It was bad enough that we were forced to pack up and leave our beautiful Mirror Lake Cottage room, but also, for once the weatherman was perfectly accurate.  As I made my first trip to the Hudson’s trunk to start our loading process it was already raining.  We went across the street for breakfast and the Driver’s Meeting and it was raining.  At the Driver’s Meeting came some bad news.  The original rally route for Day 3 called for us to be crossing Lake Champlain into Vermont on the Essex Ferry.  Because of high winds and roughness on the big lake the rally officials had amended the route and eliminated the ferry passage.  We all had been looking forward to that ferry ride.

At 196 miles, Day 3’s route was the longest of the three days.  The start time had been moved up to 8:00AM plus car number.  Oh, and by the way, did I mention that it was raining?

Prior to the 2nd of the day’s 4 Regularity Sections, we missed a turn.  I stopped to flip around and noticed while I transitioned from “reverse” to “4” that the brake pedal sank closer to the floor than normal.  I gave it a single pump and it was right back up where it belonged.  I didn’t think much about it.  We got back on route and found the green “Start Regularity” sign for that 2nd section.  As I applied the brake to stop at the start sign, the pedal sank for a second time.  By the time we finished the Regularity Section I was hearing noise from the rear brakes.

At the Essex Ferry turn off, our new route instructions called for us to turn off away from the ferry and onto an amended alternate route.  Lynn and I however, pulled into the ferry parking lot to debate our options.  I’m not an auto mechanic, but it made sense to me that we might be losing brake fluid.  I got out into rain to retrieve my tools from the trunk.  On a “step-down” era Hudson the master cylinder for the brake system is not beneath the hood.  It is mounted to a frame rail beneath the driver’s feet.  You pull back the carpet, find the circular access panel in the floor of the car, back out three screws, lift the plate and you’re there.

Now remember, I bought this car about a year ago.  The car had been off living with Hudson guru, Doug Wildrick in Shelbyville, Indiana until a week before we left home for this rally.  Lynn and I were just getting introduced to this car.  Well, I quickly learned that there are holes in the floor beneath the driver’s feet.  As I pulled back the carpet to look for the access panel, I found a sloppy saturated layer of carpet padding.  I pulled back the sloppy padding and yes, there they were, a cluster of three pin-point holes and a fourth hole of moderate size.  I pushed past the swamp and found the circular access panel.  Quickly I removed the screws to expose the master cylinder, and using my trusty socket wrench, I had the lid off in seconds.  Wow!  The fluid was completely full!  I didn’t know what to make of that.  I closed the master cylinder, replaced the access panel and laid the soggy carpet back in place.  I crossed my fingers and called Doug Wildrick.  It’s Sunday.  He’ll never answer, right?  Ring….. Ring…..  “Hello”.  He answered!!  I explained the situation to Doug.   Doug suggested that we forego the final Regularity Sections that might place significant demands on the brakes, but he insisted that as long as the system was not losing hydraulic fluid I could get the car back on the road and find the most efficient path to the Hemmings Motor News headquarters in Bennington, Vermont where the rally was scheduled to end.  I still wasn’t convinced.  Heck, Noel Renner has been wrenching on Hudsons since Doug Wildrick was in diapers, and Noel was on this rally with us in the #21 car, his trusty 1954 Hudson Hornet convertible.  I called Noel.  The first thing that we learned was that Cynda, Noel’s wife and navigator, had taken one too many twisty turn with her head buried in the route instruction sheet.  Noel’s Hornet was running like a champ but his navigator was not.  The Renners too were throwing in the towel and heading for Bennington.  I explained our brake situation to Noel, and like Doug, Noel told me to get back on the road and bring the car on down to Bennington.  I took a deep breath, looked at Lynn, and wanted to cry.  I was cold and wet, and in the blink of an eye, both of the mighty Hudson Hornets were out of the 2019 Great American Mountain Rally Revival.

Out of the rally, we got onto our Google Maps app and within 15 minutes we were headed south through the rainy Adirondack Park along I-87.  The Hornet was running strong and it seemed so wrong to be done, but just north of Saratoga Springs we got off the interstate to head east toward Bennington.  As soon as I touched the brakes I knew we had made the right decision.  The brakes, if anything, were getting noisier.

The previous year we felt proud and jubilant when we arrived at the storied Hemmings Motor News headquarters in Bennington, Vermont.  We had successfully finished our first attempt at a road rally.  On this rainy Sunday however, I felt as if we were limping into town with our tails between our legs.

It was here at Hemmings that I pulled out my camera for the first time that day.  I got pictures of the cars as they rolled in.

Continue Reading…

CHAPTER 5: Photos and Results