Oh hell – any gear head will tell you, it ain’t just the car, it’s the road baby. Highways are for pansies. There’s so much more to see on the back roads. When was the last time you saw a herd of deer grazing or a flock of vultures circling from the interstate? Where are the steep hills and sharp hairpin turns? Where else can you see the early morning fog lifting off the trees? Not on the main drag that’s for sure. You want to go for a ride with me today? Well then we’re going out into the country roads where life gets interesting. There’s no better way to kill a day than to just drive right through it.
My car? That’s my dream. A vintage 1964 Chevy Nova, lovingly repainted in a Mustang Mystichrome paint that would make bring on heart palpitations in any purist. What self-respecting Chevy owner uses a Ford color on such a classic? Some things just aren’t done! But this is MY baby, not theirs. This shade changes from light green to dark green to almost blue to gold depending on the angle on your vantage point. I picked it to match my eyes, which will color-shift depending on my mood. As a sign of my warped writer’s sense of humor, there’s an inscription in black script above the doors that reads, “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” The Italian translates to “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” The interior has been restored to its original pristine white. I toyed with the idea of a blown 502 big block engine but couldn’t bring myself to destroy the sleek look of the car. Besides, I can get myself into enough trouble with the power this car packs already. She’s got plenty of power in that big V8. She’s way short on safety features, but I love her anyway. There’s a rush in feeling un-tethered by the modern intrusion of shoulder belts so I skip the seatbelt.
I keep it under 80 on the highways but as soon as I can I get out on the curvy backcountry roads and push the speedometer up past 100 through the turns and over the hills. I crank the windows down and the music up. My other great car sin, a wicked iPod-ready sound system cranks out Metallica, Guns ‘N’ Roses, AC DC, Flogging Molly, Etta James, or Norah Jones depending on my day and mood, or perhaps the color of my eyes. Hardly factory original, but like I said, this is my baby and I go nowhere without a soundtrack for my life. My car gives me the freedom that I can’t seem to find anywhere else.
My black t-shirt, dark jeans, black boots, black bandanna to hold the hair out of my eyes, and the obligatory shades are all required driving attire. I know I look every inch the tough, especially with a four-inch tattoo on my forearm. I like it that way. When I do stop to take in the sights and maybe enjoy a cigarette, nobody bothers to talk to me. That suits me just fine. I like riding alone.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had my share of passengers. Some were flesh and blood but too many were shadows and ghosts come back from my past to taunt me and haunt me from the back seat. Passengers are distracting. I can’t afford to be distracted traveling at these speeds and I don’t want to slow down.
Slowing down allows the real world to catch up to me. There’s pain in the real world. More pain than I want to face. Pain, anger, rage, disgust, disappointments, all lurking by the roadside waiting for me. But I fly past them all, just a blur of greenish gold, untouchable and unstoppable. There’s a string of heartbreaks and grief spread out down the road behind me like so much roadkill. There’s the guilt that comes from wondering how much of it was my fault. How much grief do I leave in my wake? My urge to run, to flee is instinctive, primal even. Get out before I get hurt. The faster I go, the safer I feel. The safer I feel, the more chances I take. Accelerating into blind turns, crossing the middle line, risking a head-on collision at every bend, flying over the crest of the steepest hill, even going airborne at times without knowing what’s beyond the crest of the hill, risking an unexpected turn, a slow-moving hay truck, or worst of all an innocent cyclist.
The music gets louder and it takes every ounce of energy I have just to stay in control. It’s exhilarating and exhausting. I get crazy and stupid, enjoying the rush and the thrill of it all. I know tonight I’ll go home exhausted enough to sleep without the dreams coming back again to haunt me. I fly around the next bend, topping out just past 107…
It’s too late. By the time I see the BRIDGE OUT sign ahead of me I’m suspended in mid-air just long enough to brace for the pain of impact and to hear the cackle from the backseat.
Damn! From what corner of darkest Hell did that thing crawl? Oh shit! It can’t be…