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Raid North Georgia, 2004

By Steven Snyder

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Raid North GeorgiaIn 1976, the first PG rated movie my parents ever let me see at the theater was The Gumball Rally. This was a hilarious story about a cross country race from New York to Los Angeles. Those of you a little younger than me can probably relate to a similar movie entitled Cannonball Run. When I first heard about the “RAID NORTH GEORGIA” event (aka: Raid), I had instant flashbacks to those films. Only the Raid would be even better. Rather than contestants driving Ferrari’s, Lamborghinis, and other exotic sports cars, teams entered in the Raid would be driving extreme off-road vehicles – at least that’s what I thought.

It turned out that the Raid North Georgia event is neither a race nor an event exclusive to extreme off-road vehicles. The Raid is a contest that, according to their website at www.raidnorthgeorgia.com will challenge “both person and machine to their limits…navigating through miles of trails, forest roads, leech infested swamps, and haunted forests; sometimes in the dead of night, by compass, with longitude, latitude, and dead reckoning skills by vehicle , by bike, and on foot. Paddling through crocigator [sic] infested lakes. And running up to a dozen special events including: bridge building, paint ball obstacle course, food challenges, etc.

Okay…so maybe the organizers embellished just a little on their website but the event was definitely a blast. The organizer and brainchild of the Raid was Kyle Updegrove. You may have heard of Kyle before. He is the owner of Kennesaw Mountain Accessories Inc.

Raid North GeorgiaNot too long ago, there were a few different off-road rally events, including the Tennessee Off Road Challenge, the Safari Triathlon, and the Southern Off-Road Adventure Rally. Unfortunately, some of these events were shut down while others simply disappeared. Regardless, there were no off-road adventure rallies for folks to participate in.

Kyle, who had been toying with the idea of organizing a new off -road challenge was approached by members of the Nissan Offroad Association of the Southeast.

Kyle had participated in several of the previous off-road challenges, so he was already familiar with the event. In addition, as a member of the Georgia Sports Car Club, Kyle has posted four wins already this year. Kyle knows rallies - on and off-road.

In addition to being an experienced rally driver, Kyle has participated in adventure racing. When he was designing the Raid he wanted to create a hybrid event - an event that included both adventure racing and rally events. He wanted to have an event where teams would need to get out of their vehicle and be physical (without having to train for months) and one where teams did not need highly specialized, purpose-built vehicles. Almost any 4WD SUV or truck could have successfully participated in the Raid.

With the idea of having a hybrid event that would incorporate both rally racing and adventure racing, Kyle chose to borrow from Europeans, who use the term ‘Raid’ to describe both types of events. Thus was born Raid North Georgia.

On to the Raid…
For this, the first ever RAID NORTH GEORGIA event, 19 teams signed up and paid the registration fee. Vehicles included 4 Jeeps, 5 Broncos, 4 Land Rovers, 2 Toyotas, 2 Nissans, 1 Chevy and 1 International Scout. Things started up Friday evening as teams rolled onto town for sign-in. Eventually, everyone made it to the Diamond Lure Campground which would be home-base for the weekend. At about 10 pm there was a driver’s meeting under the pavilion so the organizers could finalize the ground rules and distribute the first set of TSD’s (don’t worry…I’ll explain in a moment)

Raid North Georgia
Raid North Georgia

At the driver’s meeting it was readily apparent that many of the teams had some experience with car rally’s. These teams were right at home with the TSD that was handed out for review. Other teams (myself included) didn’t even know what TSD stood for. We quickly learned that it stands for Time/Speed/Distance. A TSD is what I think of as a traditional rally event. The object/purpose of a TSD event is to get from point A to point B in the proper amount of time – don’t go too fast or you’ll lose points…don’t go too slow or you’ll loose points. The team that completes the course closest to the target time wins.

The catch is that no one knows were the destination is located. The directions read something like this:
1) Travel north at 15 MPH for 1.7 miles
2) Turn west and travel .75 miles at 30 MPH
3) slow to 20 MPH and continue traveling for 8 minutes
4) at 8 minutes take the extreme right at the fork in the road. If you go too fast or too slow you will surely miss a turn and end up who knows where.

It was announced that we would meet at 6:30 AM under the pavilion to begin the Raid. Once the drivers’ meeting broke up, most of the teams stuck around for a while - some to simply review the TSD and others to discuss strategy. Teams grouped and bonded to help each other out.

Raid North Georgia
Raid North Georgia

At 6:30 AM, still dark outside, we met again under the pavilion. Organizers gave teams their starting order and handed out the first navigation sheet for the Raid’s first leg. A ‘nav-sheet’ is nothing more than a list of landmarks with GPS coordinates. Each landmark was given a point value. Start time was set for 6 AM and teams were staggered with a five minute buffer.

Raid North Georgia
Raid North Georgia

Stage 1
Wanting to waste no time, teams scrambled back to their vehicles and campsites and started plotting waypoints into their GPS units. The goal here was to locate and photograph (using a digital or Polaroid camera) as many landmarks as possible within the time limit. The ‘nav-sheet’ also gave teams the coordinates for the beginning of Stage 2 – the canoeing stage. Teams that did not check-in to Stage 2 within the time limit had points deducted from their nav-sheet score.

Raid North Georgia
Raid North Georgia
Raid North Georgia
Raid North Georgia

Since teams were give 185 minutes to accumulate as many points as possible from the ‘nav’ section, we had plenty of time to make our way to the beginning of the canoeing stage. One of the organizers and I had arrived at the beginning of Stage 2 in plenty of time to beat the competitors. Unfortunately, there were no canoes to be found. Oops. The organizers had made arrangements for canoes to be available. Unfortunately, the canoe shop failed to bring the canoes to the event. Fortunately, the organizers scrambled and were able to deliver canoes with minimal delay.

Raid North GeorgiaStage 2
Stage 2 was another navigating section but rather than driving to the waypoints, teams had to get in a canoe and paddle out and find the ‘markers’ on islands in the lake. When we first arrived at the lake, a thick fog made it impossible to see more than 100 yards. “This is going to be REALLY tough.” I thought. The organizers agreed. They were not expecting visibility to be this poor. Fortunately, by the time the canoes arrived (with teams waiting) most of the fog had burned off.

As teams arrived, they checked-in their time as recorded for Stage 1. They parked their vehicle, scrambled to grab a canoe, life vests, and paddles and were given a sheet with two coordinates. Once they received the coordinates, time started ticking for Stage 2. Teams quickly plotted the waypoints into their GPS units and made a mad dash for the water’s edge. It took teams approximately 1 hour to complete Stage 2.

Raid North Georgia
Raid North Georgia
Raid North Georgia
Raid North Georgia


On to Stage 3 --->


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