Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Race of Fools 2009 - No Joy In Midville

The story of an underground road rally as told by the navigator of a cranky '64 Sunbeam Alpine.To read Part III, go here.

We proceeded, carefully following the path of the Triumph (minus the turn towards the tree), through the mud and water and came to the next intersection.

"You've got to be kidding", Ballard screamed.

"I swear this is the only way in or out", I replied.

We passed the test of mud and now faced by all appearances a single lane logging road.

My driver had no choice. He had to follow the seemingly insane instructions of his navigator. We rumbled across the ruts and washouts and saw our Triumph adversary approaching from the opposite direction. I burst into a smug smile and Ballard kept mumbling about the car rattling to pieces.

At the end of the lane was a single house and two men dressed as WWII aviators.

My first thought was, "This guy really wanted to get away from it all".

My second was, "How the hell did that fire truck get in and out of here".

I dutifully showed the monitors our pictures of the fountain and the elephant and we were handed our next packet.

Our next destination was Shawnee, Georgia but we had three choices for our intermediate checkpoint. I instructed Capt. Ballard to proceed towards Wrens while I figured out just what the hell to do next.

My decision was to proceed to the checkpoint via the Bellevue Plantation near Millen, Ga.

It was here I made my first error. Pumped full of adrenaline, I steered us south towards Louisville. After a few moments of careful study I realized my error would cost us about 15 minutes but Ballard was already tear-assing down US-1. The die was cast and I set out to find a short cut.

It appeared as something called the Eden Church/Magruder Rd. I explained the situation to Ballard and included the fact that I had no idea if my short cut would suddenly turn into another hellish mudhole. Filled with the lust for victory, he was ready to roll the dice.

South of Louisville, we were pleased to see a beautiful two lane blacktop peeling off to the left. My shortcut was indeed a fine county maintained by-way. Flying down the paved backroad, it was easy to ignore the growing heat flowing through the holes in the firewall.

In the distance, a bad sign emerged - literally a bad sign - one that said pavement ends 1000ft. We thumped off the pavement onto another dirt road - albeit a dry, firm one.

Capt. Ballard slowed the Sunbeam to a halt, but not because of the sudden change in terrain. He said in a slow voice that something didn't sound right. He also pointed to the temperature gauge which now registered an alarming 260 degrees.

I believed the road ahead was good and firm and would lead us to our destination, but there was no town of any size down that path. We looked around at the surrounding desolate forest, then down at our cell phones registering no bars and made the difficult decision. We found a cut through back to the main road and headed towards the nearest town of any size - Midville.

The Sunbeam now labored - wheezing and gasping with frightening regularity.

The town of Midville is a crossroads with two gas stations and little else. Our immediate concern was the 'Beam's now white hot engine block. The first store had no exterior water spigot but the second did. A couple of water filled gallon jugs later, the temp gauge dropped to an acceptable 220.

But the poor thing still sounded sick.

I called the race officials to let them know our status and that we still intended to make the next check point. Ballard unloaded the massive collection of tools stored in the small trunk and we peered under the hood. We determined three things: the mixture was too rich, the distributor didn't look quite right and one cylinder was completely dead. Not good.

We reached the limits of our mechanical ability quickly. Attracted by the clang of tools and howls of frustration enveloping the strange little car, a pair of gentlemen, in a strange twist also travelling from Athens, stepped out of a massive SUV and asked if they could help.

They admitted they knew little about cars and the sight of two grimy, wild eyed fiends beating on the engine block of a psychedlic convertible filled their eyes with wonder and possibly fear, but they had a cousin who worked as a mechanic and they were willing to fetch him.

"Please god, yes!", I moaned.

They peeled out of the parking lot leaving me prostrate under a shade tree and Ballard madly searching for more tools and parts.

Minutes changed to hours and I began to believe our saviors chose discretion over valor by fleeing the weird scene as quickly as possible.

Then, the SUV appeared and out of it stepped a man in a blue and gold Goodyear uniform. He would not have been more beautiful if he were a white-clad angel bathed in the glory of grace and rapture.

In practically no time, our new best friend returned the distributor to its proper position, changed all the plug wires and performed a full tune up on the carbs. He said there was little he could do about the bad cylinder but he believed it would get us back home.

I wanted to hug him. But in the fashion of southern men, we all heartily shook hands and laughed about the craziness of it all. Ballard gave the mechanic the little cash we had left and he graciously accepted.

I called the race officials to tell them we would not finish but instead stagger back home. Capt. Ballard turned the Sunbeam northward, we waved goodbye to our new friends and started for Atlanta.

Darkness fell on us at Rutledge and the haggard Capt. Ballard handed me the driving duties for the final push.

Traffic increased, the deepening night cooled and the luminous skyline of Atlanta suddenly appeared on the horizon. Though the sting of disappointment in not finishing remained fresh, we bathed in the salve of the safe return home.

We also immediately began planning next year's mad run.

1 comment:

Rusty said...

Also been to Rutledge.

I enjoyed this series, bummer about the busted cylinder.