You might live next door to the Nürburgring, but that doesn't mean you can take a lap whenever the fancy strikes. But what if you built your own track where you could drive as much as you want, whenever you want, in your own automotive Disney World? That's the dream, right there.
With your own track, you could round up some buddies and hold your own time trials. Design your own corners. Tinker with your car and see if you can make it quicker - all on your own terms, on your own schedule. But that fantasy is beyond the means of just about everybody, because it takes a rare wealthy lunatic to embark on construction of a race circuit. Unless, that is, the circuit in question is a rally stage.
Building a road course is hard. You need all sorts of permits and engineers and heavy equipment and pavement. To build a rally track, you need only a forest and a naive belief that you can build a dirt road simply by removing a few trees. As luck would have it, I have access to some woods - thirty acres of them, up in Maine. When my parents moved there in 1979, the place was idyllic. Now, there's a giant gravel pit across the street.
My parents don't live there anymore; they've had the property on and off the market for years. I get the idea that they don't really want to sell it, because inevitably the next owner will follow the example of the neighbors and promptly despoil the terrain with excavators and dump trucks. I have a better idea: repurpose the land for a noble cause, use it as raw material to sculpt a stirring piece of artwork - a rally track. When life gives you gravel pits, make rally track-ade.
I arrive at the property armed with the following equipment: a chain saw; a 13-hp, Honda-powered brush cutter; a diesel Bobcat skid-steer loader; and a pair of hedge clippers. Of these items, I have experience using the hedge clippers. But I just assume that I'll be able to master the array of dangerous power equipment on hand. I mean, what is a chain saw except a two-stroke gas motor connected to a blur of whirring knives? And a Bobcat is simply a two-ton, four-wheel-drive steel exoskeleton with an articulating hydraulic bucket, no steering wheel, and a penchant for pulling wheelies. I'm sure I'll figure it out.
My brother, Graham, agreed to help, and we walk out onto the trails to see what we're up against. We learned how to drive out here in a 1982 Subaru GL 4WD, when I was eleven years old and Graham was nine. We didn't know it at the time, but we were pint-size rally drivers back then. As our comfort level increased, we started going faster, until our parents strolled through the woods one day and noticed that all the trails' corners were getting torn up. It's a statement of what annoying children we must've been that our parents handed us the keys to an actual car just to get us out of their hair.