As we grow older a once tight knit group of friends typically spreads out across the country. Only two events seem to bring even portions of the group back together, weddings and funerals. Unfortunately for my group of friends last night was the latter. As is typical with this group it didn’t take long for us to get to telling stories to the group of people that were starring in the stories, each of us laughing and adding in our own bits, finishing each others sentences, near tears in laughter when our hearts don’t quite feel like laughing. Those memories involved all manner of stories but some were car based, which got me to thinking about my earliest motor memories.
The earliest motor memory I have is sitting on my dad’s lap driving our 68 Mustang. At that point in his career with the company that now employs both of us, he was working on a crew that was on the road all week. The crews go out Monday morning and return Friday evening, so weekends were special. While other kids may have taken time with their dads for granted, I remember being acutely aware of the weekends being the Dad time. I must have been about 5 years old as I don’t remember my sister being a part of life at that point in time, since she came along when I was 6, this is my best guess. Grandma and Grandpa lived 1.5 blocks away if I cut through the neighbor’s (my uncle and aunt’s) yard but was 5-6 blocks driving around on the dirt streets. 30 years later our town still only has the one paved street and I still don’t live on it.
I remember we were leaving my Grandparent’s house, not sure if we were driving home or just cruising around town which we sometimes did in the Sea Foam Green 1968 Mustang. I don’t remember what drive train it had, I just remember that it was Sea Foam Green with a black vinyl top. I remember sitting on the passenger seat, this was before the overly protective laws of today, in the days when it was perfectly acceptable for kids to ride in the rear deck of the car, so it wasn’t a big deal to not be in a kid seat or even in the back seat. We were going a whopping 10-15 miles an hour so it wasn’t like we were in much danger anyways. I remember him asking if I wanted to drive, which I desperately did want to. He put me on his lap and showed me where to put my hands on the steering wheel, 10 and 2. I’m sure I had no idea what 10 and 2 was in reference to but I put my hands in the proper steering position with his hovering just above my hands in case a course correction was needed.
I remember the exhilaration of driving that first time. I wasn’t running the pedals, his hands were ready to correct any major mistakes, but in my mind I was Richard Petty. We were barely into the double digits speed wise but in my memory we were rounding turn 3 of Daytona. I still cherish time with my dad, I still long to be Richard Petty, I will forever remember the feeling of steering that Sea Foam Green 68 Mustang around our small town.
That earliest memory comes second only to one other motor memory, also with my dad and my grandpa. Sometime in the early 80’s when I was probably about 8 years old we were in Topeka, KS visiting family. Dad somehow heard of a Honda 185 3-wheeler that was for sale and for whatever reason it was soon loaded in the back of our Chevy Luv pickup and we were headed home to Gypsum. The Luv didn’t have much of a bed and the balloon tired ATV took up all of it, I remember straining to look out the rear window to make sure that it was there all the way home.
Once we got home to Gypsum we went directly to my Grandparent’s house so that Dad could show off the new toy. I think they may have been watching my baby sister as the rest of us were on that trip but for whatever reason we were there when we unloaded the ATV. A couple of times Dad showed me how to start and kill the engine. He showed me the throttle, the brakes, how to put it in gear. It was time to drive this machine!
So there I was, short arms barely able to get my hands stretched far enough to reach both grips at the same time. Dad was sitting behind me and we were parked in Grandpa’s driveway with Grandpa watching on. I pushed on the throttle and the engine revved. Dad told me to put it in gear, I did, I pushed the throttle again, the engine revved, we didn’t move. Again I tried putting it in gear, again I pushed the throttle, harder this time, still no movement. Dad was getting frustrated, I was getting frustrated, I pushed down on the shift lever one more time. This time my short little legs must have had enough umph to actually put the trans into gear because when I nailed that throttle this time the ATV stood up on it’s rear wheels and I road an Evel Knievel type wheelie across the street. I was a badass! Scared beyond belief I let my finger off the throttle and the front tire returned to terra firma and I slammed on the brakes just in time to keep from plowing into the neighbor’s bushes across the street from Grandpa’s driveway. I should have noticed that Dad was not on the bike any more.
Slowly my head turned and my eyes focused 30 feet behind me where I had slammed the throttle down in frustration. There was Dad sitting on the asphalt, where I had unceremoniously dumped him. Next to him on one knee was Grandpa, laughing so hard that he couldn’t breathe. There were a few more adventures that I had on that ATV but that’s the one above all others that sticks out in my mind. My Dad wanted to be mad but he was laughing as I dropped him on his ass, Grandpa had tears in his eyes, his cigar on the ground, his breathing coming back to normal. I was sure that Dad was going to take the ATV back to Topeka and that would be my only time ever driving it.
Such good memories, what are your favorite motor memories?
See you at a show,