Another successful Rally North America (RNA) event has come and gone. The last of the stragglers have finally made their way home and 75 cars are getting a well-deserved rest.
Rally North America is a non-profit organization that conducts multi-day scavenger hunt-like road rally for charity. Currently in its fifth year of operation, this year’s rally is an extra-long five-day event across historic Route 50, a road that cuts through the middle of the US. Martinsburg, West Virginia is where the rally gets underway with teams (hopefully) arriving in Pueblo, Colorado five days later.
SEE ALSO: Rally North America 2014 Rally US 50
The goal behind every Rally North America event is to allow the average automotive enthusiast a chance to drive cross country while giving back. With an entry fee of $500 including a mandatory $100 charity donation, this year’s grid featured everything from an Audi R8 and Hennessy Cadillac CTS-V Coupe to a pair of minivans – one of which was adorned in a Queen Family Truckster livery complete with trailing dog leash and Wally World sticker.
Before We Run, a Little Fun
The night before the rally begins there is always a pre-drivers meeting and charity auction hosted by yours truly. This year we get the extra benefit of running a few paced laps around Summit Point Racetrack. Considering many teams have never turned a wheel on a racetrack before, this isn’t a bad initiation to the world of closed circuit driving as there will be a chance to run our cars wide open in Pueblo.
This year I decided to give my father and co-driver a break from the onslaught of sports cars we have driven in the past. No modified WRXs, Miatas or Camaro ZL1s this year. Instead, we are heading out in a 2015 Hyundai Genesis Sedan 3.8 AWD. It isn’t the sportiest choice, but we were about to drive 4,000 miles in nine days, a lot of which would be through corn country.
Day One – Martinsburg, WV to Athens, OH
The starting line for RNA events is always full of excitement, but this year seems a little bit more energetic. Maybe it’s the influx of new teams, maybe it’s the prospect of driving two thirds of the continent or maybe it’s the knowledge that we as a group had already raised over $105,000 for our charity of choice, the Accelerated Cure Project for MS Research and the rally hadn’t even begun yet.
The green flag drops and teams grab their route cards for the day and head off. The route cards are prepared each day by Rally Master Tony Intrieri and consist of between five and 10 pictures of locations we need to find that day and maybe a brief description. We all know we are heading to Athens, Ohio today, but we have no clue where we are going in-between. The first team to find all the locations, take a team selfie and arrive at the finish line wins.
Easy right? Well, not so fast. The locations are usually pretty hard to find. Because we represent a charity, excessive speeding and reckless driving is strictly forbidden. Get a speeding ticket at any point of the rally, your team is disqualified. Get caught on camera driving like a jackass by another team, you’re disqualified. Arrive at the finish line before a “breakout time” calculated by driving distance and speed limits, you’re disqualified.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Rally New England Kicks-Off Today
For the most part, teams are behaving themselves through the mountains of West Virginia, but a few stern talks from rally organizers would occur at the end of day one. We don’t have to worry much about this as speed is never going to be an issue since our Genesis is cruising in a convoy we quickly dubbed “The Land Yachts” that includes a Ford F-150 Raptor and a 1963 Ford Galaxie.
Checkpoints for the day include the Confederate Memorial at Indian Mound Cemetery, the flagstaff of a battleship in Clarksburg, WV, Cliff’s museum of car memorabilia and the highlight of the day, a tour of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV. Having been abandoned for decades, most of the asylum has been left unrestored which adds a horror-movie, someone-is-going-to-kill-me-around-the-next-corner aura to the building. Those stupid brave enough can even spend the night in one of the derelict cells.