Life in the Satch Lane


by Satch Carlson

What exactly are we all about, this new breed of electronic journalist? What's a "rally column" supposed to be, anyway? And what of the columnist?

It is now fairly well documented that the True Rally Geek is also a computer nerd, at least as long as we're talking about what most people in this country think of as "motor rally"; that is, a time-speed-distance event that gives you a chance to play with a car you enjoy, with a boon companion as your partner and with friendly comrades as the competition. (This is opposed to what some of us call REAL rally, which in the rest of the world is called WRC, the World Rally Championship, in which one drives a steroidal car down nasty roads so fast the gravel melts beneath the wheels. Our token contribution to this wonderful madness is the SCCA Pro Rally series.)

Anyway, since so many of the TSD rally geeks are computer nerds, it follows that they are also net nerds; so you would think the web waves would be filled with TSD stuff, but it is not always so. Those of us who enjoy any car-related adventure, and who spend our rally time in tamish TSD events, are nevertheless intrigued with a good ride sideways through the forest. Thus the predominant on-going forum for the discussion of Rallysport, the Rally List (or the digested version), will feature opinions about the preference for rounding or truncating calculated fractions of a minute, sure; but there will also appear, now and then, the latest results of a Real Rally somewhere else on the globe, like Portugal or some other exotic locale. And there are various sites where rally junkies can feed their cravings, from the arcane minutiae of the TSD world to the hig h-testosterone excess of the WRC.

Which brings up a point: We tend to think of rally drivin', REAL rally drivin', as the ne plus ultra of hairy-chested he-man sport, forgetting that this is one area where women have excelled; indeed, when Audi sent over Michelle Mouton to set an overall record on Pike's Peak, she is reported to have said, in one of the great rally quotes whether it's accurate or not: "Eef theeze guys 'ad any boules, we would turn around and race down zee hill!")

So the main purpose of this particular corner of the universe will not be hard news, the factual data of the sport. Nor will it be to list the umpteen zillion web sources and sites for rally fiends; the beauty of this age is that we need merely to point you to one site that lists links to other sites that list links. . . and so on. (You can start, if you like, with the rally section of my own corner of the swamp, but beware of distractions like the Dancing Baby or the link to the Circus of Fear.) [Editor's note: The Circus of Fear site is highly recommended to those who prefer their humor with a twist. It is not, however, an appropriate site for the easily offended.]

This column will not be a how-to manual for the beginning rallyist, though it may from time to time offer a tip or two; nor will it be a construction manual for putting together your rally car, though there may creep through, every now and then, a certain snippet of advice based on my own quarter-century of desultory service in the rally game. That same quarter-century has produced a wealth of stories, mine and others, that may finally appear in print: old stories, new medium. Cool. [Editor's note: how-to articles on rallying, both TSD and Stage, will likely appear from time to time in the Journal, independent of our regular column from Satch.]

Above all, it will reflect the notion that since my name is on the door (sometimes the driver's door, sometimes the navvie's), the thoughts and attitudes expressed are mine. I welcome debate, response, and rebuttal, but I have come to realize that though what I think and what I say are only my opinion, damned if they aren't reasonably valid now and then. And through sheer longevity, I find that I have somehow achieved a kind of Authoritative Geezerhood that makes people pay attention to what I say, or at least pretend to do so, before they wander away, shaking their heads sadly at my obvious dementia.

I offer this self-serving explanation of what we're doing in this modest space because one of the best of us all in the Writin' Bidness, Mike Royko, died this week. Too soon. I discovered Royko before I fell into rallying; later I found out the man who first paid me to string words together, Larry Fanning, was the man who started Royko off as well. It was while working for Fanning's newspaper that I started playing with cars, and writing about the play, and. . . well, you know where that leads.

Larry Fanning was big on finding writers who had strong opinions and turning 'em loose on an unsuspecting public. Royko's world and his focus were much broader than mine, but I hope to honor Royko and Co. by making no pretense toward objectivity, an elusive chimera despite the best of intentions. One prefers to err on the side of passionate intensity rather than conservative caution, prefers to find a foot in one's mouth on occasion instead of keeping it closed.

I always liked the title of Mike Royko's first book: I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It.

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