Day Two – Athens, OH to Mitchell, IN
Day two begins in downtown Athens and once again many townspeople get up early to check out the unique rides accompanying the rally like a custom built, Corvette powered Chevrolet S-10 and an air-cooled Porsche 911.
Today we begin driving out of the mountains and into an endless array of farmland plains that locals refer to as “level”, not flat. Checkpoints include the Hopewell Indian mounds, the Tri State Warbird museum and Beers Auto Sales in Lawrenceburg, IN that features a superabundance of historic road signs and advertisements that would spur the American Pickers into a conniption fit.
For most teams, the highlight of the day is Edgewater Sports Park. It’s a quarter mile drag strip and the idea is for teams to take one pass and leave. Those vying for the win today perform their run and head back on the road. For many others, two, three, five or eight passes have to be run before they are going to leave. One team, behind the wheel of a modified Porsche 911 Turbo, arrives late to the drag strip. Earlier in the day a Turkey Vulture was too slow in getting off the road through a twisting mountain pass and met its fate on the windshield of the 911 Turbo.
Speaking to many teams that regularly run at drag strips across America, the track seems to be off a half second or so today thanks to a strong headwind and humid temperatures. My Genesis, with 4,500 lbs. and only 311 hp, runs the track in 15.4 seconds @ 91.96 MPH. Not bad for a big comfy cruiser.
Day Three – Mitchell, IN to Jefferson City, MO
The night before day three is spent at the Spring Mill State Park Inn, a place that had a definite “The Shining” feel to it. Best of all, there is a giant games room where several teams stay up way to late, indulging in adult beverages. Needless to say many teams are tired and unusually quiet at the starting line today.
For checkpoint two today, teams are given a choice to see completely white squirrels in Olney City, IN or to cross the Wabash Cannon Ball Bridge outside Vincennes, IN. Since we aren’t really competing to win, we head for both checkpoints as they sound too good to pass up. The Cannon Ball Bridge is a sketchy, rusty metal bridge with rows of plank boards drilled onto to the floor making two rudimentary tire tracks. Thoughts of rope bridges in action movies snapping mid-crossing played through my head as we cross the bridge. In a moment of poor planning, we put the Raptor and the Genesis on the bridge at the same time.
Once across the quarter mile bridge, we are greeted by another, shorter and even sketchier looking bridge. We make it cross and begin high fiving each other, happy in the knowledge we beat the odds taking our heavy vehicles across such a scary bridge. Then two transport trucks round the corner and cross the bridges without a second thought. We’ve been humbled.
Next it’s off to Olney City where we see zero white squirrels. Later that night, several teams are more than happy to show us their fantastic pictures of white squirrels, with comments like “They were everywhere! How did you miss them?”
Day Four – Jefferson City, MO to Dodge City, KS
Day four is destined to be the longest day of the rally. If we don’t stop at all, it will take us over eight hours to reach our destination, Dodge City. And these eight hours are not going to be exciting either. Unless a fanatical purveyor of corn fields and grain silos, west Missouri and Kansas do not exactly offer a lot in the way of visual stimulation when driving. Add to this Kansas State Troopers eagerly waiting to pull over teams throughout the state and spirits are sinking fairly low as we cross the plains.
That is until we reach the All Veterans Memorial in Emporia, KS. Rally North America purposely picks cities and towns on their rallies that are somewhat out of the way to give participants a chance to see other parts of this vast continent. The people in Emporia really appreciate our visit and make us feel at home. Everyone with a hot rod, classic car or modified ride has come out to the memorial. Goodie bags, big smiles and welcome signs are waiting for us upon arrival. Everyone is taking pictures of our cars, chatting with us and recommending places to eat. Emporia, Kansas may be home to the friendliest group of people on earth.
As mentioned on day three, our team is not really competing to win, but rather enjoying the sights. So as we arrive at the underground salt mines of Strataca in Hutchinson, KS, the six hours of driving we had just completed is not about to deter us from heading 650 feet underground to explore the mine. Anyone who hasn’t been in a salt mine should tour one sometime. It’s like being on a different planet and the train tours though the abandoned mining tunnels are surreal.
One side note, if you’re planning to visit Strataca with a high performance car, make sure it’s topped up with fuel before heading out. Gas stations for miles around only offer 87, 88 and 89 octane. Yes…88 octane.