23 October 2009

2009 LCP: Day 1 Hualtuco to Oaxaca end of day, all is well

"We'll fix 'er up with some pretty duct tape....." Todd hammers out the fenders of the Durango Deuce II to make room for oversized tires at the end of Day 1 in Oaxaca.

Original Update:

Fabulous photo of the Geezer and his Happy Smile courtesy of Coop!

Hello! First internet connection in many days. All is well, we made it to Oaxaca, it is the end of Day 1. I talked to Geezer on the cell and he was in El Centro in Oaxaca enjoying the festivities at the finish line. It was a VERY hot day, starting in Hualtuco near the coast with heat and humidity, traveling through windy mountain roads to Oaxaca with heat and a bit less humidity.

Crazy small world story - I got an email tonight from Kevin, a friend of mine from my hometown in Colorado. He said, "Hey, are you racing in Oaxaca? I'm in the zocolo, saw the race cars and wondered if it was you!" Unfortunately I got the email too late to see him downtown but was thrilled anyway.

Gerie Bledsoe is having some mechanical problems and we put him on the trailer and now at 8pm in the Fiesta Inn parking lot Todd is working on the Nova and we hope to get it back on the road tomorrow morning.

The Hot Rod Lincoln did a little jig this afternoon in the mountains and crunched a few fenders and wheels but they are back on the road and Ralph and Bill are fine.

Hugo and Ralph inspect the aftermath of Lincoln #101.

Fernando made it to the finish line with Alberto in the right-hand drive Saab. Woo!

We saw Mockett on the side of the road just after the noon service with the hood up - mechanical problems, not a crash.

Many other cars are on trailers but we have not seen any other crash damage.

I will do my best to upload pictures later tonight. I need to get a taxi and go across town to Geezer's hotel where my luggage is first.

!Viva Mexico!

Expanded Update:

Today, Friday, October 23, the first official day of racing, took us along the coast away from Hualtuco and then to Oaxaca. It's the jungle down here, very warm and extremely humid and you can be a couple of hundred yards from the coast and in such thick vegetation that you don't see it.

I rode with Bimbo today in the Big Mama since Stewie doesn't arrive until tonight in Oaxaca. It's best to have a navigator in the service vehicles as well, so I navigated for Bimbo and Hugo followed us in Ralph and Bill's truck. We left pretty early, 7 am, if I remember right and it was smooth sailing through the mountainous jungle. The sun was rising as a hot pink ball through the green trees - the glimpses we got were amazing.

Several hours up the coast from Hualtuco.

The noon service was in ???? (I forgot the name, near the coast) and while we waited I made friends with a wonderful local family. Her name was Nela (and I will massacre the spelling until I find her card) and her husband Salim and their beautiful children. We spent at least 30 minutes talking in Spanish and English. Her small son is car crazy and tells everyone he is going to be a race car driver when he grows up. His mom says she does not want him to race, but that he can be an airplane pilot like her father and brother. Very beautiful people and she left me with her information and said we could stay with them if we ever returned to the area and weren't racing. Her name means, "I love you" in Zapotec (again, I need to come back and correct the spelling of the natives in this area, I apologize) and it was fitting for such a beautiful and warm woman.

Nela, please email me at the email listed on the TBZ Racing postcard so we can connect!

It was very hot as we waited for the racers to arrive and when they did, most of them were soaking wet and exhausted looking from the heat. Lars in the fast Studebaker told me he lost his brakes on the second speed stage of the morning and he said it made for some very fast coasting downhill. While we waited Bimbo and Hugo and I made friends with some fun local ladies.

Eventually all of our racers made it in and we handed them cold waters, Gatorade, encouraged them to eat and checking in with the condition of the cars. Gerie continued to have problems with the oversized tires rubbing mostly in the back fenders. The racers were mobbed by fans, mostly kids wanting postcards and autographs. We prepared ice in Ziplocs to cool down Gerie and Geezer.

El Jefe headed to the checkpoint before noon service.

Gerie's tires were extremely hot and rubbing on the inside of the fender - not good.

Racers coming into noon service - a very hot morning.

The fired up local fans with whom we made friends.

Gerie with Nela's babies - young Salim will be a race car driver someday.

Bimbo directing Ralph and Bill to the service trucks at noon.

In this race there are transit sections, and speed sections where the public roads are closed so that the racers can have the entire road and go as fast as possible. Following in the service truck can be a bit tricky so when we have 2 or more service trucks it goes like this: Truck 1 goes out very early in the morning, before the racers and before they close the roads for the speed sections. They get to the noon service and wait for their race cars to arrive. Truck 2 goes out after all of the racers and sweeps so that if any of the disabled cars need assistance, we can help them.

We of course are on the lookout for our cars, but we also stop for every car we see on the side of the road and ask if we can help. Sometimes it is as simple as telling the racers that we saw their crew 10 minutes back and they are on their way. The tricky part is that if you put a disabled car on your trailer you hope you don't then come across your own race car needing a tow. Magically, it all seems to work out.

The noon service is almost always chaotic and crowded. There is often confusion about where the checkpoint is, and this is important to avoid penalties. There are usually 50+ cars at one gas station at once, with trucks, trailers and crew. Most everyone needs gas, ice, drinks and use of the restroom. Then you add in throngs of spectators in their cars and on foot, some stray dogs and homeless folks and you have the backdrop for a typical noon service. The good part is that not everyone arrives at once and they all stay about the same amount of designated time (usually a little over an hour) so there is constant flow.

Young fans.

Geezer getting mobbed for autographs.

Once the noon service is over and your race cars are gone, both service trucks can follow the race course, both sweeping. What happens is that you usually catch up to the race and since they close the road for the speed stages you end up stopped in traffic in a very long line, sometimes for as long as an hour. If you get there early enough you can walk sometimes as far as a mile to the start of the speed stage and watch the cars start. It is always fun to catch up to your racers, ask if they need anything, check out the car and send them off with the best of luck. There often aren't too many spectators at the start of a speed stage as most of them start in the middle of rural nowhere. But sometimes they start in the middle of a village and are mobbed with locals and that is always fun. I do feel bad for the locals as I am not sure how much warning they get that we are coming and it pretty much screws up the traffic for 2 to 3 hours.

Jake Shuttlesworth with race face on Day 1.

Bald tires on a semi - wow.

Typical line up for a speed stage - cars sitting and waiting for up to an hour.

We saw a handful of cars on the side of the road for what looked like mechanical reasons but we didn't see anyone who had gone offroad until we came to an uphill corner in the mountains and the Hot Rod Lincoln was on the side of the road with a bashed in front end and fender and half missing back fender. "OH NO!!!" I exclaimed. I will admit that it is always exciting to see cars that have gone off the road provided that the pilot and copilot are absolutely fine. But the car looked terrible and even though I saw both Ralph and Bill standing there looking healthy I still got a lightning bolt of fear.

There was nowhere to pull over but we found a spot about a quarter of a mile downhill. Bimbo and Todd ran down to check on them and came back quickly reporting that the car was fine and now that Hugo was there they could put on two spares and be rolling again. They had slid off a corner into the deep concrete gutter/gully and bashed both wheels and both front and back. The guys were fine and anxious to get back on road but the crash had wedged their jack in the trunk and they couldn't get it out.

About an hour later coming out of a small village we spotted Gerie's Nova on the side of the road. Again, our hearts sank but we knew instantly the guys were okay, and that is a world of difference from hearing that someone has crashed but not knowing if they are okay. Gerie's tires were still rubbing and causing problems and the car was overheating and he thought he blew a head gasket and he didn't want to do further damage so we put the car on the trailer for the final transit of the day. Coop wanted to get back to town sooner so he hopped into the Big Mama with Bimbo and I handed him my Spanish/English dictionary since he doesn't speak Spanish and Bimbo doesn't speak English.

Finding Gerie and Coop on the side of the road on the afternoon of Day 1.

Coming into the outskirts of Oaxaca we passed through an area with mezcal distilleries and shops dotting the main road. Mezcal is the oldest and purest alcohol on earth and it is from the state of Oaxaca. Of course we didn't have time to stop and shop, but it was fun to see.

The mezcal region of Oaxaca - it all begins here.

In Oaxaca we got a bit turned around and had to hire a taxi to lead us to the Fiesta Inn. It is tough to navigate narrow streets in truck and trailer - one wrong turn and you can be screwed up for a while looking for a place to turn around. But we made it and Todd insisted we all eat dinner and then he would begin to address Gerie's issues.

Todd hammering out the rear fenders to make room for the tires.

After dinner I hopped a cab across town to the Hotel Victoria to get my luggage which I had left in the Big Mama. When I got there I got to inspect the damage on Ralph and Bill's Lincoln. They were in good spirits as the damage was mostly on the body and Bill said they'd be running again in the morning.

Ralph and Bill's Lincoln damage - front and rear.

My Swedish friend Anders came by asking if anyone had specific spare parts, like a strange late night scavenger hunt. Bill happened to have the gasket kit they desperately needed and a deal was made whereby Anders' team would find the part in Mexico City tomorrow and return it to Bill.
Anders and Felipe from the K& N Filter '54 Ford Victoria on a scavenger hunt for Ford parts.

Rene and Bimbo were replacing a battered ball joint on El Jefe when two taxis pulled up - one with my brother and one with a 12-pack of beer. Stewie's work committments had kept him from making it to the start of the race so he arrived the evening of Day 1 of racing. We caught him up on all of the excitement of the race so far, and he dug his race equipment out of the truck and prepared for the early start tomorrow.

Geezer and crew were staying at the beautiful Victoria Hotel in Oaxaca. I love that place so I climbed the big hill to the main building and stood in the bar overlooking Oaxaca with the most beautiful view - and took a deep breath and decided to keep that view in my heart and mind for a long time.

I then headed back to our hotel in a taxi and Todd was finishing up with the Nova and we headed to bed....tired and happy. It is always such a long day - Day 1 - and I usually think to myself or say to someone, "I cannot believe it is ONLY Day 1." But I also know that I will blink a couple of times and the race will be over. Funny how Father Time works.

A little offroad action for a Studebaker.

More bumps and bruises - this one on the car I call the Manheim Steamroller - we later heard they were rear-ended by a pickup during a transit.

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