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Raid Northern Trail

Raid Northern Trail

by Axel Kaliske (Seattle, WA)

Raid Northern Trail Logo

A colorful bunch of Citroën owners with their cars gathered Friday, 26th July at Peter and Barbara's weekend ranch just east of Seattle in the Cascade Mountains. Some only came to have a party, but quite a few of the brave were not heading home to their garages the next day. Instead they started heading east for a journey to go to the ICCR in Massachusetts. Wait a second - a coast-to-coast trip in these old Citroëns? Most people wouldn't dare to do this in their new Toyotas or SUV's! But knowing our Citroëns like an old friend, this daring trek took off to experience many adventures. We were all due to meet new friends, see the country from sea to shining sea and fight all obstacles on the way.

First briefing by Henry and Pete
First briefing by Henry and Pete

The first day started very unspectacularly. We left our nice hosts Peter and Barbara traveling east. When we came out of the Cascade Mountains, we crossed the Columbia River. You have a spectacular view coming down the mountains into the canyon. As we learned the night before, the Columbia River carries more water than any other river in the world. Still impressed from this fact we started the climb out of the canyon on the far side. This was especially hard for the 2CVs in the group, heavily laden with people, camping gear, food and drinks, tools and the essential spare parts. Temperatures in the 90's just gave us a slight idea of what was still ahead.
Crossing Eastern Washington was not really exciting, mostly flat and almost desert. This changed dramatically when we crossed the border into Idaho. I90 leads through a rugged mountain range with long climbs and steep descents. Somewhere in a narrow valley we stopped in an old mining town. The town of Wallace, ID has a very educational mining museum and an old historic downtown.

Henry Reed, our fearless leader, invited all Raiders every night to a meeting. This was the platform to talk about the day's highlights, do the briefing for the next day and of course - socialize. Since many of the Raiders never met before, the first meeting was needed to learn about our fellow Raiders. Everybody introduced himself to the group. This was the first step to change a bunch of strangers into friends.
In order to save money from the Raid funds we stayed on State Campgrounds where available. The resulting lack of facilities was compensated in the Fairmount Hot Springs. Almost all Raiders stopped there for a refreshing bath and a nice swim.
Now it really got hot. I think in Montana we had at least 100 F. The heat caused some condensation water we had in our LHM brake system to boil (Our 2CV was sitting in our friends back yard for 12 years, hardly driven). The steam (air) in the brake system made it necessary to hit the brake pedal with at least two strokes before we got pressure. Uschi didn't find it funny. Also Lincoln discovered some heat related problems, the car refused to start when it was really hot or just died in idle.
This night at the meeting, Henry asked if the water-cooled Citroëns discovered some overheating. I asked him to extend this question also onto the air-cooled cars!
I will remember the campground we stayed in at the West Entrance of Yellowstone Park for its wildlife. Everywhere the warning signs for bears. We didn't see a single one. But right at sunset there was a humming noise in the trees. To satisfy my curiosity I walked out of the forest into a clearing to see what caused this humming. Alone and unarmed I suddenly found myself attacked by the real bloody predators of this forest - thick clouds of man-eating mosquitos attacked me. Easy to believe - I ran for my life back into the dark forest where the little suckers for some strange reason didn't follow me. Maybe they also read the warning signs about bears.
The program for the next day simply was to enjoy Yellowstone. Due to our limited time schedule we could only see a view highlights on our way through the park. Old Faithful was of course on our agenda. Every elk in the park caused a total traffic jam. People even stopped for squirrels. Only the grizzly bear we saw on our way out wasn't seen by many people. So I had the rare chance to take many photos of a wild grizzly bear just a few yards away.
In Cody, WY we had an encounter that turned out to be very helpful for our group On the parking lot of the local WAL-mart the Hunter brothers in their DS met a local Citroën owner. He owns a SM and a DS. The fun part was that this guy used to live in WA before he moved to Cody. In WA he was an almost next-door neighbor for the Hunter brothers. To celebrate this meeting they invited him to our next campground. He came with his wife who was also bitten by the Citroën bug.
The day temperatures in WY were well above 100 F, so we still had this funny problem with our brakes and Mark from Australia experienced some problems with his ignition system. To get our car back on the road I took the master brake cylinder out and cleaned it inside from all dirt and water. Mark's SM was worked on in the morning with daylight. Everybody who can operate a spanner threw in his two cents. Like always when you have six mechanics, you get at least seven different theories of what is wrong. After a while the car didn't start anymore. Before it had started - only didn't run well.

SM still refusing to start
SM still refusing to start

When many hours later the engine started, almost all remaining Raiders left to drive the next section. So did Mark - at least for 2 miles where the SM died again. He returned to the campground and tried to fix the car all alone.
In the mean time the other SM had a breakdown caused by a burst main hydraulic line. Uschi and I did a little detour to see "Devils Tower", the location of the movie "Close Encounters". When we came back from this breathtaking monument, a truck driver told us at a gas station that he saw one of our group on the freeway filling up radiator water - it turned out it was the SM getting some LHM! So this day we lost both SMs. A rescue team was recruited to go back and fix the SM with the hydraulic problem. They modified a spare line from a CX to match the SM.
In the mean time a miracle happened to Mark. Stranded on the campground he called the SM owner in Cody. This guy came hurdled to the rescue. They discovered that the brand new distributor cap was defective. Believe it or not, the guy from Cody had just this type of distributor cap at home. He had bought it for his SM quite some time ago just to learn that his car needed a different cap. So he waited ever since for the right type of SM to have a breakdown in Cody, WY caused by a bad distributor cap ;-) !?!
When Mark and Sue arrived at our next campground they really made everyone's day.
From our campground in Custer we could see the Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial. This project is huge - only the head is as big as the whole Mt. Rushmore Memorial. When you know about this size it is no wonder that the work started 75 years ago and still only the head and the face are finished.
Everybody had to see Mt. Rushmore - the main attraction in the Black Hills. At this time of the year this place is a big tourist zoo. So we skipped this part since we were there less than 4 month ago. Instead we visited the Badlands, a huge rock formation of pinnacles. The scenery reminded me of Bryce Canyon - only in yellow.
The next night started innocent. Everybody came back to the campground, including our troubled SMs and their rescue expedition. The night started as always - meeting, dinner, Cit chat and go to seep. But then around 1:30 in the morning a windstorm broke loose. Most Raiders had only their inner tents put up, all nights before it was just hot and wind calm, so almost nobody had pegs in the ground. The only thing that kept the tents from flying away was the people inside. So we had the problem - if one gets out of the tent to do something - the tent would be in MA before the Raid. By about 2:00 AM everybody was up to secure or take down his or her own tent - or helping others. Finally we had 3 people who were left homeless. They found shelter in the laundry room. After having a spontaneous party in the always open and brightly lighted laundry room they finally spent the last hours of the night in the safety of their cars.
The next day made it absolutely clear - there was a motorbike event. Already over the last few days we saw more Harley Davidson's than cars. The suspicion was: When is the Harley Meeting in Sturgis? Right - it was only three days ahead. I've never seen as many Harleys before in my life. About a week later we heard on the news that half way through the meeting they already had over 500,000 people there - WOW! Understand that we were heading for the biggest Citroën event in the US ever - about 800 cars were expected.
The next driving day was very unspectacular. The only point of interest was the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. Nailed on corncobs covered the whole building. Artists created pictures by using different color corn. During a guided tour we learned about the history of the building. The only fact that I remember is that the building once burnt down, what created the biggest popcorn machine in the world. Some people with a lack of respect call this building the world's biggest bird feeder. Inside is a big convention hall, or as Lincoln called it: "The Cornatorium".

The famous Mitchell Corn Palace
The famous Mitchell Corn Palace

On the parking lot of the Corn Palace we met the Hunter brothers again. They had some oil leak on their DS - out came the tool kits and the reason was soon discovered. They had lost a bolt from the timing chain cover. I went trough my midnight supply of nuts and bolts and found them an identical 7mm bolt - mission accomplished.
There is nothing exciting to report from Iowa, except that Lincoln's accelerator cable broke which cost us a 15 minute delay - and oh yes, our 2CV completed it's first 100,000 km. This event asked for an appropriate celebration. We stopped and opened a brand new bottle of Tequila, just to pour a little sip over the engine. We had to drive, so only the car got its share. Thank god there was no sheriff in sight.

Our next campground was located on a lakeshore just a few miles out of Iowa in Minnesota. When Henry booked for the group he asked the owner about points of interest in the area - a long silence on the other side, then the answer: "There is another lake some miles away"! When we had our meeting, Henry reported that he was just notified by the owner of the campground that our friend had arrived at the local airport. Nobody expected somebody - mysterious; who was at the airport? About half an hour later the mystery was solved. A Citroën owner from Minneapolis/St. Paul read about our Raid on the ICCCR website and decided to stop by. He is a pilot, so he flew in with his single engine plane to meet us. After spending less than 2 hours with a lot of Citroën talk he had to fly back home.
The next day we went back trough Iowa heading for Illinois. Watching the scenery you learn that farmers in Iowa grow only two things: Corn and that other green stuff. Corn was easy to identify, however nobody could identify the other crop. A suggestion was soybeans. Being a city slicker, I know soybean products only when they were processed. So it is still unknown to me what the other crop is. Leaving Iowa we saw the sign:"Iowa - fields of opportunity", so the crop must be opportunity ;-).
Our next stop was Galina, IL. The campground had screwed up our reservation. They had only one site reserved for 15 cars! But this problem was solved quickly, even long before our fearless leader arrived. The next morning we did the tourist program in Galina. Points of interest were the Grant house (Former general and president) and the farmers market. We decided to stock up on groceries on the market. So we went downtown with a group of about 6 Citroëns. The instructions were: "…. Turn left at the log cabin …" After a while we were lost in very narrow streets. The whole group had to turn around and then we saw why we missed the turnoff. The "log cabin" was a big solid red brick building. Only a sign for the business inside said "Log Cabin"!?!
Well the farmers market consisted only of 3 booths selling honey, paintings and some homegrown veggies. At least we had the opportunity to see the very nice and historic old town of Galina.
East of Galina the landscape changed dramatically. It looked so much more like Central Europe. Unlike Iowa there were hills, fields, forests and villages. Again this day was sizzling hot. So the traffic jam around Chicago was a pain for cars and passengers. We lost almost 3 hours in mostly standing traffic. Our 2CV experienced some heat related fuel problems. So to make things really interesting the engine died right after the toll station where about 8 lanes squeeze back into 3 lanes. The fact that everybody was tense because of the traffic jam and fought for every inch of movement didn't help either. We were in the center lane and had to be towed off the freeway crossing many lanes. Later it turned out that the fuel pump was faulty, so we replaced it.
When we finally arrived at the campground, Henry and Michel had just brought pizza for the whole group. We were in Amish country. Everywhere we saw the black carriages pulled by one or two horses on the road. In the dark the black and slow carriage is quite an encounter for a motorist. The Amish Visitor Center would have been interesting to learn about their life, but it was closed for Saturday and didn't open on Sunday. So we only saw them in their carriages dressed up on the way to the church.
On the way through Ohio we ran into some participants of Raid Mad Dash. It was quite an experience to go down I90 and all of a sudden pass a truckette. When we pulled over at the next gas station to fill up and have some lunch they also stopped. Before we knew, we had 8 Citroëns from both Raids on this parking lot. We learned that they had just moved to another motel. The place they were supposed to stay was just west of Cleveland. They didn't like the idea to go through the city in Monday morning rush hour. So they simply changed their reservation to a motel east of Cleveland. This motel was only 30 miles before our campground. So we stopped there to meet more people of Raid Mad Dash.

Meeting Raid Mad Dash
Meeting Raid Mad Dash

This evening was the last night with the group for us. We had to go to New York to import one of our 2CVs and help our friends to import their cars.
The next day our friends from Raid Northern Trail should have met with Raid Mad Dash to go the last few miles into Amherst together in a big Citroën convoy. As we learned later this ended in a chaos. They didn't find their way through the campus since the Citroën signs were not installed at that time. So the Raiders were all over the place until they finally found their way.
I think I can speak for all participants of Raid Northern Trail to say this was a great event and a very pleasant experience. Our thanks go to Henry and Leena Red and Pete and Linda deBoldt for organizing this event and making it a big success. Thank you and all your helpers - See all of you at the next Citroën event.

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