SATURDAY, APRIL 1, 2000 HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO KAREN, THE WORLD'S FINEST DAUGHTER!!!!!!
She and Dale and Michael are celebrating at Guemes Island, her favorite spot on earth. We celebrated her birthday, too, by getting last minute (good seats, too) to see CHICAGO. The Bob Fosse/Ann Reinking choreography is unbeatable. Home early to catch up on our website. The rally seems more real with each passing moment. We have received our Road Books, and they are impressive. We will tell you more about them tomorrow. We are going through them with a fine tooth comb, so we will "be prepared". Details tomorrow. Well, we have rambled on about these past eleven days. Hope that your eyes have not glazed over by now. Again, keep those e-mails coming. We love them!
SUNDAY, APRIL 2 THROUGH MONDAY, APRIL 10, 2000 ROYAL THAMES YACHT CLUB - 60 KNIGHTSBRIDGE - LONDON SW1X 7LF CABIN 12
ATTENTION: The "provenance" contest has been won by my dear nephew Douglas Craig Dittamore. As he said succinctly in his e-mail which contained a full provenance of "It's A Long Way to Tipperary", never doubt the ability of a 24 year old computer expert to win quickly! In addition to winning the contest, he deserves recognition here because it was Doug who, skillfully though not always patiently, guided his Aunt Beverly from the absolute beginning, even sitting there while I wrote down how to turn on the computer (in case I forgot after he had gone home). His somewhat agonized pleas that I did not have to write everything down went unheeded; I reminded him that RHIP. Panicky phone calls from me have usually been met with calm concern and excellent solutions (and outright laughs in some cases). I'm sending him as his prize a book which Ed and I have just finished and which was hard to put down - Prince Borghese's Trail by Genevieve Obert. It is the story of her journey of ten thousand miles over two continents, four deserts, and the roof of the word in the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge of 1997. She and Linda Dodwell of San Francisco, drove a Hillman and were the "Women's Cup Winners". Much of their route is the same as ours!! She includes history of the 1907 race and details of Prince Borghese, the winner of that race, as well as quotes from Luigi Barzini, the journalist who accompanied Borghese in 1907. Jenny Obert is a terrific writer and a seemingly insightful human being. Her observations mesh with the observations we have already made on our own before we even begin the rally! By the way, there are two other relatives who share with Doug my eternal thanks for patience and understanding and computer tutoring: Neil Dittamore (Doug's father and my sister Cheryl's husband) and Chuck Bicknell (brother-in-law, husband of Ed's sister Doris). They are all having a well deserved rest as this new laptop is behaving admirably, but I am still grateful to them!
Back to the travel update!
SUNDAY, APRIL 2, 2000
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO LIZ, WORLD'S BEST DAUGHTER-IN-LAW, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO CHERYL (BEV'S BEST "BABY" SISTER), AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JAMIE, WHO ON APRIL 17 WILL JOIN OUR FAMILY AS NEPHEW MARK'S BRIDE!!!! Some of you may have noticed we have an inordinate number of ARIES in our family.
We continue to discover new "neighborhoods" in this eternally interesting city. There are surprising numbers of fairly intimate "village" style compounds in the midst of the vast urban sprawl. Today was our "Chelsea Morning" (apologies to Hillary and Bill). Young crowd, vibrant shops, everyone here is a walker. Californians in general probably walk less in a month than individuals here do in one day! The tube and the bus have become so familiar to us that we both know more bus routes here than we do in Seattle. The Royal Thames Yacht Club is really enjoyable on weekends. No tie and coat required, no one here, the libarary and public rooms seem to be our private home. Totally lazy and uneventful day - we have needed one of these!
MONDAY, APRIL 3, 2000
OUR CAR HAS ARRIVED SAFELY!!!! We made the scheduled call this morning to the shipper to find that indeed our car, which had been flown to Frankfurt, had been trucked to Heathrow and would be ready to be picked up today. We arranged for a driver to pick us up at Hatton Cross Station near Heathrow and, armed with every piece of paper imaginable pertaining to the car, we boarded the Picadilly Line tube, encouraged yet still somewhat apprehensive as to how the "detours" might have affected the condition of our car. Over the weekend, we had several moments when our imaginations went wild and we pictured a stripped auto or at least a damaged one; of course, the biggest nightmare we could conceive was a lost car. It would not only be the car that was lost, but a whole year of our lives preparing it. See what happens when we have a day off and too much time to think! The cab driver finally arrived at the train station and took us the few miles to the freight company to pick up the required "Release Form". Even he, as a local resident, had a fairly difficult time finding the rather obscure location of the office. He waited for us as it was a "dark and stormy" morning with a howling wind. We found the young man who was in charge of our paper work. After checking our identification thoroughly, he handed us the cherished release form. Paper clutched firmly in our hands, our comfort level was rising somewhat as we drove another few miles and another few circles around the Heathrow cargo area, finally reached the Lufthansa Cargo area. Several flights of stairs later (up and down) and an accidental visit to Air France, we arrived at the proper ground level desk and were rewarded with a welcome sight, our car keys! We were also told by an imperious clerk that we would wait anywhere between thirty minutes and an hour for our car. Two hours later, I ventured to the desk again to ask when we might be able to get our car. The same clerk informed me that it could be quite a while because "human remains" take priority in release of cargo. Her voice dripping with condescension, she asked me if I knew what "human remains" are. I was actually able to stifle any retort because I could see ourselves waiting for the car forever if I irritated her in any way. We did wonder just how many human remains could possibly have come in. Half an hour later, still cooling our heels, we decided to bypass the desk and the clerk and to venture over to the cargo area itself. There on the same metal "palette" it had been on since the docks of New Jersey, was the Spirit of 2000, undamaged and ready to be unloaded. An efficient and cordial young man said he would do it right away; Ed was in the driver's seat in less than ten minutes. Surprise - someone had left the lights on and the battery was dead. No problem - the jumper cables in our trunk were put to good use even before the Rally begins. Finally, after nearly six hours, we were in our car and on our way. We managed to find a gas station near Heathrow; lucky, because both tanks had been drained before shipping! We drove into London in rush hour traffic and were able to drive straight to our "home" in Knightsbridge. We have an excellent parking place (after 3:00 p.m.) right in the circular driveway in front of the Club entrance. Because the desk is manned twenty-four hours a day and there is a clear view to the car, we have security better than we can believe possible in the middle of London! A long day but we are elated - our car and the efforts of the past year are safely here!
TUESDAY, APRIL 4, 2000
Our "recce" of last week paid dividends this morning. The term was unfamiliar to us before the lingo of the Rally world entered our vocabulary. We would have said we had gone on a reconnaisance; "recce" sounds soo much better. Anyway, we had gone out to our mechanic, Manjeet Arhi, in Bethnal Green, last week, just to get the "lay of the land". We had also obtained excellent, detailed directions of driving to the shop from Knightsbridge. We began this morning with great confidence; after all, we have been walking, touring, bussing, and tubing all around. We should have known better. The beautiful "Embankment" roadway along the Thames was to be our main arterial. The navigator made an error; a left turn just one block too soon led to a comedy of errors which had to be experienced to fully appreciate. Ed outdid even his fabled U-Turn on the Via Veneto in Rome last spring. This time the U-turn was on Victoria Street just two blocks from Big Ben. That was only Act One. At a corner a few blocks later, when we knew we had not yet found the Embankment, we asked a pedestrian for directions. He was so sure of himself, we were so grateful. The only slight problem was that the two left turns he suggested left Ed driving up a narrow cobblestone street, loaded with people walking away from a tube station. Only when we saw the five bollards in front of us did either of us realize the obvious: we were calmly driving up a pedestrian-only walkway. At that point, we had no alternatives. Ed squeezed the car between two of the bollards, waved in a friendly manner to the driver on the regular thoroughfare who by now had stopped, disbelieving and aghast that our car was actually entering the roadway as we were, and we were safely on our way again, breathless, and believe this or not, silent! After a couple of turns around Picadilly Square and a couple of view of Admiral Nelson which were definitely not on our route, we were able, purely by accident at this point, to find our way to Whitechapel Road, a street which would lead us straight to where we were supposed to go. Oh, the best laid plans of mice and men.....we stopped for a traffic light, and there was a surprising lack of engine sound. The car had gone dead! We were able to push it out of the four lanes of traffic over to the curb. In addition to the shock of being stuck there, it occurred to both of us at once that it could have been much worse if it had happened ten minutes before! Ed was looking for a telephone when, what to our wondering eyes should appear, but a police car with two of the most polite, helpful, (as well as young and handsome) London policemen that the world has ever produced. Without hesitation, they hooked up our car and towed us the two miles to our mechanic. You wonder why we were happy that we had done the "recce" last week? The shop is on such a small street that the police officers did not know exactly where it was. We were able to guide them there. What an arrival we had - Ed with one officer driving our car with Ed as a passenger , I with the other officer in the police car. You must admit we do not lead a boring life. The mechanics among you are thinking it was a dead battery again. You are right, but not because we had failed to charge it properly yesterday. Two wires from the generator to the regulator were shorting, causing the battery to go fully dead. We had reused, in California, what appeared to be a perfectly good 43 year old short wiring harness between the generator and the regulator when we rebuilt the engine. Should have replaced the wires then, but the story would not be nearly as memorable. After we left the car at the shop and went to lunch, the repressed giggles of the morning really hit me. Several hours had passed, so I felt somewhat safe at last to relive the drive up the pedestrian walkway. The people parted like the waters of the Red Sea. Ed finally admitted there was some humor in the event; he said that at least with our rally plates, racing numbers, etc. some people may actually have thought we had permission to be there! The car is safely at the mechanic's shop for a few days.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5, 2000
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ED!!!!! This is the 47th time I have been able to say this to him. We were at the mechanic's again this morning. Watching Ed helping them and in quite a few cases explaining how something should be done makes me grateful for his mechanical knowledge as we begin our long adventure - he truly knows exactly how everything works and, more important, how to fix problems! We are still making trips to pick up a few obscure necessities. We are also finding the local merchants friendly and most hospitable. It is still so cold that hot coffee and tea become necessities. Today we found the Brunchers Cafe on Roman Road just south of Grove in Bethnal Green. Maureen and Lorraine, mother and daughter, have been open just two weeks. Their cafe is spotless, bright, and appealing, and we wish them the best of luck in their new venture! Manjeet took us to lunch today at a fabulous Pakistani restaurant named LAHORE. Newspaper clippings on the wall of the restaurant laud the food of this "legendary" neighborhood spot, simple decor but divine food! Tonight we dressed for "Dinner at 8" in the dining room here at the Club. The service is impeccable and the food good. The chef brought creme brulee with a Happy Birthday Ed in chocolate on the top, so there was a festive end to our day. We are in somewhat of a celebratory mood as our London to Peking is a birthday memento for Ed as well as a millennium celebration. Thanks to Sharon Yarbrough in our office, I was able to find a copy of Allen Andrews 1965 book, The Mad Motorists, to give Ed as a present. It is the detailed story of the 1907 Beijing to Paris race. Philip Young, our Rally Organizer, says that it is this book that inspired him to do the 1997 rally and ours as well. We are pleased to have found it as copies as scarce. Note: the 1907 race from Peking to Paris followed the Siberian Railroad for quite a good portion after they crossed China's Gobi desert. The 1997 race, also from Peking to Paris, went through the Himalayas, Nepal, Tibet, etc. Because of policitical realities, our route will be slightly different, but our rally will be the longest rally ever between two major cities and, obviously, will be the reverse direction!
THURSDAY, APRIL 6, 2000
The mechanic's shop is getting to be a habit, but progress continues. Danny is our chief mechanic. He removed the generator to bench test it. He has been reinstalling the generator and putting together the regulator and wiring He has changed the oil and filters and fluids. It continues to rain buckets, and the cold winds here are akin to Windermere park in the dead of winter! We discover small neighborhood spots for tea when we sense we are in the way. Today we found Kelly's Cafe on Roman Road just north of Palmers Road. The waitress, Teresa Wakeman, is a delight! She loves Las Vegas and has been there several times. She and her husband leave this fall for Hong Kong and the Mandarin Hotel and will visit Dubai as well. We wish her well. Her enthusiasm and good cheer are evidence that she too understands Auntie Mame's maxim that "Life is a Banquet....." We took the afternoon off today; insurance is in place, car is being worked on, parts ordered from Holden. Today is Picadilly Circus day; more enormous buildings, historical monuments ( Lord Nelson again - I am forever reminded of my first view of Picadilly Square and Lord Nelson - I was so excited that I stepped out into traffic and Ed dragged me back an instant before I would have been hit by a doubledecker bus). The movie theaters are irresistable this trip - today was The Talented Mr. Ripley. The cinematography is heartstopping, especially Rome and Venice. We looked at the Spanish Steps and the Piazza Espagna and remembered our own memorable dinner at Alberto and Monica di Castro's last spring, standing on their balcony in their beautiful apartment right across the street from the Spanish Steps. We feel truly blessed when we consider our lives, especially when we consider the movie we have just seen. Minghella, the director who also did The English Patient, is a true talent, the cast is sensational, the movie well worthwhile. Good fortune at the Gielgud theater boxoffice this afternoon - we have managed to get tickets to see Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson in the new play of "The Graduate". Reviews are excellent , but ticket sales have skyrocketed since the news that she actually appears sans all clothing. Plastics!
FRIDAY, APRIL 7, 2000
We have found a great new part of our team - Mr. Sugiarto of Sugiarto Electroplating at 190-192 Hackney Road in Bethnal Green has agreed to redo the grill which has significant rust, intensified by the freeze in northern Arizona, which detracts from the otherwise "spiffy" condition of the car. His confidence and his knowledge are indeed reassuring - we know he will do a perfect job. Manjeet suggested we contact Mr. Sugiarto, and we are pleased indeed that we took his advice. Mr. Sugiarto's wife deserves special mention. She is extremely beautiful, quiet and charming. Time is now short, and we are on a "critical path". We will deliver the car to Sugiarto's on Monday so that he can do the work!! Today is our day to drive south to Harrietsham, a small village just outside Maidstone south of London. As long as we are heading south, we decide that we really want to see the White Cliffs of Dover and perhaps drive to Canterbury as well. The AAA Atlas of England is perfect for what we are doing, but the 3 miles per inch scale can be misleading - sometimes it appears we are driving long distances as we are so used to the U.S. maps which were nearly all 21 miles per inch. Anyway, we met Peter Rix at his Sports Car Garage in the charming small village of Harrietsham. He comes highly recommended by Philip Young, the head of the Classic Rally Association which is sponsoring our big rally. In addition to his clean and attractive garage in the original building of what was probably one of the first Shell stations ever built in England, Peter has a great collection of MGs, Rovers, a Bentley, all of which are for sale - right hand drive, unfortunately for U.S. collectors. South to Dover - the white cliffs appear before one reaches town - of course the old song kept ringing in our ears. There is an impressive memorial to the Battle of Britain participants. On the hill overlooking the Channel, there is a statue of an airman in World War II. flight uniform, sitting as if he is watching for Nazi planes or rockets. The statue is surrounded by the shields of the various RAF squadrons which flew the missions which saved Britain from defeat. Included in the shields was a Polish squadron which had joined Britain in its efforts as well as the Americans we mentioned last week. The day was clear enough that we could see the coast of France! We also saw the ferry dock from which we will leave on May 1 - our adventure seems more real each day. The town of Dover itself is not terribly impressive at first glance - perhaps a return trip is in order. Canterbury is a definite probably return visit - we were short of time, but were there long enough to be impressed by the cathedral, a Gothic wonder, and to be charmed by the small streets and shops. Nice scale! Back into London in rush hour traffic, again, we went straight to our "home".
SATURDAY, APRIL 8, 2000
Definitely one of our favorite days thus far and one of the reasons we came to England early! The sunshine and warmth of the day are an immediate good omen, as is our efficient departure from London in our car - no detours or errors, just straight onto the A4 and M4 bound for Oxford, the Cotswolds, and our overnight destination of Stratford Upon Avon. We bypass Oxford because we will be back next weekend and therefore today we have time to go back to Bourton-on-the-Water, one of our favorite of the Cotswold Villages. Twenty years ago we stayed there with Mrs. Stephenson in her "Stay-a-While" B&B, an authentic 16th century structure. We had stayed in the upstairs bedroom which had its own fireplace - the kindling was gone, and when Ed looked in the holder, it was lined with Life Magazines from the 1940's, which of course became our evening's entertainment. Mrs. Stephenson herself was well into her sixties when we met, yet she seemed to have somehow frozen herself in the days of World War II. She was a sweethear of a person. Carol Quillian and her girls had also stayed with Mrs. Stephenson and we were looking forward to seeing her again. The gate and the house are exactly the same, but the door is opened by a young blonde woman, and both of us are not surprised to learn that Mrs. Stephenson died a few months ago. Her nephew is still running the B&B but her presence is definitely missed! Today the small group of people in the tiny dining room was not the same as twenty years ago. Ed said it reminded him of a scene from the Potato Eaters. The "Mad Hatter" restaurant on the corner by the canal is still the best place for lunch - outdoor tables, great people-watching. We also found that the Chester Hotel is just steps away from the water but is quiet and lovely and will be our "home" next time we return to Bourton-on-the Water. On to Chipping Campden to do a small family "recce". Hooray, Hooray, we have the top down on the car for the first time on the trip. It is perfect to drive these country roads with the fresh air in our faces. It is almost akin to sailing along on Moonshadow (and about the same degree of navigation required). We have mounted the video camera on a video camera mount on our rollbar, so we will see how our films turn out today. We cannot tarry, but we visit Stow-on-the-Wold and many other of the warm, stone-structured Cotswold villages which still manage to seem of another time. Our arrival at Stratford-upon-Avon is the first unpleasant shock of the day! Horrendous traffic jams, and the town seems to have spread beyond belief (and not too attractively). Perhaps it is just because it is Saturday, but the crowds are too much. The locals blame American tourists for what is happening here - imagine that!!! We are staying tonight at the Highcroft B&B on Banbury Road just two miles outside Stratford. Just two guestrooms, but a lovely house and gardens, part of a huge old farm, this was once a "tenant" farmer's residence, but it is now home to Sue, our hostess, and her husband and family. Happy 13th Anniversary to them! We arrived in time for afternoon tea and homemade cakes AND the live television of the Grand National horse race - probably the most exciting horse race we have ever seen. The hedges take out several horses almost at once - in a few cases, horses which have lost their riders continue on running the race - it is hard not to root for one of them and to wonder what would happen if a riderless horse crossed the finish line first! The winner Papillon appeals to us. This morning Papillon was a 33 to 1 handicap - at race time the odds have dropped to 10 to 1. Trained by an Irishman, the horse is ridden by his twenty year old son (who in his first races has broken a collarbone and two legs); the horse is owned by an American woman. Just the sort of drama we love (influenced at an early age by National Velvet and Elizabeth Taylor, of course). Papillon wins easily, but the thundering of the horses and the close jumps will remain with us for a long time. The only other guest here tonight is Bill Borchert Larson of Texas, Milwaukee, and Scottsdale. He is driving his 1913 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost with us from London to Peking, but he is continuing on Around the World (in 80 days). His car is at a mechanic shop just two miles down the road from here, so he too is making final preparations. He is driving with us in tomorrow's one day rally, but he will be using a rental car as his RR is too wide for the roads we will use. We decide to give Stratford one more try and perhaps even manage to get theater tickets for tonight, so back to town we go; the crowds again dim our enthusiasm, and we opt for "dinner in" back at our room and prepare for tomorrow's rally.
SUNDAY, APRIL 9, 2000
STRATFORD-UPON-AVON TO DROITWICH-BRIDGNORTH-TELFORD-BIRMINGHAM-LONDON
Our "Spring is Sprung" rally could not have a more inappropriate name! Yesterday's top-down sunshine has vanished, replaced by rain and cold wind. Nevertheless, we are ready promptly at 7:45 a.m. when Rob Lyall arrives at our B&B. He is the organizer of today's rally and has graciously offered to pick us up and guide us to the starting line at the Droitwich Rugby Club about fifteen miles away. We will never know whether it was British humor or not, but he did ask Ed at once if it would be possible to cover up our racing numbers on the side of our car because it is considered somewhat poor taste here to have them on the car. Those of you who know how long it took to get them on the car properly will understand Ed's polite reply that we are Americans and the numbers don't bother us at all, and that we must have them for our London to Peking rally. That settled, we follow Rob in his white Rover; we are followed by Rolls Royce owner Bill Larson in his rental car. Seventy miles an hour on narrow country roads the whole way - that took care of our Sunday morning prayers. When we complete our white knuckle drive, Bill's first comment is to wonder aloud why we could not have gone a little faster! He too seemed unnerved by Rob's speed. Hot coffee, bacon sandwiches (new breakfast item) and camaraderie awaited us at the Rugby Club. We were happy that Rob took us there. It is located in a fairly obscure village. You may find that I repeat the word obscure several times today. That is because the roads, the towns, and many of the "tulip" landmarks today are obscure! A word about the "tulip's". Named for the first Dutch Tulip Rally, they are the symbols which mark each direction, straight, left, or right, at various intersections and checkpoints along the rally. For today's 130 mile race, there were 139 "tulips" on the road book of instructions given to us before our start. However, because of the rain and snow of the past week, at least one of the higher roads was closed, necessitating eleven additional tulips.We and nearly everyone else were busy putting the changes into the road book before our departure. We were somewhat surprised to see that most of the tulips had no signpost or road or highway number. In some cases, the direction was left at the "yellow bin" or right at the "phone booth". Sounds interesting to say the least. At the last moment, I put our Spring Has Sprung rally placard on our front gril and we are waved off by Cliff, the co-organizer of today's event and by a big checkered flag. With directions every two tenths of a mile or so, there is not much conversation about the beauty of the area, but it is incredible. The farms here in Warwickshire are magnificent. We are happy when we see other rally cars ahead of us; otherwise, we are fairly sure we are heading up someone's private driveway. There is a definite elation when a sign appears precisely at the .7 mile interval described on the roadbook! The narrow roads and tight curves are building Ed's biceps. By the time we stop for lunch, we are pleased to see that we are two of the first arrivals and we have covered almost seventy miles and seventy-nine tulips without error. We have also driven across a stream which the roadbook assures us is "not as deep as it looks". We take the organizer's assurance on faith and sure enough, we ford the stream without problem. Eventually, all thirty-six cars arrive, and we enjoy a good lunch at the Acton Working Farm which is our designated stop. After lunch, we come to our first questionable decision. The road to the left is supposed to be a "ford",the road to the right closed by a storm. The new directions say to turn by a "phone booth and sign to Gliding Field". Even though we have not seen the phone booth or the sign, we turn left as our only choice, but we are unable to find the "ford" which we assume to be a stream or river. Nevertheless, we drive on. Then we come upon other rally cars, going in different directions. The red Ferrari speeds straight on through an intersection. Two others stop along the side of the road, the navigator's heads buried in their road books. Six or seven other cars plunge up a road which is giving us pause. We decide not to follow - we turn, go back to find the phone book and sign which were our landmarks. We find them, buried behind tree branches which had obscured (that word again) our view. We still cannot find the stream or river which should be there, but there is a bridge, so we retrace our steps and are grateful that we had been on the right road in the first place, so our instincts and our reading ability are still intact, at least for now. The signposts are missing is some cases, but the tulip directions in the roadbook are excellent and we are treated to some of the most unspoiled scenery in all of England. These roads are what classic cars are designed for and the feeling of freedom becomes absolute euphoria. The large farms and high rolling hills are perfect backdrop. Although the navigation is the point of the rally, the natural tendency of the drivers to drive as fast as possible is tempered somewhat when a vehicle approaches from the other direction. Several times local residents gave up and backed up the road when they saw one of us rally cars approaching. Rather hilarious scene this afternoon. The revisions necessary because of the storm have caused many of the navigators some problems. On various roads we come across fellow ralliers making u-turns, going from our right to left, and from our left to our right, passing us in some cases going the opposite direction. We decide not to follow anyone - we will make our own mistakes and will rely only upon ourselves. We are in quite a few cases going straight in spite of a slight variations in the interval mileage, and there is one left turn in particular which brings a cheer of relief from the navigator when it finally appears. Yes! We are on the correct road (more like a path). We make excellent time - the car AND driver are performing brilliantly, the driver and navigator are communicating properly and cordially, and when we arrive at the car museum which marks the end of the rally, the only other cars on the grass are those of the organizers. (That must mean we were first.) We congratulate each other and watch as car after car arrives over the next hour to park on the grass in front of the museum. There are no prizes but each participant receives a lovely brass medal. We are pleased that we checked off each "tulip" on the roadbook today, meaning we accomplished the entire route as required and that we would have had no deductions had there been timechecks or passage checks. On our "big" rally, that will be of utmost importance, so for today, at least, we feel we are true "rally persons", especially considering that many of the other entrants have been doing this for years while we have been navigating on a sloop instead of four wheels. Such a good feeling. Actually, we may have inadvertently invented a new rally technique. We were followed for a good portion of the afternoon by a small white VW which did not pass us. At times, we thought perhaps they were using us as their navigational method. The VW never did pass us. After they arrived as the second car in, the driver politely and with good humor informed Ed that our right directional signal had been on for at least the last fifteen miles (hyperbole). That is somewhat akin to the throwing of nails as in the movie of the Great Race and the method that the young man in Tess's class at Sacred Heart asked if we would be using. Our apologies to the VW - as we told the driver, there is no clicking noise inside our car to warn us. The navigator has a new job, making sure the chrome horn piece on the steering wheel (which is our directional) is straight except when passing. Our short tour of the car museum leaves enough time for me to fall in love with a 1963 Austin-Healey convertible and for Ed to admire a 1971 Aston Martin just like his, and then we are on our way home, elated and happy with ourselves and the car. M-1, a modern freeway similar to those in the U.S. What a change from our roads earlier today where some were wide enough only for one car. We shared the roads throughout the morning with bicycles, horses, and in one case, a herd of cattle for which we stopped just in time! At least our current adventures are keeping us alert. ......We are again thrilled with the car's performance. It holds the road well, accelerates up hills extremely well, and is definitely "comfy". Our racing seatbelts restrain us somewhat, but when we observe British drivers and the speed they enjoy, we each use all four straps. Today we feel that indeed "Spring Has Sprung". The trees are blooming, the fields of daffodils so beautiful that one can ALMOST forgive Wordworth's excessive expression of passion for them. (Note to friends who memorized and recited the poem for Mrs. Ross in the eighth grade - maybe we should have been a little more serious about the whole thing - the sight of the daffodils in bloom here in England really is quite remarkable!) Tomorrow is back to work in car preparation but today was splendid! We think we are a pretty good team!
MONDAY, APRIL 10
New "good intention" is to do this update more frequently so that you don't have to wade through so much at one time. HOWEVER, the days seem to be fuller than we would have thought possible. Ed thinks this is starting to resemble the Tasters Choice Ad campaign which featured a weekly "serial". Our laminated maps arrived today. They are in two huge books but are detailed and excellent. In addition, we are receiving details on when and how to arrive for the "scrutineering" when our car will be inspected to make sure we are in compliance with all of the rally rules. It is getting so close and so REAL now. Still no passports. Evidently the authorization for Uzbekistan visas still has not been issued; our VISA person has one hundred passports just waiting for one final visa. No one dares consider what would happen if the authorization did not come. Ed removed the grill from the car this morning so that we could deliver it to Mr. Sugiarto for electroplating. We were flattered that he has already checked out our website! We are still trying to get the fueld pump/filter "sorted out". Joe Arhi's famous term for solving a problem has become a daily part of our vocabulary. We hope to have all of the car items "sorted out" by the end of this week. Today was warm and sunny and delightful. Dinner in Kensington. We both like Kensington almost more than Knightsbridge - it has a more lively and casual atmosphere. Coffee at Starbuck's! Felt close to home. TUESDAY, APRIL 11, 2000 You can tell our present priorities by the fact that today's biggest news and biggest relief is that we at last have located a 14 Allen Key (a wrench which is necessary to us and tough to find). We need it because it is used not only to inspect the transmission but also to remove the plug on the bottom of the gas tank to remove bad fuel. We had a note from Philip Young just this morning telling us again that the bad fuel is no joke, that it really is going to be BAD in China.I had told Ed I was going to put out an alert on our website but he pointed out we might receive several, since we have so many of you looking out for us. Ed spent the day working on the car - surprise! Our present fuel filter and water separator is a cartridge type which requires too much suction from our fuel pump. Our replacement unit, a Lucas, arrived today, requiring new brass fittings to adapt to our fuel lines. One of Manjeet's assistants took Ed to the industrial area to locate Forest Hydraulics, where they were able to provide us with the necessary fittings to adapt to the new filter. We will test drive the car Wednesday or Thursday. An auxiliary SU fuel filter pump will be installed near the gas tank next Monday. Then we will be READY. We are really grateful to find so many of you are following our website!!! More wintry weather today - could not have been more than forty degrees!
GOOD MORNING, MRS. BROOKS AND CLASS 2A AT SACRED HEART. WE ARE SO HAPPY THAT YOU ARE FOLLOWING OUR JOURNEY. WE WILL MAKE SURE TO GIVE YOU LOTS OF GEOGRAPHY LESSONS AS WE GO. THANK YOU, TESS SUHRBIER, FOR GIVING MRS. BROOKS OUR WEBSITE ADDRESS. WE LOVED TALKING TO BOTH TESS'S AND KATE'S CLASSES BEFORE WE BEGAN OUR JOURNEY AND WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR THE PROTECTION OF ANGELS WHICH MRS. KORESKI HAS SENT ALONG WITH US! ALSO, GOOD MORNING, LESLIE DUNN AND YOUR HOME SCHOOL. WE HOPE YOU ARE FOLOWING US, TOO. WE LOVED HEARING FROM YOU. (I SINCERELY HOPE YOU ARE NOT TEACHING PARAGRAPHY STRUCTURE OR COMPOSITION, BUT, IF YOU ARE, MY APOLOGIES - LITTLE TIME FOR MUCH NEEDED EDITING).
By the way, we are trying to answer individual e-mails whenever we have a few minutes to move the headboard which covers the attachment to the phone jack. It is really quite amusing to see what has to be done in order to send and receive e-mail in this Cabin 12 which is how the club refers to the rooms here.
LONDON - KNIGHTSBRIDGE - ROYAL THAMES YACHT CLUB - CABIN 12
THE PAST WEEK HAS BEEN "WORK WEEK" HERE. OUR PURITAN WORK ETHIC HAS BEEN BOOSTED SOMEWHAT BY GHASTLY WEATHER WHICH IS BREAKING RECORDS HERE IN ENGLAND. WE ARE HAPPY THAT WE ENJOYED THE ONE DAY OF SUNSHINE WITH THE TOP DOWN ON THE CAR WHICH WE DETAILED IN OUR PREVIOUS UPDATE. THE PAST WEEK HAS BROUGHT MORE RAIN, WIND, AND EVEN SOME MORE SNOW. THE MAY FLOWERS HAD BETTER BE SPECTACULAR BECAUSE WE CANNOT CONCEIVE OF THE RAIN AS "VIOLETS". THAT COULD BE DONE ONLY BY A SONGWRITER WHO NEVER SPENT A MONTH IN LONDON! OTHER THAN THE WEATHER, LONDON CONTINUES TO DELIGHT, AND THE BRITISH PEOPLE ARE HOSPITABLE TO YANKS BEYOND WHAT WE EVER ANTICIPATED. TOO MANY TO MENTION HAVE GONE MILES OUT OF THEIR WAY TO HELP US, AND WE APPRECIATE ALL OF THEM, ESPECIALLY THE STAFF HERE AT THE YACHT CLUB. WE ALMOST FEEL AS IF IT IS OUR PRIVATE HOME. BACK TO THE DAILY DIARY!
TUESDAY, APRIL 11, 2000
Icky weather, but today was the day to get acquainted with Kensington, as we went out to the mechanic early this morning to check the progress, and we had the afternoon free! Ed has long been interested in the Royal Geographic Society and the prospect of joining as a "Fellow". His interest was piqued when Bill Larson, the Around the World entrant we met last weekend, mentioned that he is a fellow (now we know they accept Yanks). So today was our "recce" to the headquarters on High Street in Kensington. Founded in 1830, the Society is lodged in an imposing Victorian Mansion and is so steeped in history and tradition and has such a vast collection of maps, periodicals, and books, that one could literally spend years there. We found the staff to be cordial and welcoming, and we were able to go into the map room, where although one cannot just take items from the shelves to browse, a capable young man will provide any references one requires. The room contains 900,000 sheets of maps and charts, 2,500 atlases, 40 globes and 700 gazateers comprising the core of the Map Room's material from what is probably the world's largest private map collection. In includes printed items (on paper, vellum, and on cotton silk) from the year 1482, manuscript items from 1716, aerial photography from 1919, satellite imagery maps, and CD-Rom. Maps of Radio emission from Cassiopeia A, geology of the Moon, ice thickness of Antarctica, a navigation atlas for the Yenisey River, trekking maps for Nepal, and even vegetation maps for Brazil are included. The Map Room has both modern and antiquarian maps and the collection is a major national and international resource for all forms of cartographic research.
There is a separate library for reference, usually open only to members, and then there is the Book Room! One can go straight-a-way to old fashioned card catalogs! (Younger readers, your parents or teachers will explain how we found books before microfiche and whatever computerized data your school or library now has.) The collection is excellent and is arranged not by the Dewey Decimal System, but by geographical area - we found some fascinating books on the central Asian countries we will visit. One of the best was an account of an Around the World bicycle tour that was accomplished in the mid-1850's. And we think we are ventursome! It was hard to tear ourselves away. Non-members can call and ask for an appointment to see the Map Room and the Book Room. The entry fee is ten pounds per person to do that. Members do not pay to use the facilities, and membership includes a subscription to the monthly Geographical magazine and there are lectures, conferences, and seminars on a regular basis. The building itself is worth a look, and it is near the Royal Albert Hall, a glorious circular theater which houses the opera here.
Perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon! Special thanks to Judith Thomsen, Fellowship Director, whom we met briefly and to whom we will return the paperwork when we see Bill next week. Many thanks to Judith and her staff for their welcome to us.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12, 2000 One of our favorite morning rituals here is to hear the clipclop of the horses as they pass our window on the way to Buckingham Palace. At 7:30a.m. the first group passes by, ridden by caped and hatted "anonymous" looking riders. At 10:30 a.m. each morning, the next group comes by, the redcoated riders with the elaborate helmets which identify them as the elite Buckingham Palace Guards who will participate in the morning Changing of the Guard at 11:30 a.m. in front of the palace. The horses are sleek and taller than most and the parade is never tiresome. One morning last week the early morning group was playing brass instruments as it passed by. The background of Hyde Park and the entire pageant were memorable! We seldom spend such a long time in one spot - we are finding certain benefits of being "residents" here. We like Kensington - our bus stop is in front of the Royal Garden Hotel. It is of note only because it is where Putin, Russia's new Premier, is staying when he visits London on Thursday. Queen Elizabeth is entertaining him at Buckingham Palace (we expect our invitiation to the gathering at any moment, of course). He is flying his own limousine and those of his entourage from Moscow to London and will stay in the penthouse overlooking the Kensington Palace Gardens and will evidently have a spectacular view of all of London.
We are sparing everyone the details of our tube rides and bus rides and long treks, but suffice it say they are all distinct improvements over cabs and cars. The traffic all over London resembles the drive from University Village to the Montlake Bridge at 3 in the afternoon or the drive on Friday from our house to Shilshole!
Tonight was our first bus trip to Notting Hill. We kept looking for Julia and Hugh (and the famous roommate) but alas, they were nowhere to be found. The entire neighborhood is being gentrified, but still retains a certain Fremont feel. We went to see Hillary Swank in Boys Don't Cry. She definitely deserved the Oscar as far as we are concerned - incredible performance! We have been told she is from Bellingham and that she and her mother went to Los Angeles when Hilary was 16 and had some days tough enough that they were forced to live in their car. We have no way of knowing if the story is true, but it is certainly dramatic. Tough subject matter for a movie, and somewhat draining, but what a phenomenal actress.
THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 2000
Another day off from car preparation and from navigating the streets of London! That might not sound important to you as we know you all think we are spoiled enough, but if you watched Ed and the amount of work he is doing on the final car preparations right along with the mechanics, you would know why a day without a trip to Bethanl Green is welcome indeed. If the rechromed grill had been ready today as originally scheduled, we might have been late to or might have missed one of the true highlights of the trip! We were able to get tickets to see Kathleen Turner in the new stage production of "The Graduate". Not only was she superb, but the young man who plays Benjamin nearly steals the show. We thought the comparisons to the Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman might tarnish our enjoyment, but the entire production is well done and satisfying. And yes, the famous PLASTICs line survives! Snatches of Simon and Garfunkel link the play to the movie, but only briefly and in most cases, leaving us wanting more; The Gielgud Theater near Picadilly Circus is intimate, historic, and totally theatrical.
l FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 2000 A LONG AND WINDING ROAD today. Two buses to Sugiarto Electroplate to pick up the grill. It is now bright and shiny again. Mr. Sugiarto appeared somewhat surprised that we were carrying it by bus back to Everbay Ltd. (our mechanics' shop on Palmers Road in Bethnal Green). Actually, we were carrying it back by way of two buses, but that is part of the fun of learning the routes and feeling so accomplished in our "navigation".. It had taken Ed just minutes to remove the grill from the car to take it in for the electroplate process which entails grinding down to the nickel which covers the steel of which the grill is made. then adding the copper and natural chromium which puts back the shiny look which we all recognize as chrome. This process is often done for bathroom fixtures as well as automobile parts. Putting the grill back on took Ed over an hour by the time the rubber was replaced properly and the grill attached as it had been. Our British mechanic who formerly lived in Zimbabwe lent a hand toward the end when it was apparent it was a two man job. I was photographer. Ed is known for leaning over backwards to help his friends. In this case, he was literally leaning over backwards under the hood. During a portion of his work, the hood was down, resting on his upper legs so that all that was visible of Ed was his lower legs. The metal portion of the hood left marks on his upper legs which were there hours later. ( Please note the navigator stays well out of the way during projects such as this morning. "They also serve who only stand and wait". .
The fuel pump is still being "sorted out". We have removed the marine filter which had been recommended to us by the organizers last summer but which proved to put too much of a strain on the existing fuel pump. This has been an ongoing design and installation problem since early last fall. The decision is about to be made as to whether the new Lucas water/fuel separator will need an auxiliary SU fuel pump mounted forward of the existing fuel tank in order to supply sufficient fuel pressure going up steep mountains or as a backup to the main fuel pump. This is generally thought to be a good idea to have as a backup, but we are yet to decide because of a reluctance to do something major so close to Tower Bridge departure. "Experts" are divided in the need for it. We are "penciled" in at a garage in Harrietsham which is the expert in this installation so we will keep you posted.
Good news by late afternoon. The car is ready for us to take for this weekend's trip to the Oxford area for our one day navigation school. Again we find ourselves in Friday evening rush hour traffic, bound for "home". Two hours later, we are back in Bethnal Green for a resolution of what blessedly turns out to be a minor glitch, and off we go again back to Central London. By now, in spite of daylight saving time, it is dark (partially because of a left-handed navigator who said turn left when she knew perfectly well we should turn right), and we are just grateful to have the car for the weekend and to finally reach Knightsbridge. "No room at the inn" for the car in our usual spot in front of the Club. A young man in front of the nextdoor Kuwait Embassy politely but firmly refuses to allow us to park in front of their door even though it is in "our driveway". Evidently he does not remember American efforts on his country's behalf (that is humor, sir). Anyway, the car's resting place for the night is on the steep space adjacent to our building. Once safely parked, the driver is much too tired to think about backing it out of such a small steep space tomorrow morning. Navigator anxiety left over from the events of the day appears in a nightmare at 4:30 a.m. Too real for comfort: the car goes into first gear instead of reverse and smashes into the building, ruining not only the newly chromed grillframe but the front end. Fortunately, it was just that, a nightmare! Hope you are reading carefully. This smashup did NOT occur except in the nightmare. We have heard that Wall Street had a less than stellar day today; so did we.. Oh, well, "tomorrow is another day".
SATURDAY, APRIL 15, 2000
Today qualifies as the longest of our trip. Off early this morning on the M-4, similar to our I-90 except for its length, of course. Tough driving: traditional peasoup fog reminiscent of movies set in London years ago; rain, hail, and a little snow. This is getting to be a habit. For the first time on the highway, we turn on our powerful new rally lights which have been installed in addition to the normal headlights. Instead of needing them for just a few miles, we need them for over two hours! A spring drive in the countryside does not conjure up this weather or the number of trucks which accompany us this morning.
We are bound for the Milton Training Center near Wantage, Blewbury, Abingdon, and the "big" city nearby, Oxford. Set in a serene, pastoral area, the main mansion was built in the early 18th century. Over the years, conference rooms, dining rooms, and recreational facilities have been added, as well as hotel rooms with modern conveniences (except still no CNN - this has been a difficult adaptation for us). The grounds are lovely - even in the rain, this is an appealing place to spend the day and evening before our rally navigation school is held tomorrow. Our arrival is most interesting. The circular driveway in front of the mansion is crowded with late model luxury cars - it is evident there is a special occasion. It turns out to be a large formal wedding party, complete with buses to take the guests to the church, as well as several vintage white limousines, including a large Bentley. However, it will be a while before we learn this, as when we arrive, we are literally coming in on a "wing and a prayer". We don't know it as yet, but we are about to have learned a GOOD lesson. Better here than on the M-4 we just left and much better than in the middle of the Gobi desert at night: the powerful rally lights which we have had on the whole way have put a larger drain on the energy of the battery than our generator is able to provide. Nobody had quite envisioned this particular problem. Ed "sorts out" the cause of the problem in less than ten minutes, but by then he has had to push the car out of the only lane of traffic at the curve of the driveway where the car went dead and into a spot right in front of the hotel where there is a "No Parking" sign but where the staff graciously allows us to park until the problem is solved. Ed quickly hooks up the battery cables so that if a good samaritan happens by, he will be ready. We enter the lobby, ask for early checkin and a maintenance man who might give us a "jump" and, believe it or not, sit down for a cup of coffee in the lobby. We are learning to deal with adversity much better than usual, mainly because we realize how comfortable we are in this lovely lobby when we might be on the shoulder of the M-4! A helpful wedding guest arriving for checkin gives us the necessary "jump", the car starts instantly, the driver has a nap in our room overlooking the meadow and forest,and two hours later, engine running in the back parking lot the whole time, we turn it off, it restarts immediately, and we are on our way north to Derby.
Why Derby?? Our Terratrip 303 rally computer has refused to work properly since the initial installation last September. Three technicians have insisted that it should be working. John Carmichael, The English manufacturer, has been suggesting various methods of testing for possible interference as that is the problem 99.9% of the time. We are headed for his home, which doubles as the "factory" where the computers are produced. Our first phone call to him from the U.S. a few months ago found him on the golf course. He is such a gentleman and so helpful that he asked if I would please wait for a moment while he hit his next shot, then he would be happy to help me. This is the truth - I could hear the sweet sound of a properly hit ball and then he returned to the phone. When we are in his office today, the framed record of his Hole in One on the seventh hole of his local course is evidence of his love of golf! Back to the rally computer. He finally determines that not only does one wire require changing but that something on the electronic panel of the computer is indeed damaged ( I am keeping it to frame in our casita) and not only gives us a new one but lends us an extra to take as a backup on the trip. We leave, confident that at last we will be able to do the necessary practice operations before our departure when we must be "experts". That is not to be. Less than a mile from his home, we turn on the new instrument, which freezes immediately. John delivers yet another new one to us at the local McDonald's and we are again on our way with confidence. By the end of the evening, both he and we are totally perplexed. Yet another unit is failing. After the navigation school, we will "sort it out".
Ed drove a total of more than nine hours today - back safely to the Milton Training Center, we look forward to the one day navigation school tomorrow, but fatigue and frustration have set in for the first time.
SUNDAY, APRIL 16, 2000
Today's session was put on by the Classic Rally Association mainly for the participants of next September's Classic Marathon, a six day rally from Belgium, through Luxemborg and Germany to Italy and back to Belgium. However, much of the information was of interest to us and we learned many methods as well as tidbits necessary for checking in at time controls and passage checks to the minute, which we will be required to do en route. We had breakfast with two interesting Belgians who just happen to work for PACCAR. Each day brings evidence of the smallness of today's world. Hello to Koen Eyckermans and good luck to you on your rally in September.
Philip Young, head of the Classic Rally Association and our Rally organizer, led off the day with greetings but some warnings as well. Speaking of the stresses of hard driving and prompt checkins, he mentioned the need for good communication between driver and navigator. Then, still laughing three years after the event, he told of seeing one unforgettable exchange between a driver and navigator on the 1997 Peking to Paris. Philip was driving along when he saw one of the rally cars ahead of him stop along the shoulder. The driver got out of the car, walked to the passenger side of the car, the navigator got out of the car, heated words were exchanged, and suddenly, a hard punch in the face was landed by one of the parties; the driver then went back to his seat, the navigator assumed his own seat, and they continued on in the race. Philip said "the tension was broken".
Rally rules are more complicated than we knew when we signed up for our rally. We knew one must check in at time controls to the minute and sometimes to the second. On the video of the 1997 Peking to Paris we saw a woman, out of breath, race to her car and saw the driver take off in a cloud of dust. In the video of the race to Marakkesh, we saw a woman drop all of her paperwork as she ran toward the desk to turn in the time card. Still, we did not appreciate until today just how careful the timing must be. We find that if you check in one minute late, you are penalized only one minute, but if you check in one minute early, you are penalized two minutes!
Our two instructors today are well qualified. Each has in the past won the top national rallying award. Rob Lyall and Willie Cave made the day enjoyable and informative. Willie began the day with a succinct description of what rallying is: "Rallying is a bit like touring the Continent except that instead of your family telling you (the driver)what to do, Philip Young, (our rally organizer) tells you what to do". Because our London to Peking is not a speed race like Formula One, and because we must meet local speed limits, speed nevertheless remains important, and "proper" speed essential. Road books give the time a hypothetical Car 0 is to reach the first Time Check. Each car in the rally has a starting number such as our 48. On the first day of our rally, we will add 48 minutes to the time given in the roadbook and that will be the time we need to check in at the desk, unless of course starting time is delayed or a last minute bulletin is issued which then requires new estimated time of arrival at the timecheck. It was emphasized all day long that the official timekeeper's watch must be used. It is okay to ask the marshall at the time check what time his watch says, but it is the navigator's responsibility to touch him with the card within 59 seconds of the minute which the driver and navigator have established as their necessary minute of arrival. It sounds easy to establish an average speed which would get you there on time without further calculations, but we have been told that traffic jams, train crossings, etc. can and do often upset the best laid plans of mice and men. We did learn that it is possible to purchase Average Speed Tables, but we have not located them as yet.
There will be three major items that we will use to establish our required times of arrival: The large Road Books which have been given us by the Rally Association and the Route Instructions which will be posted each day at Rally Headquarters (and may or not be the same as the Road Books), and finally, the Time Card which is given to the Navigator at the beginning of the Rally and which must NEVER be lost. In fact, we were told to guard it with our life. It was also suggested that if you happen to see the navigator of the car which left just ahead of you or just behind you, and one of those navigators is in line with you, it is perfectly proper to ask what minute they have calculated as their minute of arrival. If their figures are not one minute ahead of or behind yours, someone has a math error which perhaps you can still recalculate. There is no penalty for arriving at and parking near the time check early as long as you park seventyfive yards away. It is only when one actually hands the time card over and the marshall touches it that the minute must be recorded. We were warned to make sure that the correct time is written down on the right side of the time card because protests later cannot be proved. It was also suggested that if you miss a time check, draw a diagonal line through that stop so that the next marshall will not write on the wrong line. I quote verbatim from today's instructions: "If you are not late, trickle forward and ask the marshall if his clock shows a certain time. If you are too early, say "I haven't handed it to you yet". If you are late, "Slap it on the table". We were also cautioned that the driver must not speed past the timecheck - it is not allowed to go past and then back up. The driver must be an excellent listener.
Ed's favorite moment of the entire day today was when Willie (an expert navigator) cautioned the navigators in the audience NOT to give the driver too much information, for instance, instead of telling the driver all about what he will see at the intersection, the navigator should say in as FEW words as possible, "Turn left at the stoplight by the post office". Ed's arms went into the air as if Willie had just answered Ed's prayers! So I will try to say little. Then Willie suggested that the navigator should repeat the directions three times just to make sure the driver has heard correctly. That was music to my years. The navigator should give the driver an assessment of the next leg of the rally at each time control; the three assessments are recommended "Tight", "Very Tight", and "Impossible".
Because we explained the "tulips" on the road directions after last Sunday's rally, we won't do it again here, but they really are helpful. We learned today that four small dots in the road book mean traffic lights. Need we tell you we do not hold graduate degrees in rally navigation. Most of the instructions are what we have done while sailing all these years and also on all of our long car trips; the major difference will be the time checks and the need to arrive within the minute! We have not explained that our race/rally will be won by the car with the fewest deductions, that is, the fewest early or late checkins. It is essential to start within fifteen minutes of one's assigned starting time each day and of course one must reach the time check before they close down or one does not get credit for reaching it. In addition to the Time Checks, there are "Passage Checks" which are sometimes unmanned but just signed but which must be passed in order to prove you are taking the assigned route without shortcuts! I truly do not know if they were "joshing" today when they said that sometimes the passage check is a question as to what brand of beer is served at the passage check! There are also maximum deductions, which if you exceed, can prevent you from being eligible for competition medals.
My inclination would be to spend hours now in calculating average speeds for each leg in the roadbook ahead of time, but we have been warned that there will be many changes from the roadbook. At least we will be able to note discrepancies between the road book and the laminated maps we have purchased and will be prepared ahead of time for those. In addition, we continue to learn more about rally symbols, i.e. a cross in a rectangle on the map is a cemetery, except in Italy where there will be an X in the box instead of the cross. The navigator is to check the distance and actual time every fifteen minutes to determine what speed is necessary to get to the next time check in time. He or she is also to check the fuel gauge every hour and to fill up when half full. You can see we will be able to daydream all day long. Some of the details of today's meeting seem almost humorous unless you recall how important timing will be. For instance, the following detailed description of how to get fuel in Italy may actually save someone from being late. For those of you who may drive in Italy, here is the process. 1) Park by your chosen pump. Do not attempt to pump gas yet. 2) Find a nearby CONTROL MACHINE which will have many buttons on it. PUT MONEY IN FIRST, then select the number of the pump you parked your car by and press that number on the control machine. At this point, the red light which should have been on on the control box should go out, and the red light should come ON on the pump where you parked your car. 3) If all this goes as it should, you may return to your car and pump your gas. We were also told that most of the time you will need cash (lire) to put in the control machine. (I have included these details here in the hope that if I type the words, the method may remain planted in my brain so that we will not lose time in refueling in Italy and that we may resemble a pit stop in Indianapolis).
Our meeting was from 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon and included demonstrations with stopwatches, information from the "scrutineer" Roger Byford and his lovely wife Maggie who will will be accompanying us from London to Peking. The "scrutineer" will check each car the day before we leave to make sure all the rally preparations of the car meet the strict requirements of classic car rallying. For instance, digital stopwatches may be worn around the neck but cannot be attached to the car. One may have one extra instrument on the dashboard with two readouts or two instruments with one readout. A new vocabulary word to us is "homolugation". There are homolugation papers published by some car manufacturers which show that certain parts for a car were actually offered in the period the car was first produced. The scrutineer emphasized that he will accept only originals of such papers, not photocopies. This is to ensure that a car has not been restored with parts that will give it an unfair advantage. It was pointed out to us today that even if a scrutineer accepts a car, a competitor can lodge a protest if he feels something in another car is not according to the rally rules. All very interesting but somewhat overwhelming! Roger Byford went out to our car with Ed and liked it; he did suggest our rally computer had time showing on it, which is not allowed, so we are switiching to the 202 model (after learning all the buttons on the other one).
Now YOU all are ready to rally, too! Back to London late this afternoon. M-4 is a good route to our home, "straight" to A-4 and Knightsbridge.
MONDAY, April 17, 2000
The saga of our rally computer is too long to recount here, but it is probably the only truly frustrating part of our rally preparations. Ed and John Cartwright are "sorting it out" and we will know tomorrow morning the result.
Tonight was a real treat!!!! Earl Prebezac was one of the best teachers Roosevelt High School ever had; his wife Nann and he have for years taken students on educational trips through Europe. Our Karen, David Glenn, Barb Campbell, Steve Mullin, and nearly tweny others were fortunate to go with them in 1979. We have been friends for many years. Nann is in London with a group bound for Scotland. She came to dinner here at the Club tonight and we had an extraordinarily excellent time catching up on the days of the Showboat and Penthouse at the UofW in which she was a talented performer and of the years both then and now. If our schools had more Prebezacs, we would be the envy of the world.
TUESDAY, April 18, 2000
IMPORTANT DAY! WE HAVE OUR UZBEKISTAN VISAS and all the others we need, and our passports clutched in our hands. This may not sound important to you, but the trip could have been jeopardized if the foreign minister of Uzbekistan had refused to grant authority for the visas. At Sunday's navigation meeting, there were quiet talks about the possibility of a "serious" problem. It might sound easy to go around Uzbekistan; however, Afghanistan, Dagestan, Chechnya, and others are not everyone's idea of favorite destinations. Amanda Wooders of TravCour has done an excellent job for us - we are in possession of a four year, multiple entry visa to Uzbekistan. It is nice to know we can go for a weekend some time. We picked up the visas ourselves. The courier services have made some errors lately which have frustrated some other rally entrants. We are relieved that we opted for the express service; only five of us have our passports and visas ready for the trip. Everyone else will probably receive theirs the night before our departure. Our anxiety level would have been too high, and we want to concentrate on friends and family!
It appears that our computer problem at last is solved. We will take practice drives to make sure. For today, the car remains in Bethnal Green while work is completed. On our way into the tube station on our way home, as we went down the stairs, we saw some words which had a deep emotional impact on both of us. The words were the memorial to the 173 civilians, adults and children, who were killed during the Second World War on those stairs as they sought shelter underground in the tube station which was in use as an airraid shelter from Nazi planes. It was the worst single loss of civilian lives in the United Kingdom in the entire war.
WEDNESDAY, April 19, 2000
Covent Garden today. Looked into Simpson's, a landmark London restaurant, and visited the Savoy Hotel which is another landmark right on the Thames. Very proper, very stuffy. Tried to find a matinee, but Thursday and Saturday seem to be matinee days here. Mundane shopping errands, but a riveting news article. A large newspaper picture of Turkish President Suleyman Demirel welcoming his counterpart Jiang Zemin in Ankara yesterday at the start of a three day visit. The leaders pledged to boost trade between their countries and revive the Silk Road that once linked China to Europe. They also signed protocols aimed at improving ties and increasing trade and energy investments. We though as we read the article of the fact that as part of the rally, we are to be the very first to be allowed to drive our cars across the vast width of the Taklimakan desert and do parts of both the north and the south routes of the Silk Road. Ours will be rough roads, but the picture of the two leaders made Ed aware that they will be he ones who will pave an I-90 or M-4 for the future trade between Europe and Asia! That makes those of us in our rally seem even more like pioneers! We hope our efforts can help bring freedom, peace, and democracy to the world!
THURSDAY, April 20, 2000
It is hard to make Heathrow Airport attractive, but today it was! Karen and Dale and Michael arrived for a three hour layover on their way to Paris. They will return here to London on Tuesday, but it was soo good to see them. Ed had not seen Michael since Christmas; that is too long. We were able to have lunch at Starbuck's in the arrival area. Starbuck's has over twelve outlets in London that we have seen. There are probably more!! Then back to Bethnal Green. We have decided to replace a seal in the differential even though it is new and we have put a sealant in there to prevent any leaks. A special tool is necessary for the replacement which is not readily available. Great Joe Arhi is sending the tool and the seal from Los Angeles and they will be here on Tuesday. Bless his heart!!!! That completes the mechanical preparations. Now all that is left is to repack the car and we are ready. Car frreshly washed, we head back to the City and manage to avoid Westminster-Victoria holiday traffic by using the north ring road, coming in by Madame Tussaud's, down Edgware Road to Hyde Park Corner without any detours at all. We are still amused by the cabdriver in Victoria last week. We rolled down the window to ask his confirmation that we were on the right street (road construction had necessitated a detour). He confirmed we were on the right street, then laughed and said if we were going to find Peking we had better be able to know where we were going. AMEN.
FRIDAY, April 21, 2000
We did observe Good Friday by going to the historic and awe-inspiring Westminster Cathedral this morning. It is just ten minutes away from us in time, but centuries in feeling. The Stations of the Cross of course had special significance today while we were there. We will be there for Easter as well. We think Kate and Tess should see such a special place while they are here and what better way to celebrate the glorious day. Good Friday is a holiday here; nearly everything is closed, and the streets are less crowded with traffic.
We did a recce for our picnic in Hyde Park which is to be next Saturday. We will be with our Seattle friends and family who are coming to say goodbye, as well as Joe, Manjeet, Parinder and their families, Mark and Donna Rinkel and their girls, and Kevin Clemens. Mark and Kevin, as you may remember, are our fellow compatriots in the rally. They and their car arrive in the next two days. Tomorrow is a big day for us. Craig and Liz and the girls arrive at Heathrow in the morning and will be here until Sunday afternoon when they will go to the Cotswolds for three days before coming back on Thursday. We were lucky to find a car available for them nearby. Many agencies had no cars available for Easter Weekend. Traffic will be bad on the motorways on Sunday, because it is the British Grand Prix. Last weekend was the London Marathon, which closed down many thoroughfares. The British are patient people!
This coming week will be one of a "critical path". The butterflies and goosebumps are constant now!!!
- ROYAL THAMES YACHT CLUB
Out to Heathrow this morning. We hope to surprise Kate and Tess and Craig and Liz by being in the arrival area when they get off their flight from Seattle. We are lucky that the plane is five minutes early. Their luggage arrives sooner than it does in PalmSprings. British Airways is gaining in favor among many fliers! Kate and Tess decide to come with us on the tube so we put Craig and Liz in a cab and off we go. Their excitement is infectious! Even after a nine hour flight, they are ready to tour! Lunch in
27, 2000 - Thursday
Today was Grandparents' Day in London for us. Craig and Liz and Karen and Dale had tickets for The Graduate so we took Kate and Tess and Michael for the day. Mark Rinkel (Ohio dentist who is going on the trip with us), his wife Donna and their daughters Melissa and Erin came to the Royal Thames just as our group was congregated outside the Club. At the same moment we were going through introductions, hellos and good byes, a cab pulled into the driveway bringing the Sweigerts and the Prices from Seattle. The chaos and activity was almost too much for the ordinarily sedate atmosphere, but calm returned fairly quickly. Ed and I and Mark and Donna and all the kids spent the afternoon in the toy department at Harrod's and playing in Hyde Park and had a splendid time. It was hard to give the kids back to their parents! They had all gotten along so well. Kate and Tess are so good to Michael and he loves them! The Rinkel girls are sweet, well mannered and joined our kids as if they have known each other for years. Ed and Mark had a chance to talk rally talk and cars; both are focused on departure! Ann and Bert Mawhinney arrived from La Jolla. A special few moments on the way home from the park: the cherry blossoms all along the road facing our club have been in full bloom. This afternoon, the heavy winds have taken more than half the blossoms off the trees. We and the kids were able to run through the blossoms on the grass, tossing handfuls of pink petals into the air with both arms up over our heads. It was spring at its finest!
Donna and I took the kids out to dinner at the Spaghetti House in Knightsbridge while Mark joined Kevin Clemens for dinner. Kevin just arrived in London today. Their car was in the New York Auto Show last week and was given prominent position by Mercedes. They, too, are ready to drive! Ed went back to the club to join our friends; I "deposited" my grandchildren who had been ABSOLUTELY PERFECT all day long with their parents, with great reluctance, because we had so much fun. The toy department at Harrod's is quite something.
We had an "adult" dinner at the Club. This beats car repairs!! Our car is ready. It is in front of the Club, clean and ready for final packing. Manjeet, Parminder, Danny, and everyone there at Everbay have worked so hard for us and have been so kind. Our thanks and gratitude are eternal.
28, 2000 Friday
Dissapointment this morning. We had all decided to go together to the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. We all managed to get there and had perfect positions near the front of the line. We watched the horses and guards arrive. Then, however, the announcement that because of the rain, the ceremony was cancelled. Bummer! Craig and Liz and Kate and Tess and Dale and Karen and Michael went on with their planned doubledecker bus ride around the city.
The rest of us went through the Cabinet War Rooms. To see the actual rooms used by Winston Churchill and his staff during World War II brought goosebumps. The conditions were far from perfect. The building was chosen because it was the only steel framed construction building in London. There were no working toilets. Work shifts were as long as eighteen hours. Ceilings were low, and the fact that workers could smoke as much and as often as they liked must have led to air stale beyond belief. There were bunk beds for those who had time only for a few hours sleep before it was back to work. The war rooms have been left exactly as they were when they were closed at the end of the war. We were able to view the actual map Churchill used at the Yalta Conference when Europe was split among the Allies and Russia. It was an emotional experience to hear the actual voices of Churchill and Truman on a recording of an actual phone call between them at the end of WW II. when they discussed their mutual distrust of Stalin. We stood in front of the bedroom where Churchill had slept during the war and viewed his huge supply of cigars. He took a nap each afternoon no matter what was going on the in the War. This is one of the "must" visits in London. Our long hours at Bethnal Green repairing the car have left us no time for the new Tate Museum or for the British Museum. So we will have to come back to London!
Cheryl and I had a whole afternoon together today. Even after a nine hour flight she was ready to savor the City! We spent most of the afternoon in Kensington, checking out the Tennessee Chicken which we will use for our American picnic in Hyde Park tomorrow. We have had great fun teasing the owner about his good sense of humor in naming it "Tennessee" chicken. He is Iranian, so he did not think it nearly as hilarious as do we. His chicken is sensational - testing is part of the planning fun. Back to Harrod's. It seems still to be most people's first destination after they arrive. The lights at night are particularly festive.
Joe Arhi arrived from Los Angeles today, too. Tonight we had the entire back upper section of the Kuhn Akorn Thai Restaurant on Brompton Road for a big group dinner. We left the choice of food up to the manager, and it was outstanding. Again, Melissa, Erin, Kate, Tess, and Michael were perfect. We had almost thirty people, so we were fortunate to have our own section. Pouring down rain again today!
APRIL 29, 2000 Saturday
Packed most of the rest of our belongings into the car this morning. No matter how hard we have planned, we still have too much and are sending home two extra bags with Karen. And we haven't even been shopping!
SUNSHINE just in time for our Hyde Park picnic today. It was absolutely glorious weather, thank goodness. We had a special section of the picnic area adjacent to the Dell Restaurant on the Serpentine in Hyde Park reserved just for our party. We brought in most of the food for a typical American picnic. It was missing only potato salad. As I write, I realize I missed a goldent opportunity for a contest between Tuckie and Alice for "best potato salad". They could have improvised! We were in the park nearly four hours. Courtesy of Karen, we had the kite necessary for the perfect London day out. Mary Poppins is part of our family - all of the kids sang "Let's Go Fly a Kite" at exactly the right moment for the videocamera.
The Royal Thames may never be the same again. Because it is the weekend, there is no one here but us and our friends and family and one staff person at the desk in the reception area. Even the cleaning staff stays in the morning just long enough to clean the rooms and serve continental breakfast in the bedrooms of the overnight cabin "residents". With permission, we brought snacks and beverages back from the park to the upper level bar area. Craig renewed his college bartender skills (which are considerable). We sat in comfort and casual clothes and had the whole group there for most of the evening. Kate and Tess and Michael played cards and games right there with us. Dinner (leftovers from the picnic and sandwiches made from purchases at the Kensington Safeway) was served in several shifts from the club kitchen by a joint effort of all of us. It was as if we were in our own home! Tonight we were able to say goodnight to Mr. Moon in our song and to "Run Along Home...say your prayers..cover your head.... We will miss our mugwumps!
We will miss the staff here. Robin Bidgood, the manager, works hard and efficiently, and so do all the rest of his staff. Special thanks to Frank, Peter, Jason, Torben, Oscar, George, and Joan. They have put themselves out for us each day and we appreciate them. Later on in the trip when there are a few spare hours, we will detail exactly how much they have made us feel at home.
30, 2000 - SUNDAY
We left the Royal Thames this morning with a lump in my throat. We have had a special month there. Now we get ready for the flag to drop tomorrow morning. We were asked to arrive at exactly 11:15 this morning at the Royal Mint. There the "scrutineering" of each car will take place to determine if the rally rules have been followed in preparation of the car, i.e., engine size, acceptable time/distance computers, etc. It is raining again - yesterday's sun for our picnic was a bonus! We had been asked to arrive exactly at 11:15 a.m. so that cars could be lined up backwards from 100 to 1 so that tomorrow morning car 1 will be in front for the approach to the bridge. Again, the best laid plans.... We drove by nearly an hour before we were to arrive, but even though the gate was open, we adhered to the request of the rally association to avoid coming early. We drove around, then parked. Finding a "loo" in London is more difficult than in most cities. The area around the Mint doesn't seem to believe in them. To make a long story short, I finally went into large concrete building which appeared to be an apartment building and asked one of the five or six men who were standing just inside the door if I might use the ladies loo. Their expressions should have warned me that they found the request unusual. Nevertheless, one exceptionally polite young man offered to direct me to it. He ended up escorting me through a maze of doors and corridors, and I began to wonder where I was. When I came out, he was waiting to escort me back to the front door because he was afraid I might get lost. It was then that he told me I was in a homeless center. The stark reality of the bare floors, dingy paint, and cold, bare atmosphere, hit me hard.He was fascinated with our car, and he and a few others went outside to look inside it. Ed was sartled to say the least as he did not know where on earth I had disappeared. He suggested later that it had perhaps not been good judgment to go in in the first place, but the "residents'" were so polite and helpful. We wish them better futures! Especially now, wrapped in the cocoon of our family and friends who have come to say bon voyage, we know we have been blessed!
Well, we arrived right on time to enter for the scrutineering. By now, it was raining buckets. We were asked to come back in twenty minutes. Other cars had not followed the rules, and they could not find room for us yet. We could see our friends inside - no matter. We came back in twenty minutes - again, no room, please come back in twenty minutes. No matter that our friends are now being drenched. After forty minutes, we are finally admitted. The event now seems real. Here are cars of all vintage parked together, awaiting our big moment tomorrow. The most amazing are the 1912 Locomobile and the 1914 Rolls Royce (bright yellow), followed closely by the big pink Marmon driven by the founder of the Ponderosa Steakhouses. Pablo Picasso's son Claude is driving a Mercedes 230SL 1964). Finally, it our turn to be "scrutineered". Ed and Joe, our mechanic, wait, ready to answer any question. This must be the quickest scrutiny in history, as it is over in a couple of minutes and we have the signed piece of paper which will allow us to register, pick up our official entry badges and we are on our way to Peking.
A long lunch at the Dickens Inn in the marina behind the Tower Bridge and the Tower Hotel, and we say farewell to friends and family until tomorrow morning, when we are not even sure they will be able to get close to us. The throat lumps get a bit bigger. Tonight there is a navigator's meeting in the hotel. Everyone is just a bit nervous. Philip Young breaks the ice by starting the meeting by discussing the fact that he wishes to discuss the MOST dangerous part of the trip which we will face.and to warn us about it. Then he asks us to turn around and shake hands with that great danger, the person sitting in back of us! Time controls, rules, everyone is fairly quiet until Philip asks someone to speak up because everyone probably has exactly the same questions. Informative, quick, this is a good start. Then we adjourn to the top level of the Tower Bridge for a Competitor's Only Party with an incredible view of all of London. As usual, we have "promises to keep" and stay just a short time before getting the final details accomplished for tomorrow morning. It appears that over five thousand people may come to see us off!