Rally Your Heart
“For the grassroots” has been the expression we keep in mind when producing content for FeaturedGarage. Today the phrase “for the veterans” is more applicable. In an effort to bring together automotive enthusiasts to assist in gathering charitable contributions for K9s for Warriors and to raise awareness for this organization, Rally Your Heart periodically hosts road rallies to spread the message and make a difference while also providing a memorable experience for the ralliers.
It’s 8:00 am in Daphne, AL and the ralliers have gathered at the first location where a driver’s meeting took place and the coordinates for day one’s checkpoints were handed out. The air is calm and welcoming as strangers meet and conduct last minute preparations, and of course ogle each others rides.
Sporting the Rally Your Heart decals, ralliers were immediately visible while out in the urban jungle and navigating country roads. Curious bystanders were usually asking questions at pit stops which provided an opportune moment to discuss the purpose of the rally and the organization it supports. I guess you could call it spreading the good word through the joy of driving.
The locations chosen for this rally were each special in their own way. Whether they carried historical significance or simply induced tranquility, discovering each location left me with a sense of awe. Just stepping onto the pier at the starting point was enough to calm the senses; but this tranquility didn’t last long. The driver’s meeting was short and sweet. Immediately following the meeting, every driver bum rushed the end of this pier to receive their coordinates, take the required selfie (for each location), and sprinted to their car.
One or two ralliers just managed to sneak through this light before it turned red while the the majority of us got bunched up. With engines revving and shift knobs clicking into first gear, you could feel the collective adrenaline rush of the ralliers ready for lift off — of their clutches. The light turning green was likened to a cannon firing.
Exhausts are screaming and blow-off valves are sneezing as the ralliers hightail it to the first checkpoint. Although I wasn’t entirely awake when I arrived to the start location, I was by this point as the aural stimulation and universal excitement left me no choice but to be awake and engaged despite the three hours of sleep my driver and I got prior to the rally. The coffee and Red Bull didn’t do us justice, but this did.
We were given a website with pictures that we would use as clues to find our targets at each location. Once we found the targets, we would take a selfie with the target and post it to the Facebook group page as proof that we accomplished that objective. The first checkpoint was reached in a blind rush as everyone felt the spirit of racing when all packed together on the street, livery-ed out, and with a bit of competition in the air. But by the time everyone had completed their objectives at checkpoint one and reached checkpoint two, you could immediately sense the shift from this being a throwback to old school Gumball 3000 rallies to a rally with a different mindset.
Monroeville, AL. The literary capital of Alabama had set the tone for the rally as each location had been deliberately chosen for it’s historical significance which helped add to the overall experience. Shown in the background is the courthouse that inspired Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. At this checkpoint blood pressures began to drop as teams began to absorb their surroundings a bit more.
Each checkpoint thereafter became a cruise rather than a race, and for day one of the rally where most of the driving was on relatively neutral roads as far as elevation changes and turns go, this was okay.
Now while this checkpoint might not exactly be historical, it is captivating none the less. Captivating… no that’s not the word. Creepy. In the middle of a desolate field was a collection of… art. I feel like this might be where nightmares are made and I don’t think I want to stick around at night to experience a Five Night’s at Freddy’s scenario. There’s just something about Big Bird that is unsettling.
The view from the overlook of the Vulcan statue brought a nice close to the day and was a good primer for the sights to be seen on day two. From this point we navigated our way to the hotel to unwind for a bit. Of course that wasn’t entirely the end of day one.
As an art project designed by artist Bill Fitzgibbons, downtown Birmingham received “LightRails” in this overpass in an effort to bring a splash of color to the city center. This became the center piece for a photo shoot done by Deep South Focus where ralliers would come through and have a picture taken of their car. This was certainly a neat spectacle to end the night with. Of course after a full day of driving followed by a photo shoot, a few beers were in order.
After being woken up by the boxer rumble of a Subaru idling on a cold Birmingham morning, we had breakfast and received coordinates and instructions for day two. Day two was far more involving as there were various side challenges to meet while trekking through Alabama between the checkpoints. But before we dove into the events of day two, we took a tour of Barber Motorsports Park.
Upon entering the park, we were greeted with pure aural pleasure courtesy of a group that had rented out the track for a test and tune session. We haven’t done anything on FeaturedGarage with two wheels yet, but there’s no reason we won’t.
I’ve been to Barber before but I’ve never been inside the museum until now. Since I set foot in there I still haven’t really come up with a way to accurately convey the sense of awe that museum creates. I mean it’s one thing to see the fathers and grandfathers of racing vintage in pictures, but until you actually see the pieces on display in person, it won’t quite mean as much.
As if the history on display isn’t enough, these pieces are not merely representations of racing epochs. No, this museum is fully functional. With five technicians on staff, every piece on display in the museum can be operational in one hour with fluids and a quick once over.
As a testament to this statement, a piece of history was brought to life. When the engine barked to life, every person in the building immediately gravitated toward the sound. With artistic blips of the throttle, an audio track of the ages was echoed throughout the museum. The sound danced off the walls and the other displays as if excited to be alive again. The way he turned the throttle with staccato paid tribute to that of an experienced technician giving a thoroughbred racing machine an Italian tune up. Bwahm–bwahm-BWAAAHM!…… Immediately at the end of the crescendo of the final blip the ignition was killed, leaving the peak of a racing history reverberating off the walls. Silence. Everyone in the museum roared in applause. The tone was set and the smell of spent fuel lingered in the museum. A welcomed scent.
The next checkpoint required that we go on a drive to the top of a mountain; Cheaha State Park. I’m sure you could imagine how much fun that ended up being with a slew of tight turns and steep inclines. Right before the summit, we were greeted by Deep South Focus where they ushered people onto an overlook for photos. I’m still curious to see how those turned out.
When we reached the summit, one of our objectives lead us to this. I honestly can’t think of anything more tranquil than the sound of, well, nothing. At this height the only sound you will hear is the sound of the trees rustling against one another. It’s an environment that will guide you into introspection. Again, this is something a photo just can’t do justice. Go. Experience something like this.
A road rally is not for the weak. In fact, as the rally went on we had to find a bit of inner strength to press on. Breaks became a bit longer and a bit more frequent. Being on the road for hundreds of miles at a time not only allows for you to bond with the people in a car, but it also makes you hate being in that car. Its a sort of bitter sweet experience that is only bitter on the home stretch but sweet throughout. Pulling off a road rally requires a great deal of intestinal fortitude and as first time ralliers we discovered this.
If a road rally like this is something you’ve never done before, then I highly encourage you to try it. The great thing about this particular rally was that it wasn’t entirely self absorbed and focused on winning, but rather the focus was on promoting K9s for Warriors. At each pit stop the ralliers became sort of ambassadors for the K9s for Warriors organization, explaining why we’re here and what we’re supporting. The concept of taking a weekend cruise through a beautiful part of the country while working with a group of people to provide contributions and raise awareness for a charitable cause made for a memorable experience to say the least. If this is something you too would be interested in doing, then check out rallyyourheat.com which at the time of writing this article has another rally scheduled for a few months from now and looks like it will be very interesting.
This rally was bigger than this article even covers so again, I encourage you to go create your own memories and participate in a rally. If nothing else happens, you might just meet an oversized leprechaun wearing booty shorts that define the line of indecent exposure. That actually happened.