Thursday, March 20, 2008
Friendly Advice for LCP Rookies
Can you believe it... It's only March and for the most part this year's registration is already filled and that's even after it was made larger. I am equally impressed with the number of quality cars/teams coming from Europe this year. Hey, nobody ever said La Carrera was a cake walk.
I would like to offer some friendly advise to help make your trip a pleasant one. This is not to take away from any advice from North American Director Gerie Bledso but in fact to compliment it. Gerie has been making this trip for years and his experience in getting it done is more valuable than you will ever know. Besides, for me personally, Gerie's voice on the CB after we meet up with the Coyote Convoy is more than soothing. I especially enjoy his commentary as we pass points of interest which otherwise would have completely gone unnoticed. Since Gerie is a professor and a student of Mexico's rich history it makes for an awesome adventure in it's self.
The Coyote Convoy should be VERY HIGH on your priority list and take it from me (and anyone else who has been there) whatever you do DO NOT MISS OUT on staying at San Miguel de Allende. This is as much of an adventure as the entire La Carrera is and most certainly one you will not forget. If San Miguel de Allende affect you in many special ways, you must be ready for the grave.
The Coyote Convoy is a blast too. Along the way everyone pretty much hangs together while breaking just about every law known to mankind. At first teams are right on each other's bumper but as teams stop for gas and to take a tinkle they begin to spread out. Don't worry, because as they other teams eventually stop for the same reasons everyone catches back up again and it helps keep things from getting boring. I liked the fact that many teams used a buddy system and stopped together. One of the best tools we had on the trip was our CB Radio which was great so Gerie could tell us of upcoming turns and so on as well as point things of interest along the way.
One day as we were coming into Puebla the weather got really nasty and I mean REALLY nasty. There was a really bad thunderstorm with lightning and you could hardly see the road. As a result the traffic was at a crawl but that does not stop the buses and trucks from going like hell. It was a bit overwhelming even for us who frequent busy rush hour traffic. Knowing I was a ways ahead of Gerie we used the CB and radioed back to him to ask about meeting up for lunch and possibly waiting out some of the storm. Gerie came on and began telling us to watch out for a football stadium on our right next to a Pemex station. "Just keep an eye open for the football stadium, you can't miss it. Pull over there at that Pemex station and we'll do lunch." So we kept a look for the stadium and then we saw this stadium next to a Pemex and pulled over. We gassed up and waited in a restaurant and it was nice to get off the road and out of the storm but we never saw Gerie! Eventually we decided we had better get back on the road but the good news was the storm began to let up. About 2 miles down the road we all began to laugh our asses off... There on the right side of the road was a HUGE beautiful football stadium not at all like the high school soccer filed we had stopped at and there was Gerie and gang at the Pemex. When we called him up again he said, "See, I told you you couldn't miss it." LOL.
Today Gerie sent out his Easter edition of his Carrera News and as usual it is filled with valuable information. Some of it may seem unimportant at the moment but trust me, it's tools you will wish to God you had later on. Do yourself a big favor and print them out, put a staple in them and keep them in your LA CARRERA FOLDER for the trip. Get yourself a plastic binder/folder with a section for your passports, titles, insurance papers, (for both the race car, trailer AND support vehicle), then have a section for everything else but keep it all organized so when you do go to the border you can find everything QUICKLY and efficiently. There is nothing worse than having to wait while someone hunts for something. By the way, it may sound corny but when Gerie tells you to have three copies of each of those items, just do it. The border will ask you for copies after they inspect the originals and if you do not have copies then they will make you step out of line, then go to another window to have copies made AND they will charge you, then you have to go get back in the other line again. If you think crossing the border is a cake-walk for a first timer... think again. However, "IF" you have EVERYTHING "PROPERLY" in order you will be fine. Properly being the key word.
If you only knew how many people go there and didn't have correct titles, signed or "original" papers, proof of insurance it would bow your mind. I ever saw one team who had to sell their car to another team in order to get it into Mexico which took hours of BS. Believe me, this is not the U.S. where you will bullshit your way around some red tape like happens here.
Let's talk about hotels for a second. I can remember being worried about the quality, location and some other issues of the hotels we would be assigned too only because I would hear some teams say things like, "Hotel X was better than Z"and so on but the truth is, when you are with La Carrera Panamericana it is easy to say their worst is better than any of the best here in the States. The most important concern would be to make sure you get rooms in the same hotel for your crew. This way it's easy to meet up after each days racing, helpful when working on the car, and a hundred other logistical issues.
While we are on the subject of crews... If possible, It's very advantageous to have at least two members on your crew. This way they will be a lot happier getting around traffic, following directions and so on plus they will not be alone on the long drives.
Gerie talks about having your "Mordida” money out and a Garmin GPS, especially hen in Mexico City an experience unto it's self. The key to a successful adventure through Mexico City is "THERE IS SAFETY IN NUMBERS." As a matter of fact that's pretty much true for the entire trip. I heard so many stories of how people panicked when they got lost or separated from the group that all I could think of was how much it sounded like a herd of African wildebeest who had been cut from the heard by a pack of hungry lions. While this may in fact be a pretty good analogy the best and simplest thing to remember is a single word... TAXI! If at any time you have doubts as to which way to go or think you are lost DO NOT PANIC and for God's sake don't just keep driving around. Just pull over and flag a taxi. Trust me, they will be there when you need one. Tell the taxi to take you to (insert name) and show then the correct spelling in your Bible (route book) and don't worry about haggling the price as they can be trusted. The taxis know the traffic and the best route depending on the time of day and you will not have any stress on the way. It will be the best damn ten bucks you ever spent. This works as well for service vehicles as it does race cars.