“(We chose) an older vintage car, because it’s in the spirit of what this race is all about,” Clay said.
The car was rebuilt with the race in mind. It has a 1948 Ford flathead engine, an “extra 15-gallon gas tank, an alternate fuel pump, an air compressor with 2-gallon storage tank ... dual isolated batteries in case of battery or alternator failure ... and overdrive has also been added to assist with mountains and deserts,” according to the team’s website.
Clay and Mark took the car from New York City through just about every major midwest city, Denver, Reno, and finally arrived in San Francisco on April 27.
The U.S. trip was not easy; while in Colorado, the car’s rear axle broke, and with the help of some other drivers and some lucky timing, the team was able to repair the car in time and not miss any checkpoints.
“That could have been really catastrophic, and just with good luck and some friends, we were able to pull that off,” Clay said.
After arriving on the west coast, the car was shipped to Bejing, China, on a freighter and was met by Clay and his grandson Blake on June 7. The pair drove through China for 22 days before crossing into Kazakhstan.
In Kazakhstan, the team hit its biggest obstacle: loss of oil pressure in the car’s engine.
“That took a lot of coordination and a certain amount of luck,” Clay said. “... I guess God was just smiling on us.”
After Kazakhstan, the trip took them to Russia and finally into Europe to finish the race July 21 in Paris.
“It was like driving across this country. When you set out, there’s mile after mile of tobacco, then mile after mile of corn, and mile after mile of wheat ... but that’s broken up with small towns and villages,” Clay said. “We saw a lot of what each country is truly made of and went through a lot of major cities ... I think it was a pretty good mixture of both.”
In total, the team drove 3,600 miles through 13 states during the first leg and 8,000 miles in 12 countries during the second leg.
“I thought the hardest part was the grind,” Blake said. “Different city every night, different hotel, drove probably six hours a day on average. I just got worn out at the end.”
Aside from the terrible weather at times, car problems, communication struggles and long hours, Clay, Mark and Blake did what they set out to do. Team Miller/Garrison was just one of 10 cars to cross the U.S. and one of four to complete the whole race.
“It’s hard to communicate. At the same time I’m telling these stories, words almost don’t capture a lot of what there was,” Blake said.
“It was a good adventure,” Mark said. “... I don’t remember a time where (my father) and I would get up and have breakfast, we’d spend all day in the car, we’d have lunch, we’d have dinner, we’d do whatever we had to do to the car in the evening ... and then we’d room together ... it was just time together.”
“I couldn’t imagine another way that we could have had the quality time together that we did,” Clay said.
To learn more about the team’s journey around the world, check out its website at www.millergarrison.com.