Road to Hanoi Marathon
Road to Hanoi Marathon

February 23rd

L to R - Chris, Jim, Tim, and Jeff

Day 27: Ha Long Bay to Hanoi

Motorbikes and their cargo; water buffalo, pigs, dogs, chickens, etc.; potholes, baked mud, red dirt and gravel; coffee and tea, bananas and mangos, sugar cane and rice, coconuts and reeds, all cultivated, sold and served; 7000 kilometers, 28 days, 4 countries. All the stories from the Rally the Globe Road to Hanoi Marathon 2024 will continue to be told, but as the drivers woke up on this last day of this very long rally, they only shared one objective: "Let's get to Hanoi!"

Despite jokes about leaving the "prison ship," the rally crews in general slept well on board the Ambassador Cruise ship. Chomping at the bit, they followed instructions in getting off the ship and onto the launch taking them back to shore. Once reunited with their cars - which have come to feel part of them after this length of time - and reassuring themselves that their cars all started - it was time to…. wait.

With the exit from the ferry dock scheduled to begin at 10 AM, our Bodacious Racing team found themselves in the same position as the rest of the drivers. It was only 9:15 AM, so despite their eagerness to get back on the road, they needed to wait for their start. After spending a half-hour calling home and doing another sweep of the inside of the car for anything they didn't want to leave behind, they were finally able to queue up and get back on the road. They were enroute to Hanoi!

But soon thereafter, messages began filtering back from the earlier starters. After the first toll, there was a police stop. The first two cars were allowed through, but all the others were waved off to the side of the road. It seems these local police hadn't been alerted to the rally, and while they were very friendly, no one wanted to take the responsibility of allowing the rally cars and support vehicles through. So again, despite everyone's eagerness, the rally drivers had to wait.

Frantic calls between police, rally organizers and the local support team extended past the hour mark. Crews had walked around a bit, but under the police officers' watchful eyes, they drifted back to their cars, to wait some more.

Rain began filtering down, and with the temperature in the 60s, the drivers soon became chilled. Open cars put up their roofs, making their cars a bit claustrophobic, or opened umbrellas hoping the rain wouldn't last. For once Chris and Jeff were happy for the oil lines running between their seats: they proved a good source of heat to warm up their hands!

Eventually, as the wait was approaching the 2-hour mark, some higher up in the local police or government gave the go-ahead. The rally could continue!

Off they went, headed to the Formula 1 track where they would do their final time trials for this event.

The track outside of Hanoi was designed to bring Grand Prix racing to Vietnam, and it was scheduled to host its first race in 2020. Between Covid and political malfeasance, the race was cancelled, and Vietnam has not appeared on the F1 schedule since. The track has been partially repurposed for city street use, and the curves are enjoyed by bicyclists and motorbikes. It made a pretty perfect course for the rally's last time trial!

With a last burst of speed, it was through to the finish arch. Cars were then driven to the car park, and handed over to the international shippers who will see the tired rally cars back to their respective garage homes in various countries. Both Bodacious Racing cars are headed to Simon at RPS in England, to be refitted for whatever rallies are in their futures.

The rally crews boarded buses to travel the few kilometers to their hotel in Hanoi, the Sofitel Gotel Metropole.

This historic hotel was built in 1991, in the French Colonial style, and has a varied history. Many celebrities have stayed here, and it became the seat of the North Vietnamese government during the Vietnam War. An underground bunker was built next door, to protect Ho Chi Minh and other government officials from the frequent bombing excursions of the United States. After the war, the hotel was completely restored to its original style, with modern additions expanding the property. Its history adds to the comfortable accommodations, and was a great place to end the rally.

And so concludes the Road to Hanoi Marathon. The awards dinner offered a final opportunity to enjoy the group's company. Jeff and Chris walked away with 2nd place in their class, and 6th overall. Tim and Jim made a fine showing, finishing 7th overall. Despite the difficult conditions, exhausting schedule, car repairs required, and way too much sticky rice, Jeff, Chris, Jim and Tim are all glad they did the rally - but also glad it's behind them!

Tomorrow, the guys will tour Hanoi, visiting sites from the Vietnam War, including where John McCain's airplane was shot down, and where he and other US soldiers were imprisoned during the war. Seeing these historical sites first-hand will add to the richness of their understanding of the many factors that have shaped contemporary Southeast Asia.

Then Sunday, it's to the airport and home! They will fly from Hanoi to Seoul, Korea; then Seoul to New York. The guys will then split up to head to Rhode Island, Michigan and South Carolina. The Bodacious Racing team will next meet up in Ireland in May, for The Vintage Shamrock Rally. Join them then, and thank you for following along!

February 22nd

Ha Long Bay

Day 26: Rest Day on Ha Long Bay

Our Bodacious Racing team met up for breakfast on Thursday, knowing today would be a bit different. Rally organizers had arranged a day and night tour of Ha Long Bay onboard an Ambassador Cruise ship.

After breakfast and packing up their gear, the rally crews headed to the car park. Tim and Jim found that at last night's Sweeps party, mechanics Jamie, Andy, Russ and Charlie had each written notes to Tim and Jim on the damaged front fender, lavishly autographing it for posterity!

Jeff plans to ship the Escort back to RPS in England. Simon's team will repair it and get it back in tip-top shape, then it will be sold to someone who will rally with it in the future! This signed fender will be lovingly removed and shipped home, where it will join rally memorabilia in Jeff's garage.

It's only fitting that Car 22 joins Car 23 (known as the Colonel Sanders Porsche ever since the chicken incident when a plastic chicken was mounted on its roof) with souvenirs of the Road to Hanoi Marathon!

In other car news, Car 19, the Fiat 124 that had dropped out due to a blown cylinder, was able to cobble together enough of a repair to rejoin the rally this morning. "In the US, UK, Europe and other parts of the developed world, we would only have considered a new cylinder as a repair," says Jeff. "Here, the art of making do with what you have results in skilled mechanics able to shape, grind and patch parts to make them useful again." That is exactly what was done to get the Fiat back on the road, with the crew warmly welcomed back.

A short drive took the rally to the ferry dock, where they parked cars and walked onboard the boat taking them out to the ship. Life jackets secured, they set out on the water under cloudy skies.

Once on the Ambassador cruise ship, they were assigned to their rooms, then headed to the common dining and deck areas to enjoy setting off across Ha Long Bay.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Bay has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years. Limestone karsts pierce the water, and cave systems penetrate islands. There are nearly 2000 islands of varying sizes throughout the Bay, and touring by boat is a common tourist attraction. There are hundreds of these smaller cruise ships in the bay, along with multiple smaller crafts of all descriptions.

Some rally crews chose to go out on the water to explore in smaller guided boats, and others opted to join a kayak tour. But our team settled into comfortable seats to enjoy the sites from the cruise ship, along with what Jeff describes as "far too much food and far too many drinks."

This is a beautiful, natural area, with a unique ecosystem, but unfortunately it shows the signs of overuse. Trash is abundant in the water, and turbidity clouds the water itself. Power boats were banned just a few years ago, which is helping, and other controls are being put into place to protect this historically and ecologically significant area. A group of local residents works diligently to clean up floating trash and the beaches nearby. With the proper resources, Ha Long Bay should be healthier in the future. An enjoyable day was had, but there were plenty of grumbles from those who had not been convinced of the need to schedule a rest day right before the finish. After nearly 4 weeks on the road, and more time than that away from home, finishing a day earlier would have been welcomed by many.

But a day spent on the water did wonders for everyone much needing a rest. Tomorrow the rally will finish, after getting back to the cars to drive the 170 km to Hanoi. They will have a short time trial in the parking lot of an F1 race track on the edge of the city. Then the Road to Hanoi Marathon will end, and our drivers will be released for end of rally celebrations!

February 21st

the Escort rounds a bend

Day 25: Lang Son to Ha Long

Today offered the last real competition of this four-week rally, but fortunately the route took the Road to Hanoi Marathon drivers on mostly good roads. Since they were only required to cover 225 km, it was a nice early finish, too.

That was a good thing. At this point in an extremely challenging endurance road rally, those still in the mix are feeling every kilometer of the nearly 7,000 driven. The entry list showed 31 cars. The first day's results show just 26 - for many reasons some cars either didn't make it to Vietnam, or couldn't start once there. Now there are only 23 competitors, a few of those held together with wire and duct tape. A short day was about all this successful group could bear.

Cars queued up to leave the parking garage in the hotel in Lang Son ran into a bit of a problem this morning. With about half the cars waiting to leave, the queue abruptly stopped. Was it a car malfunction? The exit lift gate broken? No. It seems the crew in the lead car had misplaced the key card required to exit! As other crews scrambled to locate their cards, the garage staff stepped in to lift the gate and wave the cars on their way.

Once again following the route book directions, they headed down to lower elevations. Having enjoyed the cooler temperatures of the mountains, the temperature slowly soared, with humidity back into the upper ranges. They even saw a bit of rain today, the first of the month. This is dry season in Southeast Asia, with the rainy season due to begin in a few weeks. So while we might experience days or even weeks without precipitation, this part of the world will have none for months! Then when rainy season begins, that's all it will do - again - for weeks on end. We understand why dry season is the time to tour and run a road rally.

The route today, beginning up north near the China-Vietnam border, took them in a graceful loop to the coast of Vietnam and the South China Sea. This was largely a rural route once again, taking them through busy agricultural areas and villages. Friendly greetings were again common, but so were the obstacles that add to the stress of such a drive, with children, and animals of all sorts, wandering along and often into the paths of the cars.

Tim and Jim had a close call during the day, when they found themselves behind a string of water buffalo, waling abreast down the road. As Tim pulled over to pass them, the buffalo right next to the car lowered its head. Tim was sure he was going to be charged! Fortunately, he was able to get around the group without any contact. The water buffalo probably would have won that battle!

Rally organizers only ran one regularity today, perhaps knowing how stressed and exhausted the cars and drivers have become. This test covered just 8.5 kilometers, but the bit of rain had made the concrete roadway slick. There were two timing stops along the route, neatly hidden around curves along the thickly forested route.

Once accomplished, that regularity was it for this rally! The crews had a direct drive into Ha Long, a beautiful town perched on the edge of the eponymous bay.

Jeff and Chris had a near-miss upon their arrival to the hotel car park. A local car sped around them, just as Jeff was turning into a parking space. Fortunately, the Porsche's brakes are still good. A quick reaction resulted in a quick stop, and the local car continued past, unhurt. But that rush of adrenaline at the end of yet another tense day was not welcome! Following rally tradition, tonight was the Sweeps Party, hosted by the competitors to celebrate the mechanics and support staff. These people do so much to help everyone stay in the rally, with the mechanics consistently coming up with creative solutions to what would otherwise be competition-ending car problems, as well as helping with daily problems. With plenty of tonic on hand, G+Ts were enjoyed by the group, though most called it an early night due to general exhaustion and another early wake-up call scheduled for tomorrow.

Tomorrow our drivers will get in their cars early, but they have only a five-minute trip to a ferry dock. Leaving the cars behind for the day, they will board an Ambassador cruise ship for their rest day exploring Ha Long Bay.

February 20th

motorbike tree

Day 24: Ha Giang to Lang Son

Today took the Rally the Globe Road to Hanoi Marathon on the last long drive of the rally. Our Bodacious Racing drivers had their alarms set for 5:15 AM for their early starts, to give them time to pack, eat a bit of breakfast, slurp down some coffee and climb into their cars for yet another day of mountain driving in Southeast Asia.

There is an expressway that leads from the town of Ha Giang to Hanoi, where a driver can travel the not quite 300 kilometers in a little more than 5 hours. But this is a vintage car endurance road rally. What would be the challenge, the adventure, the fun, in that?

So the far more interesting route through the countryside was chosen by rally organizers. While the narrow switchbacks, sheer drop-offs and steep climbs provided interest, at least they were driving on good tarmac. After yesterday's grueling driving surface, the good road was a huge plus to today's route.

The drivers agree, however, despite yesterday's driving experience, that Laos still holds the title of "worst roads." "In Laos," Jeff explains, "the roads are untended, broken pavement, full of potholes. What we drove yesterday were not even finished roads! Just flat areas being prepared to be roads. So they don't count." Interesting logic, but having heard repeatedly of the discomfort and aggravation of driving the potholed Laotian roads, it makes an odd sort of sense.

Anyway, no such issues today on the smooth tarmac While our tired drivers cringed at the twists and turns of the route, and struggled to stay alert to oncoming trucks, whizzing motorbikes, animals and pedestrians, they drove the 200 km to the main road connector fairly comfortably. It was, however, maddeningly slow. "The roads were very twisty, and quite steep," says Tim. "You couldn't go more than 35 mph." That makes for a long 200 km drive!

With two regularities in the morning driven off that good tarmac, they were not given the opportunity to completely forget the feel of dirt and gravel under their tires. Traveling through plenty of villages in this agricultural area provided both distractions to driving, and a continuing education.

The morning ended at the town of Cao Bâng, where the rally drivers enjoyed a leisurely lunch and a chance to unwind midday.

This is where the local road they drove all morning meets up with the highway. After the concentration required in driving mountain switchbacks, it was great to be driving a straight, multi lane highway, even if they had to share it with fast moving traffic.

The last time trial of the day was a hill climb staged on a side road, just before their stop for the night. The idea was to accelerate up the hill at speed, going as quickly as your car would allow. But for Jeff and Chris, this felt like asking too much. "We've made it this far and this long without breaking the Porsche," says Jeff. "No need to risk it now." So a controlled climb was accomplished, certainly well under the speed the Porsche could have gone!

But broken cars are much on drivers' minds. The 1934 Aston Martin Mark II, which was in the lead in the pre-war class, broke an axle, taking it out of the rally altogether. We don't have details, but we're told another car withdrew today as well. With just 2 more days on the road, and 3 more rally days to the finish, everyone is focused on nursing their cars along. You can't prevent everything from happening, but you can try!

The hotel for the night is a Sheraton, a contemporary hotel designed in a Vietnamese Colonial style, in the middle of Lang Son. With several options available at the rally's buffet dinner, Tim made the most of the choices. "I had squid, roast duck, roast pork, roast beef, fried rice and Vietnamese soup with crab." The heat and twisty roads haven't hurt Tim's appetite any, and we're glad to hear he's eating to keep his strength up!

Tomorrow is the final competitive day of the rally, with the route covering a shorter distance. This will allow an extra hour or so of sleep, with later starts. The adventure continues on the Road to Hanoi!

February 19th

Feb 19th stop

Day 23: Sa Pa to Ha Giang

None of our Bodacious Racing team drivers slept well Sunday night, despite the comfort of their hotel. Knowing they were on the home stretch of this long rally must have crept into their subconsciousness, bringing to the fore worries about possible obstacles to finishing the Road to Hanoi Marathon. At breakfast, the excellent croissants and extremely strong Vietnamese coffee helped clear a few of the cobwebs.

Then - off to the car park! The altitude's morning sun was swallowed up by mist and clouds as the Porsche 911 and Ford Escort tackled the rally route down the mountain road. The terraced hillsides bloomed lush and green. With tea, plums, rice, corn and the taro-like plant bác hà, cultivated throughout this extreme northern Vietnamese province, there was plenty to see, as well as plenty of people, animals, scooters and farm equipment to dodge!

The morning stop was in the village of Bác Ha, where the mayor had organized a banner welcoming the rally participants, and the townspeople turned out to welcome the group and see the cars. Coffee and refreshments were served, and Jeff, Chris, Tim, and Jim enjoyed the sights, as well as a chance to get out of the cars to stretch, and enjoy a seat at a cafe table.

A long loop through the countryside took the drivers along Vietnam's border with China. A right turn at a stoplight in the town of Lao Cai took them on the rally route to a regularity. A left turn would have taken them to the Chinese border crossing! Since that country is not on this rally's itinerary, best to stay sharp and follow the route book.

Regularities were fast and furious this afternoon, with no particular notes given to us, except to say both cars added a few seconds to their penalties.

We did hear the last regularity was run on a narrow, sinuous road that wound through jungle and hardwood forests, making the timing stops easy to miss. But it was upon rejoining the main road that the day's difficulties really began. The report published before the rally stated "the maps for this area show a series of roads, but these are either very rough dirt, or narrow concrete roads with big unguarded drops." The route planners chose the best that existed, but since these were still under construction, they were barely adequate. Road graders and backhoes littered the way, with frequent stops required. Stones, baked mud, broken tarmac, clumps of soil and just plain dirt comprised the driving surface, wreaking havoc on the rally's vintage cars. At least one car is completely out of the rally, deciding after a blown cylinder to ship the car ahead to Hanoi. Another had to have the sweeps do a brake job at a precarious spot along the road. Many cars experienced smaller issues, including Jeff and Chris in Car 23, switching between fuel pumps as fuel overheated and caused locks due to the heat, altitude and difficult terrain. In Car 22, Tim and Jim found themselves, once again, driving without a clutch.

The route eventually rejoined a finished road as they drove along the Lo River, and shortly arrived at their night's stop in Ha Giang. The town's Minister of Tourism joined the rally for dinner.

But Jim and Tim were not at dinner. After the clutch rebuild 2300 kilometers ago, Tim had Simon of RPS in England arrange a replacement rebuild kit, just to be on the safe side. Tim and Jim picked the package up at the hotel in Chiang Mai, and had packed it away. With these parts at hand, they joined the rally mechanics at a local garage to drop the gearbox and replace the clutch. Tim had little to say besides the basic facts; we'll hear more tomorrow. "Knackered," he reports.

Ideally, sleep is more restful tonight, with an early start in the morning for the nearly 400 km drive tomorrow. This marathon is not yet over, with more roads to drive, obstacles to avoid, and tired cars and drivers to nurse along to the finish on Friday.

February 18th

Day 22: Rest Day in Sa Pa

While a lie-in was enjoyed by some drivers on this penultimate rest day of the Rally the Globe's Road to Hanoi Marathon, the Bodacious Racing team found themselves up and heading to breakfast by 7:30 AM. Routines are hard to break! But the ability to have a relaxing breakfast was welcomed, especially since their high-end hotel offered delicious options to begin the day.

A general rally announcement encouraged drivers to bring their cars to the town center, for display to the townspeople and holiday-goers. With Sunday marking the end of a week of Têt celebrations, a late morning spent strolling among the vintage cars and speaking with the drivers from many different countries was a fine way for locals and tourists alike to finish off the week of welcoming the lunar new year. The Vietnamese Minister of Tourism was on hand to greet the rally organizers, and say a few words thanking the rally participants for visiting Vietnam.

For those who chose to skip the car show, however, the morning was spent in the car park working on their cars. Those with serious problems had the rally mechanics coming up with ideas on how best to repair and rebuild to allow their cars to make it to the finish. Routine checks showed up possible weakened areas in other cars, and these drivers performed the necessary cleaning and repairing to stave off future problems. Let's hope everyone will make it the next few days!

Jim and Tim pulled tires and blew out dust, checking the suspension for any cracks or weak spots, and wiping brake pads. All filters were cleaned, and nuts and bolts were examined and tightened to appropriation ranges. Fluids were checked and topped up. Despite the unreliability of their various gauges, the Ford Escort is in great shape, and the guys are confident it will get them safely to the finish.

Chris and Jeff performed similar work on the Porsche, though Chris sent Jeff back to the room after a bit. He really didn't want to drive into the town square for the car show, and figured if the actual driver was no where in evidence, he would be left alone! And it must have worked; Chris was left to finish car checks and prep in peace. The Porsche is in good shape for the final days of rallying.

Afternoon found the team wandering the town of Sa Pa, enjoying the sights. Jeff bought a backpack in a local shop, to use in Hanoi to pack up items in the car and ship them home from there. They have found that leaving items in a car between rallies means they can never remember exactly what they have. That leads them to buying duplicates and hauling them to the next rally location, only to find they don't need half of what they thought they did! Sending stuff home will allow them to have a visual inventory of coffee cups, rain gear, flashlights, headsets, and numerous other items they often duplicate.

They were also able to replenish the paper towel supply, something they use daily in window and headlight cleaning, as well as use in myriad maintenance tasks.

As for more adventurous sight-seeing, they took a pass. The views from the hotel were even more spectacular in daylight, with mists drifting through the Hoàng Liên Sòn mountains, and those were enjoyed from balconies and windows. While other drivers queued up for the train, cable car and funicular trip to the top of Fan Si Pan, known as the "Roof of Indochina," our team satisfied themselves with admiring it from afar. They are just not that into tourist attractions!

As their rest day came to an end, bags were repacked with laundered clothes and they prepared for the final push of this rally. Jeff has come up with a psychological trick to help him through. "I'm viewing this week as a 5-day rally," he says. "Forget the stress of the past three weeks. I have three days to drive; a rest day; then the drive to the finish in Hanoi." Whatever helps him - and Chris, Jim and Tim, as well - to focus for the final week of the Road to Hanoi Marathon!

February 17th

Sa Pa Sunset

Day 21: Ðiên Biên Phû to Sa Pa

Getting out of the border city of Ðiên Biên Phû wasn't too difficult on Saturday morning, but there was definitely a need to readjust to the traffic, again dominated by motorbikes. As the rally notes mention in typical British understatement, the driving of the locals can be "rather eccentric."

The rooms at the hotel they had stayed in were probably the worst of the rally to date. Jeff reports the "shower" was merely a pipe; it dribbled an inadequate morning shower. In this heat, a good shower seems a basic requirement, but you take what you can get!

Knowing they had more than 300 kilometers to travel focused the Bodacious Racing drivers, however, and they soon found themselves driving deep into the northern Vietnamese countryside.

The morning regularity was held in a quiet back-road area, but we have no reports at the moment regarding how our team did. "I just drive where Chris tells me, and how fast he tells me," says Jeff. "And I never ask how we did!" Sounds like a good partnership there!

This part of the country is mountainous, and the Road to Hanoi Marathon route took the rally participants as high as 7000 feet. A coffee shop at that altitude provided amazing views, along with roasted and salted sunflower seeds, grown, harvested, and prepared locally.

Tim sent in a picture of a van with live ducks tied to the roof. Not sure what that's all about, but maybe a delivery to increase someone's duck herd? Or for a celebratory feast serving roast duck? Extremely fresh duck?

The scenery offered on the drive was awe inspiring, but the roads, while smoothly paved, wound up and down steep mountains. Driving the switchbacks while sharing the road with motorbikes, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians, is definitely a white-knuckle experience. Add to that the cumulative exhaustion of the kilometers accomplished, and the wear and tear on the drivers and their cars is clear.

The fun continues! At their lunch stop, a South Korean tourist tapped Chris on the shoulder. Was he going to ask about the rally? The Porsche? No, he was admiring Chris's sunglasses and wanted to know where he got them! This led to a friendly conversation, so friendly that now Chris is being teased about adding the guy to the invitation list to his and Beth's wedding this summer!

The afternoon found the rally driving through villages built right up to the road, in the flatter areas of this mountainous region, with peaks rising sharply behind the houses. Water buffalo, cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, cats, dogs, etc. also roam about. Villagers consider the road in front of their houses their front yards, so there are often people sitting in chairs, doing laundry, or bathing their children. Focus is key for the drivers, but as they are getting more tired with each day, it's a struggle to stay alert and aware.

Today's temperatures helped with that, however, as the altitude of the Hoàng Liên San Mountains lent itself to a cooler drive, with temperatures in the 60s. Heavenly, after suffering in the upper 90s for most of three weeks!

With tea plantations flourishing between villages, there were also agricultural workers hiking along the roads, carrying large cloth parcels of leaves. Rice paddies are being cultivated, with the area known for a particular type of much sought after rice. Those workers, too, shared the road, going to and from their fields.

Tourism is a big economic engine in this area of the country, dating back to French Colonial times. Various French families who lived in Hanoi had vacation homes in these mountains, and were foundational in settling Sa Pa, the rally stop for the night, and for Sunday's rest day. This is an area of Vietnam settled by different ethnic groups over the years, including the Hmong, Tay and Dào peoples.

All of those cultures contributed their style to the 5-star hotel where they are staying. Opened in 2016, it has won numerous design awards for the combining of French style of the 1920s and 30s with the ethnic textiles of the region.

Tim describes Sa Pa as a "combination of New Orleans' Bourbon Street and Las Vegas"! Driving in to the hotel was a challenge, with narrow streets, lots of lights, cars and motorbikes, and festive party goers. Western tourists are everywhere, along with people from China, Korea, Japan and other parts of Vietnam. Local crafts and produce are a huge draw, with markets open day and night. The natural setting lends itself to hiking, caving and other adventure exploring. All of this hustle and bustle made the approach to the hotel difficult, but interesting! Once at the hotel it was time to unwind. After last night, being in this beautiful, well-appointed hotel was much appreciated. With the laundry sent out, massage appointment made, and freshly showered in a good shower, the team met up in the bar for a bit of luxurious relaxing.

Dinner was a real variety for once, with excellent quality food. They had barbecued chicken, roast beef with mustard, baked fish, squash soup and a salad. Following their healthful travel rules, Jeff and Chris did not eat anything that wasn't cooked, but enjoyed the cooked portion of the spread!

All the rally cars are tired after being driven down hard for so many days. Some are being constantly nursed along to the conclusion of the rally on Friday. Tomorrow will be an opportunity to repair or secure problem suspensions, brakes and steering. Cars 22 and 23 will need minimal work, however, so after a few hours pulling tires, blowing out dust from shocks, brake pads and filters, topping off fluids and securing bolts, Jim, Tim, Chris and Jeff will have the day to enjoy the town of Sa Pa and some rest and relaxation.

February 16th

rice farmer

Day 20: Nom Kat Yorla Pa, Laos to Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam

The jungle setting of last night's resort was relaxing and restorative, each cabin overlooking flowing mountain streams through a full wall of glass. But the compounded exhaustion of the past three weeks of travel, driving and focus is barely touched by a single night's sleep, even in such a superlative setting. Nevertheless, this morning it was back in the cars, back on the road, and back to queuing up for the last border crossing of the trip.

Soon after the start, the Road to Hanoi Marathon returned to the site of yesterday's last regularity, for a reverse run through. They passed through two villages at speed - watch out, kids! - and drove past terraced rice paddies and workers' huts perched on stilts.

Many of the cars on the rally are struggling at this point, so the mechanics had their hands full. Getting everyone started was the first challenge, but damages, both minor and serious are beginning to threaten some drivers' ability to make it to the finish.

"The Rover has broken a shock which is now mangling the shock tower mount. One of the Volvos continues to have major brake problems. The other Escort had great difficulty starting this morning." Tim tells us. "Jim is doing a great job navigating. We both are tired and finding it tough to stay focused. But we're thankful the car is running well. Only problem now is the gauges are inconsistent. But the engine is strong and we check it every night. So forget the gauges! Trust the Ford 2 liter."

Tim also fills in details on some of the sights. "We passed two weddings in two separate villages. They had tents and tables set up in the street. We gave them both congratulatory toots on the horn. Everybody smiled and waved."

There was a sighting of an elephant and its mahout down by the Nam Phak River, working to clear forest and move logs. They also continue to see many water buffalo. These animals are used as draft animals, as well as for milk and meat. Jeff bought a package of water buffalo jerky. "It's very peppery," he says, "but not bad!"

Tim, who has had donations made in his name to Heifer International for years towards purchasing water buffalo, was convinced some of the animals they drove past and around were his. "They all answer to the name Tim," he assures us.

Just as they are leaving Laos and its many potholes behind, Tim and Jim feel they've learned the secret to driving roads riddled with them. "Other cars zig zag all over road to dodge potholes. We found it best to put the right wheel on the shoulder of the road and let the left wheel bounce thru the shallow side of potholes. Makes for a more consistent speed and we don't dodge to the wrong side of the road. Which is especially helpful on blind curves and hills."

Regularities were kind to Tim and Jim today, resulting in no penalty points! This allowed them to keep a firm hold on their class ranking. Jeff and Chris compiled just two tenths of a second, but that was enough to break the tie with Car 28, and move our Bodacious Racing Car 23 back to third.

Jeff was presented with an award today, however. He was called to the front during dinner to receive the Dead Chicken Award! It seems that while driving through one of the villages on the way to the border crossing, a rooster ran out into the road. Not wanting to swerve and hit any children, he just kept going. "I figured he would either pass between the tires, or not," said Jeff. He didn't. "There was a big thud when we went over him," says Chris. "In my opinion, he committed suicide," Chris continued. "He was sick of eating sticky rice."

Soon thereafter, while waiting at the border crossing, a rooster was spotted pecking around under the Porsche. "Look," Tim told Jeff. "It's the ghost of that chicken you killed!"

So in typical rally tradition, the kidding culminated in Jeff receiving a mechanical chicken from the rally organizers to mark his experience.

The border crossing was practically deserted, high up in the Annamite Mountains, with a dog in the road keeping the chickens company. Laotian agents were thanked, with our drivers emptying their pockets of Laotian Kip, the local currency, as they prepared to re-enter Vietnam. Jeff had the thought that maybe someone will reimburse that village for their dead chicken!

Passports stamped and vehicle permits checked, the rally met back up with the same agents hired to help them in their earlier stay in the country.

Soon on the outskirts of Dien Bien, the day ended at the Victory Museum, which tells the story of North Vietnam winning its independence from France. The decisive battle in 1954 is detailed in diorama form, with artifacts helping tell the story.

Tonight's hotel is near the city center, making it easy for rally participants to walk around the town. Tim sends us pictures of a local beverage, a rice wine bottled with a large black scorpion! There are also versions with cobra heads, snake coils and flowers, but no report on anyone drinking any!

Gin and tonics have been more frequently the drink of this rally, with drinks being served in car parks each night while drivers perform spanner checks. But their last night in Laos, the bartender ran into a problem. "I don't have any more tonic," he explained. "I received all that was available in the country, but it is now all gone!" Is it possible the rally drank up every drop of tonic in Laos? No problem; the drivers just switched to drinking gin and Sprite!

Surely there is tonic in Vietnam, where the rally will continue on tomorrow, to Sa Pa. One more week on the Road to Hanoi Marathon!

February 15th


Day 19: Luang Prabang to Nam Kat Yorla Pa

The Road to Hanoi Marathon's last full driving day in Laos routed the teams through the mountainous area of northeast Laos.

A late start allowed for a relaxing breakfast followed by more blessings from the local monks. Every blessing counts, as the drivers headed back onto the pothole-strewn roads.

The first regularity was held at the same spot they had driven before: Luang Prabang Stadium. This time, there were two circuits on a dirt and gravel road, followed by a fast dirt road oval. A wooden bridge crossing added to the challenge.

Coming up quickly was a Driver's Test Station course, an urban simulation with roundabouts, parking areas and quick and sudden turns. While Jeff and Chris in the streamlined Porsche 911 and Tim and Jim in the sporty Ford Escort did quite well, the larger pre-war cars struggled, and had to do three-point turns or more at many of the curves.

Even in their own class, both Bodacious Racing team cars did well, with the Porsche moving up in the rankings, now tied for second place; and the Escort pulling further ahead of the car ranked behind them. That adds a bit to the fun factor!

While the route continued on what was a fairly good road, it was the main one. That meant there was a lot more vehicle traffic, with passing required. They had been told the side roads in this area were too water damaged and rough to use. That made for some scary comparisons with the bad roads they had been driving throughout Laos!

Tim and Jim observed the aftermath of a truck crash. "Short mileage today but very slow going thru the hills. Only road in the area in Laos so lots of villages and lots of trucks. Saw two very large trucks on side of road smashed up due to head on collision. Truck going downhill swung too wide on curve and hit the truck coming uphill. Scary." A sight like that definitely brings a sharper focus to a driver!

Jeff, too, commented that while the distance traveled was short, the road condition made for slow going. Throughout the day there were crowds of villagers, especially children, who ran to the shoulder of the narrow road to wave at the vintage cars. While they are very friendly and well-meaning, the sight of children running towards the road ahead can be nerve wracking, as the drivers ask themselves, "Are they going to keep running out onto the road?" So far, all has been well, but it adds another layer of trepidation to the drive.

The rally stop for the night was in an area that reminded Jeff of Costa Rica, and Tim described as "Tarzan-like." Set in the jungle, with streams running through an array of cabins, plank bridges and lush greenery. Nam Kat Yorla Pa is a protected forest region on the Nam Kat River, and the drivers are no doubt enjoying their night at this eco-tourism resort.

While mosquitoes were rife at the outdoor dinner setting, the air conditioning provided in each cabin will no doubt result in restorative sleep.

Tomorrow is the last border crossing of this rally, as our drivers head to the Laotian border to pass back into Vietnam, in the Road to Hanoi Marathon 2024. We will soon see how those multi-entry visas they obtained online work!

February 14th

Elephant Painting

Day 18: Rest Day in Luang Prabang

Perhaps in acknowledgement of the wear and tear experienced by the Road to Hanoi Marathon drivers, and the resultant aches, scrapes and bruises, the last third of this endurance rally sports three rest days, of which today was the first.

Of course, a more positive take would be that travel by Westerners to this part of the world offers numerous opportunities for cultural experiences, and having some time to explore is part of the charm of driving a vintage road rally.

Either way, the rest day was well-spent. The hotel where they are staying has many different buildings, with the car park about a mile away, and golf carts to ferry guests around. But after 18 days of jostling on difficult roads, a walk around is just what our team needed. They enjoyed stretching out on a walk to the main hotel restaurant for breakfast, then another walk out to the car park for car maintenance.

A routine check of all systems showed no real problems, much to everyone's relief. Chris and Jeff found the fuel pump they were concerned about was fine, and figure it stopped working yesterday due to a combination of heat, dust and altitude. After sitting and settling overnight, it worked to fire the engine right up, so no need to do more invasive work.

Afternoon found Chris and Jim heading off to the golf course they drove through yesterday. Mechanic Andy Inskip and fellow competitor Louise Morton made up their foursome. They had a great time walking the course. Chris hasn't golfed in quite some time, but he so enjoyed being out on the links he is hoping to take it up again. No word on how anyone did; the competition is between cars only!

Jeff and Tim laid low at the hotel, reading and resting. And it was a good thing, since they decided to join other drivers, along with golfers Jim and Chris, for a tuk tuk ride into town for dinner.

Unfortunately, after several tries they struck out finding a restaurant able to seat them all. With Chris craving a hamburger, our Bodacious Racing team peeled off from the group, hopped into another tuk tuk and headed back to the hotel, where they enjoyed a relaxing dinner, including the ubiquitous hamburger and fries.

At drinks after dinner they shared notes about the rest day with other drivers, including a group who visited a nearby elephant sanctuary. These animals are used for labor in the forests of Southeast Asia, and figure in the heritage and culture of many local families. It was a treat for some of the rally participants to walk with the animals through the jungle paths, hand-feed them, and avoid (or not!) being sprayed by them as they showered.

But rest days come to an end. Tomorrow the Road to Hanoi Marathon continues. Rally organizers have warned of more bad roads, rife with obstacles, traffic and potholes. The advance rally car, traveling 48 hours ahead, has tried to record the location of the worst of road conditions, and provided that information. So they know they'll be facing potholes, but as the rally updates say, "At least we'll know where they are!"

On to Oudomxay and closer to crossing back to Vietnam!

February 13th

The Porsche and friends

Day 17: Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang

Today was an intentional short - distance day for the Road to Hanoi Marathon, both to allow drivers to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Laotian mountains, and to limit the wear and tear on both the vintage cars and their drivers!

Potholes continue to be an ongoing challenge, both swerving to avoid them and ripping through them at speed, causing damage to cars. Tim, of course, gives us commentary on this: "I think Laos means 'pothole.' The roads today were worse than yesterday. Big enough to swallow an Escort. Made for very slow driving. Worse potholes than those in Siberia. Some rally folks got impatient and paid the price. Ripped out exhaust systems." It was a busy day for the sweeps. Patching exhaust systems, helping with tire damage, and repairing failed brakes kept them busy. Fortunately, neither the Porsche nor the Escort required that assistance!

Road crews were out to repair some of the worst areas of the road, but more often they compounded the problems by blocking the road completely. Once the crews figured out what the road was being used for, however, they considerately moved their equipment out of the way.

The road did offer spectacular scenery, for those able to enjoy the views. A morning coffee break was held at a stop on a mountain peak, offering views for miles in all directions. But getting up there was no picnic, as Tim says. "We climbed all the way up to 6000' on a pot-holed road. Laos doesn't quite get the concept of switchbacks. They've just built their road straight up the mountain, it seems. Lots of cars struggled to get to the top."

And the corollary to that is what goes up, must come down. The trip down, again dodging potholes, was done at speed. Good brakes were key, and the drivers were taxed with frequent down-shifting and braking to control the descent. Cars were again sidelined, with repairs happening at various intervals along the road, adding to obstacles to avoid for the cars underway.

The Porsche suffered a hiccup before embarking on this after-break stretch. Jeff and Chris came out from the stop, only to find the car wouldn't start! There seemed to be a problem with the primary fuel pump. After a few tries, they switched to the auxiliary pump - why they have one installed - and the car started right up. With tomorrow a rest day, examining the sluggish pump is tops on their maintenance list. "It's probably just a clogged filter," says Jeff, "but we'll take it apart, thoroughly clean it, and see if we can get it back into action."

The drive took them through agricultural land once again, with farmers in fields working various stages of planting, weeding and harvesting. Just about everything imaginable is grown in the fertile soil. As the drivers approached their night's stop, they found themselves driving through pineapples ripening in the fields. The terraced rice paddies are being prepped for planting, which happens during the rainy season, arriving in the next six weeks or so.

But now, it continues to be hot and dry. The farmers take advantage of the conditions now, too - creating another driving challenge on the narrow, pot-holed roads. They spread grains on the road to dry in the sun, making already narrow roads even narrower!

At the last time control of the day, our Bodacious Racing team enjoyed a laugh over a mistake of Jim's. "Twice now, including today, Jim has come out from the Time Control and tried to get into the wrong, other blue Escort," says Tim. "Fun to watch."

And Jeff and Chris, parked next to that other Escort, were watching! They were laughing at Jim's approach, as he organized his time card and prepared to climb into the wrong car. "That's the second time I've done that!" Jim chuckled, shaking his head. Clearly, it's easy to make that mistake!

The last regularity of the day included a 5 km run down the golf cart track at an 18-hole golf course. It was a definite sporty drive, and Tim and Jim must have done something right, with the day's results showing they pulled themselves ahead of Car 30, finishing the day in 4th place in their class.

The rally day concluded early afternoon in Luang Prabang, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's the former capital of Laos, from when it was a kingdom, and has a well - preserved history of its architectural, religious and cultural heritage, including French Colonial influences. Positioned at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Kahn Rivers, it will be a great place to explore during tomorrow's rest day. After car maintenance, that is!

February 12th

Day 16: Vientiane to Vang Vieng

Today was the first full day for our Bodacious Racing team and the rest of the Road to Hanoi Marathon drivers to experience driving in Laos. If today was any indication, the roads will present a serious challenge as they proceed across this relatively small country on the rally route.

The day began by driving past the Triumph arch marking the exit from the ancient city of Vientiane. As so often when an arch sits in the middle of a roadway, the roundabout directions caught some drivers unaware and caught them up in multiple circuits. But Tim, guided by navigator Jim, and Jeff, guided by Chris, had no such problems.

There were three quick time trials soon after leaving the city, and they presented more hazards for the inattentive. Tim explains:

"There were three speed tests today in Laos. Several cars screwed up one of the tests because they were going too fast and missed a turn. One car hit a tree and another car hit a curb and broke their front wheel. Jim and I did not miss the turn, did not hit a tree, and did not hit a curb. We had a great day."

Fortunately, no one was hurt in the accidents, and quick repairs allowed the damaged cars to get back on the road.

The roads left much to be desired. Chris and Jeff agree they traveled today on roads that rate among the five worst roads they've ever driven!

Tim feels the same: "Roads in the backwoods of Laos are very rough. Very deep and frequent potholes for 50 kms. Another 50 kms on rough dirt roads. Lots of cattle, kids, scooters, and overloaded trucks to deal with."

Jeff, too, commented on the potholes, but also the many animals encountered along the way. Goats, chickens, geese, water buffaloes, cows, dogs and cats joined children, trucks of many designs, scooters, and people of many descriptions along the roads. Between trying to avoid the worst of the potholes and various obstructions, human and otherwise, it was a tense day of frequent gear changes, braking and quick steering. The coffee and lunch stops attempted to make up for the challenges of the route. Stopping first at a resort overlooking the Nam Ngum River, then enjoying a long lunch break at a brand new restaurant near the Namsung Hydro Dam offered welcome respites to the drive's physical and mental challenges.

Fresh whole grilled fish, locally caught, were on the menu at lunch, which for those who tried them provided a nice break from the chicken and sticky rice which seems to have dominated the food offerings recently.

While there is a brand new expressway leading into their stop for the night, they are driving an endurance road rally. So of course the route led them on the old road, more scenic, with less truck traffic, but full of potholes, blind corners, and multiple options for getting lost. Focus stayed sharp for our team, however, and they soon pulled in to Vang Vieng.

This town has become a real backpackers' destination, and the rally shared a hotel with many adventure travelers. Tim describes it: "The town we are in tonight is near a river and mountains, with limestone caves. There are a lot of Westerners, Koreans and Japanese here hiking, kayaking, hot air balloon riding. Very energetic town in the middle of nowhere."

Jim thinks the town is set to be a new travel hotspot: "Vang Vieng is already being overrun by the vanguard of 'adventure travelers.' It has all the prerequisites: signage in Lao and English, tons of hostel-type hotels, even an 'Irish Pub'."

It does seem to be in a beautiful setting, and with all those activities beckoning, the attraction is understandable. As long as the backpackers stay off the rally route roads!

Tomorrow offers fewer kilometers to drive, but if the road conditions continue, it could be just as long a drive! The Road to Hanoi Marathon 2024 next stop in Laos is Luang Prabang.

February 11th

Escort on Day 15


John Wayne

Day 15: Loei, Thailand to Vientiane, Laos

Sunday was a short rally day, with barely 190 kilometers to cover. The rally organizers had factored in the border crossing from Thailand to Laos in their planning, and also wanted to give drivers the afternoon free to explore the capital city of Laos.

But first, there was driving! Instead of the main roadway to the border crossing, the route had our drivers zigzagging through the countryside, climbing a bit in the receding mountains, enjoying the site of the river down below, and seeing very little traffic of any description.

Soon the route paralleled the Mekong River, and they once again prepared to cross a substantial bridge, leaving Thailand and entering Laos.

The Road to Hanoi Marathon organizers had warned the drivers that this border crossing was a busy one, so our Bodacious Racing team was prepared for a long wait. But it proved to be an efficient operation. Despite having to have their e-visas checked, their fingerprints taken, their passports stamped and their vehicle documents examined, Jeff tells us they were cleared into Laos in about 30 minutes. "It was one of the smoothest border crossings we've ever had on a rally."

Welcomed with saffron-colored leis by the Laotian agents hired to oversee their travels through the country, Jim, Tim, Chris, and Jeff were happy to enter their fourth country of this event.

A short run from the border crossing took them to the hotel in Vientiane. Lunch was served, and the afternoon was a chance to unwind. With both cars running well, there was only routine maintenance to perform - thankfully!

Vientiane is quite a magnet for tourism, with multiple Buddhist temples, some English spoken as a common language, and the city's location on the Thai-Laotian border and the Mekong River. Many rally drivers enjoyed walking the streets of the city, shopping, visiting temples and gardens, and sampling local food. Jeff and Chris chose to spend their afternoon lounging at the hotel and enjoying the cooler weather. While it's registering in the 80s, that feels cool after the heat they've been experiencing, in the 90s and even 100s, so it's a welcome change.

Jim and Tim might have had a walk around, but we need a report from them to know what they saw!

Jim did take some time to send in a few pictures he's collected over the past week. He is fascinated by the amount of goods people can carry on a motorbike. It is pretty amazing how ubiquitous - and useful! - these scooters are in this part of the world.

Driving resumes in the morning, with the reminder to "Drive to the right!" They will head deeper into Laos, to Vang Vieng, as the Road to Hanoi Marathon continues.

idol tree

pool viewed from above

February 10th


Day 14: Nan to Loei

The last full day's drive in Thailand found our Bodacious Racing team on the Road to Hanoi Marathon enjoying a bit of respite from the overwhelming heat of the first half of the rally.

The route took the drivers looping north, again in the hills, then trailing back south along the border with Laos. They drove through mountain ranges of the Shan Hills, enjoying more twisting roads, but also the cooler temperatures that have eluded them so far in their many kilometers of traveling Southeast Asia. At one time control, they found Rally the Globe's Fred Gallagher wearing a down jacket! It was a lightweight one, yes, but gave hope to the overheated drivers that they too could enjoy some cool breezes.

The northeast of Thailand is sparsely populated, so traffic was not a challenge. The roads were generally of good pavement, with regularities partially run on gravel. Without any villages or service stations, the rally organizers were hard - pressed to come up with a good lunch stop. But the rangers at Phu Kradueng National Park came through. They provided a great place to not only park and enjoy the catered food, but to stretch tired muscles and enjoy the naturally occurring waterfalls, native butterflies, and lush grass and trees of the park.

No sooner back on the road after the stop, however, Car 22, the 1962 Ford Escort, experienced a potential rally - ending problem.

Tim and Jim had been nursing their clutch, which has been leaking hydraulic fluid. As they drove along the rally route, headed for the next regularity, the clutch became completely useless. No report on what gear they were stuck in, but they managed to successfully finish the day without it. Here's Peggy's report of the problem and its resolution, as told to her by Tim:

"It seems that a seal was blown on the clutch cylinder, but somehow they nursed the car along for 160 km.

Tim said it was a miracle that they could get through two regularities and get to the finish at the correct time driving without a clutch.

On one of the regularities they scored a +2, so Jim told Tim that he should drive without a clutch all the time.

When they got to the hotel, they found out from the locals that there was a garage nearby.

They had been trying to reach Simon (of RPS in England, who put the car together for the rally) and when he called back Tim told him what was wrong. Simon said that he had put the spare part needed in the trunk of the car. Awesome!

Tim said that it wasn't on the list of supplies, and that they had not seen it in there, so they proceeded to take everything out of the trunk, but still no luck.

They checked every nook and cranny of the trunk and were very disappointed because they couldn't find the part they needed. But then in the very bottom of the very last bag, which was the safety bag, they found the rebuild kit!

Now that they had the part they needed, they drove to the garage to see if the mechanics would put the new part in for them. It was 6:30 and the shop closed at 9:00, so the mechanics said that there wouldn't be enough time.

Jamie was with Tim and Jim and he said that he could get it done in an hour and a half if he could use their lift in the garage. So (mechanics) Jamie and Ross put the car on the lift, dropped the engine, put in the new part, put everything back together, and now car 22 is ready to go. Tim said that Jamie and Ross are miracle workers!"

So, another challenge, one that could have proven fatal, was overcome by good preparation in terms of spare parts, the talents of the rally mechanics, and the facilities of willing local garage staff. Tim and Jim are so pleased to be back in action, and grateful for the support that allows them to persevere.

While the rally notes referred to driving through an area of dragon fruit trees today, none of our drivers commented on that for today's drive. They were too busy with driving and navigating, no doubt.

The last night in Thailand was enjoyed by many local drivers who spent time browsing a local food market. They saw both beetles and grasshoppers offered as options, as well as a full pig's head, but were happy to rejoin the rally at the not-so-adventurous buffet dinner.

While the food has been generally really good on this rally, Jeff and Chris suspect it will be a while after they return home before they crave any Asian-style food. Jeff was exited to see a pasta with Bolognese sauce on the buffet table. "How is it?" he asked Chris, who had already sampled it. "Not bad!" Chris replied. Jeff added some to his plate. But he ended disappointed; it tasted to him like a Thai-spiced version of sauce, not the Bolognese he was expecting.

We'll see how the fare changes in Laos. Tomorrow they will drive fewer than 200 kilometers, with the border crossing factored into the day's route. Then they'll be back driving to the right, enjoying more mountain driving, and experiencing yet another country on the Road to Hanoi Marathon!

February 9th


Day 13: Chiang Mai to Nan

Back on the road for a very busy day!

Leaving early gave the rally a jump on the city traffic of Chiang Mai, and they soon found themselves at the local sports stadium, where they tackled a time trial to get them well situated for the second half of this marathon endurance rally.

Driving any car at speed in a controlled environment is an exhilarating experience, but handling a vintage car around cones and posts, curves and blind corners, provides a real adrenaline surge. It was a brilliant start to a long day.

Three regularities followed in rapid succession. Climbing into the mountains once again, they drove through plantations of rubber, mango and banana, all at various stages of growth and harvest. The smoke that Jeff thought might be from burning sugar cane fields continued to dog them. But since they seem to be out of the sugar growing area, he's not sure if it's from distant fields, grass fires, or just atmospheric smoke from village living.

The land is very dry, but patches of green from both cultivated and naturally growing plants brighten up the landscape at the higher elevations. The drive took them up and up, with twisty roads and steep switchbacks - fun - the climbs in elevation are taking their toll on many of the older, heavier, cars.

Tim reports some leaking hydraulic fluid from the clutch, but figures he can nurse it through the next two weeks. Definitely something for Tim and Jim to keep on top of. Overall, both the Porsche and Escort are performing well with basic maintenance and care.

The final regularity of the day was a long one - Jim clocked 22 minutes. That is an extremely long time to keep your head in the time/mileage/speed calculations required to succeed on a regularity. Jeff and Chris messed up the first transit point, and doubled back to regroup. Then they sped ahead to make up the time, only to have miscalculated. They arrived at the final checkpoint too early. But they must have done something right throughout the day, since their class ranking shows them as having moved from 4th to 3rd place!

Tim tells a story from the drive today that gives us a view of team dynamics: "So we drive with headphones on in the car because it is quite loud. There is no sound insulation between the engine and the cockpit. It is a former race car. It can be quite tiring for Jim to be yelling directions to me all day and he likes the headphones. I am not a fan of headphones because I like to hear the car and to see how things are going and it makes it easier to drive. But I understand that it makes it easier if Jim and I have headphones as far as communicating directions. So anyway we were doing our last 60 km run to the hotel today and I kept hearing this strange noise in my headphones, a scratching and clicking. I asked Jim if he heard it but I did not get a response and I thought, oh he must be mad because we didn't do well on our last regularity. I kept hearing this strange noise for about half an hour. Then I glanced at Jim and I was shocked to see that he had taken his headphones off and he was holding them in his lap. The microphone was rubbing against his shirt every time we had a bump in the road, and it was making this bizarre noise that was driving me crazy. So I yelled at him to either put his freaking headphones back on or unplug them. The fun and games of teamwork."

At the end of a collection of long days, teamwork can include giving each other a hard time.

Chris's fear and hatred of snakes and reptiles is legendary, and there have been more than a few rubber snake gags the guys have pulled on him over their years sailing and driving together. Jim found something even better along the road today - a real, dried-out snake! Of course, he had to present it to Chris at their lunch stop - a freak-out for the herpetophobic, for sure. And the snake carcass had more drivers than Chris grossed out and edging away from Jim!

There is much talk of elephants, and more interest in them than snakes. Certainly, elephants are well - represented in the art and statues of Thailand, but to date, no live ones have been sighted. Maybe tomorrow!

At a quaint hotel for the night, the Bodacious Racing team enjoyed lobby breezes and the now - entrenched rally routine of a cocktail or beer before dinner. Air conditioning in the rooms left something to be desired, but with his trusty fan, Jeff figured all would be well. After such a long day, hopefully rest will come easily.

Saturday is the last long drive of the Road to Hanoi Marathon, and the last full day in Thailand, covering nearly 400 kilometers up to and then along the Laotian border. The endurance challenge continues...

February 8th

a golden arc

Day 12: Rest day in Chiang Mai

Past the halfway point for kilometers driven, and with two weeks remaining in the Road to Hanoi Marathon 2024, the rest day in Chiang Ma Thursday was cause for celebration.

Without having done one of these vintage car rallies, it's hard to appreciate the concentration, focus and physical demands of getting an old car from Point A to B, let alone the stress of navigating, the brutal weather, traveling with all your belongings packed up each day and shoved in your car, not to mention sleeping in a different spot each night.

Midway through, many drivers ask themselves: why am I doing this?

The answer is individual for each driver. The challenge of an endurance rally is satisfied by successfully overcoming the discomforts to the finish. The enjoyment of seeing different countries as few tourists do, interacting with local cultures, seeing sites most people only dream about, and complemented by the friendships formed, the satisfaction of working through the problems your car presents, and the trust that builds between drivers are all reasons to continue to look forward to these adventures.

Although the Bodacious Racing team is thinking maybe not this long of an adventure...

After a leisurely breakfast, the guys headed down to the garage to review the needs of the cars. With everything working pretty well, this amounted to little more than a "spanner check," where nuts and bolts are tightened to the appropriate level with a wrench (spanner in British English). Wheels were pulled for a dust - blowout to keep the brakes and gears working well. Previous repairs were examined on the Escort, fluid levels topped off in both cars, and a general tidying and cleaning were attempted. Doing this work in the Southeast Asian heat, trapped below grade in a dark and smelly garage, got to Jeff. He had let himself get dehydrated, and knew he needed to recover, so back to his air conditioned hotel room he went, to shower, drink loads of water, and rest up for dinner.

Tim, Jim and Chris continued putting the cars back together. Tim was enamored with a trash can in the garage made out of old tires. Perhaps this is a project he'll tackle for his home garage! Spending the rest of the afternoon back outside walking and enjoying a local breeze was a good way to relax and recover from the hot garage.

Dinner was excellent, with the guys ordering a variety of Thai and Chinese dishes. Tim raves about how good the food has been throughout the rally. The one funny thing was the order in which the food was delivered to their table. The options they had considered to be appetizers were brought out last! That didn't stop their enjoyment of them, though!

The distinctive purple tone of the cocktail they ordered is from the northern Thai specialty, Butterfly Pea Flower tea. It changes from blue to purple depending on how much lemon juice is added to the drink, and the garnish was held to the martini glass with a miniature clothespin!

Distances in the rest of the rally will be shorter than what they've driven the past few days, topping 350 Friday and Saturday, then easing below 300. There's still a lot of rally to drive, as they depart the city of Chiang Mai and head out through the rugged countryside of northern Thailand.

February 7th

Road To Hanoi

Day 11: Mae Sot to Chiang Mai

With another long drive today, early alarms were set. By 7:30 AM the Bodacious Racing team was well on the move, finding their way through the narrow streets of Mae Sot.

The first regularity was set for an area of gravel and dirt roads not far from the city. The morning haze was mixed with the smoke from burned sugar cane fields. After the cane is harvested, the stumps are burned to regenerate the field for nest year's crop. So with that mix in the air, navigating was particularly difficult, especially since there were numerous side trails and tracks leading off into the fields. At the marshal's station they reported cars coming in from three different directions! Our drivers managed the correct one, or so they report for now!

After regrouping at a coffee stop they were once again on the road, heading north into the hills that run along the Thai/Myanmar border. This border is heavily patrolled, with military checkpoints about every 20 kilometers along the way. The Thai soldiers are looking for smugglers of both people and goods, but cheerily waved the rally cars along.

This is a very poor area of Thailand, and the villages they passed through were minimal. Jeff said he had heard there were Myanmar refugee camps along the way, but said the people in general had so little it was impossible to tell which village might have been for refugees, and which for Thai farm workers. This is very obviously a developing area of the world.

The very dry, hot conditions created discomfort for the drivers once again, but helped with the dirt and gravel roads. While dusty, during the rainy season many of the roads they drove on would be impassable.

Climbing into the mountains provided the most entertaining and physically challenging part of the day's journey. Two additional regularities added even more interest, with navigators Chris and Jim taxed to keep their drivers focused on the right path at the right speed.

Between those regularities, the challenges continued. Winding mountain roads are fun to drive, but controlling these vintage cars - with no power steering - around switchbacks - is a full body workout. Then add in local trucks, lumbering up an incline. These are narrow two - lane roads, so passing a slow vehicle is an exercise in faith. For Jeff and Chris in the left - hand drive Porsche, it meant Chris white - knuckling each time Jeff pulled out into the oncoming traffic lane to get around an obstacle. Jeff tells us "If you haven't made a bad pass, you haven't passed anyone!" The Porsche handles well, however, accelerating fast and stopping hard. They agree passing is much easier in that car than for many others.

The last regularity of the day was a real disappointment to our Porsche drivers. Another difficult run on dirt and gravel, they came in to the final checkpoint spot on the time - earning a perfect 0. But behind them a less skilled driver had slid into a ditch, though luckily not injuring the drivers or the car. The rally photographer stopped to haul him out, effectively blocking the road for all the cars behind. Since the regularity couldn't be completed by half the cars, the regularity was cancelled, along with Car 23's perfect score.

There's no direct report from Tim and Jim in the Escort today, but we'll get their update covered tomorrow.

Onward to Chiang Mai. They are staying in a Shangri La hotel, a luxury chain popular throughout Asia. With all of Jeff's work travels through the years, his first sense in entering the lobby was that he was stepping back in time. While it feels a bit dated, it is a comfortable, welcoming location to spend tomorrow's rest day. So with laundry sent out, a massage booked, and cocktails served, Tim, Jim, Chris and Jeff settle into a bit of relaxation.

Plans for tomorrow include pulling tires on the cars, cleaning filters, tightening nuts and bolts, checking fluids and reorganizing interiors. Windshields and windows will be polished, and they'll check out the surrounding area in Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand. Poolside refreshments will be enjoyed, no doubt, as they rest up to embark on the second half of the Road to Hanoi Marathon 2024.

February 6th

Dragon Light

Amazon Cafe Pit Stop

Day 10: Nakhon Ratchasima to Mae Sot

Today was mostly a transit day on the Road to Hanoi Marathon 2024. Our Bodacious Racing Team joined the other rally drivers in traveling 575.6 kilometers - a long 10 hours on the road.

A tired Jeff described the drive as "boring, boring, boring." While rally organizers had planned a day of interesting regularity routes and challenging time trials, conditions proved too difficult for them to be allowed.

The drive took them through largely agricultural land, dominated in the early part of the day by sugar cane fields - and it's harvesting season! So, large harvesting trucks hogged the single lane roads, gathering up bunches of cane and cutting it close to the roots. Once full, the trucks head out to a collection area to dump the canes for collection. Between the road full of cane debris and the unpredictable movement of the harvesters, a timed section of the road would have proven frustrating and potentially hazardous. So the rally merely drove through these plantations, drivers comfortably cursing conditions without the added pressure of timing to add to the stress of getting stuck behind a sugar cane harvester!

Once through the plantation area, a coffee stop doubled as a passage control, to allow the rally drivers to regroup. This was at a PTT fuel station. The rally will continue to use these stations as they drive through Thailand as handy passage control stops. The rally organizers wrote in the rally notes: "They feature good quality fuel, the ability to pay by credit card, a coffee shop and a 7-11 store to stock up on everything you shouldn't eat in the car. The toilets are also very good, and important feature on long distance events." Stopping at these stations seems a sound decision!

The one regularity held today was on a concrete road, through more agricultural fields, and Jeff and Chris scored a perfect 0, their first of the rally!

The final time trial of the day was also cancelled, this time due to more agricultural traffic, tractors and backhoes. Despite local villagers turning out to view the cars, farmers needed to get on with their work, so the rally drivers merely proceeded along, trying to be patient when a tractor pulled out in front of them.

The Escort had been having issues with a sticky throttle, but Tim and Jim figured it out last night. Tim explains: "Turns out a bolt holding the fuel line to the carburetor had vibrated loose and rotated so that it was binding the throttle cable. Two problems in one. Leaking gas and stuck throttle. Easy fix once we figured it out." So that was that issue.

But then, Tim tells us, "The engine got hot in city traffic at the end of the day coming to our hotel. Electric fan wasn't kicking on. Found a loose electrical connection probably also caused by vibration. Fortunately another easy fix once we found it." But that's not all. "Water temp and oil temp gauges on the fritz." He continued. "Will have to be more mindful of making sure fan is running whenever we stop. Still got oil pressure gauge." At least our drivers have a plan to stay on top of things, and all seemed to be well today.

The final stretch of the day had them climbing into the mountains, where Tim reports they drove switchbacks for 25 kilometers. "Lots of swoops," he says. "Very fun!"

The altitude also brought moderating temperatures, easing the oppressive heat of the past few days. Dinner was provided at their hotel's poolside restaurant, and Chris reports the food was pretty good - but no one provided pictures for us to view their venue.

They have another long drive tomorrow to Chang Mai, where they will enjoy another rest day. Maybe we'll get more pictures then!

February 5th

Day 9: Siem Reap, Cambodia to Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand

To the heat - burdened Road to Hanoi Marathon drivers, the highlight of the day was the air - conditioned lunch venue at the Chang International Circuit!

With a 5 AM alarm set, our Bodacious Racing team was up early to drive another long day, and accomplish another border crossing. Leaving the comforts of the Sofitel Hotel in Siem Reap, where the air conditioning struggled to keep up with the jungle heat and humidity, the drivers had an uneventful drive to the border control. There was little traffic on the road, but as the sun rose higher in the sky, the heat pressed down.

Passing out of Cambodia and into Thailand was handled efficiently, but with 75 or so sets of documents to be processed, there was some standing in line. The airless heat sent some drivers out of line to sit in what little shade was available, and fellow competitors distributed water and cool towels around the group.

Each endurance road rally has a 48 - hour advance car drive ahead of the rally group, checking the route and relaying back any necessary reroutes. They had left a clear sign of their passing through this border crossing two days earlier: Thai border guards were sipping from Rally the Globe mugs!

After getting passports stamped and paperwork filed, it was back on the road to the race course. Thailand is known as "The Land of Smiles," and our drivers were definitely smiling as they noticed the better road conditions, both better paved, wider, and better marked. The British drivers noted that in Thailand, one drives on the "proper" side of the road. So for five days, drivers will need to remember to drive to the left!

The Chang Arena offered a beautifully air conditioned restaurant. The food was fabulous, with lots of choices of local Thai cuisine. Jeff commented on the Thai fried rice, one of his favorite dishes. He was a little hazy on details about other offerings - but said they were good! Best of all was the reviving cool temperature of the venue, and the drivers headed to their cars and the race circuit much invigorated.

The circuit was great, offering a challenging speed course, as well as a drift course, where technique means everything in controlling your momentum as the car drifts through turns. Great fun!

The cars are working well, with no real concerns. Tim and Jim had some issues with the throttle sticking, but with a little advice from the sweeps, were able to work through that problem.

It was a clear, straight drive through the Thai countryside from the race circuit, but it seemed extra long due to the oppressive heat. Temperatures exceeded 100 today, and with oil lines running through the Porsche, the temperature inside the car is at least 10 degrees above that. Staying hydrated is key, but the drivers sweat out the water as soon as they drink it.

Hydration with water switched to hydration with cold beer once the drivers arrived at the night's hotel. Relaxation in the hotel lounge was first and foremost the priority! A quick dinner - with food not as good as lunch - and it was off to bed. Another early start is planned for Tuesday, as they have their longest drive of the rally, driving nearly 600 kilometers deeper into Thailand.

February 4th

Chris staying cool, Tim somehow not laughing at him

Day 8: Rest day, Siem Reap

It was an early morning for our Bodacious Racing team, but they didn't have to hop in their cars. Instead they met up with their Angkor Wat tour guide at 7 AM, to get ahead of the scorching temperatures in Cambodia to view this World Heritage site.

Touring the ancient temple complex and learning about the history of the country was a true once-in-a-lifetime event. Built around the year 1000 of the Common Era, the sprawling grounds host a variety of both Hindu and Buddhist temples. The temples changed hands as the Khmer, Vietnamese and Thai people held the local land. The temples were abandoned around 1500, for unknown reasons, to be enveloped by the surrounding jungle's trees - banyans, kapok and strangler figs. Rediscovered by French explorers in the 1860s, the temples have sustained poor quality restorations, endured war assaults, and survived the devastation of the Khmer Rouge. Today Angkor Wat is a must - see on many travelers' lists, and our drivers enjoyed learning the history, hearing their tour guide's personal experiences in this developing country, and hiking through the ancient hallways. Tim and Jeff decided the climb to the uppermost levels on steep, shallow stairs with no handrails, was not for them. Chris went halfway up with the guide and Jim before deciding he had seen enough and turning to make his way back down. So only Jim was able to ascend to the viewpoint above the jungle complex. When he returned to the group, for the first time this hot and steamy trip, he had actually broken a sweat!

Back at the Sofitel resort, Jeff headed poolside to read in the shade. Jim soon joined him to swim some laps, and other rally participants came to enjoy some real relaxation and conversation.

Heading out to explore a bit of the local town, they were surprised to see a 7-Eleven! Shopping turned up various supplies for the road, including window cleaner and washing fluid, which they had been hoping to find for days.

They also learned of local food stalls, but took a pass when they heard a local specialty is fried tarantulas! The large spiders are soaked in coconut milk, then deep-fried, served alongside a chile - dipping sauce. We have to take their word for it, since no one tried them - probably a good move for their digestive systems.

Laundry was high on everyone's list for the rest day as well. While Jim, Jeff and Chris sent their clothes out to hotel services, Tim took matters into his own hands. He did a big laundry wash in his hotel room's bathtub, leaving an unsavory tub ring behind! He also confessed to Peg he had been spraying his clothes with bug spray because they smelled bad. "It's so humid here, nothing really gets dry." Word has it the hotel laundry has clothes dryers, Tim! Or, to continue the D.I.Y. theme, Peggy suggests using a blow dryer!

Our team also spent time sending back photographs, and Tim texted with a little more detail about Saturday's accident.

"Yesterday about 4:00 PM, last Passage Control of the day was at a coffee shop on the left. Slowed down, left blinker on, start my turn and cab driver behind tries to pass us and hits our left front fender. Got 40 witnesses at coffee shop who saw it happen. Fortunately no one hurt and Escort fender wrinkled but no damage to steering or suspension. Cab driver's Toyota took a worse beating. Ripped up tire and headlight / blinker light assembly destroyed. Eventually took 4 cops 2 hours to decide it was not my fault. But I have to pay $300. When asked why I have to pay if not my fault, I was told it was because I am the only one present with $300. Jamie talked them down to $200. Everything is negotiable, especially bribes." Then Tim reflects, "Good thing we got the buddhist blessing!"

Tim also tells us that after scoring a perfect 0 on a regularity, the marshal presented them with a little cake! Nice little treat, especially considering the timer difficulty the Escort has been experiencing.

At dinner a performance by a local group that sang and played music on traditional stringed instruments provided entertainment. Chris asked Jeff, "This is supposed to be dinner music?" Jeff figures he was suffering from culture overload after their morning at the temple complex. Enough!

Tomorrow will present another border crossing, where the Rally the Globe Road to Hanoi Marathon 2024 crosses the border into Thailand. Yet another country for our team to enjoy exploring!

February 3rd

portable store

Day 7: Banglun to Siam Reap

"If it weren't for Tim's accident," reports Jeff, "this would have been a fairly boring day."

Rest assured - the accident left no one hurt, minimal car damage, and little time lost. But we'll get to the details in a bit.

With nearly 500 kilometers to cover, the day began, once again, early. Our Bodacious Racing drivers had varying responses to the very firm beds after their night's rest. Jeff describes a very thin mattress, thinner than a futon, on a slab or wood. Tim and Jim agree the floor was softer, but we don't know if they actually slept there. And Chris says he had the best night's sleep of the rally so far! Individual taste-and sheer exhaustion, perhaps.

Today only added to that exhaustion. There was an early regularity held on smooth, red dirt roads. With the dryness and heat, the dust from the road flew everywhere, leaving rally participants wiping their faces and necks to remove dust caked in sweat.

Tim and Jim are still battling the accuracy of their timers. Tim says they are deliberately trying to come in slow, but still get penalized for being too fast. "Some weird voodoo," he figures.

But last night's repairs to the Escort held together today, so that is good news.

Knowing there was vast open country to cover, the Rally the Globe organizers arranged the morning time check at the last possible stop, the Mekong Bird Resort, a lovely, rustic place built on stilts on the banks of the Sekong River, which feeds to the fabled Mekong River. Besides welcome shade, the drivers were able to prepare for the long drive ahead and enjoy cool drinks and a snack - which for Jeff and Chris translated to French fries!

Once back on the road, they simply slogged ahead, hoping the vintage cars would perform despite the heat and dust. A highlight was crossing the Mekong River over the Cambodia - China Friendship Bridge, which spans more than a mile of water, sluggish in the dry season heat. With no place to stop for refreshments all afternoon, the two time controls set up by the side of the road were staffed by rally organizers offering cool drinks and refreshing towels. The long route was bookended by villages, where local police were on hand to keep the roads clear, and provide a clue as to where the route continued. They saw some interesting motorbikes, and few other vehicles.

That could have been a factor in the Escort's accident. As Tim and Jim headed into a turn, a local car powered towards them at speed. Unable to get out of the way, the Escort got hit on its front fender. Jeff and Chris were following and saw the accident unfold, and sweep Jamie was soon on site to mediate the collision and interact with local police. After ascertaining there were no injuries, the situation was soon settled, and Tim and Jim were able to get back underway. There is minimal damage to the car, but there is talk of removing the front fender, having everyone in the rally sign it, then sending it home to be mounted on the wall of Jeff's garage in Rhode Island!

Their stop for the night is in the sacred park of Siem Reap, the location of the Hindu - Buddhist Temple Angkor Wat. Glimpsing the temple through the trees, Jeff was amazed to see how substantial it seemed, rising up out of the often empty landscape of Cambodia they experienced today. Our very tired drivers enjoyed an early bedtime in good air conditioning, with decent showers, and more comfortable beds, preparing for tomorrow's rest day, and their morning tour of the World Heritage site of Angkor Wat.

February 2nd


Day 6: Mang Den, Vietnam to Banglun, Cambodia

The southwestern part of Vietnam where Rally the Globe began their Friday was notably flatter, less lush and drier than the coastal portion of the country where they spent their last week. The roads were good, with some parts newly repaired. But the one element continuously reported by our Bodacious Racing team was the heat! Far away from any moderating element of the coastal locations, the 90+ degree temperatures and oppressive humidity weighed heavily on our drivers.

The drive to the border control was mostly uneventful, now that everyone has become used to the motorbikes, busses, trucks and multiple groups of very young children excited by the rally cars and foreigners in their midst. They drove two regularities, proceeding down from the altitude of last night's hotel, the first through a lush forest. The second regularity took them through flatter terrain, planted with rubber trees and coffee plants. With the coffee trees in full-flower, if they hadn't been so hot and dusty and breathing in exhaust fumes, they might have enjoyed the blossoms' light jasmine-like fragrance!

There was one incident on a winding regularity road, where Jeff and Chris drove around a corner to see a bus barreling towards Car 30, another Porsche 911, directly ahead of them. Bob and Dana slammed on the breaks and veered to the side to avoid getting hit head-on, causing Jeff and Chris to do the same. They came to within a few inches of the other car's bumper, and the bus continued happily on, careening by a fraction of an inch past them both.

The local Vietnamese support team was leaving the rally at the border control, but not before easing the way. With all the paperwork properly filed with the border officials, it was a simple matter for each car to check out of Vietnam, and proceed to the Cambodian border. Their way into the country was helped by the local agents engaged by the rally organizers. By providing the paperwork in advance, all the cars were already approved for entry. Each rally participant needed to line up and have his passport stamped, purchase his Cambodian visa, and secure his entry documents. It was blisteringly hot, but chilled water and cool towels were provided, which helped the wait somewhat. The drivers were reminded that their entry documents were also their exit documents. Keeping these with their passports in a secure location is essential, to ensure ease of passage out of Cambodia and into Thailand in a few more days.

With only 70 kilometers to drive to the hotel, the road took our drivers through a few small villages. While the route was empty, compared to the cacophony of Vietnam roads, there were still multiple groups of young children standing by the roads to welcome the cars through. At their final destination for the day, the mayor and town council were on hand to welcome them to the community.

Once at the hotel the rally drivers had another welcome, this by a group of Buddhist monks, there to bless each car. The ritual was an interesting one, and we hope bodes well for the next 3 weeks!

Tim and Jim particularly needed the blessing. Tim noticed the car's clutch slipping in the afternoon, and had alerted the sweeps to the problem. Once at the hotel, mechanics Andy (Skippy), Jamie, and Charlie stepped up to help Tim and Jim with the repair. It seems the oil pan was dripping oil into the clutch, causing a slippage. They dropped the gearbox and replaced the clutch. With the oil pan secured in the repairs, we hope the Escort will be ready to face another day.

When Tim was finally able to call it a day, he found the bed less than welcoming. "The floor is softer than my bed tonight," he tells us!

Hopefully everyone gets some sleep. Tomorrow will be a long day as the Road to Hanoi Marathon continues. Our drivers have 478 km to cover as they make their way north through Cambodia, finishing the day in Siam Reap.

February 1st

Day 5: Danang to Mang Den

After some down time at the lovely Intercontinental hotel outside of Danang, enjoying the beachfront location, our Bodacious Racing team climbed into their cars way too early on this first day of February, to begin their last full day driving in the southern part of Vietnam.

Early was the theme of the morning. Getting the 80+ rally drivers, mechanics, marshals, organizers, and their luggage, from various hotel rooms around the resort to the parking lot was a major challenge for hotel staff. But the golf cart drivers delivered, and Chris and Jeff, Jim and Tim were soon in the Porsche 911 and Ford Escort, ready to start on schedule.

They retraced the way towards the city of Danang, fighting the morning traffic and part of the chaos on the road. Then the rally route veered west out of town, climbing into the hills and leaving sea-level behind. The morning mist burned off as they drove along the storied Ho Chi Minh Trail, lush with vegetation both wild and cultivated.

By mid-morning scorching temperatures prevailed despite the altitude. It was a very hot stop for lunch at a roadside truck stop, where the metal roof might have blocked the sun, but further heated the picnic area.

The first regularity they drove took full concentration. Uneven road surfaces, switching between broken concrete, gravel, steel bridges and occasionally smooth pavement, were a major challenge. Added to that was the continually twisting route through the jungle, interspersed with clearings full of buildings and swarmed by excited children. It took every ounce of concentration to stay on the road, in control, and following the road book for direction changes.

Trucks and busses continue to threaten our drivers. Starting down a hill on a narrow two lane road, Jeff and Chris in Car 23 found themselves heading towards two large trucks - one trying to pass the other going uphill. With no room to get over, Jeff pulled as close to the guard rail as possible, with Chris sure they would crash through. The passing truck zoomed towards them, pulling past with barely three inches to spare. A tight squeeze for sure, but one repeated frequently on these challenging roads.

The cars performed well today, with no real concerns. The annoying screech from the Porsche continues despite no evidence of damage. Richard Tuthill, who built the car, thinks it may be a clutch release lever, but assures them it's nothing to worry about. We hope all is well there.

After such a physically and mentally exhausting day, Tim decided he was ready for bed after a beer and some bar snacks. The other three joined the rally dinner, and enjoyed a nice buffet spread in the sparkling new hotel's restaurant. With the menu including frogs' legs, we know one team member who chose the chicken option! But Jeff reports they were quite good. He always enjoys trying the local cuisine.

Tomorrow is a relatively late start, around 9 AM, and only about 230 kilometers to travel. The rally will say goodbye to Vietnam and hello to Cambodia, as they drive across their first border on the Rally the Globe "Road to Hanoi Marathon".

January 31st

Rest Day


Day 4: Rest Day, Da Nang

Rest days on vintage car road rallies give drivers a chance to catch their breath and relax, do a bit of sightseeing, and work on car maintenance and repair. After three days learning the particular technique of driving in Vietnam, our Bodacious Racing team made the most of their day.

Their resort is built into the side of a cliff, with a sandy beach below. Access roads snake with switchbacks through the property to connect various buildings, and golf cart drivers deliver people from one point to another. There is also a funicular that travels from the highest level down to the beach restaurant. Lush plantings surround the building, with particularly tenacious monkeys in residence. Signs are posted on all sliding doors to keep them double locked - as the monkeys have learned to slide open unlocked doors. One fellow driver on the rally learned this the hard way when he emerged from his closet to find a monkey in his fruit bowl! The monkey grabbed a dragon fruit and ran out the door - a bit startling, to be sure - but he got a good picture!

For breakfast they enjoyed eating at tables cantilevered out from the hotel overlooking the cliff side. Quite an interesting start to the day - and the food was good, too.

Basic car maintenance includes checking fluid levels, tightening nuts and bolts, and cleaning filters and belts. Jeff and Chris also spent time working on the sensors for their Brantz timers; bolts were loose, as were wire leads, and a quick adjustment cleared things up. They also blew dust out of the engine bay and off brake pads to ensure better performance.

However, when they headed out to check the timers, they found their alternator was dead! It hadn't charged - and followers of the team will know how frequently a bad alternator has threatened a car's continuing rally participation. Fortunately, knowing past situations, they had a spare, and with mechanic Jamie's help, were able to swap out the old for the new. Jeff reports there were melted bits inside the old alternator. "It's the same alternator we had in the Lima to Cape Horn rally," says Jeff, "So it's no surprise it finally wore out." He welcomes the good luck that led it to expire on a rest day in a hotel parking lot, rather than on a remote road!

Tim and Jim spent 5 hours working on the Ford Escort, doing basic maintenance, working on their timer sensor leads as well, and examining brakes. "We pulled all four wheels to check the brakes, steering and suspension," Tim tells us. "The right front brake has been dragging, but we made the adjustments, and it should be okay now."

Tim also added a little color to their drive through Da Nang yesterday, as they headed to the day's finish. "Yesterday the drive was through a more rural area with fewer scooters except for in the villages. Then we came through Danang along the beach. Felt like Miami Beach! Lots of beautiful hotels and tourists and beaucoup scooters again."

Tim thinks he's figured out a pattern and a way to take advantage of it. "General rule is cars in left lane and scooters in right lane. I decided that I was part scooter and part car. One can make much better progress by using both lanes. Bobbing and weaving works great but is nerve wracking for the navigator. But he's a good lad and made no comments because we were making quick progress thru the traffic. The Escort is quite nimble. Also quite loud and scares most of the scooters out of the way."

The team decided to relax the rest of the day, wandering the grounds of the resort, walking the beach and, for Jeff, getting a massage, then relaxing on his balcony with his current book. And he wasn't even harassed by monkeys!

Dinner was served on the beach, with white linen table cloths, and a long buffet table covered in all sorts of food - beef tenderloin, seafood of many types, slices of roasted pork and even barbecue ribs. Tim tells us the table extended so far down the beach that a good wave could've taken out the barbecue!

With starts tomorrow around 7 AM, the rest day came to an early end. The team plans to head to the cars around 5 AM tomorrow morning. With the design of the sprawling resort, they have staff in golf carts picking them up to get them and their bags down to the hotel lobby to check out and be on the starting line for tomorrow's drive.

Day 5 will be their last full day in the south of Vietnam, as they head west towards Cambodia through the Hai Van Pass, the highest mountain pass in Vietnam at nearly 1600 feet. After a day's rest, our drivers are ready to tackle more challenges ahead.

Porsche work

January 30th


Day 3: Quy Nhon to Danang

Leaving the beach resort in Quy Nhon, our Bodacious Racing team headed north along the coast of the South China Sea. More shrimp farms are spread out on each side of the road, and they had a morning coffee shop at a small local shop. They seem to be enjoying this daily morning stop for locally grown, harvested and roasted coffee!

While building investment and population growth in this developing country is everywhere, it seems as if most towns are built right along the roads. There haven't been many roads leading off into the jungle; only primary and secondary roads where the town is just one building deep, with jungle flourishing behind. All things to ponder as our drivers make their way through this fascinating country.

There have been no reports on regularity mishaps, which hopefully means no news is good news! Lunch was at another beach restaurant, with copious fresh seafood on offer.

After lunch they continued to Danang, stopping in Hoi An, a World Heritage Site and former port city. It has a rich history of many cultures, reflected in the architecture representing Chinese, French and Japanese influences. More familiar to backpackers than the rally crowd, it was an interesting and welcome addition to the Road to Hanoi route.

From there it was a short drive to the Rally hotel where they'll stay for the next two nights, the Danang Intercontinental. This resort met even Jeff's exacting standards. He upgraded to a suite with a balcony, a definite perk he always appreciates!

Chris is feeling better, and has become adept enough with chopsticks to eat his chips with them! The heat and humidity can sap everyone's energy, but Tim, a good Southern lad, is luxuriating in the climate. Jim is endlessly fascinated by the loads carried on scooters that they are seeing on the road throughout the country, and is compiling quite a few pictures!

With tomorrow a rest day, laundry was a priority. Jeff had hand washed a few things in Saigon, but with the humidity, nothing had really dried. So off the bag of laundry went, to be returned by the hotel staff fully cleaned-and dried.

The cars are performing quite well. Car 23, the 1972 Porsche 911, has been making a high-pitched squeal, which Chris and Jeff think is a fan belt. They see no signs of wear, but will spend some time checking it more thoroughly tomorrow. Spare belts are always carried on a rally!

They also want to recheck the sensors in their Brantz timers. Something still seems off, so they hope to diagnose and repair any problem.

No word on any issues with Car 22, the 1972 Ford Escort, but routine maintenance is always on the menu for a rest day. Cleaning filters, checking nuts and bolts, securing tires, topping up oil, fuel, and other liquids, and thoroughly cleaning windows will be part of their chores tomorrow. And if we know Tim and Jim, they will totally unpack and repack the car once again!

Their resort is on a peninsula northeast of the city of Danang. Hopefully the cars can be dealt with in time to allow our drivers the chance to get into the city, described on Trip Advisor as an important port city and a "gleaming, modern tourist magnet." Let's hope we get some pictures and stories from there tomorrow!

January 29th


Day 2: Dalat to Quy Nhon

With more than 400 km to travel on this second driving day of Rally the Globe's Road to Hanoi Marathon, it was yet another early start for our Bodacious Racing team.

With the rally hotel, the Dalat Palace, set at an altitude of nearly 5000 feet, there were magnificent views as each rally car in turn took to the road and descended into the valley below. The valley they drove through is one of the primary growing areas for fruit in Vietnam, with crops grown in poly tunnels and greenhouses, for better protection from the elements, as well as in sprawling fields. The region is famous for growing durian fruit, the smelly but supposedly delicious fruit. Not sure if our drivers sampled any, though!

The drive through terraced agricultural areas included some fields of coffee plants, so it was an appropriate morning time-control stop at a coffee shop. Being able to drink coffee on the land where it's grown is an experience many of us have never had, so our drivers count themselves lucky.

Chris continues to feel a bit under the weather, with both stomach upset and cold symptoms, so he consulted the Rally doctor. He was assured he is most likely on the mend, but the doctor plans to check in on him until he feels better.

But feeling sick is not the best physical or mental state for the highly technical art of navigating on these rallies. On the day's first regularity, Jeff and Chris managed to be only 2 seconds off on the first section, but Chris forgot to reset the timer for the second half. He realized about 10 seconds in. "Do you want to go back and restart?" he asked Jeff. "Nah, we'll just wing it!" Jeff responded. So they did - and came in pretty close!

Tim and Jim had a similar issue with a regularity. Very happy with how the Monit timer they installed last night was performing, they finished the first section with only a second penalty. But Jim thought that was the end of the regularity! As Tim zoomed down the hill, they caught site of a Rally marshall ahead - they were still driving the regularity! Tim slammed on the brakes, but the damage had been done. They arrived nearly 30 seconds early, so added that penalty to their total.

The rally lunch was at a restaurant surrounded by ponds full of fish and lily pads. Between the fresh local fruits and vegetables and the fresh seafood, it was a treat, and beautiful besides!

But leaving the restaurant, Chris had trouble with the route book directions. He told Jeff to turn right, but a few miles down the road said "Stop! This is the wrong way!" Jeff turned back, and soon saw other rally cars in front of them. Chris had forgotten a route book amendment that had been handed out this morning, changing the after-lunch route.

But the confusion wasn't over. A few turns later, Chris told Jeff "We are so lost!" The rule in getting lost driving a rally is to retrace your route back to where you last knew where you were. So they did, and soon were successfully following the route. They made it to the time check with less than 3 minutes to spare!

As they continued the drive, they passed floating villages, farmed shrimp pens, and soon found themselves at tonight's hotel on the beach. With the abundance of fresh local seafood, of course - that was offered for dinner. But seafood-sensitive Chris was able to get some chicken. With his unsettled stomach, it's best not to push against dietary boundaries.

We hear from Tim's son Patrick, who helped navigate for Tim on the Alaska to Mexico Marathon last fall. He is reading this blog to his son Eston, Tim's 5-year-old grandson. Patrick "then took him up to our globe and showed him Vietnam in relation to where we live and his jaw literally dropped. 'What? You just took my mind away!'

Eston, we're all with you. Our Bodacious Racing team's adventures blow all of our minds!

Tomorrow, on to Da Nang!

January 28th

Blue Skies in Vietnam

Day 01: Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat

Two weeks before the start of this rally, the organizers at Rally the Globe heard from government officials in the starting city. The rally would no longer have access to the planned start location at the Reunification Palace, due to preparations for Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year). Although disappointing, the organizers swiftly pivoted to hold the formal event start at the Dai Nam Racecourse, a multipurpose wonderland for cars, go-carts, horses, and greyhounds - each on their own dedicated track. They even race jet skis there, on the Racecourse's man-made lake!

This change meant an early start leaving the hotel, but Chris and Jeff in Car 23, the 1972 Porsche 911, and Jim and Tim in Car 22, the 1972 Ford Escort, had no issues with driving out of the city in the early morning darkness.

With the sun nosing above the horizon, the rally drivers converged on the race circuit. Local car club members hosted the rally collection of vintage cars and their drivers, arriving in their own classic cars. Providing breakfast and conversation, this secondary start site was a great opportunity to mingle with car fans from the local community. The Racecourse, with gardens, benches, food kiosks and visitors, provided a welcoming, festival feel for the rally start.

Drivers used the track for their first timed test section of the rally, enjoying the well-maintained surface and opening up their cars' engines.

Then they were off, heading East and into the South Central Highlands of Vietnam. They drove a long day, covering 352 kilometers on a combination of wide new roads and quiet village roads, before entering the main highway that joins Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat.

They had a stop for coffee overlooking Tri An Lake on a working rubber plantation, then continued inland on country roads, driving through banana trees and coffee plants. Lunch was a very local affair at a small roadside restaurant, but everyone reports back that the food was quite good. Chris even used his chopsticks!

The afternoon provided the first regularity section, run on a short series of local tarmac and dirt roads. Car 23 finished with just a 2-second penalty, but Car 22 realized their timer was not functioning properly. After getting lost and absorbing a 60-second penalty, Tim and Jim knew they'd be spending time on reorganization and repairs Sunday evening.

On the drive approaching the resort city of Dalat, the drivers passed the beautiful Edensee Lake. Dalat is known as the City of Eternal Spring for its temperate climate. With an altitude of nearly 5000 feet, temperatures peaked in the mid-70s during the day, dropping to the 50s at night.

So, Tim and Jim had comfortable temperatures to work in as they tried to diagnose their Brantz timer problem. Tim had brought the Monit timer that he had installed in his 1978 Ford Bronco for the second part of the Alaska to Mexico marathon last fall. His plan was to install the Monit in the Escort, and hopefully bring more accurate kilometers/seconds timing to the next regularity. Tomorrow will give them a chance to see how they did.

Day 2 of the rally leads our team towards the South China Sea - as the adventure continues!

January 27th

Another adventure begins!

The Bodacious Racing team arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam early morning this past Tuesday, after a grueling 31 hours of travel.

A botched private plane flight from Rhode Island to JFK Airport Sunday night meant Jim, who had successfully flown up to New York from South Carolina, boarded the 1 AM flight without his teammates, getting a head start on this month-long rally. Jeff, Chris and Tim were able to rebook on a flight that left New York at noon Monday; that meant a limo pickup in Rhode Island at 5:30 AM. With very little sleep, a bit of disgruntlement and more than a little anxiety, they arrived at JFK around 9:30, and enjoyed breakfast in the lounge. Despite a thirty-minute delay, they soon boarded their plane to Seoul. After nearly 16 hours in the air, they landed in Korea with plenty of time to make their connection to a six-hour flight to Vietnam. Eventually they arrived at the Park Hyatt in Ho Chi Minh, around 2 AM Wednesday, where they were met by Jim, who had been unable to sleep. After a quick reunion, they all stumbled up to their rooms to attempt a bit of sleep, planning to meet up late morning.

They report their rooms in the Park Hyatt were great, as was the food in the hotel restaurant. But Tim was confused by the dragon fruit placed on the table in his room. "Looks like some space creature wanting to lay an egg in my body. Remember the movie 'Aliens'?" he wrote. "I'm afraid to cut it open!"

Plans easily fall apart under jet lag, so the early risers of Chris, Jim and Tim found themselves at breakfast in the hotel dining room a few hours later. Jeff's alarm woke him at 11, and he made his way down to join the team.

They had booked a tour of the city with a local guide, so they spent Wednesday afternoon visiting various sites. A highlight was the War Remnants Museum, which tells the story of the war in Vietnam from the victors' perspective. Sobering and disorienting, they found it an interesting educational experience. Posing in front of a US Army helicopter (Left behind? Shot down?), we have our first team picture of this event.

History of the war is everywhere, and they found the development of the city over the past 15 years astounding. They visited the main post office, with a picture of Ho Chi Minh prominently displayed. A trip to a local market offered copious amounts of goods and food for both locals and tourists. It was very hot - about 95 degrees - with high levels of humidity, and they walked slowly to acclimate as best they could. A lunch at a pho shop was not a very popular choice. This classic Vietnamese soup was less than appetizing to our crew. Tim threw in a handful of chili pieces, with the guide cautioning him that it would be "too hot! Too hot!" But Tim chowed down, with large beads of sweat cresting from his forehead! Jim, tempted, placed two chili pieces into his bowl. One slurp and he was coughing and reaching for his water - way too spicy! Chris couldn't get over the greige color of the broth, and Jeff telling him it was from the tripe didn't encourage him to sample it.

They had planned to tour the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, built by the French in colonial Vietnam, and consecrated in 1880. Since there was a service being held, they couldn't go in, so they satisfied themselves with the exterior view of the historic church.

The tour on Wednesday kept them from dozing during the day, but after a quick dinner, they all headed to bed early. Jet lag would continue to challenge their sleep cycles.

Thursday they were diving in to the first of their rally prep days. A car picked them up from the Park Hyatt to take them to the rally hotel. There they took the rally shuttle out to the warehouse where the cars had cleared customs. Seeing so many of their acquaintances and friends from past rallies had them in the rally mindset in no time.

Customs agents had definitely gone a thorough inspection of the equipment in the cars. Carefully packed gear had been strewn about in each vehicle, making it difficult to account for everything they remembered packing. But soon they were exiting the warehouse for their first drive through the packed streets of the city.

All the guys referred to the many scooters/motorbikes they saw as they made their way around the city. They have the opportunity to jump into the flow of traffic. Tim thinks 90% of the population drives a motorbike, and it is amazing how many people and goods can be balanced on two wheels. There's a law requiring adults to wear helmets, but not kids, so they were seeing two helmeted adults on one scooter, with two kids without helmets clinging to the grownups.

Jim sent us a picture of a delivery driver on a motorbike balancing what he thinks may have been wedding flowers. Tim said he saw a scooter driver with two five-foot long acetylene tanks bungee-corded to the back. "What could go wrong?" he asked.

But they felt oddly comfortable on the 20 kilometer drive from the warehouse. The people, they report, are friendly and polite. As long as you use your turn signals to indicate where you are going, other drivers courteously let you in. Once Jeff and Tim found the rhythm of the seemingly chaotic traffic, they maneuvered the cars safely back to the hotel.

For this rally Tim and Jim are in the 1972 Ford Escort, previously driven in New Zealand. Jeff and Chris are in the 1972 Porsche 911, driven on the Lima to Cape Horn Rally. They are cars 22 and 23, painted in matching blue and orange, and they will enjoy being in the same class of small postwar cars.

Once in the rally hotel garage, our teams tidied their cars, then left to return to the Park Hyatt for the last night before moving to the rally hotel.

Friday was that move. They spent the day sorting through the spare equipment, safety items, tools, and comfort items in each car.

Jeff and Chris had discovered their Brantz timing clocks had been changed from the settings they had used in South America. These timers work through sensors installed on a tire rotor. As each rotor bolt passes the sensor, it is reflected on the timer, allowing the navigator to measure each fraction of a kilometer. This is essential for proper timing in regularities. Unfortunately, in prepping the car for a stage rally Jeff did in the Porsche last March, the bolts were replaced to install the heavily studded tires he needed for snow and ice driving. When regular tires were reinstalled, the longer bolts, which allow for frequent engagement with the sensor, were not.

Fortunately, Chris realized the problem on the drive in from the warehouse. Of course, they didn't have spare bolts to install! Jamie, one of the sweeps, called a local contact, who soon rode into the parking garage on his motorbike with a bag of the necessary bolts. Jamie instructed Chris and Jeff on how to install them, and in no time they were ready to recalibrate the Brantz.

After a full day of car preparations, our team headed out to a local Argentinian steak house - go figure! The menu said the steaks were "USDA inspected, packed by Omaha Packers." Everyone loves and trusts US beef!

The Mai Hotel is not quite up to Jeff's standards, but as rally hotels go, it is quite luxurious. The rooftop deck was particularly appealing, allowing for nighttime breezes as the temperature dropped into the 70s, and a spectacular view of this vibrant city.

Saturday the rally schedule began. Breakfast was a large buffet spread, and included sushi! Our team stuck to more common breakfast foods, rationalizing they were in a part of the world where only cooked and freshly peeled foods could be safely eaten!

Getting their rally plates and stickers was the first order of the day, then going through the scrutineering process to ascertain cars were in good shape with required safety equipment. Signing-on registered each rally participant, and emergency safety beacons were distributed. The Drivers' Briefing covered general points, with one safety memo emphasized, and hopefully taken seriously by everyone. Drivers were warned not to leave the road to walk into the jungle or on a side trail. In stopping for a call of nature along the route, keeping contact with the road will be essential. Between snakes and unexploded ordinance, the risk is real!

Both Chris and Jeff were feeling a bit under the weather Saturday night, so they headed to bed soon after the rally dinner. Tim and Jim enjoyed a little more conversation before turning in. They have an early start, leaving Ho Chi Minh City at 5:30 AM to drive to the Dai Nam Circuit racetrack.

From there, they'll start on the Road to Hanoi!

CP Construction

Revenant Motorsports