THE PAN AM CLASSIC RALLY 2017

SAVANNAH – SEATTLE

Savannah is the launch pad for the Pan Am Rally and participants arrived from all different directions to gather for this epic 30 day journey.  Savannah is a beautiful city, with some wonderful architecture and old houses, built by the cotton barons back in the mid 18th Century.

Alastair and Rachel drove from Califormia in his Tatra, 2762 miles, non stop in 43 hours with Hayden sharing the driving and they averaged 63 mph over the total trip.  Alastair and Dickie claimed their Mercedes Pagoda 230 from the container depot but had problems on the way back to the hotel when Toby, who was following, saw petrol leaking out and a quick repair was called for.  Karl and Steve also had to collect their car from the contrainer  depot, a Rover P5 Coupe, but had no problems driving it back to the hotel.  Jeff and John were in a modern hired Mustang and Arjan and Paul bought their Porsche Targa from Holland which arrived a few days earlier.

The view from the Hyatt Regency Hotel is magnificent with the Savannah River right outside and boats, containers ships and River Boats gliding past.

The night before we set off we all joined the Savannah River Boat Cruisefor a trip up and down the river, dining on board and then watching the sun go down from the roof.  We spotted the the odd river dophin on the way and enjoyed the strong breeze as we powered along the river.  As soon as we docked the heat was once again intense and humid.

Arjan and Paul had a problem with their trip rally meter so together with Toby they spent a few hours after dinner in the underground car park finding the cause and sorting it out.

The 16th June was bright and sunny and after a 0630 breakfast  the cars lined up in front of the hotel for the start of the rally.  The cars were timed them out and the rally was under way.

Soon they were driving through the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, a waterlogged park full of water lillies, camens basking in the water and Live Oak trees draped in Spanish moss.  The route alternated between gravel and tarmac roads and we caught up with Angus and Dickie at Shelton gas station where Angus was borrowing quarters from Cynthia James for the air machine and she was in raptures over the Mercedes and Angus, with her wonderful southern accent.

Just before the lunch stop, Arjan and Paul lost their clutch and could only drive in first gear.  They limped into the River Marina Café car park where Toby spent two hours working on the car, even chopping the end off a screw driver to fashion a pin to use in the repair.  Meanwhile everyone ate Burgers in the café, sitting on diner-style stools at the bar.

Once again we were all on the road and we took the back roads to Spartanburg.  Paul went to Harbor Freight Tools to try and find a roll-pin to replace the screw driver bodge but to no avail.  Meanwhile Alastair tried to sort out a misfire on his Tatra which had spent the day struggling up hills.   

Knoxville was our destination the next day with a 0730 start and our route took us up into the Blue Ridge Mountains and the roads twisted and turned their way up hill and down through the green forests.

We stopped at the Dragons Tail where the Harley Davidson bike owners turn up in droves.  Ray and his wife had come 500 miles on his huge Harley with armchair seats and he had the long beard and all!  It is like a pilgrimage for them and they come hundreds of miles to drive the Dragons Tail.  We all got to drive it too – a challenging 14 mile road of steep roads and hairpin bends and  a great drive if you chose to ignore the 30mph speed limit!  The Sheriff was doing a fine trade half way down!!

The marshalls ran 3 competitive regularity sections and the mountain roads were challenging for all.  Alastair’s Tatra lacked power so we stocked up on spark plugs and later he and Toby replaced all the plugs and HT leads and the cry went up “It’s a different car”as Alastair went off like a rocket on a  test drive, with all 8 cylinders firing in perfect harmoney!

Ruth’s Chris Restaurant provided some delicious steaks for supper that evening as we sat on the balcony in the warm evening air.

The next day we set off for a 250 mile drive to Nashville, with Alastair happily reaching 100 mph!!  Dickie had a problem navigating as he was using the rally trip meter on his ipad but in the mountains he kept losing his GPS signal and therefore kept losing his way and they found some even narrower roads, and one that even petered out to nothing!!

On arrival in Nashville, the participants set off for the bars and found live country and western music at Tootsies before returning to John A’s for dinner where Catfish was the speciality and we danced to the  live band.

Memphis was our next destination and we had  a great days driving through the back roads of Tennessee, seeing how the locals live and spotting old cars which had been left to rust.  Dickie drove the Mercedes and ended up in a ditch after a lorry drove wide on a corner and Dickie sensibly gave way!! He was soon on his way again under Angus’s expert navigation! 

We arrived at the Sheraton in Memphis and  as the next day was a day off, various parties hit Beale Street and the bars to listen to the wonderful local bands playing blues, jazz, rock and roll, etc. 

The holy grail in Memphis is of course Graceland which Elvis bought in his early days of stardom.  Ater parking the car, there is the ticket hall, flanked by shops selling Elvis memorabilia, Elvis music, a restaurant, his car collection, etc.  Once the ticket was purchased (and they ranged from $46 – $160!) we boarded the bus for the short journey to Graceland.  We had been issued with an ipad and head phones so started our virtual tour almost immediately.  On arrival we joined the long snake of people processing through the house which was surprisingly small.  I think everyone would agree it was an interesting exerience!

Alastair spent the day with Toby, changing the rear wheel bearings on the Tatra, changing the dynamo and sourcing two new rear shock absorbers – Meanwhile Angus and Dickie found a garage to fit a bracket for their exhaust pipe and then returned to the hotel to fit their seat belts, which Angus had brought out from England.  Toby changed the spark plugs and after a test run, Dickie reported “successfully tested and 9/10 “!

In the evening Karl and Steve had a drink in Beale Street at Coyote Ugly.  It was quite empty when they arrived but the girls drinking on the next table then got up and did a highly charged raunchy dance routine on the bar which made Karl and Steve finish they drinks in a hurry and leave!!  Others visited the Tap Room in Beale Street and listened to some music from Don Valentine.  He has a fabulous voice and was as big as a house! 

After our day off, we hit the road again in the direction of Fayettville. Alastair started his car in the morning to find that the dynamo was not charging the battery.  We had to go and buy new bearings to refurbish the old unit which we knew was charging. 

Everyone had a great days driving which included the Colewell regularity  which had a staged time for 11 junctions in a row. Quite a challenge!  There was a great route through the hills and even a ford for everyone to spash through.

We stopped at the Buccaneer  in Dover for lunch and found that Alastair was lost up in the hills.  Rachel had thrown the GPS in the car door pocket and it and had consequently lost coverage and so they went on their own tour of the area but could not find the pink line on the Garmin.  Luckily, with GPS restored, they found the Buccaneer and after a short battery charge, where on their way again.

The route to Fayettville was littered with old pickups, chevy’s, trucks and cars, some very rusty and others in great condition.  A car-spotters paradise as one looked into gardens and fields to left and right along the route.  Luckily we are unable to stop and buy any to take home!!

Angus and Dickie, about 10 miles from The Chancellor Hotel in Fayettville, stopped to find electrical service garage to carry out some diagnostics on their misfiring engine.  I don’t think they had much luck with the local mechanic who did not quite understand the problem!

Meanwhile the rover was being stopped for not stopping at a STOP sign.  The officer informed Karl that one had to STOP the car at a STOP sign and Karl had to ask “what, even if there are no cars coming” – “Yes” was the answer, whereupon Karl told the officer that in England one did not have to stop and he was so very sorry for having caused offence!  The officer obliging let him off.  Both John and Toby had been stopped previously for speeding at 70 mph in a 50mph limit and had been let off.  These American officers are most reasonable and charming men!

Paul and Arjan had more luck and found a garage to replace their rear tyres after one of the had a puncture. 

On the next day to Oklahoma city, Angus and Dickie found their Mercedes was still misfiring so they took route 40 to the hotel in Oklahoma quote “chugging along at 50mph” with quote “brief moments of excitement” as they hit 60mph!!

Alastair and Rachel made the first Time Control and then Rachel lost the pink line for a while but luckily found it just in time for Alastair to push the pedal to the metal and just make the second time control!

There were reports of sightings of longhorns in the fields as well as skunks and tortoises crossing the road. We drove through the home of the Cherokee Nation at Tahlequah and passed by a number of Casino’s run by the Cherokee which helps fund the tribal traditions.   The temperature was in the high 90’s as we came into Oklahoma and was 101 degrees as we arrived at the Sheraton!  That’s hot!

Angus and Dickie had stopped 100 miles short of Oklahoma and had found a scruffy garage in an area so rough that the mechanic wore a pistol on his belt at all times!  Four hours later, after no great progress, they limped into the hotel car park with a bad miss-fire and serious water leak.  Angus went to the plumbers merchant and returned with some galvanised piping and a new ignition coil which has hopefully cured both the leak and the miss-fire!

Alastair rebuilt his dynamo but has decided to carry on with his battery charged from another car and a spare battery if all else fails and to  refit the original dynamo at the next reset day.

Jeff and John in the Mustang found time to visit two civil war battle fields while Karl and Steve in the Rover had a fabulous trouble free drive.