The first (but not last) Oppo Rally is complete, and what a day it was. Everyone had a ton of fun, competition was close throughout, and I didn’t have to deduct any points from anyone for getting a speeding ticket. Here’s how the day unfolded.
If you want to skip straight to the results scroll down to the bold text.
First some more details on the format. The rally was made up of 67 checkpoints spread across the state in no logical order and no way to hit any more than about a third of them during the day. These checkpoints were broken up into a number of categories (buildings, cars, planes, trains, weird shit, things to be acquired, and “other”), though like the overall layout there was no easy route for any of the sets either. Competitors had the option of just going after whatever checkpoints struck their fancy or trying to complete one of the sets, which would reward them with extra bonus points. For an idea of the scope of my fiendishness here’s a map of all the checkpoints. Each pin color is a separate set.
The start point was the marina in Port Chester, New York, located between the southwesternmost entry point into Connecticut (I-95) and the second southwesternmost (a small bridge on a narrow two lane road). To ensure the event was as “across Connecticut” as possible the first checkpoint - Miller Motorcars in Greenwich - and the last checkpoint - a state line marker on a small spooky road in the very northeast corner of the state - were the two “mandatory” checkpoints, each worth about ten times as much as most of the other stops.
Five teams withdrew during the week leading up to the rally, and four more failed to show at the start, but by the 8:45 driver’s meeting we had 16 cars on hand ready to be thrown into the madness of the Nutmeg State. Upon arrival each competitor received the route book, which contained the name of each checkpoint and the town it was in. It was up to them to look up exactly where in the town each item was.
At 9:00 everyone was given their mascots and allowed to start. I waited an hour in case there were any stragglers, then headed off to the checkpoints that I wanted to explore.
First stop for me was Gustave Whitehead’s plane, in the “First In Flight” museum. Whitehead was an aviation pioneer in Bridgeport who, according to some reports, flew two years before the Wright Brothers. This was the most difficult checkpoint of the rally, as it’s almost impossible to find in a Google search, but I’d included it for the historical significance. The “museum” is actually a shed at the end of a string of shops at Captain’s Cove Seaport (the location of the main photo for the “45 Days” countdown post and the “20 Days” countdown post). Unfortunately the museum was closed when I arrived (even though I’d emailed the curators and they’d promised it would be open), but the seaport is still a beautiful place to visit and explore. The first time I’d come here I spent about two hours walking around photographing boats and other things (the place is a photographer’s paradise). I didn’t have the luxury of lingering though. I’d promised 10 points to anyone who managed to photograph me, and I know I had to get ahead of the pack if anyone would have a chance. Ultimately only Team 15 MPG managed to find the museum. A few did find the miniature model atop the Whitehead memorial fountain, which I decided to give partial points for.
From the Seaport I went for the obsolete toll booths in Stratford, which I figured would put me ahead of most of the pack, since most had gone for all the checkpoints in Bridgeport. These toll booths used to span the Merritt Parkway, but now reside in the Boothe Memorial Park. The park is a collection of odd and interesting buildings spread out on a 32 acre site, including an observatory, a 44-sided blacksmith shop, a chapel, a windmill, a lighthouse, and a model railroad museum. It’s a fantastic place to stroll around for a good half hour and take in the scenery. The Fluffy Bunny Bus of Doom and Large Time Racing both spotted me on site. Unfortunately for Large Time they forgot to grab a photo of me. D’oh! Though I did get a photo of them.
Next up for me was a trip up to what’s probably the most bizarre place in the state (and I say that despite the fact that Connecticut has at least five closed mental institutions), Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Center in Middletown. The place is basically a museum and emporium for the weird (as you can see here, here, and here), and has everything from life size Elvis statues to weird Japanese toys (and “toys”) to old cabinet arcade games to an entire former amusement park fun house filled with old vinyl records and magazines. This was also the site of two separate checkpoints on two separate lists, the Balancing Yugos checkpoint and the World’s Largest Jack in the Box checkpoint. I did this because I wanted to see how many people would come for one of the checkpoints and completely miss the other. Five of the six teams that showed up were wise to my tricks and spotted both.
Next stop was Dinosaur State Park, because Keaton demanded it. Dinosaur State Park is based around a collection of dinosaur footprints, all of which were found on site. I intended to hike the nature trails, but had to turn back early to create the poll for the Oppo’s Choice award.
Next up, Gillette Castle, one of the places I’d desperately been wanting to properly explore since I first started working on the rally. Gillette Castle was built by actor William Gillette in 1919 and can only bee described as “Flintstones meets medieval.” William Gillette, by the way, is responsible for the image we all have for what Sherlock Holmes looks like, as Gillette was the first to play Holmes on the big screen back in 1916. Virtually all subsequent portrayals of the great detective are modeled after him.
As impressive as the castle is on the outside, the inside is even more incredible. Odd switches, elaborate door latches, narrow winding stairways and balconies, mirrors so that Gillette could see what was going on throughout the castle from his bedroom, even a table designed to distract his (19!) cats so they wouldn’t claw any of the other furniture. It’s an incredible and eccentric place.
I knew based on their posts that Team Toucan was on the way, and I had no intention of making the “I found Dusty” bonus points easy, so I scampered away and on to my next stop, Monty the T Rex. Keaton’s idea of course. Keaton loves visiting family.
After stopping to see Monty I set the GPS for what’s probably my favorite place on the rally, down by the ocean, but on the way I passed the World’s Largest Indoor Kart Track (which I’d added to the route basically at the last minute). This was one of only a couple checkpoints I’d never seen firsthand, so of course I had to go look. Team Cookie Monster was there and they managed to snap me. Captured again! But dat track doe.
For reals this time, on to my favorite stop, Seaside Sanatorium, an institution literally built right on the beach, giving it a serious Shutter Island/movie madhouse vibe. I love it both for the location and for the fact that structurally it’s goddamn gorgeous, doubly so in it’s abandoned state. Believe it or not, the site is now a state park, and while the buildings themselves are closed down you’re encouraged to walk the grounds and the beach, and even go fishing. No swimming though.
Team Toucan managed to shoot me along the way to seaside. Knew I couldn’t dodge them forever.
At this point I needed to stop exploring and high tail it to the meeting point at The Sole Proprietor restaurant in Worcester. I’d emailed a number of Worcester restaurants about letting me use them as a gathering point for the event, and not only was The Sole the only one to respond but they offered a free app or dessert for anyone from the rally who stayed for dinner. When I arrived there was a 45 minute wait, but they’d kept a reservation for me. When I gave them my name they told me they had a secluded table with a power outlet clear and ready for me. These guys were top notch all the way. The food was excellent as well.
One by one the teams filed in and gave me the story of their day, along with the various acquisition items I’d included on the list. While most of them were exhausted from the long day (especially the ones that were out until 10 or later), everyone seemed thrilled with the experience and there were only a couple minor suggestions on how to improve the game in the future. All the co-drivers who weren’t into cars but were dragged along by friends/partners/spouses said that even though they weren’t into cars they had a ton of fun and would love to do it again. Many competitors also said they were impressed by how many cool things were in Connecticut and they intended to use the list to go back and explore a number of them properly. This was one of my favorite comments to hear. I’d chosen a lot of these checkpoints because they were cool, overlooked places that I wanted people to know about. It was a good day.
Enough with all that. I know why you’re really reading this, you want to know who won. So here we go. First a few honorable mentions, then the specialty prize winners, and finally the top 3 and full results.
•The owner of the Enforcer monster truck in Torrington: This monster truck has sat right against the front sidewalk in the parking lot of an auto shop for about two years without moving an inch. Because of this I didn’t give a second thought to adding it to the checklist, it was a cool vintage 80's monster truck that was easy to shoot and log, you didn’t even need to stop the car. Unbeknownst and unfortunately for me the shop decided to move it to the back of their lot a couple weeks ago so they could work on it. The result of this was a bunch of strange people (rally competitors) wandering into the back lot to score the points for the truck. This, unsurprisingly, didn’t sit well with the owner. However, once the whole thing was explained to him, instead of being a jerk and deciding to chase any future unexpected visitors away he decided to move the (massive, not running) truck back out front to make it easier for other players to see it and score it. I’m delivering a case of beer to those guys.
•Team Grocery Getter: for coming all the way from Wisconsin to take part. Talk about commitment.
•Plastidip My Shame: for turning a vintage air-cooled 911 into a Pokemon, and for doing it right complete with ears and a suction cup tail. The haters on the front page may want to hate, but that thing was amazing.
•Team Roadwreckers and team Large Time Racing: these people had never posted on Oppo before and had no idea how Kinja even worked, but they decided to join in and they did well. Extra nod to Large Time Racing, who came all the way from Maine with five people stuffed in a Crown Vic wagon.
•Mean Spirited (Panchovilleneuve): This was one of three solo efforts in the rally (no co-driver), but it didn’t slow him down. Team Mean Spirited managed to be one of the top scorers, missing third by just 10 points.
•Team 15 MPG: for hitting the most checkpoints (26)
•The following teams, for managing to be the only people to find certain checkpoints:
-Mean Spirited - Kingston II and Necker’s Toyland
-Team 15 MPG - Castle Tower
-Team Toucan - Gillette Castle and Seaside Sanatorium
-Cookie Monster - World’s Largest Indoor Kart Track
-Team Lehigh - VW Van Stockpile
-Team Old Buicks - Mantis Reading a Book
•The following teams, for managing to complete at least one of the categories
-Team 15 MPG - In the Air Tonight (planes)
-Mean Spirited - “Other”
-Cookie Monster - Because Racecar
-Old Buicks and SXT - Off the Rails (trains)
Award: “I Got Screwed” - Fluffy Bunny Bus of Doom
There were a few contenders for this award, or more accurately a variant I could have called “I Screwed Myself.” Mean Spirited screwed himself by thinking the game was over at 7 instead of 11, missing out on a good 3+ hours of scoring (and possibly a shot at the win). Cookie Monster and 15 MPG screwed themselves by missing the final 300 point checkpoint. That one checkpoint would have been enough to put either of them into the #3 spot, and 15 MPG would have been just eight points out of the lead. However, the I Got Screwed award goes to the team with the third newest car in the event, a car new enough to still be under warranty. And it’s a good thing it’s still under warranty because it was the only car forced to retire for mechanical issues. Early in the afternoon the Fluffy Bunny Bus of Doom’s Ecoboost engine became all eco and no boost, forcing them to play it safe and limp home. They got screwed.
Award: Oppo’s Choice - The Putt Pirates
When this team of four arrived in matching sweaters and socks, including their T Rex mascot I knew this would be a team to watch. As it turns out I probably should have watched them closer, because these guys were the team of shenanigans. The things they “may have” done include golfing in a cemetery (or two), golfing at an old state hospital, hopping the fence at an insane asylum, driving onto Thompson Motor Speedway, and winding up on the roof of a (small) museum. There may have also been nudity at some point during the day. No one could come close to touching their post game though, they posted this photo from a bathroom at the very start of the day and their check in photos and side updates just got better from there.
Seriously, if you haven’t seen them already you need to go through the photos and videos uploaded by 6cyl, because they’re absolutely magic. Even their lunch break photos were excellent. Not to mention this bit of shameless pandering. No wonder they earned a whopping 40% of the vote for Oppo’s Choice.
Award: Organizer’s Choice - Team Rusty Truck
This one was a no brainer. Not only did they bring the oldest vehicle but they thrashed harder than absolutely anyone to make the rally, myself included. In case you missed it, this is where they were 20 days before the rally. No engine, no transmission, no steering, no front suspension, and a laundry list longer than my arms (yep, plural). Six days before the rally they found out some of the transmission and brake parts were wrong. Three days before the rally they finally got those parts in, and one day before the rally the truck moved under its own power for the first time in years. Maybe all those reality car shows where they manage to finish a build just hours before deadline aren’t bullshit after all. Nah, they still are. But Team Rusty Truck is legit. Check out the full saga here.
Third Overall: Team Rusty Truck - 1,225 points
The battle for third was shockingly close, with just ten points separating third through fifth. What was the key to success for Rusty Truck? Breaking the truck. While hunting for the motocross track in Rocky Hill (which isn’t where Google says it is) they clobbered the right front corner, knocking the lower control arm back in it’s mount. The subsequent ratchet strap repair earned them 20 bonus points which, combined with being one of just four competitors to hit more than 20 checkpoints, was enough to steal third from Team Toucan by a scant two points.
Second Overall: The Putt Pirates - 1,490 points
While the game strategy for most teams was pretty straightforward (hit as many checkpoints as possible) the Putt Pirates opted to go for maximum fun and the big points hauls. They were the only team to hit all the stations of the Scale Solar System in New Milford, netting themselves 105 points, they were the only team to get their car on a race track (100 points), they got the Oppo prize for best check-in photo (50 points) and best video (50 points), and an extra 25 bonus points for consistent excellence, with every single photo or video being cleverly arranged for maximum entertainment. They never just took a checkpoint photo, they took time and set every photo up to be as entertaining as possible. They even made a hilarious gif, from the road. Add all these extra points up and the result is a very close second despite hitting the fifth-most checkpoints. Bravo and clever thinking, Putt Pirates.
First Overall: Team Old Buicks - 1,494 points
These two brothers were the first to arrive Saturday morning, rumbling into the lot in their ‘73 LeSabre before 8 AM, and that should have been considered a sign of things to come. While they did post a number of videos of their Lexus Hybrid mascot driving off of various things for the most part they weren’t as outrageous as Putt Pirates and some of the other teams. The just motored around the state hitting checkpoint after checkpoint, scoring the bonus points for hitting all the train stops, and surprising everyone come tally time. By day’s end they managed to hit the second most checkpoints (24), earn the highest score off pure checkpoints (not counting start line points or bonus points), and they even had time to stop and change a flat tire for some young motorists who found themselves stranded on the side of the road in the middle of the night. A well deserved win for the Buick boys.
And that’s the ball game. Thanks again to everyone who came out and participated. If you haven’t already and you have a free half hour I suggest flipping through the photos from the event here. There’s some awesome stuff in there. There will definitely be another Oppo Rally next spring if not sooner (I’m already looking at maps). Hopefully it’ll be even bigger and better than this year, with more competitors and maybe an extra twist or two. Until then, goodbye from Jurassic Park.