BABE Rally 2009 Wrap Article
My first question is: where on earth do we start for this wrap article?
The first mention has to be the StreetSafari forum. About six weeks from the event, someone posted the question, "Will BABE2009 Preparations section beat the highest Preparation section ever?" At first look it didn't seem possible. There were only 3,500 posts and there were 3,900 or so to beat (Staples2Naples 2006 Preparation section).
But a few calculations, and it looked like this year's prep section would beat it.
And that's where 2009 became special.
By the time the forum was closed on the Sunday night after Check In, the forum was running at 6,068 posts or so. It didn't just beat the next best, it crushed it.
Staten Island Hotel is the start point. It's a nice place and we're getting to know its perennial scaffolding quite well, which has nearly been at the hotel as long as the event has.
Check In starts at a pace, a faster pace than normal, mainly because so many teams had made it a priority to be on site earlier. News of the tail gate parties had already gotten on the forum, and that night was no different.
As each parking space became available outside the hotel, a BABE car would roll into it. By very early on in the evening, the rather posh hotel had descended into the swampy quagmire that is BABE Rally cars.
One thing noticeable was the lack of European cars this year. People really had made an effort at getting an American vehicle, and that was nice. We have nothing against European cars on BABE Rally, but we do see European cars on European events all the time. It's nice to see some proper American Iron. With that in mind from the previous year, an American Iron group was created and slightly swayed people with their car choices.
The car decorations were as good as previous years, but with a couple more themed cars this year. The Jingle Benz, a Mercedes stationwagon painted green and carrying various Christmas decorations, not least Santa and a Christmas tree on its roof; an A Team van, proper A Team van, not some whimpy version just painted with a red stripe; the Mad Max cop car; the UK cop car; and a bona fide "short bus" school bus, complete with appropriate passengers.
In fact, the school bus wasn't a theme, it was a short school bus manned by a team of what we can only think are alcoholics. Rich alcoholics, we think, if the staggering quantities of their empties are any indication. But more about their consumption later.
A number of teams had problems getting to the start line, like the team whose steady steed, was less than steady the day before and was replaced by a Honda Civic bought off Craigslist, which was shortly (54 miles later) replaced by a Volvo stationwagen off Craigslist as well. It was a busy afternoon on Craigslist in Wisconsin.
A Canadian team was also on its way, embarking on what could be the longest trip to a start line of 2,900 miles. Apparently, Canada is a long way away. For a little Englishman, these are big countries.
The party at Staten Island started early and ended late. It was the first of many.
Day 1: And we're off!
With the cars assembled in one place and in the light of day, you got to see just how bad they were.
In fact, the $500 limit had actually brought a better class of car onto the event. So it seemed. Definitely less rust, more body panels. If we had kept the large contingent of European cars, this could almost pass for a European event! But the thin veneer of panels that looked unrusty hid far worse things underneath, so we were about to discover.
We're not sure what happened, but the $500 price limit seems to have gone to the teams' heads. It's that or some funny fumes they've been inhaling (probably exhaust fumes). What seems to have happened is that $500 allows people to buy the cars “they've always wanted”, however that works. People have dreamed about owning “x y or z” and with $500 budget now is their chance! But of course, it's just like they tell you about all first loves, everything looks sweeter in hindsight through those rose colored glasses. Reality turns out to be more bitter than sweet.
Out goes the sensible planning of the event, the head screwed on, the quest for a reliable car, in comes “I've always wanted a Lincoln” or whatever they dreamed of since the glory days..
There's another thing about nicely turned out cheap cars. What do they have underneath that makes them so cheap? The teams were about to discover, if they hadn't already.
Although there were no start line failures, or failures on the way to the start line (other than the team who had purchased multiple cars the previous day, but they were having their own adventure as usual), Day 1 was to prove interesting for a few.
The short bus had long decided that it had a healthy consumption of gasoline with an eye watering gas mileage of 5 MPG That's five. F. I. V E. The fingers on one hand. Five.
Thankfully, it had six people in it to feed its addiction, but i figure if another four got in with them it would only just make the vehicle financially viable. But then, this isn't an event for the level headed anyway.
Most of the American Iron class had problems on the first day, not least Jim Thwaite's Oldsmobile, the Wakeman's Lincoln Mk4, the Matador, Team Awol in the Cadillac-ish thing. At least the clowns got away in their tank, and long time (and long suffering) veteran Greg and his Volare got away relatively unscathed.
The day went as planned. Plenty of teams met various State Troopers, including the English team that had flown out and picked up the black Pontiac dressed as Knight Rider. Their first tangle with an American cop left at least one of the team members in abject terror for the rest of the day.
The evening was going well, but a few teams did seem to be missing, not least, some four year veterans. The veterans are forever up for a challenge when selectring their cars for the event had all decided on the cars that no one else wanted. And it was for good reason that no one wanted them.
While Connie the Lincoln of Death was destroying its muffler (from inside), the Olds decided it really wanted new brakes, and while that was all happening, Tim Hansen's two-cylinder Volvo 240 stationwagen had taken to gassing most of the team. His team subsequently retired to bed too ill (or lazy) to help Tim work out Plan B.
Tim's Plan B was to buy tools and fix the gassing problem. A kind Eric from another team lent a helping hand and they managed to get the exhaust manifold back where it should have been in the first place after a mere 18 hours.
The Matador was also requesting an ongoing repair, something that it had been doing all day, in fact. Little did the team know, but would continue to request -- nay, demand -- attention throughout the event.
Harrisonburg saw the second of the great tailgate parties. We did try a bar in Harrisonburg, but that didn't quite work. Next year we will probably be in the hotel parking lot for the tailgate party exclusively.
The local TV station also came out to film the cars, and add a bit of grandiose to the evening, which definitely aided teams the following day as people had seen the rally on TV!