Alastair's Blog

TransAm Rally - June/July 2015

Alastair Caldwell - Friday, July 24, 2015

With a combined age of 211 years, my mother, my 1963 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud and I have just returned home from the three-week 2nd TransAmerica Challenge, finishing fifth overall and second in our class. Mother was my navigator for the trip and she did a sterling job, having done the 1st TransAm with me in 2012. The TransAm is a 9,500km classic car rally from Halifax, Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada, all the way across to San Francisco on the west coast of the United States. En route we stopped at such places as Quebec, New York, Buffalo, Bismarck, Rapid City, Idaho Falls, Reno and Eureka. You can find out more about the Rally itself on the Endurance TransAm Rally website.

Route for the 2nd TransAm 2015

 

We got to the starting location early so managed to do some sight seeing. Nova Scotia is very nice and the people very friendly, a lot like NZ in fact. Got the cars on Saturday and started on Sunday from the Citadel, a historic fort in the centre of Halifax City.

Alastair and Dorothy in Halifax Nova Scotia   Nova Scotia license plate

Before the rally started, we lunched at a lovely vineyard and ate some beautiful lobster as well as beautiful wines. And we saw a very precise speed limit sign in suburban Cleveland!

lunch in a vineyard   speed limit sign, 7.5 mph!

We even made it into the Halifax Chronicle & Herald, in an article titled "Mom, 97, and son team up for Trans-America road rally" and this lovely photo.

Mum's photo in the Halifax Chronicle & Herald 

 

And here we are in the Rolls at the start of the rally in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We stayed in a fantastic hotel, the Chateau Frontenac, easily the biggest building in Quebec. Mum had a fantastic room and loved it! Going through a covered wooden bridge in New Brunswick.

At the start of the rally   Chateau Frontenac hotel   driving through a covered wooden bridge

 

Next we were off to Buffalo and here we are having dinner. The Rolls on the beach on Lake Huron. We posed with the local police car in Atlanta, Michigan - the cop left his car with the motor running for more than an hour while we had lunch! And then we were crossing the huge bridge over Lake Michigan and Huron where the two lakes meet.

Alastair and mum having lunch in Buffalo   The Rolls on the beach at Lake Huron

Rolls posing with a police car   Crossing Lake Michigan

Next we visited the Isle de Orleans outside Quebec where we saw a huge waterfall and the complex of piping used to collect the syrup from Maple trees, hundreds of trees are done this way at once. Here I am at a street fair, and mum looking cool in a restaurant.

Alastair eating popcorn at a street fair   Dorothy in a restaurant  

huge waterfall   collecting maple syrup from the trees

After Isle de Orleans, we visted Bay City, having spent two nights in Buffalo, a day of which was good as the weather had been ferocious at times on the road and we had done 300 miles as well so all a bit tiring for Mum. We had a visit from Mum's niece Susan from Cleveland and old family friend Winnie who lives in Toronto now, but who lived with us for years when she was an art student in Maidenhead. Much talking and laughter and Susan got lots of old family tales from Mum. There was by chance a big annual art fair in the streets just along from the hotel so we spent the day there looking and then took Mum and the rest back to a lovely restaurant we had found, more fun and laughter.

Then we headed into the States where we stayed for the rest of the run. Sadly all the competition so far was either very easy regularities which means they are decided by one or two seconds and rushing round race tracks which are great fun but the Rolls is not the most agile at this, so at this point we were 13th overall, which could be unlucky!  Mum was in fine form, navigating like a trooper and as alert as ever.

In Michigan, we were stopped by a very nice young state trooper, who happily didn't give us a ticket for doing 79mph in a 55mph speed limit area! He got to pose with the Rolls, note Mum lurking in the car. she needed her sun hat as the Webasto sun roof was in daily use!

pulled over by the police for speeding   the very nice young state trooper

Next we crossed the mighty Mississippi, although we were high up so it wasn't so mighty. The rally stopped for a few minutes as a tree had fallen across the road and we had to wait until enough people were there to move it aside. One competitor whose pre-war Alvis failed on the first day bought this Datsun 240Z and was rebuilding it every night, it was a good car by the end of the rally! And here's mum enjoying the sun.

Dorothy enjoying the sun   Datsun 240Z

On a boat trip on the Missouri, we had a bottle of wine, note the name on the bottle! Mum was in fine form. We saw some interesting statues - a big statue of a Harley Davidson engine in Sturges, they were expecting three million bikers after we were there!!!; Biker statue outside a huge bar in Sturges, and a really cool support vehicle on tow behind a very flash camper 

Dorothy with a bottle of aptly named Flipflop wine   Harley Davidson engine statue

Biker statue in Sturges   Cools support vehicle on tow behind camper

Parked at the side of the road, here we have two classics together, one from the UK and one from the US. We also got a chance to see Mount Rushmore close up.

Two classics from the UK and USA   Mount Rushmore

We suddenly saw a sign in Montana, telling passing motorists not to go fast, in very positive language! We soon discovered why - the rock tunnels were pretty tight fits.

Slow Down sign   About to drive through a rock tunnel

The Rolls going through a very tight rock tunnel   Almost at the end of the rock tunnel

We were second fastest and gained three places doing the hardest gravel test of the rally. All in all, the car did well, the only failure was a flat tyre! It made the last day a bit nervous, having no spare.

Waiting for the gravel test    Flat tyre on the Rolls!

We finished in San Fransisco on the last Sunday at the Fairmont Hotel. We were fifth overall and second in class, which was a very good result considering the weight and size of our car. Mum was great throughout, never complaining as we went through big climate changes and some poor hotels on the way, ever alert and interested in her surroundings, and never showing a sign of wilting under pressure. Here's a short video of Mum waving the chequered flag at the finish line.

Waving the chequered flag

Here we are at the prizegiving dinner in San Francisco. And we found a Pohutakawa flower, here is mum holding it - these are native New Zealand flowers growing here in California.

Alastair and mother at the prizegiving dinner   Mother with a Pohutakawa flower

Here we saw a forest fire in the California hills, planes and helicopters were dropping water on it. And here we are arriving at the Fairmont Hotel on Knob Hill, San Francisco. It was great to have a good hotel after four rubbish ones!

Forest fires in the California hills   Arriving at the Fairmont Hotel in Knob Hill, San Francisco

 Still in California, we drove through the famous redwood trees, quite literally! And the three of us at the finish line: the car, Mother and I add up to 211 years old!

Driving through the famous redwood tree   At the finish line

And here's the expert navigator in her plush office, and looking at hats in Half Moon Bay where we spent three days R&R before we flew home.

The expert navigator in her plush office   Mother looking at hats in Half Moon Bay

Finally, the Rolls at rest in the hotel car park. She could have driven back to Halifax, just like we drove back to New York after the first TransAm, great car!

You can see even more photos and videos of the rally on my Facebook page, please head over there and "Like" the page to follow other rallies that I take part in. 

 

When Anne met Alastair

Emily Lamont - Thursday, October 04, 2012

If you are a listener of Anne Diamond’s BBC Radio Berkshire show, you may have heard her chatting recently with Alastair Caldwell, the founder of Space Station. During his conversation with the TV and radio legend, Alastair talked car racing, movie making and, of course, self storage.

It is not long since Alastair returned from completing the month-long Trans-America car rally, and Anne was keen to hear about his amazing adventure. The journey took the competitors from New York on the east coast, through some of North America’s most spectacular scenery, to the freezing north-west coast of Alaska. As is typical of Alastair, rather than relying on modern motoring technology to help him on his journey, he chose to complete the endurance challenge in style, driving a 1962 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud. Oh, and, like any good son, he also took his 94 year old mother along for the ride too! To Anne’s astonishment, Alastair explained that, in total, the pair travelled a staggering 18,000 miles. 

As Alastair reminisced about his time leading the Maclaren Formula One racing team in the 1970s, Anne asked how a boy from New Zealand, with little in the way of qualifications, could rise to such an enviable position. From Alastair’s answer it was clear that it was sheer drive, determination and a passion for the job that took him to the top of his field.

As Anne and Alastair chatted about all things motor racing, the listeners may have been wondering if this is the same guy that owns and runs Space Station, the longest established self storage company in the UK. But then it all started to make sense. Alastair explained how he had first encountered the concept of self storage in Long Beach, California. He used the facility to store his Grand Prix car. At that moment a lightbulb went on in Alastair’s head and he could see the future. Starting in 1983, with rows of painted shipping containers, Alastair became the first person in Britain to offer that kind of self storage facility. Once again, that same drive, determination and a passion for the job meant that Alastair found himself in pole position in a whole new industry.

If Alastair’s life reads like the script of a Hollywood movie, it is appropriate that he was sought out by top Hollywood director, Ron Howard, to advise on the making of his new film, Rush, about the heyday of Formula One. After chatting with Anne about this unexpected turn in his career, Alastair mentioned that his next trip would be down the red carpet, at the film’s first screening.




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