The 2001 Thunderbird
was going to be record setter. Fifty-seven entries
with every class loaded with potential winners.
After watching the weather reports on Williams
Lake all week where it was snowing and cold, we
were prepared for a real winter rally. Larry flew
into Portland from sunny Costa Mesa on Wednesday
night, Valentine's Day. We spent Thursday finishing
car preparations and then Friday morning we set
out to meet Gary Webb and John Kisela at the 50th
street exit in Seattle. As we neared Tumwater
it began snowing and by the time we got to Seattle
there was nearly six inches of the stuff on the
ground. We exited at 50th and discovered that
our CB could receive but not transmit. Somehow
Gary figured out that the buzzing he was hearing
was us and we latched up and jumped on the freeway
for our journey North. About two minutes into
the mission we came to a screeching halt. All
six lanes were a parking lot. It seemed that about
20 of Seattle's residents decided to get up close
and personal in the middle of the freeway. What
a mess! After an hour of stop and go, mostly stop,
we finely got past the carnage and once again
began our journey North.
By the time we reached the border, the snow was
nearly gone. Our dreams of a big time winter rally
were fading. When we got to Cache Creek it was
cold, around 10 degrees, but the roads were clear.
We registered, had the car tech'd, plugged it
in for the night and Larry read me a bedtime story.
Morning came and we were ready. For some reason
the organizers like to wait to the last minute
to hand out instructions. At the driver's meeting,
a half-hour before the first car out, the instructions
are handed out to all contestants. This means
that car 1 gets less than a half-hour to prepare
the instructions for the day ahead. Car 57 gets
almost an hour longer.
The Mayor of Cache Creek flagged us off at 11:05.
Off we went to Deadman Vidette Road and the first
regularity section. The clear gravel roads began
giving way to snow covered lanes. We went gliding
along , through the first control, and then as
we rounded a bend and started an uphill section,
there was an oncoming local wrapped around a tree
just off the road on the left side. It was a full
size American pick-up with a snowmobile under
a canape in the back. A man was standing in the
road waving us down, and as I pulled to the right
to park and to avoid running over the guy, the
car's right side tires were grabbed by the ditch
gremlins that hang out in this part of B.C. The
car slowly slipped to the right putting it solidly
"in the ditch." I got out and talked to the man
as a total of four teenagers climbed out of the
truck. He had hit the tree sometime after car
4 had passed. Much to our relief, he gave no indication
that his off course excursion was anything but
his own fault. Looking at the car and seeing that
5 people were in it, I was amazed that the only
injuries seemed to be minor bruises. The kids
were pretty excited but seemed to calm down as
other rally traffic came by and their attention
shifted to watching the parade of unusual cars.
The driver said that they lived close by and that
relatives would come searching for them shortly.
How he knew that I didn't ask. They then suggested
that they try to push us back on the road. We
were able to move the car back down the road about
30 feet placing us almost directly across from
the crashed truck. The ditch however wasn't about
to let us out of its grasp.
The right side of the car was pressed into the
snow bank. This meant that in order to exit, Larry
had to crawl over the center console. For those
of you who know Larry , you know that we use a
shoehorn to get him and the computer into the
car. You can imagine how this must have looked.
Where was the video camera when I needed it? Watching
him extract himself and his size 13 boots surely
would win an award on one of those World's Funniest
Soon a pick-up arrived with relatives of the
crash victims. Lot's of hugging and "what if's."
Later, one of the new arrivals suggested that
he could pull us out if we had a tow strap. Viola,
the tow strap gets to be used in the second consecutive
rally. In January, it helped extract the Breazeale's
from the mud bog on the Grand Canyon Rally. A
quick pop from the tow vehicle and we were back
on the road. We figured a 32.5 minute time dec.
and off we went through one more control and on
to the end of the Regularity
I should point that nearly everyone after us
was affected somewhat by the accident scene. The
crowd grew larger and at one time there were nearly
20 friends, relatives, and victims milling about,
along with three additional vehicles. Rally cars
were slowed and sometimes even stopped by the
activity around the crash scene.
Anyway, we noticed that we now were faced with
an 85 kilometer transit that included a ten minute
pause. We thought that it just might be possible
to regain our correct spot on the road if we hustled.
Off we went and arrived at the start of the next
Regularity with a couple of minutes to spare.
Since this is a public forum, perhaps we won't
say much about this flight. I mean drive.
The roads were great, but not a lot of snow and
we were thinking that this T-Bird would be light
on the usual stories. Little did we know what
was happening behind us. Other reports have detailed
the exploits of the Rover so I won't go into that
here, but let's just say they weren't alone in
finding their way off the road.
At the Williams Lake halt for the night, Glen
Wallace and David Squire were leading with 1 point,
followed closely by Gary and John, and Jim and
Christy Breazeale tied with 2points. We were next
with 5 points. The organizers chose to discard
the control after the accident as many crews were
affected and it would have been difficult to be
fair to everyone.
The morning came early and bringing with it a
new blanket of snow. We headed out into a light
snow fall that sometimes turned quite heavy. Our
winter rally was here at last. Oh boy!!! As we
climbed into the mountains the roads became quite
twisty and quite deep in the white stuff. What
The first section was challenging, one control
was particularly difficult to reach on time. This
section ended and we took a short rest and investigated
an amazing suspension bridge.
This next section looked familiar. I recognized
the road from last year. We would soon enter an
acute left switch back, travel about a half mile
into a second acute, this time to the right, executing
both while climbing on a snow covered gravel road.
Last year there was a control at the first turn.
We held zeroes into the first turn only to see
that there was no control. Dropping to six late
and accelerating madly I realized that the control
would be in the next turn. Lo and behold there
it was. Reaching speeds close to Mach 1 we approached
this second acute. I saw Larry grab his door grip
and brace himself as I pitched the car to the
left, scrubbed some speed and then swung the car
back around to the right as the apex arrived.
Around we went, right on time. Of course we dropped
about six more seconds getting back up to speed
as this time we really had to climb. The drive
between here and the next control was probably
the most challenging of the rally. I even had
to ask Larry to open a window because I'd worked
up a sweat. We were as much as 7 seconds down
twice but managed to gain it all back in time
for the control at the top of the hill.
It was pretty much a cakewalk from there to the
end and the transit on into Cache Creek for the
ice race on the lake.
Last year the lake event was counted in the scores,
this year each car got to make two laps as fast
as they wanted just for fun. And what fun it was.
I actually hit 4th gear on the straightaway. It's
a little unnerving going that fast aimed at a
180 degree turn on a frozen lake. I sure have
a lot of respect for those nuts that actually
race wheel to wheel on this venue.
The awards were presented in a timely fashion,
and in spite of us having only picked up 3 points
for the day, Gary Webb and John Kisela were able
to hang on for the over all win. They ended up
with 7 points to our 8. Only 1 point separated
us after two demanding days on snow and ice covered
roads. Jim and Christy Breazeale finished 3rd
with 10 points followed by first day leaders Glen
Wallace and Richard Squire with 12.
Many many thanks to Paul and Tony and the whole
B.C. crew for putting on a truly great event.
Larry was so impressed with the novice program
in B.C. that he donated a new Alfa "B" box to
a randomly drawn novice competitor. This allows
them to take the next step up in competition in
Incidentally, 1st and 2nd overall were using
Alfa Elite computers. Thank you to Mike Friedman
for creating that tool for us.
Congratulations to Gary and John and to all the
class winners, Sach Carlson and Russ Kraushaar
in Historic class, Roy Lima and John Rapson in
Calculator class, Ron and Josh Sorem in Paper
class, and Dan Fealk and Stuart Fealk in Novice