Sunday, June 19, 2011
DRIVING JR'S CAR
It's one of about half a dozen gray 93 Buick Centuries in the county. It's the one with black rims and the paint all messed up on the hood from clearcoating that didn't last. Big problem with that era of Buicks with clearcoating. The clearcoating gives out on the hood, top and trunklid after a given number of years. To get it repainted requires removing all the clearcoating from all over the car. I don't have the money or the time to do it myself. I have the time where the clock and calendar are concerned, but not the willingness to go over the whole car with sandpaper to rub it all away by hand. Not none of me. This is my old man car. Only old people drive these cars. I never dreamed I'd be driving a Buick even if it isn't the big hotdog model. It's the plebeian Century for the old folks that can't afford the luxury models. And 18 years old makes it for old folks that can't afford a new car or even slightly used. It's for old folks like me who can't afford a lot, but when I push down on the pedal it goes. That's all I want.
This afternoon around four I was driving to Ennice. From Whitehead through Sparta I followed a car without passing lanes all the patient way. The other side of Sparta a passing lane appeared. I was prepared this time for what happens when this almighty v6 kicks into passing gear: G-forces. First time, it pulled the steering wheel out of my hands, jerking me back in the seat so suddenly. Today I held the steering wheel tight when I hit the afterburner and it still surprised me. The immense power that took the car from 35 to 55 in a short space had me feeling like I was on a NASCAR track, Jimmy Johnson passing Earnhart Jr, at 190mph. Though it has front wheel drive, when it scoots the back end drops down and makes me think the back bumper will drag the road and send up sparks like in movies. It was a physical rush to hear the motor revving way up and to feel the car take off with dynamic energy. In my mind I was focused on keeping it in the road.
Curious how 30 to 50 years ago I'd have thought it the height of driving to have a car that would go like this and I'd lay it to it every chance. By now, I'm apprehensive of it. I know my coordination is slowing down. I don't mind it. It's not a problem. I like it, in fact. But it means I have to pay extra close attention driving. Also, it being front wheel drive, I really have to keep my eye on the road. Rear wheel drive doesn't seem to be so closely connected to the steering wheel. It's at the other end of the car. Rear wheel drive works as a kind of gyroscope that keeps the car aligned to its momentum. You can look at landscape, look at whatever and the car continues ahead.
With front wheel, you look to the right and the front wheels go to the right. Look to the left and the front wheels go to the left. It's a strange sensation to get used to. I've been used to it for a long time driving a 4wheel pickup a lot of years. Vehicles with 4wheel do the same thing, even when they're not in 4wheel. First thing I had to learn in transition from the rear wheel drive pickup before the 4wheel. At first it was dangerous. I live in the mountains because I love them and driving is touring for me. I've learned how to look where I want to look and keep the car in my lane by using short glances.
No car nor pickup I've had before was the equal to this Buick in the act of driving. It rides the highway smoothly. Coming home from town turning into that long, straight, gradual downhill grade of Thompson Flat on Hwy 18 I run the speed up to 55 and coast the length of the flat at the same speed. It was repaved a few years ago and it's nice and smooth. I like that stretch of highway, except for the possibility of a deer jumping a fence and running across the road. They tend to do that. I've heard guys talk about pegging a 140mph speedometer through that stretch. That's of no interest to me. I like 55 through there on account of the deer. I've seen too many cross the road in the middle. Saw one yesterday. I'd rather be able to avoid hitting one. I wouldn't want to be doing 80 through there and a deer jump in front of me. No missing it. An explosion of blood and the corpse hitting the windshield a few feet in front of my face, killing the deer, messing up the entire front end of my car. I want to be good to the deer and good to my car.
I've found since driving this Buick that I tend not to drive fast. From the day the title became mine, I have regarded it as Jr's car. He's letting me use it. Most of the time I feel like he's in the passenger seat like he was when he couldn't drive anymore and I drove home from two nursing homes. In the first days of driving it after Jr's passing I had strong feeling he really was in the seat. Sometimes I feel his presence, though mostly it's just the ongoing way I see the car is still Jr's car and he's letting me drive it. Sometimes in his old age, mid 80s, we would go for a ride around Whitehead or Pine Swamp. And he rode with me when I brought him home from 2 nursing homes. He used to be a wildman driver, but in his 80s the only wildman in his driving was taking a curve all the way in the other lane. That gets a passenger's attention.
Sometimes my driving was a little too fast for him. Too fast for his senses dulled by age. I became conscious right away that I needed to drive articulately to keep him comfortable. He never liked to ride. Always had to be the one driving. It wasn't long before I was driving him in ways that didn't make his old-man mind jump. I took curves and corners way too fast for him, so I slowed down and smoothed out rough driving to keep him comfortable. Now, I drive his car as if he were sitting beside me even when I don't feel presence. I take better care of the car thinking of it as Jr's car. I've never kept interiors clean and spiffy. In this one, I take it to the big vacuum hose at the car wash keeping the floors and seats clean. A fire extinguisher fits in the arm rest between the 2 front seats with a big compartment, just right for a perfect fit. Only an umbrella in the back seat. Never use it, but take it out of the car and next day I'll have to make a run from the car to the house in a downpour. With an umbrella I don't have to run.
A clean interior is entirely for Jr. I want it so that when he rides with me in spirit the interior will be the way he liked it. He kept the interior of his pickup about like I kept mine. Stuff on the floor that needs moving if somebody needs to get in the passenger side. A car is different from a pickup. I even replaced the floor mats that were old and worn. The carpet is in good condition. Everything in the interior is in good condition. Radio and cassette player work well. Left front speaker has a rattle in it, so I keep the sound to that speaker minimal. It doesn't diminish the sound. I don't even play the radio louder than Jr would like it. It isn't like he's ruling me. It's that the car is Jr's that makes me respect it as I respected him. I believe that's the answer to why I feel his presence, that I respect the car as I respected him, because it was his. I've come to see that keeping the car in good shape is how I honor his memory. I treat it as if borrowing it for the day.
Friday night I bought gas in Galax for 3.29.9. Passing through Sparta on the way home it was 3.63.9. As politicians like to say, do the math. 34c difference. Though I like to shop exclusively Sparta, that big a difference makes a difference.