Meet The Authors
A Brief Autobiography
In 2011 we circumnavigated the globe in our 1967 Beetle. We arrived in New York City on April 13th to participate in World Race 2011, a celebration of the 1908 Great Race, the only other west around-the-world event. We were the oldest team and drove 14,000 miles crossing three continents. Why did we take this on?
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 at UNC and founded a company that designs and manufactures products for children with physical disabilities. Ed was the president and product designer, a logical 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 five 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. Same as the first round but in the reverse order.
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 consecutive 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. 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. 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. That car, our first antique is 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? We didn’t think the cars we owned would stand up 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 1500 cc engine, producing 53 horse power.” The only problem, we didn’t own one—yet. The information we had indicated 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 Beetle during the 2007 Great Race and found it to be trouble-free. 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.
Finally in 2011, Jerry Price reorganized an around-the-world rally. 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 we had no advantage that we could see against all the younger teams. Leaving NY, 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 and all the others since then are described on our blog, www.thelongroadtoparis.wordpress.com . We invite you to read it.
We were not idle while waiting on the rally to take place. We had started a memoir 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. The book was released on Feb. 14, 2011 and we are now busy promoting it on this website, participating in author events and book signings and any other means to increase our readership. It is 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.
Once we completed the world rally and published our novel we started in on our next adventure. More sailing and another novel. Night Watch set mostly on a sailboat in the Bahamas and incorporates a dark period in the history of the Bahamas when the Colombian drug cartel under the direction of Carlos Lehder took over the island of Normans Cay. Our research led us to George Jung, Lehder’s partner and the subject of the movie Blow starting Johnnie Depp. George remains in federal prison but will be released in 2014. He has agreed to help promote this novel.
We are hard at work on a third novel which is quite different from our first two. This one is set in post-war Germany. We have also signed on to participate in the African Safari Challenge which begins in May 2014. One again we will drive our 67 Beetle through South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.
Don’t believe everything Jan writes. I did have to retighten a screw on the windshield wiper on the Beetle during the 2007 race, and I can adjust the valves and repair this car, if pressed. I no longer plan to sail around the world, just the Bahamas. After all, I am 78, but I am sure more adventures lie ahead.