YAKIMA – Four cars in the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge road rally carried at least one Yakima Valley resident; only one of them made it the whole 8,923 miles.
That car, a 1939 Dodge Business Coupe, was driven by Bill Shields with Danny Day navigating.
Together they endured an arduous 37-day trip over rough terrain – not just the mountains and desert, but uncertain sociopolitical situations as well – that included arguments, equipment breakdowns and, ultimately, redemption in the form of a finish line.
“We pulled in and Bill and I looked at each other and shook hands and said, ‘Nice trip,’ ” Day said last week, recalling the trip that lasted from Sept. 10 until Oct. 16.
The two buddies, who have ridden motorcycles together for 20 years, never have been the type for commercial cruise vacations or lying on a beach somewhere.
So when Day, owner of Sunfair Marketing, and Shields, the semi-retired owner of Shields Bag and Printing, heard about the rally, they figured they could use the trip as a fundraiser for the Pegasus Project, a local charity that provides therapeutic equestrian activities to people with special needs.
“Danny heard about (the rally) somewhere,” Shields recalled. “And he happened to mention it to me. I said, ‘I’m in.’ And a couple of days later I bought a car.”
Three cars, actually, all 1939 Dodges. Shields needed all three so he could pick and choose the best parts to essentially rebuild a new-seeming single car. Aside from a few necessary fixes along the way, the most serious of which were a blown head gasket and a busted steering arm, the car held up remarkably.
The other Yakima Valley entrants were not so fortunate. Rand Elliot and Leslie Roy had so much trouble with their 1935 Ford that they ended up ditching it in Mongolia.
Doug MacKinnon and his fiancée, Anastasia Karavaeva, finished the rally in their 1939 Chevrolet Speedster but skipped large chunks of it while dealing with car trouble. Jim Kabrich, of Yakima, and his partner, Vilnis Husko, of Latvia, sold their 1939 Dodge Deluxe in Mongolia and left the race.
Day and Shields were not only fortunate; they were dedicated to finishing. They slept in tents in wintry Russia, drove through motorcyclists surrounding their car in Iran and repaired a blown head gasket in Uzbekistan.
“It was one of those days where everything was going perfect,” Day said. “We were going down a paved road, just outside a village, and – boom – it just died.”
The rally organizers pulled them by truck to the Turkmenistan border, some 50 miles away, and with the help of rally mechanics, Day and Shields fixed the car while waiting in line to cross. Then they just kept going.
The whole point, Day said, was to make it to the finish.
“It wasn’t going to be a Carnival Cruise,” he said. “You had to endure. You didn’t want to get left behind.”
Endure they did, raising about $62,000 in donations for the Pegasus Project along the way. There were times when they could have stopped or could have skipped the more rigorous mountain time trials. But that’s not how Day and Shields operate.
“We didn’t come here for a haircut,” Day remembered saying. “We came here to do a rally.”