Chapter Two – The Race to the Rally
By the time we went through a few vehicle selections/rejections, through pre-rally inspections on each, and swapping them out via the poor lady on the desk to finally obtain the actual Corvette ZHZ we were going to accept from Hertz, we were already way behind schedule. At least we had a brand new, fully loaded C6 Corvette convertible with the Z51 performance package, magnetic adjustable suspension package and sport tuned exhaust. Who knew Hertz would order the full performance optioned 436 horsepower edition for their rental fleet?!? Thanks Hertz!
So after the lengthy car selection/pick up process, we still needed to clean up the Vette, apply all of the rally stickers, and to load it full of all the gear necessary to successfully compete in the rally. Then there was the small task of packing for a week, loading the car, and finally trying to get a decent nights rest before we head out of town. All of this was supposed to happen in one evening. Yeah. Right! With only 24 hours left until we had to be in El Paso for the mandatory 6 PM driver’s safety briefing, and having only had 2 hours sleep in the previous 48 hours due to preparing to be away for a week, we had our work cut out for us! This leads us to our second and third lessons learned – DO NOT wait until the day before you are supposed to leave to drive to the rally start destination city to prepare your car! Third – Get plenty of REST during the week BEFORE you go rally!
After we got our Corvette home and cleaned her up, we began the arduous process of figuring out where each decal would look best on the car. Sounds easy, right? Anything but! First, you have to strategically place each decal in a manner that ensures proper placement for aesthetics while allowing plenty of visibility for all of the rally sponsors, all of our team sponsors, and all of our custom team decals. No, I can assure you, this is not nearly as easy as it sounds!
For starters, we were running considerably more decals than we usually do in other events. Couple that with the fact that they had been planned for a coupe, not a convertible, and you start to see the dilemma we faced. However, thanks to some MUCH needed help from our good friend Trent Landreth (@trentor_drive on Twitter and author of the automotive blog ReflectionsoftheDrive.com) we figured out where to best place them on the car in about an hour or so. Then came the fun part … decal application.
For the record, most temporary racing and rally decals are easy as pie to install (and to remove, but we’ll cover that later). For our custom team decals and our sponsor decals, this was thankfully the case. However, it must be duly noted that there is a special place in hell reserved for those who selected the actual materials used in the construction of the “official” 2009 Dustball Rally decals. To his credit, rally organizer Andrew Medley (@DustballRally on Twitter) has assured us that this will not happen again next year. Given his track record on how well everything else went with the planning and execution of this rally, I do believe him. However, let the record show that if the 2010 Dustball decals are constructed of materials that are anything like the 2009 decals, I’m saving the “best” of them to place directly on his windshield at the starting line next year!
Yet I digress. We spent the next several hours, going deep into the wee hours of the night, pausing only long enough to not reach beyond the limits of the local Wendy’s drive thru for a much needed late dinner while applying decals to our Vette. The night was typical summer in Texas, hot, humid and long. By the time we finished applying decals (around 4:30 AM), my clothes were as wet with sweat as if I’d jumped into the pool. In fact, had I not needed to wire up the electronics in the car immediately after applying the decals, jumping into the pool would have been the very next step!
Decal application might have been 10 times tougher than the decal packs we usually run, and it might have taken most of the night, but I do believe the end results speak for themselves in the pictures (see them on our @TeamHallnNass TwitPics account and in the Team Hall & Nass gallery on ReflectionsoftheDrive.com). The car was beautiful! No, it was more than that. It was stunning! Much more on that topic will be covered in a later chapter to be titled “Stickers, The Most Beautiful Dustball Rally C6 Corvette on the Planet!”
About 8:30 AM, with the decals on, the electronics wired up, both GPS units tracking, the laptop online via Verizon Mobile Wireless, the Valentine One chirping, the Uniden “Hamthrax radio” scanner broadcasting, the suitcases in the back, the snacks in the coolers, a MUCH needed shower taken, NO sleep, several AMP Energy drinks and my trusty co-driver/navigator Taylor Nass strapped in by my side, we hit the road to El Paso.
If you’ve never been in Dallas AM traffic at 8 AM CDT, then you are lucky. Other than when we lived in California, it doesn’t get a whole lot worse anywhere than here. It’s not as much about the 8.5 million people in the DFW area as it as about their notorious inability to drive. Just ask any insurance company. Dallas County Texas is the worst in the nation for accidents. Thus, they really, truly can’t drive here!
This is why I had originally planned to depart by 6 AM! Nevertheless, we headed out at a sad pace that no Corvette should have to endure. About an hour later, after much lane diving, several horns honked and a more than a few visual reminders that Team Hall & Nass is indeed number one in the eyes of many (thanks for the support!), we blew out the other side of Fort Worth at a speed much more in line with our team name.
The drive across most of Texas on Interstates 30, 20 and finally 10 was fairly uneventful. The speed limit is 80 MPH across much of the region, so other than dipping down to 85 “ish” whenever we encountered Hamthrax (which was way more often than even I expected), we kept the cruise set on 100. With a fuel stop, a Cracker Barrel meal and one bathroom break to obtain more energy drinks as our only stops, we arrived in El Paso at 5 PM MDT. A 658 mile run in 9 and a half hours with rush hour traffic and three stops (totaling two hours) is not too shabby, but not NEAR good enough for a real rally day.
After attending the drivers safety briefing, meeting many of our fellow competitors face to face for the first time, getting some general instructions on what to expect the coming days to be like, and taking some pictures of rides in the parking lot, it was time for tacos, a tank of fuel, a final wipe down of the Vette, a shower and some much needed SLEEP. Just before I finally crashed at Midnight MDT, I saw the rain start to fall outside. CRAP!