Monday June 25, 2012: Stage Three


words & photographs by John R. Paul

The morning of the third stage dawned dry but cloudy, the threat of potential rain looming not far off on the horizon. Winds whipped through the recently dried out Great Racers as they sped along the Canadian highway, out of Sudbury and toward the lunch stop in Parry Sound, Ontario. One could not help but feel the urge to blast Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road”, slowing panning out and away from each car as they barreled along down the highway. 

Falling into the number two start slot this morning, Team HVA made a quick line up change, shuffling out Katy and Casey for Tim in the navigator role. Miss Adventure obliged by starting up on the second attempt, though quickly presented us with foreshadowing of things to come as she once more failed to slide into gear and, along with that, repeated the previous day’s troubles with the clutch. The interior of the car was again filled with the sickly sweet stench of acrid burning rubber and other unpleasantries.

Regardless, we were able to steer her out onto the course and get her pointed in the proper direction with little more in the way of hesitation. As we proceeded out of Sudbury and into the heart of mining country, huge striated slabs of rugged rock formed a corridor along the highway down which we passed. Soon the earthen corridor gave way to crisscrossing rivers and lakes, each spanned by rusted out railroad trestles and dotted with innumerable rocky islands in the midst of lakes surely teeming with trout, walleye and a number of other fishes.

The ever-changing landscape and scenery helped stave off the boredom of the slowly rolling ribbon of highway laid out before us. Highway-induced monotony was quickly left behind as we found ourselves wending our way through the rural roads of Ontario. Here stop signs and rail crossings become your only points of reference and indication that civilization is, in reality, not that far off. Marshy landscapes littered the desolate road down which we travelled, our only onlooker a decidedly stunned looking grouse who stood dumbfounded as we barreled past. 

Soon we found ourselves back on the highway and encountering our first wrong turn. This was quickly remedied, however, and, with a quick, grinding U-turn, we were back on course and on our way into Parry Sound. Here we found ourselves the second team to have arrived at the lunch stop, albeit a little earlier than our scheduled time, our newly-minted Canadian friends in their red Jaguar the only other Great Racers in attendance.

Winds whipped across Georgian Bay, battering those who turned out to welcome the Great Racers as they arrived in Parry Sound. As in each stop thus far, all those who turned out were eager to catch a glimpse of the cars as they made their way through the hometown of hockey great Bobby Orr, under the towering train trestle, and into the parking lot of the Charles W. Stockey Centre. The first of several cars to arrive immediately following Miss Adventure was greeted by the sound of bagpipes and the cheers of those in attendance, coaxed on by the one and only Motormouth and Corky Coker.

A number of great local cars turned out to welcome the racers and comingle on nearly equal footing with the race vehicles themselves. The broad range of cars participating helps in establishing an immediate and easy rapport with those in attendance, each recalling fond memories of a similar car they or someone in their family may have once owned. Everyone feels immediately welcome and at home in what is truly an extended family of like-minded individuals, all coming together to celebrate a mutual love of and passion for the automobile. 

After a delicious lunch, we made our way back to the car and onto the final legs of the day. It only took a few moments to realize that we would not be seeing the finish line through Miss Adventure’s panoramic windshield as the clutch began to fail and the interior of the car once again filled with the now all-too-familiar odor. A left-hand turn up a hill just outside of Parry Sound sadly proved the end of our racing day, earning us yet another DNF.

While broken down, numerous friendly Canadians stopped to inquire as to whether we needed any help, offering assistance, parts and well-intentioned mechanical advice. Our request of a cross-country bicyclist for a tow was greeted with a smile, a laugh and a polite “no, but good luck, eh?” before he peddled off up the hill and out of sight.

We were soon greeted by the sweeper vehicle crew who remarked playfully that we needed to stop meeting this way. All in attendance concurred, including Miss Adventure who found herself once more on the back of the transport.

Once on our way, we were again winding our way through the rural Canadian countryside, a landscape now seemingly littered with classic cars of all shapes and sizes; some proudly displayed, others wearing a for sale sign, and still others little more than rusty hulks slowly succumbing to the soil. But for each rusted out remnant there were and are many more well maintained and well cared for cars and trucks dotting the landscape, numbering nearly as many as the lakes and rivers encountered earlier in the day. 

Upon arriving in Barrie, Ontario we were greeted by a veritable sea of onlookers and great old cars, all proudly displayed in an egalitarian manner amongst the race vehicles. Within moments the skies began to darken and, before anyone had a chance to react, they opened up and rain began pummeling the show field and all those in attendance. As before, the rain left and those in attendance were left undaunted by the drenching they had experienced and thrilled by the attention their town was receiving.

Everywhere we have gone we have found ourselves greeted by nothing but smiles, well wishes and genuine interest in this event, its participants and, perhaps most importantly, their cars. Near immediate connections are made across a multitude of divides as all come together to celebrated a shared love of the automobile. As mentioned previously, it truly is a remarkable community of people and one within which we should all be proud to consider ourselves counted. 

While Miss Adventure may be momentarily down for the count, thanks to the sense of community and the excitement and enthusiasm flowing therein, Team HVA is more committed than ever and truly in it for the long haul; rain or shine, car or no. After all, it’s the mutual love of the automobile that drives all of us, literally and figuratively, as we strive to complete the 2012 running of the Great Race.

Top Five Things We Learned Today:

  1. Just because a car starts up, doesn’t mean it will continue to run all day. Especially if it is an older model vehicle with a stubborn personality to match and equally stubborn name.
  2. There are a lot of lakes in Canada. Who took the time to name all of them? That must have taken years.
  3. “Eh” can be used in the form of a question, an exclamation or, in rare instances, a noun.
  4. It is not a good idea to have a breakdown following a lunch at which tea and coffee is served.
  5. Never say, “At least it’s not raining” as it will inevitably begin to rain. Without fail.
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