To some, the capital of Rhode Island, to others, however, upholding the natural order of the universe, an intervention into the lives of extraordinary people.
Hence, a sequel to Baptists and Prisons, the highway breakdown part II, so why not fashion a rap stanza;
A major setack, a carburetor crack, aint cause for (bleep) dismay,
Rent a car, raise the bar, who give a poop, meet the 190 group,
Outta that funk, got beer in the trunk,
No (delete) delay, gonna be a great day
Dateline: Punta Gorda, Florida
Event: Mercedes 190SL International Convention
A dire bathroom warning in the Sheraton Four Points reminds me that things could be worse than songwriting hip-hop.
From our individual launch pads, members share only two things in common; (a) title to an orphan status car of erotic design, and (b), the right to trial by jury. From the first example built in 1954 to the last, 1963, now a half century past, this disparate owner group of thirty years standing has created a timeless thread, thriving, beyond the 190SL roadsters. To the core, the individual characters, made this journey memorable.
Yes, the cars are important but they are inorganic (aside from the tanned hides of recently deceased livestock). Blasphemy alert; the cars do not have a gender, a menstrual cycle, headaches, or bi-polar depression requiring serotonin inhibition. Yes, yes, you’ve given them pet names, assigned a sex, and cover them in heated nurseries with a diaper. Get over it; they are just cars, with neither memory, feelings, chocolate cravings, nor requiring prophylaxis against chlamydia. Brace yourself for taser shock, the car doesn’t know you own it.
Red Hot with Swiss Cheese backdrop; @ Muscle Car City
A partial list of the people, real, organic, that authenticated a weeklong odyssey, none of which would have happened without driving misfortune:
Captain Bill on Tamiami Trail who gave me the best haircut in years.
Sharing breakfast and an autograph with acclaimed Cape Cod artist, Karol Wyckoff, before 7 AM.
Having the honor of introducing Kent V., a retired American Airlines captain from TX, to John McC., retired Air Canada captain from BC. These two looked the part; tall, handsome, distinguished, and either could perform the cameo role of Hudson River hero, Sully Sullenberger, or Leslie Nielsen in the movie, Airplane! I knew, immediately, that John, like Leslie, was a Canadian when he pronounced ‘about’ as ‘aboot’.
Native New Englander, Henry Magno, a dedicated gearhead, and Marcia Herrara, a Nebraskan companion with encyclopedic knowledge of 3rd world infrastructure, disease, and reproductive health. Unlike most Massachusetts residents, they do not regard Rhode Island as a suburb of Boston. Which it is.
Scratch ‘ride in a camoflouge swamp buggy’ off my bucket list. Henry….hmmm, not so sure
Dining with legacy member and first timer Mary Anne Westphal and sidekick, Ken Lowman, refugees from Gainesville, home to the FL Gators. This, a relief, after three dazzling hours of million dollar cars in Miles Collier’s private museum.
Catching a ride to dinner with Mike, Mary Jo, and young Joseph Herrmann, genuine Californians, the latter playing hookey while tap-dancing around middle school truancy.
In a very dark parking lot, I manage to thumb a ride back to the hotel with Hagerty rep, Jen McWhinnie, a SYT barely old enough to be my granddaughter. Without hesitation or equivocation, she offers the shotgun seat, unaware that I may possess outstanding warrants or priors as a serial killer. Blind trust by one very cute kid.
The Hagerty WOW factor, an unfair competitive advantage
Conference call with gurus, the two Dons and Walt Puryear, to confirm the fine points of carburetor installation with our mechanic Seth, 180 miles distant.
Depart Punta Gorda hotel, Friday, at 3:30 AM, clutching a used Solex PHH, a doughnut, and GPS.
Mark, Jerry, and Seth, the A-Team of European Car Clinic, Ocala, FL, perform surgery on Baby Jane’s PMS and get us back on the road.
Intensive care unit, intravenous 15W40, and skinned knuckles
Forewarned that the replacement unit might still run lean, sucking air from the resultant warping of both the intake surface and carburetor body, I was guaranteed safe passage to Indiana. The long hill climbs in the south become a challenge to maintain 70+ mph, however the right hand lane, between semis, becomes your new best friend.
Avoiding a mirror replay of the trip south, fueled by anxiety and loneliness and robust Starbucks, I’m northbound on overused I-75. It has the personality of styrofoam, and at each interchange, faceless motels, gas, and food too fast to be taken seriously. Ringed in asphalt, like the excessive use of eyeliner applied to an aging prostitute.
Tifton, GA, Jericho, TN, and the mandatory stop in Corbin, KY for KFC, home to Colonel Sanders, and birthplace of the secret 11 herbs and spices; original, crispy chicken. Tastes better here, they say.
A curious irony at this convention, having attended ten over two decades, was peeling the veneer from so many delightful people. The norm is to congregate with the familiar, the friends you’ve grown to know well, and become oblivious of newcomers. Sans my wife, dog, and without a car, this became the best meeting ever, the result of a roadside calamity. Divine intervention.
A future as a vulgar lyricist, i.e., challenging Kanye, Jay-Z, and Fifty Cent, is not in the wings for this contributor. I gave up by singing, “What’s it all aboot, Alfie?” and opted for a moment of reflection in rural FL, Sholom Park. An exquisite stoic beast three feet in length.
Cincinnati, Indy, and home, sweet, ‘back home again in Indiana’, 2630 adventurous miles. Home to dog, Jack, my darling wife, Lynn, reunited after ten days, we practice our flying butt bump in the family room, as if we are in the end zone, and just taken the lead in the fourth quarter. No small task when each of us has a vertical leap of three inches.
And no tattoos.