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A woman's perspective of living with and loving a Mercedes-Benz Maniac

Authored by our own Bonnie Fancy.

Reprinted with permission from The Star Magazine. November/December 2007 Issue

The rally, sometimes for inexplicable reasons, spelled rallye, is an excuse for the Mercedes Maniac to take his object of worship (his Mercedes, not his wife) for a ride in the country. Of course there has to be a trophy in there somewhere to make the whole thing worth it. Should you decide to go along for the ride, be prepared for the ride of your life.

There are two kinds of rallies. Both require a driver and a navigator in order to follow printed instructions from the start to the finish which is usually a restaurant. Both are drawn up by a person called a “Rally Master”. The important thing to remember is that the Rally Master is always right.

The Time Distance Rally is based on following the course as accurately as possible. The Rally Master has determined how much time it should take to drive the course. He also knows how many miles the course is. The team who comes closest to the Rally Master's time and distance wins. If your car's odometer is metric, you may have a problem if you can't do the conversion.

On the Quiz Rally you must answer questions about the scenery. One question might be;”how many cupolas are on Hawkins barn?” There used to be a lot of questions concerning phone numbers and zip codes. “What business has the phone number (508)555-1234?” However, with the advent of cell phones it is too easy for people to call the number and never actually see the business. Zip codes can be checked by phone, too. Hopefully the Rally Master will let you know in advance if the questions are in order. Sometimes they aren't. Rally Masters are a devious lot.

Rallies aren't easy to set up. Even in the best laid out rally there are bound to be some glitches. I say that having been co-rally master with Ernie several times. On one rally in western Massachusetts we had the question “How many red wagons are in Caldwell 's window?” When we had written the question there were six. On the day of the rally there were three.

Ernie and I set up a rally in Vermont and put a large loop in it. We wrote the directions so that half the cars went around the loop clockwise and the other half went counterclockwise. All the questions could be answered from either direction. Several people came back scratching their heads trying to figure out why they kept seeing Mercedes Benz coming toward them. Could they be wrong? How could they be if they got all the questions? Still, everyone else seemed to be going in the opposite direction.

When we first started setting up rallies we brought the boys with us. They were very good at finding things to ask about. A particularly neat trick was to put two questions across the street from one another. A few years ago Mark, now a grown man, ran a rally for the Minuteman Section. This will be a piece of cake we told each other. After all, we had taught him everything he knows about rallies. It didn't help; we blew it big time.

One rally master set up a rally in which participants were asked to bring back a change of address form from a post office. Since no one knew how many post offices we would pass everyone stopped at the first one. By the time all twenty cars had stopped, the Princeton, Massachusetts post office was out of change of address forms, and the post master was ready to go postal.

One instruction during a Farberallye in Central Massachusetts was “Turn right on Mountain Road .” No one could find Mountain Road. It seems that the rally was held on homecoming week and the road sign had been stolen.

On any rally we participate in, I prefer to be the navigator and read the instructions while Ernie drives. This is an exercise in frustration for him. After all, this is the man who argues with Griselda P. Snodgrass, our GPS system. On a rally, it goes something like this. I read an instruction. “Turn left at Briar.” Ernie's response is “What does that mean? Is Briar a street?” I reply; “I don't know. I can only read what is there.” Sooner or later we come across a sign that says “Briar” only it's not a street; it's a housing for the elderly complex, but there is a left turn there, so we take it and stay on course.

Do not expect other rallyists to help you with the questions. They want to win as much as you do. At one rally we stopped at a light house to see if the answer to a question was there. We met another rallyist coming back; he assured us there was nothing out there, we were wasting our time. We believed him and missed a question. He claims he missed the question, too.

One rally in Essex, Massachusetts ran past a school, looped through the town and went back by the school. The day of the rally, the school held its annual exhibition and the traffic tie up was phenomenal.

It doesn't really help if the rally is in your own back yard either. We were on a rally through some neighboring towns and read ahead. We “knew” where we were going, but we still lost the rally because we didn't read the fine print and missed a couple of turns.

We have rallied when the weather has been less than perfect. One in coastal Maine was noteworthy because the morning of the rally a thick fog rolled in leaving many questions unanswerable. The thing to remember when these things happen is that all participants have the same disadvantage.

Rallies can be frustrating, and many Rally Masters will issue the disclaimer. “Not responsible for any divorces that may be incurred as the result of this rally.” The important thing to remember is that rallies are meant to be fun. After all, what other socially acceptable way is there to tell your spouse where to go?