Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Night Cruise.

1974 Triumph Spitfire.

The Rainmaster had a little scoot around town and local environs tonight. Oh, I don’t take it all that seriously.

I’ve always enjoyed driving at night. 

Some of my fondest memories are of very long rides. My friends Geoff, and Doug, and I went to Mosport back in about 1977 or so in Geoff’s Datsun 610 sedan with aluminum Cragar slot rims and 60-series tires. (The 1600-cc engine, totally stock.) 

We watched a Formula One race. We camped on the ground, and I had never been up that way before. My impression of was of lots of sandy hills, winding back roads and forest. Lots and lots of forest. We drove all night to get here. We talked all the way, and of course there was the whole notion of racing, rallying, being a professional race driver and all the things young guys dream about. Tall as I am, I sat in the passenger side and Doug was in the back.

That was a good race, and you can read about it here. At that time, Walter Wolf Racing was a Canadian team, and doing well in the championship, with a top driver, Jody Schechter at the wheel. Gilles Villeneuve was in that race. I won’t say I was pissed off or anything, but I was probably there to see Niki Lauda, whom I absolutely adored in a manly sort of a way—one driver to another.

I took all that shit very seriously, and drove accordingly, and I had the speeding tickets to prove it after a while. Then again, I learned how to drive at a hundred miles an hour on gravel and you never know when that might come in handy.

You sort of learn how to drive without using your brake lights, and quickly turn off before the red lights get you—a little heel-and-toeing there ladies and gentlemen, let the compression stop you down, and maybe a little bit of handbrake just at the last minute.


This time of year it gets pretty dark by about six o’clock, and I went out for a cruise. I’ve lived around here for a long time, and if I go through a certain set of streets, a nice set of turns in any given neighbourhood, after a while a kind of rhythm sets up. I’ve done it all before, having practiced those turns many times, and often going a lot faster.

It’s like a weird sort of mechanized dance, as I clutch, shift, brake, add power, clutch, shift, accelerate, hold it…brake and let off on the gas. I know all my marks. When I straighten the wheel, the car comes out in a certain place, with no further inputs. It’s as straight as a die, looking forward to my next set of braking points, (and I’ll often touch the brake and let off, touch and let off as I burn off momentum after winding her out,) and here comes the next turning in point, the next apex, and so on.

It’s kind of soothing, with the radio on low in the background. This time of year the sensation of speed is sometimes magnified by leaves falling into the headlights’ glare, especially on narrow roads with a long fence, guardrails, brush and trees close to the road. Bits of fog low over the road are great.

The yellow lines start to go by increasingly fast and the low burble of the exhaust note builds. It’s even better in a low-slung roadster with the top down, in dry weather at least. I haven’t done that in a while. Maybe someday, and just for the record that car in the picture isn’t mine.

I’m shifting around 3,500, up to 4,500 maybe. Honestly, I’m short shifting, and not stomping the pedal right to the mat. I have some sense, especially at night, in rain and mist, overcast skies, no streetlights, no lines on some roads. Leaves and gravel all over the place. You never know when a deer will jump out in front of you or a car with no headlights will come out of some driveway. You've really got to watch the puddles, they'll grab your wheels and throw you off on one side pretty quickly when the wheel spins up...

Shit happens. No doubt about that. You definitely want to be paying attention.

I suppose I’ve spent some of the loneliest nights of my life in a car, coming back from someplace or other. 

There are times when I don’t want to come home, just stay in my car and keep driving.

You have to go home at some point.

The whole feel of the town is different at night. All people are strangers after you get a half a block from home. It’s been years since I saw a buddy’s car and recognized it by what kind of a car it was.

On balance, I’ve spent some pretty good nights, and some pretty good days in a car.

A little more power would be nice, some driving lamps maybe, but four half-decent cylinders and a good gearbox are all I really need.

Brakes and tires are important too.


Here's Led Zeppelin: Ten Years Gone.

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