July 23: It’s over. It was a lingering death. The cars are lined up in front of the Pullman hotel. The last time they will all be together and last night was the last time we will all be together. Lots of emotions. No one was ready to let go. No matter what has taken place over the past 14,000 miles; bad roads, lousy food, car problems, fatigue, personal conflicts etc. we all feel empty that this is the end. We have been tested and has learned new things about ourselves. This event has actually been nearly 5 years in the making, ever since the Great Race first posted in 2006 that they were planning the 1908 Centennial Rally. We toasted to the success of all of us and our cars, made promises to send around photos each of us have taken, gave out gag gifts and Jerry and Jeff presented the final Globe award which will be
engraved with all our names. There were plenty of tears from guys that usually covered their feelings with jokes and teasing. This was time for real feelings to show and the reminiscing went on so long at the end of the banquet that I finally left. We have shared a very special time with this group and will remember them for their roles in this adventure. But that wasn’t the end of it.
The end came this morning after Jack and Mary and Jan and I had scheduled a 10:00am meeting with Doug Grimes (who had organized the Eurasian part of this event) about leaving our cars here and reversing the around-the-world route in early September. Just this week as we realized Stewball and us were up to it, we sought financial sponsorship from VW for this possibility. However, their initial interest (they said that they would get back to us ASAP) in sponsoring our return has been complicated by their vacation schedule. It begins on July 25, (Monday) and lasts until mid-August. Unfortunately, we have to commit to a shipping schedule before the “decision-makers” will be back from vacation. Now, after a night of sleeping on it, our interest in a “turn-around” had been doused by the complicated reality of getting new visas, car preparations, getting through Siberia before the snow, and money. Jack had reached the same conclusion; a reverse trip just might be pushing the envelope for us and our cars too far. We don’t know people here who we can trust to go over the cars before we subject them to the brutality of the road conditions again or ourselves of the long days of driving. We have to get through 7,000 miles of Russia in 30 days as specified by the Russian visa. After a 1/2 hour meeting, we decided against it. It took about 15 minutes for the depression to hit. But the decision was right and I need to let go of it.
So we move on. This morning we met our friend, Frans, for coffee at our usual cafe. Frans is a fictional character in The Long Road to Paris, but is a very real person, an artist who really does live on his boat “Julia” on the
Seine. And yes, his car really was pushed into the Seine, but no, he is not part of any environmental action group, at least as far as we know. Frans has been part of our Paris life for a long time and it was good to see him again.