Stocking the Batmobile
When I first took possession of Unit 4, a few photogs snickered. “Two wheel drive? Two doors? What kind of battle-wagon is that?” I just smiled and invited them all to get the hell out of my new car - for what they saw as weakness, I saw as strength. Two doors and a bony backseat? Less room for some pimply intern to climb aboard. Only two wheel drive? I would have to sling a few donuts just to get out of the parking lot next time it snowed, but what‘s - oh, eight days of terror a year? Not really knowing, I shoved every CD my wife hated in its spacious center console and dropped the backseat. In time, I would methodically pack the back with every piece of gear I had, rearranging my tools a half dozen times before reaching an acceptable level of photog feng shui. For the moment though she was free of cargo and I flew her empty up an on-ramp, practicing barrel rolls along the interstate…
A Few Contusions
To my delight, I discovered she had a tight turning circumference - an important feature when you pull as many last minute u-turns as I do. Sporting the latest in plastic underpinning, its pimped up paneling looks so turn of the century now. I dinged up one of those panels on a snow bank once. It’s hung loose ever since. Years later I badly damaged the driver’s side door when none other than Hurricane Ophelia ripped it from my grip and dam near tried to rip it off completely. I got the door shut, but the sill never did heal and to this day an annoying sound of rushing wind accompanies any high speed travel. I also plumbed the depths of the fuel tank, riding for miles with the needle on E and the LOW FUEL light on. I theorized that light would blink should it really get low, but it never did. Though it never ran out of gas on me, Timmy Hawks swore it died on him one night in front of the only gas pump within ten miles. He blames me for not mentioning it was low when I handed him the keys, but I know a show-off when I see one.
Run to the Hills
When I wasn’t pushing my luck with the LOW FUEL light, I was standing on the accelerator, for most everywhere I went, I did so in a hurry. That’s how it is when you’re supplying news factories with fresh footage. But for every high speed pursuit, there were hundreds of more languid journeys - though in truth my driving could never be called ’languid’. More often than not though, I was all alone - with no one around to describe the ride. There was the foggy trek up the Blue Ridge Parkway, hours after heavy rains had washed out parts of the winding mountain road away. There was that rain-lashed stretch of blacktop at Carolina Beach. Class 2 winds sent sheet metal skittering in my path as stop signs threatened to take flight. Inside Unit 4, I sunk back in the seat as ‘Texas Flood’ rang out. Back and forth I drove on that tiny island until the truck commercial in my head finally faded to black...
And here I sit, with a couple of brand new ‘crossovers’ sitting in the parking lot. Not sure what that means exactly, but the photojournalists are circling around them and I’m told one is meant for me. First however, I must complete one last journey in my beloved Explorer, a pre-dawn jaunt into the mountains in search of the closest snow. Did I mention this hoopty’s only got two wheel drive?