Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Convention Vacation – Part 3

The weather prediction for Thursday, Rally Day, was not good when we headed to bed Wednesday night. I told the lovely Loriann, rather than both of us getting up at 6:30, I'd get up early, go to the Rally meeting, and then come back with the information. I knew they'd be staggering the start, so I figured if the weather forecast improved, we'd just go out towards the end of the line. Well, she woke up when my cellphone alarm sounded and couldn't go back to sleep. When the smell of the coffee I'd brewed wafted into the tent, she was drawn out and agreed to join me for all of this new adventure.

We drove to the host hotel and found the meeting room already starting to fill up with rally participants. After a slight delay to wait for the stragglers, the meeting began and we were educated as to how this rally would proceed. We were promised the directions were extremely easy to follow and it would be basically impossible for us to get lost. Having already had some navigational issues on Cape Cod, that was heartening news. Mixed in with the directions would be a series of questions about sights on the route we needed to answer exactly in order to score points. The team with the most correct answers would win the rally, and in the case of a tie, the team with the closest to perfect mileage reading would take the prize. Early in the route, there’d be a mileage check where we’d record our odometer reading so odometer error could be compensated for if a tiebreaker was necessary. We were then told how the route was a large loop and that, at three minute intervals, pairs of cars would be sent off one going clockwise, the other counter-clockwise. Due to an unexplained issue on the route, we would be departing the Wal-Mart parking lot starting at 10:30 rather than the originally scheduled 8:30. That was good because it gave us time to go to the hospitality room and grab a complimentary snack to tide us over until we reached the halfway checkpoint where we’d have a chance to partake of some MA drive-in cuisine.

After our morning snack and Lucy’s fill-up at the gas station, we made our way to the Sturbridge Wal-Mart parking lot where we joined the growing line of beautiful Corvairs. A few of my fellow autocrossers were there as well as a bunch more cars, vans, and trucks that hadn’t gone racing. There was just a soft drizzle coming down as we sat waiting, but the sky looked threatening for worse. Right before 10:30 we received the route instructions and the lovely Loriann opened the envelope and found we would travelling right past the entrance to the campground we were staying at. This allowed her to answer the first two questions without us even leaving the parking lot. This was a good start to the day. Normally, when there is direction giving involved, I’m on the giving end while the lovely Loriann is behind the wheel. This time, however, we’d decided I’d do the driving so she’d have the better opportunity to see the sights and find the answers.

The first two cars left the line on-time on schedule, and a few minutes later, we headed out as well. The first leg was on a rather straight two-lane highway through the woods, and I was just thinking how boring this would be when we entered the first town and things improved. It was a typical small New England town with unique architecture and interesting businesses. I crawled along at ten miles per hour below the limit to ensure we didn’t miss anything, as we answered some more questions. After about an hour of driving we found ourselves at the checkpoint, Janine’s Frostee. After a delicious lunch of lobster mac-and-cheese fritters and clam chowder for me and haddock sliders for the lovely Loriann, we continued on.

The next stop was the Quabbin Reservoir where we got out and climbed up to the top floor of Lookout Tower where we were treated to wonderful vistas of the reservoir and surrounding mountains. On the way back, we found that one of the rally cars had an engine gone bad. They were calling Hagerty for a tow because it sounded like a dropped valve seat.

At that point I thanked God Lucy was behaving, as was the weather. While it was cloudy, we were not getting wet, and I hadn’t had to run the wipers since leaving Wal-Mart. There were even moments of sunshine to brighten our day.

After a stop at the Quabbin Reservoir visitor center to answer another question and have our photo taken, we headed out on the last leg of the route. It took us through an area of Massachusetts that had been decimated by a series of tornados just last year. The damage was widespread and we saw large swaths of forest laid down by the tremendous winds. Very humbling to see what fury the weather can wield.

Click her to go to my Flickr page of the photos I took during the day.

We arrived back at Wal-Mart and Lucy’s odometer told us we’d travelled around 70 miles. Since it was early afternoon we headed over to the host hotel in hopes (at least my hopes) of seeing the posted autocross results. I was thrilled to read I’d gotten second in my class, IS-1, and 25th overall out of nearly 60 drivers. Even nicer was there were only three faster EMs (all modified). I and my high-mileage 102HP daily-driver had beaten all the stock EMs including the turbos and 110s, and the only mods I’ve made to Lucy are her lowered front end and relocated battery.

We met the girls back at the campsite and a delicious dinner ended another wonderful day at the convention.

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