Stage 12 - Tonopah, NV to Placerville, CA

Accommodations: Hilton Arden West, 2000 Harvard Street, Sacramento
Phone: 916-922-4700
Driver: Bob Mead
Navigator: Bob King
Weather: Sunny, clear, warm
Events of the Day:
Thursday, July 6 - 
Today was the day that we all had looked forward to, knowing that we would make the transition from the dry, stark desert to the remarkable mountain vistas crossing into California.  We weren't disappointed by the scenery.  We were to leave Tonopah, NV, following the route of the 1908 Great Race to the west. 

Bob poses with one of Placerville's "El Dorado Roses," Waldith Graham, who was selected for the honorary society in 2005.

As we approached the car this morning, we noticed that the left front tire was flat.  We scrambled for the jack, only to realize that the tire was so flat we couldn't get the jack under the A-frame to get the tire up to remove it!  A nice gentleman named Frank Braddock was standing nearby and offered to help with a jack from his truck.  Jerry got the spare put on in short order, we threw the tools back in the trunk, and we were on our way.

We drove up the street, where Bob King picked up our instructions at today's start point, and we headed out of town.

What a way to start the day!  Jerry changes our flat tire.

At the conclusion of our speedometer calibration run we determined that our speedometer was gaining about 4 seconds per hour.  We made the necessary adjustment.  We turned left on US 6 at Coaldale Junction to begin our first timed portion of the day.  It was mostly a period of high speed runs, 45 and 50 mph, over long curving ascents.  It ended at the agricultural inspection station just as we entered California.  We turned right on highway 120 and entered Benton, CA.  Benton, CA, is nestled in a lush green valley beneath snowcapped mountains.  It's a tiny town but the people were gracious hosts.  Bob King asked one of the local residents what Benton is best known for.  The fellow scratched his head and finally said, "It's real quiet here." 
We left Benton, heading west, for our second timed rally.  It was more of the same; long, curving climbs and descents through the foothills of the sierras.  Some times the curves demanded that we go as slow as 30 mph.

Bob King waits for our daily instructions.

We crossed Sage Hen Summit and descended to the intersection with US 395, where we had a refueling stop.  We were advised that the next refueling stop would be in 195 miles.  We entered the town of Bridgeport, CA (population 843), to continue our rally.  On the third instruction of this section, the navigator inadvertently told the driver to turn right instead of left.  He caught himself in time to be able to make a quick reversal but we lost a couple of seconds in the process.  In our effort to make a time correction, we missed a speed change instruction and ended up hacking off the car ahead of us.  We could only hope that we were close to the correct position.   We were on Highway 829 for most of this leg, heading toward Wellington, CA.  We passed over Jack Wright Pass and ended this timed portion at the intersection with US 395, not far from the town of Minden, NV, where we would have lunch.

The residents of Benton, California, came out to greet us.

The people of Minden had turned out in force.  Among the cars being displayed by the local car club was a 1948 Lincoln Continental convertible belonging to someone named Bill Goldman.  Bob Mead pointed out that if the owner wasn't already a member of the Lincoln Zephyr Owners Club that he would be sure to send him information.  The local Lions Club hosted our lunch of submarine sandwiches and outstanding homemade apple pie. 

We left Minden, getting on the clock at about 3:15 p.m.  Things then got exciting.  After perhaps about an hour, we were put on a 45 minute, 18 mile, transit.  During this transit we somehow missed a sign.  As a result, we missed

a turn.  To add insult to injury, the car ahead of us made the turn but we were sure that he was making a mistake (silly us!).  We made a half hour excursion before we realized that the car ahead was right after all.  Since we were running on fumes at this point we stopped for fuel and then headed back to the start point where we had missed the turn.  At our fueling stop a biker gang was debating just how long it would take us to reach our destination which was several miles and 4,000 feet from the gas station.  Bob Mead drove as quickly as he dared and we arrived at the final checkpoint only 13 minutes late.

The folks in Minden, Nevada, fed us lunch.

The Great Race staff was relieved to see us when we finally drove through the finish gate in Placerville, CA,

since they had totally lost track of us and feared we had fallen off the face of the earth.  The crowd that greeted us there, however, was phenomenal and immediately boosted our spirits.  It was a sea of people as far as we could see.  There were local residents dressed in period clothing from the Gold Rush days greeting the racers and mingling with the crowd.  A special honor was meeting and having a picture taken with the "El Dorado Rose.".  She told us that the older women in town were called Roses and the younger ladies were referred to as Rose Buds.

The crowd in Placerville was the best we've seen so far.

After dinner, we had dessert in the hotel restaurant.  It was a modest "fried banana" split made with Haagen-Daas ice cream.  Enough said.

Continue to Stage 13 - Placerville, CA to Vallejo, CA