Sunday April 2nd, and day one of Copperstate 2017.
By the time I reached the stadium, it was obvious we were heading into a perfect Arizona day. Blue sky and fluffy white clouds overhead, with enough sunshine to remind those of us in an open top car, the importance of sunscreen.
Cousin dearest had yet to rouse himself, so I started the final prep before driver’s meeting. Everything was fine, with the minor exception of the soft top. Still up, and different enough from my old MGB to ensure I should double check before putting it down. Unfortunately, cuz seemed to be operating on voicemail only, so I was left to stare at the car, hoping my psychic powers of persuasion would come through.
And then, Matt appeared! Matt was the previous owner and clearly the answer to my request. Quick handshake intro as he began to explain the process. Moments into the conversation, cousin dearest called back; deeply concerned I didn’t touch anything, as roof lowering was ‘a slightly tricky process’ which required both of us. Reassuring him that, with Matt standing in front of me, I was confident in our ability, I was a little taken aback when he repeated the same instruction to me, in a slightly more serious tone. Three attempts to explain to him that Matt was helping and Matt was the person he bought the car from, seemed to fall on deaf ears. So, I opted for plan B – reminding him that no morning should start without coffee, and hung up.
By the time Harry meandered onto the field, we not only had the top down with tonneau in place, I’d met most members of the local Triumph Owners Club, been quizzed about the rally, when the car was moving to England and managed to have an excellent pre-driver meeting breakfast. Impressive, even by my usual standards!!
Our first day was a gorgeous cruise from Mid to Northern Arizona, ending in Flagstaff. A total of 150 miles that would include driving through such little towns as Strawberry and Pine, as well as the almost 50 mile stretch of perfect road, known as Lake Mary Road. Definitely in my top five favourite sections of Arizona driving.
The Triumph sounded happy from the time we left the stadium, however it took a combination of side windows up and endless noodling with hair to stop me resembling a haystack in a tornado. Unfortunately no amount of cajoling seems to persuade any cap to stay on my head, once I’m moving at anything faster than walking speed, so my only choice was pigtails tucked as tightly into my neckscarf as possible!
As one would expect, our proud father kept up a pretty consistent commentary about his car’s performance, but there was something neither of us could ignore….the speedo. No matter how either of us drove it, the needle barely reached 70 mph. Not an issue on the smaller roads, but as Harry finally had to lament “considerably underperforming when compared to The Egg!!” This statement was clearly difficult to make, judging by the unmistakably plaintive wobble in his voice. Within the first couple of hours, it also became apparent that seats would have benefited from reupholstering at some point, but otherwise we chose to be cautiously optimistic about Trusty’s ability to complete the event.
Being in an open top car lets one see, and appreciate, the surroundings in a more holistic way. 360 degrees of visibility, especially with the scenery we had to enjoy, made the whole experience far more visceral. I opted for the more cautious approach in terms of skin coverage – applying sunscreen regularly, and was extremely happy with the choice of prescription sunglasses (www.zennioptical.com – crazy cheap!!!). Meanwhile, Harry embraced his inner boy scout and insisted on wearing shorts with those English regulation socks that reach far enough up the leg to be dubious at best.
We drove, we talked, we laughed, we even managed to stay on course…until a rather strange sound accompanied by frantic shaking started eminating from the driver wing mirror. Pulling over I then discovered that despite my suggestion/recommendation/gentle pleading, Harry had decided against buying any tools to have ‘just in case’. Working instead on the car equivalent of ‘The Secret” in terms of positive thinking. Now, I have no doubt in the laws of attraction, personal growth etc when applied to more esoteric aspects of our world….but when it comes to old cars, I like to follow the insurance rule – better to have it and never need it than etc. etc.
I could only offer a couple of pens and a nail file (not the metal variety), however luckily for us, one of the swag gifts we received just happened to be a pencil sized multi headed screwdriverey thing. Perfect! As the following video will confirm….
Saturday afternoon and I found myself landing in unseasonably cool, Phoenix weather. At the taxi rank with a suitcase appropriately sized to hide a sumo wrestler (containing enough clothing to address a minimum of three completely different climates), I texted cousin dearest to advise of my impending arrival.
Without question, the sensation of automotive panic one usually feels at this point was noticeably missing; replaced instead with the realization I truly could meander through the next few days with a totally different set of priorities than usual (Factor 40 or Factor 70, hair up or down, just which of the multitudinous jackets should I wear today) – because it’s NOT my car!!! Hey, I can even pull a Clarke and sleep for hours, should I so decide!!
Meeting at the stadium, I sensed a gritty determination that was new. Fervently polishing his chrome wheels, second guessing his decal placement, packing and re-packing the boot (trunk) to ensure it looked rally appropriate…dearest cuz was the human embodiment of a Tasmanian Devil in comparison to previous years, and it rather suited him. I was introduced to the TR6, and I’m fairly sure he grew a couple of inches as he gave me the guided tour, fatherly pride apparent from every flick of the polishing rag. It really was rather endearing.
Each car is decked out with race number and name of driver/co-driver. However, it seemed only reasonable that we should be driver and driver this year; an easy modification thanks to the invention of scissors. And I’m happy to say, the car really does look great. Clearly loved by the previous owner; including a clean engine and nice straight lines everywhere you’d want to see them. A combination of Royal Blue paint and tan interior; which is an elegantly understated choice, highlighted perfectly with the shiny spokes.
We started it up, and after a minimal amount of choke and coaxing, the engine came to life. A slightly different note than the Egg, delivering a healthy consistency of rhythm that suggests many happy miles to come. Clearly my offering of a Lucas wiring harness to the rally gods has paid off.
And then to the next best part of Saturday – catching up with old, and making new friends. There’s a good percentage of first timers this year, a few faces we’ve not seen for a while as well as the closest members of my rally family. Stories are swapped, introductions made, or just hugs and smiles shared with great people. Having lived over here since 1995, the concept of family has definitely expanded, and I’m extraordinarily lucky to have such a varied selection of friends that contribute to my personal global village.
As the afternoon wore on, the sun decided to peak back out from the clouds, bringing that final re-balance. It’s going to be another great rally, I can feel it!