Thirteen Days & Almost 7,000 Miles
That was how long the rally I participated in July, 2016 took to complete. The actual rally started in Billings, Montana and ended five days later in Portland, Oregon.
I left Maryland and met up with another rally car in Breezewood, PA. Both of us were picking up our navigators in Sioux City, SD in two days. Our first day ended just west of Chicago. Day two was a nice drive through mostly rural northern Minnesota which allowed us to reach Sioux City in plenty of time to pick up our navigators at the airport the next morning.
Day three would end in Rapids City, SD where we met up with a host of other rally cars for dinner and drinks and then we would all head to Mt. Rushmore to see the four presidents monument and then travel to Billings for the rally meeting that night. Drag races were also planned in Billings, but with the afternoon rains, it had to be cancelled. That meant we got more time to enjoy some local breweries.
Rally day one started with all 78 cars meeting in downtown Billings where the mayor would get us on our way. We would finish the day in Big Sky, MT. Mind you this is July and we got word from the mayor that the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park was closed due to freezing rain from the day before. With temps in the 50s we proceeded on our way and had eleven hours to complete the day. The format for day one was a scavenger hunt with four checkpoints and bonus points for various animals and sights in the Park. My favorite was Old Faithful and you only got bonus points where it spouted. We were lucky that we only had to wait twenty minutes before it erupted. There must have been 4,000 people there watching. We finished the day with 415 points (top ten), but what a great day. There is so much to see in Yellowstone National Park.
Rally day two we departed from the hotel and would end our day in Great Falls, MT. I didn't mention it earlier, but at the checkpoints, you had to take a selfie of your team and the landmark. This day you had to find the checkpoints and finish in the shortest amount of time. We travelled to Virginia City, Nevada City and Helena before reaching Great Falls. Outside of Virginia City, we ran into a cattle drive! They actually herd them on the road since the land on both sides is fenced private property. We drove through at 5-10 mph and the cows knew to get out of your way. My son, Jeff, decided to "mooo" back at the cattle and one stuck his head inside the car and slobbered on his shirt. Another great day and a top five finish. That night we headed to a local bar famous for its male and female mermaids.
Rally Day three started in Big Sky, MT and would end in Kellogg, ID. Like day one, this was a scavenger hunt searching for checkpoints and animals in Glacier National Park. One interesting checkpoint was Hidden Lake. From the visitor center, we had to hike 2 miles up the slope which was covered in snow and at an altitude that I struggled with. What a view and just to add some excitement, the rangers were out in force as there was a bear alert. Outside the park, we stopped at a checkpoint that used to be an Oldsmobile dealership and now was a brewery where we bought a grunt of beer to present to the rally master at the finish to get bonus points. We spent the night at a ski lodge with its own "city of shops and restaurants." Since it was off season, most closed by 8 pm. What’s a rally group to do? The answer was easy ... head to the pool building with cooler in hand.
Day four started from the hotel parking lot and would be a fastest time finish in Kennewick, WA. We now began to experience normal summer weather and enjoy some wide open scenery. One wrong turn cost us thirty minutes and a top three finish, but who can complain when the finish line is a brewery next to a marina.
Day five we departed from downtown Kennewick for our final destination, Portland, OR. The day would have two goals for us. One, we wanted to finish top three and two, be at Portland International Raceway on time to do some hot laps at the end of the day. Checkpoints this day included a hat shaped rock, a stonehenge and a museum that had "The Thinker" statue. We finished fourth, but did get to the track in time to enjoy two hours of great track time. After dinner and awards, huge parking lot party and late night on the town.
Day six, the rally is over, now for the drive home. First, breakfast and Jeff to airport shuttle before heading out. After flipping a coin, I decided to head south through Utah end in Boise, Idaho. Passing through Utah there is a ton of gorgeous rock/mountain formations. You also pass by the famous golden spike location where the Pacific and Union railroads met. Further down the highway is the museum. Both worth a stop. When I stopped in a small town for gas there was a car show going on, but no Pontiacs. Scenery in Idaho just as great.
The next day I would stop at the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, Idaho. The museum features WW I and WW II aircraft but it was closed but I did take a picture of the car in front of the museum. I managed to get to the Nebraska border and loaded up on brochures of place to visit. Two attractions caught my eye. The Lincoln County Historical Museum in North Platte and Classic Car Collection (that's what it's called) in Kearney.
The museum is the world's largest rail yard (even today). In particular during WW II, it shipped goods both for the war and the daily life in our country. There are exhibits of Ft. McPherson, an 1860 pony express building and the 1899 Sears & Roebuck catalog house.
The Classic Car Collection is made mostly of cars donated by Bernie & Janice Taulborg. In particular was a Shelby Mustang and a '66 GTO. However, my favorite exhibit involved a '55 Ford Crown Victoria. The owner had one new and sold it years later. After some time, he decided to try and find his car and restore it. He did find it sitting in a field and it was way beyond repair, but he bought it anyway. Then he purchased a similar car and had it restored to the specs of his original car. Both sit side by side in the museum.
The rest of the trip, I cruised through Iowa to Maryland just looking for back roads to explore. If you have never been out west, you need to go. There is a ton of American history to see and wide open scenery that is eye catching. The Pacific northwest is still unexplored by me and is next on the list in the next couple of years. The rally video can be viewed here.