Back in August, Ed McDonough and I drove from Southern California to Bonneville, Utah (some 700 miles, one way), to take part in the annual Bonneville Speedweek. Now, you probably think I’m nuts (and you’re right) but I enjoy these road trips – in a masochistic, male-bonding sort of way.
For those of us who love to drive, what could be better? You take a brand new Jaguar X-type (borrowed from our good friends at Jaguar), you stock it up with three six-packs of Diet Coke, six containers of caramel popcorn, two extra large bags of Cheetos, a fist full of beef jerky and an apple (not to eat, but to convince yourself that you’re living healthy), and you drive as fast as you can, for as long as you can, or until you start to hallucinate.
My wife can’t seem to get her arms around this call of the open road thing, but then again, she thinks that every road trip – regardless of length – takes about ten minutes. Her idea of a road trip is that five minutes from the front door she falls asleep in the passenger seat and then five minutes before arrival at our destination she wakes up and proclaims, “Are we there already?” Meanwhile, I look like a bleary-eyed heroine addict coming down off a bad three-day binge.
No, I’m convinced the road trip remains the last bastion of mechanized male bonding. No unnecessary “antique” or “fruit stand” stops, no kids battling over who’s breathing too much on who; just you, the car and a friend who pushes you to stop driving like an old lady and keep it above 100.
As I drove across the Nevada desert, mulling these deep imponderables, my mind rolled back the years to my first long trip, pulling a racecar. My friend (for reasons of anonymity, we’ll call him Tom Kirksey) and I were towing our freshly finished racecar from Los Angeles to Phoenix. As with most first-timers, we loaded the racecar on an open trailer, hitched it to the back of an underpowered Chevy Astro van, loaded the van with enough tools and spare parts to outfit a two-car NASCAR team for a season and then headed East.
As we approached the long expanse of open desert at the California border, we stopped and made two critical – if not life threatening – mistakes. First, we didn’t tank up the mini-van, and second, we each bought 32-oz. “Big Gulp” colas. Neither mistake revealed itself immediately, but the first became apparent about an hour out of town. As the fuel gauge plummeted with alarming speed, we both realized that we hadn’t really accounted for the 36,000 lbs. of equipment that we were pulling behind the 2.5-liter van. Some quick calculations revealed that the next fuel stop was in about 50 miles, and we were already dangerously hovering near the “E” for empty head.
About this same time, the second mistake became shockingly apparent to us – the human body is not designed to hold 32-ozs. of frosty refreshment. What were we to do? We didn’t dare stop, for fear of the extra gas it would take to get going again. Yet, according to Tom, there was no way he was going to make it 50 miles to the next stop. I thought about our problem a moment, until the next thing I know, Tom is – shall we say – “refilling” his “Big Gulp” cup in the passenger seat. Ok, definitely not the most pleasant experience in the world, but I suppose it was the only viable solution. However, it was at this point that things seemed to get blurry and go into slow motion – like a scene out of a Sam Peckinpah movie.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Tom start to roll down his window. It took me a split-second too long to comprehend what was about to happen. It was like one of those dreams where you are trying to run, but your legs won’t move. I slowly turned and managed to shout out, “Noooohhhhhh!” At that same instant, Tom had raised the “refilled” 32-oz. “Big Gulp” and naïvely attempted to jettison its contents out the window at 60 mph. The resulting image will forever be indelibly etched into my brain – Tom, frozen in place, arm halfway out the window, stunned look of realization on his face, and 32-ozs. of his recycled refreshment all over his face and clothes.
So how was this life-threatening, you may ask? After a second of stunned amazement, I began laughing so hard, I damn near jackknifed the truck and trailer. The more I think about this, the more I think I’m going to fly to Bonneville next year.