« Commercial Interruption | Main | Another brief commercial interruption »

I haz wheelz! And Im driving on ur roadz... Part 1

"Get off my ass," I growled, glaring in the rear view mirror at the semi bearing down on my bumper. I was going the speed limit. "GET OFF MY ASS."

I had been saying this frequently all that day. In the four years since I have been on hiatus from the road it was obvious that the driving habits of Americans have deteriorated, especially the knowledge of the concept of "proper car lengths between your vehicle and the one in front of you." In short, this country has turned into a nation of assriders.

(By the way, I hereby pronounce this curse: may you all be consigned to the highways of hell being forced to run them at seventy-six miles per hour with a blazing hot mack truck's front engine rammed up your posterior sphincters.)

The way it came about was this: a while back, I mentioned that I had decided that I needed to get back on the road again. However, my budget was approximately zero dollars, so it would be a long time before I actually had enough money to acquire any sort of vehicle. (This was before I got laid off.)

Anyway, I received an email from Dr. Weevil, containing the news that he had a car available for a very low price (basically offering it to me for free); all I had to do was go to his place of residence and pick it up. There was just one problem: he lives in North Carolina, and I live in Florida. Oh wait, did I say problem? The Amtrak still runs, doesn't it? Yes it does, and a ticket to Raleigh from Orlando is under fifty bucks if you don't splurge on a sleeping car. So I bought a ticket.

The train trip was supposed to take ten hours overnight. It actually took twelve or so, owing to delays, but I had been warned about those. What I hadn't been warned about was that it was not actually very comfortable sleeping on the train, and that Amtrak sells booze. I didn't indulge (the hot dog I bought gave me enough sticker shock), but a very large, round man and his lady companion did their best to drain the train dry, and then wandered for a bit (with full glasses of red wine) up and down the cars moaning drunkenly "where is our seat?" They must have found it, because they finally vanished.

Finally the train stopped at Raleigh and I crawled out, half frozen because they keep the train at meat-locker temperature. Dr. Weevil was there to pick me up. He'd brought the car.

Here it is:

It's in much better shape than I thought -- the good Dr. made it sound like a creaky old dent-bucket. Well it does have dents, but I don't care about that. Come on. Free (almost) car.

There was just one little problem:

Actually, I already knew that the car was a stick from his description. The me of earlier days would have turned down the offer because of that, but the me of earlier days is why I am in the dire straights I am now. I told myself that I did know at least how to drive a manual transmission, as I had tried my hand at it... decades ago, resulting in my screaming "Forget it! I'm getting an automatic!" But now I thought to myself that if my own grandmother could drive a 1963 Plymouth Valiant that was completely non-power-anything and as well having the gear-shifter on the steering wheel for years up and down the mountains of western North Carolina, I could surely drive one on the flattish environs I would be traveling through. But I admit the most compelling argument was: I was getting the car for virtually nothing.

By the way, would you like to know the names of all the gears on a four-speed transmission? They are:

EVIL gear
Too Slow Gear
Boring Gear
Normal Gear
ZOOM Backwards Waytoofast Gear

I had taken both my computer and camera with me on the trip, intending to take pictures and blog from free wifi-enabled coffee shops and so on, but I had obviously been away from driving for too long, because all of my mental energy ended up being focused on the need to get the hell out of North Carolina. That state should change its name from "The Tarheel State" to "The Tar Pit State" because I couldn't get out of the damn place. After a nice couple of hours spent hanging out with Dr. Weevil, who lives in an apartment furnished completely with books, I took off. I had confidently planned to take US 1 because from the map it seemed the straightest way home, at least until I got to Florida when I vaguely thought I might switch somewhere to 441. See, I was a little (okay, a lot) afraid of driving on any expressway, because I hadn't driven on one in four years. I had lost a lot of my "driving nerves" in that time. Also my "driving brain," because I wasn't five minutes down the road when I got completely lost.

I must have driven a complete circuit around the streets of Raleigh at least twice. Stalling and bucking all the way, because I had yet to get used to changing gears. My thought processes went something like this: CLUTCH brake yank on gear shift into neutral no first let go clutch before brake NO AFTER STUPID dammit too late the car stalled slap flasher button CLUTCH brake turn key now shift to first KEEP FOOT ON CLUTCH now take off SLOWLY and press gas car stalled DAMN too fast CLUTCH brake turn key GO AROUND ASSHOLE CAN'T YOU SEE I'M HAVING A PROBLEM okay now try it again let go clutch slowly gently press gas pedal SCREECH into first oh shit watch the traffic CLUTCH VROOOM oops take foot off gas when stepping on clutch shift to second GO AROUND ASSHOLE CAN'T YOU SEE I'M HAVING A PROBLEM HERE--

And all the while I have no idea where I am. Finally I pulled over and contemplated the map and Dr. Weevil's directions and tried to figure out where I was. That was when I found out that I had been going around in circles.

To be continued...

Comments (9)

CGHill [TypeKey Profile Page]:

I got a look at the Tercel in a Carolina twilight, and it didn't look so bad.

And assuming Dr. Weevil has bought more books since I was up there, it's a wonder you got in through the door. :)

I taught myself to drive a stick because my first car was a four-speed. Before that I had tried to learn, with a coach, how to juggle the clutch and shifter to make the car go without stalling, but for some reason the actual function of the clutch didn't sink in until I was actually out on the roads stalling out in traffic.

Once the light came on in my head, it didn't take long for the lights on the dashboard to stop coming on every time the traffic light turned green. And last year I (test-)drove a stick again for the first time in something like 20 years -- nary a hiccup.

She Who Is Perfect In All Ways made me learn to drive a manual transmission in Pittsburgh, city of a thousand hills. Gah! All so she could have a '93 Ford Probe, car of the female white trash demographic. It proved its road handling capabilities in North Carolina, though, when she intimidated some cars off the twisty little mountain roads they have there. That trip (which passed through Raleigh) is seared (seared!) in to my mind.

Ugh, hills. I have to practice with those. Believe it or not, we do have hills in this part of Florida. (Not big ones it's true, but this car rolls backwards at the slightest incline.)

Jonathan [TypeKey Profile Page]:

Dr. Weevil is a nice guy and that car looks good! Best wishes.

...may you all be consigned to the highways of hell being forced to run them at seventy-six miles per hour with a blazing hot mack truck's front engine rammed up your posterior sphincters.

Ah, so true, so true.

Man, your driving vocab and syntax sounds verbatim like mine. You're what, about my age (49)? I'm impressed with your mastering stick on the fly at this stage. God knows what depths of filthy obscenities I'd be subjecting innocent children to if I hadn't mastered the arts of manual as a whippersnapper.

Dr. Weevil is indeed a really nice guy. (That's nice guy, not Nice Guy.)

Almost -- I'm 44, but I aged a few years this past weekend.

I'm sure you look stunning in that color, especially with your cheeks blushed a becoming pink from concentrating on the mechanics of a stick shift. Congrats on a fine chariot.

And major dad was wandering lost about Raleigh early this very morning, so I don't think it was you. Even his passenger said "How do north, south, east and west marked roads ALL go in the SAME DIRECTION here? They don't do that in Oklahoma."

ricki [TypeKey Profile Page]:

Oh, my goodness, yes, on the "nation of assriders" bit.

The other thing I really loathe is how when I get a "safe" space (following the 2-second rule) between me and the car ahead of me, some pinhead will pull into that space...apparently thinking I opened it up just for him/her.

But congrats on driving from the Carolinas to Florida in a stick. You're a braver woman than I.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


Don't worry, he's just chopping broccoli.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 2, 2007 11:43 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Commercial Interruption.

The next post in this blog is Another brief commercial interruption.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.34