Joy Ride

Posted By SE10 on 01 Dec 2005
Yet another rally; this one was the "Mountain Mile", a five-day, 1,000 mile T.S.D. (time, speed distance) rally. FRIDAY I departed West Palm Beach for Washington D.C. to meet my friend Ralf Berthiez. We had made plans to drive his 1958 Austin Healey 100m on this mega mile rally. When I reached D.C., Ralf took me to see his new find. Since my last visit, Ralf had purchased a real "car guy's" house. It is a '50s modern six-car garage with an attached two bedroom, three bath home. But who cares about the home... the garage is the jewel. It has 12' ceilings to accommodate a lift, sidewall recessed task lighting, and epoxy floors (a car lover's dream come true). Ralf, a bachelor, had a firm grip on his priorities when he purchased this house: a fantastic garage, a large landscaped lot, and a comfortable home. What more could any man want? Remember, women come and go but a "dream garage" is forever. (Now that I have put that in print, I may soon be a bachelor too.) That evening Ralf took me to one of his haunts, The Carlyle Shirlington, VA., for an enjoyable dinner at the bar. SATURDAY Ralf and I went to the local Rockville Antique & Classic Car Show, which had a surprisingly good selection of imports (Jag, MB, Ferrari, etc.) and several British cars from local club members. There was also an impressive domestic representation, Ford featuring 50 years of the Thunderbird. The T-bird clubs displayed the '55, '56, and '57 Birds in almost every color. I say "almost" because my '56 Sunglow Yellow was not shown. Our afternoon was spent at a "Concert in the Park" sponsored by Ralf's Rotary Club and showcasing a local band. Following the concert, we went to dinner at Clive's Restaurant in Chevy Chase. The restaurant is a collector's dream. The lower level features "automobilia". They had an original XKSS and a three-wheel Morgan as accessories. The Jaguar was a road worth example that starts and drives. Rumor was that Ralph Lauren was responsible for the procurement of this seven-figure car. The other levels of this establishment cater to aeronautical, trains, and ships. The main lobby featured an Oriental Express train car, vintage luggage included. The restaurant is a very popular spot for business people. Many car clubs use the automotive themed lower level for their monthly club meetings. The priceless memorabilia is a rare treat. If you are in the area, be sure to give "Clive's" a visit, at 70 Wisconson Circle, Friendship Heights. SUNDAY We left D.C. around 9:00 am and arrived in West Virginia's Greenbrier Resort about 2:00 pm. The drive was what the trip was all about. Ralf and I prepared his Healey, securing our luggage in the boot, wrapping everything in plastic bags to prevent everything from smelling like gasoline since the boot of the 100M has the filler neck and vent in the trunk. At the Greenbrier, all the rally cars were lined up for the rally start (photos 1,2, and 3). Our sponsor, Porsche, had the new Carrera 4 as well as other modern cars mixed in with the vintage classics. MONDAY - RALLY DAY 1 We departed the Greenbrier after a wonderful breakfast enjoyed with fellow enthusiasts from past events, several from Florida including two South Florida Jaguar members. The day's schedule included three T.S.D. events (time-speed-distance) and three un-timed or transit runs. We had to cover 260 miles with the last stop at the Snowshoe Ski Resort in the Allegheny Mountain range. We stayed at the Allegheny Springs Hotel nestled in a village of shops, most of which were closed. The points of interest on the route included the Dublin Steam Train Ride, lunch in the Craigsville River Car (a historic Shavers Fork Dining Car) and a visit to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. At one of our many fuel stops (gas was $2.49 for regular and $2.89 for hi-test) the hospitable cashier asked, "Ya'll on a joy ride or sumthin?" hence the title of this recount. Our first "car down" was a great AC Greyhound 2+2 that sustained a broadside collision with a deer, causing about $35,000.00 damage to the front end and right side. The vehicle was one of John Pason's collection, a SFJC member. Our rally score was perfect, as we zeroed all stages. TUESDAY - RALLY DAY 2 Per usual, our day began before sun-up. We left the Snowshoe Resort (see photos) at 8:00 am. The plan for the day was to cover about 300 miles. The temperature was in the 30( range, our top was down, and I wore a jacket, hat, and gloves over my mechanic's overalls. Day One's perfect score was a thing of the past. The pressure was off, I cracked under the lack of pressure and made a mistake. What chaos a simple wrong turn can create, we got a 500-point deduction. That wrong turn was 22 miles each way looking for a non-existing road. All the other stages were perfect. In hindsight, we had it much easier than some of the other participants. A Mercedes Gullwing and Lotus (Breadbox) collided resulting in a slight fender bender. Much worse was the DB4, perfect in every way, that was forced off the road by a local truck; the Aston Martin and the guardrail met and the guardrail won. The magnificent vehicle was damaged beyond repair. One of the many stages in this leg of the event included winding, twisting turns that loosened our left front wheel bearing. Luckily it was the stage just before lunch. We contacted the rally mechanic, Steve from R.P.M. of Vermont, who diagnosed the problem. The loose bearing has caused the front wheel to dig into the fender, rubbing the paint off the edge. The diagnosis and inspection caused us to be last out, so of course last in. Our final destination was the Homestead Inn, a historic 1766 inn that is currently a five-star hotel in the beautiful Hot Springs area (see photos). Because of our late arrival, we missed the first two seatings for dinner. We had less than an hour to shower and change into a jacket and tie for the final seating. I opted to avoid the hassle and call room service. WEDNESDAY - RALLY DAY 3 Again our day started early, leaving the Homestead for one of four T.S.D. stages. We could see our breath in the fog. Our first stage (#14) was a 165-minute run of 121 miles. This took us back to Virginia to Peterstown. Our second stage went to Mountain Lake Resort (see photos), where the movie "Dirty Dancing" was filmed. Upon arrival at the checkpoint, we were given a "Dirty Dancing Quiz". This twenty question test was beyond Ralf and myself, so I called my "trivia expert" wife, Deb, for the answers. The results of the test will be given tonight at dinner. At lunch we were informed yet another AC Bristol "bit the dust". John Pason, a S.F.J.C. member, also owns this car. It was the second entry that was hit by a deer. It appears that deer are fond of these fine British Cars. Speaking of British Cars, a husband and wife team driving a XK150 F.H.C., threw in the towel after burning the clutch, radiator and loosing all oil pressure. It was not a good day for British cars. After lunch we visited a deteriorated estate in Sweet Springs West Virginia. The Thomas Jefferson designed home has gone to ruin since owned by the state. Hopefully, if time permits on our way home, we will visit Monticello and the University of Virginia. Our mechanic from R.P.M. worked to tighten the previously discovered wheel bearing problem. During the course of the day's run, Ralf, the driver/owner of our car, discovered that powering in and out of right hand turns lifts the front and prevents the tire from rubbing the fender. The technique made for a spirited ride. The day's last stage (#17) took us from the decayed estate that Jefferson designed back to our grand hotel "The Homestead". Words hardly describe the beauty and elegance of this historic inn. The original structure still remains and is incorporated into the present day offering. Remember, this pre-dates the founding of this nation. It was planned and built during the British rule of this land. This 2300 acre resort offers almost anything you may desire. I've learned that resorts with their own theaters and bowling lanes offer features that dreams are made of, and ones that I really enjoy. As the saying goes "Life is too short". THURSDAY - RALLY DAY 4 For this final day of the rally we left The Homestead and drove approximately six hours, through four T.S.D. checkpoints to our starting point, "The Greenbrier". Autumn in the Allegheny Mountains is nothing short of spectacular, acres of crimson, burnt orange, and bright gold, crisp air, and brilliant blue skies. A little known fact is that the Greenbrier, with its close proximity to D.C. was once (and may still be) used by our U.S. Congress as a "Bunker" during national emergencies. The President also has a suite in this underground mountain habitat. As all the cars arrived, we were one second off the mark. Other than my wrong turn blunder, we had a one point deduct. The results were scheduled to be announced at dinner. That evening, awaiting the dinner gala, was the first time I had been dressed in something other than my vintage mechanics overalls. We were surprised to hear the results. Nine teams zeroed the 1000-mile event. We were in the 2-1000 point range with 501 points. However, the sought after "Vintage Sprits Award" this year was given to two teams. One team was two women in a 356 Porsche. Ralf and I were the other team. We assumed that our courageous (or crazy) act of rallying top down in minus 30-degree temperature won us the award. With vintage helmets, goggles, scarves, etc., we attacked the course. Our counterparts, driver and navigator of the 356 Porsche did the same. Of all my rally experiences, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The mountains of West Virginia and Northern Virginia played host to this 2005 Vintage Rallying staff and teams. Fun was had by all. FRIDAY The time came to say our goodbyes. We depart after breakfast, planning to visit Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, on our way back to D.C. In the tradition of the "Rally Spirit", we departed the Greenbrier with hood, or top down. The weather was still cold, about 40( with scattered rain. As long as we were moving, we were fine. My mantra was "As long as I was dry, with feet and hands warm, I was fine". Fellow travelers looked at us as if we were insane. We arrived at Monticello in about five hours. The tour of the house and grounds was great. That evening we planned to attend a seminar at the National Building Museum. Since Ralf has duel citizenship, U.S and Swiss, he was invited to a seminar for the construction of the Swiss Embassy. The new embassy will be in the same six-acre estate overlooking the Washington Monument. While at the seminar we took in an exhibition at the Museum. The title was "Liquid Stone", new architectural concrete. It is amazing to see the over three dozen examples of projects completed or proposed. The most interesting to me was ultra high performance concrete that had advanced fibers for reinforcement. This product was translucent. Think of the possibilities. Both the seminar and exhibit were an interesting way to end my journey. We retreated to "Ralf's Garage" home. The next morning he delivered me to the airport, so I could fly home to the hurricane.