The Trans America Challenge 2018
27 May - 17 June 2018
MAY 31, 2018
Nashville to Memphis
Suitably rested and refreshed, and not at all fragile after its last night in Nashville, the Rally set out today for what was set to be an action packed day with three Regularities and Test to tackle before rolling into Memphis.
Another Thompson Hotel ‘breakfast with a view’ was the first thing to tackle before a short run down the Interstate and onto the sublimely smooth Natchez Trace Parkway to the Passage Control at Gordon House where more than one crew remarked on the consistently high standards of the American roadbuilding industry. The “no commercial hauling” restriction meant that we pretty much had the road to ourselves and additionally, this was the first day that we’d been able to see what beautiful countryside we were driving through, and it made a welcome change.
The tortoise chicanes on the ever warming tarmac kept us sharp, the wild turkeys running alongside the road made us think of Christmas whilst the coyotes which slid into the bushes after them just thought of lunch.
The first objective for today was the American Rebel Test, a grass track slalom around hefty bales of hay and through a lush meadow bordered by a bog at one end and a pond at the other.
Alex Vassbotten and Erik Osland had their silver bullet style Alvis slipping and sliding very capably through the wet grassy turns along with Philip and Lynda Blunden’s Healey but, with the conditions underfoot softening, disaster struck for the big Cadillac of the leaders Jim Gately and Tony Brooks which stalled and then sank at the midway point. Despite the best efforts of the marshals the rescue eventually came from Stephen Hardwick in his big rented 4x4 which just about managed to pull the old bus out of the mire.
Once through this section and, with the mud on the running boards baking hard in the 29°c heat the crews then made for the First Regularity along the Clifton Turnpike and then, via the town of Savannah - “the catfish capital of the world” to lunch at the Outpost Storehouse on the Pickwick Lake Dam. This was an impressive place with great pulled pork and all manner of curios to look at and to buy.
After lunch, it was over the dam itself and onto the Second Regularity on a very hot Gravel Hill Road where, despite the few drops of rain, the thermometer showed a sticky 32°c. There was little time for man or machine to cool down though as there was still the third and final Regularity along Rocky Springs Road to tackle before anyone could even think about the run into Memphis and the delights which lay there.
Once out of the woods and after an easy Interstate passage, the Peabody Hotel, the days destination arrived. This fine establishment has many defining features but perhaps one of the most unusual is a flock of domestic ducks which by day live quite happily in a pool in the lobby. At 5.00pm sharp though, a Duckmaster escorts them to an elevator and thence to their night quarters on the Plantation Roof. Other than this unique sight there is plenty to do and see in the city including the Peabody Roof Party and the bars and music venues of the world famous and close by, Beale Street.
The three top spots remain unchanged tonight. Despite their muddy mishap this morning, Jim Gately and Tony Brooks maintain their first place just ahead of David and Jo Roberts with Mike and Lorna Harrison close by in third place.
Today we said goodbye to Ele’ Piccolo who’s done her duty and is flying back to work in the Rally Office but leaving behind Alan McNaughton Gisby in her place as the hotels and HQ supremo.
We were also delighted to welcome back the two cars of the http://www.drive4stageiv.com team of Jeff Urbina and Chris Pyke, and Pam King and Gaye Hill. Just as they promised us two days ago they’ve picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and got right back in the saddle and it’s great to have them riding along again.