What do you do when life starts to catch up with you?
When you have trouble hearing the dialogue in award winning movies on TV...when after sitting too long your knees ache and when you move the creaking wakes the dog?
What do you do when after reading all the latest news you think it can't get any worse....and then it does?
What do you do when you start a round of golf with 4 pars and a birdie and then take 2 eights and a 6 for 10 over on 3 holes? Not being Tiger Woods, One can't just go out an get laid and forget!
What do you do facing yet another birthday and finding you don't care and have lost count?
What happens when you find the only other human being you can identify with is a British Bloke named Martin Shuttlecock featured in an obscure UK Humour Site?
I had those thoughts sitting at my desk watching the second hand spin around on the wall clock the other day, which was just like any other day
in the life of a retired formerly self employed man.
Oh, there were days, somewhat a while back, when there would be no hesitation. "Time to Go!" Jump in the car, head off for new locations, pick up roots, start all over again. New Friends, new Business Adventures, New Challenges....the juices were running, the excitement of the unknown...adrenalin flowing......LIFE WAS GOOD!
America has always been, although less now, a culture of the CAR!
Colonists, unless you lived in an urban environment, had to depend on a car to do the simplest of things...grocery shopping, run for the odd loaf of bread, zip down to a take a way when you had the urge for a pizza, cruise the drive in restaurants on a Friday night after High School...you even needed a CAR to get a DATE!
CARS were COOL! A V-8 was the CAT's ARSE....loud mufflers were in, Chevy's were King...Fords not so much. You could get laid in a Nash Rambler with their seats that reclined, but no one wanted to be seen driving one!
The '58 Edsel was doomed to failure when it came out, any car that had a grill that looked like a ....well, you know, was DOOMED! If a Junior in High School knew it, how come the Ford family was so clueless? Idiots!
Like many of my age, I learned to drive on a stick shift. Four on the floor as a matter of fact...luckily it was in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida which had no hills, although there are some now since they've created Mt. DumpMore, a formidable ski slope bordering I-95, a challenge should ever it snow in Florida and they erect a ski lift instead of the proposed wind turbines.
I'll leave that dilemma to Al Gore to handle when I'm gone.
Over the years there were many road trips. Non stop from Florida to Cape Cod, MA in a '47 Plymouth my buddy paid $50 for. Three kids with no more than $75 dollars between them switching off driving till we reached the sandy beaches, summer jobs and summer romances...I can still smell the salty air...and sometimes the grease and oil when I worked one summer at an all night gas station from 7PM to & 7AM...the only person at the rotary circle on the Mid Cape Highway....no cash register, and hundreds of dollars wadded up in my pants pocket to make change! Just try that today...you'd be knocked over in a NY minute and left for dead on a moonless night next to the gas pumps!
There was one road trip amongst many I will always cherish. My dad and I made a 24 hour no stop run from Ft. Lauderdale to New Jersey, just by the George Washington Bridge....a spur of the moment Father & Son kind of thing.
My dad was not a 'gear head' but he purchased a 1957 Chrysler 300C...a big white monster with sweeping tail fins, and a grill like the maw of a white shark.
It had the biggest, hottest engine available from any manufacturer. A 383 cubic inch HEMI which came with two (2!) 4 barrel carburetors, had a hi performance cam, and another first, fairly wide oversized tires.
If you drove this car, like it was intended, it got around 10-11mpg!
It had an automatic transmission, activated by 3 pushbuttons on the left side of the dash for the forward gears, the passing gear was activated by hitting the 'go' pedal which resulted in a mind boggling roar, and a g-force that thew you back in the seat while you were laughing your arse off in glee!
Dad and I drove this beast 24 hours straight before there were major highways leading to and from Florida. I can remember 2 lane country roads in the Carolinas on a moonless night, the lights on hi beams, the AM radio playing rock and roll, the scrub pines flashing by in a blur!
It seemed like only yesterday he had bought me my first baseball glove, and here we were, two guys, one young coming into his own, the other not quite middle aged....hurdling down the black top on an adventure.
We talked about this trip for years, and for one of his birthdays before his passing I sent him a museum quality replica of the car....it sits in my den to this day, in a place that I pass on the way to my desk, and not a day goes by that I don't feel a rush of the wind, or the scent of a southern night when I look again at this car and think of him.
So then, what the F*****is the old BASTARD on about now Shuttlecock may ask? I think the Colonel knows!
You see, the other day I was straightening up my closet, the one where things are put away and forgotten...things you think you'll never need or use again because you've gotten old.
There it was....the old leather jacket bought in 1971...scarred up, lots of patina, a few slight tears...the lining starting to fail....but DAMN....it still fit, albeit a bit tight at the waist!
Look...there the oil stain on the arm whilst changing the tyre on the BMW motorcycle during that 45 day solo joint through Canada!
A bit of sweat stain there by the arm pit....was that other stain some spaghetti sauce when we stopped for a hot meal after coming back from NH in a torrential rain storm with the rain drops feeling like pin pricks on your exposed face?
On to the internet Search!
I needed a CAR! Not just any car. A car that had some CHARACTER . A car that while showing it's age still had modern safety and convenience features, and AIR CONDITIONING....reality set in, we were in the South...it was bloody hot here July and August, and one of the reasons I had recently sold my 1966 Mustang GT and why I didn't drive it as much....you baked in it which took the fun out!
After two failed attempts to purchase a piece of NOSTALGIA, and in retrospect, just as well, and as I was about to give up, I found IT!
Just taken in trade at a high end dealership 211 miles away. Ten years old, 41k on the clock, new top, 4 new high speed tyres, complete service history, a FIVE SPEED TRANSMISSION, and just serviced!
E-mails, more pictures, confirmation of condition...it was going to happen!
The juices were flowing, plans formulating. Had to rent a car to get there, then drive it back...an adventure, although not as formidable as in times past!
I Enlisted a co-pilot, though not a car enthusiast, he was up for a day of something different being of a certain age.
The trip up was non eventful, but worthy of comment, as I wound up with a Toyota Camry Hybrid, the first of this ilk I had ever been in, or interested to experience.
Not a bad car, with battery gauges, gallons consumed meters, and a handbook to choke a horse full of warnings about electrical shock deaths,
poisonous battery care and disposal and notice of terminal illness should the car ever go dead and one deem it necessary to 'jump start' it, which only a LICENSED dealer could perform using technicians in HAZMAT suits in a special containment center!
The car did buzz right along, hitting 80MPH effortlessly, and it did get 31 MPG on the brief trip.....but it sure didn't hit my buttons, and wearing the old leather jacket during the experience seemed rather overkill and ridiculous.
We pulled into the dealership. There it was...waiting! I sensed it's impatience! It Gleamed....it appeared to be crouching, one could almost sense
the urge to be released for it's run to a new home.
I approached cautiously....I took in the lines...sleek! The curve of the body, so smooth. The Stance....purposeful! Gingerly I oozed into the saddle...snug but comfortable, my hand reached automatically for the gear shift and without looking ran through the gears without a hitch...memories came flooding back!
The deal done we headed off, revving the engine a bit, slipping the clutch into first gear, it had been a while, you know! Out into traffic, impatient to hit the freeway on our run home.
Finally, the on ramp to I-95, tap of the throttle, downshift to 3rd, hit the pedal, a turbine sounding exhaust note, and we hurtled into the right lane, the car urging me to press it ...to test it's mettle...to sink into my seat, to find myself, to remember that young man who had dreams and acted on them..
the man who always pressed ahead, steady, not recklessly, but running up to that invisible barrier and knowing just how fast he could travel as he moved into the unknown future......
We settled into the traffic flow finally. In fifth gear, RPMs at a steady 3200, at 75, just 5 over the limit, the rear spoiler deployed....them Germans, gotta hand it to them.
We stopped in a rest area, a young couple from a pick up truck approached, the young girl smiled and said, "Wow...what a car...I always dreamed about having one of those!"
I unzipped my leather jacket, stretched my legs, and grinned back,
"Yeah,' I said, "I had those dreams too.....a long time ago."
ED Note: Thanks to The Colonel for understanding in Advance!
We shared a few car experiences that prompted this long winded self indulgent piece. For those of you who love cars, hope you enjoy.
For others, stop by as you pass through the Colonies...I'll try to take you for a trip through time, to help you 'remember your memories!"