Saturday June 23, 2012: Stage One


words & photographs by John R. Paul

It seems Harry Nilsson was right: one truly is the loneliest number. Well, at the very least, Stage One was for the HVA team and the continually-aptly named Miss Adventure. But let’s not lead off with any of that.

Instead we should focus on the great showing by the city of Traverse City this morning. Thousands lined a closed-off Front Street to see the Great Racers off. It was truly a grand and fitting send off from a great city and one we are all very proud of which to call home. Fans of all ages crowded around to catch a glimpse of the myriad vehicles on display, all of which took part in today’s first stage of the Great Race. Seeing folks lining the streets, cheering each car as it made its way to and ultimately from the line was a sight to behold and one that was truly incredible to have been a part.

Family and friends alike came down to wish us bon voyage and even, before doing so, taking a seat in what will be our home for the next nine days or so. A big thanks must go out to the aforementioned family and friends (as well as several of our other Great Racers whose kindness seems to know no end) who helped us push start Miss Adventure to the starting line after some early morning battery troubles which could have severely rained on our proverbial parade.

But the initial setback was short-lived and adrenaline began to run high as we made our way to the starting line. Corky Coker even gave Carmel a quick good luck kiss before dropping the green flag. And with that, Miss Adventure and company (Carmel, Katy, Casey, and myself) were off, barreling down Front Street, passing huge crowds of onlookers and well-wishers, all of whom were clapping, waving and giving the all important thumbs up. All of this excitement and adrenaline proved a bit too much as it was little more than a few minutes before we found ourselves having missed the first turn.

We were, fortunately, not alone in this as we noted several of our fellow Great Racers having done the same. Within moments we were all back on course and making our way out of town. Much to our surprise, the crowds continued, though more sparsely, nearly all the way out of town. It was here, once again on the outskirts of Traverse City, that trouble began to plague Miss Adventure. Carmel noted the brakes had become rather spongy and not nearly as responsive as they had been the day before. Before too long, we were slowly forced to come to the realization that this was perhaps going to be a larger problem.

By the time we made it to Grayling (roughly an hour or so into the start of Stage One), we found ourselves on the verge of driving brakeless and were forced to engine brake our way into a Marathon gas station. Several of our fellow Great Racers quickly (and quite helpfully, as seems to be the case amongst this great group of individuals) alerted us to the fact that we were headed in the wrong direction. Just as quickly we let them know that we were, unfortunately, nearly without brakes and forced to make an unplanned stop. Queue the team building exercises.

While Casey jacked up the car to inspect the brake cables, Carmel and Katy procured libations and engaged in a bit of well-placed product placement tweeting. Before I knew what was happening, I found myself underneath the car working to loosen the master cylinder cap. Having only just immersed myself in the classic car world, this was an entirely new experience for me and one which I quickly dove into without hesitation; there’s only one way to learn how to do anything and that is by getting in there and getting your hands dirty.

After failing to loosen the cap (and thus slightly losing any of the car guy cache I had hoped to gain), it was surmised that the brake lines were leaking. Sure enough, the exhaust system appeared to have been rubbing against the brake lines, causing them a great deal of stress and duress, all of which appeared to have resulted in our current, brakeless state in the parking lot of the Marathon gas station.

Following several increasingly frantic phone calls to try and track down one of the support vehicles, we were graciously picked up by the wonderful folks driving the sweep vehicle. They were quick to arrive and even quicker to lend a helping hand, a laugh and, most importantly, a tow. With Miss Adventure out of the running for Stage One, Team HVA piled into the sweeper vehicle’s BMW. Rather surprisingly nary a complaint was made as we piled into the air-conditioned vehicle and once again began making our way northward.

A brief stop for lunch in Gaylord allowed us to refuel and relax, having spent a great deal of time in the sweltering Marathon parking lot. The remainder of the afternoon was spent catching up with our fellow Great Racers, all of whom had arrived and departed St. Ignace well before we arrived. When we did finally arrive, following Casey’s first crossing of the Mackinac Bridge, we were greeted by a few stragglers still camped out near Lake Huron, showing off some of their great cars. A number of muscle cars and early Fords were spotted basking in the sun, their owners trying to keep cool and find any and all available shade.

Soon even the few that remained in the parking lot began to depart. It was here that half of Team HVA continued on in the BMW, while the other half (Katy and myself) hooked up with Mike and Cindy White of Reliable Carriers. There was a great deal of excitement between the two of us as neither had ever ridden in the cab of a semi. Little did we know, there was a great deal more excitement in store.

This objective was certainly simply enough: proceed from St. Ignace to Sault Ste. Marie to deliver Miss Adventure (now in the back of the Reliable Carriers transporter) to the Kewadin Casino and Hotel at which our fellow Great Racers (and teammates) would be staying. The trouble is, Mike and Cindy are such great and interesting people, we soon found ourselves completely lost in conversation with one another. And before we knew it, we had paid a toll, crossed the International Bridge and found ourselves in Canada (the conversation was extremely good and obviously very enthralling).

Once the error had been realized (a bit too late to turnaround), we had little choice but to proceed across the boarder. Our response of having missed our exit was met with a fair amount of skepticism and raised eyebrows on the part of the boarder patrol in both countries, but everything was sorted out fairly quickly and, before we knew it, we were back on our way to the US, having spent all of about twenty minutes in Canada. We were greeted with the same line of questioning and suspicion (rightly so, I might add) by the American border patrol who ultimately seemed to have a good laugh at our slight detour into Canada.

Needless to say, by the time we made it to the Kewadin Casino and Hotel, word had gotten out and we were all now officially the first team to have made it to Canada (surely there must be a trophy in order for that particular honor). We all had a good laugh and came away with an amusing story. Many thanks to Mike and Cindy for their gracious Southern hospitality!

Finally, we were able to unload the car and get to work replacing the brake lines and battery. After several hours spent on, under and around the car, Miss Adventure once again roared to life, ready for another day, ready for whatever misadventures may lay ahead. Though hopefully tomorrow she can just enjoy the ride and get her temperament under control.

Top Five Things We Learned Today:

  1. You gotta stop!
  2. Southern hospitality is alive and well (Mike and Cindy learned that there is such a thing as Northern hospitality, too!).
  3. Okay, yes, stopping is great. But once stopped, can we start again?
  4. It takes approximately seventy-five minutes to make the trip across the boarder twice, go through customs twice, have your vehicle inspected twice, and be greeted by the same amount of skepticism twice.
  5. Even if you know nothing about cars, there’s still time to learn and gain an appreciation.

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One thought on “Saturday June 23, 2012: Stage One

  1. Tracy Hardin says:

    Canada! Hilarious!! How long will you be in the Sault? and where from there?

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