Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Taking Inappropriate Equipment to Out-of-the Way Locations, by the B&A Stowaway

Taking Inappropriate Equipment to Out-of-the Way Locations, by the B&A Stowaway

I started praying today.

It was almost a reflex.
You’ve done it. You’ve been there. You know what I’m talking about.

It was the smell.
You know the smell. But it isn’t just the smell; it is where you encounter the smell.
I was halfway through 0600 Detroit I-94 traffic. My 2002 green Super Suby with 214,000 miles was humming along, the exhaust leak blending in with the surrounding traffic, the cracked side view mirror reporting that no one was creeping up on me. Then it hit me: it was a mix, so it was hard to isolate the troubling bits. A trifle burned oil, with a whiff of melted clutch and burnt rubber. It enveloped me; not just a trace, but a concentrated dose. Just like every other ‘new to me’ car owner does, I jumped to the (often correct) assumption that the odor was coming from my car. And with a smell like that, something bad just occurred. Something REAL bad. My mind sprang to alert; my nose started trying to pick apart the smell. My ears strained to hear anything out of the ordinary, quite a stretch on a car that has seen as many interesting miles as mine. My eyes started checking mirrors for smoke, shredded tire, or people bailing out of my lane. My mouth started moving in the familiar prayer of the weary travelor in the wearier traveling car.
“Our Father, who art Heaven, hallowed be this car.
This car shall run, this black smoke not be mine, on the highways as it is in the driveway.
Give us this mile, our daily driver, and forgive us our 76-in-a-65-zones.
Lead us not into radar, but deliver us from the trooper.
For thine is the Suby, the rust, and the fuel, forever and ever AMEN”
OK, so the real version I used went more like “OhpleaseLordletthatnotbeme, pleaseletmebedrivingbyadump, pleasehelpmemakeit, ohpleaseLordpleaseLordpleaseLord!” Thankfully, it wasn’t me, and I made the rest of the trip in better-smelling (because I happen to think Rocky Patels smell GREAT) environs.
I saw a spare-tire cover on a Jeep wrangler yesterday. It said, ‘JEEP: it’s where adventure begins’. Uhh, bull-hockey. Adventures do not begin in brand new jeeps with the dealer’s tape still on the window. Take that cover off before I rear-end you.  I have nothing against Jeeps per se. I test drove a few, but have never been that impressed. Mike Oscar ran one out of gas a few miles from the dealership, but since it was a standard, he was able to put it in gear and just keep the key turned, running it off the starter. That way, it drives home lurching and shuddering, as the starter turns the engine, then the entire drivetrain. I had a 60 something CJ7 (if there are any jeepophiles out there, I am not sure of the year, and not TOTALLY sure on the make. This will be explained shortly) that I bought from Uncle Dickie’s junkyard. It had a Buick 283 engine, and the dash was a wood plank with the gauges nailed through it. I took it for the initial test run 15 miles up a woods road, only to find out that the radiator would have made an acceptable pair of fishnet stockings. I spent the rest of the day nursing the steaming, smoking POS back home. Now THAT is how you have a Jeep adventure.
In my bio on this blog, I make the claim that adventure is taking inappropriate equipment to out-of-the way locations, and I stand by it. I remember Olga, MOH’s ancient Volvo with the windows that sometimes worked. On Gunella pass, she decided that the rear window would stop working, in the down position. So we shoved our duffel bags against the window, with Machine Gun Dwyer’s brand new Burton hoodie over the arrangement to block out the cold. Later on that night, as we were heading home on a 4 lane Denver highway, we heard a change in the noise coming from the window.
“Huh. There goes my hoodie,” said Machine Gun Dwyer (he doesn’t get worked up about much. )
The next day, we drove the same route, to see if we could find it. Sure enough, it was on the side of the road on the fast lane, and we had pulled over to the slow lane. The shoulder of the fast lane was about 4 feet wide, the only thing separating a cement wall and speeding trucks. So, before I thought about it, I dashed across the 4 lanes and grabbed it. I looked back across to see MGD laughing and MOH’s eyes as big as the tires on the semi headed my way. After it passed, he was laughing too, so I bailed back across the roadway, hopped in Olga, and off we went. The hoodie was mostly intact, with a nice line of holes up one arm where some studded snow tires let in some air. It’s been 5 years, and he still has the hoodie. Would we have had that sort of adventure in a new vehicle?
I’ve been stranded on the side of the road with oil seeping out the valve cover gaskets on my Chevy truck in Salem, New Hampshire. I was in the backseat of an 89 Tracer that was racing through a field, when Mike Oscar spun the wheel and Skylight Smitty yanked on the emergency brake. Rather than swinging around like it usually did, the sand we had just hit made it tip nearly on its side. The only thing keeping us from rolling over was that it was perfectly balanced enough to allow the passenger side mirror to support us. After a tense eternity of held breath, the Muffin slammed back onto all four wheels and we took off again.

Another time, we snuck the Muffin out on the road. We were running back to the farm, trying to keep away from the cops, when the hood started to vibrate. We thought at first that it might just be the yard-sale tennis trophy that we had mounted as a hood ornament that was loose. Once the hood slammed open and the trophy was sticking in through the windshield , we decided that the hood hadn’t been shut enough. Rather than stop, Mike Oscar, just skooched down and kept an eye on the road through the slit under the hood.
Owning an older automobile is the ultimate test in simplistic solutions. Let me hear your stories! I want tales of exhausts fixed with soup cans, vice-grip shifting levers, pieces of fire engine welded on to stiffen the frame (I miss that old truck), and brush guards held on with stick-weld, JB weld, and baling string (I don’t miss Mike Oscar’s Pathfinder).

MOH and I have had 700cc street bikes on dirt paths, breakdown lanes, sidewalks, playgrounds, and airstrips. We ALMOST managed to jump a drainage ditch in the 89 Tracer (almost being a very important word). We drove a low-slung Dodge Intrepid Sport through a thoroughfare (a short river that connects two lakes) in the Canadian wilderness. We took an ancient Volvo (ahh, dear Olga) across a mountain pass that had been closed off due to plow trucks being unable to navigate the pass.
I want to hear about your adventures. I have bad news for you though- if you did it in a new jeep, it wasn’t an adventure: it was a missed opportunity. Peace!

Watch Out Where Those Huskies Go And Don't You Eat That Yellow Snow,

The B&A Stowaway

1 comment:

  1. The mind boggles!!!