Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Location of sensor taken from an engine out of the car. I am loathe to sell this vehicle right now, only because I recently bought new tires and a new battery for it. Never again will I own a Japanese car!
OK folks -- for about a week now the check engine soon light has been on and off on my 2006 Nissan Spec V 2.5 liter. I did an OBD-II scan and the instrument indicated a fault code for a crank position sensor fault. So I changed a sensor on the cam, close to the top of the engine, and thought that was it. But No! There is a second sensor, just like the first, in a near uinaccessible place at the bottom of the engine near the transmission. So this is what I am about to work on during our two day "Spring break", starting tomorrow morning. Pray for me, as I will need God's help to fix this.
One prominent example illustrating Newcomb’s argument is the story of the development of the Chrysler Airflow and work in streamlining and aerodynamics in general that occurred in the automobile industry. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, there was considerable enthusiasm for aviation, and some of it spilled over into automotive areas. Indeed, the relationship between the automobile industry and aviation remains to be studied beyond superficialities. As previously mentioned, the dashboard of the Cord 810 resembled that found in aircraft of the day. Supercharging, developed at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, was installed in 1930s Mercedes and Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg models. But the rise in interest in automobile aerodynamics was also due to increases in engine size and horsepower, coupled with improved roads. The drag of a vehicle was responsible for both lower top speeds and higher fuel mileage.
One of the first individuals to explore the aerodynamics of the automobile beyond a theoretical discussion was Edmund Rumpler, who constructed his Tropfenwagen (a car the shape of a water drop) in 1921.16 The Tropfenwagen can be translated as teardrop car, or raindrop car. Rumpler’s idea was that a falling drop of liquid was nature’s perfect airfoil design. As a drop fell, it would react to the pressure around it, and in so doing, its contour minimized wind resistance or drag. Only a limited number of these vehicles were built in 1921 and 1922, and then Rumpler sold the patents to the Benz firm. A surviving example of this historical curiosity can be found in the Technical Museum in Munich.
It is unclear what if any influence Rumpler had on the thinking of American automobile engineers, but technical articles appearing in the 1930s suggest that Paul Juray’s work was noticed and carefully studied in the U.S.17 The Hungarian-born Jaray was chief of the development department of the Zeppelin Airship works between 1914 and 1923. During the spring of 1921 he studied air flow passing around car bodies by using one-tenth scale wood models at the Zeppelin facility in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Jaray concluded that the vertical longitudinal section of a car was most important, and that it must be designed in such a way as to guide the air flow up and over the car in the front and down in the rear in such a manner that minimizes turbulence.
Others were thinking along similar lines during the late 1920s, and certainly one important figure was that of Carl Breer. As previously discussed, Breer, along with Owen R. Skelton and Fred Zeder, were known as the Three Musketeers at Chrysler Corporation during the 1920s. The three had formed a consulting engineering firm in 1921 after working for at time at Studebaker, and it was then that they caught the attention of Walter Chrysler. In 1924 they were instrumental in designing the Chrysler Model 70. As the story goes, Breer conceived of the Airflow concept while driving to his summer home in 1927. Traveling near Selfridge airfield, he spotted what he first thought was a flock of geese flying overhead, only to find it was a squadron of Army Air Corps planes on maneuvers. Aviation was on the minds of many Americans in 1927, as it was in May of that year that Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic, and a new era of commercial aviation was just beginning. At any rate, this insight, and his playful inquisitiveness involving the forces of air resistance to an arm extended outside his car’s window led Breer to ponder ideas that were being discussed much of the time, namely that of form following function that had roots in the writing and architectural work of Louis Sullivan and his far more famous pupil, Frank Lloyd Wright. The question that remained in 1927 was “Why were aircraft becoming more streamlined while cars remained little more than boxy carriages?”
Approaching the problem scientifically, Breer went to William Earnshaw, an engineer at a research laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, and provided him with a car for making measurements of air-pressure lift and distribution. He also talked with Orville Wright, who assisted Earnshaw in designing a small wind tunnel where Breer subjected various scale models consisting of blocks of different shapes to aerodynamic analysis. With the addition of smoke, airflows passing around the models could be studied in the wind tunnel. As Earnshaw discovered from these experiments, areas of lower pressure formed behind the model, and higher pressures in the front. By rounding the front of the design and tapering the rear, streamlining was achieved.18
Before long, Walter Chrysler became interested, and approved construction of a much larger wind tunnel at Highland Park, Michigan, where over the next three years researchers tested hundreds of shapes, plotted eddy curves, noted turbulence, checked wind resistance, and calculated drag numbers.19
In addition to Chrysler engineers, there were others working on streamlining at this time. Most significantly, Amos E. Northrup, who worked for the Murray Body Company, designed the 1932 Blue Streak Graham with its enclosed fenders and radiator cap under the hood. A few others had more radical solutions, especially Buckminster Fuller with his Dymaxion car.20
Fuller, one of the true design geniuses of the twentieth century, is better known for his geodesic dome structure that was first proposed in 1949. In 1928, during a period of intense study, Fuller wrote a 2,000 page essay he called 4-D, and it was from the ideas articulated in this essay that the Dymaxion car emerged. Fuller designed his streamlined automobile in an abandoned Locomobile factory located in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The first Dymaxion was produced in 1933 from plaster models, and demonstrated at the Chicago Century of Progress World’s Fair. It was a gleaming, aluminum bullet-shaped object powered by a standard Ford V-8, and it was capable of going 115 mph. It brought together submarine and dirigible shapes, and there was nothing like it on the road. In this car the driver sat in the front, and there was no long hood. Shatterproof aircraft glass wrapped around the front, and sticking through the roof was a rear periscope. It was a low-slung vehicle that resembled a wingless fish and rode on just three wheels, two in the front and one in the rear. The two front wheels provided traction and braking and the rear steering. So many new ideas went into that transport: front wheel drive, air-conditioning, recessed headlights, and a rear engine. But an unfortunate accident killed the novel vehicle, even though it was not its fault, and its major idea, streamlining, was captured by the 1934 Chrysler Airflow.
In the six years that Breer and his team spent on the Airflow project, many trial and error experiments were performed that discovered some of the practical the rules of aerodynamics. One of the conclusions suggested a modified teardrop shape that allowed for a windshield and hood.21 The Airflow was an “engineers car,” with a conventional front engine rear and drive layout, but with some important modifications. Its engine was moved some 20 inches ahead of its normal position, front end styling characterized by a short curved nose, and an integral trunk. The fuel tank and radiator were now concealed. Inside, the center latch doors were chair-height seats in a vast, spacious interior. Riders sat at almost the center of the car's balance, producing an effect described in one brochure as “Floating Ride.” Indeed, “Floating Ride” was the consequence of Breer’s insights concerning the natural rhythms of the human body and the periodic oscillations that automobiles developed because of spring height. “No matter whether you are sitting in the front seat or the back, you can relax completely and utterly . . . you can ride comfortably amidships . . . experience no bumping, bouncing or vibration of any kind. The bumps seem to flow under the car without reaching you.” Also missing from the Airflow was the typical wood and steel composite body common to virtually all other cars of the period. In its place was one complete unitized steel unit “built like a modern bridge.” Streamlining was thus achieved not only on the outside of the car, but structurally as well. Box girders ran longitudinally up from the front and were joined with vertical and horizontal members to create an exceptionally strong structure, supposedly 40 times more rigid than the conventional frame and body. With the rear seat moved 24 inches inward, and the engine now positioned immediately above the front axle, driver and passengers no long experienced the same levels of fatigue as those riding in traditionally-designed vehicles.
For all of the Airflow's virtues, many buyers just couldn't ignore its new shape. In retrospect, it was probably too different for the general public to accept. The most controversial elements were probably the rounded snout with its waterfall grill, plus slabbed sides and the spatted rear wheel openings. After its introduction in 1934 and public criticisms, modifications were made to the 1935, ‘36 and ‘37 designs, including changing the shape and size of the grill to the point where by the end of the production run, it appeared to take on a conventional appearance.22
Despite these attempts to earn public acceptance, the critics were unforgiving and unrelenting. Industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss claimed that the Airflow was a “case of going too far too fast.” Frederick Lewis Allen, editor of Harper's Magazine, described it as being “so bulbous, so obesely curved as to defy the natural preference of the eye for horizontal lines.” Because of lengthy retooling delays, the car was late coming off the line and there were rumors of it being a lemon. GM didn't help by orchestrating a smear campaign and introducing its own turret-top all steel roof automobiles in 1935. And certainly early models were plagued with flaws, as line workers had difficulty making this very new kind of car.
Chrysler responded with publicity stunts like that of Citroen where a car was dropped off a 110-foot cliff. The Airflow’s doors opened easily; it then started under its own power and was driven away. Beginning in 1935, Chrysler made outward design changes and entered the car in various endurance motor sport events. But the damage was done, and the cars would not sell. Beginning with only 12,000 units sold in 1934, the numbers continued to slide though 1937 before it was discontinued after 1938. More conventional models and a conservatively revised Airflow design called Airstream saved the company, but the whole episode is a case study in what rumors will do to undermine a technologically advanced product. From innovative leader to conservative follower, Chrysler emerged from the Airstream episode badly shaken, reluctant to take on major changes given what could happen. Throughout the 1940s, and indeed into the 1950s Chrysler was content to follow GM designs, the third of the Big Three. Chrysler’s executives were well aware that it could be trampled by the large paws of GM if it went in too bold a technological direction.
The story of aerodynamics and the automobile industry during the 1930s had a happier ending at the Ford Motor Company. It was at Ford during the late 1930s that John Tjaarda, a Dutch-born designer who had studied aerodynamics in England and served in the Dutch air force, designed the Lincoln Zephyr. The Lincoln Zephyr’s drag coefficient was lower than that of the Airflow, as was its weight. Dr. Alexander Klemin, one of the designers of the Airflow, had miscalculated and made the Airflow’s body twice as strong as it had to be.
Drag and aerodynamics were for the most part ignored in the U.S. even after World War II, the one exception being the abortive Tucker of the late 1940s. In Europe, however, car companies that included Citroen, Volkswagen, and Fiat did pay attention to aerodynamics. It was only after the 1973 fuel shock that computer-aided design and computer-aided engineering were harnessed to improve the streamlining of autos, since fuel efficiency is intimately connected with drag. Thus, it was 40 years after Carl Breer at Chrysler had made the bold move to study aerodynamics at Chrysler that the industry caught up.23 In the process, the engineer and the stylist were now together in terms of their functions, and thus the stylist of old, artists the likes of Harley Earl, gave way to a new type of professional in the auto industry working in the 1980s.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
1. Packard used a diagonal script on the left hand side of the rear deck that said "Packard" -- this photo and your photo indicate the diagonal script.
2. The rear window shape is the same in both photos and the curvature of the trunk lid appear to be the same.
3. The bumper appears to be the same in both photos.
4. While a number of makes and models used rectangular taillights on the lower edges, both of these photos indicate similar shaped tail lights.
5. The trunk handle on the 46 Package hung straight down and was a very heavy fixture like on the mystery car.
But I could be wrong. My first guess was a Hudson, Nash, or Olds but checking photos on Google lead me eventually to the Packard.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
New York Mercedes distributor Max Hoffman, Daimler-Benz's official importer in the USA, suggested to DBAG management in Stuttgart that a street version of the 300SL would be a commercial success, especially in America.
The racing W194 300SL was built around a tubular chassis to offset its relatively underpowered carbureted engine. Designed by DBAG's chief developing engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut the metal skeleton saved weight while still providing a high level of strength. Its unique architecture gave birth to the model's distinctive gull wing doors, as part of the chassis passed through what would be the lower half of a standard door. Even with the upward opening doors, the 300SL had an unusually high sill, making entry and exit from the car's cockpit problematic. A steering wheel with a tilt-away column was added to improve driver access.
The 300SL's body was mainly steel, except for the aluminum hood, doors and trunk lid. It could also be ordered with an all-aluminium outer skin at tremendous added cost, saving 80 kg (176 lb).
More than 80% of the vehicle's total production of approximately 1400 units were sold in the US, making the Gull wing the first Mercedes-Benz which sold in bulk outside its home market and confirming the validity of Hoffman's suggestion. The 300SL is credited for changing the company's image in America from a manufacturer of solid, but staid, automobiles to that of a producer of sporty cars.
The 300SL's engine, canted at a fifty-degree angle to the left to allow for a lower hoodline, was the same 3.0 liter straight 6 as the regular four-door 300. Fitted with a Bosch mechanical Gasoline direct injection system it had almost double the power of the original 86 kW (115 hp) carbureted version.
While not the first fuel-injected car - Mercedes engineers who had developed the principle for the DB 601 fighter aircraft engine had used fuel injection in the tiny 2-stroke Gutbrod they had designed after the War - it was the first to inject fuel directly into the cylinders. This innovation allowed a top speed of up to 260 km/h (161 mph) depending on gear ratio and drag, making the 300SL the fastest production car of its time.
The engine's maintenance requirements were high. Unlike the current electrically powered fuel injection systems, the mechanical fuel pump would continue to inject gasoline into the engine during the interval between shutting off the ignition and the engine's coming to a stop; this gasoline was of course not burned, and washed the oil from the cylinder walls and ended up diluting the engine's lubricating oil, particularly if the engine was not driven hard enough nor long enough to reach a temperature high enough to evaporate it out of the oil.
Exacerbating the problem were the large oil cooler as well as the large volume of oil (10 liters), both oriented more to racing than to street driving, which virtually guaranteed that the oil would not reach a high enough temperature. In practice, many street drivers would block off airflow through the oil cooler, and the recommended oil change interval was 1,000 miles (1,600 km). Operation of the clutch was initially very heavy, later roadsters having an improved clutch arm helper spring which reduced the pedal force. From March 1963 to the end of production, a light alloy crankcase was used on a total of 209 vehicles.
Aerodynamics played an important role in the car's speed, Mercedes-Benz engineers even placing horizontal "eyebrows" over the wheel openings to reduce drag. Unlike many cars of the 1950s, the steering was relatively precise and the four-wheel independent suspension allowed for a reasonably comfortable ride and markedly better overall handling. However, the rear swing axle, jointed only at the differential, not at the wheels themselves, could be treacherous at high speeds or on imperfect roads due to extreme changes in camber. The enormous fuel tank capacity caused a considerable difference in handling depending on the quantity of fuel on board.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
For every film classic like “Rebel Without a Cause,” there were ten shot on low budget, largely now forgotten by all except film buffs and those who watch Turner Classic Movies while killing time at the nursing home. Yet, a number of these films have become cult favorites and several, like Thunder Road, or The Blob, starring an up-and-coming Steve McQueen, gained new significance in more recent times. Many of these marginal films became the staple for the drive-in of the 1950s and 1960s, a time when youths were anxious to remove themselves from parental control and search for self-identity. Drive-ins have become an endangered institution, the consequence of changing mores, suburbanization, and a migration to the exurbs. In 1958, there were more than 4,000 drive-ins in America, but by the early 1990s, the number had fallen to about 870. They were a place to meet friends, find entertainment, passion, if one was lucky, and cheap, but often bad food. But on a hot summer’s night, what better a place to spend some time and money. And what if it rained?
The longest running drive-in can be found in Orefield, Pennsylvania, north of Allentown. Shankweiler’s Drive-In was the second drive-in established in America. It opened during the summer of 1933, after its founder stopped at Richard M. Hollingshead’s theater in Camden, New Jersey on his way back from the Jersey Shore. Hollingshead had opened his operation on June 6, 1933 to 600 people who paid 25 cents per person to see the film Wife Beware. Back in Orefield, Shankweiler hung up a giant sheet between two poles, set up a giant speaker, and was in business.
Soon others would follow, but Hollingshead, who had patented his drive-in idea, would be mired in court for years over infringement suits. Technical innovations, including RCA speakers that would be hung on car windows and in-car heaters for use during the winter months, were incorporated after World War II. American life was never the same with the viewing of such films as The Hideous Sun Demon, I Married a Monster from Outer Space, Cat Women on the Moon, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
 Stephen Bayley, Sex, Drink and Fast Cars (New York: Pantheon, 1986): 52-7.
A important element of this theatre, located in a rural area of Summers County, West Virginia, was the way in which it served as a social gathering spot. In this photo note that there is a country-western band playing on top of the concession stand. Typically on an early summer evening, grandfather would invite in local or regional bands who would play until dusk and just before the movies started to play. Note that the cars in front of the band are turned facing the band and not turned toward the screen -- they were listening to the music and then, later, would turn their cars around to watch the movies. Note also the young girls dressed in typically 50s dresses likely congregating to catch up on local high school gossip. Also note that there are several old pick-up trucks with young guys standing in the beds -- often times a local farmer would come to the movies with his family and then also bring a few local farm boys with him.
Below, my cousin, R. D. Williams and grandfather Garten's other grandson, provides some memories of the drive-in. As I recall, although still a child, folks would often mill around prior to darkness and the beginning of the movies and talk "cars" -- comparing their cars with others' cars. Car talk, girl talk, local gossip -- the stuff that made a small Appalachian community what it was. We sometimes forget how the "drive-in theatre" was such a bonding experience for those who lived and grew up in remote and often provincial environments.
Here's cousin R. D.'s memories of the Garten Drive-in Theatre:
Your dad, Johnny ran the original concession stand behind the big screen out front before the concession stand was built. He would take home the left over popcorn each night to feed to the hogs. He made the best hamburgers ( I always had them with just mustard and onions), and mom ran the ticket booth. We always had to check the trunks of cars and watch for "sneak ins" ( walk ins from the road). I went around from car to car selling popcorn and other stuff. Your Uncle Maghee's house was close enough that he actually had a speaker run to his living room with a big picture window in the front, so you could watch the movies from his house. There were swings and see saws in front of the screen for the kids, and every fourth of July they would have a belly bucking contest and a greasy pole to climb with a $20 bill attached to the top, along with sack races and other games. They also had a lot of short shorts along with cartoons and previews before the movie, including negro spirituals, with black angels singing and walking on clouds. On warm summer nights, people would actually lay on the hood of their car and lean against the windshield to watch the movie. I saw the African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn 11 times. Sergant York with Gary Cooper and Audie Murphy 8 times. It was a magical place and a special time....The only Drive -in ever in the county. C.B. Garten was a true entrepreneur ahead of his time. Looks like this was circa 1954 or 53. I remember watching some movies from horseback since the barn and camp were adjacent to the drive-in. Ah, those halcion days!!
Thursday, February 9, 2012
January 25, 2012
HST 344 – Dr. Heitmann
Speed is a word that very easily defines my life. My parents told me that I was walking by time I was 8 months old, and talking full sentences by 10 months. My father had me in a “souped-up” Fisher-Price Power Wheels Jeep by the time I was a year old. He had replaced the batter with a 12-Volt car battery so that I had more juice, and he put screws in the tires since they were plastic and had no traction. My “life-size” plastic doll, Megan, and I would ride around the front yard for hours. I loved that jeep! I even allowed my cousin, Don (who is four months older than me); take it for spin around the yard. A few seconds after he slammed my precious jeep into a tree – I looked at him and asked “what’s the matter with you?” I only know this part of the story because my Aunt retells it all the time because that’s how they knew Don needed classes at such a young age – glad I could help out!
As I continued to grow, I became too tall for the jeep and could no longer fit inside. By the age of four my dad had built me a better set of wheels. I had my very own go-cart. It was black and had foam rails that were wrapped with black electrical tape. I would ride over the drive way and the cart would stop suddenly because I was so short that my behind came off the seat and therefore my foot off the gas. My father then installed a 5-point harness that strapped me in tight. I would ride around the back yard until my arms hurt from the non-power steering.
At age sever came the quad-runner, age nine the mini-bike, and age ten came the Yamaha Warrior ATV. When I was eight years old I really started helping dad out in the garage. He decided he wanted to build a four-seat sand rail. He even let me pick the color of the powder coat for the frame. My favorite color was purple at the time, and sure enough, dad came home from Michigan with a very purple frame. He knew it would stick out since not many buggies were a “girlie” color. I helped him as much as I could by putting nuts on bolts and holding tools for him as he worked. I was also small enough to climb under the buggy while it was sitting on the ground so I always volunteered to hold stuff from under the frame. After it was complete my family spent many nights riding around town. Every summer we vacationed at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes up in Michigan and camped at the state park. I was always egging dad on from the back seat telling him to go faster over the dunes, although my mother and younger brother were always nervous. I enjoyed listening to my dad talk to questioning people walking by the campsite about the work and effort he put into the buggy. I will always miss those buggy rides.
As my automotive historical timeline continues, around the age of twelve my dad was thinking about selling “The Red Truck”. It’s a ’79 Step side Chevy that he bought new and installed a winch on the front and used it to haul many things. When I was young, Dad would take me for rides through town and I would yell “faster daddy, faster!” So, I begged him not to sell the truck, and he didn’t. Instead, he decided that he wanted to re-build it. In 2003 the project began, and I was in the barn with him helping him with the engine compartment. He had major back surgery a few months prior, and was not supposed to be lifting things. So, I was his “right-hand man”. Together we put in a 496 big block blower, bench seats, a wood-panel bed, all chrome parts underneath, and new head lights. We took the motor to a shop in Richmond to put it on a “dyno” (dynamometer). Its peak was 786 horsepower – “YEEEEEE-HAAAAWWWWW!” This project is what started me into the engineering track for college. We only take the truck to shows when it’s completely sunny and no chance of rain. My parent’s care for their vehicles has instilled a better appreciation in my actions.
After my father’s first major back surgery, he was forced to medically retire – hence the truck project. Well, after making every part on that truck chrome and getting the truck exactly the way he wanted it to look and run, he decided he needed something else. On September 9, 2008 the Factory 5 Racing kit for a ’65 Shelby Cobra arrived in the mail. Dad had always loved these cars, so he decided he was going to build one for himself. He worked long hours in the barn, and only came in when he had to. He installed seat warmers per my mother’s request, a back-up camera, a RADAR detector/jammer, a surround sound radio with DVD player and subwoofer. He finally took it out on the road for the first time on July 4, 2010. It was a very memorable moment that I was happy I got to witness. Unfortunately, since I was at college most of those two years, I couldn’t help as much as I wanted to. But, I am very pleased that dad allows me to drive it in the warmer months. I love hitting that pedal and hearing the engine roar! We take it to many car shows and I love listening to my dad talk about it to other people. He’s proud of his work and people can definitely appreciate his effort (if they aren’t idiots and actually know what they’re talking about).
My love of cars even got me into a co-op position down in Greenville, South Carolina. I went to work for BMW Manufacturing at their Spartanburg plant. I spent two semesters there and loved every minute of it. I was one of the lucky students who got to drive the automobiles as part of my job. I would drive the auto over cobblestone events and listen for any type of noise I could hear. BMW being a luxury brand, the car is supposed to be silent for the most part. I then, would take apart the car and try to find the culprit and a way to fix the issue. It was a lovely job, but when I was frustrated I was able to take the cars to the track and press my foot to floor and take my anger out that way. “Red-lining” the X6 Motorsport at 8500RPM is one of the best feelings in the world. I am very much my father’s daughter in the sense that I have no fear behind a wheel – I loved that job!
I am now at present-day in my timeline, and realize I have failed to mention the car I started driving in. I have a ’95 Chevy Blazer that we bought off my uncle. It was my older cousin’s car. It was in great shape and even had a cool radio that would turn flat screen when powered off. My dad put two 12” speakers and an amplifier in it so I could look “cool” at high school. I would wash it once a week, and clean and sweep it out every other week. I played volleyball, basketball, and softball, so from books, changes of clothes, softball bags, and muddy cleats – my car was a mess quite often. But, needless to say, I was voted for the senior superlative for the yearbook as “best car”! It was a happy day. An even happier day was back in October of this year, on the 23rd of 2011, when I accepted a full-time job offer from Cummins, Inc. I will be starting work as a mechanical engineer on June 11, 2012. I will be living in Columbus, Indiana and designing the 11.9 and 15.0 liter engines. It amazes me the path that my life took and where I’m headed!
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Hi folks -- for those of us who love cars, a central quiestion is always one of where and how did it begin? Almost always, one can point to childhood experiences, and PEOPLE! For me, it was a much older cousin, Fred, whom I incidentally dedicated my book, The Automobile and American Life to. For Tom Kimberly, it was those irreplaceable times with his father and grandfather. The Model T and the Spyder are important, but they just set the stage for the memories that followed.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
24 January 2012
If only I could still drive the BARBIE JEEP!
Ring! Ring! My attention turns from the cartoons I am engaged in as I hear the doorbell sound. I run to my room and grab my baby doll by her arm and swing a diaper bag over my shoulder as fast as possible. Then, I sprint down the stairs to the door to greet my best friend, Kelsey Wood, who, like me is six years old. I hug my mom as I walk past her and prance out of the door, holding Kelsey’s hand tightly. Her beautiful pink and purple Barbie car awaits us in the drive way. The car’s bright purple tires glisten in the sun. Oh, how I love the colors! The car merely stands three feet tall, the perfect size for us.
As we approach the car, we toss our dolls in the back compartment of the car and I put my diaper bag behind them. Kelsey hops in the driver’s seat and I climb in as her passenger. We do this naturally, without discussion, as it has become a daily ritual. Seat belts are strapped across our chest and Kelsey turns the key to start the engine. Our perfect baby car is ready to hit the road.
The cool morning breeze blows our shiny hair back behind our faces. Smiles illuminate our faces as we head down the street away from our houses. I turn to Kelsey, who is focusing on the road ahead and ask, “Where are we headed today?” She pulses for a second and responds, “I was going to ask you the same thing.” We laugh at each other because we both know we are only allowed to go to the end of our street and back. But, our imaginations get the best of us and we pretend we can go anywhere we want. We spend hours laughing, talking, and riding in our perfect Barbie Jeep. What a perfect day!
Now as I look back, I vividly remember the Barbie Jeep and the joy that filled my life on those summer days. The Barbie Jeep allowed me to explore the meaning of true freedom through what I would call me first car. Although we were limited to one street, my best friend and I were able to decide where we were going and what we were going to do. We were in control!
My enthusiasm for the freedom and control acquired through driving was quickly demolished the day I nearly totaled my mom’s SAAB convertible. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in November and my parents had allowed me to drive my mom’s car since mine was in the shop. I was ecstatic because the SAAB was exceptionally better looking and certainly more exciting to drive than my Ford Explorer. Before I left that day, my dad gave me the keys and said, “Make sure you don’t mess up the wheels.” I told him I wouldn’t and left for work.
The drive to work was like any ordinary day. However, the drive home from work was an entirely different story. I was driving on Mason-Montgomery Road, a road that I had driven on numerous times. Traffic had picked up significantly since I had gone into work. The light up ahead was green and cars where quickly passing through the main intersection. So I speedily followed... a little too close. Before I knew it, my foot slammed the break pedal to the floor and the front end of the car was crashing into the red car in front of me at full speed. I shut my eyes and screamed.
Seconds later, I opened my eyes to the music blasting into my ears. Out of the window I saw the hood of the car in the shape of an accordion. Streams of tears began to trickle down my face as reality set in. Cars were flying by me and I had no idea what to do. A considerate pedestrian saw the accident and came to help me. The events that followed that day have since become a blur to me. I think this is because I do not want to remember all the details of the cops questioning me, my parent’s shock, and my own disappointment in myself.
From that day on, driving has not been the same for me. I do not drive for freedom or enjoyment anymore. I drive to make my life easier. I wish I could still jump in my car with the excitement that was once almost impossible to contain. But, the freedom and joy of driving as a young adult will never compare to the summer days I spent with my best friend in her beautiful Barbie Jeep.
Friday, February 3, 2012
January 25, 20012
Autobiography My First Car
I was born in 1989 and ironically that is the same year my first car, a Toyota Camry was born for the first time. My uncle Bob spotted my car while driving down the road on his way to work. It was the summer of 2005 he’s driven down the same road many times and saw the same old, dull car sitting under a tree covered up by dirt and leaves. One day my uncle asked me to take a ride with him. He drove me down the road and pointed out the old car and asked, what do you think? I really didn’t know what to say. On a whim, my uncle and I drove down the long driveway of the home where the car sat. Honestly, I was feeling a little uneasy about being on a stranger’s property. Anyway, we knocked on the door and after a while, an older man came to door. He looked at us curiously; he probably thought we were trying to sell him a vacuum cleaner or something. My uncle introduced himself and asked him if the car sitting under the tree, at the end of his property belonged to him. He said yes, is there a problem? Uncle Bob told him that he had seen the car there for many years and was just wondering if it might be for sale. Now his look went from curious, to surprised and shocked. Needless to say he said “SURE!” He told us that he had owned the car since it was brand new. He drove it for six years and then passed it on to his son. His son drove it for almost two years until it had engine problems in 1998. The car had not run since that time which meant the car had been sitting under the tree not running for the past eight years.
Uncle Bob being a bit of a “gear head,” asked him some questions about the engine; we then went down to look under the hood. I had no clue what we were looking for but hey, I looked. Uncle Bob saw potential and I saw a car that had no mirrors, busted tail lights, flat tires, and an interior that appeared to be a garbage can for the last eight years and most importantly, didn’t run. The paperwork on the car said that it was black but I couldn’t tell, it just looked like color of dirt. Well as you can guess, my uncle bought the car for $200.00.
From towing the car to eventually getting the car to run it was a learning experience I’ll never forget. For the next year Uncle Bob and I worked on the car together. Working on the car was a labor of love in many ways. Uncle Bob and I got along, but never really had many common interests. The car became something that we both had in common. He loved working on cars and I wanted one to all my own. I learned how to rebuild an engine, work on brakes, replace a fuel pump, change belts, buff, wax and generally rebuild a car. Most of all, I learned how to build and nurture a relationship. We bumped our heads, cut our fingers, and brain stormed together. I learned that everything has potential. I’m still no “gear head,” but when we were finished working on my car, I felt like it was really mine. I’ll never forget the first time the engine turned over and it started. My car was “born again” and the purr of an engine was music to my ears. My car was awesome! No, it wasn’t brand new, but it was to me and that’s all that mattered. Now looking at my car, I saw all the blood sweat and tears that we poured into it. It was like the ugly duckling that turned into a beautiful swan. I loved that car.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
The car that has left a memorable event in my life is the limousine. I happened to enjoy the comfort of being driven in a limousine on the Christmas holiday of ten years ago. This occurred when we were to go out with my entire family to America over the Christmas holidays. As the last born in a family of ten children, no one seemed to pay much attention on me. Instead, everyone including my parents were all enthusiastic of the trip to America, for it was to be their first trip there. I noticed earlier that no one paid much attention to me. As the last born, however, I was mad because I expected to have attention especially from my mother. All she did, however, was preparing for the trip. In disappointment, I went out to the verandah and sat there all alone.
As I sat there all alone, my other family members prepared and left for their trip, oblivious of my absence. I realized they had left when it was too late. Thus, I walked, aimlessly, feeling both frightened and disappointed. Unaware of my destination, I chose to go. Suddenly, I saw a long white car, pulling right beside me. The driver stopped and shouted merry Christmas. I found myself smiling as I was directed into the posh car.
The length of the limousine itself perplexed me a lot. I wondered why the car was so long. Though I did not know the stranger, I decided to get into the car. Inside the limousine was so exotic, I hardly believed. There were all types of entertainment. I could see a large flat screen television. There was also a laptop beside it. In addition, the seats were so posh; I almost refused to seat on them. Everything in the car was white in color, except the seats, which were made of black leather. There was also a cooler, where I helped myself with some drinks. Moreover, there was a phone, which was used to communicate with the driver. Unlike other cars I had seen before, the driver was not visible once someone was inside the limousine. He kept calling, in case there was any difficulty, and I almost thought I was dreaming.
Another unique experience I had while in the limousine is that one assumes he/she is in a house. In essence, the limousine is made such that one does not hear the sound of anything outside the limousine. I could not see other vehicles outside, for the limousine had tainted windows. This created a feeling of relaxation for one does not worry about external disturbances. Moreover, the seats were also convertible and could easily be made into a bed. I thought I was in a house because even the potholes could not be felt. There was a fan for fresh, cool air, and the floor was carpeted with white carpet.
I was humbled when the driver finally woke me up, asking me to step out. There was my family, who wanted to prove their love through the surprise. Though it was lovely meeting them again, the experience was impressive, and this made me love limousine cars. I vowed to work extra had, in order to purchase one in the future. The experience in the car is memorable, giving the occupants a status of power.
This first car was everything I wanted and needed. I turned 16 the summer before. I anticipated getting my license, the first of all my friends. I scheduled the classroom learning and the in-car instructional. I took the test the week after my birthday and passed! I was young and free! I had a license! I wanted to spread my metaphorical wings and simply sore unrestricted. My birthday gift/partial personal investment was my car, my ticket to freedom. I bought a parking pass for my high school parking lot, and people to car-pool with. I took care of my car, and she took care of me. I waxed the car at least once a summer and once a winter. I scrubbed the tires and wheels. The car glistened in the sun and the snow brushed so easily off the smooth finish.
This car was all mine, no sharing. That is until my sister, Kelly, turned 16 two years later. That same summer, I graduated from high school in early June and she turned 16 in early July. The month before I left for school we had to pick days of the weekend we wanted the car. We had to share the car civilly, or no one was allowed to drive that weekend. We managed to make it work between us, but it felt so unfair because this was MY car for the two last years. I paid for the gas; I took the empty water bottles and wrappers out of the car. I just wanted my baby to be appreciated and not abused; I didn’t think this was too much to ask. We had our brotherly/sisterly yelling matches, but at the end of the summer, I left for the University of Dayton, a place where freshman were not allowed to have cars.
Living without my car was surprisingly easier than I thought, although I did miss being able to drive somewhere whenever I wanted. When I went home the first time for fall break, my parents had to come down and get me. While home, my sister took my car to school. The car I called my own, was now HERS. It hurt to have this reality. All the hard work I put into keeping my silver baby clean was put to the way side as the car showed poorly my sister treated the car. There were scratches on the hood, dings on the side door, and the mirror had gotten knocked off the driver’s side. What happened to my baby, my precious car? As I asked my sister, the stories came about how none of them were her fault. The mailbox moved and garage door width narrowed. All the effort I put into keeping my car in the same shape when we bought it was no longer visible. When I came home that summer, the real problems began. I was working and so was my sister. I would have to wake up at 6:30 (in the summer?!?!) to drive my mother to work so I could drive the minivan and my sister could take the car we share. On the bright side, my mom helped me pay for gas that summer. Sharing my car with my younger sister for an entire summer was hardly just an inconvenience but we got through it.
I went back to school for my sophomore year, living off campus and car-less. It was difficult to get groceries without using my roommate’s car. In order to go home or visit a friend, I had to find a ride that involved me not driving. It was less than enjoyable. That Christmas, my grandparents bought themselves a new car. They found it in their heart to give their old red ’96 Buick LeSabre to me as a gift, and because it no longer served a purpose in their garage. It was a set of wheels that got me from point A to point B. The front seat was a leather bucket seat, and the radio dial could be controlled from the steering wheel. Those were the 2 best features of the car. That summer I got a job in Tennessee working for Proctor and Gamble. I traveled on my own with the car over stuffed on a 13 hour drive. The car made it, remarkably. I took good care of this car too washing it and waxing it. In the end, this was MY car, I had to be seen in it, so it only made sense that it should be taken care of. On my 21st birthday, I was driving to Nashville. As I pulled into the hotel, my brakes gave out, dirty fluid shooting out underneath the car. The problem was fixed the next day and the car proved to work ok for the next year.
When I went home at the end of the summer, my sister went off to school for her first year in college and was not allowed to take a car. My brother, now 16, got his license. He helped me wax the car when I was his age. I vented to him about the frustration with how my sister took care of the car. I felt he knew the importance of this car to me. Just to remind me of my first love, I borrowed now HIS car for a test drive. The steering was sticky, the brakes were squishy, and the interior was heavily soiled. That’s part of a car’s life I guess, but it was still saddening to see the car start to fade out. I could tell she had a lot left in her and would take good care of my brother.
That winter when I went home for Christmas, I was devastated to see the shape of my silver baby. The hood was dented and elevated. The driver panel had a massive scar from coming in contact with a concrete median. The back bumper had a cylindrical indentation. What happened? Who had done this? My brother answered all my questions, and to my surprise there were two incidences, both on the same day. The first was backing out of the school parking lot and he hit a concrete post. He said that bump was his fault, but the next happening was not. On the way home, it was icy and the car spun a 180 and skidded along the guard rail and stopped via rear of the car in front of his. The damage was drivable and the car in front of him had no damage as it was a semi with heavy steel steps at the rear. I could tell he was devastated telling this news to me. He apologized because he knew how much I loved this car. It was obvious he had grown attached to her too.
My silver baby passed away this past summer after the engine block was cracked after 115,000 miles. It was decided the car was to be sent to scrap and life would move on. She was soon replaced with a Pontiac Grand Prix 2006, also silver. It was not the same. My brother liked the car better, claiming it handled more smoothly. I put many of miles on the Grand Am driving all around the state of Ohio and nearby states. I have since moved onto a new joy of my life, my dark green Honda Ridgeline 2006, but I will never forget the joy that my silver baby brought me.
As a lifelong Michigan resident and a current resident of one of the most historically important automobile cities in the United States you might expect me to be quite knowledgeable on automobiles. Couple that with the fact that my dad, Uncle Ron and Uncle Jim worked at the Saginaw Steering Division of GM (later turned Delphi) after high school, with the latter retiring from there after 37 years. If that weren’t a good enough reason to be an automobile enthusiast, my grandfather treated his red Cadillac like a 6th child and I grew up with “Home Improvement” as my favorite show. Unfortunately, I must admit that for reasons unbeknownst to me, I never really gained interest in cars as a youth.
Growing up many of my friends were self-proclaimed ‘car nerds’ and everywhere I have ever lived has had some role in the automotive industry and thus seems to have a permanent automotive aura surrounding it. If blame must be placed somewhere then my parents are probably most deserving. Being a child of the 90’s my sister and I were driven around by my mom in a purple mini-van and then later a white mini-van when automatic doors came out. My dad’s mode of transportation was a golf cart as we lived on the golf course for which he operated. In my eyes my childhood was as good as it could get; I played golf everyday during the summer and my mom being a teacher at my school kept me out of trouble when I had to go back to school.
My first real brush with classic American cars was when I went out to visit family in the Los Angeles area. My Aunt Marilyn is a travel agent in the area and she would fly each niece and nephew to LA, by ourselves, to visit when we turned 10 years old. When I was there we did the normal tourist things like Knott’s Berry Farm, Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach, Griffith Observatory, SD Zoo, LA Angel’s baseball, and much more. However, my most memorable day may have been the day we had no plans. My aunt got called into work in morning so my Uncle Joe and I stayed at home without any agenda. I stayed in my room and played video games (10 years old, 1990’s, enough said!) and Uncle Joe took advantage of the perfect Southern California weather to do ‘yard work’. After an hour or so I heard him talking to neighbors and curiosity got the best of me so and I went outside. In the driveway accompanying the three admirers was a freshly waxed olive green 1955 Chevy 210 Del Ray Coupe and a black 1930 Ford Model A with rumble seat. I was in shock because in the week I had been there I had not seen inside the garage and just assumed it was the place where storage junk went to be eaten by mice, as had been the case at my house. His 1955 Bel Air had been the family car when Uncle Joe was growing up and then became his first car when he turned 16. It ended up sitting in storage from 1975 until 1999 when it undertook a year long, $20,000 restoration which included seat belts and air conditioning for those hot LA summers. I had arrived just as the restoration was finishing. It was the type of car that you felt nervous to ride in for fear of leaving smudges with your fingerprints or the car that you ask if shoes are aloud inside before entering. Once buffed into a Hollywood quality shine we were able to take a ride around the town. Had my expectations for a first car had certainly been elevated! The Del Ray was beyond great, but the Ford Model A was something that I had never seen before, in person or anywhere else, and to this day I haven’t seen another. Seeing my fascination with the Model A we decided to take it out to the local ice cream shop that night after dinner and being a two seat car I was overjoyed when I learned that I had to be the one to sit in the rumble seat. The drive over was about as you might expect, lots of honks, staring, and the occasional drive-by yeller. At the ice cream shop the attention didn’t stop, there was a big enough crowd and enough flashes from cameras that many passer-bys may have thought that Marilyn Monroe had been resurrected and come to enjoy an ice cream sundae. The real fun, however, started on the ride back. Taking a play from the more modern ford clunker , the car wouldn’t start. After several turns from the crank starter at the front of the car we gave it another shot, still nothing. It wasn’t until those turns of the crank were paired with a push start from some nice Californians that we finally had success. Needless to say that after my experience in California I gained an appreciation for classic Americans cars and the hobby of restoring those beautiful pieces of Americana. I haven’t had many experiences with classic cars since, but the few I have had reiterated lessons that I learned in L.A and lessons that probably apply to classic car lovers everywhere. First, washing and waxing cars is nowhere as fun as riding in them. Secondly, don’t even bother asking to drive, it is a waste of breathe. Lastly, nobody has ever not enjoyed classic cars; seriously when was the last time you have seen a car enthusiast frown in a classic car? In closing, I fully look forward to being able to start a car project of my own one day. My 1996 Ford Taurus is a logical start, but I am not sure that the poster child for ‘cash-for-clunkers’ will ever be held in as high esteem or historical significance as the classics I encountered in California.
January 25, 2012
A Name is not to be Taken Lightly
It was my sister’s 16th birthday and I looked out my window. I saw this beautiful silver Honda CR-V in my driveway with her headlights looking straight into my eyes. I fell in love. She glistened in the sunrise. I had to have her, but reality set in and I realized it was my sister’s soon-to-be car. A tear rolled down my cheek and my heart broke into two pieces. I admired from a far when my sister ran outside to see what my dad bought her. I was deeply saddened. I watched her sail away into that perfect sunrise with a smile on her face that I wanted to rip off. I wanted that car!
For six whole months I sat in the passenger seat as my sister dangled her keys in my face before we drove to school every weekday. It took everything out of me to tell her the car like me more. After six long months, I received my driving permit and she was mine! Technically she was still my sister’s, but I was sitting in the car’s throne with two hands on the wheel at ten and two. Even though I was still accompanied by a parent while driving her, but it still felt as if she was officially mine.
Only one more year of my sister driving to school in the morning and then I receive my license and I would take over the route! My 16th birthday came and my silver beauty turned flawlessly, as I had to back around a corner. I smiled for my picture, grabbed the keys out of my mom’s hand and ran straight for the parking lot. I told my car that she was officially mine! Now, she deserved a name! I cannot explain how long I thought about a name for her, but nothing suited her well enough. She needed a name that captured her radiant silver pigment and at the same time apprehended her dominance on the road.
I was cruising to school at 7:45 in the morning and to keep my mind off of being late, I switched on the radio. My sister must have changed to radio stations because an ‘oldies’ station started blaring. “Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda.” I thought to myself, “Ew! What kind of music is this?” (At the time I did not know the Beach Boys sang this tune.) However, it was a big coincidence that I was racing to school and a song saying, “help me” turned on. Then it hit me! Help me Rhonda! Rhonda! That was it. Rhonda is helping me get to school on time. Even more coincidently Rhonda had the word Honda in it. The stars aligned that day for Rhonda the Honda and I. However, I did receive a tardy slip for being late.
I have stayed close with Rhonda and have never abandoned her on purpose. I could not take her to college for my first two years because my brother needed a car to learn how to drive. I found out the summer I went back to her that my brother crashed her! To say I was mad is an understatement. I thought, “How could he do that to her!” I knew I didn’t trust him with my baby! Thankfully she is fine and there was only slight damage to the front bumper. I sat my brother down and told him how special Rhonda was and that a car is a serious responsibility. He laughed. After that I convinced my parents to let me take Rhonda for the summer at Dayton and they surprisingly agreed. Those 5-hour trips from Dayton to Chicago and visa-versa were great bonding times. I had to leave her the next school year with my dangerous driving brother, but Rhonda survived.
Once I return home, I was faced with a decision that most kids are not even asked. Do I want my dad’s five-year-old Lexis with navigation and Bluetooth or let my 16-year-old brother have the prize car? The decision was easy! Rhonda was mine. My brother could ride in style with the Lexis, while I ride with pride in Rhonda. We were attached at the hip. Every time I double push lock on her keys she beeps at me and it is her way of saying, “Until next time.”
Rhonda has been through a lot over the years especially with teaching all three of us kids how to drive. However, she has stayed loyal to the people I care about most and kept us all safe and sound on the road. She will forever be my car and we still have miles of empty roads to travel together in the future.
Prof. John A. Heitmann
HST 344 01
25 January 2011
Driving Lights and Sirens: My “Auto” Biography
“Take it easy driving. The life you might save might be mine.” The following words were spoken by the late actor and car enthusiast James Dean just weeks before he would be involved in an accident while driving his Porsche 550 Spyder that would claim his life. His words carry a powerful message that cannot be overlooked—a haunting reminder of the responsibility one must assume whenever they are behind the wheel.
To define an automobile as a vehicle in the traditional sense of simply a means of transportation is, to me, a gross understatement. Sure, to some that may be sufficient, but to others their car may be a beloved family heirloom, a fast, racing machine, or maybe even a father-son bonding experience. However, I feel I have a special relationship with my model 2000 Wheeled Coach Type III ambulance. It is a tool upon which I, as well as the community I serve, have come to rely upon as much as the emergency medical technicians who operate it. A “vehicle” that truly makes the difference between life and death.
As I reflect upon my experiences as an EMT for over a year and a half now, I cannot help but be confronted with a mélange of emotions. I can say with sincerity that within the doors of that hulking machine I have experienced some of my proudest moments while at other times gripped by fear and anxiety, the likes of which I have never (and may never) experience elsewhere. Perhaps a story will best serve as illustration:
It was the fall of 2011 and I had just returned with my crew from staging Dayton’s largest annual rock concert known as X-Fest. Our crew was exhausted from a full day of treating and transporting patients intoxicated on only God knows what who, as a result, are usually injured in some sort of moshing activity. We only had an hour or so before our shift was over and we were looking forward to relaxing. But fate is not always so kind. Just as we returned to campus we got tones from dispatch indicating an emergency. Over the radio we were told that a young woman, clear across campus, had been violently seizing for several minutes now which is a serious situation since breathing is near impossible during the muscle convulsions of a seizure. Instinctively, and even before dispatch had finished, I flipped on the lights and sirens and quickly sped through the streets of campus, adrenaline coursing through my body. We arrived on scene to find an unconscious patient whom we immediately loaded into the ambulance while students from surrounding houses came out to see the commotion. The girl was still in critical condition and while the rest of my crew worked to stabilize her in the back of the medic, it was my job to get us to the hospital quickly and in one piece. However, there was a catch. Our target hospital, Miami Valley, is located past the fairgrounds where the thousands of people who had attended X-Fest were now frantically trying to leave. Local police had temporarily closed many of the roads in order to facilitate the efflux of traffic which left the street we needed to traverse in order to get to the hospital at a complete standstill of traffic. We had no choice but to dive straight into the sea of traffic. My hands moved quickly over the console, manipulating the sirens and horn to alert the traffic to the oncoming ambulance. Like a river through a forest, we meandered through the traffic as cars moved to the best of their ability in recognition of the emergency. In all, I probably drove on the right side of the road maybe half of the ten minutes it took to make the one mile journey. Still, because I was so familiar with the ambulance, we were able to make it to the hospital safely and in time to get the patient the care she needed.
Like the friend who has been with you through your worst and best times, I have developed a bond with my ambulance. It has taught me invaluable driving skills and confidence that I feel can only be obtained in very limited circumstances. There is no other feeling like driving with the lights and sirens of the ambulance on. Cars ahead move aside almost as if you own the road as you legally break the speed limit by sometimes as much as fifteen miles per hour. Not to mention the wave of adrenaline you feel as you prepare for the emergency ahead. The 7.3 liter turbo diesel engine is surprisingly powerful and the steering smooth and tight. I truly enjoy my job as a volunteer EMT serving the campus of UD and my experiences driving the ambulance has undoubtedly played a huge role in that.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
An “Auto” Biography
We were just outside of Dayton when the magnitude of the ride ahead hit all of us at once. Over sixteen hours, as few stops as possible, straight to Daytona Beach, Florida.
The past few weeks of my junior year were spent much like the last few weeks of any student’s semester. Hours of studying, reviewing, taking finals, packing, and watching as older friends became more and more nervous about graduation and the uncertain months ahead. It was over now, and as the campus breathed its collected sigh of relief, seniors cleaned up their graduation parties and prepared to leave the University of Dayton one last time.
I had already made plans with three other friends to carpool south for UD’s annual Dayton to Daytona trip. We decided to stay the last weekend at UD to see our friends off and then drive through the night to our hotel on Daytona Beach. As with any twenty-one year old with a week of no responsibility ahead, I could not be more excited to begin our trip. I still remember how sunny it was, and how quiet campus seemed even though it was packed with students only days before. After what seemed like hours, our excitement could no longer be contained and we decided to forgo our previous plans and start our trek early.
“Who cares if we get there at 5:00 AM,” I remember someone saying. “We will be in Florida on the beach.”
Persuading a group of college students to spend more time on the beach is probably easier than persuading a dog to eat a treat. We tossed our last provisions in the back of my roommate’s Subaru Outback and piled in. What came next is one of the reasons driving is such a perfect means of travel. Not only could we bring anything without the fear of getting nickel and dimed for checked luggage, but road trips require no reservations. We were only blocks from the start when we noticed a friend of ours that obviously had taken his time cleaning up after graduation. He was just loading the last bit of clothes into his car when my roommate yelled out, “Hey Ryan, congrats! Want to come to Daytona?” Now, anyone that hadn’t just received his college degree would have gotten the joke and laughed it off. Ryan didn’t. “Sure,” he called back. Before I could stop laughing, Ryan had grabbed a few items of clothing, locked his car, and piled into the back seat in between my other two friends. Name an airline that would let a passenger jump on the plane as it taxied to the runway.
We decided that, since we were leaving earlier than scheduled, we could take our time and made a route that would hit as many states as possible without going too far out of the way. We headed east on US-35 making our way to West Virginia where we could head south cutting across parts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. As with the majority of car trips, the drive was filled with fun and boredom, beautiful scenery and endless highways, hours that felt like minutes and minutes that could have been considered days.
My roommate was rather particular about his car and refused to let anyone else drive. The problem with this came at about 1:00 AM when his notorious inability to stay awake began to catch up with him. We stopped for gas, and I insisted he let me take over for a few hours while he slept. Reluctantly he handed me the keys, and we were off once again into the night. If only I knew what I was in the next few hours ahead.
In the middle of the night as I drove twisting and turning on a mountain road, the rain began. Pitch black and like someone with a hose pointed at the windshield, it was the worst driving conditions I have ever been in. However, I’m a good driver and pride myself in my clean record and no accidents. After an hour of rain that felt like a season, the rain was replaced with fog so thick that it would make walking dangerous. With nowhere to pull off, I decided to just stick it out as my friends all slept. Just as the fog lifted, the road leveled out, and my stress level finally began to descend, my roommate awoke and forced me to take the next exit so he could take over. We were only a few hours away.
I will always remember the feeling of pulling in to the parking lot of the hotel at just past 6:00 AM. There is something special about spending more than half a day straight in a car. A road trip adds a sense of adventure and accomplishment to travel. It makes just getting there part of the journey, part of the experience. Check in wasn’t for hours, but we didn’t care. We all got out and made our way on to the beach stretching and enjoying the feeling of all being able to walk, move, and unbend our legs. We sat together on the beach for hours, staring out at the ocean, and talking about the week ahead. A car is more than a means of getting from one place to another. It allows traveling to a destination to be part of the vacation, instead of a requirement that needs to be completed for the vacation to begin.