Wednesday, February 13, 2008
The same dream from a different perspective
One thing you will never hear while at La Carrera Panamericana is, "I'm bored." That word simply does not exist during that week long event. You are up so early in the morning that the roosters are still comatose and if you don't have everything laid out the night before you are going to be left behind. Before you know it there is that all familiar green flag draped down over your windshield with a countdown in Spanish. As the sound of the engine revs high and the smell of exhaust comes in the window and finally the flag is lifted you're off! Hundreds of cheering fans line each side of the road as you leave the arch and finally you can feel the engine work past the high altitude bog that is all too common during this race. First gear winds out... Second gear... Third gear.... fourth gear... Now you hear the co piloto... "Right three after the crest."
It's like this for the rest of the day, over and over but before you know what happened you find yourself in the next city square and again surrounded by thousands of fans who are also screaming, waving flags and they are as excited as you are. I honestly believe in my heart that these same wonderful people of Mexico feel as if they have been in the car with you all day.
When you visit with these people you hear so many wonderful stories and everyone of them is special and so full of passion. They tell you about the cars they saw last year... about the time they met a driver some years ago... about the car they have always dreamed of. But one story you hear over and over is how they grew up from the time they were little boys and girls hearing about the cars of La Carrera Panamericana. Fathers have told their children about the time their mother and father meat Juan Fangio back in the 50's or about their fathers who told them about the time they saw the amazing cars as they passed thru Oaxaca. They tell you how they have dreamed of being able to see a race they have heard about all their lives and now here we are all together fulfilling the same dream except for them it is a tradition they have grown up with.
As you drive thru the huge crowds of thousands of fans who are lining the streets many parents have to hold up their little children so they can see the passing cars. It's overwhelming when you look into their eyes and see how excited they are to actually be there almost a look of "I can't believe I'm really here!" Trust me when I tell you the driver and co-driver share that same emotion. It's been over four months and we still share that feeling.
I will never forget, in one town we were greeted by so many wonderful people as we came to a town square with very narrow streets which caused us to have to really slow down as they handed us gifts and a welcome lunch to hold us over for the next long transit. During this section the hundreds of fans were actually rubbing against the sides of the race cars as they reached out to try and touch our hand or the car. Parents with little children, young people, teenagers and elderly people alike all shared in this excitement and when you did manage to reach out and shake a hand or make eye contact or say hello you could see the special way in which you had affected their life.
There was a lady who managed to carry her little boy who was waving a homemade American flag made from paper, glitter and stick on stars. As she got to my window she was trying to tell me something in Spanish and thankfully someone was there to interpret for me. Here little boy handed me the homemade flag and the interpreter said, "Her son made this flag and he is so excited he wants to give it to you." Quickly Jon handed me a hero card and I signed it for the boy and reached out and shook the little boy and his mother's hand. I said, "Now tell him to hang that on his bedroom wall." and the reply was, "No, he will place it on a shrine." I will never forget that little boy or his mother nor will I forget the smiles in bth their eyes.
Thanks to Bret Haller we can enjoy these photos which capture images of just one of those little boys that shares the same excitement that is all too common of the thousands of children that attend La Carrera. You would think they thought Santa Claus was in every car and you know that when they go back to school all their friends will listen to them as they say, "And then I actually touched some of the La Carrera Panamericana cars just like my grand father did."