We’re a couple of weeks removed from the 2020 Retreat From Moscow, the 1,500-mile Lemons Rally across the backroads of Appalachia. This year’s rally left from Cumberland, Maryland, instead of Moscow, Pennsylvania, as in previous years. However, the first stop was the little corner of Maryland’s panhandle known as Moscow. It made sense for the rally and also presented some variety for the Lemons Rally folks.
From Cumberland, the rally meandered through West Virginia on the way to Roanoke on Day 1. The second day brought wandering in the Blue Ridge sections of Virginia and North Carolina before ending up in downtown Asheville. Day 3 found rally participants in the Great Smokies with a stop at Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort and time on The Dragon. The final day sent participants into Atlanta to one of a couple Eiffel Tower replicas. The motley assembly of cars then gathered at Barber Motorsports Park for the awards ceremony.
In Lemons Rally, teams score points at the outset for their crappy cars. Along the way, they acquire points for reaching checkpoints and participating in assorted challenges along the way. Lemons awards trophies to the top three points-getters, although the real winners are anyone who makes it to the rally’s finish line in one(ish) piece. Want to see what all of that looks like? You can search #LemonsRally on Instagram to see the collective stories of Retreat From Moscow participants.
Let’s give a short rundown of the Retreat From Moscow Rally’s winners.
Overall Winners on Points – Uncle Rico’s LLC (1968 Ford Country Wagon)
These three Louisiana natives arrived in Cumberland a couple hours befhttps://www.instagram.com/p/B76KxI8Hd-y/ore the rally’s start. They slept in the parking lot for a few minutes, then headed out on the route. Along the way, they suffered a serious differential failure, which was fixed in a way so fortuitous it’s almost completely laughable. They then dumpster-dived a kid’s bike, which a team member rode down a few turns of The Dragon (empty for winter) until common sense overtook him (at last).
Second Place on Points – Shake ‘n’ Bake (1993 Chevy Caprice Wagon)
We saw this married couple last year in the same car when it was its original blue color with bungee cords holding the door closed. This year, they returned with a proper Talladega Nights theme. The couple stayed in character as Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton, Jr., all weekend. When traveling through the South, that got them countless thumbs up and photo ops…until they got kicked out of Applebee’s, naturally.
Third Place on Points – Team Sourpuss (1995 Toyota Previa)
Lemons minces no words here: The Previa is one of the greatest cars of the last 30 years. Team Sourpuss—who also previously ran the rallies in a General Motors B-Body wagon—scored this Previa from the Salvation Army. They had rejected it as a donation, but these guys know a good Lemons when they see it. With 270,000 miles and counting on the clock, they hit every checkpoint while dressed as Lemons and enduring a frightening number of times the question, “Why are you dressed like a banana?”
Dishonorable Mention – Scrapyard Refugees (Smart ForTwo)
These Ontario natives ran the entire 2019 Retreat From Moscow in a Chrysler LeBaron turned into a Planes, Trains, and Automobiles replica. This year, they had heat but no room when they scored a Smart ForTwo with something like 400,000 kilometers on the clock. We aren’t sure about the metric system, but that might as well be four million miles. They drove it from Ontario to the rally start, suffered through cramped quarters and bad navigating, and made lots of fans along the way.
Dishonorable Mention – Jimmy Six (1953 GMC Truck)
This truck has been in one team member’s family since the Eisenhower Administration. It’s one of the oldest vehicles we’ve ever had on a rally and it acted the part. The duo in the old hauler spent time at almost every stop adjusting the clutch, tinkering with the fuel pump, or just begging old straight-six GMC to keep ticking. It did and the team spent an extra day at Barber fixing their broken fan and bad water-pump gasket. All they had to do then was get home to New Jersey in a day.
Dishonorable Mention – Turbo Bratwurst Benz (1984 Mercedes 300CD)
We actually like this car a lot. These diesel Mercedes coupes still are lookers, especially in this pale green paint. The car ran fine and hauled three full-grown dudes without major issue. More importantly, they busted out a grill at Deal’s Gap and fed people bratwurst. Then, they took the grill—still mounted to the trunk—down The Dragon.
Dishonorable Mention – The B-Teem (1995 Dodge Grand Caravan)
This team’s troubles were explained in talking to them by understanding they are “Mitsubishi enthusiasts.” You’d think they wouldn’t have been surprised when the water pump on their Grand Caravan’s Mitsubishi-sourced 3.0L V6 crapped out on them on Route 250 in Virginia. They managed to get it into a town, but the nearest replacement was a town away with no taxi or car rental service available. The clerk tossed them the keys to his Hyundai, they fetched a new pump, snapped two bolts, and then held the whole thing together with uncured RTV and prayers to the Diamond-Star gods.
Heroic Fix – Monster Foodies (1996 Buick Roadmaster)
“The valet can’t get your car to start” is not a common phone call. But when the Lemons Rally drops into a swanky (and mostly empty) downtown Asheville hotel, the valet get a night of entertainment. In this case, the Monster Foodies swapped out a new starter on their Roadmaster in the valet stand. They got some help from the Men In Black LTD crew and then had the valet do the honors of its first start. It’s worth mentioning that the Monster Foodies crew regularly were found helping other teams along the way and being Generally Awesome Rally Participants (GARPs).
Random Acts of Stupidity – Stattosphere Motorsports (1984 Ford LTD)
Where to even start. These veteran Rally siblings accidentally won their LTD at a sheriff’s auction, then decided to take the heap on roadtrippin’. They made a credible Men In Black LTD replica, complete with the trunk full o’ SciFi weapons and stayed in their suits all weekend. They spent the entire rally simply making sure they and everyone within earshot was having a good time. Not to mention, they helped swap the starter in the Roadmaster and then left the 24-year-old General Motors grime on their suits for the rally’s last two days.
Organizer’s Choice – Escape from Buffalo (1986 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham)
Judge Phil has been begging teams to make a credible Escape From New York theme for Lemons races and no one has ever done it. These dudes showed up unannounced with a late registration because they didn’t want to ruin their surprise. And damn, was it awesome. They had the Escape From New York costumes, they had functioning chandeliers on the front fenders with extremely sketchy inverter wiring, and they had two functioning gears left in their transmission when got to Alabama. Simply put, this was one of the most spectacular things we’ve ever seen in Lemons Rally.
What else? We’ll have a video recap soon for the 2020 Retreat From Moscow on the 24 Hours of Lemons YouTube Channel right here. Subscribe to that so you don’t miss it when it comes out. In the meantime, check out the remaining four Lemons Rallies this year.
JUNE 16-21: Lemons Route 66 Rally
[Chicago-St. Louis-Tulsa-Amarillo-Gallup-Laughlin-Santa Monica]
JUL 10-12: The Rocky Mountain Breakdown
[COLORADO: Denver-Craig-Aspen(ish)-Colorado Springs]
AUG 11-15: Hell on Wheels Monterey
[CALIFORNIA: Pacific Grove-Stockton-Fort Bragg-Grass Valley-Santa Cruz-Seaside]
OCT 15-17: Fall Fail-iage Tour
[Boston, MA – Bennington, VT – Portland, ME – Loudon, NH]