The Trans America Challenge 2018
27 May - 17 June 2018
MAY 28, 2018
Charlotte to Highlands
Tropical Storm Alberto did it’s worst today and according to the shipping forecast it looks like giving us a repeat performance tomorrow.
The day itself dawned grey and damp, with the promise of heavy rain to come and prior to the start, the open car crews busied themselves in the car park putting up their hoods and fastening them down good and tight.
Leaving Charlotte on Memorial Day was quick and easy and, soon we left the high rise buildings of the metropolis behind us and looked forward to the remote woodlands of North Carolina where we’d be spending the rest of our day.
The first Regularity was on Joe White Road. It began on gravel but quickly the route turned to tarmac which rose, fell and looped through and alongside typical clapperboard houses surrounded as they were by tumble down out buildings, expansive and immaculate lawns peppered incongruously with abandoned classic vehicles, slowly sinking into the undergrowth. This must surely be barn-find heaven for anyone so inclined.
Jamie turner and Bob Harrod were running the morning Time Control in a gas station in Marion. By now the rain was falling steadily which had James Gately and Tony Brooks finally reaching for their hood.
So with the weather settling into something like that of Northern Europe it was apt therefore that the next section took us to the second Regularity of the day around Little Switzerland in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Chris Dillier, a genuine Swiss native was looking forward to seeing this little corner of him homeland abut thanks to the weather he couldn’t and sadly this beautiful road through the Pisgah Forest hid its true beauty from us beneath a veil of mist and low cloud.
The iconic yet sometimes invisible Blue Ridge Parkway then whisked us off to lunch in the Grand Bohemian Hotel in the centre of Asheville. This was superb and a welcome relief for the soggy rally who made light work of chicken, fish and peach crumble beneath sparkling chandeliers. More of the same was served up to us after lunch. Never mind the lack of scenery, the road itself was superb, a black velvet ribbon of tarmac billiard board smooth and cambered to perfection.
The last Regularity of the day along Canada Road saw the crews battling through a strange mixture of driving rain and full sun with steam rising mysteriously from the blacktop.
Through this maelstrom we just about caught sight of Alex Vassbotten and Eric Osland whose Alvis was the only car without a roof and it was quite a sight to see Eric simultaneously reading the speed tables and reaching out with a squeegee to supplement the patently insufficient efforts of their windscreen wipers. Suffice to say that by days end they were as wet as an otter’s pocket.
The night halt and drying out station was in the sprawling but beautiful town of Highlands at the 220 Main Hotel but, we dined at the exquisite ‘Farm at Old Edwards Inn’ which dates back to 1900 and was in fact shipped in to the area from Pennsylvania. The menu of mixed field greens and kale was followed by the classic surf and turf combo of halibut and beef tenderloin, vegetables, potatoes and polenta. The miniature desert display also had something for everyone. Nobody left feeling hungry.
After an epic day, there has also been a change at the top of the leaderboard. Jeff Urbina and Chris Pyke had to take time out from the competition to deal with a family matter but they’re still very much with us and are determined to get to Seattle.
This leaves us therefore with Jim Gately and Tony Brooks in the big Cadillac at the top of the tree followed by Mike and Lorna Harrison in their Volvo and Peter Weigelt and Bruno Himmelburger in a Mustang.
We were spared the wind today but tomorrow during the passage to Nashville it might be a different story and, over dinner, Mark Appleton the admiral of the fleet recommended to all crews that their sails are reefed and their hatches are battened.