(not Marvel or GOT related 😁)

… but since we’re all here and not there, I figured why not — Oliver Solberg and Denis Giraudet win Olympus Rally!

This is an incredible accomplishment for Oliver Solberg. While I’m sure he missed the presence of Aaron Johnston beside him in the car, Solberg clearly did not suffer from the experience brought to him this weekend by Denis Giraudet. Watching Solberg drive at 100 Acre Wood, I felt he is a tremendous talent who would bear watching. Seems he is ahead of schedule. 

Let’s not diminish the driving of David Higgins and Craig Drew this weekend. By all accounts, the course and conditions were strong, with Olympus Rally taking its toll on cars and drivers/co-drivers alike. The #70 and #75 cars of Subaru Motosports battled these conditions and each other to build a substantial lead on the rest of the field. I am sure Higgins & Drew don’t plan on making the rest of the season easy for Solberg. 

If there was ever a year to have a bunch of frequent flyer miles and points for hotel stays, this is it. I wish I could attend every leg of the ARA championship series. All I can say is go to one of the remaining events, if you are near any of them. At the least, you will see some incredible driving. However, it’s possible you will get to witness a very bright star taking its place among the constellations. 

Following My Master’s Voice

“In 1,000 feet, turn right,” the GPS said.

“Turn right now,” it said.

What you must understand is I had turned off a dirt road onto this dirt road. Pavement, and reliable cell phone service, was as much a memory as that morning’s breakfast. “Road” only loosely described what The Foz’s onboard navigation wanted me to choose at this juncture. County Road 557, if I recall correctly. It can be seen on Google Maps. Just.

County Road 5600, which I was currently on and which (if truth be told) intersected the Loop Southern stage of the Rally In The 100 Acre Wood, was a proper country gravel road. Well-maintained and graded, The Foz comfortably ran a good clip on it. The new route suggested by my car could be described as a road. It would be more accurate, though, to describe it as a trail; while it carved a distinct mark through the countryside, a thin layer of vegetation attested to its position on the list of priorities for the Dent County and Mark Twain National Forest maintenance crews.

Still, I was running close on time and the new route promised to cut off a corner of road maybe best left untraveled. I followed my trusty stead.

A short while later, after I passed what would turn out to be the last convenient place to turn around, County Road 557 steepened, dramatically. It also narrowed, considerably. Still, I had chosen this year to break out of watching the race only from official spectator points, so I was game for adventure.

After the second creek crossing, I decided adventure might have been a bridge too far. At this point, it was clear according to GPS that I was as far in as I had left to go, so I reasoned that the only way out was through. It would take me as long to walk back to the last intersection, at which a bunch of race volunteers had gathered between stages, and the approach road to the turn at which I planned to watch Stage 13 at Southern Loop, where surely someone would happen by shortly.

Also, The Foz and I had completed many adventures on the familiar paths of the Ouachita National Forest, where it had astounded me at what a bone-stock Subaru was capable of (when, of course, I also unadvisedly took the path least traveled). Still, those trails were close to home – and within range of cell towers. Here, I was on my own. So, with a quickening pulse, I slowly guided the vehicle forward over baby-head rocks, through low-water crossings (which thankfully had discharged their flows from the storm two days previously) and then up the steep trail back to County Road 5600.

Perhaps The Foz had been inspired by the Subarus competing at 100 Acre Wood. Perhaps I had been a little too enthusiastic after having discovered Mtn Roo and all those Subaru Overlanding videos on YouTube. At the end of the day, though, I came away impressed yet again by what a bone stock Subaru Forester – admittedly, the Grocery Getter de rigeur – was capable of off road. Some people might have described this detour as a “Jeep trail”, and I cannot say that would be inaccurate; on this day, though, it was a “Subaru trail”. My only regret is I had not spent enough time with my new adventure camera to have captured this leg of my journey, if only to show my wife how truly stupid her husband can be (like she needs more proof).

That, as they say, is what next year is for. I like to say that every year I attend 100 Acre Wood, I learn a little more about how to follow Rally. This year, Falstaff would say, the lesson was discretion being the better part of valor.

Then, again, where’s the adventure in that?

The Foz in its natural element, a proper country road – the Ouachita National Forest

Rally in the 100 Acre Wood

Rally In The 100 Acre Wood is coming up next weekend.

I first attended 100 Acre Wood in 2016, which is a fancy way of saying I’ve been twice. How did I find myself standing in the rain in a Missouri forest on a cold Spring day?

ESPN introduced me to Colin McRae and his “if in doubt, flat-out” philosophy. I was a bored college student with eight-to-twelve classes and afternoons free, while ESPN was a 24-hour network filling slow periods in its programming with obscure European sports (coming in July — LE TOUR!). Turbo-charged compact sedans dodging trees at 100mph on gravel roads punched all my inner-redneck buttons. As the most accomplished rally driver of his generation, McRae throttled Subaru into the hearts and minds of the next generation of drivers. Certainly into mine.

20 years after careening down forested roads with Colin McRae, and right in time for my mid-life crisis, I found myself in the virtual backseat with David Higgins and Craig Drew, careening around rural America. Subaru’s cinematic YouTube series, Launch Control, became part of the research for purchasing my Subaru WRX. One of the episodes featured 100 Acre Wood. Watching American rally online, you get used to words like “Oregon”, “Vermont”, and “Susquehanna” (okay, maybe you never get used to that last one — hello, spell-check), so an event within driving distance piqued my curiosity.

My first 100 Acre Wood was a last-minute, chaotic event. Subaru Rally Team USA brought Higgins & Drew, as well as Travis Pastrana and co-driver, Christian Edstrom. The presence of Pastrana attracted the Nitro Circus/X-Games fans, which meant large crowds and no rooms in town. With nothing resembling a plan, I booked a room 30 miles away, picked up a copy of the spectator guide at parc exposé, and proceeded to follow-the-leader to the organized spectator points. The trip from stage to stage was driving in a disco, as every oncoming Subaru flashed its high beams at my showroom new WRX. I left Missouri invigorated and determined to come back better prepared.

For my second trip to the event, I recruited a friend for company on the road, booked the same hotel in the nearby town of Licking (because you should never underestimate a clean hotel room in a town with an interesting name), and, most importantly, broke out Google Maps. Better organization meant we were able to enjoy more rally. Although SRTUSA was not present, Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive insures the brand’s popularity with rally teams, and it was well-represented among both racers and fans.

This year, not only is Subaru returning with Higgins and Drew, they’ve signed 17-year-old Oliver Solberg, RallyX Nordic champion and son of legendary Subaru driver, Petter Solberg. Also, YouTube viral video maestro, Ken Block is bringing his latest project — a rally classic Ford Escort Cosworth. With this kind of action lining up, I figured I’d better bring my A-game. I hit up Airbnb back in January, booked a place almost on part of the course, and, as soon as race organizers released the spectator guide, back out came Google Maps.

And, in the communal spirit of rally, I’m sharing my own version of the event organizers’ spectator guide. The adventure of following the race is part of the fun. So, if you’re in the area, come out and join in the mayhem. I hope you find the following helpful (as well as this). Finally, follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and look for me on the road; I might have some goodies for you.

Day One

11:30 – 1:45 PM — Parc Expose’ & Welcome Ceremony — Potosi — Washington County Fairgrounds

1:49 PM — Stage 1 — Potosi Super Special — Spectator Stage

2:10 PM — Stage 2 — Floyd Tower

2:40 PM — Stage 3 — Pigeon Roost — Spectator Stage

3:00 PM — Stage 4 — Little Moses

4:00 PM — Stage 5 — Westover-Pandora — Spectator Stage

4:25 PM — Stage 6 — Huzzah Super Special — Spectator Stage

4:35 PM — Huzzah Valley Resort — Friday Service 1

6:00 PM — Stage 7— Floyd Tower

6:35 PM — Stage 8 — Pigeon Roost — Spectator Stage

6:50 PM — Stage 9 — Little Moses

7:50 PM — Stage 10 — Westover-Pandora — Spectator Stage

8:15 PM — End of Day 1 — Huzzah Valley Resort

Day 2

8:30 — Parc Exposé — Salem — 4th Street

10:25 — Stage 11 — Elders-Crooked Truck N — Spectator Stage

11:05 — Stage 12 — KP-Ollie Long — Spectator Stage

12:00 — Service 1 — Dent County Commons

1:30 — Stage 13 — Loop Southern

2:10 — Stage 14 — Scotia North — Spectator Stage

2:50 — Service 2 — Dent County Commons

4:20 — Stage 15 — Elders-Crooked Truck N — Spectator Stage

5:00 — Stage 16 — KP-Ollie Long — Spectator Stage

6:10— Victory Celebration— Dent County Commons