Bev & Ed

Mille Miglia 2002 - Daily Diary Entries

SUNDAY, MAY 5, 2002

WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!! We came over the finish line at 1:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, exhausted but ecstatic. We did every kilometer of the race, obtained every required stamp on our time card, and did every one of the ability trials, thirty-seven in all, which are timed to the hundredth of a second. The tension toward the finish line was nearly unbearable as all drivers hoped their cars would hold out just a little longer. As you will see below, the Suhrbiers added some high drama to the evening just forty-nine kilometers from the finish line. We have used more than a lifetime supply of adrenalin and cortisol in just the past two and one half days. We woke up barely in time to make it to the awards ceremony at 11:00 this morning, then to the splendid farewell luncheon under a tent that was at least one hundred feet between two hundred feet. The bouquets on the tables were magnificent, the food divine, and there was the camaraderie that exists among those who have just shared a difficult but exhilarating experience. Everyone had a "war story" of some type to tell. Pictures were taken, promises made to meet again, and then it was over. So soon, but soooo many memories.

Back to Thursday, May 2




Sure enough, as we reached the Monastery about 6:30 p.m. for the opening dinner, the heavens opened and the annual deluge of Mille Miglia rain began. The wind blew, temperatures dropped, and an already tense group of nearly eight hundred people scurried for cover. The open courtyard which served as the parking lot was pure chaos as drivers jockied for a parking place which would allow them to leave on time to reach the starting line. The food itself became an afterthought; too much on people's minds. The road books had been given to us only at scrutineering, so there were many of us navigators sitting under cover on a narrow concrete wall trying to review the route and set the times for the ability trials, all the while trying desperately not to let any of the paperwork get wet. We were proud of one of our best purchases - good old Westmarine still sells the large zippered vinyl "chart covers" which we used on Moonshadow. We were to be grateful on a constant basis for our possession of this 24 x 36 inch case.

As we headed down the hill toward the start line, the butterflies were intense! When we were finally able to see the kleig lights along the Viale Venezia and our familiar landmarks of the Chinese restaurant, the automobile bookstore, and the gelateria, we knew the moment had come. Ed drove up the ramp, the announcer, through a loudspeaker which could be heard for blocks away, announced Suhrbier-Suhrbier from the Estados Unidos , car number 218. Thousands of people were lined along the street behind barriers. I was handed a bouquet of flowers; at the very last moment we were able to see Karen, Dale, Michael, and Tuckie and Lee Price and know that they were right there cheering us on. Then the starter folded down five fingers, one by one, and we started at exactly 21:27:20; we drove down the ramp, and, at speeds frightening for the narrow curving alleys on the way out of town, especially in the dark and the downpour, we headed for Ferrara.

To see crowds of people, some standing under umbrellas and others inside cars parked all along the various highways, all the way from Brescia to Ferrara, until well after 2:00 in the morning, shows the monumental interest among the Italian people for the magic of the Mille Miglia, the race which Enzo Ferrari himself has called the world's only travelling museum. The flashing blue lights of the police motorcyle escorts which accompanied us out of town were a welcome alternative to trying to read the street signs and highway signs in the downpour, especially since my side of the car had no windshield wiper. Montichiari, Guido, Volta Mantovana, all passed by in a flash. By the time we reached Mantova, we were overwhelmed by the size of the crowd. Again, in the "centro" of town, the crowds waited, again with the kleig lights, an announcer, and a loudspeaker. Unbelievable!! Several more circles through towns, still in drenching rain, then the three "PCs", short ability trials, timed to the hundredth of a second. By the end of the third, there was elation inside Car 218. Our new Robic timer was perfect! We had every hope we had "nailed" the cords at exactly the right time or at least close. Then to Ferrara, more crowds, cheers, and a parking lot in the center of town. It was already 1:45 a.m., but we needed food, as dinner at the monastery had been minimal. To our surprise, all of the bars and restaurants in the center of town were still open, full of people, and quite unlike the U.S.

We asked a man at the parking lot how we should find the Duchessina Hotel, our abode for the night (at least for four hours). He informed us that it was about 300 meters to the right, then 900 meters straight ahead. Great - that is more than a kilometer, less than a mile, but when you are tired, that sounds like a long walk to a bed, especially carrying suitcases (at least they were small). Off we went, then were directed by a policeman up a fairly dark street. When we still didn't see the hotel, a passing bicyclist directed us up another half block and pointed down a dark alley to a door with lights above it. Hooray, we thought, here we are. We rang the bell many times; finally, a fellow competitor in his underwear and parka, answered the door and said we had to go another block and a half to the main hotel to get our key, that this was just the Duchessina annex. Off we went again, got the key, and trudged back to the annex, where we found a perfectly decorated room that was sized for munchkins. By then, at 2:40 a.m., we knew that sleep was going to be dangerously minimal on this adventure. We were in bed for just over three hours before our wakeup call.

FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2002

We managed to get a cab in the morning back to our car; we were over an hour and a half early for our alloted time start, but our first reaction was pure horror. All of the cars parked around us were numbered from 260 well into the high 300s, with not even a little aisle to escape. We could only hope that everyone else would come in time for us to get out. At least the rain had stopped. Ed did his usual morning checks on the car, and everything appeared in perfect order. The tension grew as our start time approached and there were still driverless cars all around. Finally, at a critical stage, we were able to squeeze our way out after the drivers of three cars to our front and left arrived "just in time".

One of the morning's sad sights: veteran competitor from the USA, Jack Croul, in his magnificent Ferrari, had engaged Luciano Viaro, Italy's best navigator, in Jack's latest attempt to realize his dream of winning the Mille Miglia. When we had arrived in Ferrara,we saw his lovely 1951 Ferrari 340 America parked outside the bar where we bought our food. Mechanics were working on it, Luciano and Jack were looking concerned, but we assumed it was a minor problem which would be soon fixed. Jack's son Spencer and step-son Tim were driving Jack's Fiat 8V Zagato, so the family trip was special. Close to our starting time, we heard the grim news that no competitor likes to hear, especially so soon into the race. The car was "retired". That is, it could not be fixed, and was out of the race. We felt true sympathy for this fine man who has placed so highly in previous races and was in such a good position to win this year!

We left Ferrar in high spiritis, bound for Ravenna, San Marino, many of our favorite spots in Italy. A good but hideously long day awaits us; it will take hours to tell you about adequately. Let us just say that our drive began in Ferrara at 7:14:20 a.m. and ended at at our hotel in Rome at 2:05 a.m. the following morning. You are not reading a typographical error. Stay tuned.............................

FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2002 ( continued )

When we told you to stay tuned, we had no idea that the delay would be quite so long! .......Anyway, back to our second day of competition in the Mille Miglia 2002.

Morning traffic out of Ferrara was heavier than we had expected. Where were the police escorts? The truck drivers seemed singularly unininterested in moving over slightly to allow us to pass. No wonder the veteran competitors have told us that no one ever makes every time control. We believe it. A nice pattern is developing in the race. We come upon cars with numbers similar to ours on a regular basis. Sylvia Oberti, our good friend from Oakland who has driven by herself (as both pilotessa and navigatore) in more than ten Mille Miglias in a row, is Number 221, so she starts just more than a minute behind us. She is an accomplished driver and fun to follow, as she usually passes us early on. She is not only an accomplished driver, she is a fast driver. We will find ourselves ahead of her or behind her throughout most of the race. Her only accompaniment is her teddy bear Angelino. She raises funds for an Italian children's hospital and for a summer camp similar to the one which our Seattle VOHMC has had for so many years. We spend a good portion of the morning admiring her driving. Sylvia can find the smallest of holes to zip into the left lane, safely but deftly. Her barchetta style Siata 750 sport is one of the most beautiful cars in the race. Another of the interesting cars which we see frequently is Car Number 215, a 1952 Ferrari 225S with a tremendous race history. The young German driver was delightful and justifiably proud of his car which had once won the Mille Miglia.

A welcome surprise awaited us in Ravenna, the first stop for a stamp this morning. In this event, we do not have to get out of the car to get the stamp. We simply drive past. When we were there just two weeks earlier, the streets were virtually empty. The wind was blowing hard and it was cold and rainy. The one way streets were frustrating and traffic heavy. This time, bright sunshine made the beauty of the historic buildings readily apparent. Inside, some of Italy's finest mosaics are to be found. What a difference to negotiate the narrow streets without worrying about "Do Not Enter" signs or one-way arrows. The flashing blue lights of the police escort and the sirens warning non-Mille drivers are of great use to all of the navigators and the drivers as well. So far we don't even have to watch for the red arrows which are supposed to help keep us on the proper route. As we have told you before, the experts say that if you find yourself on a road without huge groups of people on both sides, you are definitely on the wrong road. So far, the experts are correct. We cannot believe people were still waiting to see the cars come through town at 1:00 a.m. Now huge crowds are out shortly after 8:00 a.m.

Gambettola welcomed us, and we were actually early, so we waited until 10:34:20, exactly 2 hours and 20 minutes after our start time. If you forget the time and hand the stamp card over too early, there are as many penalties as if you are late. These rallies are good for concentration. Maybe even better for mental agility than crossword puzzles, but definitely more expensive.

On we climbed, through gorgeous landscapes, until we entered the Republic of San Marino, a small, independent Republic completely surrounded by Italy. They have their own postage stamps and in the past, their own currency, though they are undoubtedly using Euros now. Less than twenty kilometers later, we reached Borgo Maggiore, our next ability trial, this time 7.73 kilometers in 12 minutes twelve seconds. The wheel crossed the cord at the exact instant I said "now", so we are fairly sure that we "nailed" this time trial. By now, the morning was invigorating, and the adrenalin rush noticeable. Up the the steep hill to the "Centro Storico" of San Marino. We saw many of the shopkeepers we have met on previous visits to San Marino. This time they were on the streets in front of their shops, along with other residents and many tourists, and there were lots of friendly waves and greetings as we recognized each other. Often such recognitions are the result of past road directions given in spite of language differences. The Italians are alway ready to help and to converse! Because of our previous visits to San Marino and all of the questions we asked during those visits, today we felt like "natives" who knew every road and would know exactly the streets to Mercatino di Conca, the next stop. Surprise! All of the streets were blocked off just for the Mille Miglia; the red circles that mean "do not enter" became meaningless as the gendarmes waved us through each intersection and around each narrow corner. Every single street was lined with pedestrians so close that even a single small turn of the wheel could have meant injury.Ed did a magnificent job of negotiating the narrow streets and sharp turns but my heart was in my mouth on a couple of them. By now, the sun was shining, and the spirit of the rally was increasing every moment. It was here that Ed first heeded the advice of Bruce Male, our Maserati friend from Massachusetts: on the steep hills approaching the center of towns, do not burn out your clutch waiting bumper to bumper to try to get to the top of the hill. Simply wait at the bottom until you see the car at the top begin to drive ahead, than zoom to the top. Excellent advice. Survival of the car and driver are more important than occasional honks and shouts from the car in back of the person who is heeding Bruce's advice.

Our Robic timers were preset for the next six ability trials, the end of the first of the trials being the beginning of the second, the end of the second the beginning of the third ,and so on. These multiple ability trials are the ones which will ultimately determine the winners. We arrived at Montealtavelio ready and willing. There we sat with about twenty other cars, wondering why no one was able to go across the first cord. After about a half hour, we were able to determine in our limited Italian that the road ahead of us was closed because of an accident which involved Mille Miglia cars. These are of course the most dreaded words of the rally. There we sat for almost another hour. Then word came that the 7.2 km, 12' 12" trial was being cancelled, but the following five would go on as scheduled, and we were given permission to continue. As far as we were able to understand, there had been no injuries in the accident, and for that we were all grateful, but the delay now put the timing for the rest of the control stamps for the day and evening in jeopardy. The next five ability trials were the following: .98km in 2'12", .11 km in 21", .11km in 25", .11km in 20", and .06km in 12". These were the ones which really made me a believer in Ed's Robic timers which were preset to each of the preceding times. The timer moves automatically from the first preset time to the next. It is only necessary to press one button once, but it is imperative to push it only once. Even if we did not get one of them to the hundredth of a second, I was able to count down for him for the next one without confusion. We are feeling as if we are a good team today. How to make up the lost time will be the challenge.

The winding hillside roads from San Marino down to Urbino are some of the finest driving roads in Italy. There is however, considerable local traffic coming headon, so these are not protected roads solely for the rally. The trucks seem even bigger when they approach you as you sit in a Healey Silverstone with the navigator in the left seat looking at the center line. We have devised a one word warning if the car seems to be too near the center line: "CLOSE" is used sparingly but convincingly.

Lunch was at the traditional large tent in Urbino, and although we were hungry, our somewhat compulsive desire to make all the time controls led us to "grab" some food, get fuel, eat in the gas station while the fuel was going, then get our required stamp and be on our way. As we drove away, we saw Rick Anderson and Greg, Sylvia's mechanic, apparently working on her car. We were worried that she had trouble, but we found later that they were filling her tank with fuel so that she would not even have to stop at gas stations. Such a good support team.

Then, just sixteen kilometers later, there were another six ability trials in a row: 16.62km in 23'03", 4.4km in 6'19",.04km in 8", .06km in 11",.02km in 5", and 27.97km in 42'42". The last one at San Giustino had to be carefully calculated because the finish line cord for it was also the finish line for the big time control of the day, the CO, which had to be crossed exactly 6 hours and 35 minutes after our morning start time. Of course, you do remember that Prince Machievelli was Italian.

Even though we skipped lunch and tried to make up as much time as possible, the delay because of the accident caused us our first real penalties, because we were late for the CO (as were all the cars which had been delayed along with us). Such is the rally life. "IF" we had been a lower number, we would have been past the scene of the accident before the road was closed. However.......on we go.

Sansepulcro is one of the more colorful stops of the entire Mille Miglia. Locals are dressed in medieval costumes and stand in the historic center of town, musicians play, and they hand out foodand flowers to all of the competitors. All of the history of Italy begins to be more and more apparent as we continue south . On through Perugia, the home not only of the famous chocolate Baci but the site of a famous University as well. Deruta, just seven kilometers south and the home of our treasured de la Grazia dishes, won't see us today. We are on our way to our favorite town in this part of Italy: Assisi. The first sight of Saint Francis's birthplace and home is awe-inspiring no matter how many times one has visited it, but today, to approach behind the blue lights of the motorcycle escort and to simply follow rather than read street signs, allows us to revel in the magnificence of the architecture, the timelessness of the town and all of its perfection, everything about Assisi that is eternally spiritual. It is so hard to drive straight through town without stopping. Ed has by now devised an excellent technique if the pedestrians come too close to the car or are walking away from us and seemingly unaware we are coming. He downshifts, and the roar of the Silverstone engine reminds them, safely, that they should pay attention. Plus, it sounds exciting! This is one of those times when we question why the time controls are of any importance to us at all, but on we go. The crowds in Assisi are warm and there are many Mille Miglia flags waving. The tour buses are stopped along the road, with many of the occupants with faces pressed tight to the windows. We say "Omatai", a word taught us years ago by a gracious woman named Minerva from San Francisco who said that it is an old word which one says as one leaves a place that he or she particularly hopes to return to visit one day. Omatai to Assisi.

The magnificent hilltown of Spello is on our agenda, but just at the left turn in the road to go up, there is a "Deviazione", detour sign, police, and red MM arrows, so we turn right as directed and continue through Spoleto to San Gemini, site of our next three ability trials. If you are counting, these will get us up to fourteen just for the day! These seem like duck soup: .06km in 9", .13km in 18", and .16 km in 21". At least they are over quickly, and again, we feel good about the timing. Of course, since only the top eighty cars out of the 375 entries get any points at all on each of the ability trials, we won't know if our timing is good enough until we see the results after the event is over. In the unlikely case that eighty cars went over the cord exactly to the required hundredth of a second, we could be without points if we were just a hundredth of a second early or late.

San Gemini marks the last ability trials of this second day of the rally. By now, we are hardly paying attention to the weather as it changes constantly. We will know how the weather was after we review the photos. When it is cold, windy, or rainy, our Zero Restriction goretex and our helmets protect us. When the weather improves, you see us in our red baseball Mille Miglia hats and sweaters. Changing clothes and storing things in the Silverstone is hilarious. My short legs are an asset for the first time as the area underneath my feet is full of gifts given to us in each town, roadbooks, time card, water,whatever.

The day gets shorter as we reach Narni and Rignano Flaminio, and head into Rome. We pass the hotel we stayed in just two weeks ago for $ 33 a night and wave madly to those standing in front of it. We had told them we would be coming back in the MM, but we pass too quickly to recognize faces. It is late, it is dark, and we are ready to reach Rome. In addition to the ability trials, we have had to be sure to get the seven required "CT" and "VT" stamps today which are the proof that we are abiding by the assigned times and are following the correct route. Just one more stamp tonight, on the Via Veneto in Rome. Little did we think the first time we ever sat there for a cup of coffee that we would be coming back to Rome in this style.

When we arrived in Rome, we were waved over to a special parking lot, one for those of us with triangle stickers on our windshields which identified us as going to the Summit Hotel. Those without triangles, a much larger group, were in the parking lot next to us, ready to go to the Jolly Midas Hotel to which they were assigned. We breathed a sigh of relief that we were able to get out of the car, walk around, and believe that we were actually going to get some sleep. It was only 10:45 p.m. which meant that Ed had been driving steadily for "only" fifteen hours, although we had been up for more than seventeen hours. We were told by an attendant that our police escort to our hotel would come in fifteen minutes. Nearly an hour later, with the clock approaching midnight, he promised we would be gone in less than five minutes, and so we were. However, we were NOT on our way to the hotel. Our police escort, or, more accurately, our police "escorts", corralled about sixty of us in two or three lanes and took us on a breathtaking but absolutely exhausting tour all around the monuments of Rome. Although none of us will ever forget speeding by the Coliseum and all of the treasures that are Rome, especially lighted as if by magic, we will also not soon forget the rage of the ordinary Roman drivers who were stopped dead in their tracks by the police in order for all of us to go by. We did wonder why thousands of Roman drivers were on the streets after midnight in such huge numbers, but then this is Italy. When we finally reached the Via Veneto, where we would receive the last stamp of the day, we could not believe what was happening. Thousands of tourists and Romans lined the famous boulevard, and because the police escort would not let any of us move, we had ample time to engage in conversation with several English-speaking tourists who were eager to know all about the Mille Miglia. One especially nice couple was from Minneapolis, so Ed had an immediate connection there. Another young man from London had been on Tower Bridge on May 1, 2000 when we left for Peking. As the police escort finally let us move, we knew exactly what had happened. All of the good planning of the triangles on the windshields had come to naught. We were all herded into one huge group and, sure enough, taken up the long hill to the Jolly Midas Hotel. By now, it was nearly 2:00 a.m. and exhaustion was setting in rapidly. None of the police escorts could understand English and the few that could did not know where the Summit Hotel was. We were eventually fortunate. Maria Franchi was at a desk in the lobby of the Jolly Midas and she had a colleague from Mercedes who escorted us back down the hill and to our hotel. Nearly a half hour after we arrived, our Mexico City friends and competitors in the 57 Pegasus finally arrived at the Summit, carrying heavy luggage which they had to carry while they walked down the hill from the Jolly. When was the last time you had dinner at 2:30 a.m. The hotels had kept the buffets open for us. Ed was so tired that he was served a full dinner in bed by his navigator. He had now had less than four hours sleep since we left Brescia on Thursday evening at 2127:20 (9:27:20 p.m.) and there were less than three hours until Saturday morning's wake up call. Unbelievable and worthy of Ripley.

The Summit hotel in Rome had a parking place for us right at the front door, which was the good news at the end of one of the longest days of our lives, but certainly one of the most memorable. Out of all the cars in the race, parked just next to us was our friend Martin Swig's Fiat 1100 TV, being driven in the race by Bruce Qvale of San Francisco with whom we would share a cab from Sunday's award ceremonies to the farewell luncheon. We have seen Martin only once on the race. He and John Lamm, the famed photographer, are driving Martin's Alfa Romeo 1900 Super, but theyare #297, so we have not seem them since dinner at the Monastery on Thursday evening. The sight of more than forty or fifty fellow competitors sitting in the dining room (which was down three flights of circular marble stairs) having dinner at 2:30 a.m. and being able to laugh in spite of some real anger over the late arrival and the difficulties in finding the hotel makes us realize this is truly a hardy group.

When the young man who wrote the cover article in the May 2002 Smithsonian about last year's Mille Miglia says that our race averages thirty miles an hour, he misses a big point. We may do 1000 miles in about 30 hours (math genius, huh) but parts are nearing 90 miles an hour while many hours are spent just sitting and waiting. Somehow, the "average" speed of this event is truly meaningless. His article, however, is excellent. We met and spoke with him several times along the way last year and have been watching for his article. The cover picture of a small red car driving past the Coliseum at night reminds us that we did it this year in exactly the same way. Try to get the magazine. It's great.

All in all, today was fantastic, even though I am worried about the driver's ability to survive this lack of sleep. Somehow, the rally organizers must not have read the article which equate the danger of sleep deprivation on the road to that of too much alcohol. Even with the lack of sleep, the adrenalin rush surpasses that of anything we have ever done. We will remember each and every town and the welcome of the Italians. They raise thumbs up when they see our USA on our hood and our American flags next to our names. When Ed started to put the letters on, I asked if he thought it safe. He simply looked at me and said "Are you proud of your country?" Enough said. Of course, we both are, and we love the flags and the USA and so do the people along the way.

To sleep....perchance to dream? Probably not tonight. We can't get our minds to stop thinking about this glorious experience. Early start again tomorrow.........

Robert Frost is always with us on these rallies............"miles to go before we sleep"


The power of positive thinking was unable to overcome the agonizing atmosphere of this morning's start. We knew that we were to have less than four hours of sleep at best if we were to be on time for our start time of 7:41:20 a.m. That was not to be. In addition to the adrenalin overload, a major wind and rain storm began during the night which brought rain in through the open bedroom window and blew several things around. Even though we had covered the "cockpit" with the vinyl tauna cover, we knew there would be leaks. Hard to sleep.

When we left the hotel with only minimal instructions on how to get down to the start line over a kilometer away, it was raining so hard that visibility was nil. We went through a flooded street at the bottom of the hill which threatend to take out our brakes, and would have drenched us except for our great Goretex. Actually, the Zero Restriction Company should use us in their ad campaigns. Anyway, when we reached the Agip gas station where the starting line table was, we found ourselves on the public road, hemmed in by three lanes of fellow competitors with numbers far higher than ours, but even if they had wanted to move to allow us to go in front of them, they had no place to go. In addition, the weather was so gruesome that apparently no one was in the mood to even try to allow a lower number to get to the starting desk. So, for the first time ever in our rally "career", we were late for our start time. Combined with the lack of sleep, the frustration of finding the start line, and the general atmosphere of the morning, the emotional high of yesterday and the day before vanished completely, although, fortunately, temporarily. It was almost impossibe to read the roadbook through the plastic chartcover because the rain was coming down so hard, and the wind was blowing so hard that the lack of windows in the car was really interesting. We were, however, more fortunate than our fellow competitor who had dropped his roadbook, time card, etc. in the road. Luckily, we were able to retrieve it for him and return it to Costantino Franchi at the first stop. Anyone who loses the time card is disqualifed as a finisher.

My side of the windshield had no wiper and Ed's tiny one was nearly useless in the downpour. To add to the moment, there were no police escorts or red arrows to follow. The Roadbook said that in 1.8 km we would find the "entrata Grande Raccordo Anulare". When we were at 1.8 km, we realized the translation of that was the Autostrada. Great! In the worst downpour of the trip, we were now on a freeway laden with early morning traffic in Rome with the biggest trucks yet. The next instruction was that at 55.7 km we would go past Sutri. The only problem was that we were not sure we were on the correct highway- no arrows or police yet. It is a lonely feeling in such miserable weather when it is so foggy you can't see any other rally cars in front or behind you. Finally we passed one of the cars which had broken down just a few kilometers after the start. Our sympathy for them was accompanied by a great relief that we were probably on the correct road. Our first time control was to be in Ronciglione, which we knew was on the way to Viterbo. We were to be there in one hour twenty minutes from our scheduled start time, but that would be impossible. It would have been easy to get out the map and check some of the exits we were passing if the weather had been good; in this ghastly downpour, just getting the map out and trying to get it in the plastic case was impossible, especially since the navigator did not dare distract the driver who was already being sorely tested to keep the car in the lane and to keep traction on the impossibly wet highway. Just as the navigator said that if all else failed, we would take the Viterbo exit when we saw it, the happy sight of police "guarding" the correct exit to Viterbo and flagging us in the correct direction allowed us to breathe a huge sigh of relief and be somewhat comfortable for the first time today.

Ronciglione was a welcome stop. The small coffee shop had great coffee and croissants, and we were able to fill our thermos. When Ed sat down to have his coffee and to set the Robic timer for the next six ability trials, we had the great shock of the morning. His black driving gloves had become so wet that the dye had made his hands pure black. His trip to the washroom proved futile. His hands were as black as before. ( My mother and dad never once warned me that one morning could be like this)
We were cold, late, and trying to find humor in all of this, but we were wondering what would be next. By now, less than two hours after our start time, we had seen at least ten cars disabled along the side of the road. Disconcerting, to say the least. The coffee did warm us up, the people in the town were wonderful, and at last, some cars with higher numbers realized they should be polite, and allowed us to go ahead to get the required stamp in Piazza V. Emanuele. We will remember Boris Becker in his silver Mercedes Gull-wing as a gentleman as well as a tennis hero. He was the first to note our lower number and wave us around him. He is unbelievably popular in Italy. The crowds cheer for him whenever he drives by.

Here we go again on the ability trials, this time another six in a row in which the finish line of the first is the starting line of the second, and so forth. This time the timers are set for more complicated runs: 4.74km in 5'55", .02km in 6", .04km in 7",.07km in 13", .08km in 15:, and 6.36km in 7'47". Again, the weather makes the whole process more difficult as we usually have a nifty system whereby Ed can glance down at the roadbook to see the seconds in large red numbers, alongside which I have put the number of feet for the short distances (our brains still process feet better than percent of kilometers. This time my carefully prepared list of decimal percentages of kilometers transferred to feet was impossible to get out of the bag in the rain, so out came the calculator again. The rain was coming down hard enough that he could not see through the plastic cover, so he had to rely on my voice trying to shout over the wind and through the leather flaps of his helmet. Actually, as we write this after the fact, the humor of the whole morning becomes a tiny bit apparent, but at the time it did not. Fortunately, the rain began to let up a bit, and by the time we did the ability trials, we could at least see the cords across the road.

By the time we reached Viterbo, the red arrows and the police at various intersections brought back the familiar "navigational aids". We have discovered a new twist today. Perhaps because of the weather, the locals lining the streets are backing up along the fences, posts, etc. where the red arrows are, probably to avoid being splashed by water as we speed by. At intersections where there are no police, the red arrows are actually being hidden by the people who are there to greet us. Viterbo has some astoundingly beautiful old buildings. At least when there are police escorts, we can appreciate the beauty of the historic centers of these towns and cities.

As we leave Viterbo and head to Radicofani, we can remember last year's Mille Miglia when we had the comfort of a new Alfa 156 Diesel and the big press sticker on our car which allowed us to follow the competitor's route. Then the sunshine was blazing, all the drivers and navigators were in short sleeved shirts. This year, we are in the open car just hoping to stay somewhat dry. When we stop for gas, Ed finds that a few minutes with his jacket unzipped has left him with a thoroughly soaked shirt, so during the fueling, he manages to get out his overnight bag, retrieve a dry shirt and change clothes. The proprietor of the gas station and his wife were gracious and apologetic for the weather! They were shaking their heads over these crazy Americans in an open car, but we found that the top really doesn't do much good anyway, so we are determined to tough it out with no top no matter what the weather is like.

Finally, we head up the steep, steep hill which leads to Radicofani, a hilltop town which is mentioned in nearly every book as one of the most beautiful of all Italian villages. We are picking up time, and are able to obtain our stamp here without any wait. Again, we are able to go fairly quickly to the beginning of the line because of our smaller number. We have also had three more ability trials along the way: 3.64km in 5'5", .04km in 9" and .03 in 10". Ed is really getting good at these.

With the weather improving, we begin to relax and enjoy the scenery, and our optimism returns. Suddenly, in the "Centro Storico" of Pienza, amidst huge crowds on both sides so close to the car that we could reach out and touch them, and with with beautiful buildings all around, a shocking sight of a desk with a RED sign (meaning the start of the next abilitiy trial). But where was the yellow warning sign??? There is always a yellow warning sign 100 meters before the start. That is where we wait until we are ready to begin our twenty second countdown which we find best to reach the start line exactly at the right moment. This is the "yellow" area where one must not stop the car or there are three hundred penalty points. Here we are, never having seen the yellow warning sign (must have been hidden by the spectators), and now must cross the starting line which the navigator "knew" was still supposed to be six kilometers away. We had no choice but to improvise and begin the 14'14" countdown for the next 9.9km, using only the Mille Miglia watch Ed gave me for Christmas, since not only were the Robic timers in a dry spot and impossible to retrieve instantly, but our Digitech Mistral master clock and back up countdown timer was inoperable because during the storm and confusion of the morning start, the battery had fallen out and was under the driver's foot. The improvisations which went on from Pienza through San Quirico D'Orcia and Podere S. Giuseppe and Torrenieri could be a skit on the funniest home videos if we had had our video camera with us. Actually, what could have been a true disaster ended up fairly well. After the shock of the unexpected start line, we had time to get our act together during the 14'14" of the first trial. Then in quick succession, we had to do 3.83 km in 5'55", ..09 in 17", . .05km in 10", .05 in 12" and 2.86 km in 4"44". In the spirit of true honesty, I must admit that the driver wished aloud several times that his navigator could learn to program his Robic timers quickly and properly while en route, but since that didn't happen quickly enough, he managed to do it himself while waiting to go across the finish line of the first ability trial. That is the one beauty of the ability trials. Rather than doing an average speed for the whole time on the longer runs, such as the 14'14", we have learned to go as fast as possible to the yellow warning sign that is just 100 meters from the finish line. Then one can wait until 20 seconds before the time to cross the red finish line, and there is no worry of any last minute delay on the road. That time was particularly valuable this time. Ordinarily, all of our timers are set before we leave in the morning. Our late arrival in Rome last night and our late departure this morning left us unprepared, but we still managed to improvise pretty well. In a way, it made the day more interesting (my warped sense of humor at work).

On to Siena. Again, there is a big lunch stop at Buonconvento, where we will obtain our next stamp. Have we mentioned that if you miss even one stamp, you get no points at all and are listed as NC, non-classified. That would be an unforgivable error in Car 218. You should see the stamp card by now. In spite of efforts to keep it dry, just passing it from the car to the attendant with the stamp has resulted in wet spots, but all of the required stamps are there. The metal clipboard on which we have placed the stampcard has been a godsend. It is impossible to lose, even among all the other pieces of paper and maps in the car. Again, we opt to skip lunch and to eat the Nature Power Bars which Karen brought with her from Seattle for us. We are determined to pick up the rest of our lost time and to reach the big CO in Siena exactly 6 hours after our assigned start time. We know that we must be there at 13:42:20. If we can average 48 miles an hour, we can make it. Each truck that is big and slow and each interminable stoplight seem to be against us. At least the weather has improved. We have replaced the battery in the Mistral and know that we must have time to get to the desk to reset it to the official time at least a few minutes before we are to cross the line. Perhaps we have neglected to mention that there is one more slightly diabolical item on this event. The official time clock which is at the start would seem to be enough to set our own clock for the day. No, there are sometimes slight variations from locale to locale, so the navigator must get to the desk to make sure the car's clock is to the second the same as the official clock. Hooray, hooray, we are there in plenty of time to reset the clock and to approach the red cord in a relaxed, confident manner. We have made up all of our lost time already today. The sun is shining in more ways than one. We believe we went over that red cord at exactly the right second!

The Piazza del Campo in Siena is one of the great public squares in Italy. In July, the famous Palio finds the horses there, but in May, thousands of locals and tourists gather to hear the roar of engines as the Mille Miglia passes through once again. By now, the woes of the morning are behind us and the enjoyment has returned, as well as the sense of wonder that we are actually a part of this! Frosting on the cake; as we await our turn to obtain the next stamp, our good friends Roberto and Rita,who live in Rome and who drove the London to Peking with us, suddenly approach our car in Siena with their usual broad smiles. We last saw them in Bariloche in Argentina when they were on the Inca Trail and we were on the 1000 Millas Sport. We did not have time to stop to visit with them, and we are disappointed. We hope to meet up with them again soon.

From Siena, we are in familiar territory. We have driven the roads of Chianti in Tuscany often enough that we feel completely at home Nevertheless, we find that the speed during the Mille Miglia increased on this section, sometimes to the danger point. Again, huge crowds await, even though the weather is again cool, blustery, with intermittent showers. We look for Carlos and Christina Alhadeff, who said they would be on the left side of the road, but we are later than they thought we would be, and if they are there, we miss them, even though we thought we saw them and Ed pulled a brilliant U-turn back to a couple who resembled them so much that we thought they were Carlos and Christina until they approached our car and we realized they were completely confused as to why we came back to see them. At least we tried!

When we left Siena, we decided that we would get fuel just outside of Firenze before we start up Futa Pass. We have been careful about refueling on all of days of using the Silverstone, because even though Maurizio said that the tank holds 50 to 60 litres and the range of the car is 250 km on one tank, we have been conservative in our calculations and have stopped well before it was necessary. We have passed Castellina in Chianti, Greve, all of our favorite towns, and we reach Impruneta, the small village where we stopped for coffee on our first trip to Chianti with Nissim and Ketty Alhadeff. As we head north out of town up a steep hill, waving to the hundreds of people lining the narrow street, the car gasps and dies. Ed says we are out of gas, I say that is impossible, we have more than a half a tank left. Nevertheless, we ARE out of gas. Some considerate locals tell us there is a gas station back into town three hundred meters Ed coasts back down the hill and across the highway into a driveway in order to make the U-turn). Both of us hope that a speeding Ferrari or Maserati doesn't come up the hill rght now. The same group of five locals gives us a big push start and after some Keystone cop differences in directions from a couple more locals in the center of town , we finally coast into a gas station that is actually open at 2:00 in the afternoon, when most are closed for lunch for two or three hours. Sure enough, we take only 16 litres, so we had more than half a tank left. We try to analyze what could be happening, but at least we are on our way again. Could have been much worse if we hadn't been so close to a station. We did miss seeing the World War !! cemetery which we have been told is a "must see". Next time...

Our entrance to Florence was fabulous. We came from the south on a road lined with lovely mansions and parklike grounds. The pace and feel of the city is extraordinary. One can feel the presence of the Renaissance even now, nearly five hundred years later. The history of the city goes back further than that, but the genius of that time is somewhat unparalleled in history. The Florentines are justifiably proud of their culture and their city. Again, the police escorts and blocked streets are phenomenal. We drove right past the Duomo and over the bridge just next to the Ponte Vecchio, so we were able to get good photos. We are able to get our stamp here without waiting. There are some advantages to slight delays. We are also learning why many of the USA competitors make the decision early on the skip all of ability trials and the stamp checks and just enjoy driving the Mille Miglia. We made the mutual decision to go for it all, and we are sticking to our goal no matter what.

You may think you have read of the difficult parts of the trip today. Just wait. We are about to go through Futa Pass. We should also have gone through Radicosa Pass which is the portion where the huge snowbanks always line the highway, but Radicosa is closed due to a mudslide so again we have a detour which takes us the long way around. Again, there are few red arrows along the route here. The temperatures have dropped considerably and as we head up Futa, the rain turns to what looks like snow to me as it hits Ed's black jacket. The roads are twisted and slippery and the curves sharp and often unmarked. There is a huge amount of traffic coming toward us on this portion. It is now that the driver can see other navigators with long arms putting the helmets on their drivers as the rain increases. I do my best, but trying to put it on and keep the leather flaps over the ears and get it on the driver's head is difficult. Again, a little delayed humor now that we are safely thrugh with the event. It is on this portion of the drive that we see some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever seen in Italy. Monghidoro is a splendid, isolated little town with story-book views. The "Panoramic" highway to Bologna is spectacular, but I doubt that Ed could tell you one thing about it. The road was so dangerous that he dared not even glimpse the deep valleys and picturesque towns with quaint old buildings. It was at this point that I said a silent prayer to God, that "Thy will be done"... but please don't take us now and please let us finish the race safely. Not long after, while still in the white-knuckle curves, suddenly the rain stopped, the skies cleared, and there was an absolutely perfect, large rainbow clear across the sky. I thought one of two things: either God was saying we would finish safely, OR, He was saying that there is a heaven. One way or another, that rainbow did seem a symbol.

Leaving nothing to chance, we filled up with fuel on our way into Bologna. Traffic was heavy, and we suddenly found ourselves driving like veteran MM competitors, heading into the left lane, barging behind other MM cars, and at least making progress through the center of town. By the time we reached the desk for our stamp, we were questioning our sanity but we were enjoying the excitement! On to Modena, center of the Ferrari production, again with huge crowds, and the stadium where we would do the final three ability trials. This time, the timers were properly set boom, boom, boom: .04km in 8", .14km in 19", and .07km in 10". These could be enjoyable. Here it is that we run across our friend Bruce Male and his son Andrew who are from Massachusetts and who share our belief that one should do the time controls and get all the stamps and "do it right". Bruce's other son Jason and his friend Damien are in Bruce's other Maserati but we have not seen them since Thursday evening. Bruce has been competing in the MM for ten years, so he is a veteran. (Flash forward: during the Awards ceremony on Sunday morning, Bruce will be sitting next to us when cell phone rings and he leaves to go across the street to meet his sons to purchase the photos of the race. As he leaves, he asks me to go up to the stage to get his award when his name is called. Thinking he is joking, I agree to to it. Minutes later, the first place of the USA drivers name is called. It is Bruce and Andrew Male. Somehow, it does not seem appropriate to bound up to the stage to pick up his award, so later at lunch we will be teased by Bruce at length). Anyway, he was a deserving winner. Joe Tomasetti had joking introduced Bruce at the gathering of the Americans in Soragna as the American who consistently manages to score in the top two hundred overall. That seemed less funny when one looks at the overall standings and finds few if any Americans above that position.

As darkness falls, we head toward Reggio Emilia, region of the famous parmesan cheeses and to Parma, home of the famous Parma Ham. So that there could be no margin for error, we stopped for fuel again in Parma so that we would have a full tank of fuel in which to do the final sixty miles of the race. Both towns require stamps,as this is the area where competitors are tempted to "cut", that is, to take the straight roads back to the finish line and to skip the small town ceremonies. In fact, during the final 177 km of the race, just about 106 miles, there will be five stamps required for those who wish to be classified as "finishers". Roncole Verdi, the great composer's birthplace, gives each of us a unique gift as we go through town and are announced, one by one, by loudspeaker. The CD of Verdi music will always remind us of this generous town. We have been given flowers, ice cream, water, sandwiches, cookies, candy, posters, too many to list. What generous people!! It is near Parma that we see our Argentine friend Daniel Claramunt is his beautiful old Fiat Balilla. Its 1935 birthdate belies its speed and good handling.

On to Cremona, such a beautiful welcome for us. The whole center of town was closed to all traffic except MM competitors. We were in line with Jim Feldman, an Oregonian who is justifiably proud of his 1957 AC ACE Bristol Zagato. This is his first Mille Miglia, but his navigator Dick McClure of California, has done it several times. Jim is noted for his fairly outrageious sense of humor, and is also a very decent guy. Ed could not resist teasing him as we drove past him that his "Chevrolet" was doing okay in the race. There are only thirty-three entries from the USA this year. Just three are from the state of Washington. In addition to the Suhrbiers, John Shirley and his son are Car #316. Their 1956 Ferrari 290 MM has done the Mille Miglia before. Also John McCaw is in Car # 372, another Ferrari, but this one a 1957Ferrari 250 TestaRossa. Because of their high numbers, we have not been at any of the stops along the route together, but at least the State of Washington is represented. We have not seen Sylvia for several hours. We were right in front of her in Bologna, but we have not seen her since. We have also not seen the gorgeous Nardi-Danese driven by owner Ball and navigator DeLuna, but we know they are still in the race. Their car is one of the most distinctive in the entire race, and the restoration job is splendid. We were with the DeLunas on last year's California Mille. Great couple! As we wait our turn to be announced, we have time to wonder where our friends are in the race and if they are all still in it. We did see Car 176, a beautiful blue Healey Silverstone driven by Mr. Masuda, who is head of the Japanese Mille and who has stayed at the Novotel in Brescia both last year and this year. He is a true gentleman, and we hope to do his event in Japan in 2003.

Here again we were announced; by now, the spectators knew how long a day we had all endured, and the usual greetings were replaced by loud "BRAVOs" and we were really touched. As we left Cremona about 11:20 p.m., we called Karen in Brescia to tell her that we would be at the finish line within forty minutes or so, as there were less than forty-nine kilometers to go. At this point, we were on Cloud Nine. We had a police motorcycle with a blue light in front of our caravan of about tight MM competitor cars; there was another police van with a blue light behind us. We were being led in the correct route to the finish line and our final stamp! We were again beginning to relax and enjoy this final leg, proud of ourselves, tired but exhilarated, and then, suddenly, that dreaded sputter and the awful realization the car was stopping.

Again, we were obviously out of fuel although we had gone less than fifty miles since filling the tank. This was the worst possible scenario. We looked at each other in disbelief that this could happen so close to the finish. Then Ed's usual cool ability in a crisis took over. He looped around and down the highway and coasted back toward the gas station where we had seen the light of one lonely pump which meant that even if the station were closed, one pump should be "aperto" or open. Again, three cars of Italians stopped and asked if they could help. It is strange how language barriers disappear when someone needs help and another wants to help. All things are possible. Again, we were given a push start which enabled us to get close enough to the gas station where we then traded places, this time I was in the driver's seat with my right leg out the open door trying to help Ed who was pushing the car from the rear while I was steering. It was nearly midnight, there were no other MM competitors nearby, and we knew that even if we could call for help on our cell phone, chances were almost nil that anyone could bring us fuel in time to reach the finish line. We were on our own. I put the money in the machine and then found to our dismay that the only open pump was not Pump One which it usually is, but Pump Four which was clear around the other concrete pillars and pumps. Again, we pushed the car to the pump. We owe eternal gratitude to a bartender and Thai Restaurant owner near Poncarale. The first day we drove the Silverstone, we tried to get gas by putting cash into the machine to get gas. We pushed all the proper buttons, but It would not work. I ran in to ask for help; when he heard that I had put forty dollars in the machine and could not get fuel, he left his customers to come outside and teach us the valuable lesson which would ultimately allow us to finsih the Mille Miglia: In Italy, you cannot take the nozzle out of the pump until after you have pushed ALL of the proper buttons. Then and only then will the fuel begin flowing. You can put the nozzle and then it may work if you are lucky.If he had not taught us this two weeks ago, we would have sat in that deserted gas station outside Cremona in frustration beyond belief. Again, the tank took only a few litres before it was filled. At this point, Ed realized the fuel pump was failing, and could not work unless the weight of a full tank of fuel aided it.

At this point, we had fuel and were on our way again, but we had a huge decision to make. We entered the roundabout where just forty minutes before, there had been huge crowds and many competitor cars to follow. Now, we had fewer spectators and could not make them understand our question as to the proper direction to take, and there were no police or red arrows. One sign said BRESCIA, 49 km., but that would not necessarily be the required route to the finish line. We could be safe and get back that way, but we could not face missing the assigned route and the last stamp! So we went in a couple of more circles, found a policeman who waved us off the road. We sighed in relief, then roared with laughter when we found that he had directed us back into Cremona and into the central "announcement" area. There were still many cars in line, but we had no interest in being announced again or receiving any more presents. We just wanted to get back to the finish line. We again followed the arrows that we could see, and were again on the highway, knowing we would need to see some other competitor cars to be sure we were correct. In the meantime, we had noticed that at least three of the Italians in cars which had stopped to help us into the gas station had been on their cell phones. Suddenly, as we drove on a deserted, dark highway which we hoped was leading us to Pontevico and Manerbio (highway numbers for three kilometers were not visible), a policeman with a blue light flashing came up along my side of the car and said Are You Having Problems". I answered with just one word: Yes. Our fuel pump might go at any minute and we were exhausted.. Without delay, he went in front of us, waved to us to follow him and, with the police motorcycle in front of us and a Police Van with a blue light in back of us, we enjoyed a private police escort all the way back to Brescia. We were joined by other competitor cars toward the end of the 49 kilometers, but we will always remember our private police escort which had to have been courtesy of the cell phone calls made by those good Italians.

By the time we waited for the announcements and negotiated the haystackst in the town centers in Manerbio, we found ourselves being routed on and off of our "45bis", the highway we used nearly every day and the one we would have taken had we decided to rely on our own way back, but we would have missed several of the offshoots from that highway and would certainly have missed the convoluted approach into Brescia. We saw streets that we had never seen before in all of our days in Brescia, but then, finally, we were on the Viale Venezia, just blocks from the finish line. The excitement was not quite over. We had seen several cars broken down along the road between Cremona and Brescia. It seemed unjust that they could stop running so close to the finish, but we could have been one of them if not for the good luck of being so close to a gas statin. Then, while we waited in line, the car in front of us died. We had our engine off, trying to conserve the fuel pump and the fuel.Ed had been pushing it as necessary to keep our place in line and was doing just fine as I steered. When the car in front of us died completely, suddenly about twenty cars went around and in front of us. Now there would be a longer wait, as each car is announced as it crosses the line. Then suddenly, the power went off and all of the kleig lights disappeared at the finish line. The gremlins were out in full force this evening. We were told later that as Costantino Franchi, the head honcho of the Mille Miglia, arrived at the finish line and was announced, the heavens opened with a deluge of rain. At least we arrived without rain, and we drove across the finish line without incident. We finally had our last stamp!! Most important to us, WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!

We arrived back at the hotel about 1:30 a.m. Karen, Dale, and Michael took videos of us, Ed with his still black hands, tired but exuberant. The hotel restaurant stayed open until after 2:30 a.m. with a good buffet. We have never eaten at such ridiculous hours, but we were grateful for their good food and their willingness to deliver room service at that hour! A large part of the Japanese contingent was also there for a late repast. Well, this has been more than most of you probably want to know about our adventure, but we will probably enjoy reading it ourselves in about twenty years, and it is then that the details will remind us of the time we were a truly mutually supportive team in one of the most extraordinary events of our lives.

p.s. For those of you who won't read the big details of Sunday May 5 and Monday, May 6, we should just mention that we did not wake up until 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning. We were practically brain dead, but did manage to make it to the Award Ceremonies on time. We did not have a chance to visit with our friend Enzo Ragni who had been kind enough to come to our hotel lobby to say hello to us. We needed every minute just to dress presentably. The dirt which had rolled off us when we showered upon our arrival the night before had been even worse than in China. But there we were Sunday morning, clean and neat. We shared a cab with Karen and Dale and Michael, no navigating this morning, and a lovely young woman who turned out to be the head of marketing for Mercedes in Italy. She was delightful!!

The rain started again just before we all needed cabs to the get to the farewell luncheon, but we were lucky to share a cab with the Qvales from San Francisco. The sun came out for the luncheon, which is detailed in Sunday's entry.

Onf final note here, on Monday morning when we went down to the garage to get the car, it would not start!!!!!! Thank goodness it was thirty-three hours after we crossed the finish line that exhaustion hit the Silverstone!

SUNDAY, MAY 5, 2002

WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!! We came over the finish line at 1:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, exhausted but ecstatic. We did every kilometer of the race, obtained every required stamp on our time card, and did every one of the ability trials, thirty-seven in all, which are timed to the hundredth of a second. The tension toward the finish line was nearly unbearable as all drivers hoped their cars would hold out just a little longer. As you will see below, the Suhrbiers added some high drama to the evening just forty-nine kilometers from the finish line. We have used more than a lifetime supply of adrenalin and cortisol in just the past two and one half days. We woke up barely in time to make it to the awards ceremony at 11:00 this morning, then to the splendid farewell luncheon under a tent that was at least one hundred feet between two hundred feet. The bouquets on the tables were magnificent, the food divine, and there was the camaraderie that exists among those who have just shared a difficult but exhilarating experience. Everyone had a "war story" of some type to tell. Pictures were taken, promises made to meet again, and then it was over. So soon, but soooo many memories.


This is the "............and Beyond......" of our new home page. In just two days, we will be in Brescia for "scrutineering" of our 1950 Healey Silverstone which we will be driving in the Mille Miglia 2002!!

Does the term "scrutineering" sound familiar to you?? It was just two years ago almost to the day that we were in London for the "scrutineering" of our Mercedes before our Tower Bridge departure on the London to Peking 2000. Here we go again!!!! Beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday morning, over 370 cars will gather in Piazza Vittoria to check in, be "scrutinized" for proper authentic equipment, and the driver/navigator teams will be given the road books and other competitor information. Then the excitement will build throughout the day!

Our two year effort to be accepted as competitors in the Mille Miglia was rewarded with a brief but welcome letter of acceptance from the organizing committee in Brescia, Italy, which we received on February 5, 2002. Since then, we have been preparing and practicing and packing for the event. Now we are just two days away from the start of the race! As the map and schedule show, we will drive one thousand miles (mille miglia) in just two and half days. We leave on Thursday evening, May 2. The first car is scheduled to depart at 8:15 p.m. Our departure time is 21:27;20, or 9:27:20 p.m. The drive to Ferrara, our Thursday evening destination, will take over three hours, so there will be little time for sleep! We have been told that no matter how late we arrive, there will be huge crowds to greet us in the Centro Storica, the center of town. We have also been told that we park in the public square for the night. Some will be fortunate to have hotel rooms right in town; the rest will take cabs as far as thirty minutes away. If we had a closed car, I think you might find the Suhrbiers sleeping in the car; somehow the Silverstone does not seem quite appropriate for that. Of course, as all you who have visited Italy have undoubtedly discovered, they like late dinners in this part of the world. Even so, pasta after midnight will seem strange - no desert early bird specials here!

The pomp and circumstance of the start of the Mille Miglia goes well beyond our departure from Tower Bridge. Although it was thrilling to be waved off by Sir Stirling Moss, we simply drove away on May 1, 2000.. On May 2, 2002, at the start of the Mille Miglia, each car, in numerical order, drives up a ramp, is announced over loud speaker under hundreds of kleig lights, and then drives off the ramp and follows the red arrows out of town. The ramp is the original ramp used in the first Mille Miglia in 1927.The roar of engines can be heard throughout the entire city, and the streets will be lined with thousands of people. This is the most historic of sports car race/rallies, held every year from 1927 through 1957, then born again and run every year from 1982 through 2002. Thus this is the 20th anniversary of the Mille Miglia. The only cars eligible for the Mille Miglia are those which raced in the original between 1927 and 1957. Our 1950 Healey Silverstone is well suited for the race. It was entered in 1950, driven by its designer Don Healey, and has been successful throughout the years. Last year, an identical Silverstone was the winner of the entire Mille Miglia, and our car (driven by someone else) was eighth overall! The pressure is on, although some later detailed entries while we are underway will explain the vagaries of timing in the Mille Miglia. We have been told by many experienced drivers that we would be far better off if the driver were Eduardo Surbieri!! Since the ability trials are timed to the hundredth of a second, there is not a lot of margin for error, but we will be trying!

This is truly an international event! Approximately 370 cars are accepted; there are almost 900 entries from countries all over the world. As you might expect, there are many Italians accepted, some in old daily drivers such as small Fiats. Then there are the museum quality cars from Mercedes and BMW, and then the rarest of the early special racing cars. If a car has been in the actual original Mille Miglia, that car will be more likely to be accepted. Sometimes it depends on how many of a certain car apply in one year.

The weather reports of are of special interest to us this week. The Healey Silverstone, as the picture clearly shows, is not only an open car, but a VERY open car with no side windows at all. Brescia is noted for good weather at this time of year. It is also known as the city where, even if the whole day has been sunny, the rain will appear just in time for the start of the race. Last year when we did the route of the Mille Miglia as "Media", ( a whole separate web entry) , we listened to people all day long, walking in the sunshiine, all predicting that it would be raining by 8 p.m. Sure enough, as if on cue, the downpour began about a half hour before the scheduled departure of the first car! A deluge would be a better definition. Some of the older cars actually have holes in the floor to let the water out! Staying dry is essential - ours is definitely waterproof Goretex. Ed tested it in California by hosing me down for ten minutes as I stood by the swimming pool, dressed from head to toe in black raingear. Not a drop reached my inner clothing, so we are prepared. In addition, we have racing helmets and goggles, just in case.

Speaking of the start of the race, in general, the number of departure is closely associated with the age of the car. The prvilege of the number 1,2,3, and sometimes even 4 and 5 are kept for the "OM" automobiles which won the original Mille Miglia and were manufactured in the early 20th century right in Brescia. There is a lot of local sentiment when the OMs drive up the ramp. They are followed by old Bugattis, Alfa Romeos, Mercedes, Aston Martins, etc. By the time the numbers reach the 300's, there are many hot "new" cars of the early Fifties, Ferraris, Maseratis, and later Mercedes, including the always popular Gullwings.

In the days of the original Mille Miglia, from 1927 to 1957, the winner was determined by the car which finished first and therefore fastest. When Sir Stirling Moss won in his famous Mercedes, he averaged over 97 miles per hour for the entire race. In 1957, there were several deaths and the race was cancelled for almost thirty years. Now it is not an outright speed race. All of the Mille Miglia is on public roads, and the "carbinieri), the local police, are determined that speed limits will be enforced. Therefore, the race is determined by timed stages, which means that there are penalties for arriving too early at given checkpoints as well as arriving too late. One must cross some critical time controls at specific times, for example, six hours, forty minutes, and three seconds after one's start time. The actual clock time is therefore determined by the navigator who counts down the final twenty seconds for the driver because there are 300 penalty points if one stops the car between the yellow cord which is 100 meters from the time control and the red cord itself which must be crossed to the exact second. If this sounds confusing, add the regularity "PMP" portions of the event, during which you must maintain an average speed for a certain number of kilometers and during which there are usually hidden cameras to check if you are staying at the assigned speed. Then there are the diabolical "ability trials, the PC's, which are timed to the hundredth of a second. There are sometimes several in a row, in which the finish line of the first section is also the beginning of the next one. The driver has to know exactly when the tire crosses the start cord so that the navigator can start the stop watch. The list of penalties and the restrictions on earning points have made many of the drivers, especially the Americans, decide that their goal will be simply to enjoy the route, the celebration, and the chance to finish. We share those goals, but there is that desire to compete that has us both determined to at least try to be competitive!

We have just returned to Brescia from the "Warm Up 2002", a gathering of American Mille Miglia entrants held every year just before the start of the Mille Miglia. The event is organized by Guiseppe Tomasetti (Joe Thomas??), an American attorney now living in Parma, Italy. He is a veteran competitor, and plans the events perfectly and makes sure everyone gets to know each other and feels more comfortable by the time the actual race begins. We were comfortably ensconced in an old villa, The Locanda del Lupo, now a four star Italian hotel and gourmet restaurant in the center of the sleepy village of Soragna between Parma and Brescia. For those of you with a detailed map of Italy, you will find Soragna just south and a little east of Bussetto. For those of you with a map showing only big cities, look south of Cremona and north of Parma. This is the region of Parma ham and Parmesan Reggio Emilia cheese and surely not the region of low cholesterol! There are fine restaurants throughout the region; locals call the area the food belly of Italy.

You may have been expecting daily journals since we arrived in Italy, but discipline in Italy is hard to come by!! So we will work backward from the just completed gathering of Americans. Last night we all went from Soragna to nearby Fontanella, to Hosteria Ivan, a small, almost nondescript wine bar and restaurant in another sleepy village. Surprise, surprise, inside were copies of articles from magazines all over Europe and an October 2001 article by R.W. Apple from the New York Times, all raving about the wines and foods served by Ivan and his wife. Local cheeses, fried polenta, parma ham and the local, tender, "culatella", followed by pasta and a special duck marinated for three days and cooked almost like Peking duck, followed by divine hand-made desserts. At this rate, no one will be able to fit in his race car!

The West Coast is well represented in the Mille Miglia this year: Washington, Oregon, California, all present and accounted for. From the mid-west, Indiana, Michigan, and moving east, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. In addition,. a wonderful young couple from Mexico City who will also be driving in their first Mille Miglia Those are just the people present for the warmup. Others from around the United States will join us in Brescia on Thursday morning, but we will be greatly outnumbered by European entries, especially the Italians.

We have had a great time with our friend Daniel Claramunt and his Argentine compatriots and with Maurizio Colpani of the Brescia Auto Racing Team and his wife Miriam. Claudio Scalise, from Buenos Aires, had just come to Italy after a trip to Vancouver, B.C. and to Whistler. He is the current Argentine champion. On Sunday, we joined them for a day of driving our cars on small back roads from Brescia to Manerbio and then to other small villages all over the region toward Mantova. We stopped for lunch in the magical village of Borghetto, where the Roman ruins and castle on the hill seem straight out of a fairy tale. The river, complete with gentle waterfalls, is so clear that we could see the fish swimming as we stood on the ancient bridge. We stopped for coffee in a small cafe with an outdoor patio with a railing shaped like the prow on the bow of a ship. As we sat there, we felt as if we were really "Cruising Down the River on a Sunday Afternoon". After lunch, we had the real treat of the day. We had a group of five classic cars in our group: a splendid Fiat Balilla, a BMW 328, an Aston Martin Lemans, an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider just like ours, and, of course, us in the Healey Silverstone. We were following our leader, Maurizio; we drove through a small town, Volta Mantovana, entered a large wrought iron gate without knowing where we were going, and found ourselves in the estate of one of the nicest young families we have ever met. Francesca, our hostess, greeted us warmly in perfect English, and introduced us first to her sons, Luis Ricardo, a three year old who is already a "car guy" and Frederico, seven, who has a fine. strong, soccer kick already, then to her handsome husband, and finally to their houseguest , a seven year old orphan from Chernobyl who comes to visit them for a month each year when he comes from Russia to Italy for treatment of problems resulting from the nuclear disaster years ago. The gardens, the villa, the wine cellar, the views from the house and from the terraces, all are perfect. We felt we could move in forever. Then we were treated to a tour of the family cheese factory. They produce Grana Padano cheese, a delicious hard cheese, in a state of the art factory just three kilometers from their house. They also raise pigs at the cheese factory, and the wine cellar at their home includes many pieces of salami hanging from the ceiling which has been produced from their own pigs. Underneath the house is a garage to end all garages. High ceilings, etc. etc etc, and of course the beautiful maroon Lancia Aurelia B 24 Spider which they will be driving in the Mille Miglia. The fringe benefits of this rally life are sometimes overwhelming. The camaraderie of the afternoon will remain with us always.

The pace of life in the small villages of northern Italy is enviable. People walk, ride bicycles, stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets. The images of CNN and the BBC and network television seem to come from another planet. Even in the larger cities, one must get used to the fact that nearly everything is closed from noon until three or four in the afternoon. Restaurants open for dinner at 7 or 7:30. Holidays are taken seriously. Last week was liberation day, celebrating the end of World War II. Even the grocery stores were closed. The cities emptied out and the highways were jammed. We drove up to Sirmione on Lake Garda on Saturday, usually one of our favorite spots at the end of a long, narrow peninsula. After nearly an hour of bumper to bumper traffic on the three kilometer long road which leads to the center of town and the castle and moat and wonderful shops and restaurants, we gave up and turned around and came back to Brescia without ever reaching our favorite spots. Otherwise, we might still be there.

Another highlight of our stay in Brescia was last Thursday evening. Our friend Enzo Ragni and his wife Elena, who took us to the Rotary Dinner here in Brescia last year and who were so gracious to us, were again the perfect hosts to us on Thursday. Enzo picked us up here at the Novotel and took us to the San Guilia Musuem where his wife Elena is one of the directors and where she has organized the current exhibit of art by Vincente Foppa, a 15th century artist who is one of Italy's greatest. We toured the musem which itself is an incredible piece of history, part of an old convent of Benedictine nuns. The Roman ruins which have been excavated and which are viewed as one tours the museum will be the subject of a future website "update". We toured until the museum closed for the evening and will go back before we return to the United States. The evening ended with a formal dinner, just the four of us in the old Castello Malvezzi, on the top of a hill in Brescia with one of the best wine cellars in Italy and impeccable service. Enzo and Elena are delightful company and we will see them again before we go home.

This is one of those long website entries. You were warned that we have been having too much fun and working too hard to keep up with this every day. Now you as well as we are paying the price for the delays. In our spare time, we decided that it would be a good idea to do a trial run of the Mille Miglia, so after we recovered from jet lag at our reliable Villa Malpensa near the Milan airport, we drove to Brescia in our Passat station wagon which is a great rental choice for the Italian roads. We left Brescia on Thursday evening, April 18. and drove past Ferrara to Ravenna, a lovely old town which has some of the finest mosaic art in Italy. We stayed the night at the Hotel Diana, which would have been a charming and comfortable hotel had we not shared the room with thousands of small black ants which detracted from the atmosphere.

Then on the road again on Friday, April 19, doing the "Blue Roads" which are the historic state highways, in this case, the Via Emilia, SS9, south to Gambetolla, the Republic of San Marino, Urbino, Urbania, Arezzo, Perugia, Spoleto, and all the small towns you see on the route map. We had planned to stay overnight in the oldest hotel in Rome, the Albergo del Sole, which faces the Pantheon. After circling several times because the traffic was so ghastly on Friday evening, we finally found the proper piazza, only to find that we would have to park our car on a public street blocks away and take in all of our luggage or leave it in the car!!! The driver made an executive decision that we were on our way! We headed north and found a small family hotel on the Via Flaminia and crashed into bed. We know we will be tired when we reach Rome in the actual Mille Miglia. Saturday morning we drove the route through Chianti to all of our favorite places and then went through Futa pass, our first venture through the famed pass which is the FUTA of Martin Swig's license plate on his Alfa Romeo in California. We were not able to go over Radicosa Pass because there had been a landslide and the police turned us back. We did however turn around fairly easily and continued on to Bologna, Parma, etc. We were fortunate in finding the small road which passes through Soragna, Bussetto, and Roncole Verdi (where the famous opera composer was born), so we are almost positive this road will be the one covered with the red arrows of our Mille Miglia.

Back to reality and continuing preparation of the car. A few last minute details are being attended to and we will be on our way.

More later. CIAO!!!!!!!!!!!!


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