My First Pedal Pushers Pullover Rally (November 15, 2008)

OK, since I’m writing this 2 years after the event, I’ll really have to dig into my wee brain to bring back the memories. This was my first ever group drive, having only driven to work and back a few times. My friend, Nancy, drove along as my navigator and Philo sat on Nancy’s lap, our mascot.

We arrived in Oakland around 8:30 in the morning, meeting and greeting all the drivers, and oohing and aahing at all the neat cars. We wore our “pullovers”, courtesy of our local Goodwill store … this IS the Pullover Rally, after all! After grabbing some coffee at Peet’s, I listened to my first “driver’s meeting”, where we’re told this is “not a race”, to give the thumbs up/thumbs down sign when you pull over, and to generally have a great time. We were off!

Hmmm … at our first stoplight, I wondered a bit how things would work, being that my brakes weren’t the best (drum brakes) and they had to be held down HARD on a hill, to keep the car from rolling back. However, I also have a manual shift, so I needed my foot to operate the clutch, which has to be let out pretty far for the car to start moving. Ooo Kayyy … this should be a challenge. I made it through the first light, because I think I sort of ran the light. (Ahem.) I was not as fortunate the 2nd time, though. Here’s what I wrote in my yearly Christmas newsletter about the “incident”:

The first thing that happened was that I had to stop at a stoplight … on a hill. Now, you have to understand that I’m driving a 48-year old car, created before the days of disc brakes. I have drum brakes and they aren’t all that terrific. They do GREAT on level streets. Put them on an incline and it’s much more of a challenge. If you’ve ever driven a stick shift and had to stop on a hill, you know what I mean. You have to hold the clutch in while you’re braking, and then release the brake and hit the gas almost simultaneously. I put on the emergency brake to help me but it was still a lot of SKREEEEECH-ing when I hit the gas really hard to get going. I got through the light. Phew!

And then … it happened again. This time, there was someone RIGHT on my bumper. *sigh* If only people realized that pulling right behind an old car is not so smart. Old cars so often slide backwards on hills. I had to wave all the cars behind me around, so that I’d have room to slide back as I hit the gas. As I’m waving people to go around me, a cop shows up on the other side of the street. He asks me “Are you stalled, ma’am?” I answer truthfully “No, but when I take my foot off the brake, I’ll slide back, so I need room. No problems!” (nervous laughter) He makes a U-turn and comes up behind me, so that he could make sure that no one else got too close. I made it through the light and on to the next part of the route, but the cop continued to follow me! Nancy and I were both so flustered, we missed the next turn. How embarrassing!

All in all, I had to stop on inclines about 6 times during the day. Sometimes I killed the car, sometimes I just powered through. In all cases, sweat broke out!

Was that my only adventure? No … not really. As I wrote in my newsletter:

The scariest part was when my brakes faded on a long hill. I had been driving down a small twisty road and had been riding the brakes, just like I would in my modern car where you have your foot on the brake and are consistently braking lightly as you go down the hill. Well, I have now found out that you can’t do that with drum brakes. Craig had told me about this before, but telling someone when they’re sitting in the living room is all pretty academic. Experiencing it when you’re driving downhill and your car is going faster and faster and won’t stop … now THAT’S a lesson to learn! I realized they were failing when I got to a stop sign and couldn’t stop. Luckily we were on a remote road, so I could slide through with no other cars having to screech to a halt. I started honking furiously, since Craig was ahead of me, and I used engine braking to slow the car down. I finally slowed down enough and had enough brakes left to pull over and stop. My palms were sweaty, let me tell you! Craig came back and said “Now you see what I mean about riding the brakes?” It turns out that with drum brakes, if you ride them like I was, they heat up and have no chance to cool down. What you should do is pump the brakes a little, slow down and release the brake completely. This allows the brakes to cool down before you use them again. So … lesson learned!

We ended the day at Port Costa, drinking beer and reliving our adventures. Philo, Nancy and I won a “major award” (woo hoo!) for Favorite Car but we did have to drive back. That was still a bit scary, since there was traffic on the road, meaning I had to BRAKE, but we made it back in one piece. The Pullover Rally was really a great introduction for me to the fun drives you can have in a vintage car.

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