Sunday, April 26, 2015

Time, Speed, Distance and Sunday Mornings in the 1960's

Some of my Air Force time was in Alexandria, VA. It was a nice gig, mostly regular hours, and weekends off.  My friend Kelly and I spent Sunday mornings rallying.

We didn't rally around the flag or a sports team, we plopped our butts in my car - Kelly driving, me navigating - and took to the road.  If you have tuned in to the speed channel, you've seen rallies where Audis, Subarus, and such are flying over closed roads at insane speeds to reach the next checkpoint. This ain't that.  This link will explain: Info on Rallying

If you read down a ways on the explanation, you saw  Road Rally and the term TSD - Time, Speed, Distance.  That's us.

My Rally Car - 1964 Triumph Herald 1200 Convertible

We'd arrive at the starting point about fifteen minutes early to receive our turn-by-turn directions. When our turn came I scanned the first page of directions and made sure our trip odometer was zeroed.  Of course that was because we ran unequipped i.e. no fancy gear.  Some of the more intense people installed special rigs with two adjustable trip odometers (Tommy boxes, I believe they were called.)  One older couple - we were in our twenties so that could mean forty - arrived in their red Corvette convertible just before their start time dressed as though they'd just come from church. She behind the wheel in a nice dress and hat, he navigating in a suit.  Turns out he had built a rally computer into his dashboard, so with a brief look at the first couple of instructions he'd punch some buttons and wait for the start.  They won every time they entered.


We were sent off at 30 second intervals.  The first mile or two were used to check our odometers against the one that set up the rally.  It didn't matter if you had the most accurate odometer made, you had to know the difference between your readouts and the mileage listed on the directions.  That number had to be factored into every calculation of speed and distance, so the navigator in an unequipped vehicle was constantly working a slide rule (circular was best) as well as giving the driver the next instruction.

The idea was to follow the directions, e.g. "Left at Stop change speed to 31.4 mph" exactly, and at some point - around a blind corner or over the crest of a hill - a checkpoint appeared.  You didn't know where or when and were penalized for visibly altering your speed as you approached.  You were supposed to reach said checkpoint at precisely the allotted time between it and the start line. Each second late was a point against you.  In order to ensure that traffic laws weren't flouted on the way, every second early was a ten point penalty.

One of the best things about these Sundays is that the rally always ended at a restaurant.  Regardless of where we placed, the camaraderie over burgers and beer where we discussed places we got lost or some interesting location to go back to, made the day great.

As I write this rather long piece, memories keep flooding back: getting lost - which we did often, misstating a direction - which I did often (hence first item), stopping by a small white church in the woods to listen to the choir belt out spirituals - we missed every checkpoint that day because they shut down twenty minutes after the time the last car was due.

We had fun.