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Great Race – Day 8 (Championship Day 1): Vancouver, WA to Spanaway, WA

By Janet Hedke, who is representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with her husband Steve and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

The atmosphere was charged and solemn this morning as the navigators gathered round the table to pick up their route instructions. Usually there is lots of joking and camaraderie, but today everyone had their game faces on. This is the first of two days where there are no bad scores dropped. Everything counts. If you make a mistake or a truck stops in front of you or you have a mechanical issue, how well you deal with it will determine how successful your day is.

We heard the news this afternoon that last year’s Grand Champion, Jeff Fredette, one of the top teams and an exceptionally nice guy, is out of the race with either a broken axle or drive shaft. We hate for one of our “family” members to finish like that. But it’s been happening since Day 1 and part of the challenge is that this is an endurance race not only for the driver and navigator, but also for the car. We try to make sure that our car is properly prepared and maintained, but we’ve experienced being on the side of the road waiting for the sweep truck to pick us up and watching the race go by. It’s about the worst feeling you can have. We know Jeff will be back next year! We hear he and his navigator son Eric are driving the course in a rental car for the last day, just for fun. Kudos, Jeff, pick up an ACE or two!

Today’s route took us back to Oregon for a morning pit stop in the quaint town of Astoria, where I was delighted to see a dear sorority sister, Anne Teaford-Cantor and her husband Shel, who live there. Although we could only stop for ten minutes, it was a wonderful treat to see them. The route took us over the Columbia River on the Astoria-Megler Bridge. Then on the way in to lunch we had views of Mt. Saint Helens.

Longview hosted our lunch stop and treated us not only to a terrific lunch buffet in one of the restaurants, but their local car show stretched for blocks and blocks as we drove out of town. Wish we’d had more time to check them all out as they were exceptional cars.

We were focused on being precise, not missing instructions, signs or turns, and really thought we’d pulled a good day. There were a couple of minor corrections when we got behind slow traffic or had to wait for cross traffic at a turn, but thought we’d made the appropriate corrections. We even had a deer standing in the road in front of us today. For four out of the five legs, we had great scores, including another ACE. However, we had one mystery leg of 8s late, which didn’t help us move up today. We are currently in 10th overall, 4th in Expert, BUT positions 3 through 10 are all within 6 seconds. So there will be some reshuffling tomorrow. It will be exciting!

We had a special treat tonight as we finished at the LeMay Collections at Marymount, which is a large part of Harold LeMay’s personal collection. Then we took a bus to the private family collection, which is only open to the public one day a year. It was mind-boggling the number and variety of cars and other equipment (not to mention other collectibles including hundreds of dolls!) that were packed into various buildings all over the property. It reminded us of the Winchester Mystery House!

Tomorrow is another early 6:30 am start for Team LeMay – America’s Car Museum – but running up front also means we’ll be one of the first cars into the finish gate for all the festivities tomorrow afternoon. We are already in Tacoma, so the course tomorrow will be in the local area and we’ll be off the clock by 11:30 am. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. We expect tricky turns, mazes, and speed changes in quick succession. We’ll do our best!

Thanks to everyone who has been following our adventures and sending us words of encouragement. You are all so very appreciated!

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