Classic Hondas on the Dragon III - No Honda Left Behind

The kindness of those who attend this event was really the highlight this year!

Classic Hondas on the Dragon II

A large group of classic Hondas driving together is truly something special to behold!

2017 Mitty - Day 1: Coker Tire Tour

An incredible drive through southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia, capped off with the best vintage racing out there.

Honda Dreams Do Come True

I bet you didn't realize that your first gen dream car was in Austria all this time!

Letting Go

Even the best laid plans don't promise success. Find out how I learned that the hard way.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Magic Mile Road Rally

Nope.  This isn't the kind of 'rally' you were thinking of.  There is no mud involved, unless you really get lost.  It is held on public roads (while the public is using them), and you never go over the speed limit (well, you shouldn't anyway).  At this point you're probably questioning whether or not to continue reading... I mean, the title image of this post doesn't scream 'action packed' does it.  I would recommend, however, that you continue... and not for the enjoyment of my literary skills.

Most people have heard of rally (or stage rally), but not road rally (or Time-Speed-Distance - TSD rally), or they think they are the same thing.  That's because the word rally brings to mind images of Subaru's, Renault's and Audi's blasting along gravel roads at insane speeds.  Can you say Group B?  Although it was established by the same people who started stage rally, road rally is the complete opposite of stage rally.   Instead of relying on the team's ability to go as fast as possible without crashing, the success of a road rally hinges on the teams ability to follow instructions, observe the environment around them, and maintain average speeds, none of which exceed the posted speed limits, over marked sections of the course.  The other major difference between stage rally and road rally is that road rallies are held on open public roads, where stage rallying is held on closed circuits, or public roads that have been closed to the public during the event.  The goal in road rally is to finish with the least amount of points.  You start the rally with 0 points, but if you answer any of the route questions incorrectly, or you are unable to maintain the average speeds over the specified sections of the course, you are given points.  Not all road rallies are the same.  Some allow the use of GPS, others don't.  Some require the competitors to answer questions about the route, other's don't.  In our rally, we were not allowed to use GPS, and we were required to answer 50 questions along the route.

The 2017 Magic Mile Rally was the Atlanta SCCA regions' inaugural event after a 25 year drought, and to celebrate, and draw some attention, they combined the event with the Cars and Coffee gathering in Athens Georgia.  We rolled into the parking lot next to Jittery Joe's Roadster Tasting Room about ten minutes before the Cars and Coffee event was supposed to start.  I was in front, in the CRX (of course), and Nick, my navigator, friend and fellow Honda nut was behind me in his 1986 AE86 Corolla (Think Initial D).  As we pulled in, we were surprised to see only a handful of cars.  The Cars and Coffee type event that we are used to is the Caffeine and Octane gathering held outside of Atlanta which starts incredibly early, and no matter how early you show up, all the good spots are usually already taken.  So showing up only minutes before the show started, had us worried.  Thankfully, the Athens event is much more laid back than the intense and overly commercialized Caffeine and Octane.  We pulled our cars into a couple prime parking spots and walked over to the tasting room.  Jittery Joe's Tasting room is a really neat place.  The building is an old airplane hanger that has been converted into a storage room for the coffee shop chain.  It has a small lobby where you can order drinks and the interior is charming with its eclectic decorations.  After grabbing coffee, we spent the next hour or so looking at all the cars, meeting some very nice people, and hearing some wild car stories.  The people of Athens were very hospitable and we had a great time.  While walking up and down the rows of cars, Nick spotted a bright orange sign with a large black check mark on it, leaning up against a small table.  The rally crew had started to set up shop.

Photo Courtesy of Athens Cars and Coffee

Registration for the rally had just begun, so we headed over to the table and signed in.  The starting times and team numbers were based on when you registered.  Thanks to Nick's eagle eye, we ended up being the second team to sign in, and since each team departed at two minute intervals, our start time was 12:04.  We had about an hour to kill before the rally started, so we headed back to our cars to relax and read over the rally instructions and navigation guide.  It didn't take long at all to go over the rally material so we decided to do another round in the parking lot to see if there were any new cars.  As we got up to leave, an older gentleman came up to us and complimented me on the CRX.  He then inquired about whether or not we had met another gentleman which of course we hadn't.  "Oh well I'll just have to introduce you!" he said.  Judging by his confident and insistent demeanor, I'm not sure we had a choice.  He led us over to a group of people next to a gorgeous red DeTomaso Pantera.  He pulled aside one of the men in the group and introduced us to him.  He turned out to be the owner of the Pantera, but not just that one, he had several.  After chatting for a bit about his substantial car collection, it turned out that he also owned two first generation CRX's.  It was neat to know that someone of considerable means and taste in cars would also have two 1Gs in his collection.

After getting a thorough tour of the Pantera, which included a peak at the massive ford v8 situated immediately behind the front seats, we headed back to the CRX and prepared to leave.  I set up the GoPro with it attached to the hatch glass, and Nick tried to decipher the first section of the route in the navigation guide.  The navigation guide consisted of several pages of numbered lines of text with additive mileage markers next to each line.  Each instruction was minimal, vague, and required close attention to syntax and character style.  The roads were specified by the way the name appeared in the instructions.  If a street name was in all caps, it meant that the road was a recognized through road, where as if it was in lower case it would be either a 'no outlet' road or it wasn't officially recognized.  So yeah, pretty anal, and I say that because we both skimmed over these little details when reading the instructions, and we ended up getting a lot of the questions wrong because of it.  In order to stay on course and not miss any of the turns, we had to pay close attention to our mileage and zero the odometer at every turn.  This meant that my old-school gear type odometer was going to play an important role in our success.  So was Nick's analog watch that he was using to monitor our timing.  This was no frills, tenting without a tent (or a shovel), swimming without a life vest.  It was retro, hairy-chested road rallying... at least that's what we told ourselves.

'How are we on time?' I asked as we waited with the car idling.  'It's noon now, so we have four minutes before we need to leave'.  The rally was a self start event.  No fancy start finish line with people waving flags and cheering.  You just left when you were supposed to, and as the clock struck 12:04 we pulled out of Jittery Joe's and headed toward the next turn.  Most of the direction changes or instructions came at a frequency of every 1-2 miles.  This did not allow much time for sight seeing, in fact, it was pretty intense.  Each segment started with me resetting the odometer, then Nick would read the next instruction line and point out the mileage to the next turn.  If there was a question associated with that particular segment, Nick would read it out and then we would both spend the duration of that segment scouring the countryside looking for a road name, or the colors of barn roofs, or whatever they would ask for.  When we came to a Magic Mile, which was the name for the timed segments, we had to stop at a particular land mark (usually a road sign) and wait for our specified start time.  If we arrived late, we had to record our 'time allowance' which would account for any lost time along to route that was acquired while getting lost.  When we began the segment I would accelerate to the specified average speed as fast as I could and then maintain that speed until the segment was over.

It took us about 15 minutes to start getting into a rhythm.  Nick didn't have to remind me every time to restart the odometer, and I didn't have to ask him as many times to repeat the route instructions or the mileage.  Everything was going smoothly and we were feeling good about our chances until I offered to help Nick with his navigating chores.  I offered to look for the next turn on one of the longer segments.  This didn't go well.  I totally missed the turn, but in my defense, we weren't the only team to miss it.  We went on a short detour that costs us almost 10 minutes.  I felt pretty horrible because it made Nick have to calculate our time allowance for each Magic Mile.  After that I left the navigating to him.  

Once we settled in to a groove, it gave us some time to enjoy the beautiful scenery.  The rally led us on a winding route through the farmlands just north and east of Athens Georgia.  Neither of us had been there before and it was a real treat.  The rolling hills were littered with tidy little farms, most of which had livestock scattered across their green pastures.  It was like driving through a postcard.  As the hours passed the rally became an afterthought of sorts.  We got a little caught up in our enjoyment of the drive and it caused us to miss quite a few turns and answers to the route questions.  It was OK though, we were having a great time.  As the countryside started to be replaced with more buildings we knew the rally was coming to a close.  The final stop on the course was a restaurant in Athens called Loco's Grill and Pub.  How far behind we were in the rally became abundantly clear when we pulled into the parking lot and saw almost a dozen cars that were participating in the rally.  If we had arrived on time, we would have been only the second car to arrive.  But neither of us were really phased by this because the only thing on our minds at that point was where the bathrooms were.

After using the facilities, we headed into a large room just to the right of the main dinning area.  The rally had reserved a separate dinning area for the occasion.  We turned our time sheet and answers to the route questions in to the rally organizers and found a seat.  As our dinner was being served, the rallymaster, UGA professor Mark Johnson, stepped up to the platform that was positioned next to the projector screen.  Results time.  At this point we were both hopeful for a good placement, but as Mark started to go over the answers to the route questions, our confidence dwindled.  Only then did we realize just how anal they were when it came to the questions.  Wow.  We got lucky on a couple, but things weren't looking good.  By the time he started announcing which teams placed where, we were just hoping we didn't get the Dead Last but Finished Trophy, which instead went to go a guy at our table.  Bullet dodged.  We ended up placing 26th out of 31 cars.  Not exactly what we expected, but it wasn't a big deal.  We had a great time bombing around the countryside in the CRX.  There aren't many better ways to spend an afternoon.

Photos by Stephen Dettman