#RoadTrip2RallySchool Part 2 – The Road Trip

Uncategorized | August 18, 2019

Luckily, I already had a map with pins for areas of interest going, so all I had to do was figure out how I was going to string them together into one epic road trip. I decided to spend most of my time in Washington and British Columbia, as those were the areas furthest from home. California is relatively close to Flagstaff, so I wanted to spend more time exploring the areas that are harder (further away) for me to get to. The road trip spanned 13 days in which I covered over 4000 miles in my WRX. I was on the road from July 9th through the 21st.

If you missed Part 1 about The Build, click here.


Day 1 Flagstaff AZ –> Mammoth Lakes California

This was the second-longest day of the trip as far as miles covered. I pretty much spent the entire day in the car driving from Flagstaff up to Mammoth Lakes, California. One aspect that was particularly rough was the temperature. Through the southern part of California, it was well above 100°F the ENTIRE time. With the heat and all of the equipment strapped to the roof, the WRX was not super happy. The intercooler wasn’t able to keep up, and as a result of that, the intake temps got rather hot resulting in some pretty poor gas mileage. Even though I wanted to get there fast, I decided it was probably best to back off a little and take it slower to save a bit of fuel. Once I began making my way into the mountains, the temperatures dropped and my gas mileage improved (also the scenery improved a ton from the vast nothingness of the California desert).

Day 2 Mountain Biking in Mammoth Lakes

I had heard that Mammoth had some pretty good mountain biking, so I thought it would be cool to spend a day there shredding the trails. What I didn’t know was that all the snow hadn’t melted yet, which meant that most (basically almost all) biking trails up on the mountain were closed. I was confused when I pulled into the parking lot in the morning and saw tons of cars with skis and snowboards on their roofs. I quickly figured out why: Mammoth had more ski runs open than mountain biking trails at the time. The couple of trails that I did wind up riding were alright, but weren’t anything spectacular. Definitely not what I was expecting. I do want to go back at some point and ride all of the other trails because there were some really bomber looking ones that I wanted to ride!


Day 3 Mammoth Lakes, CA –> Happy Camp, CA

I wasn’t expecting this day to be as good as it was, but it was pretty freaking good! The first portion of the day wasn’t especially noteworthy; it was mostly a grind to get miles done. The part of the day that I enjoyed most was the second half of the day. That part took me down California 96 to Happy Camp. This was one of the best driving roads I have been on in a long time. It’s a lovely strip of asphalt strung along the banks of the Klamath River that winds through the mountains. There was hardly any traffic, and it was a blast to drive even with the WRX carrying all my gear and not being built for canyon carving anymore. It was a very good 2nd, 3rd, and sometimes even 4th gear road.


Happy Camp was a really cool place. The only reason I stopped there was that it was a good halfway point between Mammoth Lakes and Tillamook. However, I’m so glad I decided to stop there, it’s a such a serene little hidden gem. While I was there, I went to the farmers market and got some delicious baked goods and just walked around the town.


Day 4 Happy Camp CA –> Tillamook, OR

Before I departed Happy Camp, I decided to go out for a swim in the river which, in the morning was pretty “refreshing,” but it felt very nice after so many hours in the car (the WRX seats aren’t the best in the world for long road trips like this). I also found some wild blackberry bushes and picked some berries before I left.

The first bit of driving that morning took me up and over the mountains on another incredible road. This road had some of the best views of the trip and was again, a road less traveled. I think that during the entire drive on Greyback Road, I maybe saw two other motorists.


From there it was out to the Oregon Coast. Predictably, it was overcast and foggy, but still very pretty. I really enjoyed the drive north along the Oregon coast to Tillamook. The smell and sounds of the ocean were great, plus there are some super neat beach towns along the way. I wish I could have spent more time exploring and enjoying the ocean.


Day 5 Tillamook, OR –> Snoqualmie, WA

The following morning, the drive took me inland from Tillamook along Wilson River Highway up to Portland. This was another road with some fantastic views, especially in the early morning fog! The main event for this day was the annual DirtFish SummerFest. The timing for this just happened to work out perfectly because I was able to make it to the event prior to my class the following day. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was one of the coolest car events that I have attended! It was amazing being able to meet and talk to so many other car enthusiasts. I truly enjoyed all of the conversations that I had with everyone and being able to tell them about my WRX on display with all of the other DirtFish cars. My car was in some pretty impressive company: Ariel Nomad, McLaren 720S, Audi Sport Quattro, Lancia 037, MKI Escort, and so many more. There were also some really cool cars that people brought in to take part in the car show! It was such a great afternoon!


Following SummerFest, I decided to check out Snoqualmie Falls since it was right around the corner from DirtFish. The waterfall is beautiful, and the hike down to the bottom is simply gorgeous. I enjoyed learning all about the hydroelectric plant built there and the history of the surrounding the area.


Day 6 DirtFish Rally School

This was the day I was looking forward to most and the one that ultimately kicked-off this entire trip – DirtFish Rally School Day! Since I own an AWD turbocharged Subaru, I figured it would be best to do the One Day AWD Program. The day of driving started off in the classroom where DirtFish Instructor, Andrew Caddell went over the basics of what we were going to learn that morning – the main focus was how to use left-foot braking and weight transfer techniques to tell the car to go where you want it to. After the quick classroom session, we went down to the course to meet our instructors and see the cars we would be driving. I was in car number 18 (Patrick Sandell’s number), which was a 2015 WRX STI, and my instructor for the day was Mitch Williams.


The first lesson was on The Skid Pad (a big gravel circle) where we would learn how to use the weight transfer of the car to make it turn. The main technique we were learning/applying here was the concept of “lift, turn, wait,” and “lift, turn, brake.” To get started, we went out on a demo lap with our instructors driving so we could see what we were supposed to do and get a feel for what it would feel like. After that, it was our turn to get behind the wheel. I was super excited to get started, but I also remember being super nervous at first. Luckily, that quickly subsided after the first couple of laps around The Skid Pad. The first time I tried getting the car to turn I was thinking, there is no way that this is going to work, the car is just going to understeer straight off The Skid Pad, but to my amazement once you lift off the gas, turn, and wait, the weight transfer really makes the car turn. After that first one, I slowly became more comfortable doing that and getting a feel for how that car handles in the dirt.

Following The Skid Pad, we moved on to The Slalom. I learned that how you navigate through it on dirt, is a little different from how you would do it in an autocross. On pavement, when you go through a slalom, you make an S-shape, but on the dirt in a rally car, it’s more of a zig-zag shape. You’re trying to turn the distance between the cones into as long of a straightaway as you can, so you blast down a straight, turn, blast down another straight, turn, and repeat. On a dirt surface, this is the fastest way through the cones. At first, I kind of struggled to get the timing just right, but after a couple of runs, and with the coaching of Mitch, I started to get a feel for it.


After The Slalom, we made our way to the next course- The Boneyard. This was a super fun course with a decent variation in types of turns – decreasing radius, late apex, long, short you name it! I really enjoyed driving this course and learned a lot through it. Mitch was an excellent teacher and did a really good job coaching me. Getting the braking just right was the biggest struggle for me. I would either brake too late and not hard enough forcing me to understeer wide, or too early and cause me to take a really slow line through the corner and sacrifice my setup for the next corner.

After lunch, we had another quick classroom session with Andrew to go over trail braking as well as tackling The Link- a course that combines the Slalom and Boneyard into one. The afternoon session was by far the best! The Link was probably my favorite course, and I had such a blast driving on it. There were a couple of corners that you could really link the turns together (use the momentum from one turn to help the car rotate through the next). There was no better feeling than getting it just right. I wish I could have done another two or three laps because I had so much fun doing it and I wanted to keep improving. With a bit more time, I could really get the hang of it.

While I was out rallying (or at least learning how to), the DirtFish mechanics were busy changing the oil in the WRX, which was super awesome. By the time I had arrived in Washington, she was due for an oil change, so getting this done was a huge help to me in my journey. DirtFish kept my car happily running for the rest of the road trip!


Overall, I had the time of my life during the class at DirtFish! I learned so much, and all of the instructors and staff were amazing! It was one for the coolest days ever! One thing that’s for sure is that I will be heading back to DirtFish for one of their multi-day course in the near future.

Because rally school wasn’t enough for one day, after my class was over, I decided to hit up some of the local biking trails based on the recommendation of Mitch. Oh man, they did not disappoint! I rode some trails on the Tiger Mountain Trail system, and it was one of the best rides I have ever done! The flow of the trails in the Pacific Northwest is unreal. It’s such a fantastic area! Once again, I wish I could have spent more time there shredding the trails because they were absolutely epic!


Road Trip Part 2

Stay tuned for part 3 of the #Roadrip2RallySchool adventure as Anthony makes his way through more of the PNW, Canada and finally back home to Arizona!


Guest Blog by Anthony McClinton, @crosstrekwrx