Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A New Way of Thinking

Preparing for our Lap of Alabama has required somewhat of a shift in the mindset from previous trips I have made.  Apart from my hobby of antique cars, I have been involved with several international rallies and races.  I prepared cars to race 1800 miles from the southern border of Mexico to Laredo, Texas in the La Carrera Panamericana four different years.  On those trips I drove a truck and pulled a trailer carrying spare parts, tools, even a welder. We had to work on the cars every night and often at lunch stops and checkpoints.  We had  to  repair things on the car that broke, recalibrate rally computers and adjust jetting for different altitudes. On one occasion, the race car ended up against the side of a mountain, destroying the right front suspension and the rear end.  We worked almost 24 hours straight, but got the car back in contention.  Mexican roads can play havoc on a race car, support truck and trailer, and especially the crew.  One year I continued for six days in severe pain, only finding when I returned to the States that I had ruptured a disc in my neck.
P2P 010In 1997 I helped prepare two 1950 Fords and navigated one of them from Peking, China to Paris, France.  On that trip we had no support truck.  All of our spares and tools (and support crew, for that matter) had to be onboard. These two Fords weren't as much race cars as the Mercury and Corvette we had in Mexico, but they required their fair share of repairs and maintenance.  Lessons learned in Mexico had stood us well in the Peking to Paris, and the cars were built really strong, with redundant systems wherever possible.  We had spare parts stashed everywhere in the cars, and used many of them.  NAPA and Auto Zone were a long way away. 

All of these were race cars, with the difference that they didn’t pass their pits every few minutes. I can also claim to be one of the last of an old breed of “riding mechanics”.

The trip we have planned for September is different, and it has required me to radically change my way of thinking.  First, the Model A is NOT a race car.  It will not be pushed to the limits we did on other trips. Redundant ignition systems or fuel pumps are unnecessary. (the Model A doesn't have even one fuel pump, so unless the magnetic poles flip and we totally lose gravity, the carb will still get fuel!)  Second, this is not a competition.  If something breaks, I can fix it at my leisure – not working all night to stay in the hunt.  Third, if I need help,  I should be able to find someone who speaks English.  Cell phones work in most of Alabama, too.  P2P 011

Fourth, this is, after all,  Alabama!  The roads are in great shape and it is unlikely we will come upon a bridge that is out.  Most livestock will be penned up and sacred cows will not be wandering through the towns.  Finally, before I leave, I will hook up the trailer to my F-150.  If the Model A should have a really serious problem, I can call my son or a friend to swing by my house, pick up the truck and come get us!  I don’t think we will ever be more than five hours from home.  That isn’t to say that I have been able to totally separate myself from the “prepare for every eventuality” mindset.  I still have a list of spares and tools that I will carry, and even though NAPA and Auto Zone are only a phone call away, they don’t list too many Model A Ford parts anymore.

This will, I hope, be a leisure trip, a trip to enjoy and see sights more than just in passing.  The purpose of the trip is the journey itself, as much as any destination along the way.  Rushing past the Great Wall in China, driving past Mount Everest or crossing The Isthmus of Corinth at 75 mph was neat, I guess, but I feel like I’ve been there and DIDN’T get the T-shirt.

No comments:

Post a Comment