This is the first of a 4 part series about Mental tempting both fate and the security of his marriage by driving across hallway across the US, down through the south and (not quite) back to Oklahoma in a $400 Chevy Lumina minivan. Spoiler alert: his wife didn’t kill him but he did have to sleep on the couch for a while…
Jay Lamm, Chief Perpetrator of the 24 Hours of LeMons wrote that “racing isn’t just for rich idiots, it’s for all idiots.” Chumpcar has a similar philosophy. That covers racing, but what about tours de elegance? There is an abundance of marque specific or classic car tours available across the US for more well-to-do enthusiasts; they offer a great deal of fraternal experiences, scenic views and luxury accommodations. Unfortunately, the fees start in the used Corolla range and can exceed the price of a new Chevy Cruz.
To paraphrase Mr. Lamm, what about the rest of us idiots? Up until 2012, there was the option of the BABE Rally.
Calm down, while attractive and interesting ladies were present, the actual name was derived from its starting point in New York and destination in New Orleans. The Big Apple to the Big Easy – get it?
It was the only US event from the same outfit that puts on “Banger Rallies” across Europe. Like Chumpcar, Lemons and similar events, the vehicles were restricted to a purchase price of $500.
Ever undertaken a road trip in a questionable vehicle? You already know that step one is bring tools. In 2011, that’s exactly what I did. I expected to enjoy myself and despite my limited participation had a great time. But what was surprising was that my wife had fun as well.
It all started when I was out of the country (again). Looking for a chance to reconnect with my bride, I decided against Cancun and somehow managed to talk her in buying a $500 car, driving from Oklahoma to New York, on to New Orleans over 5 days and then back to OK. God bless good women with bad taste in men, our Skype conversations centered around Craigslist browsing and deciding on style. I wanted a big American boat; she was concerned with fuel consumption.
We ended up with an absolutely awful Chevy Lumina MPV. For the tidy sum of $400, we got the infamous 3800 V-6, dust buster styling and 5 individually removable seats. What we didn’t get was A/C. This mattered, it was July. But my gracious wife still agreed. The van was purchased 4 days before the start and sat on bald, dry-rotting rubber. I was unable and unwilling to replace them; so I borrowed a set of wheels from a shop mate and bolted them on. For my “thing de résistance,” I covered it by hand roller in chalkboard paint. Not original, but certainly fun.
A scheduling snafu prevented us from meeting the start in New York; in fact we were unable to depart Oklahoma until Tuesday afternoon. We drove straight through the night. My unimaginably patient spouse drove, all the while muttering to herself as I watched Archer episodes on my netbook.
We met up with the group at 6 AM Wednesday morning, at their hotel in the hills of North Carolina. The teams were just rising from the beer fueled mayhem of the previous night; including our friends; the Three Pedal Mafia. Their fleet consisted of a desert-camo’d Miata sans top, a high mile Saab 9000 painted as a Swedish flag and a Luftwaffe themed Mercury Capri Roadster.
While the missus and I borrowed showers to get cleaned up, the entirety of the participants set about our poor Lumina with a vengeance. When we emerged, our steed was now fully decorated with sidewalk chalk. Our plan had worked.
A few cups of coffee, a bowl of continental breakfast cereal and a CB Radio install later; we were ready to begin the rally proper. The fact we hadn’t slept since the previous morning didn’t even enter into our thought process.
What could possibly go wrong?
Its summer in North Carolina, Mental has no AC and the intrepid group is headed for the “Tail of the Dragon” in a minivan! Catch the second installment to see if they survive! (OK, he wrote this, so of course he survived), but it ended up being a very, very long day…