If We Go Now We’ll Beat the Traffic!


The most challenging day so far. Stage 7 was a series of exercises in higher speed driving, timing – and coping with extraordinary traffic. 

We started the day leaving Ann Arbor with a short run up to I-94 to begin the calibration run on US 23. Just 5 minutes into the run traffic came to a standstill and then crept along for a good 20 minutes as the lanes narrowed to one as traffic had to squeeze by an overturned tractor tailer. That was just a harbinger of what was in store for the day!

Once we were finally able to complete the calibration, we made it to the start point on time

with minutes to spare. We reset the speedometer and got in the line in our proper spot. The instructions had us leaving at 35 mph. The only problem the queue was on the side of a road where the speed limit is 45 mph (and no one goes just 45!) And it was just past a very busy intersection so when the light changed there was a steady stream of traffic. That makes it very difficult to position a rally car to start at a precise time. 

My technique was to wait till about 20 seconds before our start time to put the Ranchero on the road at the line, and hope the light would be with us. I was counting on that good midwestern graciousness to allow a car in the middle of the lane time to get started. (And then, of course, go slow enough for miles to make you tear your hair out.) I can only imagine the poor souls who were lucky enough to pass one rally car only to encounter another one just a minute down the road!

We were able to get through the first few instructions OK and completed some timing exercises when we hit our first traffic delay on the rally route. We were holding 25 mph, but that tractor in front of us was not! When we caught up, we slowed to 20 mph for about 20 seconds, but ended up holding up traffic behind us. (We would make up the time lost later.) 

When we caught up to the tractor again we stopped to take a 10 second time allowance hoping it would turn off the road before we caught it again. That didn’t work. So we stopped a 2nd time and took another 10 second allowance. When we got up to speed again, he finally pulled over to let traffic get by. We did everything right except we forgot to account for the time lost decelerating and accelerating the 2 times we paused! Ouch! It turned out that first leg was our worst score for the day.

The following 8 legs were a mix of driving in heavy high speed traffic at slow speeds, long periods of 50 mph stretches on the country roads outside Detroit, more scary starts in heavy traffic, and some fun loops where we would encounter cars on different segments of the day’s rally. 

The lunch stop was at the Stahls Automotive Foundation in Chesterfield, MI. The food was great and the museum was a real treat. We even had enough time to actually look around! While comparing strategies, Helen save our butts by reminding us we couldn’t take a time allowance in a checkpoint-free zone (which was our plan for one instruction if we got stuck at a traffic light for too long.) No worries though, it was fun making up the lost time!

We finished the day in Frankenmuth, MI and were pleased with our scores for the day (12, 2, 1, 3, 2, 4, 2, 3, 1) for a total of 29.25 second for the day. We finished 23rd for the day which moved us up to 36th overall, and 16th in our division. 

We enjoyed a delightful dinner at the Frankenmuth Brewery and some wonderful craft brews. Tomorrow is the Championship Run, a real test of skill. It starts bright and early at 7:30 AM so I’d better get some rest! 

We’re almost to the end!