The Oppo Rally: Racking Up the Points

Our first destination was the Bridgeport, Connecticut area, which contained many checkpoints to score lots of points quickly.

Justin Hughes

We hit Interstate 95—and promptly got bogged down in heavy Memorial Day weekend traffic. This was not the kind of driving we came to the Oppo Rally to do, but it was really the only way to get from the southwest corner of Connecticut to Bridgeport efficiently. Though we'd decided to primarily stick with car-related checkpoints, there were four others on the overall list in Bridgeport, which was right on our way to Stratford for the next item on the car-related list. So while I fought traffic, my wife did some Internet research, found three out of the four checkpoints in Bridgeport, plus an additional one in Stratford we could visit while we were there.

We started at the Mountain Grove Cemetery to find P.T. Barnum and Tom Thumb's graves. I was glad we were in a fairly normal, conservative looking vehicle rather than, say, a Porsche 911 decorated like a Pikachu. It took a little searching, but we discovered that my wife is very good at matching up locations with photos on the Internet. The fact that one of the other teams was already there helped, too.

Justin Hughes

It's somewhat fitting that P.T. Barnum's grave was on the list, since the circus he founded has just given its final performance.

Justin Hughes

The grave of Charles Sherwood Stratton, a.k.a. Tom Thumb, was nearly across the road from P.T. Barnum's. He was a distant relative of Barnum's, who adopted him and added him to his roster of circus performers. Both of them hailed from Bridgeport, so their burial there is appropriate.

From there, we moved on to the "First in Flight Grave," as the route book listed it. This is the grave of Gustave Whitehead, another Bridgeport native who claimed to have made the first powered flight in 1901, before the Wright Brothers in 1903. Some sources, including Jane's All the World's Aircraft, back up his claims. My wife found which cemetery he was buried in easily, but it was rather difficult for us to find his actual grave. I was completely lost, but my wife followed her hunches and photo references from the internet, and eventually found his grave.

Justin Hughes

There are actually two different gravestones for Whitehead, but either one was acceptable to earn credit. A replica of Whitehead's aircraft was another available checkpoint in Bridgeport, but my wife was unable to find it, so we decided to maintain our brisk pace and continue to pick the low hanging fruit. Our next stop was supposed to be the Centaur of Tymfi. Once again, the Internet told us that this was located at the Barnum Museum, which was quite easy to find. 

Justin Hughes

Unfortunately the museum was closed. We took photos of our monkey bunny mascot at the museum door, which was the closest we could get to the centaur. Because the museum was closed, this was good enough to earn us the points for this one. From there it was on to Stratford, and another aviator's grave—Igor Sikorsky, the father of the helicopter. Once again, my wife put her Google and photo correlation skills to work, and we found it fairly easily. 

This was the last of the "while we're in town" stops for a while. Our next stop was Boothe Memorial Park, where we found a number of historic buildings from many eras in history, assembled together for all to see. This is one place I'd like to return to outside of the rally and explore at a leisurely pace. Our goal here was to find the obsolete toll booth that used to span the Merritt Parkway.

Justin Hughes

Before we found them we ran into "Dusty Ventures," a.k.a. Steve Harrell, the Oppo Rally's chief perpetrator. At the driver's meeting he'd told us that he would award bonus points for photos with him and/or his car throughout the day, so we took the opportunity, as well as filled him in on our plan of attack. We found the toll booth soon afterward, next to the main parking lot.

Justin Hughes

It was now afternoon, and we had covered very little distance since the start of the rally at 9:00 AM. Our mad pace of ticking off checkpoint after checkpoint was about to slow down, since it was now time to start putting some miles behind us as we began traveling to all of the car related checkpoints across Connecticut. 

Check out the second part of Justin's story here.