The plan every morning has been to start an hour earlier than everyone else, just to ensure that I have some feeling of distance (if not accomplishment) by the time the pack starts hurtling past. Although I’m driving a 356 Porsche with the larger 1600cc engine; in the company of the other 74 entrants I’m in the automotive equivalent of a lawnmower! However, please don’t think this is a complaint, because there really is a perverse kind of pleasure when a 911S, any number of Ferrari’s, Shelby Cobra…..and the list goes on…..roars past. The sound of engines against the relative silence of our surroundings is a automotive audiophile’s dream!
So, Tuesday’s driving consisted of a 300 mile loop from Tucson, south towards the Mexico border and then back again. Within 15 minutes of leaving our hotel, the roads were taking us through national parkland. The only proof of local residence was occasional lines of mailboxes in line on the roadside, and the terrain was a collection of mesquite trees and high desert scrub. I had assumed, wrongly, that Arizona would resemble California, so the varieties of different plants and colours have been a continued surprise throughout this trip.
Heading through a corner, we came to a sadly familiar sight; one vintage car, mechanics truck and collection of heads in a downward direction around an open bonnet (hood). This particular entrant was a 330 Ferrari…that was usually only spotted in the car park at either end of the day. Mark, the driver, waved us down; and in my typical English fashion I politely asked if there was anything we could do to help. With the collection brain trust around the car already, and my technical knowledge limited to being able to recognize the difference between a spark-plug and a distributor cap, this was probably a stretch…but the Copperstate engenders a sense of camaraderie and support that’s as much a part of the event as the road under rubber. Mark nodded, and then announced loudly, “we need your toolkit!!”
The remaining brain trust looked a little mystified, until I produced my treasure. Nods of appreciation, followed by assurances that “this will do” confirmed the words of wisdom I’d been given by the boys at TRE…I may not have the remotest idea what’s in my bag of tricks, but the professionals will, and we just received two thumbs up!
The car was soon running again, and so we all headed on together towards our lunch break at Sonita. Heading towards Nogales, the presence of Border Patrol started in to noticeably increase. Initially there would be the occasional van parked on the side of the road, but as the ranch country expanded into even greater swathes of nothingness, we suddenly found ourselves being required to stop for a full scale border patrol check. Serious looking men with guns and dogs watched as we slowly crept through their checkpoint; and I had to hold back the overwhelming desire to confess to something, anything; simply because they were SO scary!
Unfortunately the dulcet tones of the Egg started to take on a slightly more “too much curry last night” tone as we drove towards Patagonia. Backfiring and burping, and then finally just gliding to an elegant stop. By this time Mark and the Ferrari had become Mark and the Lexus, as his car had also stopped again not to be easily revived; so he kindly collected us and the Egg continued the rest of her journey on the back of a tow truck.
Our afternoon took us through the barren wasteland that is Fort Huachuca. A fully functional fort, its also some of the most desolate scenery we had for the entire trip. The Fort’s history is varied, as it was the headquarters for the famed Buffalo Soldiers as well as the training base for U-2 pilots. For us it took a slightly more entertaining turn, when coming down a particularly windy road, we found the real-life equivalent of the wacky races. At the bottom of a t-junction we found the D-Type, GTO, one of the 911’s and Shelby GT350 all parked in different directions. Some were holding maps, the others waving smart phones helplessly begging the Googlemap gods to answer…everyone was lost! The fort seems to take stealth training very seriously as road signs are virtually non-existent, so in the end we opted for the low tech version of GPS – coin flip and people’s vote. Not technical, but eventually successful!
My day ended with a mechanical conflab. Again, these guys are all volunteers, and they are total rock stars. A combination of experience from Hot Rods to high end restoration, which ensures no car is too complicated to be dealt with. Chad assured me that they’d look over the Egg and do everything possible to have her ready to drive the next morning. Unfortunately the late night update wasn’t so good. A combination of aluminium (AL–OOO-MIN-EE-UM) on one of the plugs and arcing ignition wires suggested something a little more serious than the blocked oil filter or carb gasket problem I’d been wishing for. Once again, Copperstate to the rescue. Although it wasn’t part of my plan, they had a number of loaner cars that are available for participants; so we’d have a Lexus available to complete the last day and reach our return destination of Phoenix. My trusty Triple A card ensured that the Egg had a flatbed trip all the way back to our final location, which she shared with a rather handsome Italian, so she couldn’t really complain either!