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Survival Skills for Sports Car Drivers

June 6, 2017

Letters to my Guardian Angel

Dear Guardian Angel,

I was riding on the Altrans shuttle bus and got into a conversation about what to do when you are traveling and your car breaks down.

My mind went back to that trip in my Triumph from Livermore Ca to Blacksburg Va. Thank you. Thank . Thank you. You might remember. The Triumph was a fun car but not always reliable. It was labor Day weekend in 1968. Ahead of me was a 2000 mile drive across the country to begin graduate school at Virginia Tech. So check it out. Livermore Ca to Blacksburg Va and not all roads were interstate highways.
I made it across the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah. Made the run across Wyoming and headed south toward Denver. I cannot remember when the car problem began. I just know that the in to Denver, I crossed a huge mountain range and progressively my 4 speed manual transmission had fewer gears that were working. Even getting in motion out of neutral required a jump into second. Another trick move would get into fourth. The First and third gears could not be used at all. Of course, mountain driving requires gears. I was really sweating it out for at least 100 miles and each shift was harder.

At the time, the last thing I thought of was that you, my guardian Angel was watching and I guess helping because I did make into Denver. Denver was one of very few places on my route with a Triumph dealer. Lucky for me. The dealer got my car when it was on its last leg, or I should say its last rolling wheel. With money in my pocket, I got a cheap motel and waited out the complete overhaul of the transmission. The overhaul only began after waiting 3 days for the parts to arrive from probably New Jersey.
With your help, I got back in the Triumph the minute the mechanic said go and drove on. With hind sight, the risky driving could have taken me over the edge and I would not be writing.
Then I remembered how I got to Livermore. I am thinking of another great job by you. It was like 6 days after my MS degree graduation day, my father’s Birthday, May 31. So that would be June 6, 1968.
That Triumph was fun to drive and even a flatlander thought he know how to drive like a race car hero in the mountain curves. With a few days remaining before my job in Livermore I had driven the Triumph from New Orleans and was feeling pretty good.
I had survived the overheating in the dessert on that long slight uphill run just short of Los Angeles. I doubt I-10 was even built then. Every chance, me and this guy with an overheating junker were stopping for radiator water. Seems the Triumph among its many curses had a timing delay that left the exhaust gases in the engine too long. That plus a badly designed fan that could have come off a Model T, made overheating a sure thing with any warm day. The day before reaching this hot point, I had found shelter for the night in Las Vegas. I guess you had a hand in getting out of that casino, too.

So I was discovering Las Vegas as a wondering 22 year old headed to Livermore Ca. Inside the casino everywhere I looked there were super beautiful young ladies in outfits designed for artful presentations of their abundant ass etts. My eyes were bugging and I guess it showed. (Now I know that they were cocktail waitresses.)
I found a group of dealers who were on break and they probably saw me coming and wanted to have some fun. I had no idea of how any game worked so I asked about a few games, roulette, the dice table. Then I headed to the real question on my mind, “who were all these beautiful women”? The wise old dealers were probably playing me. One dealer let me know that any of the beautiful women I saw, was ga-ga over, could be had for the asking, if I had the money. I bet he was just trying to get me even more big- eyed or big somewhere else but it was working. In stepped you, my guardian angel, and you dragged me back to the hotel, never to know if the dealer told the truth. I guess I turned down the bet for the better.
But I do digress, as my story is about that last run to Livermore on the El Camino Real, a. k. a. US Hwy 101. I was doing well, on time and would reach Livermore one or two days before I needed to start work. The map showed this super curvy road that would let me finish up on scenic route 1, the coast road. What fun to drive across what I did not even know was the Coastal Range, and it was fun!
The Triumph and I were making all of those corners, those hair pin turns in great fashion. Then an oops moment. I swung around a blind curve to the right, and God Damn, (excuse my language angel) there was this sedan, seems like a French Pugeaux, right in the middle of the road. At my race car driver speed, my quick swing of the wheel to miss this French invader of my space put me into the mountain side. The tiny Triumph smashed the rocky hillside and careened across the road to the edge of a 1000 foot drop off. The breaks or the loss of momentum from crashing the hill stopped me and the Triumph a few feet from certain death. Woah! and thanks my angel.

For your verification of my story, unhurt I waited and the French car driver went to the next town and sent back the wrecker that towed my car for body work in Sa Luis Obsipo Ca. Look it up if you want to keep watching that wild road, my angel.
So I am still here and writing as I near my 70th birthday, which I may have never had, without you. You must be worn out from having me as your client all these years.


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