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Here begins their journey:

Our novel, The Long Road to Paris, is finished and was released in February. Our real road to Paris left New York City April 14, going west across the U.S., Asia, and Europe, ending at the Eiffel Tower. This rally will certainly not be as exciting as our fictional version - we hope - but if the planners get their way, it will be a travel adventure.

Our novel takes place in 2008, a centennial event celebrating the race of 1908. The diaries of the men who drove this race read like novels, but for the men on that race, it was a reality show unfolding!

So why didn’t we actually rally in 2008? We planned to. A world race was scheduled and we had signed on as competitors. A preliminary banquet was even held on Feb. 12, 2008, 100 years to the day that the 1908 race started. Then it fell apart. At the last minute, China withdrew our travel permits.

So now the rally has been organized by new management and we are set to go. For anyone interested, you can log on to www.world-race.net.

Janet and Ed

April 11, 2011
Finally on the Long Road to Paris

You might guess we’re up early. There really is no need to start early today. We are taking two days to drive to New York City, but excitement and a bit of anxiety have overcome sleep.

Just those last-minute odds and ends left that can’t be done until this last morning. I am crossing them off our list. Not a long one now. Pull the blinds on the windows, shut off the coffee maker, pack up computer and cell phone chargers - anything else? Oh, take out the garbage and lock all the doors.  What have we forgotten? We’ll just have to go without or buy along the way. Nothing more will fit in Stewball until we sell our first box of books anyway.

Starting on the long road to Paris: 9:15 a.m.

Jan

April 13, 10:30 A.M.
The Anxious Wait

They are all here and they look formidable. I think every one of the around-the-world cars represent an investment of at least 10 times what Stewball did. As Thurman said to Marie-Claire, “What’cha doin in that cheap ole Beetle anyway?” But Jan says she doesn’t mind, and that’s what’s important to me. I think.

5 p.m. We’ve had our meeting and the word is out. This is not a rally, it’s a race. That’s unofficial of course, but the rules state that we will be given the time we must cover the distance for the day.  For example, from St. Louis to Kansas City, we must cover 252.6 miles in 3 hours and 50 minutes, plus 50 minutes for lunch and fuel. We can set our own route by GPS and the car that reaches the hotel at our destination closest to the stated time gets the best score. Now there are some additional things that can add or subtract from your daily score. There is no penalty for getting to the destination early. We can just wait in the parking lot and check in at our designated time. If we get stopped for a school bus, train, traffic or weather, we must make up the time. That will mean in some instances, fast driving. We will have 12-15 questions to answer, most of them based on information about the towns or states we travel through or information from the 1908 race. We are allowed to use any technology we want to get the answers. For those of us in the antique cars, we will really have to push. The times are taken from GPS and anyone who has used a GPS knows, it’s hard to beat that time. GPS was not designed for antique cars that can’t maintain modern road speeds. It also doesn’t know about school buses or traffic jams. We know this means days with no lunch stop. We plan to carry snacks to get us through. I’m going to have to push Stewball much harder than I expected to, I just hope I don’t burn up the engine. Just what have we signed up for! It will be hard to sleep tonight.

Tomorrow, the road to Paris,

Ed

April 15, 2011
On the Road Finally

Day 1. No rallying today, a convoy out of New York City-well, sort of, our leader-and his navigator “got distracted” and took a wrong turn. Some of us stayed on the route but those who followed the leader had an aborted trip up the New Jersey side of the Hudson and met us later on the road. Is this sign of things to come? Lost in New York is different from lost in China! Let's hope we get the kinks worked out now.

Jan

April 18, 2011
First Disaster

Day 4. When I first bought a Beetle 55 years ago, I never expected I’d be driving one now, or that I would even be alive! Yet here I am driving one around the world or at least to Warsaw. Indiana that is!

There are presently five antiques competing. High winds continue and rally speeds today were challenging for all but perhaps the 1951 Chrysler with a hemi V8 with an estimated 300 horsepower. We were on interstates part of the day and speeds were sometimes as high as 70. I pushed Stewball for longer than I like but we made our time with minutes to spare. I filled with gas before we left in the morning so didn’t have to make that stop. I know that some of the antiques didn’t get in on time. I was concerned that the head wind would use up my gas, but even with the weather conditions, we made 26 miles per gallon. Not bad.

Now the disaster. One car out- for at least a day. No, not us, but I am sorry to say it is the 1916 Studebaker. Dennis and Howard deserve a special “spirit of the event” award. They have been driving in these awful conditions, cold, rain, and wind in their open car. Closer to the conditions of 1908 than any of the rest of us. Comfort is relative and we think of them often as we hum along in our comfortable, dry car. First their steering went out. But that was fixable, then the starter shorted out their electrical system. That will take a part which cannot be easily found. The car will spend Monday on the trailer to Indy. The only fortunate part, is all this happened right at the end of the rally day so they were not stranded at the side of the road.

Stewball? We normally have a top speed of about 80 but with the headwind, there were times I was flat-out at 65. We got in on time because I didn’t need the 20 minutes allowed for a fuel stop. But I do have a concern. I have driven this engine 20,000 miles and until yesterday I had never added oil. At the end of the day, it was down one-half quart. Just the temporary effect of the extra stress or am I headed for trouble? Jack Crabtree is planning an engine replacement for his Model A Ford before Asia. Do I need to do the same? Would I have a day when I have the time? Unanswered questions.

More tomorrow from Indy,

Ed

April 19, 2011
Lessons Learned

Who would guess that GPS couldn’t find the way out of Warsaw, Ind.? Did she think we were already in Warsaw, Poland? Anyway, I drew position one. I’m always a bit insecure about that. Even though we start one minute apart, and everyone is to find their own way using whatever technology they have available -- if you miss the first turn, everyone knows it. OK, that said, seems none of the GPSs could decide how to leave Warsaw. It wasn’t just us. Fortunately, we had time to spare and Connie, our GPS, finally got it sorted out. From now on, however, I will pull up map quest as a backup. I do have a road atlas as well.

So, next lesson. Even when we know we have some spare time, we hustle along at the beginning. You never know when road construction or blocked exits will play with your time. Yup, the exit for the Indy Speedway, which was our end point for the day, was closed! I learned our new Connie has a detour feature. I hadn’t used it and after her navigational problem at the start of the day, my stomach reflected my anxiety.

See you in St. Louis tonight,

Jan

April 20, 2011 
Every Day is Different

Day 6. I think. We’ve actually been gone from home a week now. Weather was a BIG factor again. Drove through a heavy rain, poor visibility, wind. Does this sound the same? Maybe, but much worse today. More rain in the forecast.

Anxiety increased when we left the lunch stop. The engine seemed a bit sluggish, which at first I thought was headwinds. But when we got up to speed, it was missing at part throttle, but not at full throttle. No time to work on it on the road, the GPS numbers were giving us only 15 minutes to spare. We made our time anyway, but then Stewball was hard to start when Jan attempted to move it to the parking lot. After check in, I leaned the fuel mixture 1/3 turn, replaced the distributor rotor-which has been a chronic problem on this car-and pushed the spark-plug wires in firmly, trying to cover all the bases. We took it out for a test run on the interstate. All OK and back to full power. But it may be temperature related and maybe my test run didn’t get it hot enough. Cross you fingers, we’ll see what today brings.

One more “difference”. A rule change. The Schuster class cars, the antiques, including us now are allowed an additional 10 minutes for every 100 miles since much of the time we run highway speeds. This is a significant change and works a disadvantage for us since we have always met out time but don’t make much effort on the scavenger hunt that is part of the rally which takes place after the rally day is over.

We are usually too exhausted by the time we get in. Yes, Virginia, there is a scavenger hunt.

Ed

P.S. We have learned the shipping value of the cars. Stewball is exactly 1/10 of the average declared value of the others.

 


Read more about the couple at The News and Observer.

Or listen to their interview with Greensboro News-Record.

Ed and Janet Howle

Ed and Janet Howle are avid adventurers and authors embarking on a 14,000 mile journey.

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