Cars, cars, cars (and motorcycles)

My granddad´s family was in the horse and carriage business, but my grandfather Antonio soon saw the advantages of the new automobiles. So he sold his shares in the family business back to his siblings and went into the car business, moving to Barcelona and buying and selling cars, driving, whatever he could do to live his passion.

He eventually moved to Madrid where he became a driver for the US ambassador, driving US Generals and dignitaries to see the Civil War front. After that he became the driver for the British ambassador – he always claimed they had better cars. There he transported allied pilots and crews rescued by the Resistance from the Pyrenees to Gibraltar in neutral, but really Axis friendly, Franco ruled Spain.Changing cars in different locations and sometimes carrying my father and uncle Antonio as decoys. For that job he got a medal from the Queen of England which he bequeathed to me. Although most importantly, with infinite patience, he taught me to drive.

So my dad and my uncle grew up in embassy garages, driving around, tinkering with, and washing, lots of washing, cars. They both grew to embrace motoring both of the four wheel and two wheel variety, and both passed that passion on to me, which I have continued to cultivate. This makes me a certified petrol head. When the Newburyport High School where Tracy taught needed a van driver, I was in. When a friend wanted me to drive their car from New York city to Boston, I jumped. When a friend in Boston needed to pick up some luggage she had left in New York city we drove down, picked them up, had lunch and drove back. I jump at the opportunity to give anyone a ride. I love driving.

I learned to drive – as did most of my friends in an old Citröen 2CV “La Petra” in the countryside outside of Madrid where there was lots of driving around, tinkering with, and washing, lots of washing, cars. That simple two cylinder, air cooled, beautiful car is still in our country house waiting for some tender loving care to get her back in running order.

My uncle used to work for Exxon in Spain so he had a fleet of Land Rovers at his disposal. When some of these where decommissioned and auctioned off, he got one for me when I was 18 or 19. It was a topless short wheelbase V6 and it was a blast. That started an ongoing love affair with Land Rovers which progressed to a Defender 90 in 1992 and to a Discovery in 1998.

When I moved to the US in 2005 we got a Toyota Highlander, I didn’t like it so much, so when I hit an ice patch and crashed we found a great deal in an Audi A4 to replace it. I loved that A4 so much that when the financing deal expired I traded it in for the same model – only station wagon. That is Helmut, still with me seven years later!

In between there have been Renaults, Seats, Fords, VWs, etc.

When my dear friend Alfonso got involved in car racing – he even raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it was great fun to follow him around to his races around Spain. Eventually he would start his own racing team and is now a successful competitor in GP2, the class right under Formula 1.

At UNC I was in the founding group of the UNC Gearheads Club. It is now floundering a bit, but in its heyday we had great fun going to car gatherings and to a great Porsche exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Fine Art!

My dad’s old V8 Mercedes is still sitting in the garage, waiting, like “Petra”, for some tender loving care. But the days of blasting down the autobahn at 200 km/h listening to jazz are not going to come back, so who knows what will happen to the old Bismarck.

Washer and dryer. Or how every cloud has a silver lining.

The washer and drier on their way out

The washer and dryer on their way out

 

Everybody I tell this story to tells me to write about it. So here it is:

When I first moved to my little cottage in Chapel Hill it lacked a washer and a dryer, although there is a perfect nook for them in the kitchen, there are no electric, water or drain installations for them. After watching Craigslist like a hawk I found both units from an older lady who was moving to Florida. Helmut could only carry one machine at a time, but eventually, they were both home.  Updating and hooking up the electrics, water and drain and air exhaust was going to cost well over a thousand dollars, which of course was much more than I wanted to spend. As was to be expected, the landlord wanted nothing to do with all this.

Smoking a cigar with the boys that were my neighbors, I mentioned this. Lo and behold they had all the necessary hookups in their basement but without the machines! and the basement had an outside door. We quickly realized that if I put my machines in their basement, and put a lock on the outside door we could all do our laundry, it was a win/win for all, and so we did.

This set up continued my second year here. The new neighbors were a great group of girls, including the daughter of one of my department’s professors!

But this year, the house changed ownership, management company and tenants, with the new girls being a group of sorority princesses. They wanted nothing to do with our standing set-up, nor with the machines! They had the landlord install new ones. Pleading with the management company led to nothing, I had to take my units out of their basement and sell them.

Fortunately I found a good home for them in the house of a friend’s newly married son.

So now I have to go to the laundromat.

Recently, a new home “stuff” shop  opened next door to the laundromat. The other day I stopped in to kill some time. Sally, the owner, is the funniest lady! Within minutes of walking in she was playing Andrés Segovia in the shop and we were sipping an extraordinary tequila, apparently made by George Clooney! A friend of Sally’s then walked in… and he is interested in Spanish tutoring. Next thing you know I have a new tutoring customer. Which goes to prove that every cloud has a silver lining.

Rocinante and Helmut

Rocinante hanging w a '59 Chevy at the post office

Rocinante hanging w a ’59 Chevy at the post office

Warm and clean covered Helmut (and Rocinante)

Warm and clean covered Helmut (and Rocinante)

Rocinante @ 5 Guys

Rocinante @ 5 Guys

Rocinante and Helmut

Rocinante and Helmut

Burguer at the Saxapahaw General Store

Burguer at the Saxapahaw General Store

Rocinante has complained that this blog is titled antonioyrocinante, and yet it mostly mentions Antonio and not Rocinante. So here are some news on old Rocinante.

Unfortunately, the truth is that there is not so much to say about lovely, trustworthy, tough, old Rocinante. It has been a quiet semester for her. The only noteworthy outings we made where to Raleigh, the capital of NC, a mere 30 miles away, Cary, a nearby village some 20 miles away, and Saxapahaw a lovely hamlet with a reconditioned old textile mill and a General Store that has fantastic food!! It is a lovely ride on back roads to a great lunch, coffee, cigar and read!

Other than that I try to take Rocinante out at least once a week, even if it is down the road to grab a burger at the local 5 Guys or to run some errands! When not out and about, she sits on the driveway keeping Helmut company or – if it is raining, she comes inside with me until the sun comes back out and we can ride again!

Rocinante’s highlight, if you asked her, would probably be getting an oil change and her 24 K service done at Rommel’s Harley Davidson in Durham. She also got a new right hand (gas) grip, apparently they did not have the left hand one…

Neither one of us can wait until the Spring and getting over this exam to be able to go on a good ride!

As for Helmut, little can be said, he sits on the driveway, bored to tears. I was so remorseful that I bought him a nice cover so all the leaves from the tree he lives under would not fill his engine bay. We go to Trader Joe’s once or twice a week, and to the Ronald McDonald House when the weather is too bad to take Rocinante. I feel bad for Helmut, used as he is to blasting around New England enjoying 3 digit speeds. Now in our old age, the three of us live quiet lives – although occasionally we do stretch out our legs.