The Trans America Challenge 2018

27 May - 17 June 2018



MAY 29, 2018

Highlands to Nashville


As the news channels had predicted it was indeed a very wild night and, as we awoke to a very wet morning it quickly became clear that some of the cars weren’t as waterproof as they were when they rolled off the assembly lines

Morgan and Florence Hector were seen draining the headlights of their Camaro as the clock counted down to the restart, the Jaguar E Type - one of the fastest cats in the Jungle, was being mopped out by its crew of Boris Gruzman and Dave Ferguson and the Corvette of Chris Dillier had at least 5cm of water in each footwell leading Rita to wonder if anyone in the car park had a bilge pump, or a snorkel.

Mike Harrison, the overnight leader was scratching his head and looking at other options for clearing his windscreen given that the Volvo’s wiper motor had failed totally over the course of the yesterday and we wondered if maybe we’d see Lorna herself on squeegee duty today.

There was in short, an awful lot of water around and, as we ran alongside and across the Little Tennessee River, itself in full spate, we saw why this area is home to one of the worlds largest producers of whitewater kayaks. The crews taking in the first Regularity along Needmore Road though did their level best to keep themselves out of the foaming brine and happily no capsizes were reported and the lifeboats weren’t required.

Once they’d got themselves out of the rapids, the crews were rewarded with a complimentary coffee and a fruit and cheese platter in the gas station and store in Wolf Creek. Luckily it was early so no one tried to order a beer, if they had however, they’d have been bitterly disappointed and slapped down with the pithy riposte that ‘this is a dry county’!

Next up was another section through the Appalachian Mountains along the Cherohala Skyway Drive which is, we were told, an outstandingly beautiful road. Sadly though, as we saw yesterday with the Blue Ridge Parkway, the mist, low cloud and driving rain hid most of it from us as we sloshed along to the second Regularity in the Cherokee Forest all the while alongside the very same Little Tennessee River. We were now, well into Tennessee itself “the promised land” according to the bumper stickers and once out of the woods the lunch halt in Tellico Plains came as a welcome relief.

Unbelievably the rain had stopped at this point and, daring to hope that it would enjoy a dry afternoon, the Rally pulled out of the Tellicafe for the run in to the Test at the Crossville Raceway and onto Nashville over the Caney Fork River and along the Purple Heart Trail.

The Crossville Test was a rallycross inspired blast over a loose and sticky piste and, in truth it dug deep into the inventory of cones and warning tape which the ERA always travels with. Jim Smith, Pete Stone, Bob Hargreaves and Sarah Ormerod however proved themselves to be masters (and mistress) of improvisation and not only took charge of the clocks but also kept their eyes open for fair play and infractions.

The combination of rear wheel drive, road biased tyres and off camber turns gave some highly amusing moments.

This could have easily been the end of the days sport but instead, the crews were faced with one more Regularity some 53 miles down the road. On the map, Dale Ridge looked like just another lovely road. Rural - remote - rarely used, once transposed into the route book though this section punched well above its weight. Trip meter accuracy was everything through these narrow broken lanes and, after much to-ing and fro-ing there weren’t many crews who weren’t delighted to see Gill Cotton sat serenely behind a church at the Regularity’s end.

This really was the end of the day and all that we had to do was to get ourselves along the Interstate into Nashville, along with another rather special visitor who, despite the fact that it was very stormy and would likely be blowing hard, President Trump decided that he really had to be there; to attend his very own rally. In the Municipal Auditorium.

We are billeted in the Thompson Hotel tonight and also for our subsequent rest day in Nashville. Over dinner the crews made their plans for the following day and also took in the newly published results which show that the leaderboard has changed yet again, Jim Gately and Tony Brooks maintain their place at the top of the bill just ahead of David and Jo Roberts and Mike and Lorna Harrison.

It’s been a wild ride so far but tomorrow the crews can chill out and take in some of the sights and sounds of the Athens of the South.

Syd Stelvio



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