driving

4am Sight Seeing

I see a lot of things driving home from work late at night/early in the morning.

I see deer along side the road, as well as hookers, drug dealers and homeless people pushing their grocery carts.  There’s been the occasional large scale police activity, as when they made a major drug bust at a so-called men’s meeting.

I see the after-the-club crowd hanging about Krystal’s and the convenience store loungers leaning on their cars. I’ve also experienced the scary, weird drivers who think its funny to tailgate you at 4 in the morning.

But this morning on the way home I saw something new and kind of unusual.

I was just moseying along like normal, singing off key to the radio when I came upon a motorcycle rider.  He was going a little under the speed limit and I didn’t want to ride up on him, so I changed lanes and passed him.  He was polite and turned down his high beam as I pulled along side.

South Carolina does not require that riders wear helmets, so he was like many, riding on the highway bare headed. (Its funny to watch the riders stop at the Georgia state line to slip their helmets on before crossing the river – I think its silly and stupid to ride without one, but that’s just me.)

I out distanced him in short order, but could still see his headlight in my rearview mirror.

As we approached the speed limit drop outside of one of the small towns I pass through on the way home, I noticed that the motorcycle had picked up speed and that there was a pickup truck traveling beside him.

Both vehicles caught up with me just before we entered town and zoomed past. The motorcycle pulled back in front of me.  The truck remained in the left lane parallel to the motorcycle. It was then something odd happened.

The motorcyclist reached down and adjusted something under his seat and then drew his legs up.  At first, I thought he was just stretching because his legs had been resting extended out on the touring pegs.

But to my surprise, he hopped up on his seat and stood!

He raised his hands above his head, clapped them together and then held his arms out at right angle to his body. His head was thrown back and he faced the sky.  It was if he was saying to the night, “Look, Ma – no hands!”.

He then took a little hop and dropped straight down back onto his seat, sped up and made a left hand turn from the far right lane in front of me, crossing behind the pickup truck that was turning right from the left lane.

The whole thing was so bizarre that it took a moment to register. It couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds.

Had the guy in the truck asked or dared the guy on the motorcycle?  Why did he wait to do it in front of me?  They had caught up to each other well before.  Was the guy a former stuntman?  Circus performer? Daredevil?  Just a country boy with lots of time on his hands to practice?

Mysteries I will never have answered. I am left with another memory and puzzle to add to my list, although the more I think about it this one is pretty cool.

I guess that’s how it should be for 4am sight seeing.

Drive In

We went to see Disney’s Cars 2 (overly long) this weekend and that got me thinking about my own early driving history.

I found a letter from my father not too long ago, which I will share in a couple of weeks on his birthday, but one line in it reminded me of how young I was when I started driving.

“In 1981 dollars the 50 ft drive would cost about $225,000 per mile”.

As you can well imagine, my first driving experience wasn’t a great success.

It was in Memphis, Tennessee, 1963 and our family had grown to four kids. My parents were out looking at houses to fit their extended brood. My younger brother and I had been placed in the front seat of the car while my parents finished speaking with the real estate agent.

In those days there were no requisite car seats. An enterprising youngster could stand on the broad bench seat, play with the radio and pretend to drive.

While my parents talked, I tried my hand at driving. So what did I do?  I mimicked what I had seen.  Put the imaginary key in, grab the wheel give it few turns back and forth with some zoom, zoom sound effects and then…shift.

One other note about cars back then, gears didn’t necessarily lock on automatic transmissions when the car was stopped and the key removed.

Now a geography lesson, parts of Memphis are quite hilly.  Many houses are built with good sloping driveways.  We happened to be parked on one.  When I shifted the gear lever, it went from park to neutral quite smoothly and my nine month old brother and I were off on our very first solo drive together.

I cannot imagine our parent’s horror as they watched their car starting down that hill and  carrying their two youngest children across a four lane street with oncoming traffic. I have visions of them doing the slow motion outreach, “Nooooooo….!”.

It was okay though, there was a house across that street to stop us.

The car crashed into the front of the house just under a large picture window.

We were fine. My brother didn’t even roll off the front seat.

Surprisingly, my dad says the car wasn’t damaged.  They sure don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

The our joy ride blockade didn’t fare as well, hence the inflationary comment above.  Would loved to have seen that insurance report write up.

I have three memories from the event.  Seeing Mom & Dad outside of the car, being pulled out of the car and the physical sensation that equates to “Wheeeeee!”.

My driving career was somewhat curtailed until legal driving age after that.  But I’ll be danged I didn’t develop quite a love for roller coasters.