Yes, it’s true: I live on a tropical island where the roads look like the paved stages of an FIA World Rally, but not quite as smooth. Oh, and to make it more interesting, they drive on the left here. Which would be easier if they maintained the roads with a bit more care, like repainting the center lines – wait, what? ! There is supposed to be a median line ? !— more than once every three or four hurricane seasons.
You say you like driving on back roads, with all the twists and turns? Hey, in this place there is almost no front roads. There are also no sidewalks. Or troubleshooting routes. Or the shoulders. What’s amazing is that the drivers here are courteous and helpful, letting side traffic into the flow, waving and smiling. I think everyone is just euphoric just being here, abandoned in paradise, where the roads are shitty, but the morale is high. And it was into this Edenic environment that we shipped the Electric Mini (GNOHM license plate).
It only took a month for the roads – especially a malevolent pothole – to heave up and sink their fangs into a tire.
And it was the Highway-or what passes for a freeway here. Leave the highway on the real secondary roads, only some of which have names, and the driving is pure adventure. On the one hand, just as America followed ancient Native American trails, and Native Americans followed animal trails, I think we ride on roads made on trails left by migrating iguanas. And whoever paved those roads to begin with probably owned a Volkswagen, if not a Model T, because the roads are about two VWs wide, and who could ask for more than that?
Of course, the weather and the weather – this place gets the occasional weather – can take its toll on the best-laid highways, so you can imagine how much fun they’re having here.
Now the roads are maintained, somehow, but I’m not sure that this maintenance is official. Occasional holes appear to be filled by arbitrary pouring of concrete, as if it were a coprolite deposit of some prehistoric Pleistocene creature, something big with a bad digestive tract.
Aside from the tire-eating rally stages, the countryside is steep and rocky, so parking becomes a creative activity. There is a wrecked car on the side of the road not far from our rental condo; its owner eventually had to stick a sign inside the storefront explaining that it hasn’t been abandoned, he’s just waiting for the adjusters to do their magic. He’s been there since before we arrived in September. And there’s a Jeep parked not too far away on relatively flat ground that’s been in the same spot for a long time.
So a person needs a luggage rack.
Well, okay: I guess the rack really has nothing to do with the roads on the island, but it was definitely an island projectbecause when you live in a place like this, people want to visit, and of course you insist on picking them up from the airport – don’t pay for a taxi, do you? mad?! We will pick you up!
But people invariably have luggage, and I’m not talking about your childhood trauma. So, even before flying south for the whole duration, part A started looking for luggage racks for the Mini Cooper, because it’s a minifor god’s sake, and while it will certainly carry four people in intimate comfort, if they brought anything other than a Speedo and a roll of dental floss, then you need a rack.
But have you seen what these things Cost?!
First of all, this Mini Cooper SE didn’t come with roof rails, which I guess are to cars what eaves are to houses. If I remember correctly, retrofitting the roof rails would cost something like a thousand dollars, and the alternatives varied everywhere – and that’s only for the basic structure that supports the rack, or basket , or the pod, or whatever. “Just bring me some bars,” I growled, and I’ll build my own rack!
It’s not always a good idea to issue such a challenge. In no time, Party A had tracked down and purchased a set of Sea Sucker roof racks, for a measly Oh my God! the price. These sturdy bars have gigantic suction cups, and when I assembled the bars and slapped them on the car, I was convinced they would work. Then I tried to go back on my DIY promise and started looking at the prices of different accessories that you can attach to the bars, in order to transport your surfboards, your bikes, Mitt Romney’s dog, or some baggage, leading to another Oh my God moment.
Back to doing it myself.
At that time, the Great Movement was in motion. The GNOHM car was dispatched and a group of movers descended on Mondo Condo to bundle our things in boxes and move them, leaving me to transport whatever was left in the garage to a nearby rental garage, with plans to organize that flotsam and eventually join the A party. But the Sea Sucker bars were still with me, as were the discarded fumes of fifteen years at Mondo Condo.
Like those umbrella sticks.
Well, I don’t think that’s their correct nomenclature, but it’s the remains of a parasol that died a few years ago at which point I disassembled its skeleton and ended up with those spokes or ribs or whatever else it’s called, which of course I kept because you can never tell when you might need something like that. And then there were the two-by-three-inch plywood boards that I think I salvaged from a bed frame or something someone threw next to the dumpster. So I figured I had the makings of an acceptable luggage rack.
With the luggage basket complete, loosely held together with all the screws I could find in the rubble, it was time to take the whole shebang apart and pack the bars, suction cups and sticks into a box and put it together. ‘mail it to the office box that Party A had rented.
Now here’s the thing: it takes a number of tools to assemble a rack, and most of my tools would be left for now. But when I packed up the big rack kit, I also included everything I thought I’d need to reassemble it. Sure enough, when the white box finally arrived on the island a few weeks after I landed, I unpacked my 12-volt Bosch battery drill, my Snap-On ratcheting T-handle, and a DeWalt right-angle drill attachment that I bought out of speculation last year. A quick visit to Home Depot to rearm myself with Torx head screws, and I was ready to spend a pleasant afternoon on the patio reassembling my luggage basket.
Of course, I hadn’t made definitive connections between the wooden basket and the Sea Sucker bars in San Diego, because I didn’t have the exact dimensions of the Mini’s roof. So now it was time to put the bars in place, position the basket, and mark the locations of the holes that would (hopefully) secure the basket to the bars with one and a quarter inch cable hangers. (I’m wary of them because they’re plastic, but in a salty environment, I don’t trust metal either.)
Now, with the bars in place on the car and the basket strategically balanced on the bars, it was time to install the plastic supports – from below. This is where my thoughtful selection of travel tools paid off: connecting the T-handle to the right-angle drill attachment allowed me to drive in Torx screws from below.
Why, yes, now that you ask: I did complete this project the morning our friends arrive, but still with plenty of time to pick them up at the airport. And even though it turned out that they both only traveled with small travel bags which could probably have been crushed in the austere luggage compartment of the Mini, I insisted on using the creation umbrella on the roof, tying it all together with bright orange ratchet ties. straps. Worked like a charm.–Satch Carlson