Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 23, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 11 Panama!

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The Duesseldorf Express arrived at the Panama Canal early May 23.


The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship, with my 1973 Mercedes 450 SL loaded on it bound for Italy, finally showed back up on tracking screens early this morning, in the queue to pass through the Panama Canal.

The ship really hadn’t been seen on tracking screens for nearly nine days! That’s when it passed out of range, a couple hundred miles south of Ensenada, Mexico. It had one stop en route, in Manzanillo, Mexico, where it reportedly arrived behind schedule for whatever reason, and left the next day even farther behind schedule. But those were just log entries, and not tracking data.

The Duesseldorf Express was due in Panama today, however, so it appears any lost time on the 1,400 nautical mile leg from Manzanillo has been more than made up. It was scheduled to dock at Manzanillo terminal here (confusing both ports have the same name!) at 18:00 UTC today, presumably to fuel up before entering the canal zone. It is scheduled to go out again tomorrow at 05:00 UTC (that would actually be before midnight today, Panama time) toward Cartagena, Colombia, its next stop.

The Duesseldorf Express is still on pace to arrive as promised in Genoa, Italy, by June 14. That’s where I plan to pick it up, and begin enjoying driving it.

During its brief stay in Panama, however, I hope to catch a glimpse of it on one of the many webcams that monitor canal activity.

Jerry Garrett

May 23, 2017


Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 22, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 10


No word yet as to the actual whereabouts of the Duesseldorf Express container ship, which is headed toward the Panama Canal, with my 1973 Mercedes 450 SL aboard.

The ship is coming from Manzanillo, Mexico, to Manzanillo, Panama, which is more than a bit confusing. The ship loaded my Mercedes at the port in Los Angeles back on May 13; it should arrive in Genoa, Italy on or about June 13. That’s where I hope to take delivery.

The Manzanillo-Manzanillo route is a fairly lonely one, it seems. Keeping track of a cargo ship along that route is very difficult. Officially, the Duesseldorf Express hasn’t been pinging radars since May 14, a hundred miles south of Ensenada, Baja California.

The ship is scheduled in Panama’s Manzanillo tomorrow at 18:00 UTC ( says 23:00 at Puerto Colon).

I estimate it is somewhere off the coast of Nicaragua tonight as I write this. Hopefully, there will be solid information tomorrow. Because, as Scarlett O’Hara once said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Whatever that means.

Jerry Garrett

May 22, 2017



Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 21, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 9


The World’s Largest Container Ship (Shipspotting)


While we await the arrival here Tuesday, May 23, of the Duesseldorf Express cargo carrier, with my old Mercedes onboard en route from California to Italy, let’s have a trivia test.

So, what’s the biggest container ship in the world?

What a timely question!

The answer has changed three times in the last month!

Since 2015, it had been the behemoth Barzan, with a 19,870 TEU capacity, according to Alphaliner (credit them for the graphic below too). Then, in March, the MOL Triumph broke the 20k TEU barrier when its 20,170 TEU capacity was christened. In April, the 20,568 TEU Madrid Maersk went into service.

But as of last week, the new “King of Containerland” is the OOCL Hong Kong. It is owned by the Orient Overseas Container Line, Ltd., of Hong Kong, and it was just built by Samsung (that company seems to have its fingers in every pie, doesn’t it?).

The Hong Kong, at 21,413 TEUs, blew them all away. And OOCL supposedly has an order for six such ships. Other shipyards are building as many of these 400-meter behemoths, as fast they can.

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 2.44.18 PM

Next question: What are TEUs?

They are “twenty-foot equivalent units” or an inexact measurement unit for cargo capacity, often used to describe the capacity of container ships and container terminals. Everyone in the industry uses it, so measurements are all relative.

But imagine 21,143 20-foot shipping containers loaded on one ship! It’s like 24 bays, stacked 38 rows deep, by 24 rows wide! Hope my Mercedes is not on the bottom of a pile like that!

Most shipping containers are not 20-footers, however; they’re actually all sizes (like life-size stackable Legos), the most common of which – check me on this, maritime buffs – is the 40-footer. (Want one? You can easily buy one; eBay has them for less than $2,000.) So, I think it’s safe to calculate the OOCL Hong Kong could easily fit, say, 10,000 of these ubiquitous 40-foot containers!

In fact my old Mercedes 450 SL, which at 15.5 feet in length could actually fit inside a 20-footer, has an HC-40 all to itself on the Duesseldorf Express. HC refers to “High Cube” which means it’s 9 feet, 6 inches tall – about a foot taller than a standard cube. (Exact HC-40 measurement, according to the Hapag-Lloyd shipping line which owns the DE, is about six inches shorter than 40 feet, and about 7 feet, 8 inches inches wide. The Mercedes fits inside with about a foot to spare on either side.

How big is the Duesseldorf Express, compared to the OOCL Hong Kong? A fraction of the size. At 930 feet, it is about 400 feet shorter. The DE also has a capacity of “only” 4,612 TEUs – which still seems like kind of a lot. (Still hard to imagine my containerized Mercedes as just one of 2,000+ containers on that ship!)

But here’s the deal: The Duesseldorf Express will fit through the Panama Canal.

The OOCL Hong Kong and its ilk, despite the recent Panamax canal expansion, will not.

Jerry Garrett

May 21, 2017

According to the Hellenic Shipping News, “The 21,413 teu OOCL HONG KONG, delivered last week by Samsung Heavy Industries, has taken the crown for the largest containership ever built, based on advertised nominal container intake.

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 20, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 8


The day I took delivery of my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL five years ago.


Somewhere about 1,000 miles southeast of here, I reckon, the Duesseldorf Express cargo ship is plying the coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean. A container, with my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL, is loaded on the ship, among the thousands of containers that ship can hold. The ship left Manzanillo two days ago, and is due at the Panama Canal in three days. After that, it will be another three weeks, mostly lonely days at sea, until the Duesseldorf Express arrives in Genoa, Italy, where I plan to pick up my car.

“Sea days”, as they are called in the maritime industry, when you are just chugging along between far-off destinations, usually with no land or other sign of civilization in sight, are good days for thought.

Today, I’m thinking about a conversation I had four years ago, at a classic car auction near Lake Como in Italy, with Rob Myers, the founder of RM Auctions.

“Do you think my 1973 SL 450 will ever be worth anything?” I asked Rob.

Obviously, he thought it was a dumb question. “No,” he scoffed. “They made too many of them. Way too many.”

My question was based on watching a 1971 280 SL being auctioned off that night for a price approaching six figures. Older SLs are just about untouchable these days.

Funny thing, two years later, Hagerty’s, the insurer of my 1973 450 SL informed me, “Your coverage is too low now. There’s been a big spike in value for 450 SLs.”

I think I had it insured then for about $10,000.

“Pristine examples are worth up to $30,000 now,” the underwriter told me.

“I assure you mine is not a pristine example,” I told him. It could use a re-paint and new leather upholstery. But I did increase the coverage to $15,000, as I recall.

When I renewed last year, I was told my coverage was probably still adequate at that point, because “values have peaked on those SLs, maybe even retreated a bit in the last year.”

Yeah, if somebody wants to give me that kind of money for my 450, I’ll personally deliver it, hand them the keys, and walk home.

Yet the cars are certainly becoming a little more rare these days, as they become more costly to keep on the road, especially the first-year 450 SLs like mine. But there are still a bunch of them on the road, especially in places like Southern California, where they have a cult following.

But one place where you don’t see a lot of them anymore is along the Mediterranean coast of France and Italy. Old cars of any kind are really rare around where I live; maybe rust, or extreme maintenance costs, lack of parts and such concerns are key factors.

It appears that old SLs are a pretty hot commodity in these parts. I’ve seen a couple since I’ve been here, and they are considered real collectors items. Prices in classic car guides are strong – $25,000 is not an uncommon price to ask, for the few that I’ve seen. And they weren’t in as good condition as mine, or as well-equipped, or the right year, etc.

I don’t really know what my 450 SL would be worth to a buyer in Europe; officially, I’m shipping it to Europe for my own personal driving enjoyment – not to sell it. (Not that I wouldn’t if the right offer came along.)

My Mercedes is a bit of a mystery. I stupidly bought it off eBay five years ago. My local dealer said it had “no record of the car ever being serviced at any time, at a Mercedes dealership anywhere in the world” in its 40+ years of existence before I brought it in for an oil change. The oil looked original.

I spent a couple of years tinkering with it to get it running right. Generally, it’s been pretty reliable since then, although it decided it didn’t want to start, the day the truck arrived to take it away to the shipping container. (Maybe it was trying to tell me something.) The crook I bought it from had fiddled with the odometer; the air conditioning compressor seized up two years ago; but that’s about it. AC is a big deal in California, but not the Côte d’Azur, where I hope the top would be stored in the garage all the time!

Monaco Dreamin’: Grace Kelly and Cary Grant filming “To Catch A Thief” in 1955.

Yeah! So that’s the type of stuff I think about on a “Sea Day”.

Jerry Garrett

May 20, 2017



Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 19, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 7


The Duesseldorf Express is somewhere off the coast of southern Mexico today.


Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, about 800 miles south of here, a shipping container loaded with my old Mercedes is loaded aboard the Panama-bound Duesseldorf Express cargo ship.

I have verified this now, after being unable to locate the container by number on the website of Hapag-Lloyd, the operator of the Duesseldorf Express.

“It’s booked with ZIM & not Hapag Lloyd,” Evelyn Valderrama wrote me in an email yesterday. Evelyn is sort of babysitting my booking at Schumacher Cargo Logistics in Gardena, California, where she works. “Please use the booking no. & below is the link :”

Zim Integrated Shipping Services is one of the top 20 global cargo shipping carriers in the world, according to Wikipedia.

I looked up the link to ZIM’s container number, and sure enough, my Mercedes was indeed loaded into and put aboard the Duesseldorf Express in the port of Los Angeles back on May 13. It’s still due in Genoa, Italy, around midnight June 13/14. That’s where I hope to pick it up and start driving it around southern Italy and France this summer.

A reader asked me if it wasn’t cheaper just to rent a car in France or Italy instead. Good question. Exhaustively researched by me. According to my calculations, after four months of driving the Mercedes, instead of renting or leasing cars in Europe, the Mercedes becomes the cheaper option. (That’s assuming the fickle Mercedes keeps running.) I plan to keep driving it here for six to 12 months.

I can rent cars in southern France for about $10 a day if I shop around. But that’s not always a guarantee. It’s a hassle to keep changing cars every couple of weeks. And you are playing rental car roulette each week with what you get (i.e., a Fiat 500 one week, a Renault Twingo the next, a Fiat Doblo van, a Toyota Yaris, a Citroen 2008, etc.) You’ll note these are all rather austere little econoboxes, often diesels, usually with manual transmissions.

You can rent or lease for longer terms. Wheels in Europe is an especially good website to check, for rentals of three to 24 months. This is great for expats who don’t want to, or can’t, buy a car while in Europe (buying a car usually means getting a driver’s license, a permanent address, insurance, taxes, etc.). Insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance are included! You also have no age limit (good for under-25 drivers who can’t easily rent from the big agencies like Hertz), the option of multiple drivers, and the availability of just about every size and type of vehicle. The cost varies by the city in which you pick it up; the cheapest I could find was about $450 a month for a small car.

Renault also offers a Eurodrive leasing program that is good for 90-165 days. But that’s a little more expensive. It’s generally available in France, but I was quoted a rate for pickup in Milan, Italy too. Renault’s offer is for brand new cars only.

Leased cars typically come with mileage limitations. The rental cars are generally for unlimited miles, but beware: some are unlimited only in the country its rented in (quite a joke if you rent in mile-wide Monaco!) Nice has horrible, generally undisclosed “luxury destination” taxes (which can more than double the rental) on cars picked up at the airport or train station.

Europcar offers long term rentals (up to 90 days) that were reasonably priced. But you aren’t guaranteed what car you are going to get (regardless what your reservation may claim) and it’s not likely to be a new car. I had quite a goat rodeo with Hertz, Avis, Budget, Europcar and Thrifty about whether any of them would honor a series of reservations I made for a nine-passenger van for a month. Turns out none of them would; a cramped “six-passenger” station wagon with two child-size jump seats in a third row (eliminating all luggage space) was their idea of equivalence. Lesson learned.

And, besides, when it comes right down to it, what can top driving around the Riviera in a classic, red, 450 SL convertible?

(Editor’s Note: Tomorrow, I will talk about the relative rarity of a 1973 Mercedes 450 SL in southern Europe these days.)

Jerry Garrett

May 19, 2017

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 18, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 6


Last time I saw my Mercedes was April 11, when it was being loaded for shipping.

Last time I saw my Mercedes was April 11, when it was being loaded for shipping.


The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship left port here yesterday at 19:36 UTC, after a stay of about 28 hours.

The ship, carrying my “containerized” 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL to me for pick up in Italy, arrived here about 13 hours behind schedule, after leaving the port of Los Angeles on May 13.

The Duesseldorf Express’ next stop is the Panama Canal on May 23. Its scheduled arrival has been set back three hours to 18:00 UTC. So apparently there is some calculation almost all of the delay in and out of Manzanillo can be made up over the next 1,400-nautical-mile leg of the 7,800+ nautical mile journey.

Each day, it seems I receive some new paperwork related to the voyage: confirmation of loading, confirmation of departure, confirmation of arrival, customs notifications, etc.

The latest notification includes a “container number” that the Mercedes is supposedly loaded in. And I noticed the website of Hapag-Lloyd, the shipping company that operates the Duesseldorf Express, offers a search feature by container number.

So I entered the container number and got back a message “Container for Container Number given not found.” Hmmm. What’s up with that?

More checking is needed. I’ll try to have more information tomorrow. Hope I’m not tracking the wrong ship.

Jerry Garrett

May 18, 2017

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 17, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 5


The Duesseldorf Express in the port of Los Angeles (Wikipedia Commons)


The Duesseldorf Express container ship arrived here in port at 4:00 a.m. today, about 13 hours behind schedule.

This information, which came from the ship’s owner, Hapag-Lloyd, is the most credible that I have received since the ship left port in Los Angeles several days ago. Various apps and websites haven’t been of much use in tracking the ship since it went “missing” from radar about 200 miles south of Ensenada, Mexico, a couple of days ago. (An area of sparse radar coverage.)

I’m following the ship because its carrying my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL in a container that was scheduled to arrive in Genoa, Italy on June 13. That’s when I was hoping to pick it up, so I could drive it around the Riviera for a few months. I haven’t seen the car since early April when a flatbed truck came to my house in Las Vegas and took it to a cargo loading facility in Gardena, California

Hapag-Lloyd tracks its ships – the Duesseldorf Express is one of hundreds it operates worldwide – carefully and has them scheduled down to the minute for weeks and months in advance. Its latest schedule for the Duesseldorf Express, however, has it arriving in Genoa’s Voltri docks at minute past midnight on June 14. We will see.

So the Duesseldorf Express is now a bit behind schedule – 13 hours seems like a lot, actually – and I don’t know how that lost time might be made up. It’s due in Panama at 15:00 UTC on May 23, and due back out by 05:00 the next day, en route to Cartagena, Colombia. No doubt, by tomorrow, I will have an update on its progress, vis a vis its scheduled itinerary.

The Duesseldorf Express’ itinerary is sort of interesting (to me), and I’ll sketch it out here for anyone else who might be interested:

Ports/Dates & Times In & Out

Cartagena, Colombia 5-25 05:00/5-25 18:00

Caucedo, Dominican Republic 5-27 22:00/5-28 13:00

Lisbon, Portugal 6-6 09:00/6-6 23:00

Tangiers, Morocco 6-7 19:00/6-8 05:00

Valencia, Spain 6-9 08:00/6-9 22:00

Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy 6-11 02:00/6-11 19:00

Livorno, Tuscany, Italy 6-12 19:30/6-13 14:00

Genoa, Liguria, Italy 6-14 00:01/6-14 18:00

From there, the ship goes on to circle the western Mediterranean Sea for awhile: Marseilles, Barcelona, Cagliari again, Livorno, Genoa, Marseilles (FOS), etc, etc. Eventually it heads back to the West Coast of the United States again; it will be in Los Angeles again on July 14.

The Duesseldorf Express really gets around. Last month it went from the Mediterranean all the way to Seattle (that took a month); then it started back on a return journey to the Mediterranean, which is where my Mercedes joined the itinerary.

I must confess a teensy bit of disappointment around my discovery of the route it is taking to Genoa right now. By crossing from Valencia to Cagliari and then on to Livorno, the Duesseldorf Express will pass too far south to be within view of my apartment on the coast. (It will also be moving around in the middle of the night.) I was hoping I could see it pass by with my binoculars; I have a pretty good vantage point from which to keep an eye on a lot of ship traffic off the coast of the French and Italian Rivieras.

On a clear day, I can see all the way to Corsica – 100 miles away.

Jerry Garrett

May 17, 2017



Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 16, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 4

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 5.45.09 PMMANZANILLO, Mexico

Has anyone seen this ship?

This is a stock photo of the Duesseldorf Express that I am hoping doesn’t mind me borrowing here.

It was supposed to have docked in the port at Manzanillo about an hour ago.

I’m interested in its progress, because my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL is loaded in a container on it. I hope the container isn’t one of those right on top, almost dangling over the edge. I guess it’s not unheard of to lose a few of those during rough voyages.

I haven’t had any real solid information on the ship’s whereabouts for the last couple of days. That’s when it churned out of radar range south of Ensenada, Mexico, a day after leaving the port in Los Angeles. It’s en route to Genoa, Italy, where I will pick it up. says it received a radar contact with the ship this morning, about six hours before it was due to arrive in Manzanillo. But it’s location wasn’t updated again in the intervening 6-7 hours. Fleetmon says it will tell me more information if I pay them some money – all major credit cards accepted – but no thanks.

It’s enough to know that the Duesseldorf Express was apparently on schedule, and zooming right along (south-southeast not far off the coast of Mexico’s mainland). Every time I have caught up with it, the data shows it is making a little over 20 knots – which seems pretty darn fast. I’ve traveled these waters in a cruise ship, and at 14 knots, it was wallowing around enough to make the average landlubber sorry they overdid it at the all-you-can-eat midnight sushi buffet.

At those speeds, the ship is traveling about 400 nautical miles a day.

The journey from Los Angeles to Manzanillo is a little over 1,200 nautical miles, according to Madsen Maritime guide. So, if the Duesseldorf Express is indeed in Manzanillo today, it’s almost halfway to the Panama Canal (about 2,600 nautical miles from port of L.A.).

And from Panama to Genoa, well, that’s a bunch more miles. I haven’t quite figured that one out yet. But it is 4,351 nautical miles from the canal exit to the Straight of Gibraltar junction point beacon, and about another 800 nautical miles from there to Genoa.

That makes the whole trip about 7,800 nautical miles.

CORRECTION: In my initial post about my Mercedes on the High Seas, I said the shipping costs were $1,800. The cost is actually $1,400, because I subtracted $400 for insurance from that amount, since I was able to get a different policy from Hagerty.

So that costs out to something like 17 cents a mile? That’s the cheapest I’ve ever been able to take that car anywhere.

Jerry Garrett

May 16, 2017


Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 15, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 3

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The cargo ship carrying my classic Mercedes has vanished.

I was tracking it yesterday, as it was chugging resolutely along at 20 knots, in the Pacific Ocean about 200 kilometers south of Ensenada, Mexico, when it disappeared from the tracking screen.

This morning the ship, the Duesseldorf Express, is still missing.

I’m not especially worried. I think VesselFinder, the tracking app that I’m using, doesn’t offer good coverage in this remote area of the Pacific. The ship is due in Manzanillo, Mexico by 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon, and if it doesn’t reappear by then, I may start to worry.

But it was unusual. The ship was really plowing along; 20+ knots seems pretty stout for 930-foot container ship that’s nearly 20 years old. But I’m not an expert in cargo carriers. And it was just passing another cargo ship that did not blip off the tracking screen at that moment, like the Duesseldorf Express did.

So this feeds my already over-active writer’s imagination.

What if there was a problem?

Yes, I do have insurance. It’s a special kind of insurance rider on my usual insurance with Hagerty, my favorite classic car insurance specialists. Hagerty offered the coverage for $250 for the anticipated month-long voyage (the shipper Schumacher Cargo Logistics offered something similar for $400). So the Mercedes is covered for everything that might happen to it on this voyage, from Los Angeles to Genoa, Italy – from minor damage banging around inside the container, to sea water seepage, to total loss.

If anyone sees a 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL washing up on a beach in Baja California, here’s what mine looks like:


Jerry Garrett

May 15, 2017

Update: Thanks to everyone who offered to help me spend my insurance payoff, but that won’t be necessary as yet. A different website, Fleetmon, at 4:45 a.m. southern Mexico time says the Duesseldorf Express is still “under way, using engine” and is now four hours away from its next port of call, in Manzanillo, Mexico!


Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 14, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 2

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The red box highlights the location of the Duesseldorf Express today.


Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, about 50 miles west of here, my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL is loaded into the bowels of the Duesseldorf Express cargo ship, bound from Los Angeles to Genoa, Italy.

The journey is supposed to take about a month. It started late last night when the Duesseldorf Express finished loading its cargo at the L.A. port – including the container with my Mercedes – and chugged out of the harbor on a southward course. By 10:39 UTC today (May 14) it had traveled about 300 miles – into Mexican waters off Ensenada.

The latest info from the VesselFinder website says the Duesseldorf Express will arrive at the port of Manzanillo two days from now at 15:00.

So far, I’m impressed with the clockwork precision of the ship’s progress. I followed it for a couple of days down the Pacific Coast from Oregon before it arrived in the port at L.A. It made the progress it was scheduled to make each day, arrived in ports as planned, loaded its cargo in a timely fashion, and left port on time for the next destination. Cargo ships always impressed me as rather leisurely travelers, especially when I have seen them over the years sitting out in the channel between Catalina and Long Beach for days, waiting out loading and unloading delays in the port.

The only real delays I’ve experienced so far have been in getting the Mercedes onto a ship in the first place.

This process started for me back in January, when I was first researching the possibility of shipping my car to Europe. A lot of documentation was required and it took me a long time to rustle up the title and various other information needed by the company that I’m shipping with, Schumacher Cargo Logistics. They are charging $1,800 for their services; I’ve heard there are cheaper options, but I only found more expensive ones.

The Mercedes left my house April 11, on a flatbed truck bound for Schumacher’s loading and processing facility in Gardena, California. At some point it was loaded into a container (I don’t know exactly when), and then it sat around for nearly a month, before it finally was consigned to a ship. Maybe if I would have gotten my act together sooner, the Mercedes could have made it onto an earlier ship. I don’t know. I’m a rookie at this.

(It was due to be shipped a bit earlier, but it decided to stop running for a few days. At classic Mercedes does things like that. It only cost $250 to get it running again! Cheap this time.)

The Mercedes is being shipped in its container alone, with nothing in it except a quarter tank of gas; that’s the recommended amount (I guess any more than that can spill and/or create a fire hazard). I had heard from others who have shipped cars that the vehicle has to be empty – with not even a tool kit in it. I found out just before the car left that is not exactly true. “If you want to load your auto you can, its $150.00 additional,” said Schumacher’s rep Kevin Luccarelli. (Loading the rest of the container with household items such as furniture, however, is a whole different matter – costing thousands more.)

I declined the auto-loading options, because I drew a blank on what I might put in it, at that point. But I can sure think of things now that I wished I had filled the car with – a printer, a sewing machine,  a television, a stereo, our DeLonghi gelato maker, etc, etc. I’m spending a year in the Côte d’Azur area, and I sure could use a few of those things here!

Tomorrow, I promise a photo or two of the Mercedes.

Jerry Garrett

May 14, 2017

(Editor’s Note: The illustration above is from the interesting Vessel Finder website.)

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 13, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy (from California)

Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 4.55.18 PM

Location of my Mercedes on May 13, 2017, inside the Duesseldorf Express cargo ship.



In the mid-1950s Mad Magazine had a spoof of Reader’s Digest, with a take-down of the “first-person” features in each edition, with a story entitled, “We Drove Our Chrysler to Hawaii!” I always envisioned the mythical subject was a 1957 Chrysler, because I have one, and it’s a boat.

But this article isn’t about Mad, Readers’ Digest, Hawaii or Chrysler. It is about taking another of my cars, a 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL, to Italy. From California.

I’ve been conspiring to spend as much of my time as possible in recent years on the Côte d’Azur, from Cannes to Ventimiglia, Italy – with stops in Nice, France and Monaco in between. Please don’t hate me too much; I’m semi-retired now after working since I was 11. I’ve worked for this. And I can usually afford only the off-season prices.

Besides, the Côte d’Azur is actually cheaper for me than trying to live in California these days (especially since the euro-dollar exchange rate has become so favorable of late). So, it just makes economic sense, to a certain degree.

My biggest problem here is that I don’t have a car. So instead of continuing to rent or lease one, I decided to look into bringing one of my cars here from the U.S. It was surprisingly affordable. In future columns on this subject I will provide some more details.

But my intention with this first in what I hope is a series of articles on this subject is to let you know the adventure has begun! The Mercedes is loaded into a container that is being stowed, as a I write, on a cargo ship, the Duesseldorf Express, in Long Beach/Los Angeles harbor.

The ship leaves shortly on an epic month-long journey to Voltri docks near Genoa, Italy. I’ll be tracking the ship’s progress daily for the next month. Hope you’ll join me on the journey, or should I say, “the drive.”

Jerry Garrett

May 13, 2017

(Editor’s Note: If the map above does not display a caption on your browser, it says, “Location of my Mercedes on May 13, 2017, inside the Duesseldorf Express cargo ship.”

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | January 16, 2017

January 16, 1942: Did A New Moon Kill Actress Carole Lombard?


Searchers comb wreckage of TWA Flight 3 (AP archives)


Did pitch-black skies, on the night of a new moon, lead to one of the most notorious aviation disasters in history? The new moon was not mentioned as a factor in the exhaustive investigation and subsequent report on the crash. Was it even considered?

Here are the facts; you be the judge:

At 7:20 p.m. on January 16, 1942, Transcontinental & Western Airlines Flight #3 flew straight into the face of Mount Potosi near Las Vegas at a speed of about 200 m.p.h. The plane, a twin-engine, propeller driven Douglas DC-3, disintegrated on impact, killing all 22 people onboard, including actress Carole Lombard, the wife of film star Clark Gable.

The accident seemed mysterious and prompted an intense investigation into every possible explanation for it. One factor ruled out was the “entirely satisfactory” weather conditions that night. But that conclusion is wrong, I believe, as was the decision to blame the pilot, Capt. Wayne C. Williams.lombardLAT

Let’s look at what happened:

The New York to Los Angeles flight was many hours late, after making unscheduled stops to take on cargo and on troops in transit to the west coast. It made a refueling stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, three hours behind schedule. The plane should have been able to fly nonstop to Los Angeles (Burbank airport, actually) from that point, but headwinds were vicious – so strong, in fact, additional stops had to be scheduled in Winslow, Arizona, and Las Vegas to take on enough fuel to make it. So the struggling flight was falling even further behind.

The flight plan called for landing at an airstrip near Boulder City, Nevada. But the plane arrived in Las Vegas well after sunset (which had been at 4:52 p.m. that night). The Boulder City field had no landing lights, so the plane was rerouted, 18 miles further on, to the lighted strip at McCarran Field.

When the flight resumed at 7:07 p.m., the original flight plan and compass headings were retained, as though the plane was still being routed from Boulder City. A cruising altitude of about 7,500 feet above sea level, leaving the Vegas area from that airport, would have been fine for a 218-degree heading to Burbank. But the plane took off 18 miles farther west, and that was enough of a difference to route the plane directly on a deadly collision course with the summit of 8,500-foot Mount Potosi.

So, why couldn’t the pilot, an experienced flyer, see a massive 8,500-foot mountain, directly in front of him? After all the night was clear and cold, investigators noted, with “ceiling and visibility unlimited”!

The answer is visibility was not “unlimited”. The pilot, in fact, could not see a thing. It was the night of the new moon.


Mount Potosi’s snow cover on January 16, 2017 (Jerry Garrett)

Often, in January, the heights of Mount Potosi would stand out with brilliant bright new snow (see photo). But not that night in January of 1942; Mount Potosi’s summit had received only a smattering of snow. Vegas Valley weather records show no measurable precipitation fell the whole month of January.

Another consideration: Las Vegas was just a tiny desert watering hole back then, with a population of less than 8,500 (compared to 2 million in the valley today); so there were no “bright lights of the Vegas Strip” to cast a glow that night. There were no bright lights then; and no “Strip”.

The pilot should have been able to utilize navigation beacons in the area to help him make out silhouettes of terrain at night. But, that night, all but one of the five navigation beacons around the Las Vegas area had been turned off. Why? Because of (unfounded) fears of a Japanese attack on the west coast (the Pearl Harbor attack had been only five weeks earlier).

So the pilot, after climbing from the airport runway’s elevation of 1,900 feet to slightly above his prescribed cruising altitude of 7,500 feet (actually he got to about 7,700 feet), leveled off. He thought he was in the clear.

He almost was.

In fact he was just 80 feet short of clearing a low section of ridge, directly in front of him. If he had been able to see it, he might have been able to pull up just enough in time. Instead, he unwittingly flew straight into an unseen vertical rock cliff.


Clark Gable & Carole Lombard (AP)

Miss Lombard shouldn’t even have been on that plane; she had been scheduled to take the train home from Indiana after a charitable tour raising money for war bonds. But she hopped on the flight instead, in hopes of getting back to her husband sooner.

The official crash report , which brushed off any atmospheric factors, blamed pilot error. But the co-pilot had been the one who filled out the faulty flight plan, and forgot to fix it. Silly bureaucrats shouldn’t have turned off the navigation beacons in a location hundreds of miles beyond the range of any Japanese military aircraft. And, in any event, that flight shouldn’t have been operating at night – especially flying blind on the night of the new moon.

(Editor’s Note: A plaque marks the spot of the plane’s impact nowadays; but the area is so rugged and generally inaccessible many parts of the wreckage, including landing gear and an engine, have never been recovered.)

Jerry Garrett

January 16, 2017





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