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
“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
“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
Click on view all to see the Remembering When ...
Click here to return to the Pictorial History home page
Click here to return to the Saugatuck-Douglas
Historical Society home page