Boston Driver’s Notebook 8/1/12 part 1

27 07 2012

The Tunacuda Barely Gets Me Home

I was at an Undisclosed Location on the 4thof July.  The Tunacuda had driven me out there in good style.  The upgrades I had gradually effected, including disc brakes, sure-grip differential, 4 on the floor, roll bar, shoulder belts, and close-ratio steering, combined to provide a much more safe and enjoyable highway driving experience.  The Tunacuda had come a long way from the shaky, wandering, long-stopping-distance rust bucket it had been.  As I cruised along in overdrive, the engine I  had rebuilt myself hurried me along.  It was crying out for bigger carburetor jets, and a more flowing exhaust system, but it got me to the cookout on time.

Summertime @ Undisclosed Location

I floated around the pool and bantered with parents of my friends.  It’s important to spend time with older, wiser people from time to time.

The Best Things in Life.
ElFin photo

All loaded up on charred meats, I decided to skip the illegal and unwise fireworks display.  The younger set lugged out what looked like satchel charges that could have been stuffed into giant naval guns during WWII.  A couple of them were shaped like large potato chip canisters.

This Could Get Out of Hand
Globe Photo

Two doors down, bikers had been setting off heart-stopping concussion rounds all evening.  The fully bloomed southern belle I had been talking to stopped talking as the shock wave hit us.

“Now that is not an M-80,” she said.  “That right there is a stick of dynamite.”

Fina, the small Portuguese dog  ran back and forth in front of the pool, having levitated a foot in the air upon detonation.

It had been an ugly few days of constant explosions, and a group in New Hampshire had managed to blow up the deck upon which they and their children were standing, and under which they had stored several hundred pounds of explosives.  A dropped cigarette rolled between the deck boards and sent them all sky high.  A medevac helicopter removed one of the children.

I had been kept awake by kids across the street from my bedroom, who set off something between one and five firecrackers every ten minutes until 3:30.

When a lovely child set off one firecracker at 4 AM, I inquired perhaps audibly from my bed next to the window, “Could it be that you are (expletiving) jesting with me?”  I paraphrase.

Sleep Deprivation

That was the last until oh-six-hundred hours, when we got our wake-up barrage.

But it had been an otherwise sedate 4th, considering the depraved, animalistic events of other years, there at the Location.

I was using the excuse of being on antibiotics not to drink, and I noticed that the husband of the southern belle wasn’t drinking either.  Doctor’s orders, I presumed.  It was better, driving the Tunacuda; stone cold sober reflexes are what you want.

I started the car as I said a quick goodbye, and left before the car was completely warmed up.  It ran rough, but I figured that would get better, since it had never been good cold.  I assumed it was the fuel jets in the carburetor not allowing enough fuel into the mixture.  The idle mixture adjustment screws were set so rich, they were about to fall out of the carb.

Builds Strong Bodies 5 Ways

Builds Strong Bodies 5 Ways

Instead of improving, the car ran worse and worse as it warmed up.  It stalled at the red light.  “Could be crud in the needle valve,” I thought.  “That, or one of the partygoers scrambled my ignition wires as a prank.”

In Central Pennsylvania where I spent my wonder years, they called a traffic light a “redlight.”  At first I thought it was a nonsensical regionalism, until I realized the sly cynicism implied.  Those Central Pennsylvanians can surprise you sometimes.

I kept the revs up until I got onto the highway.

Death Tuna R.I.P.

The drive brought to mind a similar drive in the Death Tuna a number of years ago when I had left one of the rowdier bonfires at the Undisclosed Location.  I was less than stone cold sober, and had been followed by town cops from the party, all the way to the highway.  I was glad they hadn’t stopped me, but was mystified by their actions. For all Your Plastic Cup Needs

As I accelerated up the on-ramp to the highway, a red plastic 16 oz. cup full of frozen maitai fell over on my roof and ran down the back window.   I’m fairly sure they would have pulled me over if I had spilled the drink within city limits.

The highway doubled back past the Undisclosed Location, which looked and sounded as if a pitched firefight was taking place.  A phosphorescent green shell from the Undisclosed Location exploded out the Tunacuda’s passenger window, and another big concussion round went off at the bikers’.  It had been close, but I think I got out in time.  I had bigger fish to fry as the gas-starved Tunacuda sputtered its way up the long entrance ramp.

The lights were in my favor as I got off at the Mystic Ave exit and transited Winter Hill.  I had to shake a tailgater on Mystic Ave who insisted on menacing my classic car with his scrap-value Ford Bronco SUV.

The Sun photo

Then there was one car between me and the Winter Hill Ave redlight, which was green at the moment.  Perversely and against all that is good or holy, the one car in front of me made the inexplicable decision to cede the right of way to a drowsing shopper patiently waiting at the exit of the Star Market.  This caused a great deal of confusion as the lights on Winter Hill Ave. turned yellow then red, and the shopper worked up a sufficient level of trust that would allow him to go against the cruel equations that rule the savage chariot race that is Boston driving.  I revved the engine in neutral as the bumblers fumbled for whatever procedure they were planning to substitute for the accepted one.

Let’s just change the Procedures

Finally I got up to the intersection and barely made it to the end of the wonderfully long lasting right turn arrow before it turned yellow then red.  Careening through the fully red light behind me was my old friend in the Ford Bronco who took up his old favorite spot nosing up my tailpipe.  I caught the end of the yellow left turn arrow onto School St. off of Winter Hill Ave, and Bronco Bumper Hugger ran the light so he could continue to be close to me.  I made the rest of the lights to where I turned off School St. toward home, as BBH went forward to find other cars to follow too closely.

American Badger
Gerald and Buff Corsi photo

As I kept up the revs at around 3000 RPM and lunged backward  into the driveway with the stricken Tunacuda, I remembered when I had first bought the Tunacuda’s older brother, the Shark Cuda, out in California.

I killed the headlights and put it in neutral.  It coughed and died when I let off the gas.

The Tunacuda, like all good seahorses, had made it home.

The California highways had been smooth and relaxing; filled with clueless, yet comparatively more polite, drivers.  I would take Highway 101 to Half Moon Bay, the high-compression 340 growling like a panther around the sinuously curved open roads.

Compared to this tight, crowded, mean little area, it had been driving heaven.

At least that’s what I was thinking as I covered up the Tunacuda, and waited for a day off to address the stalling problem.

California Dreaming on a sweaty summer day.




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