I’ll start off by apologizing for the delayed update. I’ve just been so beat that my free time has been prioritized for other things.

Our rally got off to a bit of a rocky start. We all woke up exhausted, with about three hours sleep. We had to boost the Impala the night before to re-park at the hotel, and obviously the problem didn’t fix itself. So the booster cables were definitely kept handy. We only needed to use them a whole bunch while we were getting checked in. Judges seemed impressed with the quality of the rides, and also with the quality of the minds that chose to drive them 2000 miles just to drive them a whole bunch more... and then drive home. Of particular interest with the Jeep was the mileage on it (512,000 km or so at the time, about 320,000 miles), and the Impala’s shining feature was that it was purchased five days before leaving on what will ultimately end up being a 5,000 mile trip.

Plucky Ducky, my team’s mascot.

The first thing we did was cruise over to the other end of the parking lot and pop the hood on the Impala. We knew the alternator was working because it would run with the booster cables off, and we were pretty sure the battery wouldn’t just instantly fail, so wiring was deemed to be a likely culprit. Looked like a bad chassis ground at the battery, the cable was pretty old and frayed at both ends, so we crimped on another end, and also made a new strap which got hose-clamped to the battery terminal. It worked, so it wasn’t stupid. Then we hit the nearest McDicks to strategize.

Three foolish people struggling to find the least foolish way to do something incredibly foolish.

It took us a while. We didn’t really know what we were doing or where we were going, and we were all pretty non-functional due to lack of sleep, so we picked a couple checkpoints and hit the road, way behind the rest of the teams.

One of day one’s checkpoints, a two-storey outhouse.

We hit three checkpoints near the start, and then decided to hit the one at Folsom Prison. Unfortunately our poor planning put us in Sacramento at rush hour, and we were stuck barely moving for over an hour. Those in the Impala had no a/c and suffered for it, not being used to anything at all approaching California levels of heat. We pulled off at a gas station (eventually) to cool down, and discovered that Folsom’s gift shop (we needed merch) had closed a couple hours before we got there. Then we discovered the Impala’s pinion seal was leaking. Then when we crawled under to check the level, we discovered the sketchiest lift I’ve ever seen... You know those coil spring compressors that are just a couple bolts and a bracket to go over them that you see as janky lowering kits? Turns out you can flip the brakes around and use them to spread out the coils... Yes. These discoveries just helped to further our already pretty low morale.

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In our sleep-deprived condition it took us an hour to figure out what to do about both these things (nothing immediately, go figure) and so we hit the road to Fallon, skipping the primary checkpoints on the Sierra passes and taking the interstate through Reno. We got to the stop around 2am, missing the check-in by four hours, although we somehow still weren’t the last team to get in.

Sleep happened. It was glorious. Stay tuned for more, also check out the rest of the trip so far: