In Oklahoma I found myself on a turnpike between nowhere and somewhere. The crescent moon I had been chasing for the last few hours was giving way to one of those perfect pastel sunrises. The kind you only catch on a clear and crisp morning. While I was lost (both physically and mentally) no worries were to be found. I had set out on a long leg of the Moss Motoring Challenge and was letting the effects of the road once again bring some change to my life.
To gearheads like myself, there is a very therapeutic effect that comes from driving our cars, turning our wrenches and meeting our fellow enthusiasts. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I saw a LBC outside of a psychologist’s office?” We all know that life has a way of injecting speed bumps at the most inopportune time. A doctor’s visit reveals an unexpected diagnosis, the economy creates a permanent vacation from work, a “Dear John” letter brings about changes to a relationship. In the past year and a half I have encountered too many of these speed bumps myself. Some were expected, some were not, most were painful while some brought incredible joy.
The clear skies of Oklahoma gave way to overcast hues of grey and spouts of raindrops. At a gas station in Missouri I met a hitchhiker who joined me for a jaunt up the road. He lost everything in the tornados that ravaged Joplin in 2013. The business he worked for was not able to rebuild and he was now walking for miles each way to the only place he could find employment. As we drove with the top down through the rain, a smile set across his wrinkled face. He didn’t say much but I sensed a few moments of peace in his life. Outside of Kentucky, in Lanesville, Indiana I met a young kid on a BMX bicycle. He was in the parking lot of the auto parts house where I stopped to buy some oil and a temporary light switch. As I pulled wires from behind the dashboard he kept asking me questions. Somewhere among the dirt on his face, disheveled clothing he wore and inquisitive nature of his comments, I believe the British car bug may have bitten him. He asked to trade my car for his bicycle, but I negotiated a cold Coke after riding a wheelie.
Indiana brought beautiful skies and a few roadside stops, like a restoration shop outside of Lawrenceburg. The proprietors, an older retired couple, were working by hand to bring about nine customer cars back to life. They were not much for words but welcomed me to take a photo or two at their antique gas station. No charge. Ohio found me lost in cornfields and reminiscing with Matt, a 40ish gentleman who had a Triumph in High School. He was changing the brake shoes on a Mitsubishi Eclipse in his driveway. He offered me a hand if I needed anything.
And so the story always seems to go when we get out and drive these things. A couple driving a Porsche approached me at a roadside rest area. She had a red MG growing up in Bog Walk, Jamaica and he has been eyeing one parked on the side of the road in Connecticut. A dad in Pennsylvania pointed my car out to his daughters. Their faces lit up when I invited them to hop in. Once the door closed, those two’s minds went from 0-70 and they were free. The shuttle driver at the New Jersey hotel let me park in his spot overnight so that it wouldn’t be left in a dangerous position. The parking valet in New York City was quick to point out the oil drips and share with me the importance of proper maintenance. Vermont, Michigan, Virginia, all along the way, the sight, smell and sound of this ol’ car seems to take people to another place and time, to temporarily distract and heal. Even the police officer in Krum, Texas who was nice enough to point out the correct procedure of a four-way stop took a moment to share a story with me.
It is true with competitors as well. I met several on this leg. Ann Moran in Spartanburg, SC shared about “Baby” and her plans for restoration along with the most delicious hamburger. Doug and Luanne Keiser shared stories about gummed up carbs, retiring from a long career serving the citizens of Georgia and the similarities between their Miata and MGB. PJ Lenihan from North Carolina is an incredible ambassador for all things British. Matthew McGuire, even though driving a Miata, was a great sport. He made an 8-hour trip just to say hi and snap a picture. He shares a real affection for the purity of the Challenge. Ray Franks and the British Car Club of North East Pennsylvania proved to not only be great hosts, but genuinely nice people who are finding ways to raise money for charity, bring awareness and appreciation to European cars and laugh with and at each other.
Halfway through this Challenge journey Karen flew up to meet me in New Jersey to attend the car show and ride with me. Her first car was a Triumph TR7 that she worked on with her dad and uncle. She checks the oil, turns the wrenches, washes the window, pats my hand and watches this country of ours go by mile after mile. I asked her to be with me for the rest of my life. She said yes. And thus the healing continues with another sunrise, to another horizon in the distance and hopefully another leg of the Moss Motoring Challenge very, very soon.
By Bryan Hutchinson