing that streak. They were stopped by a coolant loss one day (blown hose), then last night they had to bypass the dimmer switch to get headlights. Then the clutch failed, leaving the engine unconnected to the wheels, and that was the final blow. Despite it all, Bill and Carol remain as upbeat and engaged in the Race as ever (riding along in a support truck). And, it could have been worse.
Score-wise, we placed 32nd today, with those two high-second legs and no dropped scores allowed during these last two days of the event, no matter how bad they are. That puts us in 21st place overall. And we scored another Ace, our 6th. Oh, and we’re in FIRST PLACE among the 5 Studebakers in the Race, that’s something. Not the greatest of scores perhaps, but of course, it could be worse!