Day Six. Guanajuato to Aguascalientes.

This morning we left Guanajuato and headed towards Leon. Five cars crashed during the race today, but fortunately, no one was seriously injured. One of the cars was in our class driven by Miguel Granados and navigated by Ricardo Puente, who shared the podium with us every night, with exception of the first day because we were licking our wounds from breaking and not finishing that day.
When El Platillo Volador came into service, the car report was very good, no need to do anything but sit in a plaza parking lot flanked by American chain stores.
Here are some photos of our friends and what crewing looks like.

This is the Matts Hammerlund race group that cranks out amazingly fast cars that seize the overall win frequently. These guys work all night long and do whatever it takes to keep their drivers going.

The Swedes, Tommy and Anders

20131030-234657.jpg. VC.
These guys are very experienced crew in La Carrera Panamericana. They have helped us out on many occasions, including today when we showed up to the super sunny and hot paved lot with out a shade tent and carved out a little spot of shade under a tree for EPV from their already staked out spot! Thanks, Julio and Anders!

Nida and Fernando are mobile chefs who cook the most gourmet meals for their team and others.

Grand dad Krippa flies in from Sweden to join the Carrera madness. He and Tommy are top mechanics on Matts’ team.


EPV rolled in without a to do list! Woo Hoo!



Both cars made it to Aguascalientes and there was some serious chillaxing poolside!
Second in class today! Tomorrow, La Congoja, La Bufa and finally Zacatecas!




Day Five. Morelia to Guanajuato

Race cars left Morelia this morning at 9am to run Mil Cumbres in the other direction. It rained a lot last night and the general consensus was that it might be cancelled….but it was dry!image
Our service was in Silao on the way to Guanajuato. El Platillo Volador arrived with a list and Bill and Andrew jammed on it and sorted it as best they could in a 45 minute service. We pitted with our awesome friends in Taz Harvey’s camp.EPV went out for another three speed sections before arriving in the historic center of Guanajuato. Another amazing city built on steep 8,500′ rock mountain with 29 hand dug tunnels.




There was one crash today and everyone was fine. We headed into the center to see the cars in the square. Today Conrad and Nelson took first in class! Yay! Tomorrow we go to Aguascalientes!







Paul and Adrian come here from Wyoming to haul ass in their Studebaker…they also are cab thieves…posters are at print.
Wheels turning tomorrow and I send out terrible posts when sleep blogging.

Day Four. Queretaro to Morelia

Wow! Race start was at 10 am this morning! Participants were definitely looking better than they looked last night. At 9am our service car was ready to go but first we had to stage an intervention. 20131028-141606.jpg
Andrew went to the bathroom and came back with a Boxer puppy! He said he “found” it in the bathroom.

After returning his furry friend, and keeping hope to find another Boxer puppy in another bathroom on the road, he and a fresh Memo, got to work at the service when EPV arrived. Conrad and Nelson had some communication system issues so Conrad had to “go visual” which meant they lost quite a bit of time.

Everything got tightened up for El Platillo Volador to take on Mil Cumbres, a favorite run for many of the participants, which means a thousand turns. From there to Morelia, a beautiful old city, definitely worth visiting!

We have been major 24 Hours of Lemons fans since day one and share that wacky passion with the man behind this event, Eduardo “Lalo” Leon. Here he’s rockin’ his Lemons sticker on his Jaguar.

20131028-235135.jpg And they rolled into Morelia!





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Cars were parked in the zoccolo and down came the rain. Conrad was bummed that the rain had caused the last section of Mil Cumbres to be cancelled.


Tomorrow, we head for Guanajuato, wheels turning at 9.

Day Three. Mexico City to Queretaro.

It was wheels turning at 7 for the race cars this morning. Our service car piloted by myself, headed out into Mexico City and promptly got lost. Without the help of a slimy taxi driver, but with the help of a police man and a fellow crew team and, thank goodness for Andrew Watry, we made it to the freeway! Yes, that task is a cause for celebration.

Service took place at winery Frexinet, where we tightened bolts and reinforced areas inside the fenders to protect them from all the gravel the tires were mercilessly picking up from the new roads and flinging up. We were super lucky to have help from Steve Berry and John Tharp from Apple Farmer. Sadly, their car suffered a crash the day before (no personal injuries) and headed back to Washington. Steve and John decided to stick with the race and help others out….Thank you!


Overheating has been fixed for now, phew! El Platillo Volador came to the arch in Queretaro and placed 2nd in its class!
We met Bill at the hotel and found him well rested. His bag went missing at the airport and he only had to worry about it for a few hours while we went to the zocalo. His mom will be happy to know that it indeed arrived at the hotel in the evening.
We got to see the car arrive through the arch in Queretaro. Here are some photos.








Day Two. Oaxaca to Mexico City (DF)

When you find yourself deep in Mexico on a seven day race, and your car has issues on Day One, preventing you from finishing that day, no matter what you do to fix it, your confidence is inevitably shaken the following morning. It doesn’t help matters that Day two leads you to a huge city like Distrito Federal. Not a place to get lost in. Trust me. Race start was at 7am and cars began cueing up at 6am.

El Platillo Volador headed out of town on the historic route out of Oaxaca. One of the morning speed stages was run in the rain. EPV was spitting out water again, causing a stir in a couple of little pueblos when a helmeted being in a space suit jumps out of a flying saucer and runs around frantically searching for water.
This blurry photo is really how many of us view these mornings.


Angelica Fuentes is an exception for sure. After 18 years of racing in La Carrera, she is always the most steady, supportive and knowledgeable person at any hour of the race….even after suffering two tire punctures this day preventing her and pilot Doug Mockett from finishing the day.



The service was a bit damp and muddy, but we survived….Most importantly, El Platillo Volador arrived in Mexico City and finished the day with a 2nd in class!


La Carrera Panamericana went through great lengths with the City of Mexico to provide the participants police escort to the main square in the historic center. If I even tried to begin to describe this journey, you still wouldn’t believe me. We weaved our way through Mexico City like a video game, at a pace that would have been a sure shot to 25 to life in prison. A trip that a normal car would take 30-50 minutes to make, took us a hair raising 10-15. Large city streets were closed and thousands of people contained to allow our roaring circus to invade. Really, truly an experience of a lifetime.


The throngs of people and the police in riot gear was pretty unnerving. But ,all worked out! Here are some midnight fixin’s.





Tomorrow to Queretaro! Ed will be heading back home and Bill “Memo” Mertz will be waiting for us there. Huge thanks to Ed for everything he brought to our team, towing the car, maintaing a steady and helpful demeanor the entire time. Not to mention the stories he shared in the long road trip. Ed Adams, you are truly a gem. Thank you!

Day One Veracruz to Oaxaca

Today was hard, period. El Platillo Volador came in for service after it’s first speed stage with complaints of water spitting out of radiator. Conrad made a gasket from a piece of rubber. With fingers crossed, we sent El PV out into the high desert from our hot, dusty PEMEX lair.


Nelson is tackling the tricky timing side of La Carrera. He has been studying and will get it, we are confident!

This is our buddy Richard, The Apple Farmer in his Studebaker. He is an amazing driver and we really enjoy hanging with his team!
After leaving the mountain town of Huajuapan, we came across El PV and the guys…on a trailer! It was a long straight and no shoulder on the sides of this road…and the average speed is about 80 mph. Thanks to John and Barry for scooping up our bummed out pilots and the little coupe and gave them a lift to Oaxaca.

After driving behind them, we noticed that El PV had lost a linkage on it is rear suspension. After getting to our hotel, we figured out the missing piece, a key bolt, which Ed and I promptly sourced in Oaxaca.
This addressed the biggest problem on this day. Our place in rank dropped to 70. Tomorrow we head to Distrito Federal, Mexico.



Day Zero: Qualifying


Qualifying took place today just outside of Veracruz. Growling engines, primed for this day, shook a small pueblo awake with fantastic machines, federales, organizers, service crews, creating traffic….I can only image what the locals think when this event barrels through. They seem to enjoy it after they recover from the initial befuddlement!




Conrad and Nelson came in second in class just behind Martin’s Taxi and will be starting in 36th position overall tomorrow when Day One takes our speeding roadshow to Oaxaca. Car is running well and the boys are grinning!

One of the main things we love about this event is the people who come to participate and the people who organize this amazing race. People have been so friendly, helpful and generous with us. The air is packed with excitement, relief, nervousness, competition, and a whole assortment of feelings and attitudes. There are lots of hugs, kisses, handshakes, and encouraging words…really amazing!




Our hard working crew after chowing down street tacos and Mexican Cokes.
Yipes! It’s midnight! Gotta go sleep! Here is a strange thing you don’t see every day!

Here is another Aeromexico casualty. This driver is seen just having dressed into his race gear, seconds after a Euro Latino mini van pulled up behind a throaty Falcon, out of a suit case! I said to my friend, and it was confirmed, that he too, was hosed by Aeromexico and got the Mexico City airport sleepover award. Apparently he was picked up and driven to the start of qualifying all in 15 minutes!

My friend Tommy and I rehydrating with fresh coconuts.


Ready for qualifying!

Andrew arrived early this morning and we all headed off to complete registration. Of the 110 cars signed up, 50+ have been processed. It is so wonderful to see old friends and new. There are some amazing cars here under the World Trade Center Veracruz’s roof. El PV got it’s OK sticker from Monica Grossman, Conrad was advised in medical check up to have more tequila and women (WTF?!?!) haha! And tomorrow is qualifying in a windy, rainy coastal city.


Meet Tommy and Krippa, two of the rockin’est mechanics who have worked on several overall winning cars for La Carrera Panamericana with Matts Hammerlund.

We are all looking forward to seeing Taz Harvey shred the roads in his new ride!

Primer lugar (first place) for coolest, longest distance traveled to join La Carrera goes to this awesome Aussie team and their Holden.

Martin’s Taxi will always have a special place in our hearts!

This sticker business is serious stuff! And our car finally got the mother of all stickers! 24 Hours of LeMons! Thanks for everything Jay “John” Lamm, Jeff Glenn, Nick Pon, and Adri Gores!

Off to Co-piloto meeting! Hasta mañana!

Aeromexico is trying to steal our copilot and crew!

Just when Conrad, Ed and I had found a super busy local restaurant, we heard from Nelson who was due any minute at Veracruz airport, that he had missed his connection and would have to spend night at Mexico City airport to be on the next flight at 5:56am. Aeromexico had been 30 minutes late from SFO giving him zero time to jump through all the customs hoops before boarding his next flight. Fortunately, after learning the ways of airport sleep overs from the young folk, his plane landed just before this happened!


El Platillo Volador did very well with all inspections and earned its plethora of Carrera stickers. It was as hard for us seeing the car plastered with stickers as it was for the officials putting them on. They were very kind to let Conrad have input on the placement of them on the car.





All in all, this day was really great….until….the call from Andrew, our crew person, whom we were expecting at 11pm. He called to report that he, too, missed his connecting flight and would be spending the night, Nelson style, at the airport in Mexico City and catching the first flight to Veracruz in the early morning. Nelson said, “Tell him to go immediately to the 7-11 there in the airport and across is a bench that is missing its arm rests! Be careful when you go to the bathroom because someone will grab it!” If you know anyone stranded at the Mexico City airport, apparently, this Nelson Chan memorial bench is THE bench for catching somewhat restful ZzzZzz’s!
Tomorrow, more logistics and photos! Here’s one for fun!

We made it to Veracruz!


We left San Miguel de Allende this morning and drove to Veracruz in perfect weather, hardly any traffic, and without incident. Walter had a blow out on the Arco Norte, an expensive detour around the northern perimeter of Mexico City, and as Gerie Bledsoe says,”Worth every peso!” I will mention that they must have changed the tire out in less than three minutes because they were back with the convoy in lickety split time…
Here are some photos of the ride to Veracruz.