Sticks and Stones My Break My Bones But they Also Can Fix My Chevy

I've posted a couple serious and deeply personal posts lately so I'm going to balance it back out with goofy car stories. This one is actually a "humble brag" post about my mechanical ability and ability to work a situation that isn't necessarily going my way.

In 1992 while driving in my neighborhood, I passed a car with a for sale sign in it and it immediately drilled into my psyche. It was a gunmetal grey 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne 2-Door Post. The "post" referred to the B-billar of the car. Oddly, to me a the time, it was also known as a "sedan" even though it was a two door.


Like this but grey
It had huge front and back bench seats and the seats were sprung, not of foam like modern cars are. The body was straight and it was a 283 V8 with a 3-speed and automatic overdrive, essentially making it a 6-speed. A great drag car!

The $1600 asking price was within reach - if I sold my 1968 Chevrolet 3/4-ton truck. I didn't need a truck, I'm not even sure why I ever bought it. 

I sold it.


Like this but grey.
The Biscayne I purchased the next day was just a joy. It was a 2-owner car, I was the third. The previous owner had installed cruise control, delay wipers, water injection and a 2nd oil filter under the hood. It purred like a kitten. It had the original hub caps on 14" bias-ply tires.

This is my 2nd favorite car I've ever owned. It never broke and I daily drove it for years to work and all over the Northwest.

Well, honestly, one day it broke. I had driven a good friend over to his not unattractive girlfriends home on the other side of the city. We listened to Queensrÿche: "Empire" on the CD player and 7 speaker system I had installed myself - and damn it was great!

The "breakdown" happened, appropriately for a Chevrolet, only after it delivered me to my destination. The clutch pedal went dead - to the floor - and for a few minutes my heart sank to the same place.

I had often bragged that I could fix a Chevrolet with sticks and rocks if necessary. I never had a wish to try it, it was bravado, but this day, this day I swear my only options were sticks and rocks.

I diagnosed the problem while my friend was in his girlfriends house doing who knows what. I found that the clutch pivot spring that mounts from the engine block to the fame, about 8 inches long, had broken the weld at the frame. This essential part was what let the spring "rock" when you engaged the clutch. No weld, no brace, no engaging the clutch.

As I eyed this problem, two factors immediately came to light. 1. I had not brought my tool box. 2. I did not know how to weld and even if I did, I'd need to fabricate a new part. The cherry on top of the shit sundae being that I was not a CNC operator.

The last thing I noticed was that forward of where the weld broke on the frame was the top of the suspension shock absorber. This was a stout mounting and here was where my mind went to work. Eyeballing the distance between where the broken weld was and this literal stud

Without even thinking of my past boasts about sticks and rocks, I began looking for... sticks and rocks. What I finally came up with was a nice piece of granite, a nicely dried 3"x½" stick of maple and the wonder of compressibility, a nice piece of bark off a giant Douglas Fir.

These three simple, natural items placed in the right order allowed the spring of the clutch to press into them. I hopped in the car and gave the clutch a press. I kid you not, it felt exactly as it did when everything was factory. Good pressure, the pedal returned to its normal height off the floor... groovy!

When my friend came out to check on me I had given it who knows how many pumps to see if anything was moving about under the hood - nope! In fact, the bark had already worn in a nice groove for it to rock in. I wasn't exactly 100% sure this would get us home but I had, as Astronauts say, "a high degree of confidence". I didn't ask how his girlfriend was.

My confidence was well placed. We got in the "Biscuit" as many of my friend called the Biscayne (they must not have been familiar with the bay but I'm a geography nut) and we sailed her home. Nary a hitch as Jet City Woman played on the CD player, an odd mix of 1962 and digital audio rolling through King County in style. Men in bland Honda Accords looked at me with our windows down, all smiles and I could read their minds: I wish I had never sold that car.

The most impressive part of my humble brag is that I drove my car like that for a good six or more months before finding someone who could take on the job of fabricating and welding in a new bracket at the great price of $50!

So if you wonder why the only tattoo I have is "1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2" and I bleed Chevy Orange, this is one of the many reasons. I've had many things let me down or not work as advertised or had small prayers not answered but Chevrolet has never stranded me, whether a 30 year old one with hundreds of thousands of miles on the odometer or a modern 2008 or 2013 model.

I still have those sticks and rocks packed away somewhere. So I implore you:

See the U.S.A. in your Jet-Smooth Chevrolet.

The Low Odds, High Desirability Event (Cars & Girls)

Hello, lovers. It is time to get back on the horse, or should I say horseshittery?

This story comes to us from the great state of Washington in the summer of 1990. If you've followed this blog so far you know that this is basically a blog revolving around funny or stupid things I did as a kid. So here we go.

I was 17 years old in 1990. In that year people in cars actually drove them rather than pretending to not look down at their own crotches while looking at their cell phones. By the way people, we CAN see you looking down at your phone even when you're tiring to make it look like your head is looking out the window - but that is another rant for another day.

My F-body Chevrolet (That is a Camaro to you) was never going to be complete without a CB radio in it. So, as a 17 year old in high school, working 40 hours a week and pulling 3.7GPAs I figured dropping $50 on a Uniden 510XL CB from Costco was more than a fair weekend joy. It turns out radio would be a life love of mine - and that I'd find out that looking for love on a CB radio was "all the wrong places."


The "Yellojacket" as my friends called my car.
My 1975 Camaro Rally Sport was one of 1500 Chevrolet made that year. Of course, I wrecked it because it was my first car and I was a boy. I didn't find out that the car was limited numbers until 20 years later when the Internet allowed looking up such banal facts.

Anyway, I think I prepared my whole life just for the day I could drive. I kept close attention to every single place we drove from childhood until that day Washington State handed me my permit.

I could attention seek and post pictures of all these treasured artifacts but you're here to READ so you only get one photo, kid.


Oh, the girl?

Yes, I was driving home from my grandparents place in on the Skagit River up in (heh) Skagit County back home to Renton. The South Skagit Highway is a Washington State best drive. (I almost hate to divulge this because I'm starting to not give up all my "best drives in Washington" for fear they will no longer be "best drives" but full of Subaru Drivers driving 5MPH below on the twisties, causing me to pull over for 20 minutes in order to hope they either drive over the bank into the river or give them time to get off the highway so I may do it properly).

The "low odds" event mentioned in my title is that on this day another Camaro was on South Skagit. It was not driving slow, it was the same generation as mine and it was RED. South Skagit is a two lane road with one in each direction. There are only a few passing points no matter how fast your car is or how masterful a wheel person you are. So, when doing 70MPH and I came up on the tail of this red Camaro, I was more intrigued than frustrated. A fellow petrol head!


This is not the car, you illiterate fool, we didn't have camera phones back then.
As Def Leppard played on my stereo, I slid into 4th gear and kept a "safe and sane" distance from this car and started to take it all in. The red looked original, less masculine (or asinine) than mine did. The person driving it had longish hair... and I kid you not, it had a CB antenna on the trunk. The spirited driving I had been doing up until now was nothing compared the way my heartbeat picked up. I'm not sure if it was just the hope I had to engage in some fun or if I truly expected anyone to actually engage in any fun with me.

I had been driving and riding the South Skagit for ALL of my 17 years and I knew every twist and turn. Which straight away could handle 140MPH and which ones you just motor on through at 35. I knew a left hander was coming up that rolled out into at least a one mile or more straight away that crossed one creek with a small bridge. As the corner loomed, I blipped the throttle of the V8, matching revs and downshifted into 3rd. When she had completed the turn and I was at the apex and could see no oncoming cars, I put the spurs to her. The M-22 transmission whined and the ker-chunk of the four barrel carburetor happened in quick succession. 

My Camaro not so much passed her, but leapt aside her where I peddled the car at 4,000RPM in 3rd to hold station. She looked over and all I did was hold up the microphone of my CB and dangle it so she could "get the message".. and all of this in the blink of an eye, she held up 7 fingers, not just the one finger I was expecting. I finished off 3rd and the pass and banged home 4th gear. The Coconut Little Tree™ hanging from my rear view mirror, heretofore rocking back and forth like a metronome during the maneuver, returned to its normal place. 

With my heart pounding, I dialed in channel 7 on the CB and then.... there she was! We were almost in the same car! For the next 45 minutes from the South Skagit Highway to down Interstate 5 we chatted as if we were having coffee except we were talking about cars, our favorite bands and whether we should stop and meet.

Before the exit was coming up I was already having separation anxiety. I was wary of stopping and she definitely had to be more wary, even as two Camaro owners - of the kid with the mullet and deadly good looks. I was just naive enough to think that "this has happened once now, it shall happen again".

At the exit we waved and laughed and I merged off onto Interstate 405. We kept talking until we were out of range - which was another 10 or more minutes and then our disembodied voices faded off into the ether. 

I never saw that Camaro or person again - and I still wonder where the heck she was driving from and where the heck she was going.

Here's to you, missy! You had reinforced a hopeful young mans belief in romanticism in the most perfect way it could have possibly been conveyed that day.

They Day Flamin' Amy Died (And I Almost Did Too)

Hello, Lovers. I've had ten emails just in two hours - ridiculous for a post from this rat-trap blog - wanting to know about my near death experience. No, I do not think this is gruesome or prying. Now keep in mind, because I am a Norwegian Viking Warrior, no scars nor blood was shed in my near death experience. In fact, I only woken to permanent, catastrophic pain on September 29, 1999 at 3:15PM on a clear, sunny day in Seattle.

First, one should know that by age 26 still nobody has ever trained you on what to do when a 1990 Kenworth from CTI (complete with second trailer) full of broken cement is out looking for trouble. You yourself don't have to snort cocaine to be effected by it. So if you send email questioning what to do after your spine is inevitably turned to liquid I do know now. Teachable moment.

On that afternoon I was driving home on Highway 167S which is a known gridlock generator full of semi trucks and people driving to Auburn or Puyallup (or the "Paris of Washington" as I like to say). Other trucks on the road are jacked up accidents waiting to happen, built up as if there are no paved roads just 20 miles south of Seattle. My 1979 Dodge short bed was just a plain ol’ pickup. You know, the kind you use for work and not to feel manly about or compensate for a lack of understanding physics.


I don't remember this. Three days after, I shouldn't be walking. Then, I couldn't.

Predictably, after driving 55MPH for about 5 miles the gridlock grew and I came to a stop. My arm was out the window. The stock AM radio was playing “Greatest hits from the 50s, 60s and 70s” and I was listening to chatter from truckers on the CB. C’mon! Great day right?

As I was singing along with Manilow I glanced into the rear view mirror (as all good drivers do every 5 seconds or when coming to a stop). What befell my Rootbeer Brown eyes was a Silver Kenworth dump truck about a mile back coming at me quick. What caught my eye was the second trailer visibly jack knifing. Not good.

Highway 167 South is 3 lanes in its direction. The carpool lane is on the left. The “fast lane” in the middle and the “slow lane” is to the far right - the lanes were in the right place but as usual the drivers were not in their proper lanes. I was in the middle lane and there were no cars behind me.

I can see the driver correct for the jack knifing trailer and then wheel from the center lane into the carpool lane but there is a car right along side him and he veers back towards me and that’s when I knew I was going to take a massive hit. The driver had made the choice to rear end me rather than crush the car beside him into the divider.

I had time to actually consider getting out of my truck and making a dash for the grass and trees on the side of the highway but quickly reasoned that the best protection I had was the Detroit Iron I was already in. I took one more look with my own eyes out the back window. To keep from adding to the change in velocity I was about to experience I threw the truck in neutral, let off the clutch and brake (not unlike Obi Wan lowering his light saber when facing Darth Vader) and heard Manilow sing to me,  "This ones for you," and said, “SHIT!”


SHIT!


By that time, it was lights out. Cocaine Kenworth crunched to within 3 feet of my body/head and had wiped out over 20 cars before I “awoke”. I don’t know how long I was out but there was not one thing in the cab of my truck bolted down that wasn’t thrown lose, including me. The initial hit had my head knocking out the rear window immediately followed by being pushed into the next car in front of me, knocking my big 6’3” 240 pound lifeless body into the steering wheel. The steering wheel bent at 90º and left marks on my cheek bones to this day. Still, no blood or tears came.


Courtesy rear window pop out via head.


This Norwegian oaf was shook out of it first when one Washington State Trooper, one Kent Police officer and one King County Sheriff were gently pulling me out of my truck. I only remember apologizing for being so big. When asked for my address I gave them a mix between my childhood homes and my childhood best friends home, none of them current in more than a decade.

I remember hearing one of them saying, “he’s dead.”

And that is where Adam 2.0 started. The shock of running 6 minute miles and dunking basketballs and lifting cars off people - gone in the blink of an eye. My brain is still sure I can do it, alas, it cannot. Think of every possible physical pleasure you enjoy - diminished by 50% or completely - forever. 26 and life to go, Mr. Smith.

The good side.

I remember coming around and saying, “I’m a hero!” That’s just my style - supposed to be funny in dire straits and I’m glad my brain quickly filed back to a good place despite a severe concussion and spine completely on fire. My body tightly strapped down to a board to prevent further damage, including my head taped down and on the floor of a speeding ambulance I remember my back hurting so bad my hands felt cold. I spent what mental faculties I could focus on by reassuring the medic. I asked him if I was in a General Motors vehicle and what engine was under the hood. He replied that it was inconsequential because the semi had wiped out over 25 cars and there was no traffic between us and the hospital.





The bad side.
Some details for your pleasure. Tailgate at 45º angle.

Use your signals. Give a semi 5 seconds of signal before changing lanes in front of one. Finally, submit to the fact that even if you do all these things and the driver is coked up and jamming gears that he is going to do some urban renewal on your body. 

I suffered three burst discs, L3-L4, L4-L5, and L5-S1. These immediately were the thing that set my spine on fire. The concussion, which was only termed "severe" made my whole body flinch every time I blinked my eyes. Newborn Adam, brave new world.
I don't remember this. (Taken three days after accident)


The Gist

This is a test! 

I've not had a blog/website for many a year - and while you'd think my Twitter or Instagram would be enough but believe it or not I get questions regarding my blog all the time - which has not existed since 2009 or so.

So, please, check in here from time to time - where I'll open up a bit more, tell some old stories that I find funny and think you may laugh at too, or I may just want to get down on "paper" before the memory slips my mind altogether.

If you already follow me on Twitter you'll know that I call it my "diary". Yes, it limits us to 140 characters but that is a good thing. If something is good, funny, important enough to be mentioned in my diary, that limit is a good thing for me. It keeps me from going too in depth. This will be a place in can delve further into my nerd habits and hobbies, strange sense of humor and my odd streaks of arrogance and self deprecation that confound not only me but probably many friends.

So, thanks for stopping by! I hope to have you laughing or thinking (even if the thought is "this is pure fart box!"). I look forward to hearing your thoughts and you are welcome for not using the Enable Smells option on my blog.

Adam "Lord of The" Smith