Team Insaner

Day 1 - Calais to Annecy

After last night's pre-rally registration in a restaurant called the Flying Pig where we spent a chunk of the evening diagnosing faults on Two Little Dicky Birds' Volvo, we were looking forward to getting started on the rally proper. The Auchan's car park had a few rows filled with a strange mix of cheap looking cars on English plates and cheap looking French shoppers' cars. And that was before anyone commented on the halfwidth 2CV. I was amused to see the French happily loading their shopping around the clusters of banger rally teams!

Each team was handed a rally pack containing freebie mugs, a cheap PMR radio for inter-team communication and the full rally guide. According to a note in the pack our rally t-shirts would be catching us up during the rally due to a number of issues with the printers. (We finally found out after the rally that when they did arrive they'd chosen different colours for the Czech flag...)

Today's challenge was to pick a letter of the alphabet and take photos of objects beginning with that letter (with a few limits on the subject - especially no body parts.) Now, what body parts begin with 'W' anyway....? ;-) Our plan was to pick a couple of letters and see which did best - but this went out the window as soon as we started seeing lots of Wind and Water powered stuff, so 'W' it was. I'd bought a new camera for the trip and the zoom and burst modes got thoroughly abused. Tempers did get raised in the car at one point after I missed 3 consecutive windmills, having a collection of 40-odd glimpses of hedge, armco and passing trees. I did try explaining that taking shots at 12x zoom from a speeding Rover wasn't far off Tom Cruise trying to get a missile lock in a bit of a Top Gun moment...

The trek to Annecy was really a high speed cruise across France's motorways which were pretty quiet. There were a number of moments where we'd see other teams - especially at petrol stations - but otherwise Veronica just kept her head down and whizzed across the scenery. We only stopped to swap seats: driver to the passenger 'observer' seat, passenger to the rear 'nav' seat, and so on. The stash of snacks and water behind the driver's seat got slowly depleted as we weren't stopping for lunch.

All went well until I took over the driving... We found a sign leading off the main road to "The Forest of Windmills" (well, it was the French version of the sign!) and decided that it would be a useful 'W' pic shot. As we found out, it may have been a forest of them in the past - but it was now just a prettily named, partially built housing estate :-( We got back onto the main road and shortly afterwards got into a traffic jam. To make matters worse the "steak" I'd eaten in Calais appeared to be trying to alert me to its' quality and was looking to escape in a downward direction. I'm sure the French make fantastic steaks, but this had been closer to an undercooked mass of mince (at least I think it was mince.) We passed through a small town and I made a very fast decision to pull into a restaurant car park - I'm pretty sure the engine was still dying as I left the car at warp speed. Of course, being laid back French people, the restaurant was closed. I did eventually find a toilet in a small cafe, but not before I discovered that pet shops and gravestone masons don't have toilets.

Our next stop was in Annecy. We only took 30 minutes out to walk around, but the view across the lake was worth stopping for. I don't think many other teams actually stopped here which was a shame (though we did spot the 2 guys in the Fiesta van on the way in.) As were were leaving the car park, the Trolley Jack Tours guys texted me from the mountain-top hotel.

Lake Annecy

I'm not quite sure what happened after this. We did have directions in the rally guide, but Andy & John couldn't actually make sense of them. For a short while we followed another couple of rally cars, but then realised they were lost. Minutes later we saw them coming the opposite way down a road, then a little later we overtook them. Deja vu was becoming the norm as we circled round a few roads, failing to find the one that climbed upwards. Eventually John & Andy traced the route back on AutoRoute and the other GPS and we started climbing the mountain. This was a great piece of road and Veronica flew up it. Andy was calling out some of the harsher bends from the GPS and we made good progress. The TJT guys called and texted a few more times, wondering where on earth we'd got to, but we have to admit to stopping to take sunset photos on the way! Still, some of the teams we'd been overtaking and passing in opposite directions turned up significantly later.

As we pulled into the hotel car park there were cars everywhere, including a number that were being repaired. Two Little Dicky Birds' Volvo was undergoing serious brake surgery, Soap Me Down Mutha's Saab had an engine mount replaced by torchlight. We were impressed that Two Little Dicky Birds had made it so far with their flaky turbo - but this was actually the least of their worries...

Taking part in the challenges is fine. It keeps the team occupied for some of the time and gives a competitive edge to the event. However, it does mean that you have to sit down with the marshalls so they can check your camera. Colin did his best to discredit some of my finest photography - well he did have 60 photos to wade through. He did reject half of our Annecy pics, but then we did claim to have photos of a widow, widower, wenches... (you get the picture!) I think we ended up in the mid 40's which we were chuffed with - until we realised that the winning team had 100+! Still, at least we were allowed to use our "Whatchamacallit" pic. After all, if a marshall can't tell what it is, it has to be a "Whatchamacallit" ;-)

Alpine sunset

Added: 20/Sep/06 by Darren

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