A friend invited me and the lad to the annual Sno-Drift rally in Altlanta, Michigan. Naturally we accepted. The event took place yesterday.
We left our cozy homes at 7am (original plan was 5 am; 7 was much better) and set out into the frigid Michigan air with the 250 mile trip ahead of us. We did see a massive amount of trucks towing snowmobile trailers - this first decent snow of the winter had all these boys out and heading north.
No issues on the road; a steady 70 - 80 mph the whole way to Gaylord. We stopped there; had a Burger King breakfast - the boys hat tater tots and there were many Napolean Dynamite references fryin around. The fun took the nastiness of my so-called food away. We then ventured into Normans - The place in Northern Michigan for outerwear, where we spent a tiny amount of cash on heavy duty socks and a coat for the lad. Anyways, enough of all that, we went up there for a rally. So on we goes to Atlanta - 33 miles of the most un-crow-like distance; but we got there. Atlanta is a small little town - seems like a regular nice up north kinda place. As my buddy commented, if ya lived up there, you'd have to really love yer wife. ok ok enuff.
We initially went to a hall where a friend of my friend was taking lunch - he was one of the organizers, and a marshal so we got some pretty good tips on where to watch. After stocking up on cocoa and snax, we headed out to the stage, bloody miles away. Beautiful snowy countryside, but I was drivin so there were few pix. Well none worth takin. What i did see was a heck of a lot of crazy snowmobilers putting all sorts of dangers on themselves and others.
Well anyways, Travis Pastrana was driving and driving pretty well at that. He was the overall winner of the rally. As many of the top drivers (and others), and many of the spectators, he was in a Subaru WRX. Are there any other rally cars out there competing? Yep a few Mitsubishi Evos, a Hyundai Triburon, but outside of that, that was it as far as competing was concerned. There was a Porshe 911 in there somewhere but not far up the ranking, and of course a load of also-rans (seen a couple of Focuses)
So we mosied onto our stage, had a swift beer, and found a good spot, on the down side of a 50-degree turn. Then we waited.. The boys played in the deep snow, then we all stood and got snowed on, then we had some hot chocolate and took it as easy as ya could in below freezin temps. The zero-cars came around, then the rally started. Our spot was nice for watchin the cars approach ya and then manoever into the corner; it was interesting watching the different techniques. No one hit the bank too hard, but there was a lot of snow flyin. That was all good until we noticed the ambulance moving and police activity ans so on.. after some inquiries we learned that there was an "incident" and the stage was on hold. Apparently one of these many snowmobilers had "wandered onto the closed road" and caused a rally car to hit a tree and nearly kill the occupants. I got a pic of the car involved getting trailered in - below somewhere - when i post it.
We moved on at that point and decided to hit the school - which was the pit- we were told it was the elementary, middle, and high school all in one. That was a hive of activity; we got there just in time to see the cars coming in. Pastrana, of course was first, followed by many other Subaru WRX's. Blue ones. Imagine that? Pics of Pastrana and Comie-Picard coming in....
We also got to see the the left-overs of car that swerved off to avoid the crazy snow mobiler. Messy....
It always amazes me the speed these guys work at!
See the amount of snow under the wheel arches. These cars are tuned to carry as little weight as possible - how heavy is all that snow??
From there we went to what we thought was the next stage - but we wondered why all the people were leaving. So we pulled over and asked someone what was happening - amazingly he recognized me!! I had no clue who he was, but he knew my name. Seems I worked with him about 8 years ago 3500 miles east of here! Dang!!! Anyways, the stage we were trying to go to had been brought forward as the previous stage had been canceled, not just held up, and they went on the next stage ahead of schedule. Oh well.
So, onwards to the final stage of the day. Here again we got there, had a beer, found an awesome spot on the approach to a hairpin, and relaxed. No blizzard this time. The boys again had fun, egged on by the marshal in the center of the hairpin who started a snowfight with the boys which turned out to be a snowfight with half the spectators. The TV people were there, ESPN I'm told. I wonder if we got on there? The rally began just as it got dark, which was nice but kinda killed my photography chances. Thoroughly enjoyable! The first 10 cars kicked butt and the rest slowed down and cornered cautiously. Time to go.
So that was rally day, fun, snow, fast cars, snow, beer, cold, fun, snow and Subaru's. By the bucketload. I think I know what my next car will be.
The trip home was a bit more challenging than the trip up there. The roads were covered in snow, which meant slowing right down. We drove to Gaylord, felt hungry, and stopped at a Mexican, La Senorita I believe, for a somewhat average dinner. Then onto the road.
I-75. i would have thought it would have been clear. Nope. One lane was passable, and that was it. 5 hours later we got home.
600 or so miles total. 18 hours out. Snow. Rally cars. All great fun, We will be there next year!