Llamas, dancing and, a Steam Engine


Days 5-7. Nov. 17-19. Puerto Madryn to Bariloche

So many things are now happening it is hard to summarize them all. But here are some high points.

On Day 5 we had a Welsh tea in the town of Gaiman. I had no idea there was a Welsh area of Argentina where Welsh is the first language and Spanish is the second. Tea was good but the highlight was the children dancing in traditional dress. fullsizerender-15The second feature of the day was the sighting of a llama at the side of the road. Unfortunately stopping our car scared him and I didn’t get a photo. Still thrilling. Our hotel was definitely not the highlight, but most likely the best available in Esquel.

img_2268-1Day 6 to Bariloche put us in very different terrain. We are away from the flat coast, heading west into the mountains. Beautiful snow-covered mountains which I think will be the norm for the next days. We saw gauchos on horseback with their sheep dogs. But the real highlight for Ed was the lunch stop in San Martin. We had lunch on the train platform and they had powered up the steam fullsizerender-14locomotive for us. Ed’s nearly first love is steam locomotives and he was able to sit in the engineer’s seat and pull the whistle. He really wanted to drive down the track, but there were school children onboard and they wouldn’t let him. He was in heaven.

We followed the gravel rally road in the afternoon into Bariloche to the upscale resort of Llao Llao. A picturesque place for our day off. The weather is now quite cold in the mornings but still warm in the afternoon.

Day 7, a day off. People ask what we do on our days off. Well, it depends, but the parking lot looked a lot like a group picnic fullsizerender-6until you realized the stuff scattered on the ground was tool boxes and repair parts. Some were doing preventive maintenance, others major repairs. (We are still missing Ann and Ronald and their Camero. They had to replace an engine in Bahia Blanca. We hope they catch up before we have to cross the border). With a big thank you to Brant Parsons car 41 who changed our oil and adjusted the valves, img_2281Stewball is ready to head to Chile .

 

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Entering Patagonia


Days 3 and 4: Nov. 15, 16. From Bahia Blanca to Puerto Madryn 769 km.

Day 3 was a very long day.  There are more to come but this one was long enough. Nothing to photograph along the road so far. There has been little to see of any note. Lots of farm and pasture land,  with a yawning ,monotonous straight road through it all. Very reminiscent of the Outback in Australia, minus the road trains. However, there were trucks that brought back scenes of China.img_2199

 

 

The road (highway 3) is so flat that the signs to denote hills are really only bumps in the road. I think the highway department passed out these signs to each province and they had to put them up some place. We have never had to shift to a lower gear but then we know we have a climb to 15,000 ft. coming crossing from Chili to Peru. I wonder what the signage will be like there? Do you even see a rise here? img_2197

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I have been hunting exotic animals but so far this is as close as we have come to a llama. I am still hopeful.

One thing of note is the number of vehicles, cars, buses and truck that run on natural gas. Every station we have used, has lanes for natural gas as well as gasoline and diesel. In fact, there are stations that only have natural gas. I don’t know any gas stations in the US that offer natural gas. Maybe it is just my area of the country.

Day 4 is a day off. We are at a lovely spot on the ocean, Puerto Madryn. I don’t know img_2207when high season is here, but it’s not now. It is sunny, but cold and windy. Even the whale spotting tour was cancelled because of the wind. Too bad, I was hoping to see whales.

img_2220Before you wonder what we do on a day off, this is what the parking lot looked like all morning and much of the afternoon. Stewball doesn’t need any work, but Ed did adjust the latch that holds the hood down and I gave him a cleaning inside and out just so we could be part of the action.

Once again, we had lots of Argentinians taking photos and I was asked by a very young visitor (in Spanish) if he could have a photo with  Stewball and me. How could I say no to him.img_2223

Back on the road again tomorrow heading mostly west where the first language is Welsh and the second, Spanish. I don’t know the history of why this region is Welsh, perhaps after tomorrow I will.

Janet, Ed and Stewball

 

 

 

 

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Baptism by Fire


inca-rally

Days 1 and 2: Buenos Aires to Mar Del Plata and on to Bahia Blanca

First I have to tell you how many things I have learned about Argentina in two days of rallying.

  1. The Beetle is an Icon here. Motorists honk, take photos out their car windows, and wave. Pedestrians give us thumbs up, whistle, and wave, children stare.img_2163 (or are they responding to all the rally cars this way? I prefer to think they love our  Stewball.)
  2. Apparently the best Argentine beef is exported.
  3. The weather in November is hot, dry, and very windy.
  4. Argentinians are courteous, polite drivers except in cities where creative driving is required to manage the unusual round-abouts. No, you do not go clockwise around them, but roads go off at unusual angles.
  5. The roads are clean of liter but are polluted by billboards just like the US.
  6. Our limited polling clearly points out that Argentinians are not Trump fans and maybe the reason they are so friendly is they feel a little embarrassed for us. (OK, that’s my editorializing.)

Now, back to Baptism by Fire. In past rallies, the first day is usually a bit easy to let everyone get over jet lag, back into the swing of things, and let newbies to learn the ropes. Not this one. We did start day 1 at 9:00 which is an abnormally late start time. Day 2 started at 7:30 and we covered 518 km! However, on day 1 we had two time- trials (also called regularities by the Brits) and one race track speed test. I drove the race track but did not set any speed records. It was raining and the track was wet and the rear engine tends to slide out. That’s the only reason.

Now for those who don’t know what a time trial (regularity) means, it is this. You are given an average speed to maintain on some section of a gravel or dirt road. With turns and such along the way that must be navigated and taken into account adjusting speed. The speed is relatively high for the road conditions. This rally the speed will be 70 kph. Those who love the race element of a rally love this, so go for it. We don’t. Hard on the car and the driver/navigator. So, I think from now on, we will skip the timed sections and feel more confident that we and Stewball will finish, which is our win.

img_2180The highlight of day 1 was lunch. It was held outside at a country home in Estancia Las Viboras. Lamb slow cooked/smoked/barbecued on a spit. Delicious and we were ready since lunch was at 3:00! Our entertainment was the fullsizerender-11outstanding feature. Argentina’s iconic gauchos  (cowboys) with their horses. Quite a show.img_2177

Now day 2. We left the rally and drove on our own to Bahia Blanca. I won’t post why we did this, you’ll just have to create your own story. The challenge today was keeping Stewball on the road. Anyone following most likely thought he was driving drunk. We had near hurricane winds, I’m sure. I hope it is calmer tomorrow.

One more thing I must add. I have learned the correct response to the question: How was your day?” The answer is: “I learned a lot today.”

That means :

  1. I missed a turn (or two) but was never really lost,(just late for lunch or a check in.)
  2. I had a minor car repair, but was able to fix it without waiting for the Sweep vehicle and calling on the mechanics.
  3. I miscalculated my average speed on the time trial and….received all kinds of penalties, but it doesn’t matter since we are just on day 1 (or 2).
  4. My navigator and I are still talking and sharing a room.
  5. Wine is great. “So how was your day?”

More to come.

Janet, Ed and Stewball

P.S. We did see a Tango show before leaving Buenos Aires. Wonderful!

 

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Heads Up! South America Next


Nov. 2, 2016:

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Stewball on his the way to Savannah and shipping to Argentina with his driver and navigator

 

Just a week away from our flight to Buenos Aires and the beginning of the Rally of the Incas which goes through Argentina, Chili,  and Peru. Stewball was shipped from Savannah, GA back in September. We haven’t heard, but I’m sure he is about to arrive safely.

tango  Even before the rally starts, we will join friends for a birthday party (and maybe some additional surprise?) at a dinner/tango club. I love the tango. Never learned it, but if the opportunity arises, I’m game. I’m sure we’d look this good.

A bit more on the rally route. We have never been in any of these countries, so it will all be new. After seven days in Argentina, we cross into Chili at the remote border post at Paso Tromen but then on day 12, cross back to Argentina and back to Chili on day 16.  lamas

Now here’s the real challenge, on day 21, we cross from Chilli to Peru at 14,00 feet and then climb to 15,00 feet before our descent. We and Stewball have never been at that altitude. So the question is, who will have the most trouble? We have packed O2 for us and octane booster for Stewball. Ed and I will also take Acetazolamide beginning a couple of days before our accent.Yes, Machu Picchu is on our route, a visit on a day off in Cusco.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

I will continue to blog as often as I can as we add another driving adventure.

Janet

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From Rapid City Westward


July 15, 2015. DSCN4318Don’t be mislead, we are home and Stewball arrived July 6th. DSCN4540

I never had the chance to finish blogging our rally adventure ( sick, tired and often internet problems) so here goes.

Day 15. Rapid City, SD to Sheridan, WY: to start the day, Stewball DSCN4279had his photo taken with four other famous faces.

This was the start to the day that I consider the best drive of the rally. Now, I wasn’t driving, just taking in the spectacular scenery along the Needles Highway-A National Scenic Byway so Ed may have another opinion. DSCN4299

We had to pay to drive this road, but it was well worth the $11.oo. Some of our European drivers weren’t as impressed as we were. They tell me they have many twisty, mountain roads like this one.  Our day ended with a meet-up with the founder of the Wyoming VW club and his bus.

Day 16. Sheridan to Cody, “the Rodeo Capital of the World”. Stewball met his first cowgirl DSCN4227and fell in love. I was looking forward to this day because at the end, we were attending a rodeo. I had never been to one. ERA left DSCN4354a surprise in everyone’s room. Cowboy hats. How’s Ed look as a cowboy?

RodeoThe rodeo was colorful but too long.

I did ride (make that sat on) a bull. Another new experience! Janet on bull

This was an unusual day in several ways.The rally didn’t have an official beginning until noon so we could all leisurely visit the Little Big Horn battlefield, the site of

DSCN4330

Custer’s last stand. Then on to the Big Horn Mountains and a climb to 9,033 feet then dropping to the Shell Canyon and its stunning DSCN4351falls. Stewball had never been this high but we had no problems, just slow speed.

We were tired at the end of day of miles of switch-backs and winding roads. We have discovered, we really don’t enjoy much at the end of a day of driving. It is demanding whether you are driving or navigating.

Day 17: Yellowstone Park. We were here on the 2011 Trans-American challenge so we didn’t stop this time at Old Faithful. The drive through the park is slow and we did stop when Stewball confronted a bison. (I’m still not sure what the difference is in a buffalo and a bison. Most look that up.) Stewball stared him down and he gave up the road. DSCN4387

Skipping forward to Reno. Day 20. I was sick. Several others had this chest congestion and cough, but I ended up with the whole head thing too.) So by this time I was miserable. The hot dry weather (It was 99 degrees at our lunch stop in Fallon, NV.) didn’t help so we opted out of the dinner to the National Car Museum (Aka, Harrad Car Museum) which is home to the Thomas IMG_2590Flyer that won the world race in 1908. We had been to the museum before and these photos our from our world rally in IMG_26042011 when the Flyer was brought out of the museum and led us around Reno.

From Duluth on, Stewball ran without another hiccup. Unfortunately, it all came undone on the last day. I will post another blog of our last day into San Francisco. It was a bad day for Stewball and the longest day of all!

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Stewball’s Revenge


June 20: 021We are now in Rapid City, SD and rode the steam train to Hill City in the Black Hills.

But this blog is about our problem day, three days ago. The drive was a very long one from St. Ignace, MI to Duluth, MN., 415 miles.  Beautiful scenery along lake Superior. 038

We had made the decision to drop out of the rally for the day to get to Duluth early. My sister and brother-in-law were meeting us there for a bit of the afternoon, dinner and the evening. They had booked the same hotel as the rally.

Apparently Stewball didn’t like our plan. On the rally we have two support vehicles with excellent, dedicated mechanics who follow behind. Today, we were on our own. All was well until we stopped for gas somewhere in the western part of Michigan’s UP. The car wouldn’t start. We had just changed drivers and I assumed it was me. No so, the battery was not being charged. The young attendant gave us a push and we were on our way- for a while. Ed was afraid to turn the car off so we ate lunch in the car with it running. He wanted to get into Duluth so we would have help figuring out the Why behind this.

Then as we approached  Ironwood, the engine to falter. As we slowed to make a turn, it quit. We pushed it off into a side road by a realtor’s office. She very graciously called the local garage. They had the battery we needed but we had to unload everything 046

from the back since that is where the battery is before the guy came and put it in. This would get us to Duluth. Ed drove the rest of the way thinking about what was wrong. He was certain it was the generator. The battery wasn’t being charged and had finally run down. He carried a spare generator, one of our many spare parts.

We arrived at the hotel in drizzling rain. The mechanics were far behind so we had an early dinner with my sister and Ed headed back to the car. Replacing the generator is a big, time-consuming job. What Andy (our favorite mechanic) discovered was one of the terminals to the generator had been over-tightened when a new one was put on after our rally in Africa. The terminal had broken off and was lying in the engine compartment.

Andy and car repairSeveral hours of work and we were back in operation. The only remaining problem was the engine hood had to come off for access and getting it back on Andy said to Ed. “It’s time for you to go to bed. We’ll finish up. You don’t want to hear what we will say while getting  this in place.”

They did get it on, but without the spring to hold it up, so for the rest of the trip, I will hold it up each time Ed checks or adds oil.

Next time we will consult Stewball before we change plans.

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Birthday in Buffalo


June 13. 008The seventh day of our rally, I celebrated my birthday in Ed and me-bUFFALOBuffalo. I won’t say which one, those who know, know and those who don’t know, don’t need to know. This was a day off from driving. Stewball had a rest and I had the whole day.

Celebrating actually started when we arrived June 12th to be met by 001three friends who were on our NY to Paris rally in 2011, Jeff Mahl, and Jack and Mary Crabtree. More later on why we all ended up in Buffalo.

FullSizeRender (3)My birthday morning started with a breakfast visit from more friends, Chuck and Janice Tomlinson, Canadian friends who live just a short distance from Buffalo. We’ve been friends for 30 years. It has probably been 10 years since we’ve met face to face so this was a wonderful start to the day. We promised it would not be so long before we meet again.

017The afternoon included a trip to Niagara Falls. Ed had never been there and my only visit was when I was a child. Most of the ralliest loaded into buses for the trip. Only those who had to work on their cars didn’t come.  While the falls are beautiful, it was disappointing to see how commercial the whole thing is. We compared it to our trip to Victoria Falls last year and I admit, Niagara didn’t match up. Still I’m glad we went.019

006Then the evening. Jeff Mahl presented his  great-grandfather’s story of the 1908 NY to Paris race. It is still the longest race around the world and the American team, headed by George Schuster in his 1907 Thomas Flyer won. At least technically, the German team arrived in Paris first, but was penalized, giving the win to the American team. Everyone I talked to from our Trans-American rally agreed that even our worse day didn’t compare to the personal hardships, physical and emotional challenges and car problems the men in 1908 faced. What ever inspired them and motivated them? They were truly explorers and adventurers.

What is our connection? Ed and I participated in a rally celebrating this 1908 event in 2011 along with three other teams. We have not all been together since 2011 and everyone was 004in Buffalo for Jeff’s presentation and a reunion. The dinner for our rally was held at the Pierce Arrow museum. I spent another Jan-Bdaybirthday with this group in China in 2011.

It was a day full of special people and events. I went to bed more worn out than after a day of rallying.

Enough about me. The next two days take us from Buffalo to Bay City, Michigan and then across the Mackinaw Bridge to St. Ignace then on to Duluth Minnesota where I will meet my sister. Wait, didn’t I say enough about me?

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Escaped Convicts


June 11,12. 010I know I am repeating myself when I say everyday on a rally is different. But so far, this one wins the prize. We crossed from Quebec City over Pont de Quebec, the longest cantilever bridge in the world to Old Forge in the Adirondacks. 002

009Rouses Point is normally this is a quiet crossing but not when two convicted murderers from the Clinton maximum security prison. Our border crossing was very slow. But then, we had to undergo three state trooper stop-and-search points and one detour since the convicts are still thought to be in the heavily wooded area around Cadyville, the exact town were to pass through. In addition to some 800 law enforcement officers the roads sides were clogged with every news network. I just have to wonder what the all these news folks are doing since it is now June 15 and these two guys are still at large. How many local citizens can you interview and ask, “Are you afraid to answer your door? Go out at night?” They could have interviewed us and ask why all these old cars were driving through  Cadyville, NY.

I have to admit, all the police were most polite and especially when it was our turn to be “searched”, they simply waved us on with a “have a good trip.” Obviously Stewball could not hold one convict, let alone two.

Stewball did collide with a moose before leaving Canada, but fortunately no serious damage was done to either the car or the moose. 005

We ended our day with a Fireman’s BBQ in Old Forge, the largest town-some 2,000-in the Adirondack Mountains. 003

Next, my birthday in Buffalo.

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Moving West


June 10,002 In Quebec. We’ve completed days 2 and 3 which took us to Quebec City and a day off today at Le Chateau 027de Frontenac. The sun is out finally but so far we’ve driven in lots of rain and on muddy rutty dirt roads-just so we remember this is not an ordinary road trip. It’s amazing the road conditions-and lovely small towns- one can find by getting off the highway!009

On day 2 from Moncton to Edmundston, we drove 012through three covered bridges and experienced the optical illusion called Magnetic Hill. In my option, for tourists only. (note to self, skip this in the future.) Day 3 we drove along the St. Lawrence and the language  changed from English to French.  The challenge this day was for 007the navigator, roads were not well-marked. We applaud ourselves for not missing a turn, only one near miss, but skidded pasted and backed up with no time lost. We did well on the regularity, but some cars actually hit the time perfectly. Overall we will not score well because I refuse to drive another track and we get a penalty for skipping it. That said, this is not the reason we do theses events.

017Stewball has his second ride on a ferry, the first one was the crossing from Portland, ME to Yarmouth, NS before the rally began.

I’m still hunting moose, but this is the closest we’ve come to seeing one. 014 (2)

P.S. In case you missed my last post, a Regularity means you drive a particular track-usually a dirt or gravel road at a given average speed for a given distance. It’s about precise driving not fast driving. The circuit tests are on race tracks and are all about fast driving. Not for us or our car. Those driving sports cars  love these events.

Tomorrow we cross the border back into the US.

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Nova Scotia to New Brunswick


June 7, Day 1: 016I don’t think a day could have anymore variety in driving. We had lots of secondary roads, some good, others full of pot holes. We drove on a race track (make that I drove), dirt, gravel and tarmac (that’s British for paved roads) and finally on the Trans-Canadian Highway to end in Moncton, New Brunswick.

We left this morning from Citadel Hill in Halifax in the sun but with 025024cold wind. The photo is our send-off marshal. In fact we had wind most of the day and poor Stewball had a hard time holding the road. I’m surprised some Canadian Mounty didn’t stop us and  make us walk the line assuming our erratic driving was due to what we were smoking. If we count the miles sideways, I know we travel more than any other car.

031We were looking forward to the Bay of Fundy, which has the largest tides in the world and is a critical habitat for eight species of whales.  It didn’t live up to it’s reputation. It looked like any big body of water and NO whales. Very disappointing.

I’m looking for a moose but so far, the only wildlife I’ve seen, other than our compatriots at the bar at the  end of the day, was a big fat porcupine waddling along side the road.

028My excitement for the day was driving a Regularity on a race track in Shubenacadie,  a 2.4 km track with 11 turns. Now a Regularity means the rally gives you an average speed and you TRY to maintain that average for two laps. The average was 80 kph. No way could I do this. I am not aggressive enough and  Stewball doesn’t have the power to make up for the tight turns. Even knowing I couldn’t begin to hit the time, it was fun until another driver, when overtaking me, suddenly went to the inside and slammed his brakes, tires screeching. I still don’t know if I did anything wrong, but for a few moments, I was sure he was going to rear end Stewball. I think Ed was more scared than I was because he had no idea that another car was behind us until we heard theses pre-crash sounds. Now, this way sound just a little bit of revenge, but when we got in, this same entrant had his wheels off and the driver was under the car.

Tomorrow we have the option to drive on the Petty Raceway. I will not be doing it. We have three weeks to go, and we are more interested in finishing than scoring well.

We will see what tomorrow bring. The route book sounds interesting and it will be very different from today. Ever heard of a magnetic hill and the optical illusion that it appears you are rolling up hill backward?

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