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Super 8:  Bread Rally, part two
Written July 1, 2012


In Part 1, rally teams gathered in a suburban Columbus parking lot for the start of the "Come Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters" rally on March 4, 1973.  To return to Part 1, click here.


The teams were sent off at one-minute intervals:  car 1 at 12:31 pm, car 2 at 12:32, and so on.  But there were no numbers affixed to the sides of the vehicles, lest the local gendarmes mistake these for recklessly speeding racecars.

I think this particular worker at the start line was George Ryerson’s rally partner, Eagan Foster.  He had a shortwave radio in hand, tuned to the National Bureau of Standards station WWV.

The continuous time signals allowed the teams to make a last-minute adjustment to their clocks, if necessary.

Then, at the precisely scheduled time, the team received its Route Instructions.

After quickly glancing at these turn-by-turn directions, most rally teams put them on their clipboard.  Notice that the navigator has her Curta calculator poised in her left hand.

The first instruction was something like “Turn right at STOP to exit parking lot.  Begin warmup zone.  Take 30 minutes to reach instruction #13.”  And they were off, in slow motion, spaced about half a mile apart.

Paul Alexander’s Corvette was among the first to leave.  The best rallyists made it a point to get low car numbers so that they could run a clean course, ahead of the bewildered beginners.

After the last car had disappeared down the pike towards Canal Winchester, it was time for the rest of us — the rally workers who had not yet done so — to head out onto the course.

George and Eagan would be working Checkpoint III along with Terry and me.

Following the rallymaster’s directions, we first headed southeast on US 33 to reach our assigned area quickly.

Then we exited onto the narrower county and township highways, with George leading our little three-car convoy in his Fiat 124.

Unfortunately, he mistakenly led us down a dead-end road and we had to turn around in a cornfield.

“Where was our off-course marker?” 

But we got back to where we were supposed to be and continued making turns.

When I showed this home movie at a club meeting, one of the members asked at this point, “So did you ever find Checkpoint III?”

We did.  The designated location was beside yonder utility pole.

And to confirm that fact, the rallymaster had helpfully tacked up this paper plate.

We parked our cars on the right-hand shoulder about 200 feet past the utility pole and unpacked our equipment.  We would be spread out over a distance of a tenth of a mile in an area that was called a “control.”

The equipment included our official clock.  In those days before quartz timepieces, mechanical watches were not perfectly accurate.  If we had been using my wristwatch, it would have had to be set back one-hundredth of a minute at least twice an hour.

This Heuer, presently reading 23.70 minutes after the hour, was considerably better than my wristwatch.  Nevertheless, we had to confirm that its time was correct.

And to do that, of course, we had a short-wave radio.

Terry was assigned a red flag and a whistle.

And Eagan’s kid, who had tagged along with us, carried the checkpoint sign to the pole.

Terry’s job was to stand beside the sign.  Whener a rally car drove past him, he would wave his flag and blow his whistle.

The first car through our checkpoint was not in competition.  It was the rallymaster, who had left early so he could drive the “lead car” around the course, confirming that no roads had been closed nor landmarks removed and all checkpoints were open and operating properly.

How could we distinguish  competing cars from ordinary traffic?  The rallyists had been instructed to drive with their headlights on (a rarity in the daytime in 1973).

The rest of us were watching for Terry’s signal.

Eagan would read the time to the hundred of a minute, for example 2:15.67 pm ...

... and I would write it on our checkpoint log.  I would also assign a “Time Out,” meaning that the rally car was supposed to leave our checkpoint at 2:18.00 pm.

The car stopped beside our little group, and the navigator handed George the team’s scorecard.  It identified them as car #3, so I added the car number to my log.

In exchange, George gave the navigator a preprinted slip of paper with the rallymaster’s comments about the leg they had just completed. 

George wrote the Time In and the Time Out on the team’s scorecard and returned it to them.  Because the Time Out was actually the starting time for the next leg, it was entered into Column IV on the scorecard, making future subtraction easier.

The car then proceeded to the “out marker,” another sign that we had placed exactly one-tenth of a mile down the road from the checkpoint sign.  Here they could reset their odometer if necessary while pausing half a minute or so until their Time Out.

Like all of the half-dozen legs, there was a “trap” associated with our part of the course.  Ours was set up something like the example below.

A rally team (red arrow) would drive over a slight rise and see our checkpoint (white sign) up ahead.  Especially if they thought they were running late, our presence might distract them.  They might not notice a yellow milk can that happened to be at the intersection marked 5.  The milk can meant they were supposed to turn left — before they reached our checkpoint.

If the rallyists did remember to turn left at 5, subsequent instructions directed them to make right turns at 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, so that they reached our checkpoint at the proper time.  But if they came straight through 5 and directly into our checkpoint, they “shorted the course” by eight miles and arrived about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  At our checkpoint, we gave them a slip of paper telling them that now they should be looking for turn 6, thereby re-synchronizing those who were early with those who were on time.

Here comes a rally car over the hill, approaching “5” in my example.

Terry tries to lure him into our checkpoint by making sure he sees the sign and the red flag.  But has he seen the milk can?

He has!  He makes the correct left turn at the intersection, avoiding our checkpoint.

After going around the loop, this car is approaching our checkpoint from the proper direction.

But wait, it’s a traffic jam!  Not only is another car approaching over the hill, but a “civilian” car has driven through our control in the wrong direction, wondering why there's a survey crew on their rural road.

Fortunately, the civilian realizes that our flagman’s whistle is not meant for him, and he continues on his way.

Later, our control becomes even busier as lost rallyists began tailing each other around the course.

Finally, at least half an hour after the last car should have reached our checkpoint, we shut down the control and put away our gear.

It’s off to the restaurant at the finish line, where we will submit our log to the official scorer and get something to eat while awaiting the announcement of the results and the awarding of the trophies.

Another Sunday well spent in the company of friends!



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