By the time I turned 16, I was living in a variety of places. With friends, family members, my car, step parents…wherever. I had my trusty Chevy Vega (hatchback, of course) and all of my belongings in my car.
While bouncing around in Missouri, I decided to take a trip to Florida to visit my Mom. Now, while it is true that the Vega drank 3 quarts of oil a week, she had never failed me. So, I packed up my stuff, including my awesome color TV bought with hard earned dishwashing money, and hit the road.
All was fine with the world as I barreled down the highway blasting the latest and greatest 8 track tape from my strewn together sound system. I was in the Tennessee mountains, near Chattanooga, when the first sign of trouble struck.
Smoke started to come up from under my hood. Now, normally, I would have stopped, lifted the hood, and looked generally perplexed. (I didn’t then, and still don’t know, the first thing about cars). Since it was about midnight, I was feeling less than anxious to pull over in the middle of nowhere. So on I trudged…
Soon, a variety of red warning lights came on and said, “Hey, dumbass, your car is broke”. While I appreciated the info, I pretty much knew I was already in trouble. The fact that I was driving with my head out of the window to avoid the smoke was my first real clue.
I am not sure how long this smoke filled state lasted but I remember one trucker coming up on my tail end and blaring his horn. Like the nice dummy lights, he was also telling me I might be having some car trouble. Ya don’t say….thanks trucker brother.
As I prayed to anyone that would listen and became increasing convinced that Deliverance was awaiting me when I pulled over, a miracle happened. The smoke cleared up and some of the dummy lights went out. The car seemed to be doing ok and all was right with the world. It was now the middle of the night but I made it to a car dealership in Chattanooga.
I slept for a few hours until the Chevy dealership opened. The guy said something about my pistons not having pressure or some such double speak. I told him I had $50 and would that be enough to fix it. Once he stopped laughing, I asked if he thought I could make it to Florida in the cars current condition. Once he stopped laughing, again, he said I had a 50-50 shot.
I made it about 2 miles before flames started shooting out from under my hood. This time, a real fire had started but, at least I was still in town. I gracefully pulled my burning car into a gas station and turned it off. I then gently removed myself from the car, jumped up on the hood and started stomping the hood cursing in every bad word my 16 year old vocabulary owned. As I looked up from my rant, an old couple seated at a bus stop watch me with the most perplexed look on their faces.
The gas station guy said the car was officially dead. I asked if he would watch my belongings, including my beloved color TV, while I caught a bus to Florida and figured out a way to come and get my stuff. He said he could make no promises but would do the best he could. I knew for sure this was the kiss of death for everything I owned.
Undaunted, I bought my bus ticket and got to my Mom’s house. Although she had no car, she was able to meet a guy in a bar that drove her to Chattanooga that night. Now, if you live in this kind of world, this makes perfect sense to you. If you don’t, there is no way I can explain it to you.
Two days later, Mom pulled up in strange dude’s car with all of my stuff in tow. My dreams had again been answered. Also, the gas station guy gave her $25 for the car parts. (My awesome sound system and 8 track was worth at least $30). I let Mom keep the cash and made many more of those types of road trips over the years. It’s a great way to see the country.
Oh, and no offense, but fu** you Chattanooga.