this week's

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Car photos from earlier rallies furnished by Stan Showers
Medallions given to rally participants.


A certain madness began in Saugatuck and Douglas in 1968. It had to do with roads, cars, wrong turns, and missed clues. No, it wasn’t road rage but the start of “October Madness” road rallies. The entrepreneur and original Road Rally Master was P.G. Walter. The diabolically designed rally was created to test road rallyers local knowledge, patience, observation skills, and finally basic math. Rally entrants met at the American Legion Hall (and other locales in different years) to receive written and oral instructions from the Rally Master. Newbies were cautioned to listen carefully and get pencil and paper from the next door drugstore if needed.

A rally consisted of following specific driving instructions, recognizing and noting several clues along the route, and recording the closest possible mileage for the actual mileage of the rally. Sound easy? Not if you made a wrong turn and had to double back to get on course and deduct the incorrect mileage from your total.

The instructions for the 1988 “October Madness” covered four typewritten pages and was broken down into three categories: route instructions, gimmicks, and ghosts. The route instructions designated which road surfaces (gravel or blacktop) were in play and where you could or couldn’t turn.

“Gimmicks” were things you should look for as you drove. There were clues for 21 gimmicks in the 1988 rally. No. 15 was “How many points on the rigid buck?” with a warning: (watch out for the dog). “Ghosts” were a series of orange dots painted on posts or other objects along the rally route. Contestants had to note the number and correct location of each dot—usually ten in number.

Our family participated in several of the annual events. I was normally the driver of our car listening diligently to the instructions of the navigator, my wife Marty, who had the most important role on the team. The navigator informed us when to stop, which way to turn, and what clues we were looking for and if we had missed any.

After running the rally to the best of one’s ability, rally contestants returned to the headquarters as quickly as possible to turn in their sheets. The Rally Master tallied the sheets—usually an hour’s wait—while contestants waited for results. The final rankings were decided by the combined total of time, mileage accuracy, correct number of gimmicks and ghosts submitted.

“October Madness” was an enjoyable fall event. It provided a challenge, frustration, fall scenery, and camaraderie. The last rally took place in 1998. But someone could pick up the flag and run with it. You too could become the Rally Master.              by Rob Carey

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