Old Cars and the Concessions They Demand

There was a moment on my trip to Amarillo on Friday where I didn’t think I would make it in time for my speech.

I was driving down from Alva, Oklahoma and had some map app going on my iPhone. But I was enjoying the view and the tunes so much, I wasn’t really paying attention, I kept missing turns, and ended up in the middle of Nowhere Panhandle Oklahoma.

Now, anyone who drives old cars knows, there are concessions to be made. Maybe it’s air conditioning, living with a rattle, or having to know JUST how to get her into third gear.

I’ve had more than one car where the starter was going out at the most inopportune of times…when funds were too low to replace. This is ONE reason I drive cars with a stick. Park on a hill. It’s that simple. But if you don’t, hope you have some friends who can push you fast enough to kick that motor in when you pop the clutch.

I drove a car without reverse for a whole winter. You just have to know where to park.

I’m sure anyone reading this has stories of cars not able to give what they did when they were on the showroom floor. Or, I should say, I HOPE you do. Some of my favorite memories involve cars without heaters, doors that wouldn’t open, and things that didn’t work unless you held your arms just right.

I drive an old ’96 Ford F-150 pickup. I love it. I love it because I don’t care. It had a moon roof…one of those pop up in the back type, to let some air through. I loved it. I could open the wings on the windows and the moonroof and light up a cigar. The airflow would keep the smoke out, but not let in too much cold air on a winter day.

I let Turo Viers borrow it and he locked the keys in it, while it was running. His solution was to rip that moonroof off and climb inside, thinking it would be easily replaceable. It isn’t. My solution? I went to the hardware store and got a tube of silicone and sealed it shut. I can’t open it anymore, but it keeps the rain out.

I still love the truck.

So when I decided to take my ’83 Mazda RX-7 to Amarillo for the speech, I knew there was risk of SOMETHING happening, but I was pretty confident she could make it.

Well, her gas gauge doesn’t work. Hasn’t since I bought her. So my solution is to fill ‘er up then reset the trip meter to zero. When she gets to 200 miles, I fill up again.

So on this warm, sunny, perfect Friday afternoon, as I zipped along the country roads looking for photo opportunities, I looked down to see TWO HUNDRED…exactly.

I looked at my app and saw that there wasn’t much ahead besides cows and windmills.

There was a town up a ways called May, and I was mildly optimistic…but no. Nothing there.

I watched as the meter went 220, 230, 240… and I drove into Gage, Oklahoma. The route the map sent me didn’t look like much hope for gas. But I saw a lady at the Post Office and asked her where I could find some petrol. She pointed me up the street to the quick stop.

I’m sorry this story doesn’t have an exciting climax of me stranded and being saved by the locals, or maybe someone famous driving by. Or maybe I run out of gas just as I coast into the quick stop (which I’ve done more than once, just ask my kids).

The story is as simple as I made it up the street and filled up the tank. They had a restroom. They had water. They had corn dogs.

That’s the story.

Then I drove on to Higgins, Canadian, Miami, White Deer, Pampa, and on to Amarillo to watch tornadoes with my friends before my keynote speech for the Panhandle Press Association convention.

On the drive home, I checked the oil. She hadn’t burned a drop the whole way. I was bragging about her when the driver’s window stopped working and I couldn’t roll it down anymore. Not a problem, except on the tollways from Wichita home.

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