Drivers and Navigators Rally for a Cause
“And remember… It’s a Rally – not a Race.” The statement was met with general merriment from the crowd of drivers and navigators meeting in Hope Ranch the night before the Rally 4 Kids was to be held. As the meeting continued, Michael Baker, CEO of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County (UBGC), helped remind the audience of why they were doing this.
Now in its 7th run, the Rally 4 Kids has become one of the most celebrated fundraisers for the UBGC. The organization is a “youth development agency and serves children ages 5-18 years old, from 10 locations across Santa Barbara County.” Over the years, the Rally funds have helped UBGC expand their services and impact on the children of the area, including a Solvang facility in 2018 and even four brand new vans in 2019 (with the help of Michael and Misty Hammer and the Armand Hammer Foundation). That next year, those vans became a critical part of being able to help through the pandemic as they assisted with moving food from the Food Bank to their clubs to help feed those in need.
The morning following the Driver’s Meeting, participants gathered early at Procore in Carpinteria. The crowd took in coffees, donuts, and directions for the 111-mile journey as they waited for the rally to start. Each car had one driver and one navigator to help guide them along the selected path. A rally guidebook gave details on the entered cars, route, various checkpoints, and just in case – emergency numbers for assistance, an auto mechanic, and a tow company.
The Procore parking lot was filled with an impressive range of European exotics, classic cars, and good ole fashioned American muscle – the space sparkling with cherry red, solar yellow, and the myriad other hues that brought character to each car. As the rally started, cars left in groups of 10 – the morning sun accenting their curves as they rolled through the checkered balloon arch.
In the Rally guidebook, a Rules of the Road section begins the first rule with, “First and foremost, this is NOT A RACE…” That being said, the planners still found a way for those who have a competitive edge to have a little healthy (and safe) bout with others. An accompanying trivia sheet and checkpoint challenges formed the basis for the scoring system, so that the competition was less a measure a speed, and more of their knowledge of the rally, cars, and maybe even a test of their hula hoop skills. The rules gave direction to obey speed limits and keep an eye out for cyclists, among other safety notes, but also reminded drivers to take in the experience and enjoy themselves. The rally was more about the route they were taking and the sites along the way.
The path led from Procore to the first checkpoint at La Cumbre Peak. The route followed back roads past the peak and led to the second checkpoint at Sunstone Winery. Since the path took the scenic route, MJ photographer Priscilla and I left Procore and cut up Hwy 154 to get there ahead of the line so we could photograph the cars as they drove past. We found a good photo-op spot next to a ranch with an olive grove and waited for the wheeled steeds to roll through. Soon, we saw flashes of color pulling off the 101 and heard the rumble coming towards us. The cars came through, sometimes in packs, other times by themselves.
After getting photos of several dozen cars of the 70 or so entries (the most of any year), we packed up our gear and headed towards Sunstone Winery for the second checkpoint and a little lunch. The rally-ers grouped around tables and shade as everyone ate tacos and enjoyed one another’s company. After the meal, it was back off to the rally with the path leading from the winery down the 101 to the third checkpoint at SBCC’s La Playa Stadium before wrapping up the ride at the UBGC downtown Santa Barbara club.
After the cars finished the route, there was a brief afternoon break before everyone reconvened that evening at the Bella Vista Ranch in Summerland for a Black and White Gala celebrating the Golden Era of Hollywood. The cars from the rally were parked out front for all to relish in. The evening began with appetizers, laughter, and chatter about the day’s event as guests perused the cars. A dinner and dessert followed, and the night wrapped up with an auction and awards ceremony for the seated guests. As the auction continued, a strong gust came whipping through, sweeping the evening away with it. Was it the wind or the swift passing of a car? After all, this is a Rally – not a Race.