Monday, December 29, 2008

Redneck: You Always Knew I Was

A joyous Christakwanzukkah to all. I hope everyone out there in etherland managed to spend time with family and/or friends, gain a few pounds, drink a little too much, and get away from the grind for a little while. I did about that, though my trip was a slightly complicated one as I shall recount here.

In Which Jamie Proves Conclusively You Can Take The Redneck Out Of Maine, But You Can't Take The Redneck Out Of The Mainer

Part of my trip last week involved getting back to DC with the 1980 Chevy Scottsdale pickup truck I kinda inherited from my late step grandfather. That is to say, while he didn't leave it to me, nobody else wanted it so I decided to add a third vehicle to my stable. What the hell I plan to do with it, I couldn't possibly say, but a 28-year old full-size pickup truck with a cap, and a mere 45,000 original miles on the odometer was just too good to pass up.

At left, a simulated image of my truck since I forgot to take a picture. But it looks strikingly like this one - brown, with a camper cap - but believe it or not, mine's in nearly mint condition.

A few weeks ago I had had the thing towed to a mechanic since I was told the brakes didn't work. $280 later, I had a new master cylinder. I spent a few more bucks having them give it a once-over and basic tune-up since I planned to drive the beast about 800 miles by the time I was back in DC. On Christmas Day my mother drove me the 80 miles from Boston to Stafford Springs, CT where I found the truck with keys under the floormat as promised by the very gracious folks at Monson Road Garage and I was on my way.

Can I tell you how unbelievably awesome this truck is? It's got the small block Chevy V8 - I'm guessing the 305 vs. the 350 since it doesn't seem especially overpowered. Which is probably a good thing, since I got awesome fuel economy, averaging 14 miles per gallon on my trip. You think that sucks, huh? Compare that to a brand-new 2009 Chevy Silverado, about the equivalent vehicle nearly 30 years later. Fuel economy for this marvel of modern engine design? 15 city/20 highway. Nearly three decades later, that's the best they could do, apparently. And the review I linked to lists fuel economy as a "pro", saying "good fuel economy for a full-sized truck!!" Pretty sad state of affairs if you ask me. I'll take the ever-reliable 305 with a caruberettor, thank you very much.

Anyway, moving on... while it's just a regular cab, I easily fit four adults across in the bench seat (another simulated image, right). That rocks. I could probably fit at least 12 day laborers in the back, too. On the down side, it does take up about half of my back yard, and parallel parking is a bitch. But it's the price we pay for hugeness.

The Journey

So, there were several goals for this absurd hayride to hell. I had to get to my sister's house in Boston on common carrier transportation so I could drive back. That meant flying out of National since I wouldn't be driving to the airport. I managed to get a flight less than a week before Christmas for 200 bucks, not bad, though it did invovle a layover at JFK. Three hours. Which is just as well since my first flight was delayed almost two hours.

This might have been my first time at JFK, and I have to say, I'm a pretty seasoned traveler, but that airport is designed specifically to baffle tourists. I'm fairly fluent in English and I still found myself staring at walls, signs, and arrows frequently trying to figure out where the hell I should be going. My odd flight was on two different airlines, so I had to go between terminals. Fair enough. Except there were absolutely zero signs in my landing terminal (Terminal 1) that gave any indication that there were even other terminals, much less how to get there. Finally I asked a nice man which way out of the twilight zone, and he directed me to a tiny passageway in a corner with no sign that even said "exit" which would apparently take me to the "Airtrain."

Once at the "airtrain," I marveled at this gem in the elevator to the platform. The sign outside had said "Airtrain, Level 2." Once in the elevator, I was confronted with this completely inexplicable set of button labels. As a non-blind person, I was able to correctly deduce that I should be pushing the center button to get to the "airtrain." But seriously. What the hell? Was the elevator installer smoking crack?

Once on the train, though, it was pretty cool, it felt very futuristic and monorailish as we swooshed around the airport high above the mayhem. Though the blinking red sign that kept saying something like "Pay Fare At Jamaica" was a little disconcerting. Luckily I saw the stop for my terminal before I ended up in Jamaica and made it to my next plane on time. Once in Boston, I met my brother and we enjoyed another hour on three different lines of the Boston "T," always a good time.

I had a lovely evening and day with my sister's family, including the three nephews who were remarkably well behaved on this visit. My sister's in the middle of expanding their Cape Cod-style house so I got to check out the work in progress. I still enjoy walking around unfinished construction sites, and I was intrigued by some of the modern techniques they were using for plumbing and wiring. I admit I am slightly skeptical of plastic plumbing, and as long as I'm not paying for labor there's no way I won't drop the extra bucks for copper in my own house, but it sure looked a lot easier to install than copper. I know it's becoming pretty common in new construction, I'm just a bit of a luddite... with a tendency towards overbuilding.

In Which We Place Absolute Faith In 28 Year Old Machines

Come Friday morning, the marathon begins. I departed boston at 6 AM in predawn darkness. The beast fired up right away despite the 16 degree temperature. Being scraper-less I had to let the frost melt off the windshield before I could go, but soon I was rolling along happily. My first stop was Maine. Another important factor in this mission was acquiring furniture and some vintage tools I'd also gotten from my grandfather's estate but hadn't been able to get back to Washington until I was up north in a car. So I hightailed it up there, and was on the way back south again about 3 hours later. I stopped off in Portland on the way back to say hello to Johnny Bigtime and his brood, then again in Boston to pick up an air conditioner my sister was donating to my cause (and I'd forgotten to get before). Then, it was on to DC.

My journey took me through West Cornwall, Connecticut, where I stopped over again to visit Aislinn. I had originally planned on spending the night with her family and finishing the trip in the morning. By the time I got there, it was 4:30 PM so I'd already been on the road for over ten hours, though with a few stops. But the weather report was ominous for the late night and morning: freezing rain, snow, sleet, brimstone, you name it. Now, while I'd already developed a strong trusting bond with the truck, I wasn't sure I trusted the rather crusty looking tires, and the vintage windshield cleaning system that did not involve a sprayer or an intermittent setting.

So, with great resolve I said goodbye and departed again around 7:30. There was a light rain for part of the trip, which was very annoying to say the least without an intermittent setting. The rest was kind of a blur. I learned a few thing, though.

1) When you are barreling down the road in a giant pickup truck, people get the hell out of your way.

2) Speedometer is off by 7 mph at 70. That is, I'm really going 77. After I kept blowing by people when I though I was doing only 70 or so (in a 65) I did a reality check using the GPS. Probably lucky I didn't get pulled over since I was doing what I thought was 70-75 most of the way.

3) Thank god gas was generally $1.50 a gallon

4) Factory 1980 radio (with two knobs and five buttons) sounds like ass, but creates perfect retro environment for reliving a simpler time.

5) It costs $6.35 to take the Jersey Turnpike from Exit 15 (GW Bridge) to Exit 7 (Route 295). WTF??? It was 2 bucks last time I did the drive!! At first I thought the toll attendant was messing with me. Maybe she thought my truck had three axles or something. But apparently, they had just raised the prices. Welcome to Recession '08, suckers!

I finally arrived in DC at 12:30 AM. It was a hell of a long trip but worth it. I will post actual pictures of The Beast soon. And I will be accepting offers, opening bid will be $3,000. You laugh, huh? Check this out!

OK, never mind, I want to play with my totally impractical new old toy for a while... but I will definitely be accepting ideas about what to do with this behemoth. Late night conversation has already gone to Inauguration Day Float. Be very afraid....

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