No Alibi 2002
Ron Sorem © 2002
Snoqualmie Pass, Saturday morning, bright sunshine, lots of sports cars, first day of June… No Alibi Rally, presented by Rainier Auto Sports Club.
The snowbanks are still fairly tall around the parking area and the ski slope across the street has more snow than grass. Registration, Tech Inspection and breakfast in the Family Pancake Restaurant at the Summit Inn.
The Subaru RX Rally Team has arrived without any running Subaru. I had quickly converted the Integra into a rally car, hooked up with another Subie driver, Max Vaysburd of Redmond, and hoped I wouldn’t take too much flack about the car of choice for this great summer-weather gravel rally.
The Odo check took us east on I-90 to West Nelson Road and the Peoh Point TSD, named for the prominent rock outcrop and fire lookout just south of Cle Elum. We later learned that this TSD was a last minute substitution. It seems there was still too much snow on the gravel portion originally set up to take us south of Peoh Point and down Taneum Creek. So we ran past Elk Heights, along Thorp Prairie to Taneum Road and the Thorp Highway along the Yakima River to the first dirt. “Hayward Road” hasn’t seen a grader in quite some time. Wheel spin was common and for the eventual winner, a temporary loss of impulse when something jarred loose. A quick switch to the second probe and only minimal error.
A transit down Dry Creek through Ellensburg and on to the Ryegrass Summit Rest Area. Get ready to rumble! CAST 70, anticipating the “I-90 Hillclimb”. We spotted the control crew at the viewpoint above the highway. They could have timed cars anywhere along a 3-mile span. With the 70mph hillclimb complete, the rest of the section was a sedate 70 to exit at the Martha Inn, George Washington. A transit through Quincy brought the rally to the beginning of serious gravel.
Up the hill then down to a hard right at Baird Springs and the climb out of Lynch Coulee on Overen Road, the 3-mile roller coasters then through green wheat to a cute little right hand off camber, hopefully having slowed to the 30 before the corner. Then north into Sagebrush Flat and east down Sheep Canyon into the Soap Lake break.
Out of Soap Lake to the Dry Coulee “brisk” section at 44 with a drop into the coulee, a long left hairpin, a glimpse of a control, then the acute left at speed for the photo-op. Now CAST 47 for the run through the alfalfa fields for 3 miles and a 3-mile climb out over the rim. A quiet 25 took us down the twisty little hill into Summer Falls State Park for lunch. Great fun and great views.
After lunch the rally turned north toward Grand Coulee Dam, but then east, 4 miles paved, 4 miles gravel, all very quickly. Again on gravel the “Gibson Draw” TSD used the now well known straight at T distraction, crossed Wilson Creek and into Lincoln County, ending in a transit to the grain elevators in the middle of nowhere, complete with outhouse, a little extra time and welcomed shade.
“Apache Pass” starts with a CAST 49 on the state highway to a blind but mileaged “keep right”, really a straight off the side of a left-hander at 49 onto gravel, in our case face to face with the rural mail carrier. Mail frozen in mid reach to the box as we flew onto the gravel and scrubbed off speed to the 35 shown, for a tenth, then turn right and back up to 44. This section passes right through a couple of farmyards, between houses and shop buildings. The rally cut speed to reduce dust, appease the homeowners and present a good PR side.
A short, rapid transit brought us to a neat little 22-mile section named Telford Road with CASTs of 38, 44, and 48 with a couple of quiet zones mixed in. Seven Springs and Telford run through geology that is called Channeled Scablands, twisting in and out around rock formations left over from the last Ice Age. A brief rest stop separated back to back TSD sections and we continued north on Telford to Indian Creek and the easy climb back out to the top and a transit into Davenport and east to Spokane.
Day One was 8 hours 18 minutes over 300-plus miles. The rally retired to the Ram Pub for dinner and rally lore of 30-odd years from Bob Chandler, sitting at 4th overall for the day. We found we were tied for 1st in Equipped class with Mike Daily and Steve Pfau. The challenge was on now.
Day Two began westward with the Cheney to Texas-Ferry transit. The first TSD found us on freshly graded “marbles” with apparently no tracks besides the rallymaster. “Hole-in-the-Ground” ran through rolling wheat fields, a control at the top a gravel hill, down into Pine City and then to the namesake road. Hole in the Ground gets narrow and twisty just before dropping down into the canyon, crossing the bridge over Rock Creek, wave at the control, and begin the hillclimb out to the top again. The 1.1-mile canyon run was noted as congested and exposed, but more than one crew wished for a mileage caution at the first big exposure.
Once on top of the world again we ran a rapid transit past one of last year’s experiences to the “Avoiding Dewey” TSD. Over wide smooth gravel until the drop into the narrow tunnel. The first anticipated control had been moved and the tunnel became a photo-op, but 44 out of the tunnel was interesting until we could crest the hill and see no more controls.
Through Sprague and north to Mohler for the start of “Coal Coulee Backwards”. This TSD ran along Coal Creek to a control seen from a distance, lost behind a hill, seen again as you set up for a right across the bridge then left past the car. The dilemma was as to where the timing point came into this picture. A sign before the turn, entering or exiting the bridge, or the intersecting sideroad… I couldn’t carry 40 through the whole thing, so we would be early, on-time, or late depending on the mark.
A quick highway transit then CAST 44 at “End Pavement” and CAST 48 at “Primitive Road”. Another rapid transit to “X” and more 44 and 48 gravel, the straight at T again, and back to Summer Falls for a break.
We could see by the routebook that “Dry Coulee Backwards” would take us down the hillclimb from Day One. We had been losing mileage on all the downhills and spent a lot of time on the strategies for being on-time at the right places at 45 and 47mph. Lot of discussion to no avail, as I was pretty early at the bottom of the hill for a control we knew was somewhere nearby, then pretty late after the acute and hillclimb hairpin, fortunately without control.
We revisit Soap Lake and Sheep Canyon to start “Baird Springs Backwards” TSD for gravel at 42, 46 and 49. A left, an acute right at 44 and another left uphill had us wishing for just a little more power, then generally down grade to the tunnel which we thought was an obvious spot for a control. We entered 23 early, came out 8 early, couldn’t find a control car in all the congestion and slowly proceeded to a cattle guard, recognizing it as a checkpoint entirely by accident, taking a 1 late. Whew!
The transit to Rock Island was consumed again by planning. Rock Island Grade is used regularly and I had used it myself on a rally years ago, but I couldn’t remember every switchback and every mileage. It’s about 3 miles and gains about a thousand feet through I think six or eight hairpins. A lot of time at the bottom to watch earlier cars, sample various strategies and calculations as to the anticipated control at the top. We watched and timed a couple of cars, then just plain guessed (yes, guessed!) as to how early to leave, keeping in mind there was nothing to prevent a control in the middle of the hill. Dumb luck or precise calculations, the car was flat-out, or at least as fast as it would go, passing the control for the only crew to zero the hillclimb.
At this point the temp gauge was approaching the red. I was still climbing over the crest, the speed went up to 42 then to 46. I wanted to ease out of it a bit to cool off but we could “feel” a control coming up. Running on-time and no longer climbing, the water temp came down, but as we pass the control the “check engine” light comes on. Five miles to the end of section. The engine lasted, but the distraction caused both of us to miss-read a turn, keeping right instead of left. Only the two cars backing and turning before us brought the realization. We recovered, hit the cattle guard on-time and no more controls. We then checked the engine, found nothing, and restarted with no light.
The transit to the finish provides beautiful vistas overlooking Wenatchee and the snow capped Stuart Range. Another 7 hours 35 minutes, just under 300 miles. About 600 miles for two days running.
We had been tied to start the day but I managed to collect two more points than Mike and Steve. We took 2nd Equipped 4th Overall, behind Mike Daily and Steve Pfau 1st Equipped 3rd Overall. Lee and Rod Sorenson from Sacramento finished 1st Unlimited 1st Overall in the Impreza 2.5 RS. Satch Carlson and Russ Kraushaar finished 2nd Unlimited 2nd Overall in the 1969 Saab Sonett II V4. Congratulations also to Vasco de Pinna and Kevin Mullins for 1st SOP, and to Taylor Van Vleet and Holly Odegard for 1st Novice.
This is a “must do” rally… Put it on your schedule for next year!