“Road rallies are great; they’re usually for a good cause, they bring you to places you would never go otherwise, and it brings great people together.” – David Patterson (a.k.a. ThatDudeinBlue – YouTube)
He’s right, you know. Road rallies are scavenger hunt based timed events that takes place on public roads. At the start of each day during the event, you’re given a checkpoint brochure. Each checkpoint must be completed in order, and you’re not given a name or address. Just a photo and description of the checkpoint. It’s your co-driver’s job to figure out where the checkpoints are, and how to navigate there. It’s your job as a driver to get there as quickly (and as lawfully) as possible. Any team caught by law enforcement for any illegal activity is disqualified. This makes it especially tricky and fun because it’s all a game of navigation. Some teams are in it for the trophy, some are in it for the fun and enjoyment of the drive.
Every single year, Rally North America usually hosts two different rallies, one main rally in the Summer, and a smaller one during Fall. Each benefiting a charity benefiting the greater good in the name of motorsport. All in the meanwhile; you’re driving on fantastic roads, seeing America in a whole new perspective and you meet friends for life — and you can’t wait to see them again next rally. It’s your family you never knew you had.
David’s YouTube video during his time on the Route 50 Rally in Summer of 2014 really set the course for my time with Rally North America (RNA). Just seeing what a fantastic time to be had these rallies would be just made my decision to enter the next rally in the following months a no-brainer. After saving up for a few months, I registered my team for the Fall 2014 Ohio Valley 700, which David was also entering in as well.
Now that I’ve submitted the mandatory donation fee, it was time to choose a name and number for my team. For my first rally, I wanted to honor a great friend of mine who unfortunately passed away earlier that year during MAPerformance’s Proving Grounds event in Brainerd, Minnesota. “Team Brian O’Connor” #88. No, he’s not Paul Walker or his character out of the Fast and Furious franchise. His name was literally Brian O’Connor.
The Ohio Valley 700 is a 700 mile (approximate) two-day road rally starting in Dayton, Ohio to Buckhannon, West Virginia. This rally benefited the EFWO (Epilepsy Foundation of Western Ohio in memory of Cody Converse). Fall rallies are typically shorter than their main Summer counterparts. This being a two-day rally made it much easier to get the time off from my job as a detailer at my local Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM dealership.
The date is Friday, October 10th, 2014. 1:18am Central Standard Time. My best friend Ryan and I are packing up the Mazda, getting ready for the off. Phones? Check. Chargers? Check. Wallet? Check. Food/beverages? Check. Backpack of clothes? Check. All pre-flight checks are completed, Captain. At around 1:30am, we left Rockford, Minnesota and headed towards Minneapolis to pick up another friend, Mike. From Minneapolis, it’s to Dayton, Ohio to our hotel.
The drive to Dayton was one that was relatively uneventful. Filled with good laughs and good music.
You could not ask for a better room. Honestly. We’re hearing all of these beautiful noises just outside our window, and we’re seeing other teams trickle in, one by one they drove through to the front doors. I’ll admit, my first rally, not knowing anybody at all, I was nervous but also very excited for what’s to come.
After meeting other teams and people, we retreated to a group dinner at a local restaurant/bar. We’re just way too excited and antsy to even think about sleep, but alas. We finally got some sleep in the wee hours of Saturday morning. We were all to meet at a specific street in downtown Dayton to officially start the rally at 7am. The nice thing was that local law enforcement actually closed the road specifically for us to start.
When I say that you see America in a different perspective, you better believe it. Checkpoints during RNA rallies take into consideration beauty and quality of road, all while being significant in some form wether it be history, aviation, automotive or anything else in between.
Ryan, Mike and I spent our whole rally hanging out with David and Brandon (his hometown friend, now also our friend!). You can see David’s video on the Ohio Valley 700 in two videos. Part 1 and Part 2.
Much like the Ohio Valley 700 the previous year, Ryan and I are way too antsy to get sleep. This year, we took Ryan’s Girlfriend and my unofficial sister Tiffiney along with us.
This rally benefited Hope for the Warriors. Hope for the Warriors is a charity that benefits post-9/11 veterans and families to help with rehabilitation therapy among other things and reintegrate back into civilian life.
The Smoky Mountain Rally was 2015’s main event, with an unofficial pre-rally party. This rally starts in Nashville, TN and ended in Savannah, GA.
Saturday, July 11th, 2015 we all left Rockford, MN to Knoxville, TN where the pre-rally party was happening with a few other teams. We all hung out, ate food together, went bar hopping together, caught up and made some more memories and new friends.
This rally was unique in the form that one of my friends moved from Minnesota to Knoxville. I was able to meet him and his then girlfriend for dinner. I was able to meet up and hang out with a fellow Minnesotan team in a 2016 Holden Commodore SSV Redline (Chevrolet SS).
During this rally there was a lot of difficulties. Mainly was the navigation aspect of the checkpoints. One of them was so difficult to figure out, most of us were only able to muster coordinates of the location. Most of us didn’t have a means of navigating to a coordinate, unless we had a GPS system that was able to use that as a waypoint.
At the end of the rally in Savanah, GA we were all given the opportunity to have free reign on Roebling Road Raceway. As my first track experience, it was one hell of a fun time. Though I never got a chance to pass anybody, because I was the 2nd slowest vehicle in the group. The slowest was Team FedEx (Team Champagne) in a stock Chevrolet Express Van decaled out to look like a FedEx Home Delivery van. Although I was constantly giving the point-by’s, it was still one hell of a time that I will never ever forget.