A Brief Autobiography

 

 

We write fiction, but what you will read here is fact. Honest.

When I met Ed, he was teaching at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I was a graduate student (in another department). Almost immediately it became clear we lived a shared philosophy; make your life the adventure you want it to be. He had already crossed the Atlantic in a sailboat and was planning to sail around the world with his three children. Since I had neither of these experiences, this seemed as good a reason as any to marry him. We spent our honeymoon sailing the coast of North Carolina-in a storm-not the worst one we would encounter sailing, but enough to make me think we might have the shortest marriage on record.

I thought the next logical step was to buy a motorcycle. Neither one of us had ever owned one. That leveled the playing field. However, I neglected to tell Ed I had never driven a standard transmission. Not all our adventures turn out so well. On our first drive to the beach, some 160 miles, with Ed on the back; I popped the clutch, did a wheelie, and dropped the bike with the hot muffler against Ed's leg. We sold the bike soon after but the marriage continued.

Our travel adventures slowed while we started a business. We both left teaching and founded a company that designs and manufactures products for children with physical disabilities. Ed was the president and product designer, a reasonable step for a professor of economics. I stayed in my area of pediatric physical therapy to provide the product ideas. This worked. I told him what to do and he did it. A model for success in marriage too. (We sold the company six years ago but it continues to flourish in the same location, Hillsborough, North Carolina.)

Next, a family adventure. Since we raised three children, well almost, it seemed reasonable to add three more. We adopted a family of three: a girl and two boys. Parenting is the biggest challenge we've encountered but all six children are grown and have successful relationships and work. We must have done something right, or they did.

Business grew. One of our designs, a walker for children, became state-of-the-art and sold world-wide. It has revolutionized the way children with cerebral palsy walk. Our second oldest son became president of the company and once again we had more freedom. More sailing, bigger boat.

We decided to home-school the youngest two boys on the sailboat for three winters in the Bahamas. Then the day came when they put friends and sports ahead of parents. Our sailing days as a family were numbered. Girlfriends would be coming soon.

Back at work, Ed, the more restless one, could not return to an 8-5 schedule. So, waking up at night, as he is prone to do, he suggested we move to Paris with the boys. Great idea. We spoke no French and had never lived or raised children in a large city, let alone in a different country. Details should never stop a good idea so we moved, planning to stay for only one year. After five years, we finally returned to the United States. Then the youngest graduated high school and we were free to roam again.

This time, we sailed to the Caribbean, just the two of us over nine month's time. But, at the end, we felt it was time to sell Moriarty. One of the few decisions we both regret. (We now do own another sailboat and will head to the Bahamas this winter for 2 or 3 months.) Now what? We had been following antique car rallies and now seemed a good time to try this.

We updated our information on Great Race and went searching for a car to drive in the 2005 U.S. rally. Our first antique car was a 1932, DeSoto rumble seat roadster. A rare beauty. All original parts. Sport car rallies came next with the addition of a 190SL Mercedes roadster. Then, I discovered the 2008 Centennial Great Race, an around-the-world event.

What to drive? In our thinking, the cars we owned were just too valuable to expose to the conditions we would encounter on 14,000 miles of back roads. Another middle of the night decision for Ed: "We'll drive a VW Beetle. The 1967 qualifies, (the car had to be at least 40 years old) and it has 12 volt electrical system and the larger 1600 cc engine, producing 53 horse power."

The only problem, we didn't own one-yet. The information we had was that the 2008 event would start February 12, exactly 100 years after the 1908 Great Race. The Beetle is great in snow with its rear engine and rear-wheel drive. We test drove our newly purchased Beetle during the 2007 Great Race across America. In addition, it's reliable, inexpensive, parts are still readily available, and Ed has owned 4,'56 and '69 Beetles and '57 and '58 Karmann Ghias, and said he could still fix one. I had never owned one or even driven one but, hey, I'd never been on a sailboat either and we are still sailing. Then six weeks before D-day, China withdrew our travel permits. You may remember that was the year of the Olympic Games and the Tibetan uprisings. Our rally was cancelled.

With a few diehards, under the direction of Luke Rizzuto, we drove the U.S. portion of the 1908 route stopping at all the waypoints described by George Schuster, the driver of the U.S. entry, a Thomas Flyer that won the race in 1908. Many of the towns in the West are now just ghost towns but it made for a fascinating trip.

Then in 2011, an around-the-world rally was organized by a new group. Since we never had circumnavigated, by car or boat, we signed on and traveled parts of the world in ways than few ever have. The World Race 2011 left NY City on April 14. We had hoped for a late spring snowstorm since that would be the only advantage our little 53 hp engine would have against the more powerful cars and since we were the oldest team we had no other advantage. Leaving N.Y., we drove west across the U.S., the cars were loaded onto a freighter and we flew to meet them in Beijing, China. It was then west across China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland and France. We ended at the Eiffel Tower on July 21. The details of this journey (as well as all our other travel and writing adventures) with all its challenges are described on our blog, www.thelongroadtoparis.wordpress.com We invite you to read it.

We were not idle while waiting three years for this rally to take place. We had started a memoir in 2008 that would chronicle our real-life rally experience. That book went on hold but, now unconstrained by reality, we fictionalized the 2008 Centennial Rally. The Long Road to Paris is a lethal combination of international espionage, a secret alternative technology engine, and a convoluted love story. I said it was fiction. We self-published this novel when it became clear that would be the only way we could guarantee that we would have book in hand so that we could use the rally as part of our marketing platform. It is currently available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com, or from local bookstores. We are certain it will be a major motion picture, just as soon as we find the right agent.

We have now finished a second suspense novel. Night Watch is set in the Bahamas on a sailboat and involves hidden drug money from the days that the Colombian drug cartel operated out of Normans Cay and the current funding of terrorism. While we are seeking an agent for that book, we have a third one in progress. This one is quite different from the first two. It is set in post-war Germany and while suspenseful, is really historical fiction. Asking the question, what if?

To ward-off boredom, we signed on for another car rally starting in South Africa and driving through Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia in May of 2014. Do I see another novel in the making?

 

 

Copyright © 2011 The Long Road to Paris - Ed and Janet Howle