By on October 22, 2015

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I got the call at about 6 p.m. last night. It was Greg Ledet, one of the fellows who partnered in our infamous April Fools’ Day cross-country hoax.

“I’m heading out to meet Alex Roy at a Tesla Supercharger near Dayton and clear traffic for him between here and Columbus. You want to go?”

“I’d love to,” was my unconvincing reply, “but I just had a bunch of screws drilled into my left tibia and every moment I stand up is an exciting battle between nausea and vertigo. However,” I added after a moment’s pause, rifling through my nightstand for the bottle marked Morphine EXPIRED!, “I could meet you south of Columbus for a few minutes.” Hopping down the stairs on one foot, I grabbed the keys to my Accord before anyone could object. “All I have to do is use this gimpy leg to push the clutch once in a while!” I yelled, while backing out in hop-skip-and-jump fashion.

Five minutes later I was back, tears streaming from behind my tinted-lens ProDesign frames. “If anybody wants to drive me to Grove City,” I conceded, “I’m buying dinner.”

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“I hold several cross-country records,” Carl Reese said to me, as we twiddled our thumbs at the Supercharger station just south of Columbus, Ohio. Then he detailed them to me. I didn’t understand some of them, but they ranged from the Official Single Motorcycle Rider On Brock’s Original Route to his newest accomplishment, Coast To Coast In A Tesla, In Under 59 Hours. While the Grove City Police Department, singularly unused to any reason for standing in a parking lot besides “crystal meth” or “affordably-priced sex work”, patrolled ostentatiously back and forth behind us, Reese gave me the simplest reason possible for his obsession: “I picked up a Guinness Book Of World Records when I was a kid, and I thought to myself, I could be in this.” Now he is, although I don’t know if he’s in the actual printed paperback or not.

If he is, he’s right there next to Ed Bolian, whose indifferently-documented ride to glory on a leaking bedpan mounted to a buy-here-pay-here AMG Mercedes has managed to simultaneously set the cross-country bar too high to get over and too low to get under, if you catch my drift. There’s a relatively close-knit community of people who are interested in cross-country record-setting and over the course of the past ten years they’ve managed to increase the computational power brought to bear on the topic even as the public grows progressively less interested in the newest times and specific conditions. In that sense, you can think of the hobby as prog-rock, with Brock Yates as Roger Waters, Roy as Geddy Lee, and the current group of enthusiasts as “Pendragon” and “Spock’s Beard”.

The newest electric-car records, however, are throwbacks to some of the original American coast-to-coast attempts. While there’s certainly a bit of disrespect for the law involved, there’s far more respect for technology. To set the original Tesla record, Carl and his co-drivers had to map out the locations of every possible Supercharger station across the country, figure the optimal amount of recharge to apply at each station, and relentlessly war-game potential routes to figure out what would work best.

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To reset the record, Carl tweaked every potential variable yet again, then he added the Tesla’s newly released Autopilot feature. “We timed this to coincide with the release of Autopilot, so we’d be the first people to take full advantage of it.” For the vast majority of the cross-country drive, the Tesla’s three-person crew kept their hands off the wheel and let the Model P85D run at 90 mph hands-free. Alex, in particular, was infectiously enthusiastic about the potential of Autopilot, arguing with the Twitterati about the Tesla’s merits for the entire duration of his run and occasionally resorting to his #YouAreAllCowards hashtag while doing so.

“Maybe the next record won’t require a human driver at all,” Roy smirked, discussing how the P85D had the uncanny ability to hold the road in the dead of night at speeds above the top posted limits in America. And then we all basically stood around for a while, because part of setting a Tesla record is waiting around at Supercharger stations and doing nothing. There was something about the enforced inactivity that perfectly symbolized the modern cross-country record. Can you imagine Dan Gurney just standing around next to a Ferrari Daytona while it charged up? There’s nothing less cool.

That being said, there’s something fundamentally admirable about driving from LA to NY in under fifty-eight hours and letting the car do most of the work for you. It’s cool in the techno-hacker sense, of doing something with technology that isn’t the subject of a specific page in the owner’s manual PDF. If Cannonball Baker is really up there in some idealized heaven, I think he’s smiling on Alex Roy. Maybe for the first time.

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44 Comments on “Scenes From An Autonomous Record Lot...”


  • avatar
    jdowmiller

    I had to look at the Supercharger map out of curiosity after reading this. Dayton gets one in a Meijer parking lot and looks to be within an hour of several more while Nashville’s is located at the dealer (which is not even in Nashville) and is the last stop on 40 until you get to Oklahoma City.

    • 0 avatar

      That inspired me to look at the map, too. I was surprised how few there are in the Maryland/NOVA area – one at the Montgomery Mall (where there is a evidently a Tesla dealer, err, showroom next to Lululemon, for when you want to buy an electric car AND a pair of Yoga pants that really makes your ass pop, and one at Potomac Mills mall south of the Beltway.

      There’s one at the Hagerstown outlets in western maryland, and one at a Denny’s where 66 meets 81 in Western Virginia (not to be confused with West Virginia). Given the amount of tech money in NOVA, I would have expected more.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Yet if you’re talking I-95 they seem to be all over the place. North of Richmond, on US1 about a quarter of a mile north of the I-295/US1 ramp there’s a row of five (six?) of them in a shopping mall parking lot directly across the street from the Best Buy.

      Real simple on and off: Get on I-295 heading towards Charlottesville, immediately get off on US1 north, go two traffic lights and turn left into the mall lot. Once you’re done, north on US1 for a bit over a mile (five traffic lights if my memory is counting right), right onto Sliding Hill Road and within a quarter mile you’re at the Atlee/Elmont ramp for I-95 (exit 86).

  • avatar
    WhiskeyRiver

    Had this not been a Jack Baruth article, I would not have read past the first paragraph.

    As always, Jack writes in captivating fashion and I always read his “stuff” without fail.

    Now, back to my petrol-fueled world. I think I’m going to start all my cars, lawn mowers and other assorted gasoline powered equipment all at the same time and revel in their awesomeness.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      I’m going to go stand in a auto plant paint booth and breathe in all the glorious VOC’s.

    • 0 avatar

      Me, either. and me, too.

      And I’m going to start my car and listen to the music of a Honda 4cyl. It may not be Mozart, but it IS Salieri to the Cayman’s Mozart.

      This cross country “adventure” sounds really “exciting.” I would just love watching the supercharger shovel electrons into a battery, and I would love sitting in the driver’s seat waiting for the car to get me where I was going. Woot woot!

      (Not to denigrate the achievement involved. That IS worthy of a Baruth article.)

      Jack, here’s hoping that leg heals quickly!

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Mama

      Two observations: not that long ago the manlier manly men on TTAC would rant endlessly re. how hybrids and electric cars were for mincing, gormless liberals, pedophiles and communists. They’re finally putting a cork into those observations thank Jah.
      Also, I’m not sure Baruth actually wrote this as there’s not a single reference to any of the girls he’s currently shagging. Must be an honest omission.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Interesting, certainly much more entertaining to me than last years April Fools Hoax about a cross country record.

    Hope Tesla gets some good data out of this.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    We were supposed to have flying cars by now. Why is this brave new world so fucking lame?

  • avatar
    omer333

    Jack, are you rocking a Magnus Walker shirt in that first photo?

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Still rocking the Jesus of Nazareth look.

  • avatar
    beastpilot

    This is clearly all made up because we all know two things are simultaneously true:

    1) All cars drive cross country at least once a week
    2) Electric cars can’t drive cross country

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Figuring out the optimum strategy is a computational bitch. In addition to locating charging stations, it’s necessary to balance speed and distance against charging time. With a car powered by gasoline or diesel, refueling stations are much easier to find and it’s easy to increase tank capacity.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    As impressive as the technical challenges involved in a pursuit like this are, it still requires the undertakers to risk the safety of private citizens in the service of their own egos. That’s not admirable in my book.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Agreed, but doing 90mph on roads where some of the traffic is usually going that fast anyway is probably much saner than pinching off a loaf while doing 165mph with both windows down to keep the leaking gas fumes out of your cockpit.

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        Of course. But let’s just say that I don’t have a great deal of confidence that the guys doing this are staying within expected traffic speeds. And as you point out, it’s deviation from what traffic expects of you that causes the danger; you freak people out and run the risk that they’re going to panic and swerve, hit their brakes, whatever – and you’ll be in the next county by the time the ambulances show up, none the wiser.

        Speed doesn’t kill, but doing unexpected crap in traffic does. And whatever spin you put on it, that’s these guys’ stock in trade. I don’t see much point in glorifying it – or even excusing it. You and I both know there are a million ways to prove your driving skills; the only thing these guys are doing is proving their immaturity.

        I know *why* you’re not doing features on, say, ChumpCar, instead of these jackholes. But maybe it’s time to look beyond the clicks once in a while. Show off enthusiasts who *aren’t* putting others’ lives at risk to get their jollies; we’ll all be better for it in the long run.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Jack, all due respect, certainly you know Ohio?! ;-) You know the one about how you can tell an Ohio driver? He’s the one in the PASSING LANE doing the speed limit, and who won’t move over or speed up even if he knew that a vehicle behind him had the capability to put a 20mm round up his exhaust pipe!

        (How else can you tell an Ohio driver? They’re the ones going at least TWENTY MPH under the prevailing traffic flow at the bottom of the onramp.)

        • 0 avatar
          VolandoBajo

          Well, besides being a real trailblazer in the area of Biblical auto research, @sgeffe, you have added to my knowledge of Ohio drivers.

          Main thing I knew up until now is that the average driver in OH in the winter must be fairly good, because all the $h!tty ones seem to go to FL in the winter.

          Had a chance once to take a year+ contract in Columbus years ago, with a company I had just done a couple of years with in VA.

          Even knew some of the state gov folks from an earlier state-federal project I had worked on.

          But I just couldn’t deal with the idea of being that far away from the ocean, even though I am not some kind of moby waterman.

          One of the govt. client people, trying to be helpful and funny at the same time, told me that OSU had a “Surf the Scioto” festival every year.

          In the golden years of my happily divorced state, I just couldn’t see going from being surrounded by VCU, U Richmond, Randy Mac, W&M, and a few other schools, plus the ocean, for just that. Especially since I have always been close to addicted to pretty woman who were also smart.

          Never could stand dumb women long enough to even pretend to have a relationship, to myself or them. And I never wanted to be away from a place where there were not only a lot of smart and beautiful women, but also some variety, as in different campuses.

          So I passed on my one chance to really get to see OH. But, with the typical kind of luck/bad planning I manage to do sometimes, shortly after I ended up commuting twice a month from VA to KY to do a project out there for another company I had previously contracted with.

          As Billy Crystal used to say, don’t get me started…when it comes to Frankfort. I have enough material from a few months out there for both a grade B movie and a bad standup comedy routine. Plus more than the usual number of scars, most of them psychic/psychological, but real nevertheless.

          But it did make me grateful to have my home in Richmond. Still miss that city…and most of the people there.

          For the most part, a hidden and underappreciated jewel of a city.

          But as the old time preachers say, I say that to say this…it is amazing after traveling a lot by car to note how different cities and states tend to have different styles of driving.

          NYC some of the ones with the most seeming reckless abandon, but almost always carefully calculated to try to intimidate without causing damage…DC on the other hand, like playing slow motion Russian roulette in an automobile.

          Once saw a car go by me on the outer Beltway in PG at around 90 or 100 right after it had started raining.

          Most of the traffic runs about 75 or 80, so other than having to weave in an out, it wasn’t that much faster. But enough to cause the car to do a 2 and half side gainer across three lanes at high speed.

          Fortunately I was about a quarter or half mile back, and they managed not to hit anybody.

          Philly’s most famous traffic characteristic is the so-called South Philly stop, which is used outside of South Philly as well. Roll up to a stop sign, brake down to ten to fifteen mph, look both ways and gun it.

          Done right, the only real danger is a cop under quota on his or her tickets.

          But when you are in the S Phil area and you get behind someone who doesn’t do them, it starts to get on your nerves once you are used to them.

          I really don’t want fully autonomous cars as a mandatory situation, but I can’t give you a rational objective reason why, other than those edge case catastrophes. In reality the way most people drive, they should mandate public transportation only until autonomous is a reality.

          But don’t tell that to the safety nannies or we will all be walking, or riding busses or a Red Barchetta.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Is it true about Boston that some folks, in a left-turn without a dedicated arrow (where they have to yield) will floor it as the light turns green, before opposing traffic has a chance to react? I could swear that’s been described on here.

            Never been to D.C., but I’ve heard the traffic is as you describe!

            I am enough of a control freak that I’m going to resist having to use a fully-autonomous car that doesn’t have some override capability even more than I will the current turbo onslaught in the interest of eking out 1 or 2 mpgs due to CAFE.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            >>@sgeffe Is it true about Boston that some folks, in a left-turn without a dedicated arrow…

            Yes, not only is it true, there are some nasty variations on the theme. Some put about 25% of the front of their vehicle left of the center line at when stopped at the light to block anyone even attempting to not give them right-of-way. I know an intersection where it’s a regular occurrence. At most you might have to wait ten minutes for it to happen. I’m not exaggerating.

            I’ve had some angry horn honks when I’ve not allowed left turners right of way. I think many drivers actually think they have right of way.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    This would more interesting if Tesla ever built out their battery swap stations.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I am waiting for the 5000 words describing the bats he will begin to see 72 hours after the doctor says “why no, Mr. Baruth, we will NOT refill that MS Contin rx”. Perhaps that will rekindle some creativity. Or not.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      When that day comes, he is likely to have his writing style make a hard rudder right towards the fiction of Edgar Allen Poe.

      When I have to be on M because of a severely injured back, and then have to taper back in order that what goes in will come out, I end up having technicolor truly realistic seeming dreams of the type Jack has described elsewhere, everything from academic or job related anxiety, to scenes that make Jack’s nocturnal adventures seem like Sesame Street.

      It might be somewhat enjoyable, if it weren’t so exhausting.

      But Jack, a word to the wise. DO NOT try to show yourself, the doctors or the world what a hardman you are by trying to do things sooner than the docs think that you can or should. It is almost always a formula for at best extended recovery times, or at worst, lingering nagging residuals from the originally injury that wasn’t allowed to fully heal before being stressed.

      I do not like remembering this advice myself, but it truly comes directly from firsthand experience, and not from some textbook on orthopedic recovery.

      My wife, a former cross country runner, needed foot surgery for all the beating her feet took when she was younger. Thrice she failed to wait long enough to recover from the surgeries, and now she has arrived at the point where she has chronic pain in one foot, when even at the last surgery the doctor told her she would fully heal IF she would stay off of it for six to eight weeks.

      She lasted less than half that, and rationalized that (a) it was only around the house, and (b) she wasn’t really put that much stress on it, as she was only standing on the surgery site.

      She was wrong on both counts, and pays for it for at least part of more days when she has a problem, than days she is painfree. And she is hypersensitive to pain meds, so she basically restricts herself to either aspirin or ibuprofen, though neither completely relieves her pain.

      I knew how stubborn she was when I met her. She is the only woman I have ever met who was reasonably successful while being at least as stubborn as I can be. As we both have said numerous times it is a good thing that our love for each other is so strong, because if it wasn’t, we would probably still be at an impasse, being too attracted to each other to retreat, and too proud to bend (until we finally reached a truce and the war was finally over).

      But being stubborn about not wanting to wait out recovery times has not served her well.

      • 0 avatar
        olddavid

        I am somewhat crusty and cranky towards him because he has degenerated into a name-dropping twit – kind of a Dominick Dunne of the auto set. Too bad. He was once on track to walk in H. Thompson’s shoes. I would have even voted for him for Sheriff.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          HST wrote, at a distance, about the kind of things I do just to get warmed up in the morning.

          • 0 avatar
            Piston Slap Yo Mama

            His mechanism’s gone. He’s had more drugs than you’ve had hot dinners. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VESAnP5gj0Q

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            That Withnail & I cite that Piston Slap Yo Mama give is hilarious. Can’t wait til I have time to watch the whole thing.

            And in response to it, I say “Nonsense! I could do two of them and run a mile!”.

            Or as was said on and around the college campuses of my day, “Take two. They’re small.”

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Jack, your leg is why I gave up skiing about 20 years ago. Hurts a lot more when you get older, and that was without actually ever breaking anything… Heal well, and quickly.

  • avatar
    VolandoBajo

    Hey, Mark! I hate that the availability of the Reply button is a random occurrence of less than 50% probability. As I have asked before, is this still the old system you have promised to improve, or is this part of what is supposed to be better.

    And @mcs, I have seen the jump left trick done many other places as well, and have even done it myself once in a while. Though it is often not simply an extremely selfish act, but one for the greatest good for the greatest number.

    In south Jersey, Route 30 is four lane with lots of strip malls and neighborhoods off to both sides. No left turn lanes or arrows for the most part.

    If the first car in the left lane is turning left and can make the leapfrog left, often it frees up several cars behind it to continue instead of being delayed, at the expense of just a second or two delay for the oncoming car. But more often, the oncoming car either recognizes and accepts the tradeoff, or has slow reflexes or is asleep at the switch.

    It would probably add ten or fifteen minutes to a five mile ride if most drivers didn’t pull that trick often. I have been in the area for a decade, and can’t recall ever seeing anyone angered by it, or even honking their horn in protest. It’s just a part of keeping things flowing, with the oncoming driver usually recognizing that what goes around (or ahead) will come around when they are behind a car turning left.

    And before anyone asks, the traffic density is such that it is usually impossible to simply stay in the right lane unless you want to make a left turn. Though you can sometimes make better time if you move left behind a single car that will be making a left, on the chance that they will do the leapfrog turn and let you proceed, while the cars in the right lane are backed up for dozens of vehicles of depth.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I hate the dope (shattered spine , broken neck & skull) , the damn Doctors don’t like to let you stop it and the pain is a good thing because it stops you from moving about too much before the bones knit properly .

    Chronic pain sucks beyond belief , I have discovered that meditating on the pain is a good way to deal with it but one has to be careful as you might do a foolish thing like get a deep infection in your jaw from a simple bad tooth… (oops) .

    Anyway , this cross country thing is interesting , I prefer to enjoy my travels (? travails ?) and so don’t speed all that much .

    RE ; rolling stop signs : 50 years ago those were called ‘ milk stops ‘ and are always a bad thing as in time you roll through the intersection not noticing the other idiot JUST LIKE YOU who’s speeding and cannot possibly stop in time….

    I grew up Down East and spent many years in Mass. , there’s a reason they’re called ‘ MASSHOLES ‘ .

    I -do- understand the benefit of bending the rules a bit to improve traffic flow but that’s rarely what they’re doing the self centered assholes .

    I see those Tesla charging stations but never anyone charging up .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      Hello again, Nate.

      In all seriousness, once again some real world realism from a man of solid experience.

      In reverse order, I haven’t even seen any Tesla charging stations in the Philly suburbs.

      In south Jersey the quick left at a light is quite common, helpful to overall traffic flow, and seldom if ever complained about. Just a mass response to the lack of availability of left turn lanes.

      Driving around the Boston area the fall and winter of the great East Coast Blizzard (around 95) was a scary thing. Never once saw much intelligent driving and a whole lot that wasn’t. Ironic given the high concentration of top level universities.

      Never heard the term milk stops before. And I always factor in the change in velocity of the car on the cross street. If I don’t see signs of a South Philly stop, that is if I see signs of merrily running the stop sign, I take the full stop, just in case.

      I tend to speed just as much as I feel I safely can (accident-wise and ticket-wise) in order to save some time. It also keeps me more alert, and less subject to highway hypnosis. Plus I can more easily position myself away from packs of traffic.

      Re: chronic pain…everything you say is true. What I have to try to teach my son, repeatedly. Good to hang tough, but you need to know when it stops being manly and a hardman, and when it becomes a case of neglecting to get needed medical treatment. And the doc who put me on Oxy’s back around 2000 was happy to introduce me to them, and to keep on upping the dose, until it was time for him to shut me down. Then he wanted to go from eighty to zero in record time, so to speak, and I was hurting more ways than one, literally, for a while. Now when I need pain relief for severe pain (in NJ it has to be called chronic and intractable to get an Rx, unless you are dying), I opt for other choices, as effective and less addictive, though of course they all pull you in. (“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me right back in.”)

      As you note, mind control can go a long way, but you have to be careful that you are not just letting a chronically declining situation get worse.

      But there have been times that I know of when meds were given too freely, and other times when one was left to suffer because the doctor was more concerned about risking his DEA narcotics license than he was about making sure that the patient didn’t suffer needlessly.

      But that is another whole story…as Bill Crystal says “don’t get me started…”

      The Metropolitan stories were interesting. Though of course some people only care about straight line acceleration. To me, though, a really good sleeper should handle both straight line shots and canyon carving.

      My lightly tweaked 76 Rabbit, with intake/exhaust mods and suspension mods, could embarrass whaletail Porsches in the hills of Vermont. Probably not a nice thing to do, but psychologically satisfying when I was younger and trying to impress women who liked thrills and adventures.

      Yeah, I hope you can make it out this way. You are always welcome. And there is a small chance I might get out your way in the next year or so, but too early to tell now. My best friend for decades lives in the Bay Area and spends the winters in Baja California, and recently has taken to driving down and back. I may run down with him next fall, and fly back to the East Coast a couple of weeks later. We would be coming right through the SoCal area if I do.

      You sound like the kind of person I am glad to know is in the world. Where I have been before, the phrase is “good people”.

      Take care and have fun.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Good morning ! .

    ” Milk Stop ” was from back when Divco milk trucks were every where and you’d let up off the ‘ Stand N Drive ‘ pedal and jump out , the truck would apply the brakes and coast to a stop as you were 1/2 way up the walk….

    I greatly miss Divco trucks , sturdy and well built , modern right up to the end , they had Ford OHV i6 engines when bad management killed the profitable company .

    Knowing how to drive helps a lot no matter what you’re driving ~ I don’t need / care about stop light to stoplight drags ’cause I’m no longer 15 years old .

    Yes , I speed pretty much daily but no , not in close traffic as I don’t ever want to maim nor kill anyone by my actions .

    The Met was made of MG Midget suspension so upgrading it was dead easy and cheap too , plus they were good and fun drivers when new if a bit slow in the top end , easily rectified .

    Being of my age I watched almost all of my Childhood chums die behind dope issues ~ often simply too high to realize they were about to be shot or whatever , those to me are still ‘ drug deaths ‘ .

    This is why I hate dope so much .

    After my fatal Moto accident , they kept me looped on morphine so much I had to threaten to kill the damn Nurse , she’d come into my Hospital room and say ‘ are you feeling okay ? want some more pain meds ? ‘ ~ I’d croak out ” ! NO DAMMIT ! ” and she’d go ahead anyway .

    I was fairly graphic about what I’d do to her once I was able to get out of the damn bed , next thing I knew there was a worried Doctor there asking me if I really was planning to kill the Nurse and I told him ” only is she keeps giving me dope I don’t want , I’ll let you know when I can’t handle the pain ” .

    I’m no tough guy and I couldn’t handle the pain but talking to guys I know have been dead for 40 years , wasn’t any fun so NO DOPE DAMMIT ! .

    Anyway , do stop by if you’re anywhere near L.A. Metro area , the first drink is on me , I’ll have coffee .

    BTW : sleepers are the best !~ I love driving and those who run with me know to lead or follow but never get in my way , if I’m riding your bumper and flashing/tooting it’s because you’ve already passed safe places to allow me to pass so speed up or move .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      Good evening/morning, as the case may be for you.

      We seem to have a lot of things in common, Nate. Ditto for me, first one’s on me. More likely to be a Coca-Cola for me, unless the coffee is really good. Just not Starbux, please! Jackie Mason was right “the coffee is not dark roasted! Their coffee is BURNT!”.

      We have enough in common that we could have gone to different schools together, as the saying goes.

      Never heard of or saw a Divco truck, though I am old enough (plus by virtue of places I have lived) that I remember milk delivery trucks, as well as seltzer bottle trucks.

      I too have seen and known of too many dead from dope…usually H or downers, but other ways as well. I don’t consider herbs to be dope, and especially don’t think they should be locking people up for it. But Neil Young’s song about the needle and the damage done pretty well sums up the other stuff.

      I have an Rx for a bit of M for chronic back pain, but only take enough to get a night’s sleep when my back is bothering me badly. And after my experiences with Oxies after a severe accident, when they were new and the doctor assured me that they weren’t very addictive (he either lied or was horribly misinformed) I will never take another one of those.

      I suspect that if you were in S. Philly when the main drags were bumper to bumper, and the local streets ALL have four way stop signs, going for miles, you might be tempted, not so much to floor it between stop signs, as to make the rolling approach to the sign, in essence going from 5mph to 15 or 20, back down to 5, etc., rather than hitting full stops.

      I have seen people get T-boned in DC even when making full stops, waiting their turn, and then having some bonehead either run their sign or stop, then try to speed up to intimidate someone else into stopping even though they have the right of way. Had a taxi drive do just that to me one time, in my Thunderbird. The accident was totally avoidable, and I suspect he must have been looking for a workman’s comp claim (can I still say workman in America?).

      My best friend, who is the guy who cycles between the Bay Area and Baja California, and I used to run in the fast lane of life when we were in and around college. We lost touch for a variety of reasons, and got back in touch three or four years ago. Ironically, both of us had stopped doing things to ourselves that will remain unnamed here, as well as giving up the bottle. He stopped drinking about eight years before I did, is still with the same wife he had way back (I didn’t settle down though for another twenty years), and he too has one son, though his is eight years older than mine.

      My best sleeper was a 76 VW Rabbit, purchased new. The EPA said the cat converter could go, along with a leaner main jet, .15 => .125. Problem was, the car skipped like mad around thirty five in third, around 55 in top.

      As you would expect, when you reduce backpressure and then lean it out further. Since this involves some diciness as to procedures, let me just say that somehow it ended up accidentally get a Dasher .175 main jet instead.`Since this was during one of the great gas shortages, my car got lots of crappy gas from the Brooklyn gas stations, where the rainwater ran down hill for blocks, and then into the stations’ tanks. So I had a lot of practice doing teardowns and rebuilds of the carbs anyway. So I must have accidentally taken a larger jet out of my toolbox, as it would have been illegal to knowingly do so. But the car no longer skipped, AND the mpg went up about 2mpg. So, being a rational man, I was forced to conclude that I must have found the jet the EPA intended for me to have.

      However, now the car would backfire like a two stroke motorcycle every time I downshifted when the revs were up a bit. And I mean LOUD backfire…the kind that people looked around, and war vets would start to dive for cover. Obviously that would never do. Turns out the legal cat delete left the wider diameter pipe in place, leading to the backfire. So one time when I was in northern VT on vacation, I asked about replacement downpipes, and was told that the Canadian Rabbit downpipe was a straight pipe. Since it was legal to install in Canada, my backfire disappeared shortly thereafter.

      After that, I could and would run my then boss down Lex Ave in Manhattan on Saturday mornings, when we left work after any of our halfday workdays. Road went from three lanes to two about a quarter mile from where we would park on the street. His new Beemer just couldn’t come near to keeping up…didn’t know what to say when I swore, truthfully, that there was nothing but VW parts in my Rabbit.

      I added front and read anti-sway bars, and the car would corner like crazy, as well as having some wicked thirty to fifty and fifty to eighty times.

      The story is a bit on the long side, but I figured you might appreciate the engineering details.

      Those carbed Rabbits were some of the best cars VW ever made…easy to maintain, fast, good mileage and fun to drive, once you put sway bars on them, got the cat converter legally deleted, and then fixed the remaining issues.

      And I too have told docs and nurses to stuff their plans, when they started using me as a guinea pig…had one doc, a real pill pusher type, who tried to put me on high blood pressure meds in my thirties, with a BP of 140/80, when I was under a lot of job stress. The side effects are nasty, the high BP was likely to go down once I quit that stressful job, but the company was pushing the treatment, and the doc was going along with the plan. But not me…got a second opinion, changed jobs, and my BP came down to 120/70 w/o the severe and long-lasting side effects.

      My brother in law, who is an MD, says they even have a name for this, “old geezer syndrome”, old geezers like me who only seek medical help when something is seriously and obviously wrong.

      Though I do make one exception…get routine physicals to be on the lookout. But my doctor doesn’t reach for the prescription pad any and every time I come to see him about something. Which is one of the main reasons he is my doctor.

      My passing strategy is similar to yours…first pull up a few car lengths behind the guy crawling in the left lane. Then a couple of left turn signals, like the old M-B autobahn commercial. Then a couple of horn toots, and finally a couple of headlight flashes.

      If none of those budge the dinosaur, I cautiously move right, then pass, assuming there is a right to move to. Though thankfully most people aren’t THAT oblivious. Still, they exist.

      I never knew the Metro had an MG suspension setup. Must have made for a lot of interesting possibilities.

      Another nice sleeper I used to see around, many years ago, was a very stock looking ’40 Ford coupe. Only it had one of the 190 advertised HP Jaguar engines in it, mounted so cleanly that it looked stock. The actual HP was much higher, which is why swaps like that were popular in the old Gas class at the drags. The guy cleaned up at the strip and at the shows. But nary a sign that it had been hotrodded.

      Wish I weren’t almost completely retired…I would love to beef up my 97 Grand Marquis. Still, it is fun to drive stock (but with a tuned chip…old habits die hard.)

      Hasta la vista…hope our paths cross IRL.

      –Volando

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