27 October 2013

2013 La Carrera Panamericana: Day 3 Mexico City to Queretaro

Skipping ahead, will go back and fix the blog later.  For now, great family photos!

El Jefe's successful finish in Queretaro!

Rudi and darling son Sammi, who visit us every year in Queretaro!

Rudi, Sammi and K

Julio yah baby

The annual smokie smokie picture.  Love Geezer's smile in this one.

The whole enchilada!  Tonio, Geezer, Rene, Stewie, K, Bimbo

2013 La Carrera Panamericana: Day 1 Veracruz to Oaxaca

These blog entries are pretty rough; I don't know how I used to articulately blog when I was young (i.e. 2006) AND race AND party!  

I got up around 7am, which wasn’t too bad, and had a WTF moment when a guy banged on my door at 7:10am and I was in scanty PJs and he said he needed to check the mini-bar.  Ummm, okay.  He did and he left.  I don’t know, I don’t ask, I just keep rolling!

I got to the truck and Rene said, “Where you been?”  I was 2 minutes late.  I said, “You said 8am,” and he said, “I said 7:30am.”  Umm, okay, just keep rolling. 

So Rene, Bimbo, Tonio and I headed for the mountains to meet the race car at service.  It was a long morning climbing several mountain passes in the rain and fog that were nearly 9,000 feet in elevation.   The temperature was a perfect 72 when we left Veracruz and now we were a wet, cold 56 in the mountains.

The guys listen to fantastic music and for that I am grateful.  My favorite was sort of a techno tune that went,”LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG, BAD GIRLS DO IT WELL!”  I was thinking, “This is THE best radio station in all of Mexico” and later I realized it was Tonio’s iPod.  Jajaja!  I love the music but I’m absolutely going to more deaf than I was when I arrived here.

We stopped for breakfast in a gas station and since I don’t eat bread or cheese or any number of other things, I got a New Mix for breakfast.  The closest thing to New Mix is a Bud Light Lime-A-Rita and if you’ve had one of those nasty tonics you know the taste is pure chemical but for some reason you keep drinking them.  New Mix is bad tequila with different flavors of soda.  When I drink a New Mix I go into a coma about a half hour later so my 10am liquid breakfast enabled me to pass out for most of the next 2 hours, which was quite nice!

This morning Rene said he was talking to Gil and he felt pretty sick and was looking pretty peaked.  I have been telling everyone that I have my suit on and I’m ready to step in for most anyone, should anyone be too sick to compete.  Not to wish anyone to be sick but we are in Mexico and lots of gringos get sick.

I called my mom to check in and put her on speakerphone and she sang La Bamba for us and the boys laughed.  I usually call my mom from the top of 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado, where there is almost always a good cell signal and my friends know now to ask her to sing.  The usual request is an Irish ditty called Tura Lura so we got her to sing a few bars of that too until we were all laughing.  She has a beautiful voice and she’s usually up for a little fun time.  Just as we were talking Bimbo motioned out the window and there was the Pico de Orizaba, an impressive spire high in the sky covered in snow!  We were only about 3 hours from the coast – what a sight to see!  I love this country and all of its mountains and the varying beautiful terrain in between.  

We thought we were about 30 km from service and knew the first car was in at 1pm.  I read the Service Book and read that we were supposed to be there at 11:30am because we were coming in on the route that the race cars would take to come out.  Shit.  There was less and less traffic on this windy mountain ride and we hoped for over an hour that they wouldn’t close the stage and we’d miss service.  We snuck in around 2pm and what a cluster.  I had read that there were two Pemex gas stations so when we didn’t find El Jefe we went to the next Pemex and found them.  Geezer was worried about us, that we had had a crash or problems with the truck.  I had called him 20 min prior but he left his phone in the truck and Stewie doesn’t bring his cell phone.  Ahh, the joys of miscommunication on La Carrera!  Happens every time! 

The car battery was dead this morning because we left the trip computer on and Stewie said they had to get a jump later in the morning.  The first speed stage was cancelled because of rain but they ran the rest of them well and were having fun.  There was a ton of large gravel with tar on it in the engine compartment.  Stewie later told me that the car was really gassy in the cab and they both got headaches.  It took them a while to figure out you could open the small side windows only if you opened the door, because the rollbar is in the way.  Yeri said the tar on the gravel melted their power steering pump hose and it failed.  Hey, you never know what’s going to happen!
We headed out after service and headed to Oaxaca, up and down more majestic mountain passes and sometimes getting stuck behind my favorite, doble remolques (double semi-trailers).  How those guys navigate those passes with double long semi trailers, I will never figure out!  It is hard enough in our truck and trailer.

I love Oaxaca and I love Hotel Victoria.  We got there, checked in and since El Jefe wasn’t there yet, I snuck into the bar and had an amazing sipper of local smoked Mescal.  Happy!  And the best tacos arracheras every.   My view was unsurpassed.  I really love this place.  Even the bar snacks – peanuts with roasted pieces of garlic – are the best.  So I had some solitude and enjoyed every minute.  Chip Fudge came in and said they threw a rod in his Fastback and did I have Mats Hammarlund’s phone number?  I didn’t but gave him Yeri’s number and he was grateful.  Jack Rogers ended up giving Chip his spare motor – both are such good guys!

Finally saw Stewie and Geezer around 9pm and they were absolutely exhausted and sitting in the hotel room in their suits.  They asked me to go to the driver’s meeting downtown, which is mandatory, and I was happy to do that.  I showered quickly and rode the rowdy shuttle bus full of drivers and navigators downtown to a historic hotel where the party was.  They had quite a spread of food and once the ceremony started around 9:45pm, it went pretty fast.  I was super pleased to see we were 4th in class and 45th overall.  It is funny though because we are on the second page (we hate the second page) and pretty far down in a field of 85 starting cars, and 1st in our class is Paul Hladky at 6th overall.  Okay, we don’t feel super bad because Paul could win the entire race.

El Fer and Yeri were in the lobby, still in their suits because the hotel didn’t have their reservation and they didn’t have their luggage.  That’s a bit to handle after a long first day, but it’s what we deal with after we survive a day of dangerous racing.  Saw Angelica and she had a sad face on and said they did not have a good day. I gave her a hug and didn’t ask any questions.
We heard that Memo Rojas crashed but they are okay and will run again tomorrow after working on it through the evening.  The Alfa named “Plato Volador” had some trouble but will hopefully run again in the morning.  Geezer named it the Alfa-ito and Christine liked that.

I was back at the Hotel Victoria by 11pm, riding in a taxi with Carson and Lauren.  That has to be a record for in and out of the driver’s meeting downtown.  Rene joined me in the bar, as well as Steve and we drank mescal and laughed.  There was a lounge band playing with a keyboardist/vocalist, another vocalist and a bongo player and they were good. 

On my way down to the bungalow I shared with Stewie, I chatted with “Cowboy” the mechanic for the Australian Holden.  What a character.  As he likes to say, “The car has a lot of passion put into it” and it is evident by the workmanship.  One prominent logo is “Ryan’s” which Cowboy explained was the name of the driver’s dad’s blacksmith shop many years ago and when his dad saw it he teared up.  Good stuff.  Cowboy had named the Mexican crew from VP Racing Shorty, Slim and Skippy, pretty funny.

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A wedding gift for a dear friend of mine who was just married last month in a Dia de Los Muertos-themed wedding!  I hope you like this beautiful calavera, Meaux & Jason!

Climbing one of the many 8500 feet passes today from the Veracruz coast to Oaxaca.  Rough roads, fog and double semi-trailers made it difficult driving.

It was wet and cold - love these hard core cyclists!

Coming into noon service which was unsurprisingly, a real cluster.

A beautiful Triumph.

El Jefe is running great!  The engine compartment was full of large gravel coated in tar, which burned and smelled.  One of the pieces actually melted Gerie's power steering hose on his Studebaker.

"Hello?  Parts, we need some parts, Clay!"


Gotta love the spirit of Kaming Ko's team!


Bimbo riding on the outside of Big Mama to our hotel.

Ahhh, this is my version of heaven on earth - the view from the open air bar at Hotel Victoria, looking over the beautiful city of Oaxaca.  Just leave me here.

Taylor and Chip Fudge after blowing the motor on their Mustang.  In just a few phone calls another competitor, Jack Rogers, loaned them his spare motor.  Viva the spirit of Carrera!

One of my many happy places.

This beautiful photo stolen from Facebook - please let me know if this is yours and I will give you credit!

Tired boys after a long and successful Day 1.

Happy Geezer

The boys checking over El Jefe as I headed downtown to the driver's meeting on a rowdy shuttle bus full of drivers and navigators.

Beautiful Chris Gregory at the hotel.

The coolest team shirts!

Turismo Produccion on the podium on Day 1 - congrats!

Lauren Scheller and I enjoying the cab ride

Lounge singers at the Hotel Victoria - they were good!

Eric, Flo and Brian doing some serious late night work on Martin's Taxi.

2013 La Carrera Panamericana: Day 0 Prequalification Outside of Veracruz (photos to follow)

Day 0 arrived and we got up early to get out to the start of the 5 km speed stage to watch everyone.  It was a long commute through morning rush hour traffic in Veracruz; it took us maybe 1-1/2 hours to get out there.  We stopped at two speed bumps a couple of hundred yards before the start, which was cool because everyone had to stop next to us for the topes (speed bumps) and we could cheer them on and get photos.

A school was in front of the topes and some of the kids were outside but most were behind the gate, lined up watching the cars for over an hour and shouting and being funny and unruly.  I asked the kids that were out, “Estan en el carcel?”  (Are they in jail?) And they all laughed.  I asked, “Ninos malos?” (Bad kids?) And they laughed again and said, yes, they are the bad kids and we are the good kids!  A group of about 15 young teenaged boys swarmed around me, practicing their English and one by one, asking to pose in a photograph with me, then giggling.  One asked me if I was on Facebook and I am, but I can’t be easily found on there and for the first time I felt kind of bad about it!  I gave him our hero card and pointed to the website and hopefully he will see his picture on here.

It seemed like Day 0 would be pretty easy since it was a small morning speed stage, but the commute was long and we were gone about 3 hours.  But the car is ready and we felt we had nothing to do for the rest of the day.  Wrong.  At 1pm we had to be in the WTC for a group picture, then the Service Crew meeting was at 3pm, then we wanted to sneak in dinner before the parade downtown and the 7pm driver’s meeting/party.  Ugh.  Then they changed the parade to an earlier time so we had to leave at 4pm, drive 20 minutes downtown, sit there for an hour and come back.  Neither Stewie or Geezer wanted to go to the Dog and Pony Show and I was ecstatic to get on my new suit and ride in the car with Rene for the first time in 6 years.  Too fun!!!  The car is so amazing and powerful and well built!  

We had fun downtown right on the docks, socializing with other drivers and signing autographs and talking to locals even though the wind was gusting to about 60 mph.  The hour we were supposed to be there turned into 2.5 hours and we were hot, windblown and tired.  Not a good idea the night before the race starts.  Drivers and navigators were getting anxious to leave and we were realizing that we weren’t going to get our shrimp dinner tonight. Boo.  

Once it got dark we heard that we were waiting for the governor to show up and he’d be there in 10 minutes.  Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.  I entertained myself by opening the top of my suit and running backwards down the street using it like a sail.  Dang, we were getting giddy.  Asked Rene and El Fer what chupalo meant and they both laughed hard and then Rene told me it means Suck it.  Jajajaja  So now everything is chupalo this and chupalo that.

Finally we were able to line up and go through the starting arch one at a time while Lalo announced our names and Rene got to say Hola Veracruz or something like that into the microphone and we roared off the platform and headed back to the hotel just in time for the driver’s meeting.  Okay, so that was a stupid 4 hour round trip, what the hell?  I was extra grateful Rene and I went since we are not in the car and Geezer and Stewie were able to have some downtime and get dinner at their favorite place, Vips (think Perkins – yuk). 

Back at the hotel I was determined to get shrimp so instead of one more mall meal I ate in the hotel and had a plate of wonderful camarones con ajo (shrimp with butter and garlic) and rice and mama was happy!  Yum!   Geezer joined me on his way to the driver’s meeting and we had a nice chat, just the two of us.  I told him he was burning through cash like a drunken sailor and he laughed.

At the driver’s meeting it was the normal pomp and circumstance.  Rene got there earlier and tried to get a drink and they told him if he didn’t have a seat or a glass that he couldn’t get a drink.  WTF.  So he finally got a seat and a drink and when I got there I walked up to a service table, grabbed a bottle of tequila and set it in front of him.  He said, “There aren’t any glasses and don’t put that here; I’ll get in trouble!”  I laughed and found a glass and drank some tequila.  Later I was holding my tequila and a waiter bumped me and spilled a good amount of tequila down into my cleavage. Nice. 

Back at the hotel Rene and I had drinks with El Fer, Gerie (AKA Yeri) and Steve Strupp.  I love these evenings.  Yeri made a mistake and left to meet with his mechanic and said we could sign the drinks to his room.  Thanks, Yeri, hee hee!

2013 La Carrera Panamericana: Prerace Antics

Okay, after 3 days of not blogging, I caught up on my words in the truck but didn't proof them so here it goes!

A couple of weeks ago Gerie AKA Yeri Bledsoe let me know that there had been a rule change, when, I don’t know, but they now only allow 3 people to rotate in/out of the car instead of 4, like we used to do. The irony of it is that after several years of riding in the service truck, I am finally ready to navigate again. And the day I received my new race suit in the mail, Yeri emailed to say I was out of luck.  Other folks said not to worry, that I would be able to get into the car but I accepted that I might not be able to race, but I would still bring all of my equipment and be ready.

When I landed in Veracruz Geezer said he had talked to one of the LCP staff and she said I could race.  I was super excited and also a bit nervous, just because it has been a while and El Jefe is a radically different and faster car than it was in 2007 when I last navigated in it. 

We got to the Veracruz World Trade Center and it was so fantastic to see my old friends!  There were only about 20% of the cars there, evidently folks who were still working on their cars had them at the hotels.  What a contrast, being in a clean auditorium, with food and beverages available, and a short walk to our hotel, versus 2006 when we stood on the hot blacktop of the Costco parking lot for almost 4 days to prep El Jefe our rookie year.  Hotter than hell, no toilets, food, drink, etc.  Oh, and we had no idea what we were doing in 2006.

So Geezer took me back to the LCP HQ area to get me signed in and that’s when we were told we could only have 3 in the car.  Geezer said he had already decided that he would bow out and let the “kids” race and he’d ride in the truck. That didn’t sit well with me at all!  This is his race; he absolutely lives for La Carrera.  He doesn’t race Chihuahua and he quit racing Pikes Peak so LCP is it and I wasn’t about to take that away from him.  I was very honored and touched that he offered me his seat but I just couldn’t accept it.  But my Norwegian father had made up his mind.  It brought me to tears but there’s no arguing with him when he’s like that. 

Stewie arrived on Wednesday and our team was then complete:  Geezer, Rene, Stewie, me, Bimbo and Tonio.  El Jefe passed inspection without a problem, but we did get an instruction that we’d need to fortify the rollbar for next year.  The safety requirements get stricter every year.

Geezer is funny, every night he wanted to eat in the food court in the mall attached to the WTC and our hotel.  Okay, so I have been dying for real seafood for about a month and nothing I can buy or cook in Denver has satisfied me.  I remember the giant shrimp we ate in a palapa on the beach in 2006 and have been daydreaming of that shrimp.  But night after night he gets Chinese food or McDonald’s or whatever.  Luckily I found a little taco house called Los Trompos that had tacos arrancheras and I pretty much ate them all.  After 4 straight meals there they ran out of arranchera.  Ha!

Our class is super competitive this year with Studebakers like Paul Hladky’s and the Apple Farmer Studie which used to be the Habich speedster.  Rene said, “That’s okay, some of them will land in a tree and we’ll just drive by slow and steady.”  Not to wish anyone harm, but he really is not kidding.

The Navigator’s meeting is absolutely necessary but it lasted 2.5 hours and it was a bit brutal.  Gael did a great job and I always love that he smokes the entire time but this time he had an e-cig so we didn’t get to share in his pleasure.  A concern is that by a show of hands, it appeared that half of the field of 85 cars contain rookie navigators.  It’s gonna get crazy out there.

So after a brief family meeting about who was in and who was out, Geezer let me speak my peace and I told him I just couldn't take his seat and he acquiesced.  I felt so much better!  I have fun no matter what I'm doing and I came knowing I might not be able to race this time.  So....off we go!

Stewie brought Geezer donuts from Houston.

My brother eating McDonald's and me going native.

Rene stickers up my helmet with lucha libre stickers.

The homeys

My new Aussie friend Cowboy and his team's Holden