An Australian, a Canadian and a Fiat

Discussion in 'Discussion Forum' started by DanielForest, Mar 24, 2020.

  1. DanielForest

    DanielForest True Classic


    Since most of us are struck at home, I found the time to do the translation of an article I wrote about a trip I made in 2000. I will update everyday, giving me some time to translate some more from French. There will be at least 3 or 4 other parts to come...

    An Australian, a Canadian and a Fiat
    Some unforgettable vacation

    by Daniel Forest

    Article written in 2000 following the misadventures of Daniel Forest who participated in Canada's first Central AutoSlalom Championship.

    I met Ben "on" the Internet. Ben Boyd is a young Australian infatuated with Fiat X1/9. Between jobs he decided to make a memorable trip through North America and Europe. As he planned to move to the Northeastern United States at the beginning of August, he asked me (by email) if he could come to Quebec to watch a competition of autoslalom, a sport I practice. I told him that it was not just a matter of attending, but he must participate. "Is this an invitation to drive your car?" he asked me? "Of course," I replied.

    So, that's it. Ben was going to come and spend a few days in Quebec with me. My girlfriend was looking forward to the beautiful evenings spent between two car maniacs chatting about Fiat and motor racing. But the Machiavellian plan of two motorsport enthusiasts was still in its infancy.

    After brief discussions, Ben was also going to accompany me to Gimli, near Winnipeg, to participate in the first Canadian National Autoslalom Championship. Crossing half the continent and camping, that's it, he thought a great way to discover a country. If the experience seems benign at first glance, read on my lips:

    -a Fiat X1/9: 2 seats, very compact, 20 years old, not renowned for its reliability
    -with two people on board and a trailer (installing a ball on an X1/9 is already a sacrilege)
    -over a distance of 4000 miles
    -with camping gear, spare racing tires, etc.
    -and if that's not enough, I point out that said car is a little uncomfortable due to its low competition suspension, its solid engine mounts, its "sporty muffler", its twin carburetors, etc.


    Before D-Day

    Before departure, I worked a complete week on my transmission. Finally, after disassembling 4 of them in pieces and trying to order some new parts, I realize that I will be forced to put back gears and syncro in a suspicious state. The new parts would have taken too long to arrive. The result is depressing. The transmission makes atrocious noise when you want to move to second or to fourth. We'll have to live with it. We'll make 1-3-5 on the highway to save the gears.

    Meanwhile, I pick up Ben at the train station in Montreal. Was he shy or are all Australians like that? Despite my efforts and those of my girlfriend Jacinthe, it was difficult to get him to say more than “yes” and “no”. I don't have a problem with that. In the Fiat you'll have to scream to talk to each other. We'll scream less often!

    After the transmission was "done", I finish the wire connections of the trailer (which I just bought), I install a fire extinguisher in the passenger footwel in order to meet the requirements of my class in competition and then I replace the camshaft. Indeed, earlier in the season, I had installed one too radical that offered a small torque at low speed and developed its power only from 5500 rpm.

    After installation, while letting the engine run I realize the radiator fan never start. We're fixing it and ran a wire to be able to start it manually. Then, when it's finally settled, it's the gas pump that quit. Fortunately I have a used one lying in a box. Oddly enough, the dashboard clock also died. If you've ever taken a look at the huge spaghetti dish that acts as the Fuse Box of the Fiat X1/9, you'll understand why I'd rather pass a new parallel wire to the electric pump rather than find the guilty circuit . The clock will wait. After all, I have a watch! (It was before cell phones became so popular).

    Meanwhile, my girlfriend who assured me for several weeks that she had recovered the tent that had been loaned to a friend this summer must finally realize the obvious: it’s not at home!!! After some deep thinking, she remembers having stopped at the grocery store that day... three months ago. A phone call to the grocery store and, yes, we have a camping tent that has been lying around there for three months!

    8:45 Here we go. The trailer behind us, we're on our way. Leaving Lanoraie, we had waited for the hour of traffic in Montreal to pass. Bad choice. Work on the Ile-aux-Tourtes bridge and an overturned semi-trailer across the path will make us wait two hours. The bridge is completely closed for quite some time and motorists sit on the bridge parapet waiting for the traffic jam to clear. Sitting next to the Fiat we think we still have a long way to go!

    Out of Montreal, the shifter knob stays in my hands. Never mind! But would that be a destiny sign? After a few hours the sun suddenly makes way for threatening clouds. The roof of the Fiat is stored (in the front trunk) and we are driving at high speed when the torrent falls on us. Normally, at highway speed, it is easy to drive in the rain without getting wet, except for the tall guys who will have their hair wet. But this time we're flooded. Wind pushes the rain inside from the rear and hits the windshield from inside. The rearview mirror is completely fogged. It's a shower for the pilot and his passenger. Fortunately, it won't last.

    After the sun returns, we stop at a gas station to refuel. The poor gas station attendant will work hard to clean our windshield without understanding why he can't. The dried droplets were on the INSIDE!

    The car, clean at the start, is now brown. This was a black car. The numerous works on the highways quickly made to draw muddy patterns throughout the vehicle. And when it's not in the mud that you have to ride, it's on a scarified pavement for 15 miles. The car is still shaking.

    We will camp in Hagar after only 450 miles of road. The two hours we lost in Montreal penalized us.

    Day two: August 16
    From Sault-Ste-Marie, Highway 17 offers stunning views of Lake Superior. On the other hand, roadworks are numerous and slow down our pace. In a section of road under construction, a rock well thrown by an oncoming truck will make a big chips in my beautiful new windshield.

    Gas stations are not many on the road. The one we choose doesn't look good. The rugged and unpaved terrain seems to have been bombed and only two petrol pumps are available to you: regular or regular! It's also nearly 1$ per gallon more expensive than elsewhere, but hey, when you're 150 miles from the next town you have to lend yourself to the game.

    After 500 miles of road we will stop at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park. Unlike the previous campsite, which was grassy, the soil is made up of a mixture of rocks, branches, hardened earth and fir spruce. Cheered up by my energic snoring, Ben will find the night hard. Ah! These Australian kids!
    Stay tune for the following... (and excuse my French accent!)
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  2. DanielForest

    DanielForest True Classic

    Part 2
    Third day: August 17

    At 12:02 we cross the time zone change line. Fantastic ... we just won an hour. We're going to be able to drive 60 more miles today. We will ride in heavy rain for 4 hours. So abundant that water seeps through the door panels along the joints.

    Finally, around supper time we arrive in Manitoba. Rather than follow the highway, I choose a shortcut. I quickly discover that route 44 is driving in slalom through a park on a rather rough road. Although the scenery is very pleasant, I wonder if I shouldn't have stayed on the highway. After an hour or so, when we have only met three vehicles, we leave the park and Route 44 takes on the appearance of a long straight line, completely flat and endless.

    The almost non-existent traffic makes it all a bit ghostly, like in a dream. For hours, we will ride on this long lace stretched at 120 kilometers an hour. Suddenly, a strange noise brings us back to reality. The trailer zigzags oddly behind us in a noise of hell. I stop very slowly to find that it has detached from the car and is dragging on the ground. Fortunately we had safety chains! The only damage was a small scratch on my bumper and the paint on the trailer hitch. Even so curious that after all these hills, these curves, these works and these scarified roads in Ontario, it is here on this road so flat that it happens.

    Ben made it clear that a real bed would be appreciated for this night. Rather than camping at the racetrack, we will go to the hotel in Gimli. Good idea since it will allow us to have dinner at the steakhouse on the shore of Lake Winnipeg while watching the sunset over the breaking waves. Excuse me Ben, I would have preferred to be with my girlfriend that evening!

    My friend is starting to understand the Canadian climate. In August, the mornings and evenings are rather cool. He takes this opportunity to make sure tremble is a great way to get rid of fat. I will tease him many times on this subject later, offering to go out to lose a little fat when early in the morning he hides in his sleeping bag.

    Fourth day: August 18
    Gimli Motorsport Park, here we are. We are among the first to arrive.

    The time to set up the tent, shake many hands, wash the car (which was in urgent need) and it is time for the tests on a practice course. The coating is a bit slippery; everyone increase their tire pressures by several pounds. Ben seems to be doing well, but difficult to make comparisons without time. For someone who had never driven on the right side of the road (and the car) it is remarkable. When I inflate my tires, I realize that the cigarette lighter (to connect the compressor) no longer works! Another victim of the trip. I borrow a few pounds from the compressed air tank of Ken Frey, who came from Connecticut. I’ll ride with US air! (... US Air!, ha, ha)

    Gradually, the competitors arrive. Among these, 5 other representatives of the National Board with whom I have sat via the Internet for 7 months. The participants represent a clever mix of experience (some have been involved in motor racing for more than 30 years, others are in their first year) and types of cars; from a Stock new Focus to the Phantom of Joe Cheng/Gary Milligan ("the fastest car in the world in slalom"), including the traditional Honda and VW and the classic Datsun 510 and Lotus Europa.

    Day five: August 19
    Finally, today’s driving. We are 7 in the DSP class; Ben and I in the Fiat, Amir Navabi (Quebec champion) and Doug Waldron (event organizer) in the latter's Triumph Spitfire, Alex Plaster from Minnesota in a Saturn SC2 and two Saskatchewan drivers, John Reid and Jason Amhed in a VW Golf Gti.

    The sun is shining and we are going with a first wave of two tries. Obviously, the best times are achieved by Joe Cheng and Gary Milligan in A Modified. They won three consecutive American championships, in 1996-97-98 before taking a break in 1999 (note: Gary Milligan also had to win the 2000 American championship, two weeks after the Canadian championship while Joe Cheng finished second).

    In DSP, the two VW drivers take the lead followed by Amir (Spitfire) and me. My friend Ben is not doing too badly, last in the standings but only a few hundredths of a second from sixth place.

    The two other official tests of the day bring little change, except that we learn that the VW of DSP was “bumped” in Modified during the technical inspection. Amir therefore moved to the first row aboard the Spitfire and I therefore find myself a good second.

    Some competitors who have watched me do my tests say they were convinced that I have a smashed rear shock. It is not serious, I could survive that. On the other hand, on the way to the restaurant, a dreadful squeak is heard at the back: the driveshaft" rubs on the "cross member". It was the lower engine/transmission mount that failed.

    It’s by the flashlight, surrounded by tents, a campfire and helpless supporters that I will work for a few hours removing some broken bolts in order to repair in the middle of the night. Finally, we can sleep in peace, the repair successful and the car ready to face the new route the next day.
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  3. DanielForest

    DanielForest True Classic

    Part 3
    Day 6: August 20

    7 am. It has been raining for hours and hours. It's gray and it's cold. After a few minutes of depression, I find a little motivation to put on my pants and go out and install my “rain tires” under the downpour.

    We will then walk the course, always in the rain. Did I tell you it is always windy in Manitoba? With the rain and in “shorts” I was quickly frozen. I have to squat down and surround myself with my poncho and blow hot air in it to warm me up. There is no shelter around the course.

    After reading the rules, I called on the organizers to reclassify the VW in DSP. Confusion between local and Canadian regulations was the source of the problem. So I relegate myself to fourth place but I wouldn’t have liked to win that way. Anyway, in the rain, I have every hope. As a matter of fact, after the first two tries Amir still occupies the first place 0.5 seconds ahead of me. The VW drivers are behind us. On the other hand, the cumulative of the two days is always in their favor. We will have to do better. Unfortunately (for me) the rain stops. I am only improving my time a little while the VW is passing me by. On my last try, I give everything I had. An excellent show but not particularly effective. Amir, on the other hand, still has a chance of going first, but he would have to improve by two seconds. I encourage him but it seems impossible. Amir will do miracles and move to the lead. It is done. I finish fourth and my friend Ben seventh. My two compatriots from Quebec each won their class, David Larose (BMW 325) in CSS and Amir Navabi (Triumph Spitfire) in DSP. But wait! I will not come back empty-handed. At the awards ceremony I will receive the "Hard luck Award" (a steet sign with curvy signs) for the bad luck that happened to me before and during the event.
    If they had known what to expect on my way back home ...

    Then there are goodbyes, “see you next time”, and everyone quickly packs up. Our intention was to camp again at the race track (it's free), but it seemed a bit sad and abandoned with our only tent at the edge of the track. After a few hours on the road, it is finally in Kenora that we will sleep at the hotel. I quickly realize that we are not in Montreal when I see a black bear coming out of the garbage container behind the hotel. A dead bat is waiting for us outside the door of our room, it has hit its head against a wall. At $ 90 a night, the room is disappointing but to hell with the expense it is the last free room in the hotel and we only have two days (in theory) before Quebec

    Seventh day: August 21
    Nothing special at the start of the day except that I found a shortcut ... which took us an hour longer.
    After dinner at Fort Frances, we again come across “road work ahead”. A wait of 30 minutes without moving, then when traffic resumes, the Fiat stops. Diagnosis: dead electric fuel pump. Fortunately, a neighbor offers to help us push the Fiat into his yard and will pick up the trailer with his truck. He will then drive me to the nearest Canadian Tire to buy a new pump. Thank you Paul Eschawa!
    After losing half a day, we hit the road with the idea of driving as long as possible before stopping at the hotel. We pass the Dawson Trail campground in Quetico Provincial Park. It is still clear. Are we stopping now? No. We decide to continue to Thunder Bay.

    A few seconds later, it will be a forced stop. The bolts of one half shafts have all come undone and the halfshaft has self-destructed in the last few minutes. After an attempt to patch up, the car managed to cross 50 meters before coming to a complete stop. First observation: the part is irreparable. Second observation: cellphones do not working here. "Out of order". We were in a really remote place. By climbing on the rocks bordering the highway, I finally manage to catch a line on my cell. First of all, I call the campsite we just passed. It’s an answering machine. It says that in emergency I can dial "1-1". Did that. Again an answering machine advises me that in case of an emergency I can call the Ontario police at 1-888 etc . I barely memorize the number, hang up and grab a new line while hanging my cell phone over the 20 foot drop to be able to get some network. “All our lines are presently busy. Please call again." Certainly we no longer have the emergencies services we used to have.

    Finally, two guys from Thunder Bay who noticed us a few hours ago as they were heading towards Fort Frances worry that we are still there when they return from their journey. Guess a Fiat X 1/9 with a trailer was not a common seen in that area. Brett and Duncan are two “Vintage racers” (BMW 2002) and they will drive me back to the campsite so that I can call a towing. The closest campgroud is 40 kilometers away. Then they will drop me back at my car and left. We will wait for the towing, a little worried ("And if it wasn’t coming?") sitting in the car , entertained by voracious mosquitoes.

    Upon the towing arrival, it was found that it was impossible to tow both the Fiat and the trailer. So it will cost me two towing trips. Since two trips to Thunder Bay would cost me an arm and a leg, I lean toward bringing both the car and the trailer to the nearby campsite. From there I can assess the damage, think about my options and order some parts if necessary.

    On the way to our camp site we saw a fox. The towing driver’s told us that we have to watch out for bears. We're in the woods for real. But in the dark, I didn't really realize how much!
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020
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  4. beezee

    beezee True Classic

    Nice job and thanks for the write up! I'm looking forward to the next installment to see if you make it home. I have driven the north shore of Superior and it has some beautiful rugged scenery.

  5. DanielForest

    DanielForest True Classic

    Part 4
    Day Eighth: August 22

    When I get up I greet Ben by telling him that I'm going to look for the nearest phone. It is 9:49 a.m. I will arrive on the phone at 10:45 am, 3 miles away!

    After an hour on the phone trying to find a truck to load the Fiat and the trailer, I have to face the facts: nothing is working (yes sir, we may have one available at the end of September in Thunder Bay !). I'm thinking. The best solution would be to get the parts by UPS and do the repair on the spot. I have the parts at home. It is now 11:30 a.m. I haven't eaten for 24 hours, which is not particularly recommended for a diabetic. There is nothing to eat at the campsite, not even vending machines. The nearest convenience store / restaurant is 3 miles down the highway (after the 3 miles to get out of the campground). I decide to leave Ben behind (still sleeping) and walk to the convenience store, to eat and to bring something for him also.

    12:30 pm I nibble a Caesar salad at the restaurant and buy some provisions (not too heavy since I will have to walk 5 miles to get back to the tent).

    1.30pm Back at the entrance of the park, where there is the one and only telephone. I call my girlfriend to tell her the “good” news. Then I also phone my best friend Dan so he can drop by my house and pick up the parts and tools I need to fix. He will have them sent to me by UPS.

    2:30 p.m. I'm back at the tent. Ben was starting to be seriously worried. In the meantime, he has found a sympathetic neighbor, Wally, who has cooked up a sandwich for him. I also learn that we are really in the woods. People come here to hunt, fish, canoe, and only come back to their camping-car after a few days ... or weeks. Wild camping.

    I announce the news to Ben and we agree that our paths must separate. He can't wait for me to fix and I can't hope to be on time for his plane. He will have to take the bus in the evening. Wally agrees to drive us there. A 5-mile walk with a 20-pound suitcase didn't particularly appeal to us.

    Cell phones don't work here either. Besides, only one radio station can be received, and even intermittently. Regardless, I realize in the evening that my walkman's batteries are dead.

    Ben seems as guilty of abandoning me as I am of not being able to bring him back to Montreal as planned. It'll make him a 30 hour bus trip.

    Day 9: August 23
    Ben will arrive in Montreal around midnight. He will therefore have a few hours of rest before taking the plane in the evening. He (barely) made it!

    I slept well. Go to bed early, get up early. If there weren't a few trailers around, I would really feel lost in the depths of the woods. I walk my first 3 miles of the day to make a call to my girlfriend at her office, between 10 am and noon as agreed, so that she gives me news of my parts to receive. I am told that it will not be there until noon. Damn! What to do? Walk again 3 miles to the tent then come back? I choose instead to sit under a tree and patiently wait until noon comes. This time, she answers and confirms to me that my package must leave within the next hour and that I will receive it before 5 p.m. the next day. She and my boyfriend Dan worked on assembling parts and tools until the wee hours of the morning. That's why she arrived late this morning. Ah yes! She reminds me that she loves me and that she is bored. Not as much as I am sure!

    I'm enjoying a lift to the restaurant. I just saved 3 miles! Before I start my 3 mile trip to the tent, I call my girlfriend again to reaffirm that I love her.

    Back at the camp, another neighbor, Georges, comes to chat. At the announcement of my problems, he disappears to bring me an hour later a bag of supplies, as well as paper and wood to make me a fire. I'll have baked beans for dinner and a tomato sandwich and soup for dinner the next day!
    I spend the rest of my afternoon drying my tent which was flooded. There was a thunderstorm during the night ... but the main culprit is my "cooler" full of ice that I had left in the tent and that I thought was sealed ... wrongly. Finally, I “jack up” the car in the air, ready for repairs.
    My day will end with another round trip (5 miles) to the phone to say goodnight to my girlfriend. This time, I’m lucky to meet a “Ranger” going on the way to the entrance and I’ll only have to walk back.

    I found with pleasure (!) that the mosquitoes go out to supper at 6.30pm. We haven't really become friends. It was then that I rediscovered the joys of jogging.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020
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  6. DanielForest

    DanielForest True Classic

    Part 5
    Tenth day: August 24

    Today, if the trip had gone according to the original plans, I would have woken up in my bed. But I don't miss my bed. Just my blonde, my kitties, my dog ...

    I made arrangements for my package to be delivered to the tent. I couldn't imagine myself carrying around a big box of “car” parts for 3 miles (you begin to know that there are 3 miles between my tent and the entrance to the park!). I just have to wait. I make a fire to heat my soup, take a self-timer photo to please my girlfriend, calmly swallow my dinner and then tighten my camping bardas hoping that I won't have to reuse it here.

    At 12:23 p.m. special delivery, my package is there.

    Inside, a letter, a photo of my sweetheart and a word of encouragement from my boyfriend Dan, with a pastry (Pop Tart) and everything I need to fix the car including my overalls.
    At 2 p.m .: the Fiat happily goes around the campsite under the amused gaze of the few campers (George and Wally) present. I gather my stock and hit the road straight away. I’ll arrive in Rossport at Rainbow Falls Park for sunset. Everything is fine.

    On the edge of the beach I pick up a small green rock in the water. I tell myself that she has been waiting for me there for thousands of years waiting fo myself to be here, in this magnificent landscape, feet in the water, picking up a small rock and that’s the reason why I have had these mishaps! (Note: I still have that rock!)

    The campsite is pretty, but located directly next to the motorway. I will have the impression of sleeping in Montreal, under the elevated highway!

    Day 11: August 25
    At 8:55 am I leave the campsite. I can't wait to go home. Everything works perfectly. At exactly 10 a.m., while climbing a hill, I downshift to overtake a motorhome. You remember I have only 1-3-5 gears. I miss the thir putting on... the first. 60 mph. Bang! It is the end. I’ll have to hitchhike for 50 minutes before a trucker (originally from Quebec!) helps me out. It saddened me a lot, after all my misfortunes, to see that no one stopped before to give me a helping hand, there was plenty of space to stop around here. When I leave the friendly truck driver, with all these emotions, I forgot I was in a 10 wheels truck and exit like I was in a car. After the 5-6 feet fall on the ground, I rolled down a ditch for another 20 feet. No harm. Is there something that could go bad?

    After having the car towed (then the trailer ... $$$), the towing driver confirms to me that this is a major problem (crankshaft, according to him). I doubt its diagnosis, I rather believe that it is the flywheel, but whatever, I do not want to start this kind of repair in a motel parking lot. I am trying to find a truck to rent so that I can drag my Fiat in Quebec. What may seem obvious in a big city takes on the appearance of a joke here. A 26-foot U-haul with a ball behind? We’ve never seen that at Marathon. I'm thinking of renting a one-way car to get better at home and come back later with something capable of pulling my Fiat, but National rent-a-car charges a penalty of $0.30 per mile if I don't bring it back to its starting point. At 1000 miles it's $800 before the rental, insurance and gasoline ... Finally I explore the other options I have left. What if I go back home by bus and came back later? It wouldn't solve anything and the bus is $163.92 plus tax. I call a company that transports vehicles. From Marathon to Montreal it's $844 plus tax. Add $99 because my vehicle is not running. Cost to which I should add my bus ticket ($163.92) and forget about the trailer which would cost more to bring back than it is worth. I played with the idea of buying an old bus from the scrapyard, cut the rear, move the car in the bus (the scrapyard had all the tooling to do that) and… Ok, something more realistic?

    I think again about the possibility of repairing on the spot, but it would be crazy. Several days of wait/work, parts to receive by courier, it would cost me too much.

    Finally, with all these numbers in hand, I'm still calling my best friend Dan, in case he has a great idea. This is where we recognize real friends: he offers to jump in his Blazer 4x4 and pick me up. All in all, it would be the cheapest option, even if I pay him for his days missing of work and travel expenses.

    My mother-in-law (sometimes, having a mother-in-law could serve!) will come to my house and bring Dan my "tow-bar". I suggest that Dan put a ball on his truck in Montreal before leaving. I will pay. It will take him about a 16-hour outward journey.

    I take a room at the motel and end my day by visiting Marathon. Have you ever heard of Marathon,Ontario? Neither do I. It is definitely not a tourist destination. There is not much to visit. My cell phone always displays “out of service”. I realize that I am far from the big cities when, passing in front of the hospital, I notice that the parking lot is very small, but that it includes a landing area for helicopters.

    At least at the motel I have a "real" phone, the grocery is across the street, there are restaurants and I can even watch TV in my room. The motel is more expensive but more convenient than camping in Quetico Park. The weather is nice, I'm healthy, I still have a few hundred dollars available on my credit card. And to top that, mosquitoes are leaving me alone. What am I complaining about?

    Before I fall asleep, I have a brilliant idea. Rather than trying to sell my trailer at a loss, I should take it apart and bring it back. At least that would be saved.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020
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  7. DanielForest

    DanielForest True Classic

    Part 6
    Day 12: August 26

    What is today's date? Ah! Saturday. Damn! The library is closed. I would have liked to "surf on the internet". So I alternate between a long walk and some TV shows. I write in a binder my trip adventures as well as small words to my girlfriend that I will give to her when I arrive.

    Nothing planned today. Dan is not yet on its way. My girlfriend works. Ben is probably now in Britain.

    When I corresponded with the other members of the organizing committee for the Canadian National Autoslalom Championship (did I told you I was instrumental in the creation of that event?), we stressed the importance of being at this first event. Our slogan; “I was there”. For me, it was expensive, it took all my vacation, but I WAS THERE. I WAS THERE

    Thirteenth day: August 27
    It is Sunday. Dan arrives at 8 p.m. We pay ourselves a good steak while discussing my adventures and the merits and defects of solid engine mounts!

    Day 14: August 28
    Dan didn't have time to install a ball on his truck before leaving. An unsuccessful tour of the Marathon businesses confirms that we should wait a few days to obtain a trailer hitch. We decide to be resourceful. I don't want to spend two days sitting in a hotel room waiting for a part. The garage where the Fiat was parked is also an "auto parts recycling center". By touring the vehicles on site we will eventually find something to help out. While Dan is busy attaching all of this to his Blazer, I am dismantling the trailer in parts so that it fits in his truck!


    After a long day of work (I was hoping to leave early in the morning) we are ready to tie together the two vehicles. It was then that I notice the inscription on my tow bar: "Use 2" ball only ". The ball I have is a 1 7/8". Another excursion in the scrap yard to find a ball of the right size. I effortlessly unscrew an interesting candidate who must have been installed 20 years ago (or maybe more). Back at my Fiat, new surprise, the beautiful new ball that I installed a few weeks ago refuses to move. “Loose nut”, strong arm, “aims grip”, nothing to do. Even the impact of the garage owner does not come to an end. And it is a muscular model. Finally, it is by torch cutting that we can remove it.

    Dan backs up the Blazer in front of the Fiat and I discover another problem. No way to secure the bar between the two vehicles, the height difference is too large. The solution seems obvious to me. I have a height adjustable suspension on the Fiat. Normally it is to lower the vehicle, but nothing prevents me from raising it a few inches. That works.

    We'll go to Wawa to sleep. All the hotels in the city are “sold out”. A special convention. At the Wawa Inn, there is one cottage left. $145 a night. Seeing my disappointment the manager will make me a price that I cannot refuse. The log cabin is huge. It looks nice. I would have liked to spend several days down here! Too bad we don't have time to enjoy it. Dan and I think we should come back with our girlfiends.


    Day 15: August 29
    Departure a little late. It was to be expected since we went to bed late. With the Fiat behind, we are driving carefully and the miles are flying more slowly than when I was coming. At 11 p.m., the Fiat's battery fell dead. The emergency turn signals will be connected directly to the license plate lights of the Blazer. After all, the poor Fiat battery deserved a little break after having switched on the hazard lights for more than 8 hours without being able to recharge.

    Day sixteen: August 30
    We didn’t stop for the night. It’s not over until it’s over. At 2:30 am, 150 miles from my home, one of the Fiat tires blew out. Is it the suspension that we raised or the hitch ball that is not well centered that put a lot of stress on one of the tires. Maybe I should have raise the rear also... The tire was new before the come back trip, now you can see the mesh. Fortunately I have 4 spare tires (remember, I had rain and dry race tires)!

    We will finally land in my yard at 5:52 a.m. Balloons decorate the house. Is it to celebrate for our arrival? Well no, it's true, it's August 30th, it's my birthday! I’m turning 41 today!

    Twenty minutes later, the Fiat is in the garage, the truck emptied of its contents and I snore alongside my girlfriend while Dan snoozes in the sofa. I am in no hurry to do the financial accounts of my adventure. My 6 day trip finally turned out to be 16 LONG days…

    Pic of my friend Dan. Did I told you he found the trip stressfull...

    Conclusion tomorrow...
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2020
    JimD, kmead, lanciahf and 1 other person like this.
  8. artz1731

    artz1731 True Classic

    Denver PA
    Thanks for the read. Definitely helped pass some time this afternoon.
    What a great story. I couldn’t imagine going through all of that. I have thought about taking my x to our second house in Delaware a few times but always fear there will be a breakdown. After this read I feel a 3 1/2 hr one way trip is nothing.
    lanciahf likes this.
  9. lanciahf

    lanciahf True Classic

    New Jersey
    Great Adventure, thanks for sharing.
  10. kmead

    kmead Over half way.

    That was fun. Glad it wasn’t me.

    Nice job translating it. I can almost hear you saying it.
  11. DanielForest

    DanielForest True Classic

    You mean, you are hearing my French accent? :rolleyes:
  12. kmead

    kmead Over half way.

    Well your Quebec accent... no Frenchman would call yours French, especially a Parisian...

    Kidding :)

    So yes, your French accent.

    Actually, I use my friend Colin Cote’s accent (former coworker from Montreal now back in Quebec) as I read it. He has a great accent that I miss.
  13. DanielForest

    DanielForest True Classic

    End of the story
    A few days later

    Ben is in Europe. The Fiat in the garage. The trailer in pieces rests at his side. I’ve already canceled my plate and insurance. My girlfriend was missing me and she’s happy to have me by her side. My kitties are delighted to be able to make their claws again in my jeans. My dog has a play buddy again. My friend Dan has returned to his routine after sleeping one day to recover. I am a little cautious when people talk to me about travel.

    I went camping with my girlfriend, but not too far from Montreal. In a place where cellphones work and where there is a bus if you want to go home. Then I installed the Fiat on jack stands. After that, when I feel like it, I'm going to unload the transmission and play in it. But I'm in no rush. My Fiat deserved a little vacation.

    Now I’d like a minute of silence for all the Fiat parts that died on the battlefield en route to Manitoba.

    Thank you!

    P.S .: January 2002. I have just separated the transmission from the engine. The flywheel is in perfect condition but ... it is no longer bolted to the crankshaft. The 6 bolts sheared. It’s going to save me the cost of a flywheel, but I feel like I’m going to have a lot of fun pulling out the pieces of broken bolts in the crank. But you know what. I'm starting to find it was an unforgettable vacation.

    2020 update
    My X1/9 is still waiting the end of the repairs. Not just the repairs, but what need to be changed after 20 years of inactivity. The broken flywheel bolts were easy to remove.

    In the meantime, I moved, got 2 kids, one of them having its driver’s licence. Changed jobs a few times. Since the wait was so long, I bought another X1/9, a 1987 from the States.
    thetford 2013 1.jpg

    I rebuild the engine with another head and cam. Switched to Weber DCOE’s with ITG socks instead of my pair of DCNF’s. Changed the brake fluid hoses from the reservoirs to the master cylinders. Changed both MC. New front calipers. Still have to rebuild the rear ones before bleeding the system. Engine is running but still needs some tuning.

    I got myself a set of Gotti 40US3 in 4x98 mm from France. Also got a spare set of outside barrels, so I could now build myself a pair of 13x8 and the choice of 13x8 or 13x6 for the front.
    My trailer is back together and I used it a couple of times.

    Still lot of projects to come, but I’m focusing first on getting the car back on the road. Things like Faza snorkel and fender flares, roll bar, headlight relay kit, etc.

    Daniel Forest was Québec Solo director at the time of this writing. When some guy from the prairies called him about joining him to create a central Canadian AutoSlalom Championhip, he jumped on the occasion and insist on calling reps from each Canadian region to have an official event recognize across Canada. Two years later, ASN Canada negotiate with the group to have them under it’s umbrella. The event is still running each year in a different province.

    Daniel bought his first X1/9in 1984. Since then, he bought more than 10 others, mostly for parts.
    PaulD, kmead, JimD and 2 others like this.
  14. Russe11

    Russe11 True Classic

    What a story! Thanks for sharing it.
    When things go wrong is when you get "Upgraded" from a trip to an adventure!

  15. JimD

    JimD Waiting for Godot... Moderator

    Missouri, USA
    Thanks for sharing your story Daniel! That was quite an adventure. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately?), I haven't had that much adventure in any of my adventures. It is certainly a memorable trip. :)
  16. kmead

    kmead Over half way.

    It is a great story. Thank you very much for sharing it.
  17. DanielForest

    DanielForest True Classic

    I'm glad I wrote the details of it because, without that, I would not have remembered half of the problems I had to go thru. In my memory, there was just a few "bad"... rock in the windhsield, losing the trailer on the road, halshaft losing his Allen bolts and the bad downshift which led to shearing all the flywheel bolts. All the other details were forgotten...
  18. bsboyd

    bsboyd New Member

    Sydney, AU
    Awesome Daniel. Brings back a lot of memories. It was a great experience which I will never forget. I wasn't aware of the full back story after I left, other that a "few hickups".

    Hope you are well. Unfortunately my x1/9 has been passed on, but the passion never has.

    Regards Ben
  19. DanielForest

    DanielForest True Classic

    Hey Ben,
    It's been a long time. If you are still a lurker here, you probably will get another X19 eventually!:D

    I hope I didn't say something "mean" about you in my story...

    Now I remember some other things. You were having a tape in the radio and you sang "...while your beds are burning" for hours. Enough for me to learn the lyrics.

    Also, in the restaurant in Fort Frances, I told you our misadventures were over, and you replied saying that was badluck. It didn't take that long before the fuel pump died...

  20. Ulix

    Ulix True Classic

    Stuttgart, Germany

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