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July 2, 2017

#GilmoreGreatRace: Stage Seven & Eight, Through the Mitten

We’re in the final days of the 2017 Great Race and it feels so good to be in Michigan! We left off approximately 48 hours ago, so there is lots to catch up on, the first being our take-off from Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor. We picked up our instructions and Madison got right to working the charts. A lot of you have asked what our navigators are working with when it comes to instructions and I can honestly tell you…not much! Here are just 2 / 27 pages from our Stage Seven run on Friday. Yikes, right! Our student navigators are working hard every day working through their instructions, perform timing calculations, and mark important emergency instructions or notes. And as if that wasn’t hard enough, instruction packets are only given 30 minutes before each vehicle’s official start time every day. They deserve a big round of applause! As the clock ran down and it was time to get on the road, we piloted the Packard out onto US-23 and were met with heavy traffic in the heart of rush hour. We peeled off the highway and went through some difficult check point runs – some taking us in loops and to the same checkpoint twice! There was a total of nine checkpoints throughout the day, making it a very difficult run that kept us on our toes. In addition to contending with the difficult course, we were still having trouble with the Packard. The car was running hot and the timing seemed off, at high speeds (55mph) we were chugging down the road. Thank goodness for our friend we made in Indianapolis, it was “Magic Dave” to the rescue when we rolled into the Stahl’s Automotive Foundation for our 50-minute pit stop for lunch. After a delicious lunch and a quick peek at the Stahl’s collection (VERY impressive!) we jumped back out to the car for a couple of quick fixes, including re-timing the car in hopes it would run a bit better. Unfortunately, the over-heating issue was not getting any better and the car was boiling over a lot of fluid at every pit stop, which required a lot of refilling along the way. We chugged through the country side an onto Frankenmuth – with a few more looped routes I might add – and boy, we were glad to see that arch at the finish line! It had been a long day, and with the Packard misbehaving we knew we had some work ahead of us. After a team meeting Friday night, we decided that we would all take time to rest that evening and wake up early with our game plan in mind. We had drawn #67 earlier that day, meaning we would be the 67th car to leave the start line Saturday morning at 8:37am. With our overheating problems, the team worked out that the radiator needed a flush, a thermostat needed to be installed, and they identified a problem with one of our cooling fans, which also needed to be fixed. Everyone jumped on it first thing in the morning, we flushed the radiator and some of our suspicions were correct – lots of gunk, discoloration, and even a few flies to boot! We ran the cleaner through, drained it again, and filled it up with fresh fluid. Special thanks to the maintenance crew at the Bavarian Inn Lodge for letting us fill up jugs of water and to Reinert and Bender Auto Shop for properly disposing of our old fluids! The Packard was clean and Jakob and Bob were ready to go with only minutes to spare. It was on to the UP for the team, with a call into a Sault Ste. Marie NAPA shop and a thermostat on hold for when we arrived that afternoon as we were unable to find one available near Frankenmuth. As they navigated their way up north with a lunch stop in Alpena, the support crew headed out on the express way along with every other Michigander heading up north for the holiday weekend. The crew finally made it to Mackinaw City where we stopped for a quick bit for lunch on the water at the Dixie Saloon – appropriate for our Dixie Highway themed race. The restaurant is known for not only good food, but for letting guests sign the wall. We couldn’t pass up leaving our mark above the doorway! After lunch, the crew headed across the Mighty Mac – reduced speeds due to high winds along the way, in addition to the holiday traffic. But, it gave us extra time to enjoy the scenery, including a 1,000ft freighter passing under the bridge. Fun Fact: The first privately owned vehicle to cross the Mackinac Bridge when it opened on November 1, 1957 was a 1951 Chevrolet Styleline Deluxe owned by Albert Carter. Click here to check out an article published in 2007 about the car. The team arrived in Sault Ste. Marie to MUCH cooler temps than what we were experiencing exactly one week ago in Tifton, GA (mid-60s vs. mid-90s) and stopped in a NAPA to pick up our part and it was out to the finish line downtown to wait for the Packard to arrive. Jakob and Bob zoomed across the finish line with great times for today. We learned from them that due to the high volumes of traffic on the bridge, the final checkpoint of the day’s race had been thrown out for the entire competition. North for the 4th in Michigan, what can you do! Tonight, the team is prepping for the ninth and final stage of the 2017 Great Race – tomorrow the cars will begin arriving at the finish line on Front Street in Traverse City at 1pm. We estimate that the Packard, navigated by Jacob Onderlinde and driven by Mike Onderlinde, will be arriving between 2:30-3:00pm. From there, the team will get to enjoy a bit of the Cherry Festival while waiting for our final results! See you in TC! #GilmoreGreatRace For today's race results, visit