FROM LAUGHS TO LAS VEGAS
A much needed break was upon me and I needed to get away. A friend I’ve known since grade school, Craig called me up and asked if I wanted to help him drive out his cousin, Dale’s car from Detroit to San Jose, all expenses paid. You don’t need a college education to answer that question! Let’s go!!!
This was going to be a tour of the West! We were to drive Dale’s Ford Capri to San Jose, California. Then we would fly to Los Angles and meet Craig’s parents who would fly in from Detroit to begin their family vacation. We planned to visit Disney Land and Knott’s Berry Farm. After LA we would all rent a car and drive to Las Vegas, stay at the fabulous Flamingo Hilton, see a few shows, then drive on to Salt Lake City for his father’s Barber Shop Quartet Convention. What a trip! Who could say no to that! I was able to commit to all but the drive to the convention as I had to fly back to Detroit before classes resumed.
Since we were going to be in Vegas I knew we were not old enough to gamble. Do you think that would stop us? I wanted to pull a few one arm bandits! We needed faked ID’s. In college you can find just about anything you need if you ask the right people, or the wrong ones depending on your point of view.
I had been given the name and address of a Detroit Police Officer who could fulfill our need. "BAD BOY! BAD BOY! Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when he comes for you?" He not only had the real driver license card stock, he had the equipment too, in his home no less!
We went to procure our new ID's aging us by a few years only to find a production style operation. A line of people led to the front door and one person took your information. Next, the information was added to the blank card. Then into the kitchen where they had the same camera set up as the DMV. You paid a cashier, received your new identities, and out the back door you’re escorted. All this for five bucks! What a country! The line was out the door! I think half of Detroit was there to grow up a few years!
It was midnight when we arrived to pick up Dale’s car. He had been transferred to San Jose for work and had to leave his precious car behind. Now it was our job to get it to him. I remember the car had no interior lights working. It was dark, had a funky smell, and the seats were sticky. We drove the car back to Craig’s. I dropped him off and took the car home with me. We agreed my father would look over the car in the morning to assess the soundness of the western bound pleasure craft. We also figured it might need to be cleaned up a bit.
The next morning I awoke in horror. I called Craig, “This car is a piece of shit! Wait until you see this thing. Hurry over we have a lot of work to do!” Despite its appearance my father found the car to be sound. He detailed a list: The brakes appear new, tires have plenty of tread. The engine runs well, it has fresh oil, and there is no serious damage to the car. The only thing he could recommend at the time was new wiper blades and to fix the pump that squirts the window washer fluid. “It should make the trip with no problems.” He said with confidence. (Remember this.)
Craig shortly arrives. We both have a good laugh over how crazy this is. What a shit box! The seats have years of beer or soda on them. It’s like some sort of tacky glue. The ashtray overfloweth, as if Mount Vesuvius had erupted all over again. There was ash everywhere! Credit Card receipts are strewn everywhere like confetti in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The carpet is filthy dirty and our shoes stuck to it. What appears to be food is fused to the carpet. Lumps of Fuzzy fries from McDonald’s are found under the seat. This isn’t a car, it’s a science project!
Determined not to let that stop us we got to work. After all we were California bound! Together we began by washing the car. Not a simple project. We removed soot, road tar, and bugs from a prehistoric era. It was looking better. We could see the true color. We found a nice metallic copper color with a black vinyl top underneath. A coat of wax and some vinyl top dressing and the outside was looking great.
Onto the inside... I don’t think either one of us were ready for this task. Craig grabs the vacuum cleaner, as I put the finishing touches on the paint. He opens the trunk to start there and bursts into laughter. This was just the beginning of what would be non stop laughter throughout this whole “experience.”
From washing the car, the trunk had completely filled with water! We had our own portable pool. I can’t figure out how we filled it up, but I had visions of driving in the rain with our luggage floating in the moat. What do we do? Maybe we should stock it with trout!
I got a drill, bored a few holes in the trunk bottom from underneath and all the water came rushing out. We’ll put our luggage in plastic bags to be safe. Problem solved. Well, the first big problem anyway.
Upon looking at the interior it was obvious to us, after all the crap was removed, the interior needed the same treatment as the trunk. It was uninhabitable. I got a box wrench, unbolted the seats and completely removed them from the car. Craig wheeled the vacuum wand like Excalibur, sucking out the interior, stabbing at the enemy. Armed with hot soap and water and a scrub brush as my weapon, I entered the battlefield. Brushing the tan vinyl seats, I removed most of the crap, leaving a very acceptable seat, almost new in appearance. Victory was upon us!
While I scrubbed, Craig opened the passenger door. He noticed some rust around the hinge that holds the door on. Well, logically he thought it best to remove this. Using the vacuum he sucked out the flakes of rust. Then all of the sudden with a squeal, the door just dropped, about an inch below its original position. The door was about to fall off! Pull up and shut it quickly! He had a hard time, he was laughing too hard. Piece of crap car! Our sides hurt from laughing. How are we going to get in the car? We agreed Dukes of Hazard style. After I get the seats bolted back in, the door was never to be opened again. We would roll the window down and jump in. This was going to be so much fun! Get in before Boss Hogg and Sheriff Coltrane catch up with us! Surely nothing else could go wrong!?
Craig finished vacuuming the interior with great caution, avoiding rust at all cost. The back seat was removed and scrubbed, the carpet cleaned and left to dry. We were still laughing. Are we both crazy to take a 2,000 mile voyage in this rattle trap? YES! I think the vacuum was ready to burst after Craig finished.
I replaced the rear seat. It looked great. You could actually put your shoes on the carpet and not have to pry them off. The passenger seat went back in and the drooping door was sealed for all eternity. More laughter ensued.
As I replaced the driver’s seat, I tightened the bolts and sat down to move it back and acquire more legroom. As I pushed the seat back to position it, it hung up. So, I pushed harder. The next thing I knew is I was staring at the headliner of the car, flat on my back, head in the back seat. I lost it. The problem was the car didn’t have a reclining seat as an option. Now that it did, I wondered if the car was now worth more. I thought I couldn’t laugh any harder. I just laid there and laughed hysterically as Craig joined in the chorus.
The seat had broken! When I tried to put the back of the seat up, it just fell back down. This can’t be happening! Now what do we do without a drivers seat? A 2x4 propped between the rear seat and the back of the front seat held it in place nicely. Just don’t adjust the seat…ever! We worked hard that day, but nothing wore us out more than all the laughter.
We crowned our accomplishment with new wiper blades. We found that a rubber tube had melted in the engine compartment keeping the washer fluid from being ejected onto the window. An old air tube from a fish tank was the same diameter and worked perfectly. We were ready to roll! Nothing could go wrong now!
I went to AAA for every map and guide book we’d need. I laid out a plan on our TripTik, where we would be and when. At 60 mph we will be here by noon. We can eat here for dinner. It looked good. We would drive non-stop rotating six hour shifts until we got to San Jose. With all the car problems resolved we were getting excited about our adventure.
My mom offered us a CB that looked exactly like a car phone of that era. It was very cool and gladly accepted. We mounted the magnetic whip antenna and installed the CB radio. It was a very good idea, especially if the car were to break down. I was very familiar with CB’s. My father had several cars with them over the years per my request, and I had one in my own Mustang. Traveling with one made it safer and much more fun. 10-4 good buddy!
California Here We Come!
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For first time readers...my journey begins here: THE VERY FIRST BLOG POST (CC1)