The Legend of the Pink Monkey!

June 22, 2015


It all began years ago in a Great Race from far, far away (to someplace even farther away)… You know the motto of the Great Race? “Ride, Repair, Repeat.” Of course, it’s more true for some than others. The occasional Great Racer actually goes from start to finish with no problems of any kind: a perfectly reliable old car. But for most of us, especially those with REALLY old cars, the truth is usually a bit different. Something breaks. We fix it. Something else breaks. We fix that, too. And so on. If we fix it one more time than it breaks, we FINISH the Great Race!

In the 2007 Great Race (the 25th Anniversary edition); someone who shall forever remain unnamed (in the mists of oil smoke and burst-radiator vapor) realized that the superlative example of living the RideRepairRepeat mantra deserved a suitable award. Not actual cash like most Great Race prizes (that would reduce too much the hard-earned grief of mechanical disasters endured). No – something more symbolic, more ennobling, more je-ne-sais-quoi: a fuzzy Pink Monkey! Yep. That’s what it is. And ever since then, this magnificent trophy, like America’s Cup in yachting, has passed from victor to victor, in recognition of their finishing the Great Race in the face of overwhelming mechanical objections: the most broken stuff overcome.

In 2014, the great Pink Monkey came my way, awarded per custom, by previous holders Chad and Jenny Caldwell (whose tribulations in 2013 are another story in itself). Here’s the quick summary of my points-gathering:
+ 1932 Buick Speedster – axle snapped just before the Start in Maine;
+ replacement axle, overnighted from Michigan, met us in a shop in Connecticut, but it was about 2 inches too long;
+ welding the first axle failed after about 500 feet;
+ run home to New York for the spare Great Race car (1961 Imperial, not prepped and not inspected);
+ meet Race in Lowell, Massachusetts and driveshaft bearing mount fails as we pull in;
+ weld that sucker in the hotel lot and go again in the morning, til alternator fails;
+ replace alternator in Bennington, VT and roll on – but notice taillight failure at sundown;
+ rewire taillight and roll through Pennsylvania until a wire wheel collapses on Freeway;
+ change to spare on freeway – without jack handle, using pair of channel-lock pliers;
+ slowly lose brakes, but manage to roll on to Florida through mercifully flat route, finishing on hand brake only!

So Now, it’s my turn to pass it on. I can’t race this year, but I’ll be watching, listening, looking for the Troubles. And I’ll meet the Racers in Santa Monica, to designate the next Exalted Bearer of the Pink Monkey, and to personally put it on that Racer’s back! See ya there!

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