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Getting No Kicks on Route 666 : A car rallye affords an opportunity to bungle directions, miss checkpoints, get lost in the wilderness for fun.

February 12, 1993|R. DANIEL FOSTER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; R. Daniel Foster writes regularly for Valley Life.

Your father always told you that cars are to be used for transportation, not for playing games. Nevertheless, your friend Max has dragged you to a dimly lit parking lot in Mission Hills to enter a car rallye.

You are about to spend the next three hours driving around the countryside following cryptic directions while you seriously re-evaluate your friendship with Max.

"It's a time/speed/distance rallye where you have to get to certain checkpoints at certain times," says Max, picking up a card on which times are to be recorded. Points are awarded for times closest to official measurements.

The directions resemble something generated by the Department of Motor Vehicles: "R at STOP," "R at T" and "L at SIGNAL." You suddenly discover that you're required to think while driving, something you're not used to doing.

Surveying other cars, you spy a 1977 Toyota Celica. The owner shows off two dashboard-mounted computers, one set to the time, the other ready to record distance and time elapsed while driving.

You quickly give up all illusions of winning this thing.

It's time to go. Max is your navigator. The first few directions seem easy as you turn right and head north on the San Diego Freeway in your '89 Mazda MX-6.

You exit at Magic Mountain Parkway, turn right after the Saugus sign and read that 15 minutes, 10 seconds should have elapsed. Max tells you that nine minutes, 47 seconds have elapsed. "How fast were we going?" you ask. Max makes a snide remark about there being no gauges on his side of the car. You remember that the rules said something about driving in a "safe and legal manner."

You get out of the car to let six minutes, three seconds pass. The directions now say to travel at 40 m.p.h. until turning "L at SIGNAL." Then you must pause for ".50 minutes" and change your speed to 30 m.p.h. You begin to analyze the game while watching other entrants hunched over their stop watches. Only in L. A., you tell yourself, would folks endure two-hour traffic jams each day and then spend their evening driving 75 miles to nowhere in particular.

After a few more turns, you find yourself heading north on the Antelope Valley Freeway. Seventeen miles pass by and there are no signs of a promised Castaic Junction turnoff. You turn around.

Max ponders the unthinkable. "I think we should, you know, ask for directions at a gas station or something," he whines, fiddling with the radio, hoping to tune in his favorite call-in psychologist. You're not sure which scenario is more humiliating: a man asking for directions or a man clutching a rallye rule sheet asking for directions.

You make Max ask for directions.

Tracing the route back, you find your error and head north on Lake Hughes Road. Castaic Lake looms large and very black to your left. There are no street lights, no 7-Elevens with doughnuts and other survival items should you get lost in the Angeles National Forest.

Somehow, you haven't encountered a single checkpoint where elapsed times are to be recorded.

After a page more of turning "L at T" and "R at .80 miles after previous instructions," you pull into Shakey's Pizza in Santa Clarita, where other entrants agreed to meet to compare scores and collect trophies. It's 1 a.m. It's closed.

Undaunted, you climb back in the car, step on the gas and, again, head nowhere in particular. You've earned the right.

Where and When Santa Monica Sports Car Club time/speed/distance rallies at Bank of America's rear parking lot, 10300 Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills. First Friday of the month. $10 per car. Call (818) 768-6717 or (310) 372-7168. Southern California Council of Gimmick Rallye Clubs sponsors monthly rallies that begin near Sepulveda Basin. $10 per car. Call (818) 348-0780.

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