AROUND THE GLOBE – Every once in while, an opportunity to meet someone who inspires, motivates, and awes comes along. Someone living an extraordinary life. The kind of person you don’t run across every day.

Opportunities like that are great, especially if you don’t miss them like I did. I’m still kicking myself. Here’s why…

Last month, during a rare California rainstorm, my feller and I drove up to Pioneertown, an old Western movie set in the hills above our weekend home in Yucca Valley.

That’s where I first laid eyes on this car and added it to my Instagram feed.
The sticker-covered 1930s saloon car wore a Berlin license plate, along with a world map on the side door with a route traced across the continents. Being the keen journalist I am, I surmised the crew must be doing a round the world trip, and even though I was curious about the driver and the adventure, the rain turned to a gully washer so I jumped into the truck to keep from soaking my phone. We left before the driver returned.

BIG MISTAKE.

When we got home, I cruised the Net, searching for any round-the-world car adventures, but came up blank.

Five weeks later, in the crazy random world of social media, a fellow news photographer I follow in Canada posted this picture on Instagram:

I squealed like a three-year-old when I saw this–not only because I’d given up on ever knowing the truth behind the adventure, but because of the driver’s identity.

Heidi Hetzer.

A 78-year-old German woman.

ARCHIV – Die ehemalige Rennfahrerin Heidi Hetzer sitzt am 27.07.2014 in Berlin beim Start ihrer Weltreise in ihrem Hudson Great Eight Oldtimer Baujahr 1930. Sie startet ihre Weltreise. (zu dpa “In 960 Tagen um die Welt: Reise im Oldtimer endet in Berlin” vom 09.03.2017) Foto: Hannibal Hanschke/dpa +++(c) dpa – Bildfunk+++

Yep. That’s right. A Motor Doll was behind the wheel, and I missed the opportunity to meet her. We even walked by her in Pioneertown. She’s the kind of woman you notice. At the time, I didn’t know she and the car were connected. See why I’m kicking myself for leaving?

Turns out, Glenn (my Instagram photographer friend) shot a feature on the stranded Heidi and her 1930 Hudson Great-Eight, “Hudo,” for CTV Winnipeg News. Hudo had started spewing smoke at the US/Canada border, leaving the duo stranded in Emerson, an Eastern Canadian town of 670 people, where–according to my photog friend–Heidi has become “somewhat of a Superstar.”

I think she likes Glenn’s beard.

Armed with her identity, I went into full internet stalking mode and learned something:

Heidi is really stinkin’ cool.

She raced her first scooter at 16.

Went on to race motorcycles for twenty years.

Drove rally cars, with 150 victories under her belt.

Ran a successful car dealership for more than forty years.

Car dealer Heidi Hetzer poses for a portrait in an Opel branch in Berlin February 25, 2009. Opel dealer Hetzer, 71, has fought against male chauvinism as a female car mechanic and triumphed in dozens of motor rallyes, but the Berliner says she is driving her toughest race now — against the car crisis.
REUTERS/Johannes Eisele

Is a mechanic.

Owns thirteen classics.

In an interview with Canadian television, she said:

I don’t know anything else. I cannot cook, I cannot paint. Automobiles.”

When Heidi turned 75, she sold her dealership, but instead of taking up residence in a rocker, she set off to circumnavigate the globe in an antique auto, inspired by Clärenore Stinnes, the first person to do so in 1927.

Although the roads have improved since Ms. Stinnes day, Heidi wanted to replicate the experience of the trip, so chose a car similar to the Adler Standard 6 driven by Stinnes.

Die ehemalige Rennfahrerin Heidi Hetzer posiert am 24.07.2014 in Berlin an einem Hudson Great Eight Oldtimer mit dem Baujahr 1930. Hetzer mËchte am Sonntag ihre Weltreise mit dem Fahrzeug antreten. Foto: Britta Pedersen/dpa +++(c) dpa – Bildfunk+++

On August 1, 2014, Heidi Hetzer left Berlin in her 1930 Hudson for a two-year adventure, at first with a partner, but now running solo–just Heidi and Hudo and the open road.

For Heidi, traveling alone without someone else trying to take the reins or be the boss, suits her.

At my age, it’s my last turn, and I just want to do and go where I want to go.”

A year now past, Heidi has toured through Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and across the ocean to North America.

ARCHIV – HANDOUT – Die Berliner Rallyefahrerin Heidi Hetzer posiert auf dem legendären Highway 66 im US-Staat Arizona (USA) neben ihrem Oldtimer «Hudo» (undatiert). Foto: privat (zu dpa “Oldtimer-Weltreisende Heidi Hetzer: Ich bin doch nicht bekloppt” vom 11.03.2017) ACHTUNG: Nur zur redaktionellen Verwendung im Zusammenhang mit der aktuellen Berichterstattung und nur bei Urhebernennung: Foto: Privat/dpa +++(c) dpa – Bildfunk+++

Along the way, there have been mechanical failures, like a piston and clutch in Uzbekistan, a motor swap in Melbourne…

…and now, the head gasket in Canada, along with the everyday maintenance issues, like having to water the hickory wheels to keep them from shrinking.

The mechanical problems, although inconvenient, are expected. Hudo is 85-years-old, after all, and classics need patience, something Heidi has learned a lot about on this journey–not just with the car, but with herself.

Heidi, you see, likes to go fast. Hudo? Not so much.

At home I was a race car driver and I always wanted to be first, now I have to learn that everybody passes me. Now, in one day, if I pass three cars I go ‘yay!’ and have to write it in my book.”

For now, her trip has ground to a halt, and she simply has to wait. Another difficult challenge.

Hudo is like my husband. I’m in a good mood when he drives, miserable when he breaks down.”

Hopefully her misery ends soon. Good news! I got an email from Heidi this morning with an update! The head gasket made its way from Massachusetts to Emerson, and Hudo and Heidi are on their way! They made it to Minnesota, and will finish their tour of North America, taking the Southern route through Florida. From there, she has a couple of options. She’d like to take Hudo to Cuba, then to Peru and through South America, or maybe travel Route 66 back to Los Angeles. Lastly, she will tour Africa, before returning to Europe, with a goal of making it home by her eightieth birthday. Along the way, she will continue meeting people, making friends, inspiring dreams. This from a Malaysian blogger’s interview with Heidi:

I’m just an old woman in an old car. Most people dream about it, talk about it, but don’t do it. I’m living my dream!”

The interest from people continually surprises Heidi. To anyone who will listen, she shares this important message:

“DO SOMETHING”

Don’t sit in front of the TV. Just whatever you want to do, it is possible, You stay younger much longer if you do something.”

Excellent advice indeed.


KEEPING UP WITH HEIDI:

And hey… if you’re somewhere along Heidi’s Route, send her a message. She’s loves meeting up with people. Don’t do as I did and miss the opportunity to meet a truly spectacular Motor Doll.

Until next time…

Later gators!

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