Friday, May 25, 2007

Peking to Paris

A little jaunt across China, Mongolia, Russia and Northern Europe
by Anne Wakefield-Leck
[revised on Saturday, 26 May 2007]

On Sunday (the 27th of May) our son-in-law, Warner Bruntjen, begins an automobile drive from the capitol city of China, that will take him to Moscow and finally, after five weeks and 8,000 miles, to a finish-line in Paris. He will be driving a 1919 Essex. The drive will begin at 8:30 A.M., which will be 7:30 P.M. (our time) on Saturday, May 26.

A very interesting web page, Peking to Paris – Driving the Impossible, explains the event and its history. It will also very carefully track the competitors in this “great race.”

Warner is number 12 on the list of competitors. The idea and dream for the race began a number of years ago with his father, Worth Bruntjen, and Worth's friend, Andrew Fulton. Warner wanted to fulfill that dream even though Worth died so unexpectedly nearly two years ago. Warner will leave a bit of Worth's ashes here and there along the journey. Worth’s other son, Eric, will be at the starting line to see Warner off. [See Charlie’s blog about Erck Bruntjen’s Book, A Hot Blue Sea, archived in the April file on this site.]

This effort in China is a beautiful tribute to a father by his two sons.

This extraordinary event is a celebration of the original drive that took place 100 years ago. As the official web site explains…

“We are celebrating the remarkable achievements exactly of 100 years ago with a timed re-enactment motor-rally. It became an epic challenge between a Prince and
a Pauper – Prince Borghese had the best funded entry and carefully researched the conditions of setting out on a journey where the first 5,000 miles saw no roads, at all, so, no maps and no garages. His chief rival was a fair-ground worker who until he read news of the race in a Paris newspaper, Le Matin, picked up blowing in the wind, he had never even sat in a motor-car, so had no idea how to drive one.

“Five cars set out from Peking, four made it to Paris to a tumultuous welcome and world-wide fame – they had set out to prove that man and machine could now go anywhere, they hoped it would make borders between countries redundant. They had left Peking with no passports – these had been confiscated by Chinese authorities who suspected they were spies, and had no interest in seeing the success of the motor-car having just invested in shares in the trans-Siberian railway.”

We will be extremely regular visitors to the web site to see how the drive is going for Warner. Warner has begun his blog about the event. The first entry was made on Saturday, the 26th. If you want to follow along at the blog and in the travel journel (photos and all) go to...

We are appending the comments that Charlie made about Worth Bruntjen at his memorial service 1 September 2005.

Remembering Worth Bruntjen
by Charlie Leck, [1 September 2005]

Somewhere, someplace Kurt Vonnegut wrote: “Music is evidence enough as to the existence of God.”

Worth Bruntjen liked that.

It’s the kind of stuff I shared with him, and about which I chatted with him, late into the nights when we were close friends back in the early 80s.

It was his “German wine period” as I like to think about it. He was promoting and serving fine, white, fermented German grape in those days. We lived close to each other – back there in the Hunter Drive days. In the evenings, before a fire, when the ladies were outside skating with the children or trying to ski behind the silly hind-end of some horse named Bigger or Bronzie, Worth and I would pretend we had an intellectual side – a pretense much enhanced by the wine – and we chatted up Kirkegaard and Barth and Tillich.

I’d conned a Theological School out of a graduate degree back a decade before that and Worth had spent a year at Lutheran college in Texas, trying to find out if believing in God could be a strong enough weapon to combat communism – remembering his German heritage and hating the heavy handedness of the Soviets.

They were extraordinary evenings back then and, following them, I would sometimes lie in bed at night wondering in awe at the versatility and expansiveness of Worth’s mind. He was one of the wiz-kids then and riding high in Twin Cities financial circles. It was like discovering gold to find that he could also make sense of the Old Testament, and Bultman, and the Petrine Epistles, and the Book of Revelation.

He struggled with the concept of God and he loved the struggle. He liked what Paul Tillich was writing in those days about God only being known through a relationship with Him. Relationship, to Worth, was a very personal, human thing. You didn’t have relationships with boulders and clouds – you related to other beings. It was in those encounters that you experienced God – that is, if there was a God to experience!

And how Worth loved relating! No? He was a people person. He thrived on close encounters of the human kind. He saw each person as a mystery to be probed and understood. He could listen as well as any person I’ve ever known. As he listened, you could just see ideas and responses growing inside him, trying to crawl out of him, virtually bubbling over and pushing up the lid of containment. However, he would contain himself and wait patiently to explode with his replies – his disagreements – his agreements – his refinements.

He liked, too, what Kierkegaard wrote about the ethical life – about how impossible it was to do the purely ethical, good thing – how each choice we made had at the very end of it some unethical repercussion that finally hurt someone somewhere. Simple answers by simply religious people about what was right and wrong were frightening to him.

God could not be understood anthropomorphically. At least Worth didn’t think so. It was dangerous to make God into our own image – that, he thought, was turning around the intention of understanding that we were created in God’s image. … Not a subtle difference to Worth!

Concepts of God were too small for Worth – too finite, too simple, too silly.

God is so grand – so massive – so expansive – so mighty – so complex – so terrible and so beautiful – that we as humans cannot get our arms or our minds around it. We simply accept God’s existence because the works of Brahms and Beethoven are so incredible.

He’d say it and raise the glass of golden Liebfraumilch. His mouth would be broad with its smile, showing lots of teeth – and his eyes would be dancing in that delightful way we all saw so many times – teasing and charming us and daring us to think more deeply, more precisely.

Ah, they were golden moments. They were so beautiful – as beautiful as Mozart – and in them, somehow, I knew that the mysterious and incomprehensible God was present.


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