Day 22 & 23 San Francisco!

We are now in San Francisco after a fairly relaxed final day to the finish of the rally.

But first a few words on our one but last night in Eureka. After the ‘group’ dinner the four rally mechanics had organised a beer party from the back of their service trucks in the rally car park. Everybody was there and it was a great atmosphere. These four British mechanics: Owen, Jamie, Andy (Skippy) and Tony are magicians and during the rally they never stopped work. Fortunately we did not really need much of their help but when we needed help and advice they were there and got us to the finish in time.

Tom van den Berg in his Pagode had a much more serious problem when a support bracket of his gearbox broke. There and then the ERA boys manufactured a replacement bracket form their own box of tricks/spare parts. The bracket they used was from a Ford transit van. Tom and Femke came home with this ‘bandage’ and I think they could do Peking to Paris with the same fix on their car.

Just a small example of what these guys can do but they did a lot more of such tricks.

During the party Tom van den Berg on behalf of the ‘Daffia’ or ‘Dutch Mafia’ as the four Dutch teams have been branded by the competition, Tom presented each of the mechanics with a small pendant of Dutch clogs that the Dutch team ladies pinned on their overalls accompanied with a kiss for each of them.

It was fun evening at a time that the end result of the rally was almost fixed.

On Sunday morning at the start the organisers changed our schedule for the day in such a way that the rally would officially end at the lunchtime stop in a coastal village called Mendocino instead by the Golden Gate bridge by San Francisco.

It was a sensible plan as it turned out that the final run into San Francisco took much longer then expected due to the Sunday afternoon return traffic into town.

The morning route led us along the beautiful Pacific coast where there are hidden beaches and places where surfers are waiting in the seas for their ‘dream’ wave.

Very beautiful scenery after the desolate and hot desert of Nevada. The weather in the morning was cloudy and cool – as is often the case in this region – by 11.30 the sun came out and it was nice and sunny with reasonably warm temperatures.

There were a few ‘ Passage Controls’ along the route to make sure that everyone was accounted for when we came to the cottage like Inn in Mendocino where we clocked-out for the last time this rally.

With time on our hands before driving to San Francisco, Tom and Femke, Grace ad I decided to stay for lunch before moving on. It was nice and the food was tasty and good.

When we returned to the car park we found an elderly gentlemen near our ‘Dutch registered cars’ . He turned out to be Dutch and resident in the US for 60 years! He could not believe his eyes to see Dutch cars on US soil.

He introduced himself with the surname ‘Thorbecke’ and turned out to be the eighty six year old grandson of the famous Dutch Prime Minister ‘Thorbecke’. He lived nearby by the sea and was still a professor at Berkeley University.

A nice encounter..

After lunch we drove together with Tom and Femke towards our final destination San Francisco. Still a run of 225 km. The road led us away from the coast through the Californian vineyards of Sonoma and Napa. Many wine houses and a landscape not dissimilar from the Province in France.

Then a 100km run on the highway into SF. The traffic started to thicken until we encountered as number of traffic jams but finally we reached the Golden Gate Bridge and the end of our three-week journey.

The run into town on the way to the Fairmont hotel was complicated but Grace using the ‘Tulips’ from the road book got me there (again) without fail.

When everybody had arrived at the hotel there was an official finish ceremony in front of he hotel entrance (see the trans America official site).

In the evening we had the final prize giving dinner at the top floor of the Fairmont hotel. A truly wonderful location as the room gave us 360 degree view of San Francisco.

At the prize giving we were not only confirmed as 9th place overall, but also in second placed in the under 3 litre category and we also came second in the ‘team’ category’.

We registered the three Dutch Mercedes teams under ‘Triple Dutch’ as one team for the team awards and together with Tom and Femke and Emile and Marianne we came second against firm British competition.

It was really a great evening with a very nice group of new friends.

On Monday morning the Dutch teams gathered one more time to drive our cars to the shipping agent outside San Francisco. GPS had arranged everything for us so the transfer went without a hitch.

So this is it for now but it tastes like more – Grace’s words-.

After doing about 45.000-rally km with Anty it was obviously quite a challenge to take on this rally with Grace as my navigator.

From day one however she took it as a duck to water and the Tom Tom that I had brought as a precaution was never used on the rally. In fact the one time we used it outside the rally it got us lost..

When we received the route book in Halifax I discovered to my horror that we had at least two ‘regularity’ sections a day during the whole rally. Grace and I have never done regularities before and it took only a few days of rallying for us to work out a system that we could keep the penalties for these regularities’ to a minimum.

However in a group of 40 cars there are at least 25 teams that have been rallying for years together so I had little hope of finishing in the top 20.

The first 10 days we scored well against the competition on the various racing tracks that we had to visit. The little light and fast Benz could compete with the best Porsches and it set us up for a good first half position of the rally.

The second part of the rally had no tracks at all so from then onwards I expected us to slide down the order to 15 or 20 Th position.

The other Dutch crews were behind us but were also learning the tricks of the regularities. Particularly the rookies Tom and Femke van den Berg were learning fast and Tom, being and IT guru, could calculate the speed differentials much faster then Grace and me together.

There were some British teams behind us who were really keen to catch us in the last week but we seem to get better every day. Only one day Grace lost count altogether and I had to drive the section on my own guts. The damage was limited.

The final day of regularities was Saturday with three regularities en-route from Reno to Eureka.

At the start of the day we were both quite nervous, as there were two teams behind us in the classification that could overtake us that day. One was only 5 seconds behind.

As often with ERA rallies at the moment you think the rally is over they throw in a last day with very difficult regularities.

This was one of these days. The required average speed for the terrain was very high and the last regularity had a very steep climb up mountain in the last few bends before the finish.

All three we came out ahead of our rivals, so much so that we came second overall in the second regularity and we won the third one overall!

At the end of the day we then also found that we had overtaken the Porsche 912 ahead of us, which gave us our 9th overall position.

Very good teamwork where Grace kept a very cool head and me driving the ….. out of the Benz. All the time there was the worry about the fuel pumps and the overheating of the fuel. That day the car stayed together so my fixes from Reno seem to have worked. I think we can both conclude that it was an exceptional nice rally with an exceptional group of competitors and organisers.

As you can see from the entry list there were many nationalities but there was not one team that did not get on with anybody.

We lived with a group of people for three weeks, day and night. A group of people that we have not chosen ourselves so you have to take them as they are. It was a nice group and Grace mixed very well with the various other teams. Many new friend and contacts were made.

After Peking to Paris 2013 I mentioned this already and once again it proves that the world can be a nice place without politicians involved.

We all have one passion though cars!

Grace and I will certainly do another rally (ies) again and there is already one event on the radar that we would like to do.

First however the Peking to Paris in 2016 when the team of Mick and Anty will tackle this rally one more time in the now tested Pagode.

Many thanks for all your mails and comments during these last three weeks. I hope you will stay online for our next rallies.

Many thanks to the team of Altena Classic cars who build such a great car from scratch with a special thanks to Rick Kelder who did most of the initial work on the car. There is some more work to do before Peking to Paris 2016 but the car is strong, fast and light. Altena can be proud because Altena prepared all four Dutch cars and all four came through without a serious problem!

Gerard Brown the rally photographer who has made some wonderful pictures and provided us with some of the best shots of our car for our site. Many thanks!

Many thanks to our Dutch team friends Tom and Femke, Anty and Sonja and Emile and Marian. You are great friends and great company especially at times when you need each other.

A special thanks to Peter van den Heuvel from Kwamedia in Hilversum who not only designed the website but also made sure that my scribbling’s and photo’s were online as soon as I had send them. Peter also made the Google earth sticker with the rally route on the boot of our car. At every stop we made it was an ideal platform to show the locals what we were doing and where we were going.

This is it . One more day in San Francisco and then back home and back to work (in a Dutch heat wave) to earn some money for the next rally.

Stay tuned!

Mick and Grace