The Calm Before the Storm

TL;DR: Anticipation mounts. The Litts, Devon and Brittany, make it to San Francisco; and more about where the cars come from. 

"Do you want any chocolate covered espresso beans?" I asked Michael, head bent, rooting through my back pack. We’d just boarded our flight from Toronto to San Francisco and I was working through my pre-take off ritual: secure source of caffeine, ready brain food (book), and locate my earbuds that I know I packed but that I can never seem to find.

Team one on the run! #roadtrip #penais #lifestyle #travel - where's team two? @devongall

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"No!" he denied emphatically. "I'll explode if I have those!” 


With a final yank I freed my earbuds, now a tangled ball of wire, from beneath the two paperbacks that I insisted on bringing with me in spite of having an entire electronic library at my fingertips, and regarded the human firework sitting next to me. 

I didn’t know if his highly combustive state was because of the pent up energy he’d been carrying with him all day (left over from the night before, when his and Devon's company celebrated their fiscal year end in traditional raucous bell-ringing, green-blooded Vidyard style), or whether it was because we were finally on our way to officially pick up Bones following a nail-biting, near twelve month long courtship (more information on that to come), but the end result was the same.

Michael had indeed become a supernova. He was radiating barely contained nuclear levels of excitement, legs bouncing all over the place, butt squirming around in his tiny window seat in Row 31 at the back of the bus. A seat that, now that I was paying attention, I could see he barely fit into. In fact, Michael resembled a stuffed plush moose bursting out the top of a tin can, twitching and jerking in an attempt to burst free of its canned pea prison.

“Are you going to be ok?” I asked, genuinely concerned that he would blow to bits mid-flight and all this hype would be for nothing. That we’d all perish a suffocating and miserable, likely dismembering and painful, death, was a distant second thought.

“Yep!” he chirped, voice tight. “Just waiting for Matt to email me the results after 8:00pm so that I can draft our bells email and prepare a note for the board.”

It’s no coincidence that this trip is taking place immediately following fiscal year end at Vidyard. It’s the only time of year that Michael and Devon can take a so-called vacation. I say so-called because as much as they're looking forward to making this memory together —they're co-founders who have always been great friends, first and foremost— I have no doubt they’ll each be silently agonizing over being away. I also have no doubt they'll be compulsively checking in round the clock on a near minute-by-minute basis. 

But none of that matters because, like with everything on this trip, we'll make it work and figure it out as we go. All that matters is that we've carved out the time to do this, and we're doing it (a scintillating thought that’s been with us both since we landed last night at 10:30pm in San Francisco and made our way to Mike McCauley’s waiting apartment, located in the foodie dreamland Mission district, to crash for the night).

If I’d been hoping for a restful night’s sleep, I was fooling myself. Because now that we’d arrived, all we wanted to do was pick up Bones and hit the road. But we were the only two members of our now eight person team that had landed. So it came as no surprise that when I woke up at five in the morning (eight back home), three hours before our alarm, there was no way I was going to fall back to sleep. 

As I waited for the next street car to come barrelling out of the eerie quiet (only hours earlier the night was filled withe eye-popping shrieks and late evening drama, "I'ma getchu kiellt!") I thought about what I was hoping to get from this trip. As said before, we’ll all get different things. And what I wanted most, I decided, was to learn the true story behind each of the EndangeredExperiences members.

Don’t get me wrong, I know bits about each of them —this would be a very different, perhaps more amusing but definitely more painful, Wes Andersen flick if we were a travelling band of strangers— in the same way you know bits about your favourite actor or actress from having watched their movies and read a few candid interviews. You have a sense of who they are and how they'll behave in certain scenarios, but you don't know their favourite colour (or style) of underwear. I want to lift the curtain, the proverbial pantsie (if only a little,) and glimpse what's lurking beneath.

Sleeping in Mike’s house without him (he would land the following day), was my first glimpse.

“This is messy for Mike!" My husband candidly observed when we first walked in.

I was surprised by his comment because I found the apartment to be quite neat for what I’ve always considered to be an offshore grotto (although I find that my imagination has an affinity for cave-like dwellings, so I should probably be more discerning in my preconceived notions). 

"I just don't think he ever moved in…” I replied, and this made me sad because Mike’s been living here, alone, for years. 

What is this trip for Mike? I wondered. 

A quick scan of his apartment revealed to me that he probably left in a hurry, maybe in an effort to get to the airport in time. Stacks of note cards with kind and sentimental words written by loved ones on his nightstand. A Canadian hockey Jersey on the wall above his bed. Piles of opened and unopened boxes stacked high in every available corner. Wine —he’s the only legitimate connoisseur I know— everywhere. Bicycles, magazines, USB cables and tiny black boxes that I’m sure do important, complex technological things (but only people with certain government clearance and above can guess at what) arranged in piles. All the hallmarks of loosely organized chaos. And amidst it all, half-hearted attempts at comfort by bringing order: collections of shoes, side by side in short lines, like lonely discarded shells washed ashore. Rows of unseen ghost soldiers awaiting orders. 

Five years ago Mike created something from a piece of himself.

First @BufferBox pickup in SF! BOOM!!

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And four years ago, when Google decided to take that piece of himself and excise it from him (AKA close down BufferBox), he was faced with the difficult task of cutting it away himself, and then pretending to forget that it existed in the first place so that he could move on and remain performant. Kind of like what happened in 127 Hours (just like it). 

This journey marks a crossroads of sorts for Mike because for the first time in almost half a decade, his future is fuzzy. But much more importantly, it’s entirely his own. To Mike, the Turbo and this cross-country adventure is so much more than just a dream car and dream experience— it represents journey, a path to a decision (or is the journey the destination?), that will impact the direction the rest of his life will take.  

But before futures could be made and lives decided on, Michael and I needed to follow the direction our stomachs were yelling at us to go. We needed sustenance and had to complete some final preparations before the rest of the crew arrived.

Hustling car parts through the #missionsf #getoutandwalk #travel #sanfrancisco

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So we went to Plow, a local and personal favourite of Mike and Michael (and now mine). After forty minutes, we were seated. It was the perfect opportunity to do some investigative research on behalf of our audience.

Many of you have been wondering how we are doing this. Questions like: how did you find these cars?; how did you find someone willing to sell them to you?; and what will you do with them once you bring them to Kitchener? have been flooding my inbox (ok, one person asked me over Facebook messenger, and another person sent me a text, but as an unemployed writer, receiving two unsolicited messages in one day with questions about something I'm doing is a catch worth celebrating) so I put the questions to my handsome hubby and magical muse, Michael.

“It's actually different for each of us,” he explained. “So I’ll tell you my story and let the others tell you theirs when they get here.”

He explained that the moment everything changed for him was when close friend and YC alumni Mike McCauley (who you've already met), discovered a transformative dream land called The Stable.

The Stable is a two-storey subterranean maze, an alternate universe a gear head might be inclined to call "Heaven," in which unwitting Porsche lovers enter into and emerge from permanently changed. Because within The Stable what you find is a treasure trove of all manner of classic Porsche’s, in all manner of states— a missing panel here, a broken windshield there. A perfectly preserved gleaming gem winking at you from the corner. The Stable is the equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory array of irresistible treats, complete with easy-to-ignore fine print, and for precocious adults instead of precocious children (not that there's a detectible difference in most cases).

And what Mike discovered in this shadowy basement vestibule among countless humped vestiges of glory's past, was Bones. A 1972 F Type long hood RS replica with mismatched wheels and a 2.7L race motor, fully decked in race gear, covered in an inch of dust. Dejected and injured, she hadn’t seen the light of day in years. At half mast with one headlight missing and her spewed guts all over the pitted concrete floor, Mike knew that to Michael she'd be special. Bones, even in her sorriest state, had all the markings of an undiscovered crown jewel.  

So Mike sent Michael her portrait, and thus began Michael and Bones' international ten month love affair. But the current owner of the car and of The Stable, Brian Kirkis, a born and bred Markham, Ontario native, wasn’t sure he wanted to sell. A more willowy, Canadian version of Benedict Cumberbatch, Brian has a kind and gentle demeanour. He's the type of gentleman who drops “Sorrys” and “Thank Yous” and "Don't worry about its" as frequently as he exhales.

“Every time I would come out for business, which was once or twice a month, I would pop in and talk to Brian," Michael explained. "He'd show me the vehicle, and he knew of my intent to buy it and drive it back, but he didn't want just anyone to own that car and he didn't really know me. He didn't want someone who would buy it and put it in a closet —he wanted someone who would drive it. I had to convince him that person was me."

It didn't take long for Michael to convince Brian that he was the type of driver Bones had been waiting for. In the end, Michael described it as the aligning of two orthogonal fates. "I guess you could say that the car found me.” 

"And when Bones is back in Ontario, what then?" I asked, even though I'd been listening to him mutter —while awake and asleep— about it for months now.  

"She'll be part of the family!"

I laughed because our little family is already more machine than it is flesh. 

"We'll work on her," he said. "She's got a lot of life left in her. She’s leaky and rough around the edges, but I’m fully confident she’ll make it the entire way home, and if not… I’m going to learn a lot." I had no doubt he was right. "Hey," he interjected, abruptly changing the subject and waving his fork at my plate. "Don't you think poached eggs look like ghost testicles?" 

I laughed again because he was right. And because I was excited and had been laughing at just about everything all day from giddiness. Our team was quickly assembling... 

Team Targa ready to go @donnamlitt. Last ones on the plane, but we made it. #penais #YYZ2SFO

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...and our departure was fast approaching. And there was still so much left to do...

Beauty of a day in SF. T-minus 13 hours to wheels turning! #sf #delorespark #getoutandsitinthesun

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