The first day of the 2015 Mazda Adventure Rally was no walk in the park. Well, at one point, it literally was a walk in the park. But it really was full of challenges – here’s how it went down.
We left you with very little information in our intro post. That’s because all we knew was that we were heading to Vancouver to drive new Mazdas around British Columbia in order to earn some points in unique challenges and win some money for our charity, Camp Sunshine.
However, even as we arrived at the airport, there were some worries. Not only were the other teams in the rally acting all serious (there was some real vulgar trash-talk being slung around the terminal) but my co-driver Mike Schlee was feeling a bit under the weather. Nursing a week-long cold, I wasn’t sure if Mike was trying to psych out the other drivers, or if he was actually ill. He’d be a headache to face off against in a poker game. Fortunately, he’s an ace behind the wheel and that’s all I need him to be.
After a long flight where Mike rested and I worried, we landed in Vancouver and came to our first challenge: finding our car. Mazda handed us our keys, and pointed us in the direction of the parking garage, where we spread out and looked for the right ride we would be using for our adventure. Sure enough, a bright red 2016 Mazda CX-3 blinked its headlights at us and it was branded with AutoGuide.com‘s logo and our names. The CX-3 is a gorgeous ride and can navigate through crowded parking lots with ease, like the one at the Vancouver airport. Our ride is ready and the rally is ON.
Inside the car, we received our first real challenge of the day. Vancouver is known for its love of coffee, a trait shared with sleep-depraved journalists like myself. We were tasked with finding all sorts of cool and trendy coffee shops with unique logos and branding on their cups. We’re not talking about McCafe here. Not only that, but we were under a time crunch and had to reach our lunch spot (which was a 90-minute drive away) with only two hours to do it all.
Using the CX-3’s infotainment system, we found a part of town that had a number of coffee shops and made haste for it. Once we saw an intersection with three coffee shops, I jumped out of the car (Mike barely put the CX-3 into park) and hustled over there. I impatiently fidgeted in line, as sleepy Vancouverites ordered their super frothy mocha-cinnamon lattes. I ordered my first small coffee and was horrified to see the take out cup was brandless.
“Please, help me out – I don’t have much time to explain,” I told the barista. “I need you to do something for the cup to show that this is a unique spot. Could you sign the coffee cup with the name of your cafe?” I was in such a rush I didn’t even know what the name of the shop was. The barista shrugged and complied, adding a large happy face to the cup. Either the name of the coffee shop was indeed “My Cup of coffee,” or the barista was playing a mean prank on me.
I ran into the other two coffee shops, spilling the current brew I had all over me. “One small coffee,” I’d say to the cashier, as they eyed me cautiously. I wonder how many thought about giving me a cup of decaf. As soon as I ran out of the shops, I poured the coffee down the storm drain. At one point, I looked back to where I left Mike and he wasn’t there. I panicked, thinking to myself, “Where could he be?”
As if he was reading my mind, he pulled up right next to me on the street, reached over and unlocked the door (uh, earth to Mike, the CX-3 has power locks) and let me in, stopping traffic for barely 10 seconds.
We used up all the extra time we could to get coffee in town, and had to use the rest of the time to get to our lunch destination. Fortunately it was all highway, where Mike is no stranger to testing the limits of a car on the freeway. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine screamed as it hit 60 mph. We had to use every bit of its 146 horsepower to make some passes.
We arrived at our destination JUST in time, avoiding a nasty five-point penalty.
Once we hit the lunch spot, Mike and I shied away from the other teams, quietly discussing strategy. Whenever another team came to say “Hi” we just flashed big toothy smiles and pretended to be super friendly, but behind our masks were competitive mindsets akin to Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky.
Mazda gave us a few trivia questions about the hiking spot we were camped out at for lunch. We finished our lunch and wandered the park looking for answers, away from the prying eyes of the other teams. After getting what we needed, we hit the road again, this time to Whistler. Mike drove the little CX-3 hard and earned us another 30 minutes to scour the Whistler village for more bespoke coffee shops. I hopped out and ran around finding the custom branded cups. It was extremely frustrating to see so many blank cups.
Finally, at one shop called Blendz, I found the last cup we needed. But with 15 minutes before the finish line and a huge group of gossiping ladies getting served their lattes, I started getting antsy. I’m not one to be rude, but I had to find a way to get the baristas attention. I cleared my throat loudly. No response. I tapped my hands on the counter, hummed a tune. Nothing. Finally I said, “Hey, sorry to bug you, mind if I can get a small coffee?” The unimpressed look from the barista said all it needed to. “I’m kinda in a rush.” I said quietly, my eyes looking to my shoes. Sure enough, she got me my coffee cup and I sprinted back to Mike, who was waiting in the Mazda. “Got it!” I said as I slammed the door, and Mike slammed the car into gear. We hit the finish line with just minutes to spare.
We imagine we did well for our first day, even being hampered by being up early and Mike’s illness. We’ll have to wait until later tonight to get all the details, but tomorrow is another long day ahead. Be sure to keep up with us on Twitter and our Storify feed below.