This race has never been repeated, until this year when, in April, at least 14 cars will start out from NYC with the same goal in mind.
A few days ago I had the good fortune to meet up with a local couple that will be participants in this historic event. Janet and Ed Howle will ply the roads in a 1967 VW Beetle that they dubbed “Stewball”. This couple has never let the grass grow under their feet. They raised three children and adopted three more, moved to Paris for five years and later sailed the Caribbean while home-schooling the youngest children. They had scheduled to participate in the 2008 World Race that had to be postponed because of political unrest in China. Since they couldn’t run the race in 2008 they wrote a suspense thriller called “The Long Road to Paris” which is published and for sale at Amazon.com.
The World Race 2011, is more of a rally to commemorate the original race and goes from April 14, to July 21 of this year. The route will take the cars from NYC to Detroit to Indianapolis, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, Reno, and finally San Francisco. After about a month of having the cars shipped to Beijing, the teams will rejoin their cars and cross China to Kazakhstan, on to Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, and Switzerland, before they make their final stop in Paris.
To prepare for this arduous adventure Ed and Janet have participated in several rallies including taking the southerly route to the west coast in their Beetle. Since Volkswagens of this vintage don’t have radiators and coolant it gave them a chance to find out just how rugged their car and their selves were. With no major problems they are making certain that they have the appropriate spares and have had the car and its engine gone over by a local shop that specializes in vintage VW’s. Not that Ed is a slouch mechanically either. He and his wife invented and developed the Kaye posture-control walker, using Janet’s expertise in physical therapy and Ed’s mechanical talents. The walker is designed to allow children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities to have mobility. It is used around the world.
The VW is not the only car that the couple has competed in rallies with. They also own a 1932 Desoto drop top and a 1957 Mercedes 190 SL. The Desoto looks absolutely beautiful but can be a chore to drive because it has neither power steering nor synchronizers to aid in smooth shifting. Double clutching is the rule.
For those of you that would like to follow this great adventure there is a web site for the World Race 2011. If you would like to know more about the original race in 1908 you can go to that web site where there is also information on obtaining the documentary DVD. If you are interested in the Howle’s book they have a web site just for that. I picked up a copy myself.
As a side note, in the spring of 1903 there was another race, or rather a fifty dollar wager that turned into a race. Horatio Nelson Jackson of Vermont was in San Francisco when he bet that he could drive across country in a time when there were only 150 miles of paved roads, few maps, and no gasoline stations. Ken Burns has put together a fascinating documentary on the transcontinental journey with Tom Hanks narrating.