10 November 2008

2008 PanAm: Worldwide Connections - Queretaro - Holland - Colorado - Minnesota - Texas

Queretaro is one of my favorite PanAm cities - I find magic every time I go there, from the towering San Francis church in the zocolo, to the tens of thousands of blackbirds that swarm, the giant statue of the indian, Conin that greets you as you arrive, the amazing fans, underground parking, and my dear friend, Rudi, who lives there.

The day was another long one but we got a break because there were two service stops today at the same location, which meant we could get there on time, set up and have some downtime in between servicing cars.

After service Rene, Bimbo and I were able to make it to the town square in time to do a little bit of gift shopping before the racecars arrived. Rudi, a former coworker, had headed to the Queretaro Autodromo (racetrack) to watch the final speed stage so I knew he'd be by a little bit later.

Geezer's friends Juan and Alma arrived with giant smiles to help us celebrate the end of another successful day and throngs of people swarming the cars and drivers. I had met them about 10 years ago when Juan and Geezer worked together at the Modelo aluminum can plant Geezer built in Zacatecas and it was fun to see them again.

Alma, Geezer and Juan - old friends from Zacatecas.

My brother had insisted that Rene and I help him sign endless autographs for the children and by the time Rudi and his lovely friend arrived we were getting silly and night had fallen and we were running out of postcards to hand out.

K and Rene signing autographs.

Rudi ended up talking to a fellow Dutch countryman who was driving a sweet little Mercedes SL convertible. Next thing I know Rudi and his friend Leydi Carina had jumped on the back of the car and were driving through the crowded town square like the prom king and queen to escort the Mercedes guys to a shop where they could buy motor oil. Small world! (I later met the Dutch pilot's wife, Tjiske, in a bakery in Aguascalientes and explained my connection to Rudi).

Rudi and friend riding in the Dutch Mercedes.

I joined Geezer, Stewie, Rene, Bimbo at Vips for dinner, along with Geezer's friends Juan and Alma. Stewie's system always gets a little upset in Mexico so he appreciates the consistency of Vips (think Perkins in the U.S.) and a solid meal that doesn't come from a street vendor. I'm the opposite, eating anything that wafts in the open air and has elements of fresh corn tortillas and a well-seasoned cooking surface.

Stewie happily eating at Vips.

Juan and Alma offered Geezer and I a ride back to the hotel, which may sound like a small offering, but it seemed HUGE to ride in someone's cushy sedan and not a raucous race car or bumpy dually diesel truck and trailer with windows down and weeks of stale gear and dirty tools in the cab - though clearly I love those things too.

As I got in the backseat I was first hit with what I perceived to be the extreme cleanliness and emptiness of the car - understand here that my perception had been twisted by the last 2 weeks of dirty road tripping and very limited contact with my fellow homegirls and anything remotely feminine.

Then in a second wave I got hit with the smell of gasoline wafting from my dad's race suit. I tried to make my imprint small and wished I had been sitting on plastic covers like my grandma had on her couch. I squeezed my brain tight in the hopes of somehow keeping mine and my dad's personal motor-aromas from hitting the air and offending Juan and Alma and soiling their pretty car. Everything gets so twisted in La Carrera - this is just a small example. I was so appreciative of the quiet and almost sterile cocoon of that car ride....mmmmmmm.

Back at the Holiday Inn I stopped and reflected on one year ago that day - when at midnight in the covered parking garage in 2007 I had sat on the curb next to Todd while he worked on Richard's brakes. We had what I considered a "real" conversation - discussing life instead of asking how the other's race car was doing. And I did not know it then but we allowed events to unfold before us in the subsequent days, months and now a year.....and it truly is magic.

But back to 2008....I found Todd a block from the hotel, underneath the Gypsy Wind in the trailer addressing the split oil sump. He was filthy and laughed when he saw me crouch in the trailer to say hello and could not wait to tell me a story. Fernando had brought him a Coke Light in a bottle and set it on the trailer floor where he was working. Later Todd reached for the Coke, took a giant slug and as time almost stood still, realized he had just consumed dirty brake fluid! He was still laughing, but still pretty sure his breath hadn't improved from either the Coke or the brake fluid.

Todd in position under the Gypsy Wind, and the "new" shirt he put on after giving his Currie Rearends shirt to Rudi.

Rudi came to the hotel after helping out the Dutch guys and after chatting with Todd for a while, we had drinks in the bar and got caught up on 6 months of not seeing each other. Back at the trailer I asked Todd if he had any extra Currie Rearends team shirts for Rudi - he did not - so instead he literally took the shirt off his back and handed it to Rudi, filthy and well loved, as well as a dirty Dallas Mustangs workshirt he found on the floor. Rudi was beaming and now part of the team - dirt and sweat and tears and all of it included.

Pictures from the day:

Team TBZ/Stewart at the noon service.

Marc from Belgium showing his trophies from the day before.

My sweet and handsome Swedish friend, Anders, working hard on the Studebakers he spends all year building.

The ever-darling Linda Robertson, two days before the terrible crash that totalled her car but not her spirit.

Rene finishes a successful morning of speed stages in the mountains outside of Queretaro.

Paco and the blue truck that escorted me off the mountain last year after Rene and I went off the road.

Juan and his infectious smile - the other half of the amazing team that dragged me off the mountain last year. I will never forget these guys!

K washing windshields at noon service, and Bimbo checking on the serious stuff.

Bimboo - his name is Bimbo but this is how you spell it in Spanish - we could not have done so well this year without him!

Rene Rodriguez N. - a Stewart for sure!

Richard with Alexander Davidis' Discovery Channel film crew - Richard is soooo shy, haha.

Bleeding brakes at noon and the offending Coke Light bottle - I realized later I had a picture of it before it arrived in Todd's mouth later that evening.

Gerie Bledsoe helping out Richard Hamlin, whose navigator was sick.

Simon - race face.

Tomas y Jorge, back on the road after crashing on Day 1.

Dave and Shawn working on the team bike again - the perpetual flat front tire - and enjoying a rare break.

Coop, looking every ounce of the famous artist that he is. Check out http://www.coopstuff.com/.

La Pena de Bernal on the way to Queretaro.

From the truck window I shared a smile with this young man carrying a guitar on his bicycle.

Bimbo in the backseat of our Lincoln Towncar limo - a regular taxi ride to the zocolo was $3.50 USD so we spent an extra buck and went for the limo!

The beautiful Querataro San Francis chuch.

My friends Dyana Marlett and Sam Burg arrive in the Queretaro zocolo.

El Jefe arrives to a throng of fans.

K and her new Queretaro city worker girlfriends.

Happy Geezer. Memories to last a lifetime.

K hanging on to her brothers.

Rene waiting for Stewie to plant a kiss......and waiting.....

Stewie, K and Bimbo.

Rudi and his friend Leydi Carina from Queretaro.

K, Rudi and Leydi Carina in Queretaro.

Rudi and his new Dutch friend. According to Gerie Bledsoe: "Roel Mulder (Netherlands), and his navigator Marcus van Tol (Belgium) finished 31st in their Mercedes 230 SL. Roel, it should be noted, is the European and German Formula V Champion, and has been waiting for years to drive the Pan Am."

Kristin and Rudi van den Berg.

Kristin and Todd in the parking garage, one year ago to the day.......and after another La Carrera day that seemed to last forever.

04 November 2008

2008 PanAm: Johnny Tipler Book on La Carrera Almost Here!

A new book, La Carrera Panamericana: "The World's Greatest Road Race!" by Johnny Tipler with an intro by Jo Ramirez is almost on the shelves!

Please do me a giant favor and use this link to access Johnny's Book on Amazon. The link sends you to Around-N-Over.org and then to Amazon. Around-N-Over supports a friend of mine, Erden Eruç, as he continues his human-powered circumnavigation of the world in his effort to raise funds for school children around the world. Around-N-Over will receive a percentage of all Amazon sales initiated through their website.
All for Education and Inspiration
To accomplish, to inspire and to teach...

Two days ago I went to Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder to see Erden's presentation of his latest leg of the journey - a 312 day solo row across the Pacific Ocean - a simply amazing and world record-breaking feat.

To peruse Johnny's Book and raise money to enable schoolchildren to dream big and achieve their goals (with no cost to you):

1) Click here: http://www.around-n-over.org/promotions.htm and click on any of the Amazon links on the page.

2) Then type "Johnny Tipler Panamericana" in the search bar to see his upcoming book.

Motoring author, Johnny Tipler and Kristin in Aguascalientes at the 2006 PanAm.

Erden and his wife Nancy in Boulder this week.

03 November 2008

2008 PanAm: You can't comprehend how completely exhausting La Carrera is until you go.....

We stay in some really nice hotels across Mexico, but our heads don't spend much time on the pillows so we grab every chance we get to sleeeeeeeeep!

Ruby in Texas, not affected at all by our pre-race preparations.

Stewie catching some zzzzs before the race started.

Martin and Jon.....so sweet together and the matching shirts is a lovely touch.

Fernando, pointing his nose towards the map.

Martin and Jon on their day of rest while the Gypsy Wind was being repaired.

Bimbo taking advantage of the shade.

Martin probably dreaming of the finish line.

Bimbo trying to hide in the back seat of Big Mama.

Marc getting some shut eye on a rare noon break.

Dave, after a very long 3 weeks, asleep at the final awards ceremony!

And finally....Fernando's bed....it looked like this every morning because he was hardly ever in it.