I recently had the experience of travelling 1000 miles roundtrip with Blake to his 105th medical appointment in 10 years. This was undoubtedly the best road trip we have endured thus far.
We made the decision NOT to journey in a vintage Porsche, but rather brave the trip in a rental car. This is a decision most would have made a decade ago, yet that’s’ just not the way we roll. We pride ourselves on driving vintage cars in heat, sleet, ice, snow and adverse weather conditions. Our road trip stories are legendary!
We both were at the point of “opening up” with each other and light banter and humor became this road trips theme. I was jovial, Blake chimed in. Heated debates about Middle East policies and the history of Egypt were brought up. Foreign policies were discussed and our revolving banter about the fate of Palestine continued.
I began to see my son opening up to me in a way I have never seen before. Maybe this was because I turned a milestone birthday at a truck stop on I-5. As we stopped for gas at the exact time of my birth, we both recognized the significance of this refueling. My life is now 1/2 over and a new chapter is beginning. No time to celebrate, that will come later. This trip was about medical milestones and looking ahead at a bright future.
Back into the car, we drifted onto the subject of mathematics, equations and advanced theorems. We are a family of “thinkers” thus this is normal conversation. While talking about a physics theorem and listening to both of our stomachs growling, I recognized the need for a food pit stop. I spied an In and Out Burger which is one of the fast foods my stomach can handle. I went to turn off the highway when Blake said “NO”!
“Why”, I asked? “You LIKE In and Out Burger”.
Blake proceeded to explain that there is a “wait to tastiness ratio” Theorem. His theorem went on for several minutes and basically proposed that there was a price to be paid by wait time (x), compared to how good something tastes (y). Thus if we grabbed something where the wait was not so long, we would sacrifice on taste. Then y became the main variable and x became the solution. This ratio and theorem must be considered under duress he declared. Huh. It took me a few minutes to grasp his logic. Men think differently than women. Forget all the men and Mars and women and Venus jargon. Men are just different creatures than women and that’s the way it should be. Its’ not rocket science.
We drifted back to long conversations about past hilarious road trips in our vintage cars that were not so funny at the time. On one trip, the heater was busted to the “on” position in an older 911 in the middle of summer. We drove at night thinking this would fix the heat assault issue. Blake kept complaining that his feet were hot. I told him to stop whining and stick his feet out the window of the Targa. He rarely complains, but he was being nasal and it was bugging me. When we stopped to gas up after a LONG stretch I smelled plastic burning. I said, “do you smell that Blake”. He said, “Yes, its’ my shoes. They melted on to my feet”. Sure enough, the rubber soles had melted and his feet were on the verge of burns. I felt horrible.
Another trip, the starter went out of the old 912. Have you ever noticed that gas stations are FLAT. Try finding a gas station along a major highway that has any kind of incline to jump-start a clutch. After gassing up, I asked Blake, “Do you want to pop the clutch and I’ll push?” He declined.
We gassed up and he started to push. Dang if we could not even reach 1/2 mph on flat land. Just as we got into the roadway where major semi trucks are pulling into four different truck stops, we started to gain momentum. We were heading into the right lane, still crossing the left lane coming out of the Arco station in Corning. Blake said “Mom, Mom!” I replied, “honey faster”. He kept saying “but Mom, but Mom”! I finally snapped, “What!”
He said, “there is a BIG semi truck about to hit us head on!” I looked up and said “push faster!” So he pushed faster, I popped the clutch, he ran and jumped in and we made it back to the ranch. We had travelled 800 miles roundtrip for a medical appointment when the starter crapped out towards the beginning on that trip.
One winter we had snow fever. Blake had been bedridden for nearly 4 years at that point. We were both housebound and stir crazy. At that point he was barely able to walk. I got an idea. I said, “honey, we are driving to Canada”. Blake said “OK”.
I wrapped him in a blanket, threw in a couple of fake furs from the 1930’s that we call our pimp coats. They are long, insulated and WARM and make great blankets to cover your legs when driving vintage cars in cold weather. I left the map, chains and the cell phone at the ranch and we proceeded to head North/East up highway 97 towards Eastern Washington in a fairly severe blizzard. We were driving a 1967 912 that was my darling, but had a mind of her own.
We weren’t in the car but a few hours when Blake starts complaining that his feet are cold. I told him to throw another fake fur around his ankles. He keeps telling me he thinks he is getting frostbite. I turn up the heater. As darkness neared, it became apparent that Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington are not the safest areas to travel in severe snow storms without chains in a vintage Porsche. Mountainous passes creeped up on us and before we knew it we were in granite canyons in icy dangerous conditions. To make matters worse, there were no road signs declaring mileage or towns for hundreds of miles. We had no idea where we were. What state does not have road signs?
However, about every 5 miles there would be a road sign that said, “Please do not drink and drive”. After a few hundred miles of these signs, Blake turns to me and says “Mom, I feel like a beer”. It was like a Corona commercial in the snow. You always want what you can’t have. It was dark, snowing heavily, icy and conditions were off the chart dangerous.
We made it up to Eastern Washington, spent the night, then nixed the idea of heading to Canada. We decided to head back to Oregon. On the way back, snowfall became heavier. Then an odd thing started to happen. Every time I would round a slight curve in the road there would sound off a loud, high-pitched BEEP-BEEP. At first, it only happened round corners. I studied the issue and held the steering wheel tightly in a certain position around corners as to minimize the Beep-Beep.
This 912 had a racing engine, she was solid, but her horn sounded like a whining wimpy squeal. The horn did not match the car. It was an oddity. The pitch was like nothing I’ve ever heard. It belonged to a wailing cat in heat, not a Porsche. As the snow fell heavier, visibility reduced and the horn started beep-beeping if we hit even a slight bump. It was becoming annoying. There were no hotels and we had been driving about 8 hours when the horn began its CONTINUOUS alien scream beeping. After 30 minutes Blake was covering his ears with pillows in agony. I was driving and holding a screw driver lodged underneath the horn in the center of the steering wheel and was frantically attempting to rip out any and all wires beneath the horn section that I could grasp while driving in poor visibility.
We continued on with the insane alien horn squealing for over 4 more hours before we reached a motel at about 1 am. Blake and I looked at each other and sighed then said simultaneously, “Thank GOD”. There were a zillion trucks lined up in front of the motel as roads were closing and luckily there was a vacancy sign. We had found relief. Our nightmare was over.
We pulled in with the shrill horn screaming full blast and turned off the motor. Then a stranger thing happened, the horn kept screaming with the engine off. I disconnected the battery in the dark, high wind and frigid weather but the horn kept shrieking. By this time, lights in all the truck cabs were coming on, the motel lights started revving up and insults were being blatantly hurled at us by some pretty bad ass looking truckers. I learned never to wake a trucker up in a snowstorm. As mad people descended towards are cute little red car, Blake slid down in his seat and begged me to keep driving. “Just go mom, P-L-E-A-S-E- JUST GO!”
We were 8 hours from the ranch, it was snowing heavily and the horn sound was enough to make me want to check into an insane asylum. I started her up and off we went.
Somewhere just outside of Bend, Oregon was a little one man gas station that was open at 3 am. I stopped to get gas. There was a man who eyed me wearily as I paid for gas. He was sitting behind a bullet proof warm enclosed cubicle. It had not occurred to me that he was suspicious of me because I pulled into the station at 3 am with the horn continuously blowing. Blake looked suspicious as he was sunken down in his seat embarrassed and covering his ears and head with pillows. He was hauntingly thin from the illness and probably looked like a meth addict to an outsider.
It didn’t take long before 3 Sheriff units were on scene with lights flashing. I was approached by a burly Sheriff who had un snapped his holster and had his hand on his gun. As I was gassing up, dark circles under my eyes I just stared at him. He stared back. OK, now I could see the whole picture. Crazy woman, emaciated guy in front seat, 3 am in the morning in a Porsche in a snow storm and the horn is continuously blaring. I had to admit, this was odd.
I did what any normal woman would do. I said , “Hi officer, I am having a problem. My son is not feeling well in the front seat. I’ve been travelling for nearly 12 hours and my horn has been stuck on. The sound is driving me crazy. I’ve tried everything to disconnect it. Here is my DL and my ranch is 4 hours away. I am trying to make it home and then I am going to shoot this car”.
He cocked his head, looked at Blake, looked at me and said, “Oh Shit, Really? You’ve been driving with THAT noise for 8 hours? Man, I give you credit!” He snapped the holster back up, called his buddies for some tools and he and I climbed all over that car and underneath it to find the horn cylinder. It had been re-wired incorrectly and we found it far from the right wheel well way underneath the car. We were both on the ground with mag lights searching for the cylinder. It took us about 30 minutes as the snow was deep and packed underneath the car. We clipped the wires and the sound went dead. Total relief was felt by all.
I am still friends with those Sheriffs up in that Valley to this day. It was one of those experiences you just don’t forget. After arriving home, Blake slept for a week. I got back to work with the livestock and we never really spoke of that trip again.
Until a few years later, I was restoring that car and found a 2×4 hole in the floorboard underneath the matte where an old A/C unit had been. Blake had complained of cold feet the entire trip and nearly gotten frost bite. When we found that hole that let in snow and ice during the entire trip we laughed hysterically. His feet were basically fully exposed to the elements during that trip.
The last theorem Blake came up with as we were pulling into the ranch after this weeks past road trip was that driving vintage cars on road trips was like riding in a covered wagon long distance. There was the “toughness to survival” ratio. He had the equations and theorem all worked out. I just smiled.
JULIA HUGO RACHEL