CRITIQUE OF THE COURSE
Overall, the main intention was to create a rally that would be very simple, and emphasize the basics of Monte Carlo rallying. Most of our events lately have been in the hills up and down the coast, this time we were headed for the desert, the land of the infinite vanishing point. Not enough roads out there to do the kind of mazes that we've been running. So we spent the first 40 minutes of the rally within 10 miles of Start.
Regulars and Experts were expected to determine that Standoff 2 was to be picked up first thing out of the gate. The routes specified it was 8 miles to checkpoint, and that doesn't take 18 minutes, so 8 minutes for Standoff made the time fit better. Novices were given the Standoff on the first leg, avoiding the chance to do a 4-Checkpoint Standoff wrong.
"Enter and leave in the only direction possible" was meant in the physical sense, so it could only occur on a one way road, or on a dead end road. That fact, plus the time remaining after Standoff, indicated the eastern stub of Gorman Post Rd. as the probable Checkpoint location.
This leg was for Regulars and Experts only because of the tricky freeway offramp situation you had to navigate to get to the Checkpoint road. The Standoff photo indicated the hose would be near the coming together of 138 and 5. After CP 1, you went right at the stop onto 138. That put you on a freeway. Ahead you saw a sign "Los Angeles" to the left and "Bakersfield" to the right. Neither of those would help. As you came to the split, you could see the "Quail Lake Rd exit" sign on the "Los Angeles" side. That was the only non-terminal course. Anything else and you're doomed.
Horse sense should have pulled you right at the end of the offramp, since the Checkpoint had to be north of 138 and east of 5. You could see the 138 transistion road overhead, and that a right onto Zenobia would take you under it, and that was the only road at the compass heading that fit the other criteria. After the rally, it became clear that only a few Regulars made it to this Checkpoint, and that deleting the leg would not change the outcome of the rally, so it became Expert only.
This was the second hose for Novices, who were told specifically where it was. The passage control sign showed a mileage. Astute Experts and Regulars were expected to check the milemarkers on the way to Standoff and deduce that "5.29" had to be west of Gorman on the dead end stretch of the old highway. After Checkout we discussed the possiblity of entrants going out during the night Friday to suss this out. The routes were changed to specify that the controls were to be considered open "now", ie, as of their receipt of the routes and maps. Gregory and Rachel Smith were so into the idea that somebody was going to try it that they volunteered, no, insisted that they would camp out near the Chevron in Gorman overnight. Sure enough, car 3 was convinced that we couldn't be out there in the bitter cold all night long. They registered the earliest a car has ever arrived at a Checkpoint, at 12:39 am, about 9 hours early, and thus forever gained a place in the lore and legend of Monte Carlo rallying.
Everyone was told this was in the same spot as Inmarker 1. It was on your way to Standoff "A" anyway, and gave us a two-for-one for the crew.
After the first maze, with its "the only place it could be" strategy for each of the 4 hoses, now you attacked a trio of Checkpoints with triangulation. 2 Standoffs, each with fantastic views, were used for Legs 5, 6 and 7. Standoff "A" as on the Old Ridge Route near the old bordello in Sandburg, once a infamous waystation when the Ridge Route was the main road to L.A. The only place you'll see the name Sandburg used now is on the Weather Channel's automated local updates.
At SO "A" you found sightings. 6 and 7 lying on the same heading. 5 slightly further south, on a heading that should have passed through a small loop called Manly Rd, near Willow Springs.
On to Standoff "B". Down Pine Canyon Rd to Three Points, then N2 east to the Johnson Rd split. This is one of my personal favorite drives. Lots of fast curves. At "B" you got 3 headings, 5 left, 6 center, 7 right. These should have triangulated Manly Rd. for 5, Silver Queen north of Backus for 6 and Reed Ave just east of CA 14 for 7.
Some of the Expert entrants took things to another level with GPS waypoints at SO "A" and CP 6, and plotting a line through them. Here is Car 12's navigator's account: "There were actually four locations where 7 could have been. In addition to the obvious three which are on the same road as Reed, it could have been on Backus just east of the freeway." (There was a small portion of Silver Queen just east of the 14, which would have made 5 possiblities. However, it was too close to CP 6 to really work for 7. -Ed.)
"Our SOA sight line went through the point halfway between Backus and Reed. But we knew leaving SOA that we could find it based on the location of CP 6.
The arrows on the standoff picture for CP 6 & 7 were exactly the same. So as soon as we went through CP 6, we noted where we were on Mojave Tropico and marked this point on the map. We drew a line from SOA through this CP 6 point and saw where the line intersected east of the freeway to see it went right through Reed. At that point it was simple to drive. There was plenty of time to do this plotting on the way out of CP 6. In fact, before we reached CP 6, we knew if CP 6 was north of Backus, CP 7 was on Reed and if it was south, it was on Backus.
That was our plan leaving SO as to how to figure it out and it did confirm where it was. But as we drove to CP5, we were also able to figure it out from the paddle markers. The passage control picture for CP 7 showed a paddle marker with a distance and on top was the number 324. On Hamilton and on the CP 5 exit road, there were similar paddle markers with different top numbers. We analyzed these numbers to find that the top number represented 1/4 mile North-South distances. From these two other paddle markers, we learned that 324 had to be Reed.
The shape of the hill in the background of the passage control picture was also obvious when driving down the frontage road also telling you it was on Reed. (In fact, in the extra time before entering CP5, we drove past Hamilton up to Backus and were able to recognize this hill's silhouette from the back side.)" - Alan Bell
By the time you left Standoff "B", no doubt you was wondering what to do about Course Control 2. Out of Standoff, Regulars and Novices were too tight on time for 5, and had to go directly to the Checkpoint. Experts had more time on leg 5, and were expected to get CC2 BEFORE Checkpoint 5, after Standoff "B".
Nonetheless, Experts seemed to arrive into CP 5 hugely early. Their routes indicated 10 minutes were allowed at each of the 2 Standoffs. Based on straight drive time, the crews on Checkout made up a total of 11-12 minutes on the leg. It seems Experts were able to get in and out of Standoffs more quickly than expected, or were just leaning on the loud pedal a little harder.
There were a couple of interesting aspects of the Passage Control sign for Leg 5. Before Checkout, Bill Jonesi helped us out by reviewing the routes. He pointed out that the website that shows ALL of the historical markers on the roadsides of California, would give you the exact location (on Manly) of the Passage Control sign, and thus of the Checkpoint. However, even in Photoshop, you couldn't sharpen up the site's pic of the marker enough to read the missing info (dedication date). Could read everything else, just not the date. Cool.
Neither did that website, which anyone could access Friday night from the web terminal at the truck stop, help you with the real Passage Control sign trap. In the picture in the routes, the top of the granite slab holding the marker could be seen. On Course, about 0.3 from the CP, but blind to it, there was a SECOND historical marker, also for Willow Springs, but on a different stone, way larger and dark in color. Close looks at the pic the routes would rule it out. Even more important, it was on the LEFT, and thus had to specified in the routes as such, since the Generals say it will be passed on the RIGHT. It was not an eligible sign. (Read Car 16's account of their entry to this CP. It will put a smile on your face.)
Regulars and Novices had 33 minutes for 6, where Experts had only 14.75 minutes. The reason was allow Regulars and Novices to pick up CC 2 between 5 and 6, which is where it was presented in the Route Instructions. It was also to force Experts to take the shortest route possible to 6. There was not enough time for Experts to use Rosamond Bl to Mojave-Tropico Rd and cover the entire Checkpoint road, although that was what Regulars and Novices were timed for. Experts needed a high degree of confidence in their compass readings. The preferred route for them was to take a left at the stop after 5 and go up Tehachapi - Willow Springs Rd to Backus Rd. to Silver Queen. Using the other route would have given them about 2.5 minutes to make up on a 14 minute leg.
A short hop on either the 14 or Sierra Hwy (frontage rd) south to Sopps for the only way to get to the Checkpoint road in the correct direction. The issues regarding this CP's location were discussed above.
Lunchtime in Lancaster. Straight out Ave J to the Restart. With the break and the time at Standoff, we hoped you would have a few minutes to say hello and socialize with your fellow entrants. It's always great to hang with good people who have all come together at the same time in the absolute middle of nowhere. It's one of the best things about Montes.
At Restart you saw some photos. Did you notice that Ave J, marked as a straight line on the map, is anything but straight. Anyway, the heading for 8 put it somewhere in themiddle of Shadow Mtn Rd. (named correctly on Map 3, but called "blvd" on Map 2). 9 was south of there, which meant it had to be on the unnamed rectangular loop (Turner Rd.). The heading for 10 should have put you right at the intersection of Irwin Rd and Ft. Irwin Rd. At this point, everything was by the numbers. The drive to 8 featured one interesting turn. Named "Crippen Rd." on themost recent AAA maps, the city of Adelanto has put up a new sign naming it "Chamberlaine Rd", with Crippen Rd much smaller. But it was at the indicated mileage, and no one seemed to have missed the turn for too long.
Shadow Mtn Rd is shown on the map going straight through basically from Restart to US 395, but as an unpaved road. However, we knew some of the Subarus would try it. As it turned out Car 5 in the ML 320 tried it also. Some made it through, but what looked like a simple, follow the dots kind of road quickly became anything but. Dozens of dirt roads forked off in all directions. (Gregory and Rachel took their Forester down this route on Checkout, just to see, and ran it straight through without missing a beat.) Suffice to say, it wasn't the short cut it appeared to be for most, but if you ran all the intersections correctly, it did save a few miles. It was a lot like an unpaved version of the old Honolulu Rd. near Taft. The location for CP 8 had the hose on a big, wide saddle with loads of entry room so if you did have 10 or 20 minutes to creep off, you could do it, as low scores on 8 indicate.
Out of 8. Find your way through Silver Lakes and Helendale. Straightforward run down old 66. Watch the mileages to find the turn onto Turner Rd. Crew watched several cars turn in the top of Turner, run down to the RR tracks where the hose could be seen, turn around in what could have been considered evasive action, since there were no marked intersections on the Checkpoint road, and go back. None of these cars were penalized, but might be in the future in a similar situation. Only other problem on this leg might have been for train delays, but they were anticipated. Low scores again for all on this leg.
Now you had to get CC 3 on your way to CP 10. Sunset was just starting to come on now and it was a cool and cloudy day. CC 3 was to keep you out of Barstow, which has become an unpredictable traffic situation. Sometimes it jams up on the 15 especially. So around to the north we went, to an old Starlite Checkpoint location (1990?) up on Ft. Irwin Rd. Low scores all around again.
You were given the area east of Barstow between the 15 and the 40 for the Checkpoint on this leg. It was to be entered heading east, and there was no Standoff. It looked like a lot of space to cover, but the Passage Control sign picture was the key. It was a 90 degree left. There was only one piece of road where the sign could have been. All found their way there.
Nathan Harris was working the CP and our presence aroused one local woman, probably in her 30's, who tried to stop our rally by using her car to block the road at the hose. She yelled at people and said she was calling the cops. Nathan encouraged her to do so. As he pointed out, she was the only one breaking the law. We suspect a nearby meth lab. Doing a little too much of her product would account for her exaggerated and irrational behavior. In any case, she was unable to stem the relentless glacial onslaught of creeping rally cars, and all made the hose.
Exit from 11 required a large loop back around to Newberry Springs, where you were given a break at the last 2 stations for a hundred miles or more. Then you were onto old 66, National Trails Hwy, where it runs as a frontage road along the south side of I-40. The hose for 12 was just behind a rise, but no one was caught out by it, although Car 10 did get a mysterious and numeralogically significant "66" for a timing error. (Hum "Twilight Zone" theme to yourself at this point.)
Before 12 we noticed that old 66 east of 12 had developed some severe potholes, and a decision was made to drop Leg 13. All but one or two cars were told this at 12, but they made it through okay as well.
It was fully dark by now, and we were past the edge of civilization out in no-man's-land. The gloves were off on the way to Standoff 14 at Cadiz Summit on old 66 as people explored the upper edge of their envelope. It was all timed at the 55 mph speed limit, but many made up some time on this.
At Standoff you got the first flashing light of the evening. Novices were told it was the light on top of the radio tower marked on the map in Essex. 14, 15, and 17 were all within 1.8 miles of the light. That confirmed what was fairly obvious at Start - that 16 had to be north of I-40, since you had to use Essex Rd after 14 to avoid going backwards through 15 and/or 17.
From Standoff you went east into CP 14, just before the intersection with Essex Rd.
Based on time, 15 had to be on Goffs Rd. There was no way you could have gotten to National Trails within 1.8 miles of the light. So 15 was on Goffs Rd. about 0.2 miles from National Trails. From 14 it was a simple loop up Essex Rd., east on 40, and down Goffs to CP. We encountered construction on 40 during Checkout and added about 2 minutes to the leg to allow for it. The construction was still there on the rally, and some cars mentioned having to run quickly to make this leg.
There was a little behind the scenes drama on this leg. I was on my way to 15, where I intended to shoot some pictures of the entrants, when my phone rang. Joe Boucher, the worker for 15, was on the line. He was at Goffs Rd. and US 95, which was also old 66. Was this the right place, he asked. Oops. My fault for not being more specific in the crew assignment instructions. I should have said it was near Essex. Anyway, Joe B. was 30 miles from a CP that needed to be open in about 15 minutes. No worries, I was almost there. I would go set up the CP and time the cars. I arrive and get the box and hose set up. Just as I go to check my clock, Joe B. shows up, about 14 minutes after our call. Do the math. Smokin'. He slipped in where my car was and connected his clock. First car showed up about 2 minutes later.
On Checkout, the Passage Control sign for Experts was not very sharp, and both Expert cars on Checkout stopped at the first one of 2 nearly identical signs. The trap intended for Experts to be caught by this sign and stop about 7 miles before they got to the hose, where there was a second, correct Passage Control sign. However, we wanted it to be totally clean, so I shot a new picture in daylight on the way back after Checkout, and added a line on the first page of the routes that no signs had been altered or had areas omitted. This was maybe too much, as no one was fooled by the trap.
There was a different sign for each class on this leg. Regulars had a sign showing directions and mileages to various locations, including "Hole in the Wall Camp" to the right. That location was shown on the map 20 miles or so up Black Canyon Rd., so Regulars could figure out where 16 was within the specified distance from the Passage Control. Novices got a picture of the sign indicating "Black Canyon Rd." as a side road right, so that had an even easier job of finding the CP location.
This was now a simple run back down Essex Rd. to old 66 and east into CP 17. Then on to a break and Restart in Needles.
After a few luxurious minutes driving through Taco Bell or wherever for a sumptuous repast, you were at Restart, dining in style. Leg 18 was included to help break up a very long run to Oatman. When examining a local map, I noticed that part of old 66 south of Needles was shown on the map as National Old Trails Rd. where it had been Hwy everyplace else. Even better, when you got to the turn onto the Checkpoint road, it was signed as "5 Mile Road". Miss that turn and you were driving to Blythe, which one car did on Checkout, and I got the call "hey, Joe, do you know where Vidal Junction is?" Yeah, it's like 30 miles south. "We were dicing with a Tahoe on 95 and lost track of the mileage". Dicing with a Tahoe???
On the event, several cars had experiences in Needles, which I believe to be a kind of automotive Bermuda Triangle. Nothing makes sense there. You think you should go left when you should go right, etc. It's a nightmare. Car 5 lost a tie for second place in class on this leg. That 03 they scored on the leg was not a creeping error; it was at full warp. They almost got there in time. They would have had a 04 total otherwise.
Leg 19 - 20
If CC 4 had been in the routes, as opposed to being given to you at Restart in Needles, you would have clearly known at Start that you would be looping in from the east up Sitgreaves Pass into Oatman for CP 19. The picture for the Course Control interestingly enough showed "Flagstaff" in a background sign, even though it was still west of Kingman, so that would lead you to guess that the CC was east of Kingman. Time for the east loop was very tight on this leg already, that is until you got onto I-40 in Arizona and saw the 75 mph speed limit, but a CC east of Kingman would have made it impossible.
Just to make things more interesting, Regulars and Experts were only told that CC 4 was in Yucca. Close look at the map showed 2 exits, the first of which did not have a return ramp to eastbound 40. There was actually a frontage road, but it was not on the map. So Regulars and Experts were expected to pass the first Yucca exit and go onto the second. Novices were given the exit number. Had you taken the first exit and there not been a frontage road, you could have still legally reversed back up the offramp onto 40. You can't turn around and head the wrong way, but you can back up legally, if you do it safely.
Even after the Course Control, it was still a close decision whether CP 19 would be on old 66 north, or south of the intersection with Boundary Cone Rd. Further info was that Boundary Cone was timed at 45 mph. At Needles Regulars and Experts also found out that CP 21 was on a road intersecting Boundary Cone, but that AZ 95 was safe. There was only one other paved road intersecting Boundary Cone -- Veteran's Pkwy. right by the river.
Two scenarios yielded dead ends. If 19 was south of Boundary Cone, 20 could not be on old 66 north of Boundary Cone, since there would be no way out. The loop would have been another hour and a half. So if 19 had been on 66 south of Boundary Cone, that would have put CP 20 on Boundary Cone headed west. You had 50 minutes on leg 21 to get to Veteran's Pkwy. about 15 miles away at a stated 45 mph. Didn't fit. CP 19 had to be north of Boundary Cone, and entered from the east, via McConnico and Sitgreaves Pass. Again, 20 couldn't be on Boundary Cone, because that would mean too much time available on 21. CP 20 had to be on old 66, Oatman Hwy, south of Boundary Cone.
After CP 20 you had a great drive down old 66 into Golden Shores. The Passage Control sign for 20 said it all. "Mountains, Grades, Curves". In other words, all the good stuff. After Golden Shores there was the interesting drive along the edge of the Colorado River marshland, then a few boring miles on AZ 95 up to Boundary Cone and into CP 21.
"Located in California". After 21, you could see there was only one place in California you could reach in 7 minutes. Aha Macav Parkway, on the sould fork, south of the Aha Casino. Alan Bell in Car 12 confirmed with his GPS that we got the Checkpoint in California, but only by about 5 feet. We had to estimate the border on Checkout since there are no markers or changes in road surface on the soveriegn native land which straddles the state line. All cars made it to the last Checkpoint, which was a great feeling.
Rather than run to the hotel and force tired entrants to find our room or some other turn-in point, we had a Finish Control just after CP 22, under a lonely street light not far from Needles Hwy. Like I said earlier, it's so much fun to hang with good people who just happen to show up at the same time in the middle of nowhere.
The Flamingo Laughlin did a decent job for us on the brunch. The meeting room was nice and spirits were high. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. I must say we certainly did. Thanks again to all the workers: Joe Boucher, Jim King, David Budlong, Nathan Harris, Gregory and Rachel Smith, plus Bill Jonesi and Casey Kubyluk on Checkout.
Check the "events" button for news of upcoming rallies. We're looking forward to a full schedule for next year.
See you at Standoff.