Grimy is the road to Whitehorse, especially when the temps are well above freezing. Today's early start at 0600 in Ft. St. John seemed like it would stay cold, but it didn't last. A nice long TSD section on some interesting roads, paved and unpaved, had rallyists scratching their heads over the advisability of passing on uphill hairpin turns. From the sounds of it, most selected safety over a good checkpoint time. It will be interesting to see if that part of the section is scored later as the amount of traffic on that section of road affected quite a few cars. The rest was great, though.
Oh -- a quick recap of last night. We didn't do well on the last TSD. It was a DIY (Do It Yourself) section which was something new for us. The idea behind this kind of section is that it can be run by having the teams compute their perfect times and they can only do so by driving the course and getting the best measurements they can. I thought I had the calculations figured out, and these can be easy if you take the time to get good measurements and don't make mistakes. Unfortunately I made a major screwup and wrote down an entirely wrong time which gave us a gigantic score on the last three DIY checkpoints of the six total. Disappointing because we had zeroed the first three. We did well on the TSD by the school earlier that day as well, scoring better than some of the very experienced teams. We also didn't max our score at the slalom, meaning we weren't *completely* outclassed. But my mistake last night will be hard to overcome over the remainder of the event. Eric and Steve did fantastic on the first DIY, and were the only team to score an impressive zero total for the section.
Like I said, today's morning TSD was great fun. Afterward we made tracks further north, heading up the Alaska Highway. Fairly heavily travelled at this point, the section to Fort Nelson saw dropping temps -- to about 9 degrees in town when we arrived for gas and lunch. But temps quickly climbed over the freezing point after we left town, and the rest of the daylight hours were spent squirting washer fluid and squinting at the road ahead. Everyone marveled at the nice weather. After Fort Nelson, traffic lightened considerably.
By the time we hit Liard Hot Springs at around the 400 mile mark, the site of the 2nd TSD and the first DIY for the day, quite a few of us felt it wasn't cold enough to dunk our bods in the hot springs. Eric and Steve and a select few others made the effort, though. After all, if you've come this far, might as well take the plunge!
The short DIY TSD up the highway was uneventful, except for passing quite close to a couple of groups of bison. What does one call a group of bison anyway? A blunder of bison? A bamboozle of buffalo?
Another 100 miles or so and we left British Columbia for the Yukon Territory. Of course we had to stop for photos but it didn't seem too dramatic to stand there in our shirtsleeves so we dug out the cold weather coats for that extra look of authenticity. The border sign location is actually the fifth (out of seven) place where we crossed between the two provinces but this is the "official" one and is just outside of Watson Lake. We met up with some of the BMW and Challenge Driving teams here as well and shared in the photo opportunity.
Home of the famous Signpost Forest, Watson Lake seems like a pretty quiet place. We had a very short DIY TSD here, which wound through the side streets of the town before dropping us off back on the highway to continue north. Some gossip was exchanged with some of the experienced teams -- perhaps an interesting outcome will be aired tomorrow. But first, another gas and washroom stop, and another chance to scrape some of the muck from lights, glass and sponsor decals. We then saddled up for the nearly 300 mile last push to our hotel in Whitehorse.
I started typing this not long after departing Watson Lake. As I was transferring the day's photos to the computer, we noticed a semi truck/trailer off the side of the road with the marker lights on. We stopped to see if help was needed and it didn't look good. But we found a well-worn path from the wreck up to the road so we determined that whatever aid had already been and gone. The semi left the road and was airborne for quite a distance (later reports said 70 feet). A sobering picture as we restarted our drive in the dark north.
A few of my friends and family have asked about safety -- don't worry. We're with a well supported group of very able folks and having the radios increases both the general safety as well as the alertness level of everyone. I should also comment about the cameraderie and general good nature of this group. When you get a group of people from all over the country involved in something like this event, it really brings home that one of the best parts of doing rally, even something as "outside" as this, is just as much about the fun and friends as it is the competition and challenge.Posted by danc at February 20, 2004 11:36 PM