Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Part 14: An 8-Track, A Deer, and the Never-Ending State of Texas

My1974 GTO had some modifications that made it a "Seventies-Mobile."  It had an automatic transmission and originally, the shifter was on the steering column.  It had been converted to a B&M "slap shifter" on the floor.  This meant that the standard bench seat had been removed and replaced by two green bucket seats (both of which only had 3 out of the 4 bolts holding them to the floor.  I had no idea what a "slap shifter" was or how to use it in street racing, but the prior owner, Pat Boudreaux, told me that this car had won him many a street race.

When I bought the car from him, it had over-sized rear wheels and air jacks in the back to give it a street dragster look. I had the foresight to change the rear tires to normal sized ones, but used the air shocks to off set the weight of the traveling cargo. There was a car stereo in it....a top of the line, 8 Track Tape player that was wired to two box speakers that sat on the back seat.  No, really.  I know what you are thinking: Why the HELL would YOU buy this car?

At the time, finding anything that I knew would get from Louisiana to California without breaking down for under two thousand dollars, was a miracle.  So, "The Lizard King" (after Jim Morrison of The Doors) was born.

Prepared for a long trip, we had a faux-leather case with 8 Track tapes including The Beatles, The Doors, and this:

This, factory-sealed, now goes for just under $10,000...can you imagine?

We drove before sun up on our first day, my brother and me, speeding past swampland along the I-10, westbound.  Again, this was WAY before anyone had a GPS, so we relied on a AAA Triptik map (a narrow, spiral-bound detailed map that you get free as a member of the Auto Club).  Hotels, gas stations, and even some speed traps were indicated in the pages and it was gratifying every time we would flip a page - another 50 miles behind us.

Being from Louisiana, we were flat-landers.  Yes, I had been to the Great Smokey Mountains on a trip once, but the experience of driving anywhere that wasn't flat was relatively new to us.  When we arrived in Kerrville, Texas we were amazed by the rolling green hills and the sheer beauty of the place.  It was late, and we decided to stay the night.

Beautiful shot of Kerrville, TX by Tim Lookingbill
 Attempting to stay on schedule, we woke up the next morning before sunrise, ate a quick breakfast at the motel, and pulled onto the black I-10.   We weren't 5 minutes away from the motel when I noticed glowing eyes on the side of the road and before I could react....THUMP! SMASH!  I had hit a deer.

Unfortunately, these are the only "Monsters" in today's entry.
If you have ever struck a large animal with your car, you know it can be emotionally shocking.  And to this day, there is some debate about what happened.  My brother swears I killed the deer.  I recall looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing it dash off of the road.  There was no lump of a carcass lying there.  However, the front left side of my car was crushed.  Luckily, the headlight still worked but there was no blood, or fur in the grill - just crumpled steel from the impact.  Great.  It's the second day and already we've had a "tragedy" that we won't recover from before we get to California.

That day we drove across the rest of Texas, and drove, and drove, and drove.  Once you get past Dallas, the Texas landscape becomes flat and dry.  The state is so large that, when you are 18 and can't wait to be on the West Coast, it can become disheartening to drive across.

By the time we got to the border town of El Paso, we were celebrating.  We had put one, very large State between us and Louisiana and it only took two days!  We pushed on to Las Cruces, New Mexico and thus ended our second day of driving.

The third day took us through Western New Mexico and Arizona.  We had the STAR WARS 8-Track playing and it was coincidentally on John Williams' music for the Tatooine desert while we drove through mesas and buttes in awe and the massive rock outcroppings.

To a Southern Boy, this is alien territory!
 I can remember entering California along the I-10 at the city of Needles and thinking: It looks like Arizona. This changed as we arrived in San Bernardino; there was some genuine Los Angeles smog there to greet us.
We had made it.  No cell phones, no credit cards, no GPS, just foolish youth and a head full of ambition.

1 comment:

  1. What would you need cell phones, GPS, or credit cards for when you had a cool 8-track player??? Seriously, a sealed copy of that "Star Wars" 8-track goes for almost $10K?! Yowza. Ya, Texas is HUGE - the eastern half is kind of nice driving through, the western part not so much and gets really monotonous. And please stop killing those innocent deer with your revved up GTO. ;) Loved this installment and look forward to the next.