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Chris and Rita Leydon drive the Colorado Grand in the MG-NA.

Photos marked with this icon are by Bob Dunsmore.

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Rita Survivors

The following two short essays are Rita's submissions to the Grand Newsletter published in time for breakfast each day of the event.


Sept 18, 1997

Rolling into Tamarron was sweet and welcome. Chris was befuddleded over a recalcitrant fuel pump. The MG NA has two, so we were OK, but the comfort zone was less than Chris likes. "I'll fix it in the morning", he said. This thought kept my man awake and tossing all night. By morning, the errant pump had had a chance to think things over and decided to play by the rules. No further worries.

Chris had (ever so nicely) lectured me on not waving to any of the official photographers. "They work hard selecting good shots, they only have one chance per car, they don’t want a smiling female waving like Miss America in their serious pictures—so sit on it.” Ok. Ok.

In the morning I promised not to wave at anyone. We joked around and smiled about it. It’s hard to not wave when others wave first. I gritted my teeth, stuck both palms between my thighs and we were off. “Remember, don't wave to any cameras". Ok. Ok. I won't wave to anybody.

Right away, we passed by three smiling and waving road construction fellows. Of course I waved like Miss Universe with both hands, smiling broadly. “They had no cameras." Chris only smiled.

A few minutes later, we spied the black belching smoke of the Durango-Silverton railroad locomotive as it labored northward. "The hell with Chris", thought I, "a whole train full of smiling tourists, eager to wave." I swear, they were all waving at us in our cute little blue car before I even lifted my hand in friendly salutation. How can one not? "This is P.R. Work." I smiled to Chris. He was waving to the train passengers too in spite of himself.

I'm sorry, Bob Dunsmore, for ruining your shots of the cars we have driven over the years with my waving hands. Call me, I can fix those blemishes on my Mac computer. Photo manipulation par excellence. No guilt. Only good memories.


Sept 20, 1997

ONE WOMAN'S PERSPECTIVE by Rita Leydon

Chris and I spent this Grand in our dear old friend, the 1934 sky blue MG NA. When Chris restored the car some years ago, he tracked down Doreen Evans, the original owner and trials driver, then living in Montana with her sheep-farmer husband. What color was the car, asked Chris. The color of the Montana sky, said the lady.

Do all drivers speed up more as they enter hairpin turns? I observe from my right hand mechanic's seat that if the yellow curve warning sign says 30 MPH, the down shift and speed adjustment seem gentler than if the signs says 10 MPH. At the lower speed recommendation, my driver's mind and logic seem to leave and he goes ballistic in firm, aggressive attack on that sharp hairpin bend. Mind you, we always stay on track, but I do wonder about the thinking process going on in the body next to me. I'm no fool and realize that it is best to just hunker down and endure, offering a cheerful smile once on the other side of the crookedness. If you want to survive it is best not to cause any external commotion.

We have learned over the years where many good caffeine refill spots are located—these we aim for and happily enjoy seeing other Granders pass by as they hurry on. "Dead Last" is OK by us. We are happier as the lone vehicle on these gorgeous roads than as one of the pack. It is probably a reflection of who we are, loners. The melding of body and machine is quite wonderful and visceral. The flexing and good response, the sounds and smells of the ribbon highway, the scent of burning brakes from the truck gingerly inching down the pass, the whiff of Castrol from a passing Grander, the alluring aroma coming from a wrapped-up 5th Avenue candy bar in the gas station up ahead. The perfume of clean soap in the shower at the end of the day. What a way to go !

Friday evening: "How was your day, Rita?" I glare in the direction of the voice. A dry person who obviously experienced today's elements from the shelter of a closed vehicle was asking this inane question. I hadn't the energy to share details, just smiled and rushed off to the hot shower I'd fantasized about since early moming. Hot, steamy water drops basting my entire surface. Thaw out that road chill, warm me up.

Of course the scenery was lovely—this is Colorado—but it looks a lot better under a blue firmament with blessed sunshine than under that heavy woolen fleece that followed us around all day, variously shedding rain, hail, mists, sideswiping gales and other misery.

Before lunch, I rode with Dean Butler in his JR Allard. My seat had no windshield and the car body is low so one is verv exposed. Arriving in Walden was so thoroughly wonderful—such a relief— to still be alive and see other survivors, sharing road / weather stories, while keeping eyes on the parading cloud covers.

Hey, weather is democratic—it picks on everyone equally. Shows no favorites. My appetite at Walden was embarrassing. I felt as if I may never eat again and needed to really fill up over the top. Baked beans never tasted so good! Thank you, good people of Walden.

My Chris had driven the morning leg with Brenda Butler —or rather, she had driven him and they came in dead last. I secretly wanted to switch back to the MG NA with Chris because one sits deeper in that car and the engine / transmission throw out a lot more heat than the souped up Allard. Wishes are granted in Walden and the thoroughly soaked (to the skin) Leydons were off. Well, you know how it was. A hundred and forty miles of straight-pins piercing all bare skin (primarily face and lips). Prick! Prick! Prick!

Our black canvas top provided virtually no shelter so we packed it up and endured further exposure at speed to seal our complete and thorough oneness with the elements of Colorado's darker side.

Can we sign up now for next year?