In 2020 Joao Valverde won the European Region Mario Andretti Drivers Championship.
“Umm, kinda old news there Mike, maybe lay off the sauce”
Any…way… along with his Kinetic teammates (Wil Lesslie and Christian Challiner) he earned the Mario trophy. Now, Christian’s trophy flew to the UK and was safely united with his twin brother. Wil’s made its way to Australia where he now enjoys life down under.
But what about Joao’s Mario? Well friends… THAT is whole nother story.
On a crisp December morning in 2020, Mario was lovingly packed up and dropped off at the post office near my home. This post office is actually inside a gas station convenience store. They have snacks… I like snacks… I got some snacks after an embarrassing teary eyed goodbye with Mario. The snacks helped with the pain, don’t judge.
Several weeks later when checking his whereabouts, it appeared that he had gone missing. As someone who has sent A LOT of packages over the years you never, ever want to see this message “your package is still on route to its final destination, but is arriving later than expected”. This is code for, “we have no f’ing idea where your package is”.
Sure enough, they didn’t.
Joao and I would chat every so often on the whereabouts of Mario and it must be said, Joao is a patient, patient man. After several more weeks the status was surprisingly updated and we now knew that Mario was in Portuguese customs. Amazing! Mario would soon be home!
Turns out, Portuguese customs is like a kidnapper who wants no ransom. I contacted the USPS, I contacted the Portuguese mail service. Joao contacted them too, helpful? Not so much. Apparently they liked Mario so much they didn’t want to give him up. He probably looked real nice in that customs office.
By Summer 2021, he was still stuck in customs and we had no idea how to get him out of jail. Then one day, out of the blue a package arrived on MY DOOR. I recognized this package. It was beaten to hell, but I recognized it nonetheless.
I was confused, but somewhat relieved. That is until I opened it up. Mario was in many pieces… they had destroyed him!!! Freaking bastards.
Undeterred, a new Mario was ordered and after triple checking that we had the address correct we once again sent him on his way. Ever have deja vu? Ever have a repeating nightmare? Yeah, combine those.
By New Years 2022, Mario was back in customs. Are... you... kidding me???
Joao and I would still check in every once in awhile, we tried all the official channels again, and again had no luck.
Then a crazy thing happened... a customs official contacted Joao. YAY!!! No, not so fast. He wasn’t trying to help, no, he contacted Joao to tell him that Mario had (AGAIN!!!) been sent back to me.
When Joao told me this, I about lost it, but said… “If he makes it back to me in one piece, I am going to send it to you express.”
By miracle he did. The next day I took him to the UPS store and sent him off for the third time in 15 months. This time though, there would be no drama, no kidnapping and on March 31st, he finally made it home.
As I was saying… In 2020 Joao Valverde won the European Region Mario Andretti Drivers Championship. Congratulations man!