Thoughts of an explorer

I am not sure if it is because it is a new year or that I am going to be sixty seven this month or if it is that I am contemplating official retirement, but a number of comments from friends the last few days have me thinking.  My friend Will challenged me to consider what might make sense or nonsence by reintroducing me to The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam.  Then he quoted a bunch of other interesting thoughts, both his and others.

My childhood friend, Susan, forwarded a cute but appropriate video about creating art that fits nicely into my thoughts at the moment.  I’m sorry that I can not share the link because I am not yet technically savy.  You can pull it up on my facebook page.

As a Christmas present my wife gave me a book, Divinity in Disguise, by Kevin Anderson.  “And what is the cost of that jewel of great price we call wisdom?  Not three thousand, not even three million dollars—just three decisions:  the decision to give ourselves fully to all the joy and pain that come with loving others deeply; the decision to make our lives more about spiritual growth than growth in our bankrolls or our egos; and the decision to focus our existence on a higher purpose, a noble mission that allows us to give away what suffering and joy have taught us about soulful living.”  Mr. Anderson goes on to quote Henry David Thoreau, “I have learned this at least by my experiment:  that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”  And finally, at least in this blog, he quotes Jane Welsh Carlyle:  “I am not at all the sort of person you and I took me for.”  Exciting stuff.  Now go buy his book for more interesting observations.

While this is beginning to sound like a review of other peoples’ work I would like to add a few of my own observations.

  • I have owned expensive cars, horses and watches.  I now don’t.  I am happier.
  • I have tried to gain fame and importance.  I now don’t.  I am happier.
  • I rubbed elbows with the rich, famous and powerful.  I now don’t.  I am happier.
  • I have a lovely wife, good food, good wine.  I am happier.
  • I have a pound hound rescue dog that loves me.  I am happier.
  • I have some good friends, a stove in the shed out back and some plants that depend on me.  I am happier.

As my favorite Episcopal priest, James Hugh Majors, taught me, “I’m better’n I deserve!”  Amen.

1970 Monaco Grand Prix

I am a petrol head, car nut, all those words that describe an automobile aficionado, apply to me.  I am particularly attracted to German, English and Italian sports cars.  I love sports car and Formula One (grand prix) racing, so it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to my trip to Monaco for the 1970 Grand Prix.

I was living in Germany and in July 1969 I bought a new BMW 2002. I had it modified by the German tuning firm ALPINA.  They tweaked the  engine, suspension and modified some body panels to accommodate far wider wheels.  It was a German hot rod.  I used it as a daily driver  and took it to racetracks around Germany on weekends.  I believed that I was a pretty good driver. 

This was the car that I took to Monaco.  I drove from Karlsruhe south through Switzerland into France.  The roads through the Swiss and French Alps were narrow and twisty.  They were exactly what I had hoped that they would be.  I could fling the little BMW into the turns and then punch it going out of the turns onto the short straights.  The way that it held the road was incredible.  While the acceleration wasn’t as good as the larger 6 or 8 cylinder engines that powered larger European cars, the changes made by ALPINA made it astonishingly fast.

Coming out of Switzerland dropping into France I noticed a Mustang following me.  I knew that as big as the Mustang was and as small and tightly suspended as the BMW was there was little chance that the Mustang would be able to keep up for long.  I was not amused that it didn’t drop back as I became a bit more aggressive going into the turns.

In fact, it was getting closer!  I knew that the Mustang had greater acceleration, but it carried a lot more weight.  It could not corner as well as the BMW, but it was obviously gaining on me.  The driver acted as though I was holding him up!  Down and around the twisting road we raced.  When the road straighten a bit, the Mustang blasted by me, it’s raucous exhaust thundering off the canyon walls as it accelerated hard and disappeared around a tight bend.  I was incredulous!  Passed by a big lumbering American car.  It was embarrassing.

My ego was so bruised.  I backed off and continued on down the road at a slower pace, enjoying the road, the handling of the BMW and the scenery of the beautiful Alps. After a little while the road dropped into a village. There, at a small gas station, the Mustang was accelerating away.  I needed fuel, so I pulled into the spot where the Mustang had been.  As I got out of the car an attendant came rushing over.  I knew what to expect because it happened to me a lot when I drove into small villages.  The attendant would want to know all about the BMW.  But it was different this time. The attendant was animated and had a huge grin.  Between his broken English and my limited understanding of French I came to understand that the driver of the Mustang was a Frenchman, Jean Pierre Beltoise.

The name was familiar to me.  He was a Grand Prix driver who would place 8th on the starting grid at Monaco in the next few days.  My ego soothed, I continued on my journey to Monaco thinking of the brief time that I had diced with a Formula One pilot on a tiny road in the French Alps.