Sight Not An Issue in Car Ralleye

Sight Not An Issue in Car Ralleye

In the 1966 Morris Traveler "Woody" wagon, Patrice Means-Marlow felt every bump as she and her driver traversed the hills of Fairfax Station on the MG "Ralleye," a road rally with the MG Car Club of Washington and the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (CLB) and the Services for the Visually Impaired.

"They're not like the new cars with all the padding and everything," Means-Marlow said.

Dumfries resident Joan Dallas, the owner of the wagon, agreed. It's a garage-kept collector’s item that was made by the MG company and part of the rally nonetheless.

"You feel every bump," Dallas agreed.

Means-Marlow was a visually impaired participant, in the adult large-print category. She's from Gaithersburg, Md. As they went through the hilly route, she read the clues for Dallas, ending up back at Burke Lake Park. It was the 41st annual Ralleye, pairing visually impaired individuals with drivers. "Confirm power lines" was the first clue questioned by Means-Marlow.

"There's power lines all over the place," she said.

And so the route went, through Clifton, across Yates Ford several times and past the Davis Store a few times. George Marshall is the president of the MG Club, a motorist enthusiast club specifically for MG owners but open to other small-sports-car owners as well. Dallas and her Woody fell in that category.

"We actually started this event in the 1950s. It's gone international. Groups, not just car clubs, have picked up on this event overseas," Marshall said.

Steve Boyce from Vienna is a board member in the club.

"This is our principal charity event," he said.

The riders were divided into adults and children, with two winners in each age category, Braille and large print. Arlington resident William Webb was a winner in last year’s Ralleye. This was his third competition.

"I came in first last year. It's a nice route, interesting points to look for. You have to navigate it and make sure the driver makes it to the finish line. It's a challenge," Webb said.

Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind is based in Washington, D.C., with an office in Prince George’s County, Md. CLB representative Melissa Thompson noted the advantages the riders get.

"I think they actually enjoy being matched up," she said. "They're able to do things they're not normally able to do."

Alexandria resident Tim Karnath was in his sixth Ralleye, in the Braille category. Although there are technological advances that take the place of Braille, including audio computer terminals, Braille has opened new doors for him.

"I would hope they would still teach Braille at school. It was an important part of my life. I don't think I would be a good speller if I didn't have Braille," Karnath said.

Back in Dallas' wagon, Means-Marlow thought she felt the seven speed humps that were described in one of the clues.

"There's some divots in the pavement," said Dallas.

Dallas’ son Ben, 11, went along for the adventure. The car is slated to become his when he gets older, providing he promises not to sell it, his mother said. Ben figured out a way to combat the lack of air conditioning.

"Sitting in the back with all the windows open, it's all right," he said.

"Actually he's slated for it. I told him when he has a good job and a garage, he can have the car," Dallas said.