Oh about mid-50's there was an international car race that ran from Caracas to Maracaibo and back. Remember!! The race was highly reported in the papers and was the subject of a great deal of discussion.

The race begins: There were about twenty or so cars in the race as it left Caracas including one American entry, a Cadillac sedan. You have to visualize that there were no major highways from Caracas to Maracaibo and no bridge over the lake. Carretera Nacional between Palmarejo and Lagunillas was virtually a 1½ lane oil/sand road which was seriously rutted and humped to cause rain water runoff during the rainy season. In the race are some well known Italian Drivers who spoke no Spanish.

The cars pass Tia Juana: I and all my friends and every Venezuelan who had the ability to get to Tia Juana lined the road and climbed the fences to watch the cars. There was whooping and hollering as the drivers approached and the crowed surged forward to watch the cars pass. I recall there being just enough room between the spectators and the cars as they zoomed past to pass a coconut. They were gone and they take the Ferry at Palmarejo to Maracaibo where they rest, drink and get ready to return.

The cars return: It had just finished raining and the roads were very slick. More excitement this time and I and my friends were hanging onto the barbed-wire topped fence behind the country club and here they come and an Italian driver in a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing loses control whips sideways and plows through the fence and ends up ass-end in the drainage ditch beside the road. Nobody hurt. The driver whips up the gull-wing door and steps out, surveys the car and damage and climbs up onto the road and hitches a ride from one of his compadres who was behind him in the race and disappears into the distance.

Pandemonium: What next. Well there sits a brand new Mercedes 300SL Gullwing racing car with nobody watching it and I think this goes through the mind of the gringos and Venezuelans who stood around the car and what began was the systematic dismantling and destruction of the car without tools. If you have watched the National Geographic TV programs about the lions feeding after a kill you will have a good visual of the situation.

Reflections: Once the stripping of the car began it became evident to the Venezuelans that they greatly outnumbered the gringos and that is where I first heard the word "sansabiche" applied to us by the Venezuelans who must have been caddies. Well, yours truly and his compadres quickly vacated the vicinity and watched from afar much as hyenas do when the lions are at a carcass and then returned to the wreck afterward looking for a bit of souvenir. Nothing left worth taking and anything left totally demolished all this took about 30 minutes.

 

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