And so it went at Black Rock that September and October: It was a month replete with sandstorms, rain, and incessant fod. After Breedlove had “fodded” his engine and when the winds would murmur and bellow, it was like Waiting for Godot. It was a month of hurry-up-and-wait, hey maybe tomorrow is the day. It was an exercise in endurance. Occasionally sandstorms would kick in and nullify the very thorough “de-fodding” (removing debris from the 13 mile courses) that took place during the day. In addition to the capricious, recalcitrant weather which made a mockery of the Mach 1 club’s perpetual de-fodding efforts, the Brits were plagued with a malfunctioning on-board computer that would sense non-existence turbulence and kill both engines at 400 mph. The SSC software phreaks would chase after the jet car at 180 mph in a hot rodded XJ12 Jaguar and blow some fresh code out off a laptop into the onboard computer’s serial port.

Through all of this both Bruno’s and the Miner’s Club in Gerlach became an Algonquin Round Table for the LSR maniacs who gathered on the playa in search of the Big Bang. The conversation was always good. It was during these nights I engaged Noble in a dialogue about overcoming obstacles. He insisted that the two forays into Jordan prepared the Thrust team for any possible catastrophic eventuality.

“The problem with Jordan,” he said, “is that we built a car that was extremely unconventional and very complex. We took it out there with a very green crew, so we had the problems of sorting out the crew, sorting out the car and, even worse, sorting out the desert. It hammered the hell out of the car… (after) we cleared 170 miles of stone. And a lot of that was on our hands and knees.”

Another night I got a similar recollection from Andy Green. “We had gone out there with a car with a lot of features that people said couldn’t work: rear-wheel steering, twin engines, the computers,” he said. “We went out there and we had a lot of problems with rear-wheel steer. And the engineering fixed it out there in the desert – we got the car to work right out there in Jordan. Everything that could have gone wrong with everything we had did – and we fixed all of it. The only thing we couldn’t fix was the weather.”

“The biggest obstacle wasn’t the fod or the weather,” said Simon Rogers, one of the Thrust SSC microlight pilots whose job description was to patrol the desert looking for fod. “Some days we would have to abandon a run because I would spot camels straggling across the track or Iranians rampaging across the desert smuggling massive amounts of petrol in a lorry (tanker truck).”

But perhaps the finest quote I was able to extricate from the Brits came from Green when I asked him what possessed him to be the first driver of an automobile to burst through the Sound Barrier. He said, “Nobody knows what is there because nobody has ever been there.”

It was
a haiku

for any technological



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