Thursday, November 01, 2007

San Diego Endurance Run

This year, Ed Archer organized a contingent of cars to attend the San Diego Model T Club Endurance Run which was held on October 20-21. From our club, Archers, Meneelys, Bob and Mark Edwards, Ron McKenzie and his brother, George and Don Azevedo made the trip. We were joined by John Kent and his family and Dave Agliotis and Don Mirassou, so we had a total of 7 cars from our area.
The trip down was uneventful but long. There just is no quick way through Los Angeles on a Friday afternoon, lots of 5 lane parking lots. You might as well wait until late evening or night.
The San Diego club does their Lowland Tour on Saturday, and this was a leisurely warm-up tour of about 30 miles up to the town of Alpine and back. This was followed by tech inspection and a BBQ in the evening at the host hotel. The Phoenix club had brought 10 cars and with our 7, there were about 26 speedsters out in the parking lot. Lot’s of tire kicking and stories.
The Sunday endurance run was another story, as the day turned out to be high adventure. The speedsters departed at one minute intervals from the starting line and headed into the high country east of San Diego. After 10 or 15 miles, we began to encounter a lot of Border Patrol cars and passed a Border check station and pretty soon we saw a sign that said 2 miles to Tecate. "Whoa, isn’t that in Mexico?" "Let’s not make a wrong turn here, I don’t have my passport and we are dressed in funny clothes and driving a funny car!"
The route took us east on highway 94, and we were climbing up and up when we noticed a little column of smoke up on the mountains to the left. As we climbed higher, the column of smoke got bigger and the wind started to pick up. We knew that a Santa Ana wind had been forecast, and as we climbed higher, the wind intensity really picked up. We kept an eye on the column of smoke which was getting bigger by the minute.
By the time we reached the town of Portrero, smoke was blowing across the road and the visibility was way down. We jammed on the accelerator and ran through the smoke. As it turned out, we were the last car to go through Portrero, as the CHP closed the road and the last 15 speedsters were turned back. Now that we were on the other side of the fire, we were really buffeted around by the wind which had to be gusting to 60 or 70 mph and was really cold.
As we pressed on to the east, we finally made it into the town of Campo dodging tumbleweeds and sand. You know it is really blowing when the low profile of a speedster gets pushed around, you don’t trust the chin strap on your hat, you can’t hear the engine and you can’t talk because the wind takes your breath away when you open your mouth. In Campo, I noticed that the wind was actually peeling the paint off the Campo store sign. We caught up with Bob and Mark Edwards, and Bob was hatless, wind burned, sun burned, sand blasted and grinning from ear to ear, "Isn’t this a great run?" Ron McKenzie noted, "I promised my brother an adventure, but I didn’t think it would be hurricane force winds, forest fire and sand storm!" We all agreed that we were definitely having an adventure. Heading north out of Campo, we passed lots of fire trucks heading back the way we had just come.
At Pine Valley, we turned back west on old highway 80 and put the wind at our back, for an easy run back to the finish and steak at Sizzler. Since less than half the cars finished the run, they elected to select a winner by drawing a number from the hat. One of the guys from Arizona was declared the winner, but we folks from northern California know who had the best time. John Kent from our group hit all the checkpoints almost dead on. Mark Edwards was the youngest driver, finishing his first endurance run and what a ride it was for him.
It was a great adventure, new country, new faces, we all had a good time and we will always remember the San Diego run of 2007.
by bob meneely
Epilogue: The fires driven by the Santa Ana winds turned into a major disaster for the San Diego area. Over a thousand homes were lost. Both of the organizers of the speedster run had to evacuate their homes. On the way home, we saw an 18 wheeler laying on its side, blown over by the wind which had measured gusts to 100 mph.