Well, this is it – the last day of our 9000 mile, 14,000 kilometer odyssey across two continents. I bet there were many who thought we would never make it this far including most of the organizers. I’m pleased and proud to say that we fooled them all. Of course as the saying goes, “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings” but I can hear her warming up in the background.
It’s raining this morning in Troyes – not an auspicious start for the final day of this marathon but we’ll hope for the best.
What a shame – on the last day to have to ride, Peter Banham our chief mechanic told me as we pushed this car up on the trailer that they had blown the transmission but he hoped there was enough left for it to go 100 meters across the finish line on its own. I’m sure if that is remotely possible, Peter will make sure it happens – what a man.
Speaking of the Banhams, they were in charge of the Main Time Control for our departure today (actually Betty was in charge as Peter has enough to do keeping everyone running) – they are two of the nicest people you could ever want to meet and he is an incredible mechanic. Meeting them and getting to know them a little has been one of the high points of the trip from my prospective.
As the morning progressed we got a little blue sky but that was about it. The countryside here is flat and huge tracts are plowed in very neat rows. I have no idea what is growing here but it sure is green.
This is a war memorial at a road junction in the little town of Bonval. Per our usual modus operando, we did not stop to determine which war.
Just a pretty house on a corner in Diant …
Think we stuck to the back roads ??? They certainly were beautiful. This was taken on the road to Fontainebleau.
The route book identified this as an aquaduct (although Word doesn’t like this spelling) – I certainly can’t disagree on what it is.
Our route took us past the Palace of Fontainebleau which is 55 kilometers from the center of Paris. The palace as it is today is the work of many French monarchs beginning with an early 16th century structure of Francis I and is one of the largest French Royal chateaux. The building is arranged around a series of courtyards. The Forest of Fontainebleau located nearby is a former royal hunting park.
Fontainebleau is a very busy tourist stop with lots of busses and traffic – a far cry from the Gobi desert.
We are getting close – that is the River Seine and we were very happy to see it. Right after crossing the bridge, we proceeded to get lost for a few minutes at what was labeled “difficult junction” – certainly was …
Finally the last Time Control which was supposed to be 7 kilometers from our final destination. Unfortunately, the “early departers” all arrived at about the same time and wanted to cut in line causing a big traffic jam and the location had to be moved further down the street leaving the later arrivers wondering what was going on. Fortunately the crew manning to control scurried around and put up Peking to Paris orange arrows to point the way – these arrows have been very helpful all along our journey – they must have quite a supply of these things – wonder what they will do with the rest of them now. We got sent off in groups of about 10 at a time to negotiate Paris traffic and the final stop. We were assisted by young folks on roller blades waving checkered flags – very good idea.
Bet you can guess this one – right the Arc de Triomphe – never thought I would be this glad to see it.
Then down the Champs Elysees …
Then moving smartly through traffic into Place de la Concorde.
And then into Place Vendome …
Not much to add to this one – it is self-explanatory and a very welcome sight.
I looked up and there was cousin Art and “the boys” who came down from Holland to see the car show and meet us at the finish – what a wonderful surprise.
And they brought us flowers – how nice. I decided to give them to Lloyd’s wife to enjoy as they were staying several days in Paris with friends so they could be enjoyed during their stay.
Lloyd’s son and daughter-in-law came to greet him along with their two boys (who rode the last several blocks with us in the car and then totally enjoyed putting it to good use as a slide – it was very cute.
The Itala made it to the finish under its own power – pretty remarkable for a 1907 automobile. Congratulations to Karen and David Ayre for a remarkable effort – they passed us as we came around the Arc de Triumph – wonder where they had been as they should have been the first ones to the finish. I hope Karen doesn’t fall out of this car ever again – they were a lot of fun to be with.
Having come all the way from Holland, we had to have a beer to celebrate – well, ok, we had more than one but these poor guys had to drive back home tonight.
This little girl was at the table next to us when we stopped for a beer and was both cute and curious – must be fun to be that age …
And of course this is Gerry Crown, the winner of the entire rally. He is a true gentleman and it has been a pleasure participating in this event with him and his co-driver Matt Bryson. Gerry is 78 years young and I hope to be just like him if I reach that age – well done Gerry!
And Dave Staples whose daughter (left) and her friend came to meet him. Of course they also came to meet his son Garrick who never lost his sense of humor despite some major problems with his car.
The big banquet at the end of the journey where some of the thousands of pictures taken by the professional photographers who accompanied us were shown and awards were presented – we did get a trophy as we finished 2nd in our class thanks to Lloyd’s excellent driving skills. Most of the pictures were taken in Mongolia where the scenery was spectacular and the cars were alone running in the desert – fabulous.
Finally, I have to thank Jim Taylor for my “Old Guys Rule” hat. I wore it every day and based on how the car performed (flawlessly) I decided it was a lucky piece. Good thing the picture doesn’t show all the dirt – it was worn hard but it hasn’t been put away yet.
The Intercontinental Hotel here in Paris is a beautiful old hotel providing truly first class accommodations. Lloyd would have been upset as the room had a king size bed – not the best for two guys. Fortunately, he was staying with friends in Paris so I could luxuriate in the room by myself – seemed a little strange after sharing all sorts of rooms for over a month.
Over the next couple of days I will try to organize my thoughts and attempt to summarize my feelings about this trip. There are many emotions involved so we’ll just have to see what I come up with. Please check back with the blog in a few days and that’s for all your interest.
I would also like to thank all of you who have made contributions to the Scleroderma Foundation – it is a very worthy cause but of course, I’m prejudiced.