“Good roads are more than my hobby, they are my religion.”
With that credo, entrepreneur Samuel Hill of Washington state took to testing with new, revolutionary techniques in roadmaking at the turn of the 20th century with his aptly named company, Good Roads. On his own private land he built multiple experimental roads to test surfaces, drainage and layout.
Hill experimented in the Klickitat Valley area between Washington and Oregon, in the steep hills, and with a 5% grade limit, this led to some of the curviest switchback roads you’ve ever seen.
Hill’s most notable road, the first paved road in Washington State, was Maryhill Loops Road. Now owned by the Maryhill Museum of Art, Maryhill Loops Road is open to non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians. Except for during special events.
One of those special events is Oregon Trail Rally.
Maryhill is currently the only asphalt stage on the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National calendar (save for the Yoctangee Park Super Special in Southern Ohio), and probably one of the most famed stages in the country.
“Maryhill was one of the scariest stages I’d ever done in my life, until I started doing the Gymkhana stuff, and I did Mt. Washington,” Subaru Motorsports USA driver Travis Pastrana said.
Climbing about 600 feet in three miles, Maryhill Loops road can be viewed almost in its entirety from a nearby overlook, making it great for spectators who gather in droves to watch their heros ascend the hill as fast as possible.
When you have an opportunity to rally on a hill like that and you don’t take every opportunity to put a smile on your face, I just feel like I’m losing at lifeTravis Pastrana on Maryhill
Teams have a unique challenge for Maryhill as although the stage is asphalt the other stages in the loop the past two years it has run have been gravel, leaving teams with a choice to make. Run gravel set-up on asphalt? Or asphalt set-up on gravel?
“There was a lot of things that we were thinking,” Pastrana said of planning for Maryhill this year.
“I was talking to the guys and I asked ‘can we just carry two Tarmac tires and put them on the front?’ Because then we’ve got braking and we’ve got turning, but they said that the diff wouldn’t really handle that.
“The thought process is we’ll probably lose 2-3 seconds per mile with the rallycross tires on the gravel, especially with it being like today, that’s even more of an issue, so that’s a five mile stage, so that’s a 15 seconds loss, and then with the three mile stage, you might gain two seconds back.
“Plus you take a much bigger risk in the rallycross tires because once you go off in the grass, you’re off, where with the gravel tires even on the pavement it’s just fun.”
While Pastrana was having fun sliding corners, he was also setting the fastest times on the stage, surpassing everyone who took it clean.
“As long as you can accelerate out of the corner well,” he hinted in terms of how to approach it, “so it’s not like you’re backing it in and losing a bunch of speed, but backing it in and making sure once you’re hitting the straightaway, you’re straight.
“Scott Speed would’ve been laughing and probably would’ve crushed me out there, but at the end of the day, I’m here to do well and to win, but when you have an opportunity to race or rally on a hill like that, and you don’t take every opportunity to put a smile on your face, I just feel like I’m losing at life.”
Over 100 years later, Sam Hill’s religious dedication to roads has paid off, and now the ARA is left with a very ‘Good Road’.