The most outstanding fact about the Day 14 drive is that it included 1,800 turns. In fact, we went over one mountain range called the "Mountain of 1,000 Bends." It was cool in the morning requiring long sleeves, but quickly got warm with temperatures in the mid-90's F.
The Car and the Rally:
Two stages -- one Regularity and one Speed Stage. We were 3 seconds early on the Regularity and were quick through the Speed Stage. Notwithstanding, we dropped a spot to 10th place. As I've said earlier, everyone ahead of us has significantly larger engines and sometimes horsepower counts.
Several cars have retired, including a pre-war Rockne, which literally blew up its engine. The good news is that the Peugeot that went out a week ago is back. It's engine had seized up while in Malaysia, but they got the car transported to Kuala Lumpur . They had a replacement engine flown in from Greece (of all places) and they are ready to do the second half of the Rally. Several days ago the Austin Healey, driven by two very pleasant Scotsmen, broke its steering column. The car limped into Chiang Mai; one of the driver's wives brought a new steering column in her hand luggage and they are now back running.
The vegetation has changed dramatically as we have driven north. We drove through a Pine Forest, similar to a drive in the California mountains. Lots of row crops border the rally roads, and always rice paddies.....and we finally spotted an elephant, although I believe it was in a game reserve.
The facial features of the northern inhabitants are different. People look more Chinese with much lighter skins. Here in Chiang Mai there is a large Chinese community and the streets are decorated for Chinese (Lunar) New Year.
As we move north, there are more police/military checkpoints than we encountered in the southern part of the country. We see these checkpoints every 50 miles, or so; sometimes even more often. Typically, they usually wave-through the rally cars. In fact, they are looking for smugglers. There is a bit of traffic in illegal immigrants from Myanmar. They are also looking for contraband narcotics. Finally, they are looking for smuggled rubies. Next door, Myanmar, is one of the world's largest producers of rubies. While the ruby mines are owned or controlled by the government, workers who can steal/smuggle out a ruby and get it to the world market can make a year's salary....a serious incentive.
Day 15......Rest Day in Chiang Mai
After a bit of a sleep-in and breakfast, Brant went over the car, replacing brake pads and tightening a lot of loose bolts. Our rally car had a good bath (a good hand car wash costs about $3.25) and we filled her with fuel.
Finally, I went off to find a couple of very late Valentine gifts for my wife, Ilene and my daughter, Jennifer.
Tasks completed, it was time for a nap. We have booked dinner at what we are told is the best steak house in Chiang Mai (a change from the Asian food we have consumed these last two weeks)...we’ll see how it rates at dinner time.