November 6, 2004

Cross-country driving mania.

Yesterday, I did a post on long cross-country drives, which is a special little mania of mine. The post brought this email:
I once drove straight through from (approximately) Ft. Madison, IA to Monck's Corner, SC (just north of Charleston). A bit more than 1150 miles, as I remember it, and I made it in just over 21 hours. The most amazing think about the whole trip was that, while well over 75% of it was via Interstate, I saw not one, single police car the whole way. Wonder what the odds of that are?

Also, back in the '60s, when I was younger and dumber (I hope) a fellow cadet and I drove back from the St. Louis area to Denver on the way to the Air Force Academy. We were taking his sister-in-law to Denver prior to returning to the Academy. It was a bit over 850 miles and we made the trip in a bit over 11 hours, counting all stops. That's an average of over 75 MPH, and most of Interstate 70 (or 40 or whichever one it is) didn't exist. We used mostly old US 40 between St. Louis and Denver. Other than that, it was all two-lane highway. Once when we stopped in Kansas for gas, I went to check the oil and popped the hood. The engine block was glowing a dull orange. I figured since the oil pressure gauge was registering good pressure I really, really didn't need to touch that dipstick. We were driving a 327 '65 Chevy Impala with a Muncie 4-speed. We drove US 40 in the middle of the night pretty much flat-out, pedal to the metal, and the speedo registered pegged. Don't know how fast we were actually going. Plus 100 MPH, for sure. Nice car. Wish I still had it.

Yikes! A glowing orange engine. In the middle of Kansas. I've gotten myself in trouble a few times driving. I've made some mistake that I still shudder to think about. Like the emailer, I've driven very long distances -- from Orlando to Madison -- without seeing one police car. Now, I'm thinking I'd like to do another long drive again. Kansas is one of the states I've never been to. I'd like to drive through all the states, including Alaska (and some day I'll get to Hawaii). I could hit the most as-yet-undriven-through states if I did a northwestern trip: North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon. If I did that, then the only states I haven't visited, aside from Alaska and Hawaii, would be Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and South Carolina. My all-time favorite drive was through Death Valley. Also great: the Badlands. And it is just great fun driving across Nevada on Route 50 --the "loneliest road in America" the signs posted along the way tell you. It's nice to do the two-lane blacktop through the desert. I also loved driving from Boulder to Sante Fe, especially the Arkansas Basin and the northern New Mexican landscape that let me know I'd overestimated Georgia O'Keeffe's powers of imagination.

That email reminded me that I used to drive an Impala, a 1961 seafoam green convertible. My father had bought it new and passed it on to me when he bought another car a few years later. I now realize what a fabulous classic car I drove to high school every day in the late 1960s. I also realize that I need a new car now to do the kind of driving I like! I loved my New Beetle when I got it five years ago, but the fun has worn off. Yesterday, I got a big black envelope in the mail, obviously an advertisement.

"What the hell is this? Chevrolet is wasting money sending me a big advertisement. What's the point of putting it in this big envelope?" I say with my usual outrage that anyone would dare to send me an advertisement in the mail and amazed that they would put it inside an envelope, which would normally end up in the trash, unopened.

"You're opening it," said Chris, making me laugh.

"Oh! It's for Corvette!" I say and pretty soon I am literally petting the glossy pages of the brochure. Within the minute, I'm checking out the Corvette websites, trying to find a price, discussing with Chris the problem of a person with two sons buying a car with no backseat, and comparison shopping for an Audi TT Coupe, which does have a place to put a third and fourth person in a pinch. "Mmmm ... what color?"

"Red! Then you could sing 'Little Red Corvette.'"

"If I got red I would think the song 'Little Red Corvette' whenever I was in the car. Every time I parked it, I'd think about parking it 'sideways.' Much as I love Prince, that might get a little annoying. Plus, if I got a red car, I'd have to have my house painted. Or move."

"Black."

"Or blue. I like the blue ... this particular blue. I'm really quite opposed to most blue, especially for a car. I object to a blue car, as a general principle. But this blue -- 'Le Mans Blue Metallic' -- I like that!"

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