This weekend, Jennifer, Janice and I worked the Coker Tire Challenge Rally. I had helped earlier with the course layout so I knew where we would be going.
We met up with John and Rachel on Thursday afternoon. They had flown in from California to make final preparations on the route. We made a quick tour of the Coker Tire headquarters and got our badges and new T shirts. This time our goodie bag included a cool hat as well. We recycled our green shirts we wore at Great Race.
We met with John and reviewed how to operate the SEIKO clocks. It had been a couple of months since we had seen them but we remembered pretty quickly how to set them on the hour. We collected a check point sign for each Jeep and headed back to Cleveland after checking out a few of the familiar rally cars.
The next morning started early setting clocks in the dark at 7am. Jennifer’s partner was nowhere to be found. After a few calls we found he was confused on the start time and was running late. We made arrangements for an alternate place to meet Jennifer and left her at Coker to wait while the rest of the workers headed out to our positions.
We followed Rachel as she drove making a final check of the course measurements. This meant that she would not exceed 60 MPH even on the interstate. Our little caravan got some strange looks from passersby on the interstate. The outboard wheel unit for John’s rally computer always attracts attention.
We stopped in Kimbal and Jennifer made good progress on catching up. In fact, she was ahead of us before we got back on the road and we arranged for her to take a break and meet up along the route into Alabama. I dropped out of the caravan long enough to make sure every thing was OK with her and her partner and then we picked up the route.
We caught up well before check point one which was somewhere south of Stevenson. We all took some time to introduce our selves now that it was light. With the crew for checkpoint one in place, we moved on down the road.
Our caravan took us along the same route as the Crow Mountain Hillclimb where I will be working in a couple of weeks. We also passed the cool rock zoo along the way.
We dropped Jennifer and Jonathon at their control and moved on. Near Huntsville, we dropped off the other crew and then John, Rachel and I met for an early lunch. Due to the time zone difference, the Arby’s was just opening when we arrived.
Our checkpoint for the afternoon was a double. That meant cars would be passing us twice. The time around the loop was about six minutes so we had two cars passing us every minute for most of the time we were open.
We had a nice quiet place in a church yard on a lightly traveled road. However, we still had a few locals stop to see what was going on. Unfortunately one of the locals held up one of the contestants who was coming into our checkpoint as he was looking at us. They had to take a time delay.
After our checkpoint was over, we phoned in our results and headed up the route to find Jennifer who had moved to a different location for her afternoon assignment. We drove together to Corky’s farm to turn in our scores and eat some food grilled up by Sticky Finger’s catering.
We then headed out to the Walker Valley football game where Jennifer’s daughter was playing in the band. After the game, we headed home for some much needed rest.
We started early again the next day setting clocks at 7am. Jennifer had a new partner who arrived on time this day.
We headed north to Dunlap. We set up checkpoint one in the rain. Then we followed the route to check point two which was my assignment for the morning.
It was a nice hay field across from a house. The home owner came out and was excited to find that the Great Race was passing her house. She called her friends who stood in the yard taking pictures as the cars went by. “Now we know what the green dot is for!” we heard them say.
We were almost caught off guard when the first car passed us ten minutes early. But we had everything set up and clocked him in properly. The rest of the cars arrived in order and in their expected minutes. It was fun to watch the cars make their way through the winding farm road.
After we called in our scores we headed out to meet John and Rachel in Pikeville for our afternoon assignment. We realized we had a bit of time to kill, so we headed up to Sparta for lunch. We must have just missed John and Rachel there as we found they had stopped for lunch across the street from us. We met them in Pikeville at our expected rendezvous point and time.
We worked the last control of the day in a church yard near HWY 58 in Hamilton County. I think some of the contestants thought they had passed all the workers because several were very early to our checkpoint. They looked surprised to see us. Others got great scores at our checkpoint so they must have been paying attention.
We called in our scores as the cars were coming in. We met Jennifer back at Coker. Back at Coker there was a huge car show going on. Our fellow rally friend Tom Greig had come up from Atlanta to see the event. We walked around and admired the beautiful cars on display.
Then we visited T Bones bar for a snack and watched the crowd watch the UT football game on TV. After that, we headed back to Cleveland and hid the bed early knowing we had an even earlier start the next day.
Sunday we headed south at 6:20 am. We set out clocks in Trenton, Ga at 7:00am.
We dropped the first check point crew at a little church well before church time. Jennifer and Gary had a checkpoint on the brow of Lookout Mountain. They had a nice creek with a waterfall just behind them.
We were the last checkpoint of the day again. This meant we had to call in scores every few cars which adds to the challenge of recording their times correctly as they rally cars speed by. No one seemed surprised to see us this time and there appeared to be some really good scores on our leg. It was fun watching the old cars climb the hill to our checkpoint trying to maintain their assigned speed.
Back at Coker, Jennifer was doing multiple jobs for John as we collected equipment and scores. We finally got to sit down and eat just as Corky was announcing the results. The low scores continue to amaze me. I am not sure I could do as well with a computer much less with the limited vintage equipment they are allowed.
There were some very interesting cars running the rally. Harold Coker was running his Chrysler Airflow. Those cars are interesting in pictures but absolutely stunning when seen running on the road. There were several former race cars. The drivers of these seemed to enjoy pushing them to their limits as I sow several drifting them through corners. I bet Corky enjoys seeing them wear out their vintage tires as well.
The Coker Challenge is also open to modern cars and Street Rods. There was an interesting Willys Jeep in the event. It had a street rod independent front suspension and a Chevy V8. I don’t think it would do much off road but it was an interesting street machine.
It is always good to have a Jeep Cherokee when working checkpoints. It is easy to get off the road and opening the hatch makes for shade and light rain protection. Also there is plenty for room for check point sighs and other gear that we need to make working a checkpoint comfortable. Also, the on road manners of the Cherokee makes it easy to get from place to place quickly.
While waiting in line to get stickers on our Jeep for the Great Race, this awesome Peterbuilt hot rod pulled up behind us. Unfortunately it started to rain and hail so, I did not get to learn much about it. It was powered by a twin turbo diesel of some kind.
The front axle was aluminium and someone mentioned he found it in a pile of scrap aluminum. The front suspension is like an over sized T hot rod with radius arms. He maintained air brakes on all four wheels however.
While pre running the course for the last day of the 2011 Great Race, I looked up and saw two Jeep Wranglers in a yard close to the road. I then noticed the blonde woman standing beside one. I then saw the Opal Justice stickers and I knew it had to be my Facebook friend Sue. I had never met Sue, but we banter on Facebook almost daily.
I stopped in the road and quickly backed up and rolled down the window. She knew we would be in the area and we were hoping to meet up after the rally. Neither of us had any idea that the route would take me past her home.
She met us at Hemmings in Bennington after the event. She and her husband invited us to go run a trail with them.
The next morning, we set out to meet her. We got a bit confused with Dorset and East Dorset but managed to make it to our rendezvous point just a few minutes late. Keith couldn’t make it, but Sue led us up a very interesting trail.
I was surprised when we turned off the paved road that there was a sign that said ”TRAIL.” We climbed up what looked like an old rail road grade. The trail was rocky and slightly washed but Janice’s stock XJ made it fine even loaded with three people and our luggage.
At the top of the hill, Sue led us to the coolest place I have ever been in a Jeep. We got to drive inside a cave. We parked with our headlights illuminating a deep pool of green water. The cave was formed by marble quarrying.
We spent some time hiking in the cave and exploring the cuts in the rocks. Sue told us of some of the many parties she had had in this cave over the years including her wedding celebration.
Sue took a more adventurous path out of the cave. She then led us to an overlook where we could see the entire valley. Next, we followed her up a challenging climb so that we could look down a shaft to the area where we had just been inside the cave.
After touring the top, we went back down and picked up her friend Lisa. Her Jeep was in need of repairs so she tagged along with Sue. We then took a trip across the ridge line toward the next town. This trail was very narrow and I was concerned I might get a scratch or two but I made it just fine. Only one rock scraped the cross member, but only gently.
At the end of the trail, we popped out in a working marble quarry. There were huge chucks of marble waiting to be transported down the mountain. The mine entrance was gated but we waked down to see the huge steel door that seals the entrance to the mountain. This is possibly the largest marble tunnel in the world.
We were somewhat concerned that the lower gate might be closed since no one was working at the quarry site and that we might have to re run the trail to get out. However, the gate was open and we were able to get started on our way back to Tennessee.
The short wheeling run was a great way to meet some friends and to end our long trek north. I have always wanted to drive a Jeep into a cave and now I have. Thanks Sue.
I have been staying in a lot of hotels lately. First was a trip to Galveston Texas and then a trip from Chattanooga to Vermont traveling with the Great Race.
The one thing I noticed in al the hotels that I stayed in this past month was that they are dark. The shift to energy saving light bulbs seems to be the cause. In most rooms, I had to get right under the lamps to be able to read my book.
All the hotels I stayed in used electronic key cards. Occasionally they would be deactivated by having them too close to a cell phone, but for this trip my keys always worked.
Another common theme for this trip was a lack of towels. In my previous experience, there were always plenty of towels. But in all these hotels, there was a bare minimum of towels.
Wifi varied greatly from hotel to hotel. The two worst were Holiday Inns. The signal strength was fin e on the router, but the actual link to the internet was slow and often dropped out altogether. In other places, I had trouble getting a signal in my room, but when I did get connected it was fast and reliable.
The hotel in Galveston we booked through Hotels.com. This was a very pleasant experience with low rates and no problems. The hotels for Great Race were handled by Great Race’s corporate travel agency. While I had no trouble with my room reservations, others traveling with us did. The only problem I had was waiting for the person with the hotel info to arrive and get our rooms arranged before I could check in.