Retreat From Moscow 2020: Lemons Rally Need-To-Knows

The annual onset of chilly air and the shrill news coverage of inevitable Snowmaggedons means one thing in Lemons World: The Retreat From Moscow Lemons Rally is imminent. Indeed, for our fourth consecutive year, Lemons HQ has sanctioned a winter rally through the frosty eaves of Appalachia. Being presented by Lemons, this event encourages 24 Hours of Lemons-caliber heaps traversing tough terrain in suboptimal weather.

Fans of Roadkill and Regular Car Reviews will remember how both shows’ crews endured this frigid trip. Things can’t come too easily, of course, and this year will be no different. Actually, that’s not true. This year, we’ve mixed it up to begin the rally in Moscow, Maryland. Or close to it, anyway. Maryland’s Moscow barely exists in the mining country of the state’s panhandle. As such, we’ll be starting nearby in Cumberland, though you can bet—Spoiler Alert—Moscow is the rally’s first stop.

As we like to do when possible, let’s give a short FAQ on the 2020 Retreat From Moscow Lemons Rally.

What is this rally thing anyway?

The Lemons Rally covers several hundred miles over 3-6 days. In this case, the distance should total around 1,500 miles over four days. Participants earn points for the rally (1) at the rally’s start based on the hooptieness of their vehicle, (2) by reaching checkpoints along the route, and (3) through assorted (mis)adventures along the way. Long story short: The worse your car and the more you subject it to, the more points you score.

Shorter still: Misery loves Lemons Rally points.

The top three points-scorers earn trophies, but—much like the 24 Hours of Lemons races—trophies are also given out for the more subjective and therefore interesting accomplishments. Many participants will tell you, however, that the real honor is to take home the Random Acts of Stupidity trophy. That typically goes to those taking the most torturous, circuitous, and therefore entertaining way through an event.

These are my kind of goals. What is this “route” of which you speak, though?

The rally begins January 28 in downtown Cumberland, Maryland, at the Allegany Museum. It ends at Barber Motorsports Park in the paddock for the following weekend’s season-opening 24 Hours of Lemons race. Along the way, participants will visit iconic roads and routes, including the famous Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort and The Dragon (US Route 129 on the North Carolina/Tennessee border). Here’s the general itinerary:

January 28: Cumberland (MD) to Roanoke (VA)
January 29: Roanoke (VA) to Asheville (NC)
January 30: Asheville (NC) to Chattanooga (TN)
January 31: Chattanooga (TN) to Leeds (AL)/Barber Motorsports Park

We’ve previously begun the rally in northeast Pennyslvania (where there is a Moscow), but we wanted to change that up a bit. Some things will be a little different from previous Retreats From Moscow because we like variety and we think Lemons Rallyists do, too.

What are the checkpoints you mentioned?

Well, we drop hints here and there, but the checkpoints are a variety of landmarks and roadside curiosities between the cities listed above. Sometimes, they’re historic and iconic things. Often, they’re just bizarre historical footnotes or remnants. Sometimes, they have funny names. Mostly, we want them to waymark an interesting way from Point A to Point B that people didn’t know they wanted to go.

We give out the rally’s entire list of checkpoints—in the form of the Lemons Rally Route Bookafter teams register on the rally’s opening day. We think it’s more fun and challenging to make people figure out the route once they’re on the road, anyway. Every morning of the rally, however, we’ll post the day’s checkpoints list to the Lemons Rally Instagram and Lemons Rally Facebook pages. You can already find information on the day-end meetups in Roanoke, Asheville, and Chattanooga on the event page here.

What happens if the weather is crappy?

We’ve gone to Buffalo in a blizzard and traipsed through a Polar Vortex. We probably ain’t canceling the rally unless a state of national emergency is declared. The Route Book includes some simplified routes in the event of foul weather. Should the weather turn abysmal mid-route, Lemons Rally organizers will announce adjustments to the route via the official Facebook and Instagram accounts.

What happens if I get stuck in a snowbank?

Eight out of 10 doctors recommend getting yourself out of the snowbank.

Is the Lemons Rally a race?

Hell no! This is not a stage rally or competition of speed. Participants are expected to observe all traffic laws. Since all of the cars in the rally will have gigantic LEMONS RALLY stickers, rally organizers may very well dock you points for run-ins with the law. Additionally, participants are on the hook for their own tickets, arrests, legal costs, bartering cigarettes, and/or extradition fees.

Do I need to enter some old decrepit hooptie?

No! Bring anything you’d like—except no motorcycles—as long it’s insured and registered for the street. People have had fun on the Retreat From Moscow Rally in everything from rental cars to convertibles (Yes, with the tops open). We know you’ll have fun in whatever you drive. Of course, you’ll get more of an Authentic Lemons Experience™ with a rusted-out limo or a Yugo GV. The more you can thumb your noses at those presumptuous exotic-car rallies where some idiot always bends a half-million dollars around a light pole, the better you’ll fit in.

If you care about winning, an exceedingly terrible car—many extra bonus points for French or Eastern Blow cars on this rally, specifically—will score major points at registration judging (like a Concours event at the ass-crack of dawn in the freezing cold; check out the scoring here). However, if you just want to see the country and drive around with your friends without caring about winning, you can drive whatever you want. And if you’re anti-winning (also welcome in Lemons), you can rack up negative points for your Porsche Panamera GT press car with heated door sills and still enjoy yourself.

Hmmm…sounds like you fools let anyone do this.

More or less. If you have a valid driver’s license,can get a car insured and registered, and can follow Rule 1.1 (“DON’T BE A DOUCHE”), we’re happy to have you.

I can do those things! How do I sign up?

You can navigate to the Retreat From Moscow Rally page here, which has a convenient link to our registration site. It also has more information on recommended (though definitely not required) hotels and nightly meetups.

Sweet. Besides a vehicle, what should I bring?

Besides the car, you’ll need the paperwork to prove it’s insured and not stolen. To get points for reaching checkpoints, you’ll also need a smartphone and an Instagram account to take pictures of your car or team at the various checkpoints. Search #LemonsRally on Instagram for all of the content from this and the last rally.

We also recommend you bring lots of warm clothes, blankets, and tools to fix your jalopy. It’s a good idea to bring food and a supply of water, as well. That’s about one gallon of water per person per day plus a couple spare gallons because your heap will naturally overheat in -7 degrees.

A CB radio may also be useful for communicating with other rally participants you find on the road; bring/install one of those if you can. The rally also traverses areas with spotty cellular reception so haul along an atlas or good paper maps if you have any room left.

Try to bring a friend if you have any, but you should make plenty of new, barely sociable ones on the rally.

How do I let people know how to follow the rally?

To score points, we can most easily track your progress via Instagram, which then your friends, family, and mental health professional can follow remotly. If you don’t want to use your current account, feel free to create one just for the rally. All posts should end up with a #LemonsRally hashtag, which will make it slighty easier for people to follow. Also, if you’re signed up for the rally, send an email to eric@24hoursoflemons.com with the following:

Team Name
Instagram Account (@_______)


What else do I need to know?

Well, you’re probably gonna be hooked after one of these. We have four more Lemons Rallies lined up for 2020 of varying lengths and in many new places. Here’s the rundown:

JUNE 16-21: Lemons Route 66 (Chicago-St. Louis-Tulsa-Amarillo-Gallup (NM)-Laughlin(NV)-Santa Monica)
JUL 10-12: The Rocky Mountain Breakdown, Colorado (Denver-Craig (CO)-Aspen (CO)-Colorado Springs)
AUG 11-15: Hell on Wheels Monterey, California (Pacific Grove-Stockton-Ft. Bragg-Grass Valley-Santa Cruz-Seaside)
OCT 15-17: Fall Fail-iage Tour (Boston-Bennington(VT)-Portland(ME)-Loudon(NH))

We’ll see you on the road! Got questions about Lemons Rally? Shoot an email to Eric@24hoursoflemons.com. We’ll leave you with Regular Car Reviews’ narration of the 2019 Retreat From Moscow Rally, which sums up the Lemons Rally experience better than we ever could.