It was supposed to be different than this. The day offered so much promise.
The weekend started out right. On Saturday I was (arguably) the Best Man at my best friend’s wonderful wedding. The ceremony was short, meaningful, and emotional. The reception was simplistic, yet grand. I saw friends that I hadn’t seen for quite some time. It was a time filled with great celebration.
Sunday was a day that I look forward to every year: a singles ride to the Mid-Atlantic Vintage Trials meet held at the Grenogue estate in northern Delaware. We start out on a crisp autumn morning, our faceshields clouding with every breath, and ride from the Amish country of Lancaster, winding through the narrow single-lane roads of Chester County horse country. We choose the big thumpers for this ride because their small size is perfect for the narrow roads and lanes we travel. That and they make nice noises as they boom off the tall hedges and stone bridges. It is a day I anticipate for weeks prior, and it finally arrived. Read more
It happens so fast. One minute life seems a place of nearly unbearable normalcy, the next you are turned on your head (sometimes literally). It’s a difficult position to find yourself in: the forced decision to purchase a vehicle in a short time frame.
Sometimes the cause is a faulty head gasket; other times it is a faulty head. In my friend Gordon’s case, it was the latter. He was waiting patiently in his Mazda Miata for the traffic light to turn green (he has no other method of waiting, as he’s been accused of having “no concept of urgency” by some very close to him) when he was rear-ended by a Nissan Pathfinder (whose driver evidently had a very real sense of urgency). They both climbed out to assess the damage, went to the back of the car, and quickly realized that it did not look good for the little roadster. That’s it. Done. Game over. In an instant, he had to find a replacement.
I sensed what was coming next. He, in a momentary lapse of judgment, asked me to help him seek out another car. (I blame undiagnosed head trauma from the accident.) This tends to happen often when you’re pigeon-holed as a “car guy.” I’ve always found this a bit unfair since I also consider myself a guitar guy, motorcycle guy, dog guy, coal stove guy, Greenland kayak guy, and–most certainly–an boutique/vintage amp guy. Somehow people always seem to focus in on the car aspect of my limited knowledge base and attempt to employ me in their quest for The Perfect Car. Read more
There was a time in my life when I found myself mesmerized by the character of cars–those elements of design and style that set them apart from across a crowded parking lot; like heaven itself was smiling on them. Those old enough to remember Johnny Carson will recall the signature three-dimensional pendant the domestic manufacturers would adorn their flagship products with. Standing upright and proud, they were an example of how companies used to take pride in their product. “Yes. We built this.”
In the heyday of American automobile manufacturing each company seemed to have its own identity. They took pride in their work and strived for perfection in all that they did. Some of the great ones were world-class. Not “world-class” as used in one of today’s marketing department press releases, but truly, honestly World-Class. It could be argued that the best of America’s heartland offered design and quality that was above that of even the European coach-builders. Companies like Peerless Motor nearly were, if not for the existence of Packard and Pierce-Arrow. And, like the Christmas tree that isn’t complete until the delicate angel is placed on top, these pieces of rolling jewelry were still unfinished without that symbol of elegance and grace: the hood ornament. Read more
The Labor of Love
As I climbed into my beloved BMW E30, the guilt trip began before the journey started. It happens every time I walk past. Rarely does it escalate into anything more than a slight nag, but occasionally we’ll have it out.
“Why are you ignoring me?”
“Ignore you?! How can you even suggest that?”
“I don’t feel loved.”
“I drive you. I wash you. I completely rebuilt your suspension. AND interior! I just flushed your brakes. I changed all of your fluids. I even put Swepco in your gearbox and Amsoil in your differential, for crying out loud!”*
“I know. And I appreciate all of your work.”
“So why do you say I’m ignoring you?”
“When was the last time you touched me?”
I pause and try to remember. It has been too long…far too long. When I wash it, I take it to the local car wash. It is not that I’m lazy; it’s just that my home has the water pressure equal to that of an elderly man at a rest stop urinal. I attempt to justify my choice by using the foaming brush, but it never gets the car as clean as washing it with a bucket and sponge. The intimacy is gone.