Welcome back to AutoGuide’s exploits at the Mazda Adventure Rally. We rejoin team Eunos Cosmo (Sami and Mike) after their first full day of driving. After arriving first at checkpoint one, where do they stand now?
While feeling proud of our results in the first section, we fueled up, (the car and ourselves) to hit the road and conquer challenge number two for the day. The challenge involves us hitting the roads between Buena Vista and Ridgeway, and finding the biggest difference in altitude on our route.
Thanks to the clever planning last night (which gave us a huge advantage over the other teams in the first leg of the rally) we set off towards the (now dry) ski hills of the area.
But about 15 minutes passed and something was dead wrong. We didn’t seem to be going in the right direction. In fact, we seemed to be going downhill, and away from the big mountains. Panic ensued. We came to the conclusion that we must have gone the wrong way, and indeed, our planned starting position was slightly off from what it was in reality. As in, we started on the wrong side of the road (and left should have been rights and so forth.) We doubled back, and made a mental note that we wasted about 30 minutes.
As mentioned in our last update, we had two routes planned. One would have us ending the section slightly under the allotted time, while the other one would take longer than the allowed time, but would potentially give us extra points. Due to our mistake, we’d have to opt for our first, and safer option, using up our margin of error within the first few moments of the section.
Mike used the same strategy as he did last time, and put his foot down during the curves and on-ramps. I’m not sure if he was actually trying to keep us in the competition, or if he wanted to see me vomit. “We’ll make up our lost time in the corners,” he reminded me, a catchphrase I’m getting literally sick of hearing.
Fortunately we weren’t stuck in any traffic and found our planned route to our high altitude point. The road we chose, called Old Monarch Road, is a local, unmaintained road which was very close to the ski hills. Today however, it was all smooth gravel and we hit it hard and quickly to reach the summit of the pass. At an altitude of 11,375 feet we reached it, snapped a photo of our point of interest, and went on to find our lowest point.
Already fighting against the clock, we headed to a town called Montrose, which roughly has an elevation of about 5,000 ft. According to our watch and our notes from yesterday, we had regained the time, likely due to reaching the summit of Old Monarch Pass so quickly. It dawned on us that we actually had a chance to finishing the section with no time penalties!
But then, as we were elated to realize our fighting chance, the rally gods proved their power. Just like earlier in the day, construction and road closures got in the way of our success. But this time, we were not put on a detour, but a half-hour stop while construction ensued on the road. Mike and I couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Our podium finish was vanishing before our eyes. While we did believe that other competitors would likely see the same delays, our thirty-minute delay at the beginning of this section could potentially erase our advantage from the first section.
We finished up the section behind by just under 20 minutes, a delay that would see us losing 20 points. Ouch! Fortunately, the Mazda Rally organizers heard our plea for mercy regarding the construction delays, and said they would consider modifying the rules for everyone.
The final section seemed the easiest, and required the least amount of planning from our end. We were given a choice of four pre-planned routes, and would have to photograph archway-signage of the local ranches. Two routes were considered easy, with an estimated time of completion in about an hour. The other two routes were considered quite challenging, and something to forget if the weather wasn’t just right.
Mike and I agreed that the easy routes would be out of the question, since they pretty much followed the local freeway, and that they’d likely not be the ideal location for a ranch. We decided to hit the second most intimidating road, under the assumption that cowboys would want to set up shop on a road called “Last Dollar Road.” It sounded like a good idea at the time!
Sure enough we found our first set of ranches, but really, that wasn’t the story in this section. It was the absolutely rugged, and ruthless terrain that we had to conquer in order to get to our final checkpoint in Telluride, Colorado. These were roads that would have most crossovers, and unexperienced drivers shaking with fear. Ruts a foot deep, and rocks as big as my head littered the road we were traveling on, and we had to keep a close eye on the road directly in-front of the vehicle.
The route continued skywards, and crossed several creeks. No wider than our CX-9, the drive had me vocally protesting the possibility of the car even completing the journey, but Mike willed it forward. We even had to share the tiny road with passing locals in their rugged, modified 4x4s. The look on the other driver’s faces as our stock, and relatively simple CX-9 navigated the rough roads was priceless.
We hit our destination ahead of many of our competitors and nabbed photos of five ranches, each one getting us 15 points. Mike and I felt confident about our chances, but the rankings revealed we were just in third place at the end of day one. Our hasty route in the second section of the rally proved to be less fruitful, and one of our photos of the ranches wasn’t clear enough to get us points. While third place is enough to earn $1,000 for our charity (Camp Sunshine) it just wasn’t what we had in mind.
After an exhausting day Mike and poured over paperwork and maps for today’s four challenges, which will be more difficult, but will provide more points than today’s journey.
Thanks for following us this far, we can feel the positivity brewing from our AutoGuide readers, and we’re determined not to let you guys down! Continue tweeting at us at www.twitter.com/mikeschlee and www.twitter.com/sami_ha and don’t forget to follow our progress on our main AutoGuide.com twitter page, facebook page and Vine account!