Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Crestline Trail Rally 2008, Sept. 6-7

Crestline Trail Rally is a new event this year that replaced the very enjoyable C2C event that we had competed in in years past. We had high hopes for this TSD as we do for all 2-day rallies.

The starting point was the Holiday Inn Osoyoos. We arrived late on Friday night to find a nice hotel with comfortable beds. Our hotel luck has been somewhat spotty in the past (no heat in February, no hot water, sofa beds missing half of their slats...) so it was a relief to finally have a room with two normal beds. Apparently the hotel location is good too as we could see the lake from the stairwell between our room and the parkade. So far so good although no beach for us. :(

Day 1

We set our alarms so that we could get the gravel tires on before the tech crew became available at 7:00. Tech was a breeze although there were a few comments about the wiring under the hood. I will say no more. The organizers went out of their way for this event and had secured tire storage for us so it was just a matter of putting the street tires into a pickup and then we didn't have to worry about them until the end of the rally. What service!

After tech, we headed up to the hotel restaurant to sign in and get a copious supply of swag along with the route book. In a gesture of kindness to the co-drivers, we got the instructions for both days in the same book. I now had dreams of day 2 and being able to get out of the car before the first gas stop...kinda like a driver. I have to say it was nice when it happened.

We had the drivers meeting after breakfast and were out on the road shortly afterwards on our way towards Grand Forks and the first reg. The route instructions left time for us to enjoy the viewpoint overlooking the lake on the east side which I thought was a nice touch. I've been many places over the past few years but I wouldn't recognize half of them as I've usually had my head down looking at my route instructions.

During the odo check, we realized that we had not filled up the tank after our drive to Osoyoos from Vancouver. Oops. I quickly started calculating how many kilometres we had before the gas stop and we determined that we were going to be cutting it very close. To add to the stress, we missed a turn between the odo check and reg 1...wasting precious gas!!

The start of reg 1 put us near this curious assortment of signs. It's obvious that the kids playing here had way more fun than I did when I was growing up.

Reg 1 wasn't stellar for us, 6 points over 3 checkpoints but not a horrible start. With much relief, we encountered a gas station in Rock Creek during the first transit. Much relief. Very much relief. It was readily apparent after reg 1 that we would not be getting our usual TSD fuel efficiency so this station saved our asses.

Reg 2 was going great...until our odo stopped working around 14 kilometres in. Power was OK but there was no speed reading or distance update. Panic ensued. We rallied for over a year with the stock odo but I was not anxious to go back. To add to the excitement, shortly after the odo failure we encountered a herd of cows on the road. Most were pretty good at moving aside but three calves decided that the best option (not sure for who) would be to gallop, as cows apparently can, down the road in a straight line. After about 200 m, two of the calves found enough room at the side of the road to let us by. The third, and smallest, calf kept going straight for another 100 m or so. We finally came upon a clearing that the calf ignored at first and then eventually decided that it would be a good place to escape. Once in the clearing, the calf seemed to speed up once in the open. People say bears are deceptively I know small cows are too. Anyhow, after 6 kilometers or so of navigation by stock odo, the precision odo started working again. It was too late though, we were 15 seconds late to a checkpoint just before the 17 km mark. I blame the cows for that one.

At the end of the reg, we paused to check the odo wiring and found that our superior 'twist-tie' method of splicing had failed on the sensor line. I redid the splice (with hockey tape this time!) and it was OK for the rest of the rally.

To the rest of our bad karma out of the way early, we almost stalled the car at the start of reg 3. Stephen recovered gracefully though and we finished without the reg without any further problems. Reg 3 was to be our first of many passes through sections of road that would be used many more times during the rally. It was good in some ways as we got multiple attempts at some really fun corners but it was also a little boring too as the not-so-exciting sections didn't get any more exciting the 2nd, 3rd and 4th times through. Our scores did improve by the end though.

Between regs 5 and 6, we stopped in Midway for gas and lunch. I will say that, while service was slow, the bun of my sandwich was top-notch. Good enough to write about.

On the way to reg 7, the last of the day, we encountered this scene at the entrance to Cox Valley. It was so amazing we both were thinking the same thing: picture! We stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the view a take a few pix. The camera really doesn't do justice to the colours and textures we saw.

Before reg 7 started, Stephen checked the shocks and determined that we had been riding at the firmest setting rather than the softest setting. To say the suspension had been bone-jarring since the upgrade last November is a bit of an understatement. With the new adjustments made, the ride was much more comfortable although some further tweaking was required later on to get the handling just right for Stephen. We finished reg 7 in comfort and only with 4 points despite me completely missing the call on a fork in the road.

At the end of day 1, we had 37 points for 1st in our class and 5th overall.

The organizers really did organize everything for us. We drove up to the hotel and were handed the door cards for our room. Dinner had been pre-arranged so we just had to relax for a bit, head to the restaurant and then sit down and eat. Once we were done dinner, we headed back to the hotel where I finished the calcs for day 2 and then hit the sack.

Day 2

The second day was without unnecessary excitement from a TSD point of view. We headed out through the same roads we had been travelling for most of day 1 and then had two more regs on new roads followed by reg 1 in reverse to end the day. During reg 2, I had to keep correcting the odo by bumping it down 10 m every few km. At the end of the reg, I took a guess at how many bumps I made and recalculated our calibration setting for the odo. It seemed to work as I didn't have any problems for the rest of the day.

Our route on day 2 took us in a loop north around Osoyoos and brought us back to civilization near Oliver. We ended up at Smitty's for a late lunch, results and prizes. We scored 14 points on the day for 51 in total. This is one of our better two-day TSD scores and was good enough to keep us 1st in class and move us up one spot to 4th overall (out of 9 teams competing). All in all a good way to finish. After lunch, we grabbed the street tires, swapped them on for the gravels and headed home.

Coming into this rally, we knew it would be the last for while for Team MBCU as Stephen had plans for another continent for the next few years. It was great to finish with a solid effort a such a fantastic event. Our hats go off to the organizers for this one as it truly was one of the most well organized events we've attended.

In a few short years, we went from zero experience to novice champions to calculator class champions. What a blast and it never would have happened (for me) without Stephen being kind enough to ask me if I wanted to join in.