Road Rally Treasures

What do you get when you cross a directionally challenged, Attention Deficient Disorder woman, a military engineer, and a “Never tried this before” Porsche Club Time-Speed-Distance (TSD) rally? Well, let’s just say it’s an interesting adventure. When Mark, the engineer in this scenario, asked me if I wanted to participate in the TSD Road Rally through the Middle Peninsula, I was less than enthused. I love our car. I love riding with the top down, drifting down the road and letting the right side of my brain take in all the sights as he motors along. Don’t get me wrong. I love driving the car – a lot! But being a passenger has its advantages. There’s no pressure and lots of time to ponder. But a road rally? Not so much.

We’ve been on numerous fun runs before and have had delightful experiences, but the mini-rally earlier this summer made me a little hesitant to participate… that and my remarkable ability to get lost. Sometimes the job of navigator can be stressful if one is acting in the role of “Finder of Small Things” that are whizzing by at Hurley Haywood pace. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but the tension level in the car tends to ratchet up a notch or two when one of us is holding a list of directions in our hands, and the other one is trying to understand the ADD communication proceeding from his overwhelmed spouse’s lips.

All of this is further complicated because God did not equip me with the proper homing pigeon device in my brain. I didn’t get the right map. Mine is completely reversed. If my instinct is to turn left, I should turn right. Every. Stinking. Time. It’s a handicap, I tell you. I get lost getting off of elevators! I’m so directionally challenged that DMV should let me have one of those little blue tags to hang off of my mirror because my programming is truly handicapped. If I had that sign in my window people would be more compassionate and say “Oh, bless her heart” and sweet things like that, rather than get upset with me when I’ve figured out from the left hand turn lane that I really needed to turn right. I do more U-turns in a year than most people do in their lifetime. It’s difficult to be wired this way, and not all that helpful when attempting to navigate a road rally. Needless to say, I wasn’t excited.

Thankfully, my darling mate came up with a brilliant idea. He would navigate and I would drive. If you knew my husband, you’d find this suggestion surprising. He loves to drive and hates being a passenger, no matter who is driving. Even if we are dropping off a car for service five minutes from home, I will slide out of the driver’s seat and give him the keys. He’s just happier, and a happy husband makes a happy wife. So, if he was willing to hand over the keys and ride shotgun, I needed to be willing to take the wheel.

We arrived at the meeting point at the Newport News Golf Course and gathered in the parking lot for the general directions. When it came time for questions and answers, I asked what I thought was a fair question. “How do we go about making sure the end goal of the road rally is wedded bliss?”. The clever answer from Rob Callaway was, “Ride with someone else!”. Although that was a great answer, my husband’s love language is “time spent together.” So, what choice does a woman have? I took the keys, and he climbed in beside me.

We reviewed the general instructions. As a rookie, I was already overwhelmed. Included were a series of definitions that looked as though they were made up by a group of military analysts who tried to see how many letters they could stuff into an acronym, or how technical they could make an instruction sound. For instance: MBCSAP meant “May Be Considered Straight As Possible”; NSI meant “Numbered Sequential Instructions”. And there was more. As we read the definitions, I learned there was a difference between “jog” and “bear,” which should never be confused with “look for a jogging bear.” Thankfully, that wasn’t on the list of objects to find.

Already feeling thankful that I wasn’t the navigator discerning these instructions, our time slot arrived and we received our route instructions. We reviewed them briefly and headed down the road. It didn’t take long before the left brain in the passenger seat got cross-wired with the right brain in the driver’s seat, and the volume of voices raised just a tiny bit. Undaunted, I explained that since at least 70% of communication is tone of voice, we might need to be mindful of that if we were to enjoy our day together. Both agreed and after that discussion things rolled along smoothly for a while. That was until we passed a few churches.

On a road rally it’s incredibly important to make sure you understand what the instructions say and what they mean because preserving wedded bliss is the real goal. So, when the directions define a church as, “a structure directly to either side of the rally road so identified by a sign with the word church in the name” it’s important that both of you agree. If not, the first time you come upon a tabernacle, a temple, or a worship center, there is the opportunity for discord to develop. I am visually driven so if I see a building that has a cross on the top of a steeple, I tend to think that’s a church. But, my sweetheart pointed out that “church” was not in the name. Well, I hadn’t thought of that. So, how did we decide? Thankfully, Mark, a former nuclear power plant operator, follows the principle - when in doubt, follow the instructions. He appeased me by making hash marks in a separate place on the paper for all the other buildings that looked like churches, but when he filled out the score sheet he decided to leave them off, which we later learned was a good thing. As it turns out following the instructions to the letter was pretty important.
We meandered down the road and he gave me a series of instructions, which I promptly mixed up and made him repeat… several times. After multiple iterations of this, he eventually learned that I did better with short bits of information at a time. And after a while we fell into a routine of communication that seemed to work for us. When we passed “Witts End Lane” I had to smile. I was hoping that we didn’t end up there before the day was over.

There were beautiful country roads to explore, and some of them were explored more than once. At one point we were to turn right, pull over, pause for 15 seconds, then continue the route and look for our next turn. Except the next turn was only about 20 yards away and we didn’t see it. I had pulled to the side of the road to pause obediently and became flustered when another driver (who didn’t see my imaginary blue placard hanging from the mirror) shot around us. I pulled back onto the road at the prescribed time and promptly drove past the turning point, joining the parade of other drivers who had missed their turn as well. Eventually it became obvious that we missed something and made a U-turn, which wasn’t a problem because I know how to do those! I’m the Mario Andretti of U-turns. It’s okay. I’ve made friends with the dysfunctional part of my directional programming and have learned to embrace the adventure.

We motored on, checked off the list of instructions and noted as many of the required elements as we could. Mark kept meticulous records of our times and helped me make small adjustments in speed to make up for our delay. He was a wonderful navigator. We did fairly well until I pushed the wrong lever and accidentally zeroed our mileage (I really need to drive the car more often). Ever patient with me, he looked at the data taken just a few minutes before and recalculated. The only glitch we had in the “tone of voice” parameter was when I moved into a turn lane when he told me to “look” for a road on the left, which I mistakenly interpreted as “turn left.” After nearly 35 years of marriage we’ve learned a thing or two about communicating. Mostly what we’ve learned is that you never stop learning, which is a good thing.

As our journey neared the end, the air seemed to soften with the fragrance of pine and honeysuckle drifting on the breeze. Although we couldn’t see it, there was a sense that the river was near, confirmed by the narrowing roads and the crunch of shells under our tires. As we turned onto Oyster House Lane, leading to the beautiful home of Gary and Robin Tyer, any remaining anxiety about the rally slipped away. Soon our group was relaxing on the beautiful lawn overlooking the river, with refreshing beverages in our hands. We traded the day’s stories with old friends and gathered new friends like pearls, while our gracious hosts opened wide the door of hospitality. We dined on fine fare and enjoyed the delights of their beautiful home, making me thankful once again that we had joined First Settlers Region Porsche Club. There are experiences we never would have had if we hadn’t purchased the car and participated in club events. This one was truly memorable.

As the afternoon drew to a close, the award ceremony began and when all was said and done, Mark and I were the shocked and happy recipients of the Best Rookie Award. We were more than pleased, and will surely be tempted to try another TSD rally. The folks who developed and tested the route are the true champions. They gave the club a great opportunity to practice new skills, or hone seasoned ones, through a beautiful part of the Commonwealth. But more than that, they gave us the gift of polishing our communication skills and an opportunity to learn a little bit more about wedded bliss. Who would have imagined so much could be gleaned from a TSD Rally and Porsche Club gathering. Why don’t you join us next time? You never know what treasures you’ll find.

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