19 November 2006

2006: Day 3 –Puebla to Queretaro (12-Nov-06)

It was a very early start and we got up at 5 am to get to the start line downtown by 7:30 am. It was going to be a long day, but we didn’t know that yet. Rene had some minor repairs to make, spraying the clutch and checking things out. Stewie drove this morning and I navigated.

Rene makes very early morning repairs in Puebla

It was a beautiful morning and dawn broke and the morning light washed over the town square. Drivers and copilots milled around their cars waiting for the officials to arrive. I got in line to get our race card only to learn that #11 was missing. Other cars were missing their cards as well. I asked the official what I should do and he was clearly panicked and told me he didn’t know. I asked a few other people, and asked the official again and he finally told me to create a race card on a blank piece of paper. By this time cars were revving up and getting ready to go. I rushed back to our car which was at the back of the line and Stewie created a race card on a blank pad of paper. Always in this race you go with the flow. There is no reason to get upset, or try to fix things as they will work out.

"El Jefe" hanging tough in Puebla

My new friends, Tom and George, driving the #283 Volvo

More cars ready to roll

Puebla town square in the early morning light

My "Hot Rod Lincoln" buddies before the morning's start

We headed out and pointed it towards Mexico City where we were to race around an official race track. I knew Stewie was excited to drive the track and I had heard that most navigators put away their books and just went along for the ride, letting the driver do his thing.

We had a great transit up and over a mountain range that reminded me of the Denver foothills. Today was much cooler, finally and we were in the mountains and got a little bit of rain.

The beautiful snow-covered mountains between Puebla and Mexico City

We were making good time and hit the outskirts of Mexico City, the city of 23+ million people. I had never been to Mexico City and was excited to have my first time be today. As we got closer to the thick of the city we heard a terrible noise and suddenly something was dragging underneath us. I shouted to Stewie, “Do we have power?” He nodded his head yes and I knew we had dropped part of the exhaust. I knew that if you are going to drop parts off your car, the exhaust is a good thing to pick.

He quickly pulled over, though there wasn’t much shoulder, and I looked underneath and confirmed that the pipe had broken just under the driver’s seat. I stood at the back of the car while he crawled underneath to wire the pipe to the frame so we could go again. Traffic was horrendous and we were not in a safe spot but because this is normal for Mexico I didn’t worry like I would have in the U.S.

The place where we dropped the exhaust

We quickly drove on but only a few minutes later it dropped again. Stewie said, “I thought one twist was enough.” We pulled over again, he wired it up again, and then the car wouldn’t start. Shit!! The battery was dead. We were in a huge hurry because we were about 15 km from the race track and didn’t have any extra time to screw around and didn’t want to miss our start time at the race track. We looked for jumper cables and learned we didn’t have any. An official race sag vehicle stopped and said they could help. Another vehicle stopped as well, and I tried calling my dad but couldn’t get through and couldn’t understand the operator’s recorded message. I got a hold of my mom on the cell phone and was trying to ask her to call my dad to tell them to come and meet us, but the connection was terrible so I gave up. We jockeyed the car around on the shoulder to get closer to the car that was going to jump us. There was a dead black dog in the road immediately in front of the car and his front leg was right in front of my door. Ugh. I couldn’t help think sadly of my late black lab, Juno.

We got the car jumped after 2 or 3 tries and were back on the road. We sped into the race track parking lot, jumped out and began to get on our helmets. But to our disappointment someone walked up and informed us that the race track was closed to La Carrera. We were 12 minutes late and they had another scheduled race later in the day and had to close the doors. I think Stewie was really bummed. It is not a huge deal to miss a speed stage. You are likely not going to place for the day but it’s not the end of the world.

We headed back out and threaded our way through the monstrous city. For the first time the route book included several pictures of the intersections with arrows for our intended direction, which was very helpful. It wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined and we did very well until Stewie second guessed a right turn I needed him to make and we got off track. Luckily we were able to take a few cloverleafs and get back on the same road, which is not always so easy to do in Mexico.

Route book for Mexico City

Mexico City!

One of the red Jags on the road

The city was incredible, monstrous, never ending. I enjoyed it and especially a Mexican flag that was bigger than any flag I’d ever seen. We made it through the city without any more drama. We arrived at the service stop outside of Queretaro and put Rene to work right away on the car. After a long search I was able to find a crew with a mig welder and they offered to fix the exhaust. We drove the car to their support trailer and the two guys got to work and within minutes we were back in business.

The mid-day service stop outside of Queretaro

Never a moment of rest for our driver/mechanic Rene!

The Pepsi Corvette team welding our exhaust

Christian Reichardt and Stanley Bauer drove this original PanAm Lincoln all the way from California, a round trip of 6,571 miles

Geezer with his friends Gustavo Robles and Gustavo Jr, who were not able to race this year

Posing with some fans in their convertible Cadillac

Local fans ..... really nice cars come out of the woodwork when La Carrera is in town

Brad Kaplan and Stanley Bauer

Rene drove in the afternoon with Stewie navigating and Geezer and I waved them off. We were very close to the hotel in Queretaro, but the race cars were going to head out of town and climb some mountains and weave their way back to Queretaro in the evening. I was excited because my good friend and Pcubed coworker, Rudi van den Berg, and his wife Gabi live in Queretaro. Rudi has been to Zacatecas to meet my dad and see his shop and he was going to come out to see us race.

But before we could make it to the hotel, the same sag vehicle that helped us outside of Mexico City stopped by our truck and asked us if we could tow a race car. We obliged and while Geezer went to check it out the guys asked me if I’d like something to drink. I asked what they had and they said, “Water, juice, coke…….beer.” That was an easy choice!

La Carrera sag vehicle staff - they had beer!

The English guys with the pink Jaguar were parked around the corner so we drove to pick them up. They said they had broken their 3rd distributor cap of the race and trying to find a cap for a 1962 Jag in Mexico wasn’t the easiest thing to do. We loaded the car and headed for their hotel, which was next to ours. La Carrera teams are not always in the same hotel as there are so many of us. There are typically 3 hotels and sometimes they are close to each other and sometimes not. We unloaded their car and they asked Geezer if he could translate for them. He called another race participant, a guy in a black Jag who had broken down the day before and was in Mexico getting his car fixed. He was going to skip the race for today and catch up with us tomorrow in Morelia. The English guys asked him if he could bring the distributor parts to Queretaro and he said he couldn’t. They told him they were willing to pay him for his time, but he said the best he could do was bring the parts to Morelia the next day.

Beautiful Queretaro

The English Jaguar guys

Geezer and I checked into the hotel and then took a taxi about 10 minutes to a downtown square to watch the finish and meet Rudi and Gabi, and their American friend, Rachel. Rudi is from the Netherlands and his wife is from Mexico City. When I met him in 2000 they were living in San Jose, but a few years later moved to Queretaro so they could be closer to Gabi’s family. We found them as the crowd was not so big this time and Gabi said the race hadn’t been promoted at all and not many people knew about it. Also, the people who follow the race and sell race shirts, patches and memorabilia were not allowed to sell in the town square.

The afternoon's mountainous route

A checkpoint federale trying not to smile

Rachel, Gabi and Rudi at the finish

The church in Queretaro where Rudi and Gabi were married a few years back

A Mustang crosses the finish line in Queretaro

Antonio waits for his Mini to cross the finish line

It was great to see Rudi on his home turf and finally meet his wonderful wife! We watched the cars arrive and told him about our day. We weren’t there very long before Stewie called and said the car had broken down and he needed us to come get them. They were at the furthest point away on the race route and the car wouldn’t start. It was the distributor/points and Rene knew exactly what to do, but the parts were in the Extinction. Stewie said he was going to head to the hotel and we’d meet him there and then all go back to the race car together. We knew the km marker where the car was, but I guess he thought he had to be with us to help find the car.

Stained glass in the hotel depicting a mountain landmark in Queretaro

So Stewie got in the Mini Cooper’s service vehicle, which later stopped to help another broken down car. He then got in a Porsche service vehicle and without a cell phone he didn’t call to tell us what was going on. It took him 3 hours to get back to the hotel and by then it was about 830 pm and dark. Rudi had driven Geezer and I back to the hotel from the town square and was going to lead us up the mountain in the dark to find the car, as he was familiar with the area. Gabi joined us at the hotel and they got 4 hamburgers and fries to go from the hotel because we were all starving and again hadn’t eaten all day.

When Stewie arrived we quickly took off; Rudi, Gabi and I in his mint 1982 Ford Fairmont and Geezer and Stewie in the Extinction. Geezer was driving which made me a little nervous because he had forgotten his glasses at home so at night he had to wear his sunglasses. We drove up and out of Queretaro on country roads, Rudi leading the way. We passed through numerous villages and it was a long trek and took us about 1-1/2 hours to get there. At this point Rene had been stranded with the car for about 5 hours.

We finally arrived and Rene was in great spirits, laughing and telling us about his adventure with the car. He knew exactly what he needed to fix it, but he didn’t have it. there was a junked out Ford nearby and he knocked on the door and told the son he needed some parts out of it, but the son said his father wasn’t home and he couldn’t help. He made friends with another guy who brought him back cigarettes and a warm beer. He said he had a great time and found a plastic doll head of a cowgirl to keep him company.

Late night repairs

We had brought the parts and he swapped the electronic ignition for the original points and the car was running within 10 minutes. We put it on the trailer for the ride home since it was late and we were all tired and it would be safer that way. We headed out and hit the sack, knowing we had another early start in the morning. What a day!!

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