I tell you this brothers and sisters, there is no known earthly medicine for the soul of a man than a good romp through a winding rural two-lane in a machine that calls his name. Thus your humble scribe and his wings of wheels found themselves careening through the hills on an epic drive. But lo, this was not mere scratching of the itch in the fibers of one whose heart has known the road, this was a mission! A quest for silver, in fact. Yes, there’s silver in them thar hills.
It’s beautiful silver completely hand engraved by master silversmiths in Ingram, Texas – a couple of hours away from the nest and one of the most beautiful drives you’ll ever see. Silver soon to be joining Texas mesquite and turquoise – so when I got the call from the Clint Orms ‘smiths that the control plate and truss rod cover for #16S-062 full-dress southwestern Sadhana were ready, I told them to save the postage and the cavalry would come collect it; surely four figures worth of pure silver should be collected and there should be horses involved. This is still rural Texas and there is still a streak of Wild West alive and well after all. Who are we to neuter tradition?
The horses belong to my trusty steed for the mission, one regionally famous (or infamous as that line blurs in the wake of the adventurous at times) 1974 Plymouth Road Runner named Sarge. A time machine right down to the aluminum mags and N50 Pro-Tracs, his era may have passed and his fatigues may be faded but tell it to the road; tell it to the hills; there flows in his veins more than 20W-50 Valvoline, a life far beyond the limited machine consciousness of his peers, most fallen, the rest dressed like trophies who will never be truly driven again. He is, now revived, the last machine standing and he knows it. He rides for those who ride no more.
Heading off into the hazy morning to cover some miles before the heat of the day, it became quickly apparent that the driver, yours truly, has an uncanny sense of speed but no sense of time whatsoever. Distance is an essential piece of the directional puzzle and it is, here in the States, measured in miles. However in a 40-something year old Chrysler product the means by which we numerize speed and distance for calculation, the speedometer and its ticking little odometer, well they probably gave their all twenty years ago (so, despite how impressive it looks, disregard that speedometer reading in the photo; it reads that standing still. I simply can’t resist a good photo op and can absolutely assure you that at no time did we exceed 90). Thus, while I can pretty much nail any speed I want by feel and engine pitch out of the pipes, handy through these slow little towns along the trail with their bored Buford Ts and Barney Fi, I have no idea how long it has been since the last turn. Especially in such an environment and context as I find myself when behind the wheel of said machine on such open roads. Was that five minutes or fifteen? Where am I? I believe we successfully missed every turn on the way there. Passion courses but precision we’re not.
But what a drive dear friends, what a drive! Once you hit Farm To Market Road 473 it’s just miles and miles of everything great about country backroads. Though no sports car by any stretch of the imagination, Sarge has a few tricks up his sleeve (and in his suspension) so he may ride like a gravel truck, but he handles like a really good gravel truck… and sounds like every great ‘70s movie car chase if your head was inside the speakers. He just brutally has his way with the curves, low water crossings, and straightaways. Finely tuned genteel finesse? Not really. More like a truckload of elephant balls shot out of a cannon. I never go too deep in regardless of how capable the hands, empty the road, or how willing the machine – simply put I do have to make it home. There’s a lot riding on ME. To call our little journey a stately cruise, however, would be understatement to the point of parody, a ridiculous folly of such density it could pack into its own little planetary ball whose gravitational pull would suck us all in head first. In summary to you, dear reader, know that on this day and indeed in life itself, some roads are not to be cruised, but driven.
With dust, tire smoke and a little burned oil on our flanks, we arrived at the point of rendezvous where an exchange of handshakes and paper and a careful eye on the dusty stranger in the mirrored shades resulted in the collection of the aforementioned precious metal and, carefully securing the package in the old ammo container between the seats that is Sarge’s auxiliary glove box, we gassed up again for the romp homeward. Time to get the hell out of Dodge in the Plymouth. I think that may be the best line in this whole thing, right there. So with that I will save the rifle-racked farm trucks, staring damsels, nostalgic street machiners entranced by side pipes and faded green shag, and endless half-teethed diesel cap shouted zitfursales as other tales for another time; the sun is still high and there are miles to go while we still have the light.
Happy trails ‘til next week, friends.
Listening to: Richard Betts Highway Call, Grateful Dead Europe ’72 Part 2, a batch of instrumental stuff I’m getting together for this month’s “Album Of The Month” (lookie here for Sonic Light Embrace shortly) and the ringing in my ears from functional side pipes.