ANOTHER POST-CARRERA COMING HOME
It was good to return home to the coast of Northern California after three weeks on the road. It was also good that the locks had not been changed and the pool boy's rusty truck was not in my spot in the garage. Seriously, it is great to have a supportive spouse, who understands, if not fully appreciates, my other great passion in life.
It usually takes me two weeks of moping around the house to recover from the Carrera. I have called it both “accelerator deprivation” and “post-Carrera stress syndrome.” Why do I wake up at 6 AM with an urge to drive 80 MPH to the local gas station?
I do miss the open roads, the kids, colors, and even the smells of Mexico. Of course, I do not miss our leaky exhaust, stinky driver's suit, or those who wanted to natter on about their personal problems while I was urgently trying to find the WC in Jalpan.
As ever, it was great to see all of you. Well, at least everyone from this hemisphere. Ours is truly a unique club, blessed by only one annual (seven-day) meeting each year. The dues are a bit steep but the memories are priceless.
We were all pleased by our new class of rookies. They seemed to be good sports and having fun. We hope they felt welcome and will return in the future. Some, like Martin Lauber and Ed Hugo, did exceptionally well, too.
My apologies for leaving out the results in Sports Mayor and Original Pan Am from my "initial" press release. I was under pressure from magazines in Europe to get them something yesterday and my short-term memory was not improved by ten straight days of driving. Apparently, the Carrera Office is closed.
Congratulations to John and Chrislana Gregory for their victory in OPA. Clearly, they also should get a prize for "most improved" and most wonderful attitude. It was also good to see Ed Hugo wring more of the potential out of the LT-Chevelle Special as he won the Sports Mayor class. Too bad there is not more cars in that class, but Ed did well against the Turismo Production and Turismo Mayor cars, finishing right behind former SCCA rally champ Karl Scheible and his new co-piloto, Lady Di Marlett.
My "final" report on the race will be more inclusive. And yes, Mats Hammarlund builds ’54 Studebakers (not ’64 Larks) for his Swedish clients and others. Winning LCP with one of his cars has been Mats’ ambition for many years. Congratulations to all at MH Racing! http://www.mhracing.com.mx/
THE COYOTE CONVOY
Again the Coyote Convoy seemed successful, even after a few ominous warnings before we crossed the border. For the eighth year, we got everyone to the start of the race and had some fun along the way.
But the story started with bad news. Two Carrera trucks had tried to penetrate the border at the Columbia Bridge on Friday (the day before the Convoy was due at the border) but were forced to turn back to the U.S. They were towing two race cars with tourist stickers, but the car owners were not present.
The news caused me to have a major bout of indigestion, especially since the Carrera Office had warned me a week earlier of potential problems with the Mexican Customs authorities, too. Of course, the Carrera Office offered us absolutely no help at any point along the way.
But we came up with a plan for the Convoy that was ultimately well executed, and everyone got across the border, except Steve and Gail Waldman, who did not have their tourist cards. They returned to the border and armed with tourist cards waved as they passed the convoy on the way to San Miguel de Allende.
I am sure it was the $99 flashing light on the top of my new truck that got us across. Ha!
The two trucks that failed to cross the border at the Columbia Bridge slipped across at Nuevo Laredo in the early morning hours just before the Convoy. Again they eschewed the protection afforded by a convoy.
Before next year's border crossing we will develop a new procedure for crossing the border with our trucks, racecars, spares, chattels, and assigns. To do so will require the participation of all those hauling cars into Mexico—big trucks and little trucks. If we can achieve this level of cooperation, it will greatly minimize our annual uncertainty as approach the border in Nuevo Laredo. Of course, herding kangaroos might be less challenging.
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, THE CAR SHOW, AND MEXICAN CHARITIES
I would like to thank those who unloaded their cars to display them in the Jardin, the central square, in San Miguel de Allende. The participation of the Predator group was especially appreciated. We had about 20 cars and lots of kids and local citizens, both Mexican and gringo. It was a fun day in a lovely city.
I also must thank all of those who contributed to our favorite Mexican charity, C.A.S.A. It is a magnificant organization that does so much good for the children and families in San Miguel and the surrounding areas. http://www.casa.org.mx
We also raised $1095 from Coyote Convoy T shirt sales for our Mexican nurse Lupita Hernandez, who lost both her legs at the hip in 2003 in a Carrera racing accident.
I still have lots of Coyote Convoy T shirts from last year and this year. The suggested contribution is only $10, plus $3 in postage. Add another $3 for 2XL and 3XL.
A special thanks to Kim Watkins and Ralph Carguni for their generous donations to our causes, and to the other donors who remain anonymous.
It's good to give back a little to a country that has so little, but is so rich in spirit!
Because of the decline in participation, the Coyote Convoy and the San Miguel car show may not happen next year. We simply need a larger group of cars and participants for the show and to bargin rates with hotels for rooms and breakfast.
THE ROUTE INTO MEXICO
The big news this year was the opening of the Arco Norte, the new toll road completely around Mexico City. Our prayers have been answered. The road is 104.5 miles long and we averaged around 70 MPH. It cut about 3 hours off the drive from San Juan del Rio to Puebla and Oaxaca. How cool is that? The cost was 484 pesos ($38) -- cheap at any price.
I thought a lot about Jerry Churchill as we rumbled down that fine super highway and the many years he and I struggled to lead our convoy cross Mexico City or to go around it on the old truck route. He would have been more than pleased.
PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR – EXPRESS YOUR OPINION ON FOUR ISSUES
On these four items you should make your personal views known to Eduardo Leon at email@example.com. Feel free to give him your brief, unvarnished opinion on each.
NUMERO UNO. Right now the Carrera Office (Eduardo Leon) is inclined to start the race again in Huatulco. Do you want to start the race there next year?
The other option is Tuxtla Gutierrez.
Personally, I favor Tuxtla, since it is part of the original race and it is a real Mexican town, mostly populated with Mayan descendents. But I can understand the allure of the beach in Huatulco, and can certainly endure the heat and humidity a second time.
NUMERO DOS. How about the drive to Guadalajara to visit the village of Tequila?
Personally, I thought it was a very long day in the saddle, just for a nice dinner and fiesta. It was great to have a Mexican band sing “Under the Board Walk” a capella. (Only the bride and groom were missing!)
NUMERO TRES. Do you want to return to Mexico City next year?
NUMERO QUATRO. Do you want me back as North American Coordinator?
If so, let Lalo know.
GOOD MEMORIES, TRIALS, AND TRAVAILS
Many times this year we witnessed examples of the Carrera Spirit – helping and supporting our friends and competitors with spare parts, labor, PBJs, fix-a-flat, and even short-term financial assistance. Heck, my spare motor mounts helped the Leningrad Cowboys get their ’58 Corvette back on the road, and I even forgot to get an autograph.
We will long remember the gigantic traffic jam at the first speed stage the afternoon of the first day, as well as the big, friendly crowd in Tehuacan. My co-piloto had to climb out the window, since he could not open the door, given the human crush.
How about the deluge in Mexico City when we arrived from Oaxaca? (Our wiper motor failed, along with the Rain X, and directions in the route book.) Do we really need to venture into Mexico City next year? And then there was the long wait the next morning to find out our marching orders for the day, after our laps on the track were canceled. Does anyone have a Plan B, I asked? Then there were the persistent rumors about how to calculate the next time for the first Control Z that day. (Sadly, we got our Z time wrong and got max times for the rest of the day!)
We shouldn’t forget the magnificant canyons on the way to Jalpan, or the beautiful descent into that city from the mountain top. It rivals the Swiss Alps. The well-organized entrance to San Luis de Potosi should be remembered, too. It was a gem. Friendly crowds, too, in the main square. It was too wet to appreciate last year.
Of course there was the big wedding tent in Tequila, and more vividly, the drive back to our hotels in Guadalajara – some did not have enough (any?) headlights or wipers, but most had enough tequila to help us relax for the trip. And wasn’t the departure from Guadalajara special, too? Just another “cluster phuck” that makes the LCP experience so special.
We were impressed by the large number of police, Federales, and guys cald in black kevlar, helmets, ski masks, and M16s. Wow! You might think someone important was racing with us. BTW, did you detect the squad of private bodyguards in their “ambulance” hot on the tail of the team of Mexican Porsches?
Zacatecas was cold and windy, but the locals were out in force. The parade following the little band and burro was fun as ever, and after a few cups of mezcal, who cared about the cold? Oh, how we should return to the days when we spent two nights in this wonderful city.
We may soon forget the long drive (426 miles) from Zac to Nuevo Laredo, but we won’t soon forget the crowds that welcomed us. For me the entry into N.L. was extremely special this year because it was the first time since 2002 that I finished the race in my own car. I also had a lump in my throat when I raced down that hill in La Bufa that wrecked our car and a friendship back in 2005.
Thanks to my special crew (Todd, Kristin, and Fernando) and many friends, like Roger, Rick, Ernie and the guys at North Bay Bavarian in Santa Rosa, CA, who helped and encouraged me. It was a good year, even if we finished way down the list. Most importantly, we finished……. unscathed.
To be sure, the passion and spirit of the Carrera lives.
CHIHUAHUA EXPRESS AND RALLY MASTER PROGRAM
My body is not responding well to random thoughts about driving back down to Mexico in March for the Chihuahua Express. But I plan to be there.
There was a lot of good talk about the Express during the Carrera, so we hope that many of you and others will join us in El Paso on March 17 for the short trip down to Chihuahua.
In the “news” category, I am considering hosting a special “Rally Master” program to teach gringos about stage rallying in Mexico – from learning the rules, including timing and scoring, as well as the art of dodging burros on the open road.
There would be some classroom time, as well as “lead-follow” instruction on the open road, while following the race cars, at increasing speeds over the course of the three days.
If you know of anyone who might benefit from such a program, please let me know. Please do not nominate your spouse anonymously. Participants will only need a (safe) car (a rental would do), a modest tuition fee, and a helmet to participate.