The Dicta Smith - Unwritten Rules of the Road

Hello, lovers! I haven’t posted in a while and it is my determination to only bring you the best I can out of my feeble brain. Bear with me as I struggle through something well all know and love: Driving.

It was my intention to actually write a book and publish it on this, namely one on Seattle drivers. Who does that anyway? Not I, got no connections! So, I’ll spill my valuable insights on this and look forward what you think of these ideas. 

Back in the early days of flight, a gentleman German pilot, Hauptmann (Captain) Oswald Boelcke, wrote a short discourse on how to stay alive while being a fighting man in an aircraft. The Dicta Boelcke, it turns out, has stayed relevant from its debut in 1916 through today.

In my brain over a couple decades driving in Seattle I have written what I consider the Dicta Smith. The most difficult part about this for me was trying to constrain myself to only a list of ten items because our traffic, what with its retinue of timid, cell phone (self) obsessed drivers leaves a few more slots to be desired. Yes, Boelcke kept his to 8 but he could never envision the soulless Toyota Camry or various models of Subaru.

iu.jpeg

You’ve been stuck here before

You’ll notice it now.

With that I present to you the Dicta Smith. I’d love to hear feedback — particularly if you are an apologist or wish to defend any of the behaviors I find road rage inducing. 

 The Dicta Smith 

1. Use your turn signal every time. Adjust and use your mirrors.

Yes, I crammed two obvious items into one section. Listen, you selfish neutron, you are not the only person on the road. Using a turn signal is to allow other accommodating drivers into our world, namely one in which the idea is to keep traffic moving.  If you have no idea how to adjust your mirrors for driving (no, you don’t) you may find me here to explain it.

2. Drive like you are following yourself and you have somewhere to go. Otherwise keep right.

These are not posted in any particular order of importance because if they would be, I’d put this at number one. If you drive and can’t wrap your head around this idea, it is just time to give up and Uber or take the bus. Your contribution to driving culture, hell getting anywhere, just isn’t enough.

3. Yield your lane to a car overtaking you regardless of speed. You're not a safety officer.

In Washington State the law is to keep right except to pass. If someone is overtaking you in your lane, it is not your job to modulate their speed, be a police officer or administer judgement. It is merely to move to the right preferably as soon as you can. Likewise, if you are merely pacing traffic in the left lane, get the heck to the right so you can get back to FaceTiming. We implore you. I suppose you can feebly turn your brights on after the driver goes by to “prove a point” but frankly we’re not looking in our rear view mirrors because we’re driving forward.

Here is a list of states and their laws regarding Keep Right. If per chance you look up your state and it does not have one — just help move your people ahead about 80 years and practice doing it now. The way some laws in other states are going you may need to GTFO of yours sooner or later anyway.

4. Do not move into a lane to your left (i.e., cut off another car) unless current velocity allows greater velocity going forward.

Another no brainer. After you’ve adjusted your mirrors correctly (see #1) use the brain the Universe provided you. You are born knowing calculus even if you’ve never taken a class. The same thing that allows you to throw a ball and get even remotely close to your intended target is the same instinct you should use when looking to your left and whether to move into that lane. If your Camry can’t hot foot it enough to get up to speed, simply wait for that car to pass before moving over.

You’re not the only car on the road.

5. Honk at people looking down at their cell phones or not paying attention to the road.

Here is where it gets funny because this unwritten rule of road is strictly illegal. With that warning and if you’ve mastered the “love tap” of a car horn by all means shock these people back to the task at hand. Chances are the life you safe may be your own, which on a cosmic scale is worth a few percent more than people who can’t put driving first.

6. If you are first at a green light your only job is to set off as quickly as possible.

This is a rejoinder to #5. There is zero excuse for the first person in line to lose even a tenth of a second to their vanity and cellphone usage. In fact if you’re first in line you must for the sake of the 4th car in line act as if you care that they’re on the road fo the same reason as you: to make it to a destination regardless of whose birthday it is on Facebook at the moment.

7. Eject nothing from your car. This includes all substances - littering is of poor character.

This is another holdfast rule from most everywhere I have driven. If your state has a law that states otherwise, I’d love for you to show it to me because I may detour through there on my next road trip just to say I did. That 60s feeling of just tossing a Coke bottle out the window is so bad it must feel good.

8. One ejecting anything from their vehicle is open immediately to retaliation from vehicles behind.

So here in a second instance I have done you wrong again. Just above you see I told you that this is illegal. Well, according the Dicta Smith you may fire if fired upon. Just be smart about it. Maybe a pink eraser or a wadded up paper ball that won’t damage the cigarette flinging Ford F-350. The point of it all is to let the driver know you caught him and that you do not appreciate ash in the cabin of your clean machine.

To tie it all together: Check your mirror before overtaking, avert your eyes completely from your Galaxy 10, reach for your nonlethal projectable and make your righteous move. Aim for center mass (the hood or the windshield) as they are both built to take much worse than you’re dishing out.

The target driver will be apoplectic that you’d dare to live up to his standards of littering and auto bombing but I think, especially here, if good old Boelcke were here today he just may understand the fight fire with fire method. Of course, he’d prefer that you turn into the enemy but we do not have that third dimension he had in the sky. Playing chicken over a cigarette butt in your car is hardly sport. Also, even if you fail to overtake the attacker you can seek solace in the fact you have kept one less cigarette butt off the ground. They are well known bird killers and we all know only sick children should be shooting those birds with their BB guns.

9. It is never possible to know too much about what is going on around you.

This would be a trick question to anyone after Generation Z. Upon reading this I imagine an agglomeration of millennials reaching straight to their phones to determine how far above sea level they are. No, no, no. It is easier than that! Head up, over the dash and out the windows! Look left, then right, then left again and take a look at who may be crossing the street. Look to see where the Toyota Prius overdrove the stop line and is half blocking a direction and refusing to back up. You’ve now just armed yourself to navigate this intersection!

10. While using a horn in a non-emergency is illegal most places, publicly shaming a poor/inattentive driver is worth the risk.

I was going to tie this in with cell phone shaming but cell phone use is an epidemic that hurts all of us so I gave that a stand alone (remember, just one or two *love taps* to shock those flouting everyone’s time and the law). If you do it correctly they may not even know who exactly honked at them or believe it was just a sound on their hip hop.

Number Ten, however, lends itself to what I call “laying on the horn” type action. Again, this is illegal but still stands as an unwritten rule for a reason. I once traumatized a driver by laying on my horn for a good 3 minutes after she nearly wrecked our cars. Three minutes is just a bit less than Van Halen’s Panama which, come to think of it, is about driving too. At first she was quite flippant but I assure you after 3 minutes of getting on the onramp, merging and driving at 60MPH for another minute this person may very well may be being treated for PTSD still today.

If risking Car Horn Induced Traumatic Stress Disorder (CHITSD) is used properly, there is the smallest of chances that if someone finds they missed their turn, next time they will simply take the next exit, spend 60 seconds and circling back rather than risk swapping paint.

So there we go, fellow motorists. How have you sinned recently? What are you doing to do to change your evil ways? Let us know in the comments or you may email me at adam.c.smith@me.com and maybe I’ll post your thoughts in a followup blog.

As always thanks for reading.

Down On Boness Creek (Est. 1979)

The morning is lazy and my friends didn’t know I had a small road trip planned for our enjoyment. For winter, it is a beautiful day, no rain and mostly clear sunny skies. Adventure!

Oren and Charlotte Boness, Aunt Charis and Tula

The 9-year-old boy Eduardo was indifferent that he’d be forced to play on his iPhone in the backseat of our Chevrolet rather than at home. I get it, I think. My games were all stuck in 100 pounds of computer hardware at his age - if only he knew the pain of being really cut off from his matrix of pixels, sprites and shitty music but I digress.

Silvana and I were much more excited about a little jaunt upstate - a place that holds a special place in my heart. 

Everyone was set, Edu had an orange Fanta and Silvana and I both had Cokes, ice cold in the bottle because that is the best way to indulge a favorite. By the way, the fact that a girl enjoys a Coca-Cola as much as I do… well hell, it is just awesome.

As the captain of the trip, I easily accepted the “master of the stereo” title as well. In an effort to energize Eduardo, I put the Scorpions on shuffle but it must’ve taken too long to get around to Rock You Like A Hurricane - as he had already sunk below window level peering deep into a 1/4” piece of plastic and aluminum.

So, our triumvirate squinted into the late morning as I (probably irritatingly) sang along with every single song that came on. Nobody has told me that I’m irritating them - but I’ve spent enough hours in the XO’s seat to know that if you don’t even know the songs it is much, much worse that if you do. Knowing this, I let the thought flow right out the ½” space my window that is cracked and I picked up the stereo at Still Loving You. I do not have the range that Klaus Meine has so this was probably extraordinary miserable.

As we neared Mt. Vernon, WA, I started having the flashbacks of a thousand trips to this area of the state. My grandparents owned a plot of what is basically a little boy’s paradise: A big house in a forest on a creek that flowed into the Skagit River.

Many things have changed since then but I still see every stretch of the road as I did when I was 8, 10 or 17 years old. There is one exception; there are many bigger, dumb trucks on the road. It is as if this part of the state has forgotten that we have paved roads and amazing interstates that can be navigated on a buckboard with four wheels on casters. This gripe is for another time, too.

My brother Aaron and cousin Kristian (and Tula)

We hopped off the mainline to a more rural Washington Highway 9 (the roads are still paved very nicely here but still - many giant trucks carting around… well… nothing. It is right about here I have the warm, fuzzy flashbacks to a fantastic childhood. Beautiful small town homes and small stores lazily float by our windows thanks to what are actually better than your average Seattle pavement.

Winding through the valley catching glimpses of small creeks, farms and farms with a lot of extra big dumb trucks that look like they never even get driven. Perhaps these are the backup trucks for when Armageddon comes in a bigly way - one of the four or five leviathans just has to start up. Failsafe. For the first time thanks to my love of NASA, triple or even quadruple redundancy is something I begin to admire. 

As we near the city of Concrete, Washington, the particular stretch of Highway 20 that we’re on is exactly where at about age 19 my friends and I all decided to go camping in winter on a lark. We had CBs and saw ourselves a bit of a fighter squadron with the scout up ahead letting everyone know when it was safe to pass slow vehicles. This particular stretch of 20 has a slight bend to the right for what seems like two hours. 

My buddy (let’s call him John) and I were combat scouts up front. His bright red 1978 1/2-ton, 7.4L V8 and the nickname “BIG 10” emblazoned on its flanks made every car we passed a very simple task. 

1978 Chevrolet ½-ton "BIG 10" Model

The rest of the crew were playing “tail-end Charlie” in a bronze colored 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Coupe - a grand name for a pretty boring car. It came equipped with not the buzzing but pretty kick ass “Quad 4” GM engine but a reliable AND gutless 2.5L 4-cylinder dud. 

This rolling hazard to progress was nicknamed by some polyester suit the “Iron Duke”. Oh yeah, it was iron. The only aluminum you’d find on the engine was probably the alternator housing.

A representation of the Iron Duke

Anyway, on this long bend of great American road, the word on the CB from the Big 10 (the Shepard to its Lost Sheep, if you will) was that the 5 cars they were stuck behind could easily be passed, as the oncoming lane was empty all the way from them to us. As it was related to us after the Iron Duke lazily pulled into the oncoming lane the first four cars were easy - but that 5th was beginning to look like “bit off too much to chew”. We all came to the realization at the same time. We dutifully radioed back that the next vehicle coming in the oncoming lane was a Peterbilt that had some amazing chrome dual exhaust stacks. 

At this point, our forward observer position was mostly worthless, as the Iron Duke had also seen its challenge. We were told Eye of the Tiger by Survivor just happened to be playing on the stereo when the word “commit” meant exactly what it said in the dictionary. The captain of the Duke pushed the throttle down the last 10% of the way (in effect, did nothing) and they all grabbed each others butts because it was do or die.

They died in a tangled wreck, meeting St. Peter at the pearly gates going backwards and on fire.

Not really. They cleared the last car and the CB was silent but we in the front know that somehow, our brilliant tactics were not brilliant enough. Our asses burned as somehow we could hear them cursing us back in the Golden Chariot. 

Our happy crew was now nearly into Concrete and I reveal to them that we’re here to see the world un-famous Baker Lake and Baker Dam. Eduardo pulled his hoodie further down over his baseball cap as if leaving the car would unplug a cork from his body, spilling his essence into the sharp gravel we were parked on. I think he has the wrong definition of bullying but I’m accused of that and as the adult, I accept it because I cannot throw him off the bridge which is the only other option I’m left with. 

I take the point and our little crew walks out on to the 100 year old bridge, all the time I’m pretty sure that Edu is going to drop his iPhone accidentally over the side as we all watch its beautiful red case glint in the sun for 4 seconds before gravity takes it all the way under the water. It’s a long way down. 

Eduardo flirts with gravity

Yet, this does not happen and we have time to pose for a few pics because, thank the Universe, as soon as he peeked over the side of the bridge and how far down it was, one could actually see the hair standing up on the back of his head. He’s a good boy.

We breathe some air, laugh and Edu takes a swig from the orange Fanta he hauled with him the full 30 feet to the bridge. We made our way back along the exact same 30 feet and pile back into the black Chevrolet. I’m not sure if my crew is happy or perturbed that the bridge was not the main attraction and that now we were going to drive further up the hill to the top of the dam.

Me and Silvana on the 100+ year old bridge

This sends my brain back to when my grandpa drove us up to this very same place in his 1979 Dodge. He told me, “its a dam good view,” it always made me laugh as I felt like we found the very best way to cheat at swearing! A stop at the True Value hardware store before motoring up the gravel roads and he’d happily buy me a 16oz Coke in a glass bottle (those fatty ones that only Generation X probably remembers). 

I’m a kid and I can drink 5 of these a day and not pinch an inch.

Remember the fat bottle?

Grandpa drives windows down all days of the year which I think is pretty manly but now realize it's just a great way to drive and breathe Pacific Northwest air. Even as I type this I hear Marty Robins and damn it is good. Thanks, Grandpa!

We crawl up the hill (we’re really off road now, you know, the type you need to buy a Jeep for). Silvana is watching a video of a terrible flooding disaster back in Brazil on her phone and I kinda feel terrible for the Beach Boys’ “Catch a Wave ” playing at the same time. Someday she’s going to read this and kick me square in the apple sack but for now my morbid humor demands that this precious memory stick with me forever. I’m not sure but it may be the reason I’m writing this little story.

We reach the top of the dam and Baker provides the clear water. Baker Lake is absolutely mirror-like and I stand in wonder, gazing up to Mt. Baker, at how this water has made its way down the mountain through trees, roots, ferns and rocks to land right here. Perfect, clean water. With an amused smile at this thought I turn to explain to Eduardo the significance of the snow pack, the melting, the water and then the dam that creates the power for his stupid online game. Before I open my mouth I see he has decided at this moment of the week and month to fiddle with a loose tooth. I digress. 

Me and cousins

Grandpa always offered to tie a string around it, attaching the other end of the string to a doorknob and then slamming said door. It promised a quick and easy extraction.

I was either too much of a coward or too smart to ever take him up on his offer. I now feel the need to find out from my cousins if they ever fell for it. One of us had to, and whoever took the hit: hats off to you.

My fat ass hastily makes its way over the rocky terrain here as I deploy the tripod and attempt to corral the crew into any kind of frame I can pare down in to a photo. The tripod is pretty damn rickety and we’re far from on stable ground. I place my far too expensive Phone XS Max (seriously?) on the top of the baby giraffe legged contraption and set the time at its maximum time. 

The Smiths all in one frame

10 whole seconds to get down to the group while trying to not knock down the whole shiteree on the way. 10 seconds goes by fast at 6’3”, 300 pounds but I make it! I’m pleased with the shot but it turns out “all” of our smiles are not the greatest so we set it up again. Another successful dance around the rickety tripod and finding my place in the photo. Eduardo, at a 9 year old bantam weight gets back to the camera before me and promptly knocks the tripod off its footing. 

I’m not ready to die yet but I can see a way through if that phone hits the rocks and shatters like so many Mariners fans’ dreams every goddamn year. (Hello, homers! The Mariners now hold the longest playoff drought in all of the four major North American professional sports, having not qualified for the playoffs since 2001). Anyway, Edu catches the tripod from falling and I do an about face and walk away from the light. For all the gesturing and fiddling with his tooth and to my chagrin the tooth is still in his mouth.

We motor down the mountain and I find what the town of Concrete would call its very own Kessel Run.  That is if anyone in Concrete was a Star Wars fan. I’m unsure if this particular stretch is to be driven on but it isn’t posted and I want to get some photos of this amazing train car that has been sitting here since The Great Pyramid was under construction.

I’m motoring and taking in the sights and out of nowhere a deer jumps out in front of me and in one hop clears the path and is back off the road to the other side. As I marvel at its quickness and the Chevys anti-lock breaks, two teenagers reeking of weed bound out of the forest in chase of the deer. They freeze, with “what the hell are they doing here” looks in their eyes. I throw the peace sign in order to try to convey that I’m not the hooka police but it is clear that their mantra here in their forest is “trust but verify." It is a sound mantra but I am past them before they can verify so I cannot report if they are still thinking of me right now wondering why I showed up in their life for 10 but I've thought about them every day since. Do they grow their own weed?

This has not changed

We’re done here so it is back towards home but this time I take the route whose orbit is close to my heart than any other part of the trip before. We roll past the gravel pit that is bigger than ever. I explain how when it is snowing they mountains of gravel make great mini-mountains to slide down. The closer we get the present starts giving way to the past. We drive over Finney Creek’s bridge that the daring would jump off and cans of refreshment were left in the water to keep cool. We pass “Finney Creek” Charlie’s place where my grandfather and I once were called upon to eradicate Blue Hornets. I got to drive my grandpas 1942 International dump truck down the road and to Finney Creek’s place and it was a thrill. It was also funny to watch the two men concoct a plan: they all included fire and fire worked just fine.

I slow down as I pass over Presentin Creek. I’ve never really owned anything in my life but I feel like I own this bridge. I’m sure my cousins may feel the same way about this creek. Summers spent with good sticks, blazing trails and countless rocks tossed, skipped or saved. We may be the single reason you just don’t see slugs around anymore. As kids it was fun to blow up a slug. I wince at the thought now. I think we stopped the slug massacre the year we blew one up and we all laughed until about 3 seconds later one of my cousins caught a piece of dead slug that didn’t reach escape velocity. I’m unsure I’ve ever seen anyone go from laughing to freaking out and screaming in my life. Another 4th of July comes to mind: the year we set up an extravaganza for everyone to watch in the evening and a Buzz Bomb made its way up on the deck of the house.

Safe and Sane

It was dark out and I can still see the shadows and silhouettes of child and adult dancing to escape the fiery device. Somehow, not only was nobody harmed but also we didn’t even burn down the house.

I cannot even begin to share the many stories with Silvana and Edu so I take a deep breath and hop back on the South Skagit Highway. I have Siri play Sons of the Pioneers and roll the window down all the way in honor of my grandpa and half tune out for the next few miles, letting the familiar surroundings flood in. It is kind of like Walton Mountain but it was our creek and river.

My eyes pick up the telephone lines running along the side of the road. Until the 90s the phone line was a party line! You could pick up the phone and if there was a conversation going on you could listen in! If someone needed the line in an emergency, much like a ham radio conversation, one asked if they could have the line for a while. It’d never work today, too many self-obsessed people that’d leave their phone off the hook just to spite you. In fact, now that I think about it we should reinstate the party line and teach people to be decent again. 

Adam and Tom plant a sign

I try to quantify all the cherished voices these lines have carried into and out of Boness Creek. Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends in electric form shot over copper. Home sick grandsons at age 8 who just wanted to call mom to say hi during a summer stay. If only reality could be as permanent as the copper in these wires. I’d pay good money to posses them.

Alas, copper wires do not have a memory of what they once conveyed at nearly the speed of light and there is no portal to the past and even if there was, young Mr. Smith would probably not even recognize old Mr. Smith.

I've mown this front lawn a few times

Again I queue up Sons of the Pioneers to imprint a little more on the memory while deciding where to grab some dinner. I ask Edu in the back set if he'd like a milkshake, he says yes and promptly falls asleep for the 20 minute trip. 

He stirs a bit dazed when I pull into the drive through and announces that he doesn't want a milkshake and crashes back out.

The car was aglow in red from the brake lights in front of us as we made our way though the line. We get our food, get sorted and I navigate to Interstate 5 - when Eduardo wakes and asks in a groggy voice, "where is my milkshake?" 

He drank my milkshake.

Grandma with me and my brother Aaron

Best Christmas Ever (1989?)

Grandma with her grandchildren and great grandchildren 

You Can't Fly Underground, 1990

If I titled this story what it should be titled it would give away the punchline so, since my life is an open book, I just wanted to be straightforward with you on that one.

As you know my best friend and I both owned fire breathing Pony Cars in high school. We'd take turns driving to school as while 8 cylinders are just right for a fast car, 16 is too many to just drive to school and work so we economized.

Another friend that lived close somehow ended up part of this deal so we had three cars at our disposal so it made no sense to do anything other than accept another 4 cylinders into our carpool.

I cannot recall if his parents bought the car for him or if he was able to just drive it whenever he wanted but, I think, his parents bought him a new 1990 Nissan Sentra. I am pretty sure Sentra means "square face and ass" in Japanese but I don't know Japanese so I can't bet more than $1 on it.

This is not my friends Nissan Sentra, it is a representation. Stop looking at pictures and read.

Well, today was the Nissan's duty to drive us four sophomores to school. Oh, and if you're asking how I know this particular Nissan Sentra is not said Nissan Sentra, it is because said Nissan Sentra is either rusted out, has mildew problems or has enough electrical problems to have driven whoever owned it next insane.

How do I know this?

I know it because I was in the passenger seat. On this day in the Greater Seattle Area it rained above average. Which means it rained "a lot". Plus, kids, todays drive to school took a diversion down a road that we never really drove down. It was a residential area and to this day I cannot remember why we diverted down it.

Picture a long, straight residential road, no speed bumps and oh about 1/4 mile of distance in a 25MPH zone. As my particular friend that was driving was not all that daring a kid (read: more mature than myself) we were doing 25MPH. When what to our wondering eyes did appear but a little bit of water running over the roadway.

As the intrepid Nissan rolled over this water, it became instantly apparent that this road was not "perfectly flat". Soon the water was ½ way up the tires and wheels. We pressed on, a steady 25MPH as our attention turned more and more to what was ahead of us.. in a matter of seconds the Sentra had a bow wave

The not-so-mighty engine started having trouble holding speed and soon the water was over the nose of the hood.. this ship was in peril. My friend in the backseat and I yelled, simultaneously, "FLOOR IT!" and, "DON'T STOP!"

Accelerator to the floor, the Nissans brand new windows, and I'll never forget this, were very clean. I could see a good 3" under water through the side window of this car, if the Sentra were a convertible I'd be up to my nose in rainwater! The car was slowing but we were still moving... if there were fish in this "puddle" I'd have seen them, the windshield and in fact, all the windows were 3" under water!

This was as deep as we got - but knowing that if we stopped now, right here, it'd be catastrophic to not just our morning but to the car. I'm unsure if we could have even gotten the door open.

The car sputtered down to less than 10MPH under full throttle (and we never became afloat as far as I know). The wheels kept turning and the water visible through the window started to recede as if a drain had been unplugged from the street. It wasn't, of course, we just happened to make it to the other side of the pond.

We laughed knowing that we dodged a bullet, as Ralphie in A Christmas Story states: We kids know it is always better to not get caught.

Our friends only comment on this, other than extreme laughter echoing through the cabin of the Sentra was, "don't tell my dad, he'll never let me drive again."

So we never told anyone.

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.

The Great Blimp Attack of 1994

Ah, my beloved Seattle Supersonics. I was a complete NBA head until the league decided that Oklahoma City(!?) of all places needed a team so bad that expansion just wouldn't work. They needed a team, in place, that they could steal from a city and plunk down in the great market that is OKC. Don't even argue with me that this was a premeditated attack and rip off of our team here, 1967-2008.. over 40 years of support and love.


Anyway, this short story is about one particular game in 1994. The very good Orlando Magic were visiting and the Sonics were playing in the Tacoma Dome. Why? Because Seattle was trying to placate yet another NBA bitch that our arena wasn't good enough. It was, but still we took a year to give them exactly what they wanted. 

The 1994 Orlando Magic were a powerhouse but the Sonics were also very good these mid 90s years. Orlando came packing Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway who were nearly as fun to watch as the Sonics duo of Gary "The Glove" Payton and Shawn "Reign Man" Kemp. Nearly - but not as fun. They were not as daring and dare I say just could not match the charisma that Payton/Kemp brought to the hardwood.

Anyway, the powerhouses met to do battle in 1994 and I remember the game well. I had season tickets this year and I brought my younger brother to the game. Leading up to it we knew it was going to be a great game but we had no idea about how fun the game was going to be.

The game was fun. It was intense. For some reason we held Shaq to 0 (zero) points and beat them quite handily. Perhaps it was a secret weapon to make millionaire basketball studs from Orlando play a game in Tacoma. This isn't a jab at Tacoma but I think even they would admit in March that they are no match for Orlando as a city. 

So, the Great Blimp Attack? Ah, yes, the game was interesting but what made this match unforgettable was that the blimp that flew around Sonics matches for years and dropped free tickets to upcoming matches ran into some trouble.
I still can't tell if it was taunting people or if there were "technical malfunctions" that allowed it to fly below the "hard deck" (a term we all learned as Generation Xers from the movie Top Gun). In my mind, I was thinking, if I wanted to take a shot at that blimp, now is when I'd strike. 

In a brief flash of what felt like psychokinesis, indeed, a drunken fan at the south end of the court saw his chance appear. Or, a chance at notoriety appeared to him. We will never know. In one hilarious move he chucked his large bucket of popcorn up at the blimp which destabilized it enough to send it into a porpoising motion as if it were riding an invisible teeter-totter. This alone caught the attention of... everyone.. but in particular the Sheriffs who were doing security at the game.

The man saw his work, and was clearly pleased with it. I'm not sure if he saw the police and security coming to beat his ass as he was kicked out of the venue but if he did - and kudos to him to stay focused on the attack - he picked up his beer. He took a swig, showing great elan, and after he was good with the swill he fox-one'd the beer delivering a staggering blow the beloved Sonics blimp. It kept losing altitude until it was behind the stands and after that I know not what happened to it. 

The man who decided to take out the blimp was "escorted" out of sight also. I'd like to think he was one of what seemed to be the 30% of people there wearing Orlando jerseys because, ya know, everyone liked Shaq but I was not so close as to see his garb.

My human failing (as well as just plain being a homer) says that if it were an Orlando Magic fan that did this I'm less okay with it than had it just been a bored Sonics fan who was so sick of winning this night that he was pretty much done with basketball.

To this day, if Clay Bennett and his crook partner David Stern were riding in a blimp over Seattle... I'd entertain thoughts of throwing a King Beer at them. They ripped my heart out, stealing our team, and in my mind it will never be made right.

1998 The Daily 5AM Duel

OK, so my blog is starting to read that the only accomplishments I've achieved are driving cars and screwing around. In order to reinforce the fact that the thought that I'm a super talented person who just has a lot of interesting experiences - I have a fully new story to share regarding cars.

For a good one and a half years, every day when I got up to go to work, there was a 3 out of 5 possibility that when, after warming up my 1978 Z/28 to drive to Starbucks Retail Operations in Seattle from Renton that the "5AM Daily Duel" as I like to call it was on.

My 1978 Z/28 had 55,000 original miles and looked like it rolled right off the factory with the sole exceptions that I had dismantled the 5.7L engine (that's 350 cubic inches to you, kids), added a roller cam and rockers and a more modern Holley Double Pumper™ Four Barrel Carburetor. Usually Q-ships are cars that don't look fast but are. My car was a Q-ship if only because it was fast to begin with but the sleeper part was that it was faster than any 1978 Z/28 that ever rolled off Chevrolet's glorious assembly line.

I named it "The Menace".

The Menace is loose again.


I'd burble out of the garage onto Benson Road South and would pretty much let the 4-speed roll down hill in neutral... looking for a Camaro natural nemesis: A white 5.0 Mustang of about 1986 Vintage. The man who drove it was about my age (25) and his car was a stick too. His car looked stock like mine but clearly wasn't. When he woke in the morning I'd wager he was also wondering if he'd tangle with me too. 



There were two lights before we would hit downtown Renton at the bottom of Benson Hill. When we did spot each other, clutches were popped, V8s roared and since the streets were empty we raced to the exact same spot: the last light on Grady that turns onto 167 for 1/8th of a mile and then to 405 to I-5. The race stopped when we got to I-5 if only that driving 140MPH 3 times a week in an urban setting is just plain fun, er, dangerous.

I think we only ever made eye contact once in the 1.5 years and it was the first day we tangled. There was no posturing. No ridiculous exhaust sounds whose barks were worse than their bites. Just two Pony Cars whose owners love to drive them the way they were built to be driven. 

At that last light before the interstates, there were two left turn lanes. The inside one was the one the "loser" got stuck in. The outside left turn lane was the one to be in as it was an easy clutch pop and redline in first to that onramp and snicking the shifter into second or in my case, throwing the Menace into 2nd, you were golden. The car in the inside turn lane had to fall in behind and the chase was on to the I-5 onramp. There was no looking at the speedometer..... it was flat out Mustang GT versus Z/28 pride on the line.

To this day, I can't tell you the winning percentage of who had to watch the other guys tail lights to Interstate 5 North. I even remember the guys license plate and a bumper sticker, the sticker read "FoMoCo".

Now, just because I ended up behind him enough times to know that doesn't mean a thing. I'm pretty sure to this day he can see my Z/28 logo on my rear gas filler door and my RATT sticker placed very subtly low on my rear bumper; Dangerous but worth the risk.

But the very first time we ever tangled, he saw Chevrolet tail lights at every stop.


Nobody ruled the streets at night like me.


Seattle Summer, 1990, The Airport

Nothing good ever happens after 1 AM.

Well, that's a credo, if you can have a credo, I live by and is mostly true. At least by my measure. But this night, I recollect from age 17 in Renton, our clocks were probably pushed more to the two or three AM time line. So, I won't name whose idea this was, but we all agreed it had to be done so we are all culpable.

So we hit the road. At that time, driving from Renton to SeaTac Airport may as well have been Mexico. A few of us drove V8s, but regardless, from an "Iron Duke" 2.5L, to a minivan, to a V8 “Pony Car” lets say, gas, as always equaled money.

When you're 17, at least on Benson Hill, you stop playing hide and seek. Even at this age, the dawning of the Internet, better communications, and some boundaries that we could not see, didn't matter a hoot. We had CB radios that could reach out 5 miles, 50 miles 500 miles, 5000 miles. Communication between myself and my friends was not a problem in 1990.

So we decide the airport has to be played. I can't remember which people, how many cars, or the exact date but I do remember we paid for parking.

There's not much traffic after midnight even today. So, say, you were to hop in your car, drive to SeaTac Airport, park and walk inside and have free reign of the whole place you might make that drive today, just for fun!

Back then whether anyone harbored any ill will for my country or not, the airport was a safe place to be. Or so we felt.

Since 17-year-olds don't play hide and seek, we played "manhunt.”

Manhunt was “hide and seek". When you're 17 jacked up on energy, running with friends, and at a giant airport in Seattle, you go all out. Just a few memories are: Being exhausted, hysterical laughter, not being seen by any of the airport employees whether physically or on camera… and while running down one office space going into a giant board room and plucking an ice cold Coca-Cola out of the biggest iced container I've ever seen for pop. As far as I know taking a few cold Cokes from a meeting that was either done or soon to be happening was the only thing we did that could have been of consequence. Let’s call it 1:30AM.

We were just thirsty and it was there. I do recall being chased and chasing friends with so much space in between us, even with youthful speed, that when someone cut down another aisle, you were too far away to really tell whether it was the next one or the second from the next one.

I am serious: not even an "hey kids!” Nothing! For an hour, maybe two we took trams, we ran down concourses, went through offices (because we were either running away from or chasing someone), until we had all given up we're drinking down Coca-Cola's for free.

Well, they weren't exactly free. I think we may have paid 10 bucks each car to park there. I say we got the better end of the deal looking back. Hell, the parking may have even been free. In that case, karmically, I’m still ahead.

This is not a challenge to 17 year olds today, had there've been a TSA back then it's quite likely I’d have a minor Federal record. I've been caught speeding before, nobody is immune to the immutable laws of average. It's just that at that day, at that time and at that place, we owned it.

I'm pretty sure we raced our cars (and the "Speed Tax") all the way through the valley back to Benson Hill.

*Apologies for the typos, they're fixed. I imported this memory off a Commodore 64 and wanted the raw text at first. It is now... proper. - acs

The Dufferin, Summer 1992

Fall 1992, Vancouver, British Columbia.

Myself and three other cohorts went up to Vancouver to support a couple friends of ours who were playing on a soccer team in a competition up there.

We were far from world travelers, but when we reached Vancouver we cruised around looking for a hotel where we might have a base of operations for the weekend. But not after filling up for what we thought was an outlandishly good price of $1.13.... but it was per liter and not gallon... we were 19, C'mon!

Four Jovial, 19-year-old, fresh face boys and one girl piled out of my friends car, a new Volvo sedan that was "The slowest car I had ever ridden in", into a hotel called Hotel Dufferin.

I was the only one with the debit card, so I paid. I wasn't much of a carouser at that time so I stayed in the hotel room while all the rest of them went out and had fun on the town where at our age, we were able to drink. I got a couple Cokes and watched Into the Eagles Nest while they partied.

We were very welcome and eyes seem to follow us everywhere as we all piled into our room and did our thing. I didn't feel we were being watched because anyone knew we were American or acting in any peculiar way.... there was just a lot of interest in us. Later that night, through the bottom of our floor, we could hear what sounded like a dance floor thump thump thumping away. It wasn't rock, it was louder than I was used to and I'm a metal head!

Everything was still copacetic until about three in the morning when one of my friends returned drunk on his feet to our room. Even though he was only two blocks from our hotel he needed a cab to get home. The cab driver laughed, pulled out off the curb and then immediately back to the curb and dropped him off. Easy hit.

It all fell into place when we woke his hung over self the next morning and the first thing he exclaimed was, "we have chose a gay hotel!"

The open arms for us received from other customers when getting a room, the eyes upon us as we walked through the hallways and in and out of the building. I can only imagine what they were thinking of the five kids in one small room! I'm pretty sure we were not in risk of have a piece of our asses taken but it was a time for action - we needed to drive further north to get to our friends match anyway.

We didn't have any run-ins, and we had nothing to gripe about when we left the next day… Except a few laughs at how innocent we were staying at what was obviously a well-known local haunt with tight pants, only men and many mustaches.

I still have the receipt somewhere, as a Momento of the night us five really tight friends (unafraid to swat each others asses and zero fear of our sexuality) packed into a room at a huge gay hotel.


Ah, The Dufferin (Doo-fer-Aaa) silent n. I'd go back, the cable was free.