North Carolinians Ed and Janet Howle make preparations before crossing the ocean to China on the next stop of the 14,000-mile World Race 2011. The couple entered the race in their 1967 Volkswagen, Stewball. The journey is taking them from New York City to San Francisco, across China, Russia and Europe to Paris.
April 29, 2011
Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig
Wednesday afternoon, we left San Francisco and then drove to the loading dock in Oakland. Stewball was the only race car to make it to the dock on schedule. We did have to have a wheel bearing replaced but all was ready by 1:30 p.m. to drive to the loading dock on time. All of us are glad to have repairs done in the U.S. Let's hope things go well in Asia.
The process once we arrived at Bobac at the port was straight forward. They had all our paper work and were expecting the car. Stewball was inspected, photographed and every chip, dent and scratch recorded. Then I drove Stewball into this huge warehouse and parked him beside other cars ready to be shipped to somewhere. These are not cars from our race. He looked awfully small sitting in that big, nearly empty warehouse. Eventually he will be wrapped in some kind of shrink-wrap. I don’t quite get how they drive them into the container. The wheels aren’t wrapped but the windshield is. Maybe I don’t want to know.
We stayed at a Hilton at the airport so we would not have a long trip at 5:00 a.m. to catch our flight. Surprise, our flight was delayed almost two hours making our connection in Salt Lake City tight as was our connection in Detroit. Harder getting home by plane than driving all the way to San Francisco. Well, maybe not.
Home now, sorting mail, banking, mowing the yard, unpacking, laundry, grocery shopping and making new lists. All the “normal” things in daily life. We know we have to get started on the China preparations, but that can wait a day or two. We need to order GPS maps for China, Kazakhstan and Russia as well as Europe. I need a new “smart” phone and of course we need different season clothing. I’ve also heard about something called magic jack for the computer that allows you to access the internet wherever there is one. I hate learning all this tech stuff, but it’s necessary.
Need to find clothes that can be washed in a sink and doesn’t wrinkle. I’ll try L.L. Bean and others. I learned a lot from this first leg. Too many clothes along! There is no time to change for dinners, people will just have to accept us as we are.
Fortunately for the next two long legs of Asia and Europe we have friends house-sitting who will keep it safe and tidy, I’m sure.
We start to China on June 3. I have just printed out our daily itinerary and I feel excited and a little anxious already. Daily blogs from there too, hopefully, because that’s when the new experiences begins.
Janet and Ed
May 1, 2011
Terms of Engagement
For those who have been wondering about the rally rules, I’m going to give you the rules and regulations for the U.S. leg. I am sure they will be tweaked before we hit China and you’ll see why. Every rally has its own rules determined by the organizer or race committee. Of the rallies we’ve run in the past, Vintage Car Rally Association has the most stringent rules with time and distance requirements, double speed changes and hidden check points. Great Race ran similar rally rules. So what were our rules on the U.S. leg of the World Race?
First, we did have time and distance requirement. Daily times and distances were given to us in our rally notebooks in N.Y. You set your own course with GPS, paper maps or whatever you had at your disposal. The idea was that in 1908, the teams used the best technology available to them (sexton, compass and local knowledge) and we could use the best technology available to us (GPS, Mapquest, calculators and accelerator).
There was no penalty for getting in early (but road racing is not allowed and 15 points were deducted for a traffic ticket or auto-related citation), if you arrived early, you just waited and checked in on the exact minute. By the time we got to St. Louis, it was clear that the Schuster class cars needed more time, so at that point, a handicap of an additional 10 minutes per 100 miles was added for this class. This was the real driving competition. Ed enjoyed working out when to stop for fuel to minimize stopping, and what our average speed needed to be to be to make our time each day. We never knew when weather conditions, road construction or city traffic at the end of a day would hold us up. We make our time each day except crossing the Vail pass when we had snow which slowed us to 30 mph and then a multi-car accident which held us up for an additional 30 minutes. I don’t think anyone made their time that day.
Second, we had to find solutions to a set of questions each day. These consisted of 12-15 questions about the 1908 race, the state and cities we were traveling through or venues we stopped at. We did get our questions answered, but we do not know if they were all correct since we did not see a master sheet with answers.
You were allowed to use any resource available to you, so we used our secret source with a computer, curiosity and great skills in finding answers. I also called some of the museums and chamber of commerce in different towns.
Third, we had a scavenger hunt at the end of each day of rallying as we all scurried around the end site-either the hotel or venue at the end of the day, searching for the “globe," Sometimes two or three were hidden. This part we didn’t do well on. We didn’t focus on the importance of this even though it was stated in the rally rules. Five points was added to your score if you found one. Our mistake.
This is the part that we have heard (unoffically) that will be dropped once we get to Asia. Can you imagine what the Chinese or Russians would think if we came into a hotel and immediately started opening drawers, picking up objects, checking planters and generally acting in this suspicious manner! Which team would go to jail first? I think we will have enough to do at the end of each rally day, trying to figure out currency, local customs and finding a place to eat.
So now you know how the scoring was determined. We don’t know how we did overall, scores were only given out one day. Eventually we will know, I’m sure.
May 3, 2011
Devoured in One Day...
Finally, GPS maps of Asia (except Kazakhstan, paper map only) and Europe have been ordered, the cars are all ready to ship out, travel clothes are on order, suitcases are unpacked from the U.S. leg and are waiting to pack for the next two legs. We can turn our attention to other things in our lives. I just looked at the sales of books and sales are taking off in various parts of the country. This is now beyond our SOI. That’s publisher talk for sphere of influence, aren’t you impressed? Means more than friends are buying and reading. It’s just one of the many new terms we have learned on the road to becoming published authors. We did have many successful book sales (and signings) on the first leg of our rally. We don’t plan to do this in China, Kazakhstan, Russia or even in Europe - except for a few copies we’ll take along that are already promised to friends in Paris. But for those we met along the way, and those we didn’t. We still have some copies, both hardback and paper. If you want a signed copy from us, just email: firstname.lastname@example.org with your request and address and we will give you pricing.
But here’s our REAL EGO BOOSTER. This is the most recent review on Amazon.com. So that you don’t need to take the time to read it there, I am reprinting it here.
"This book grabs you by the arm and takes off with the pace of a high-performance race car. International espionage, high adventure, and well-developed characters combine to offer an entertaining “read” that is hard to put down. The book works on three levels; the reader is in the front seat to experience the rigors and excitement of the rally teams traveling around the world, we have a wider journalistic view via the chapters that post the fictional journalist’s view of the events, and there is a sweet tale of love embedded in the story as well. I devoured this book in one day, which hasn’t happened since I read the Da Vinci Code. Great fun.”
Now if you are tired of the saga of Jan and Ed, or if you want to wait for more driving adventures, you can read about Kate and William’s wedding or the end of Osama bin Laden on lots of blogs and websites - but we hope you keep up with us, too.
May 8, 2011
In beautiful Gateway Canyon, Colo., at the wonderful banquet they put on for us, it was announced that two Chinese teams would be joining the World Race in Beijing. Now here’s the thing. We don’t have any names, and we don’t know if they are driving Schuster class or Innovative class cars. I am sure there are Chinese who collect antique cars and Current Event publication recently reported that “China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is preparing a 10-year plan aimed at turning China into the world’s leader in developing battery-powered cars and hybrids," so their interest in the Innovative Class is a given. We will just have to wait and see who and what awaits us in China.
Wen and Orin, the Chinese team, who drove a 1958 Hongqi - China’s oldest production car - modified with an energy-efficient engine, certainly caused Ed Talbot a great deal of trouble, but that was in The Long Road to Paris and Ed Talbot isn’t real and neither are Wen and Orin. And the problems they caused were purely figments of our overactive imaginations! This is real life and we welcome our entries from Asia and Europe.
We do know that Klaus and Maja von Deylen, from Germany, are real - and they're fun and friendly. We’ve rallied with them before. This time they are driving their beautiful 1957 Mercedes-Benz 22o S. in the Schuster class, meeting us in Latvia. It will be good to have them along, partly for very selfish reasons. Both Mary and I will welcome another woman by this point. Anything to keep all the men civilized. And, Klaus drove a Type 1 Beetle in the Peking to Paris race. I don’t remember which year. But he know a lot about air-cooled engines. He’s put one to the test. So, if we need help...well, we know he’s a sportsman.
So, we count down the days until we leave for China. Less than 26. Still much to do. Order some additional spare parts, buy a new cell phone, visit with friends and family, re-pack and lots of daily chores - mow the lawn, water plants, you know the routine…
See you again, on the sure to be exciting road to Paris.
May 17, 2011
The Inscrutable Chinese
Inscrutable: completely obscure or mysterious, that which cannot be easily understood.
In Reno, as we reported in our blog on May 8, we first heard about the two Chinese teams that would be joining us in Beijing. There has been no mention of them since, and now it is rumored that we will not see them. Perhaps “ethereal,” Kyle’s description of Elise in 2008, is a better word than “inscrutable.”
So we ask, were these teams attempting to use the World Race 2011 to sneak highly secret Chinese automotive technology out of their country? Or, are they seeking political asylum? We have no evidence of any of this, but we intend to investigate further.
We do know this, Klaus von Deylen is a close friend of ours and a German industrialist. Klaus and his wife, Maja are meeting the Race at the border between Russia and Latvia and will travel with us the rest of the way to Paris. Why are they reluctant to drive into Russia and meet us in Moscow? Are they part of the Chinese plot? You can follow this exciting story of mystery and espionage as we continue on this 23,000 mile trek that follows the course of the 1908 race (or is it the fictional course of the 2008 race) as closely as possible.
See you on the road to Paris,
May 26, 2011
And the Winner Will Be...(Fanfare, Please)...
No one! It’s official. We had a conference call yesterday. I thought this was coming. The Asia/Europe legs will be a tour, not a rally. Competition driving, trivia questions and hide-and-seek are over. I am happy to do without the latter two. To put it politely, I am not youthful enough to take any interest in them. I know the Fireball Rally requires competitors to seek answers to questions along the route, but I have never participated in a rally that included this kind of thing.
The competition driving however, I will miss. We were doing well in that area, mostly because Stewball has proven to be so strong and reliable on the back-stretch and I enjoyed computing our average speed to make sure we got in on time each day. We only missed once and that was because of the snow-driven multi-car pile-up out of Denver. We did have the challenges of high winds, rain, sleet and stops for road work, but even then, we made it. Of course this meant no stops for lunch and timing our gas stops to minimize more lost time.
There is always a positive side. It will actually be a lot more fun this way. And Doug Grimes, president of the MIR corporation that has planned these two legs of our trip assures us that there will be plenty of “opportunities” for unplanned experiences anyway. Already we have learned of one. The ship bringing our cars into Beijing has been delayed 5 days. I like Doug’s attitude!
See you on the road to Paris,
June 2, 2011
Next Stop Beijing
“Oh, our bags are packed, we’re ready to go, we’re standing here beside our door”…OK, not quite, but we’re almost ready. We got a phone message today to say that the cars arrived in China on the 29th and will be in Beijing when we get there. Just have to get them through customs and the inspection, get Chinese driver’s licenses (that should be an experience) and Chinese plates for the car. That I will photograph!
Our house sitting friends are here and have promised to water my plants and keep the bird feeders full. All else is optional. I’ve charged the battery on the camera, packed all clothes, a few copies of our novel, vitamins, antibacterial hand cleaner, umbrellas, kleenex, passports (and copies), international driver’s licenses, French driver’s licenses, euros, dollars, calculator, reading material, a new notebook, GPS with maps of China, Russia and Europe. None available of Kazakhstan, just a paper map. We’ve only forgotten one thing. I don’t yet know what that is, but there will be one thing. But since China is our first stop, I’m sure we can buy it there!
We fly out at 5:50 p.m. tomorrow to Chicago then board for the long flight to Beijing, arriving there at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night. I don’t know what body time that is. I think we are 12 times zones away and cross the international dateline. We will be met at the airport - we have been assured - and taken to our hotel. The good part is, we can go directly to bed and maybe be sort of focused the next morning for the tour after breakfast of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Monday is the tour of the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall, surely we’ll be recovered enough by then to take lots of photos.
We now begin the really exciting part of this road to Paris.