The Trans-America Challenge 2012

7th May - 8th June 2012


Bozeman to Great Falls

MAY 22ND, 2012

Wild Montana skies

Damp and dreary this morning which came as a bit of a shock after the blue sky days we've enjoyed for the last week. John Rowe, car 45, was up early to have a rear suspension mounting point repaired. Welder found, job done he was back on the road with barely a hiccup.

A later start than usual this morning as the days mileage will also be quite light, a touch under 200. Then out of Bozeman past the Fish Technology College and up into the hills through Bridger Bowl, where you can 'ski the cold smoke' later (or earlier) in the year. 

By the time the first test, Maudlow, arrived along Flat Head Canyon the weather had cleared somewhat although the clouds swirling around us gave notice that something else was coming and we were straight into the real backcountry again on a wide well graded gravel road running past barns, wood yards and paddocks under the Wild Montana Skies made famous by John Denver & Emmylou Harris.

Sadly, car 17 the MGB of Terence and Sheila Wright, never made it to the test. They broke down with timing issues and had to be towed back to Bozeman by the sweeps for more serious attention. Let's hope we see them again soon.

After the test and back on the tarmac it was through Wilsall and White Sulphur Springs with the sign welcoming us to 'hornet country'. We reckoned that this must be an old railway town given the two Northern Pacific carriages abandoned off the main street. Although not a scheduled stop for the Rally we stopped for a quick coffee in the Corner Stone Deli and Cafe. Desiree, our waitress had watched, the cars go up the main street and thought those cars look too nice to be driving all the way to Alaska.

Most crews were safe and sound back in the hotel when the rain came but as we tailed in behind the field those same Wild Montana Skies vented their fury with wind and rain cooking up quite a blow. The mercury fell almost as quickly as the rain did. Visual Evidence of Rain Gradience Aloft (VERGA) was how the crew of Car 10, the Auerbachs described it when we found them with a broken oil line, cold and hungry. The local deputy sheriff however, Shane Sereday (White Sulphur Springs) had already passed them twice with supplies of tools, dried elk meat and cigars. When they couldn't get the job fixed by the roadside though an ERA vehicle towed them to the Sheriff's own garage where he welded an extra plate onto an oversized wrench to remove the hose and then the local lawman found a mechanic to remake a hose.

Out to the second test along Smith River along the beautiful 360. This was a long and varied section with a wide open well made trail through pastures filled with black cattle, ranch stations and barns. Deep red earth at times, a hairpin descent through forest, and a run across and then down from a plateau with views for maybe one hundred miles but there wasn't a fuel station in sight according to Bruce and Judy Washington who ran dry along the road but refilled quickly from a jerry can.

In the hotel carpark at the Great Falls hotel the Steinhausers Jaguar received the parts ordered yesterday and is now fully fit for for the remainder of the Rally. Car no. 8 the Derby Bentley needed a minor repair to its battery box but to cap off another brilliant days driving the Auerbachs arrived at the dinner table to a sustained round of applause. 

Tired, greasy but very happy.


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