Caged…

Weather: Too nice to be driving a stupid rental car.

There will be no photos in this post. Though I brought the camera along on my audit trip, I saw nothing that inspired me to disengage the cruise control and pull the stupid cage over to the side of the road. Driving is something I would just rather get over-with.

But it wasn’t always this way…

In my youth, I loved hotrods and sports cars. The only caveat being that they had to be either roadsters or convertibles. It is an absolute shame to drive around under a roof on a sunny day.

These cars also had to have a manual transmission. If I am going to sit in a plush seat, on four wheels, not able to experience the visceral rush of leaning into the corners, then I had damned well better have a direct mechanical connection from the engine, through my hand, to the gears that drive those wheels on the road. That was the only thing that ever made driving any fun for me.

But true automotive connoisseurs feel the same way, apparently. That is why every example of the vehicle I have described above is priced way over my budget.

The best I could ever afford was a 1974 Fiat 124 Spyder. Top-down, tires shrieking through a sweeper on Ortega Highway, it could never be called a “cage”. That car, though a bit underpowered, was absolutely brilliant on the sunny streets of Southern California. When it was running right, that is. Unfortunately, they are notoriously unreliable. Especially the electrics. That Fiat, which I named “Sophia”, spent more time in the Auto Hobby Shop on base at El Toro than it did on the roads.

By contrast, the Hyundai Sonata sedan that I rented with my company credit card, whilst a perfectly competent automobile, was totally numbed by so-called luxury features and convenience accessories. Cruise control, climate control, electronic stability control… Controls for the stereo were located on the big, fat, airbag-stuffed steering wheel!

It was all I could do, in some seven hundred miles of “driving”, to keep from being lulled to sleep by all this “convenience”. While the world outside spooled past on 360° television screens, I was sitting in the plush velour seat, feeling my circulation grow sluggish, and my attention wane.

This was not Travelling, but merely transporting my organism from one point to the next with the least amount of tactile input possible.

I missed my motorbike terribly. This trip was made in record time, if only because I set the cruise above the speed limit and stopped for nothing but gas and food. What a waste. The Job got done, but there was no fun involved.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that’s the way They like it…

17 Responses to “Caged…”

  1. Steve Williams Says:

    They…..

    They are always watching and They are coming. They are here. Drive the cage, go to sleep, that’s what They want….

    And if you keep riding those two-wheeled contraptions They won’t like it.

    I don’t think you are two far off the mark with this line of thinking Gary. It is hard work and takes more than a small amount of courage to step back and be willing to take a look at the world the way you are. And even harder to make choices that They won’t like.

    El Toro, 1971. My first VW, a 1970 Beetle with Sunroof came to me when my dad traded our family 1970 VW Campmobile (I took my driving test in it) even up with a young ex-Marine from El Toro. Beetle for Campmobile. Dad must have had a soft spot for Marines. He sure didn’t like the US Army after his 1943 to 1948 tour in Europe followed by a recall during the Korean War. I think it was the recall that soured his feelings….

    Anyway, this ex-Marine arrived with long hair, hippie wife, young baby and a need for a Campmobile. I loved the Campmobile but loved the bug even more. It became my car through college and into my first marriage and I drove it down to 75 dollars in value and sold it to a high school kid in 1978. Those old cars I owned are things of fond memory, even the bad ones—like by 1962 four door Ford Falcon with three on the tree. And a Cherry Bomb muffler to unless the power of the 144 CI inline six…..

    Anyways, glad you’re back. Thought you got lost in the midwest….

    steve

  2. irondad Says:

    Isn’t it weird, bro’, that you had a Fiat named Sophia and I’ve named my ST Sophie? I just bought a Kia Optima for Katie and you spent so much time in the same car with a different name? Yet another strange coincidence? Maybe we do share some gypsy mama somewhere and we both left on different doorsteps!

    Dan

  3. Bill Sommers Says:

    Welcome back to the world of the Anti-They’s.

    Bill

  4. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Steve: Strange connections… We both lived on or near El Toro at some point in our lives, and my family had a Beetle when I was growing up too. I wonder if these common threads contributed to both of us ending up on scooters?

    Dan: We too have observed many of these peculiar parallels. Wheels within wheels, and you can almost hear the gears meshing. When the metaphysical noise isn’t too loud, that is.

    Bill: Thanks. It’s good to be Home.

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  5. Bill Sommers Says:

    Gary, I finally entered the bloggers world. You can find my first post at http://www.scootertales.blogspot.com. My aim here is to give you cats look at this corner of the rock. Hope I don’t disappoint.
    Thanks for the encouragement.
    Bill

  6. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Bill: I tried your link, but it didn’t work. Are you sure that’s the correct URL? Can’t wait to see it…

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  7. Jim C. Says:

    I tried the scootertales link and it worked. Notice that the link has an extra period at the end, after “com”. Remove it, and the link works fine.

  8. seagullplayer Says:

    Before last Saturday I couldn’t have told you the last time I enjoyed driving something other than my bike. But I finally took possession of my winter commuter. It’s a 1982 Toyota 4×4 pickup. Its pretty beat up with several places I could see the ground from inside the cab. Nice for disposing of any unwanted cats I suspect.
    I drove it to an old junk yard to pickup a few parts taking some very back roads. I had a great time. It is hard to describe just why. The truck was cheap, runs good, rumored to get 30 + MPG. Maybe it was because I didn’t have anywhere I had to be; maybe it was just getting on some old roads I hadn’t taken for years, remembering by gone days?
    But I came home with a used mirror, an old Toyota electrical connector and a big smile.
    Wish I could get the old am/fm radio to work…

  9. irondad Says:

    Bill,
    I checked out your blog. It will be nice to have another Northwest blogger to read about. Are you going to allow comment posting?

  10. Bill Sommers Says:

    Gary, sorry man. http://www.scootertales.blogspot.com is my site.
    (Thanks Jim C.)
    Bill

  11. Buster Brown Says:

    I used to think i would always be a sports car kind of guy. The first car I ever bought with my own money was an MGA roadster. In college I drove my girlfriend’s Giulietta with a 1400 kit. Or my roommate’s Spitfire. Then there was the waitress in my freshman dorm who used to let me take her Cooper S up on Grizzly Peak to bait the Corvettes. My brother had a string of Minis and a sweet bugeye Sprite. In the ’70s, we built and raced Formula Vees. Even as an adult I had to have an Alfa. It was a project, one of the 2 liter Bertone-bodied coupes, a horrible rat, but it sure did have a lot of nice alloy pieces on it.

    But early on, I got my first motorbike, and realized pretty quickly that I was going to have a lot more fun with bikes than I would ever be able to afford with cars. I started accumulating motorcycles and driving modestly sporting sedans: Volvos, VWs, Peugeots and BMWs.

    For years, my bikes were road bikes, but one day rather late in middle age, I discovered dirt bikes and off road riding. Riding offroad bikes means having something to haul them. So now I drive a van. Not a big manly Econoline, but a minivan, a maroon Astro I call “Soccer Bitch”. I like it. The seats have lumbar support, it has a Parkinsonian capacity for tools and riding gear, and the AWD pulls me through the mud pit I call my driveway. All winter long. If I take the seats out, I can get a couple of dirt bikes into it. More often, I just load up my lightweight trailer with a couple of bikes, haul them to someplace nice, and go riding. During the week I drive to work at 55 in the left lane, talking on the cell phone or doing my makeup.

  12. Jason Says:

    Woo! We just got our first good snow yesterday up here in Grand Forks, ND! I don’t suppose you got any of that down in the cities? Probably not.

    I just stumbled across this site today, good to see another scooter enthusiast in the midwest! There’s a couple of them riding around here, but they are few and far between. I’m wishing for some of those tires you’re talking about for the snow, but in the mean time, scoot’s parked in a garage :-(

    Nice blog!

  13. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Jim: Thanks!

    SGP: Many years ago, during my jarhead days, I was driving a lift-kitted, monster-tired Toyota pickup off-road at a high rate of speed. Practicing for the Baja, or pretending to, anyway. Jumped a dune, got some serious air, but landed her on the nose. We went end-over-end three times. Truck looked like a taco after that. Thank goodness for that rollbar…

    Bill: Got it. I’ll look it over, and if you’re commuting on that Big Ruckus, I’ll put up a link.

    Buster: Yeah… you and Peter Egan. At least Egan appears on television now and then. He has an excuse for the makeup. What’s yours? ;P~

    Jason: Welcome aboard! No snow here yet, but I’ll bet it’s just over the horizon. You don’t have to wish for these tires, you know… Your nearest Kenda distributor is:

    Bell Industries
    Minnesota
    1-800-388-2355

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  14. irondad Says:

    Buster,

    All you need now for the van is one of those stickers. The one that says”
    “Warning to Motorcyclists. I do 80 in the passing lane!”

  15. Buster Brown Says:

    I like that, but it runs counter to my theories on ticket avoidance. The only sticker I have says: “I’d rather be reading Bukowsky.” If I ever run into a cop who gets it, I’m prolly in a heap o’ trouble.

  16. Steve Williams Says:

    Gary,

    I think my post was a bit misleading. Or my writing was not clear enough. El Toro appeared in our driveway in 1971 as a base parking sticker on a Beetle with a freshly discharged Marine who was stationed there. All this took place in Pennsylvania far away from El Toro. All we got was the hippy energy that must of come from El Toro!

    steve

  17. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Buster: Have you seen “Factotum” yet? I can’t seem to find time to get to a theater. I don’t even know if it’s showing around here. Hopefully the DVD will come out soon.

    Folks, Charles Bukowski is one of my favorites, right there alongside Thompson and Vonnegut. Buster Brown introduced me to the works of Kurt Vonnegut, just a few short years ago. Thanks again, Buster.

    I’ve got three words for you all… Read Joe Bageant.

    http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2006/09/madmen_and_seda.html

    Steve: Thanks for clearing that up. It wasn’t a terribly important distinction, but unlike our current government and mass media, we do seek reality-based truth in here.

    Ride well,
    =gc=