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Leg Four - Friday, September 20, 2002; Gander / Leading Tickles / Clarenville

 

Where DOES Newfoundland get these place names? “Leading Tickles”?

The exquisite fishing village of Leading Tickles is where the Targa Newfoundland went Friday, and it was an amazing experience - never mind the driving.

Near as I can figure out, a “tickle” is the shallow water between an island and the mainland (a relative term...) whose depth varies with the tide. Maybe as the tide flows in and out, it “tickles” the shore?

There’s only one road in to Leading Tickles, so there’s only one road out. They shut it down for a couple of hours this morning so we could enjoy a 32 km blast along some long, straight stretches of not-too-bumpy pavement, and some serious dip-‘n’-dives too.

Then they shut it down again after lunch so we could get back home.

The 1964 Ford Falcon Rally Sprint - one of the cars Ford commissioned from NASCAR race car builders Holman and Moody to tackle the European rally scene in the mid-‘60s - was the first car to pass the 1971 Volvo 142S, owned and driven by Doug Mepham and navigated by your truly, on a high-speed stage in the Targa Newfoundland to date.

It would have been nice if owner/driver Chip Johns, a larger-than-life Texan who sometimes (not today...) wears a larger-than-Rhode-Island cowboy hat and driving shoes made to resemble cowboy boots, had arrived at our back door during the straight bits.

Sadly, the timing had him loom in our rear-view mirrors in the hilly-twisties.

Now, he not only had to deal with a very challenging corner at high speed, he also had to avoid punting us into November...

He got significantly sideways on the gravel shoulder, directly in front of us, and gathered it up, only to partially lose it again, and slew the other way. More gravel, more heroic and ultimately successful steering, and he was away.

Nice job, “C.J.”...

John Cassidy IV, the Maine man in the bog-stock Subaru Impreza four-wheel drive, had two major moments today, spinning twice, fortunately without damage to himself, his co-driver, his car, the civilians, the environment, or the local infrastructure.

There were a couple of mechanical issues today too. Most of us arrived at the Clarenville hockey rink where the cars slept the night away, only to find the supercharged Ford Mustang of Richard Squires and Albert Kenney blocking the only entrance to the building which the cars could go through. The left side of the car was jacked ‘way up, and the cylinder heads were on the ground. This looked terminal...

It transpired that the valve lifters were beginning to pound the stems of these valves into so many mushroom-shaped paper weights.

The local lads borrowed a pair of generally stock heads from a friend’s car, and they were back in the event by lunch Friday.

Jerry Churchill’s massive and massively budgeted Dodge Viper (“Voiper”, as they say here...) GT-S coupe drove in to the compound in Gander last night, but it wouldn’t start this morning. We began to wonder of some of Churchill’s crew might become permanent residents of Gander...

Further diagnosis indicated that the fuel pump was poo-poo. A replacement was fitted, and Jerry blasted off to try and catch up with us at Leading Tickles.

“Leading Tickles”!

Sorry...

Unfortunately, as the story was related to me, this was during the open-to-the-public time period, and the RCMP took a dim view of Jerry’s (very near “escape...”) velocity.

This wasn’t the only contribution the Detroit-area trucking company owner made to the local economy on Friday - Leading Tickles suffered a major disaster recently when the local Anglican Church, apparently one of the oldest wooden churches in the province, burned to the ground.

The Ticklites (well, what would YOU call them?) had organized a bunch of fund-raising activities, including raffling off a locally-hand-sewn quilt to Targa participants. Churchill bought a bunch of tickets and was lucky enough to walk away with a wonderful souvenir of his trip. Something a bit more meaningful than a slightly used fuel pump, that is.

Newfoundland premier Roger Grimes, whose riding encompasses Leading Tickles, was on hand to boost the fund by an additional $1,000.

This raffle was but one example of the spirit we saw in this isolated but stunningly beautiful community. The elementary school kids sang, “This Land is Your Land”. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd.

Three separate groups organized three separate lunch menus for us to choose from.

The residents were more than delighted to point out such local attractions as the bald eagle’s nest; the ocean vista lookout, accessible only by foot (I went up anyway); and the “Cell Phone Booth” - essentially just a sign saying indicating that this particular spot is the only location in the area with anything approaching reliable cell service.

It was our longest, busiest and most informative lunch stop on the course so far.

It is getting harder for all Newfoundlanders to stay at home - economics drives many away, although most claim to miss it terribly. Who would not, after experiencing it?

Smaller outlying communities struggle even harder, so the advent of the Targa, which brings not only immediate dollars but also the prospect of word-of-mouth advertising and subsequent trips, was even more warmly appreciated.

I mean, how would you like all access to your community to be shut down for about six hours on a work day just so a bunch of speed-crazed lunatics can drive fast on their roads?

I get cranky when a single motorcycle goes by MY place...

 

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We knew we wouldn’t win this rally outright, but we seem to be moving smartly in the wrong direction on the standings table.

We are now being listed in sixth place. We began the day in fifth, I think; one guy who started ahead of us missed three stages while he worked out an electrical problem; we “zeroed” every stage today (zero time penalties); we hit our “in” and “out” minutes precisely on transit stages - they were easy to calculate today. So how could anyone vault over top of us?

A “scoring inquiry” will be filed tomorrow...

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