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!
Creeping ever closer to our deadline; we reached mid-March with the TR6 lurching ever forward in much the same way I imagine 1960’s advertising executives walked, following yet another boozy lunch. Apparent progress but no real sense of the final destination in terms of time or location.
Meanwhile, in my corner of the world, rally back-up plans were being wrapped up. The Egg returned from her doctor with a clean bill of health and re-balanced wheels. We’d also begun the conversation about future improvements to consider – replacing the Fuchs wheels with something as interesting to look at, but lighter in weight and better in performance, and the reality of fifty-one-year-old metal bodywork. She still looks great, but much like her owner, needs a more comprehensive ‘skincare’ routine these days. For the Egg, I’m looking at moving ahead with at least a partial restoration come 2018. For myself? A similar plan seems more and more likely with each year that goes by!
Cousin Harry continued to insist that all would be well and yet seemed to be doing little else than directing the rest of us to complete various tasks…..a situation I realized was completely and utterly of my own making. After all, until now his only job was to show up, look pretty and try not to fall asleep before we made it out of the stadium car park. Everything else had been taken care of, with almost military precision, by yours truly; the family Rally Fairy. The wings are clearly optional, but the ability to sprinkle my fairy dust has become second nature over the past 5 Copperstate years. I reminded him we still had Plan B waiting in the wings, should she be needed; but my suggestion we ship The Egg over to AZ, just in case, was rejected outright with no chance of renegotiation.
So, I opted for a slightly different tactic and made sure to send reminder emails and texts every couple of days until we reached last Friday, and the collective sigh of relief could happen. Boxes ticked, mechanical updates finished, paperwork completed and submitted; all signs are hopefully go.
Early on, during one of his super-enthusiastic phases about the TR6, we’d had a discussion about goggles, and how we probably needed matching pairs. However, I require prescription lenses and the options he’d found seemed to have more in common with a swimming pool than automobile. Instead, I decided to tread a somewhat different sartorial path, and can report with confidence that I’m going to look fabulous, even on the back of a tow-truck. Cream coloured Davida Helmet, vintage style mirrored (prescription) sun-glasses, my fabulous driving gloves and scarf thanks to the team at Autodromo. I may be missing the Egg this year, but I’ll be representing her in style!!
And so, with two days left before I fly to Phoenix, I’m happy to report I’m really looking forward to this year’s event. I’ve made a couple of appropriate offerings to the rally gods in the hope they’ll smile kindly on dear cousin Harry’s endevour. The Copperstate app has been updated (available for free download on either iPhone or Android), and we have another collection of spectacular cars and fantastic people to explore the back roads of Arizona, with. There will be photos, hopefully a few blog posts and the guarantee of some really wonderful memories, again!
We may share similar sized ears, but there are some fundamental differences between dearest cousin H, and myself. One, in particular, which has become extremely apparent in the past couple of weeks.
He’s smart, enthusiastic, and would probably agree with the ‘big picture’ description. I certainly share those traits, but prefer to take a more detailed approach. He’s macro (or is that macaroni) to my micro, ready to see the end result with only a cursory glance or two at the interim steps. I, on the other hand, live in a world of schedules that will change in an instant, only too aware the phrase “they’re planning a re-cut” does not involve a hair stylist and prefer to have a minimum of three contingencies at any one time to ensure release dates are always met. For Harry, it’s a much simpler three step process: Imagine it, assume it will happen and head straight to the mountains for a rendition of “The Sound of Music” (lederhosen optional).
All of which, dear reader, brings us to an email on February 17th.
In the office, juggling coffee with deadlines, when his name and a link to eBay shows up in my in-box. One click later, and I’m presented with an apparently respectable 1970 Triumph TR6, currently for sale in Arizona. Additionally, a few notes explaining H’s plan of purchase to drive on this year’s Copperstate, so I don’t have to ship The Egg.
The Egg…The Egg that applied for, and was accepted into the 2017 Copperstate. That one. Bulletproof reliability, perfect for the weather we’ll encounter this year, the whole reason I even considered vintage rallies in the first place? Yes, still that one.
So, I gently remind dear cuz there’s already an Orange Jensen in AZ being diligently worked on, for him. Initial plan of it making this year, now looking more realistic as the 2018 entrant, but nevertheless, acquiring another vehicle so I don’t have to ship the car I applied with? Dubious logic, even for him. However, I can’t help feeling I’m in a ‘stable door shut after horse bolted’ conversation as my additional comments about what’s actually involved to get any car rally-ready (least of all one that’s currently sight unseen, with only sunny photos and confidence in the description to go on) seem to be falling on deaf ears.
Stubbornness also seems to be a shared family trait.
Three days later, he’s now the proud owner of said TR6 and a recommended list of important things to take care of pre-Copperstate, arrive. I remain skeptical as I realise his primary concerns are the possibility of new tyres and having the car polished. Trying not to thwart this new-found enthusiasm, or to get in the way of his solo rendition of “My Favourite Things”, I recommend adding how to register the car (required), a mechanical inspection (required) & what will be required to follow through on his now plan of selling the car post-rally (recommended).
My skepticism increases.
The end of February appears on the horizon in the form of Monday 27th as he resurfaces to confirm what I already know (the car has been purchased) and what I suspect (nothing much else seems to have occurred). We discuss the inspection, which has remained noticeably absent in any updates or planning, and I’m reassured Harry can take care of it himself, as he’s rather “mechanical”. The image of our sixth form production for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ flashes by, as I respond with, “No, you’re a hobbyist, there’s a distinct and not so subtle difference”. Still at a loss as to HOW exactly he would manage to oversee the actual inspection from another continent, I decide to reiterate the importance of this document by forwarding again and insisting he opens it whilst we’re both on the phone.
Silence….more silence..a couple of ‘blimey’s’ followed by a ‘this is serious’ and finally I sense a glimmer of hope at the other end. Momentary success notwithstanding, I silently decide to move ahead with my plans to have the annual check-up from the Egg Doctor, because she’s still looking like my safest bet. Julie Andrews continues to yodel in the background, it’s really annoying.
Seven days later and a rather polite email from a very nice young man, who until recently owned a Triumph TR6, appears. It’s hard not to notice the slightly plaintive tone in his opening lines, “This is my direct email. Please let me know how we should proceed with the car.”, and my only comfort is I’m clearly not the only one being ignored. Fortunately, this seems to set off an alarm somewhere in the British Isles as we have a sudden flurry of activity from dear H, with instructions to send the car to a mechanic, confirmation tyres are needed and the recognition that insurance should be a primary concern. Unable to hold back, I immediately join the fray and offer my own list of requirements regarding registration & insurance, as we’re now less than a month from kick-off and this is all beginning to feel like the Wacky Races without comedic timing. When checking separately with dearest cuz to confirm that the mechanic IS expecting the car, the inevitable reply comes through, and I gently remind him that trying to drop an unscheduled project into any shop without checking first, is a tad optimistic.
I call the Egg Doctor to confirm drop off for the upcoming weekend.