Hello, Eric here reporting on day 3. We overslept this morning. Steve and I got up at 5:25, about an hour later than planned and only 35 minutes before our scheduled start time. The day started off bad for us, the famous Alcan hillclimb was about three miles into the first timed TSD section. It looked fine until we found ourselves behind a semi truck with long low-boy trailer and had to follow it through the three switchbacks of the hillclimb. We took a 35 point penalty at the top of the climb. I was not happy. But if you drive for 16 hours and put about 800 miles in, those problems become distant memories.
TeamD slipped a bit today. Eric and Steve's hillclimb fun moved them back to second in class. They are 4.5 points behind first in class. They slipped from 5th to 7th place. Dan got stuck with some of their major points from yesterday, they are still third in class and 9th overall. Nick and Rob are hanging in there, third in their class and 10th overall.
Read on for more details and full standings...
On day four we get to drop the worst single checkpoint score of the first four days. These scores do not reflect those deductions so they may change radically tomorrow.
1. Car #3 Carlson, Joy, Kraushaar with 27.7points 2. Car #1 Ahearns, Schneider, Webb with 33.9 points 3. Car #2 Kraushaar, Engstrom, Richardson, 37.7 points 4. Car #4 Eklund, Rounds, Reid, 49 points 5. Car #12 Miller, Duchene, Wood with 76 points 6. Car #10 Wallace, Hightower, Carozza, 96.1 points 7. Car #7 Horst, Willey with 101 points 8. Car #8 Bornhop, Kott, 150 points 9. Car #11 Hogan, Comden with 286.1 points 10. Car #6 Dunn, Marcuse, 385.5 points 11. Car #9 Wright, Fuhrman, 706 points 12. Car #16 Brown, Morris, 709.1 points 13. Car #13 Gilland, Boyd with 747 points 14. Car #14 Weaver, Weaver, 808.3 points 15. Car #5 Elder, Elder, 837 points 16. Car #15 von Richthofen, Touring Class
Another voice offering greetings from the bar in Whitehorse. Wireless and beer are a winning combination. So, here are some loosly connected Alcan ramblings.
After a 6am TSD section littered with lumber trucks crawling-up hairpins were on the road to Whitehorse. Starting in Ft. St. John's Wort the mileage alone would make this a long day. But a simply long day isn't enough for Alcan Rally standards. We need, we crave extreme days. We need to add 3 TSD sections and a nice dip at Liard Hot Springs to correctly shape an 18hour driving day.
Competition wise there are ups and downs. We seem to be swapping first place in class I with another car. At breakfast we were ahead but we'll see how it looks the next time scores are posted. When we fall behind it just makes us focus harder on what needs to be done. We were the only car to ace the first DIY section yesterday and that feels good. We hav two more DIY sections today so hopefully we'll do as well on them too.
After a too long stop at Pink Eye Mountain for gas and caf we're back on the road with me at the wheel. So far my fits on the throttle hav been limited to the run up the Fraser River Canyon and smashing the car around on the oval at Quesnel. But today it was a few hundred miles of new-era Alcan Highway. Straight straights and smooth curves. We fell in with the BMW X3 team who were making a casual pace. This was fine with me since unlike the modern X3's our bimmer doesn't hav good cup holders and I didn't want my mocha frapichino to spill.
Since this is my first bought of keyboard time that wasn't committed to calculating times I'll retrace some of our steps and tell my side of story. First of all, she said she was 19, how was I supposed to know? And that smashing the car around in Quesnel? Yeah, that was me. Someone said to use the snow banks and I used them to remove the trim from the car. Didn't make me any faster. The ice racing is fun, I like the sliding around and stuff but the going fast part still eludes me. I keep thinking the going fast part will fall in with driving clean lines but maybe you need to leave all four tires inflated to get a good time.
Some of my transit duties included driving up the Fraser River Canyon. It's a trip we've made many times now on the way to various BC rallys. Typically at night. On Wednesday we got partial sun and rain. Someday I plan to look up the drainage geology that forms the Fraser River Canyon but there is a lot of water that spills out of the high desert cutting it's way to Vancouver. Whether due to it's wide-spread population or the lack of the Highway Building administrations that the US has had Canada retains much of it's rail infrastructure. Ride lines hug both sides of the Fraser canyon. It's also not atypical to see both in use. The east bound trains carrying forest products the west bound carrying forest products converted into hockey sticks.
Our team mates Rob and Nick handed us a little treat this morning of two bags marked .50$ from the Petro-Canada. Turns-out the Petro isn't for petroleum or petrified fossil fuels but for petrified candy. Thanks Rob and Nick, next time we hav some pocket lint (canadian coins smallar then loonies or toonies) we know who to spend it on.
Past Ft. St. Lord Nelson we've found some old-style Alcan Higway. Tight, bendy, and much more authenitic feeling than the super-highway parts. This is the Alcan of Alcan lore. Now much of the highway has been straighten, widened and ensafened. The newer parts are nice (and nice and fast) but not the iconic ribbon of tramac linking places previously unlinked.
In the running tally of things stolen on the 2004 Alcan Rally we're up to one room key, one hotel towel and one tank of gas. I won't say who forgot to pay for their gas but I know they intend to repay their debt to society.
Here are some quotes from the day:
"The sound of the wind in the tree tops and the tinkle on the snow makes me yearn for the northlands"
"I am the calculator"
I'm tired, more rally tomorrow.
Enjoy the pictures.
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.
Eric, Dan and Steve do a much more effective job of posting updates from the road than Jim ... thinks Jim. It would help if Jim knew how to type. You should see Dan banging away on the keyboard as we cruise down the Alaska Highway at 130kph. It is a sight to behold. My two-finger typing technique whilst in the passenger seat is nowhere near as effective and trying to type while underway can give me *just* a touch of motion sickness, something to which I am usually quite immune. Ooh, I am getting a bit woozy!
We trade off driving the long transits so that we can each rest our eyeballs and get some distraction -- type notes, fiddle with radios, rummage through the snack bag, snap photos. During the scored sections we stick with Dan navigating and me driving, Dan's is definitely the harder job. My job? I simply try to follow the "speed up" and "slow down" instructions that Dan has told the Timewise to give me and I try to respond positively and appropriately to the more-than-occasional, vigorous "Noooo! Straight! Straight!" corrective reminders (with the requisite pointing of fingers) that Dan is obliged to deliver to keep Jim from going astray.
The TSDs on the Alcan have been great fun. Certainly there have been more than a few cases where I struggled to keep a certain speed `through a twisty uphill section or maybe didn't think ahead enough, only to come over a rise or around a corner a find (no surprise) a checkpoint that definitely was going to give us points for being late. But it's usually a lot of fun trying to catch or keep up, and I have really been impressed with the checkpoint locations. And did I hear right that Ken and Sue Lingbloom (sitting together in one car) were timing us both at the bottom and top of that hill yesterday? Cruel, true, but I have to love that!
What can I say about today specifically? Well, OK the weather was pretty amazing and the drive up the Alaska Highway has been fantastic, but you've probably already heard that. What can I contribute in the way of unique knowledge? How about this: British Columbia is *huge*. Really, really huge, I had no idea. This discovery suggests that the Yukon, NWT, and Alaska are probably pretty big, too, I really had no idea,
On the business end of things, I can report that we may just have a few choice spots left for last-minute sponsorships. I know that Car 7 would be pleased to receive expressions of interest from manufacturers of automotive lighting equipment, and Car 11 would be more than delighted to entertain communications from enterprises engaged in the business of automotive glass replacement. I am quite pleased that I cultivated a certain degree of fatal resignation before departing Kirkland vis-a-vis my windshield. The first crack same before Cache Creek and was unavoidable -- a rock from a truck moving in the opposite direction. A three-inch evening crack stretched across the windshield by morning (but was nice enough to stay low and out if sight). The second was completely avoidable, It's what I get for following the Challenge Driving Forester too closely at the moment that Paul Eklund starts throwing rocks out the window. The crack? Presently about 6 inches. We are monitoring its progress.
Only about 10 miles to Whitehorse now. Time just flies somehow when I try to type. We are following Eric and Steve in Car 7 and I am gazing with great complacency at the custom high-intensity LED auxiliary tail lights that Steve fabricated and which are mounted on the BMW's Yakima rack. They are truly a work of art. I managed to cook up something of the sort with some LED trailer lights from West Marine, but they pale in comparison. Next time I need lights for the Winter Alcan, I'm heading to Steveco!