Sunday, April 05, 2009

Race Of Fools 2009 - A Good Start

The story of an underground road rally as told by the navigator of a cranky '64 Sunbeam Alpine.

A night of molotov cocktail bonfires, fire engines, stilettoed co-eds and the demons of Irish whiskey led to a staggering morning of a shattered alarm clock, a non-existent wake-up call and a trip deep into the unknown.

The 2009 Race of Fools began at a farm 15 miles north of Athens with a promise of a finish line somewhere within the bounds of the Carolinas, Tennessee and Georgia. The format was a treasure hunt style road rally where we would only discover our goals as we passed from checkpoint to checkpoint. Our final landing strip never revealed until the final hurdle was cleared.

Months ago, I signed on as navigator for a 1964 Sunbeam Alpine with a technicolor paint scheme, wires crawling up and down the barely existing firewall and carbs which were replaced by a Rastafarian mechanic less than 72 hours before the checkered flag was set to drop. The pilot, Captain Ballard, promised his machine now hummed like a prom date slithering into her first back seat and had at least a 50% chance of making the entire journey.

The field spanned from the sublime (a mint Mercedes 560SL) to the truly bizarre (a fire truck with kegs of beer in place of the water pumps) - 23 vehicles in all, including an ungodly amount of little Triumphs, a sprinkling of MGs and the aforementioned weird roadster with two hideously hungover southern gentlemen in its tiny cockpit.

The fire engine, sirens blasting, generating a furious response from near-by trailer court pit bulls, led off.

At one minute intervals each team blasted from the start in a spew of gravel. Team Sunbeam began its journey in the 20th slot but the race was against the clock, not the well tuned German beasts and whining British bumblebees, so confidence was high.

The official's clock counted to zero, she handed me our first orders and our little car wheezed towards US-441. Our first destination was the UGA Botanical Garden. Good, I thought. Familiar territory. This small jog across town would allow my addled brain to catch up.

Five miles towards Athens, the first obstacle of the day presented - two non-participants cars intent on turning into a yard sale at the same moment had tangled in a mass of saturday morning trashy despair.

Johnny Law held up his hand and refused passage past the wailing scene until the ambulance jockeys made sure all the occupants retained their teeth - a challenge on this side of town.

Chewing our lips, cursing the depression era madness of the siren call of yard sales, we stared at the nightmare as the enemy clock ticked away.

Continued in Part II.


Anonymous said...

wheezing beginning ? mebbe so. but once warmed up the old girl ran toe to toe with a 6 cylinder Spitfire, then successfully crossed a Ford to The Other Side...
Cap'n Ballard :)

Juliana said...

for a moment there I thought you were talking politics..

well have fun...

Anonymous said...

politics is fun enough for most days but crewing a sunbeam into the unknown takes over where politics leaves off. that said, my poor baby apparently gave her all - her #2 cylinder - in the pursuit of victory. now she goes to a quiet place for an engine rebuild...
cap'n ballard