words & photographs by John R. Paul
While skies had threatened later in the day yesterday, they were gracious enough to wait until the overnight hours to open up and begin the deluge. The early morning hours greeted the Great Racers and Team HVA with a rather wicked downpour. Spirits were not to be dampened, however, as even those in the numerous open cockpit speedsters put on a determined face and waterproof clothing to help try and keep out at least some of the rain during the morning’s International Bridge crossing into Canada. With this crossing, the Great Race officially moved through customs and into Canada (and for half of team HVA, as recounted yesterday, the second time in as many days).
With rain staining her windshield and making her lack of an operational wiper motor all the more pathetic, Miss Adventure decided she had put us through enough paces over the last few days and, graciously started right up and saw us off on what was to (hopefully) become our first completed stage of the 2012 Great Race. It also seems Miss Adventure has developed quite a reputation amongst our fellow Great Racers in that nearly everyone seemed to have been aware of her troubles and earnestly wanted to ensure we had remedied said problems accordingly and would be able to get her back into the race on the first raining stage. With fingers crossed and our collective breath held, we nodded and smiled in the affirmative, regurgitating everything we had learned from Tony and Casey following last night’s repair session.
As mentioned, she was gracious enough to start right up and see us off on our way. We packed a handful of string to attach to the lifeless wiper blades in case the rain became too much and visibility too poor, however with the help of Rain-X and the wind we were able to make our way through the downpour safely and without incident.
Upon having crossed into Canada we began the race in earnest, quickly picking up on the directions and provided landmarks, smoothly making our way along the course. About an hour into Canada it was decided we should stop at a classic looking roadside diner. After a quick breakfast and coffee break, a few waves to several passing fellow Great Racers, and a few photo ops, it was back to the course and with it, the rain. We counted ourselves very lucky in that we were in a fairly sound car and did not have to worry much about the elements raging all around us. With the exception of raindrops accumulating on the windshield and occasionally obstructing visibility, we were all quite comfortable and enjoying the fact we were actually able to participate in the event without incident for the first day in four days.
We were soon lulled into a sense of comfort and ease as the rain fell and the idyllic surroundings passed us by, growing all the more verdant and simultaneously rocky as we went. For Casey, this was the furthest north he had ever been, so each new site brought a sense of excitement. North of the Soo is truly an amazing landscape, perfect for cruising with its ups and downs, sprawling vistas and, today, fogged enveloped hills. The further we went, the more the earth exposed itself in the form of jagged rock outcroppings dotted with small evergreens somehow making their way towards the sky.
From a driving standpoint, this was our first encounter with the metric system and the conversion required to calculate the distances and speed limits on the signs into miles. Due to the age of the Olds and the lack of a newer, aftermarket speedometer, we were left working only in miles and making the approximate calculations in our heads. Fortunately, the Great Race directions and instructions were all listed in miles and miles per hour so that, when following the directions accordingly, we didn’t need to concern ourselves too much with the conversion of kilometers into miles and vice versa.
After several hours we stopped with a number of our fellow Great Racers to fuel up, stretch the legs and take on some much needed caffeine; numerous late nights in a row, coupled with the race itself made for a rather tired Team HVA. Several Red Bulls helped to lift spirits and energy levels (effectively giving us wings, you might say), and we were again off in the rain, heading toward our designated lunch stop in Elliott Lake, Ontario.
Along the way we caught up to the Hagerty girls team in their 1962 International pickup, following them for some time along a gently rolling country road. It was here we came across a gorgeous, fog-enshrouded lake by which we stopped for a quick photo op and, while there, action shots of our fellow Great Racers coming up behind us. By this point the rain had more or less let up, however, with the pavement still wet, many of the racers were creating fairly large rooster tails in their wake.
Just outside of Elliott Lake, the rain began once more, drenching those in the open cockpit speedsters who passed us, looking less than thrilled by the rain’s return. It was on a slight incline heading into Elliott Lake where we encountered our first issue of the day with the car in that it simply refused to shift gears and move forward. Unfortunately this minor setback caused a rather sizeable line-up of racers to form behind us, all of whom were trying to keep on schedule and make it to the lunch stop at their designated time. Fortunately, Casey was able to quickly spring into action, nearly vaulting the seat, hopping into the driver’s seat, kicking the car into gear, and peeling away from the hill and back onto more level ground.
Following this bit of racing excitement and the stench of the burned out clutch, we stopped for a refueling session. It was here we were met by an elderly gentleman who came over to marvel at Miss Adventure. He informed us his father had had a 1956 Olds very similar to ours and was pleased to see us out driving and enjoying it. Throughout the entirety of this race thus far, we have met a number of folks with similar stories, all of whom light up at the sight of all these great old cars and the memories they seem to elicit. This particular gentleman was no exception and walked away with a smile on his face.
At the lunch stop in Elliott Lake, several local car owners came out to display their vehicles within the ranks of the Great Race cars. One particularly interesting and fairly rare vehicle was a yellow Hudson Metropolitan, complete with a miniature trailer in matching yellow. This proved a hit with a group of local youngsters who were making the rounds through all the other vehicles there on display. In nearly every stop we have seen kids out with their parents or grandparents, all wide-eyed and excited to be out and in the midst of these truly great machines; youthful interest, while perhaps not as large as it once was, is still very much alive and present in both the United States and Canada.
For the last leg of Stage Two, Team HVA, along with the finally-running-properly Miss Adventure, took out the stop watches and kept a watchful eye on the speedometer, fully immersing ourselves in the actual race within the Great Race. With the exception of one unfortunate wrong turn just outside of Sudbury, the team proved very much adept at being able to follow the directions, accelerate when needed, and watch for the appropriate landmarks. Sadly we ended up at the A&W in Sudbury and, prior to that, the final checkpoint, outside of our time allotment and ended the day with a “did not finish” designation, officially.
This proved to be little more than a minor technicality, however, as the larger victory was the fact that Miss Adventure made it through a full day out on the open road, garnering waves and smiles along the way, and kind words from our fellow Great Racers. Even one of the gentlemen who had been unfortunate enough to get caught behind us at the ill-fated incline in Elliott Lake specifically sought us out to provide words of encouragement. It is this type of classy gesture and friendly word that makes this group of individuals truly something special and an honor to be around. Another great day out on the road with lots of great folks met along the way. Here’s to hoping for a drier tomorrow!
Top Five Things We Learned Today:
- Three miles is longer in Canada that in the United States, apparently. Perhaps there is some sort of strange metric conversion going on.
- A little rain will never get in the way of driving a very cool open cockpit speedster. Those folks are truly hardcore individuals.
- Not to be outdone, torrential downpours will not stop Canadian car guys and gals from coming out to check out some very cool cars.
- It is really hard to take photographs in a car travelling over bumpy gravel roads. I mean really hard.
- Canadians love Southern accents. Almost as much as everyone else loves Canadian accents.