Saturday, June 21, 2014

Corpus Christi, TX

High speed, low drag.

That was the game plan.  Get to Corpus Christi as fast as we could, do business, spend the night, turn around and get back as fast as we can.  I had planned for everything that I could, hedged against Murphy as best as I could and I had packed everything I needed to work on either the Lincoln or the Daytona if either should break down.  

The Lincoln I had total faith in.

The Daytona was still the unknown ... the promising unknown.

I got up early Saturday morning, around 5am.  I figured it would be about a twelve hour drive so I wanted to get on the road as soon as possible.  Showered, shaved, dressed in some casual to nice clothes (khakis, loafers, button up shirt).  While Cindy is getting her shower and getting ready I go over my list again, making sure that I have everything packed.  We get away around a quarter to six.

Cindy knows nothing other than we are going out of town, together, and will be spending the night somewhere.

I'm really hoping to get into Louisiana and to a Cracker Barrel before she figures anything out.  If I can get some breakfast in her, and some coffee then my chances of making it through the discovery and disclosure part of today increases dramatically.

It doesn't work out that way.

I make it from Columbia, MS to Osyka, MS ... a distance of about sixty miles from home, before my wife figures things out.  She probably would have figured it out sooner but like I said I was depriving her of caffeine and she's not a morning person (especially an early morning person) so ... I thought I could get away with it.

We're passing the Osyka MDOT Enforcement scales office on my left.  I point out the scales office to her and remind her that the Osyka office was where I had to travel to, from my office in Hattiesburg,  on several occasions in order to set up a video security system.  As Cindy is looking across me, out the driver's side window as we're passing Osyka, she notices the arrival time stamp on the Garmin NUVI ... 3:47PM.

She asks me about this and asks if that is the correct time that we are going to arrive where we are going.

I tell her yes ... and keep driving.

She asks where we are going, says that she knows that it is out of state because of the estimated time of arrival ...

I try to avoid the question.  I'm about twenty miles from a Cracker Barrel.  So close ...

"Where are we going?" she asks.

I relent because I figure if I tell her where we're going I still don't have to tell her why.

"Corpus Christi, Texas." I say.

"I've never been to Corpus Christi!" Cindy instantly replies excitedly.

"I've never been to Corpus Christi, either!  We're on an adventure!" I tell her.

There's a look of shock on her face and then this other look comes across her face ... and I know that look.  That is my wife's expression she gets when she has me figured out and she has deciphered, decoded and deduced anything I might be keeping from her.

I hate that look because it is basically a "game over" look.

"Are we going to pick up a car?" she asks flatly.

Oh, God ... I am now living on borrowed time.

This is where, I think, that what may happen in the next few seconds could be a pretty good scene for a splatter horror movie.  The husband turns to the wife, admits to taking her to another state to pick up a car that he has bought, off the Internet, all without her knowing, without discussing it with her, and he did it while she was gone to a teacher's convention for three days leaving him alone ... Given that, we fade to a view of the rear of the car travelling down the highway.  There is a loud, angry growl, a man screaming, blood splatters the interior windows and the car swerves crazily as more screams come from the husband.  There is the sound of flesh ripping and bones snapping and then the car settles out and we hear the devil-possessed wife laughing manically as the car disappears on down the road.

Thankfully the next few seconds don't pan out like that because I married well.  Cindy is a hell of a woman and an even heller of a wife, if "heller" can be a descriptive adjective (and I'll make it one in this case).

"Are we going to pick up a car?" she asks again and I notice that she's not angry ... she's not even mad ... she's just ... curious.

An eternity passes, or maybe three seconds, all three of which seem to be an eternity.

"Yes." I finally say.

And then my wife impresses me.

"It's okay!" Cindy says.  "It's okay if we're going to pick up a car.  I trust you."

And like that everything is okay.  I take the next few minutes to explain to her how the deal went down.  I have her look at my paperwork including several pictures of the Daytona that I printed out.  After a thorough explanation, she has a few concerns.

How am I paying for this?

I got a loan for the car.  Everything, the trip to get the car, the car itself, as well as a cushion in case there is a problem with either my Lincoln or the Daytona during the trip ... all of this is planned for and taken care of.  This puts Cindy at ease since she was worried that she would have to get creative rearranging funds between our bank accounts to cover my latest crazy adventure.

Relieved of the financial worry of the adventure, Cindy is left only with the concern that the Daytona will make it back home from Texas.  I tell her that I trust John, he's been the definition of full disclosure and I feel that, given what type of car my old '86 Dodge Daytona Turbo-Z was like, the '89 should be a good car, especially if it's a one owner, garage kept example of the breed.

Cindy trusts me and after we talk about the Daytona for a while (and I explain how I did all of this without her knowing) we settle down into my favorite part of being with her ... talking.  When we're together, alone, we just mesh and talk and that's when I know, that's when I'm reminded, of why I fell in love with this woman and even more of why I married her nineteen years ago.

Cindy is looking forward to spending the rest of the day and night with me, alone, just the two of us.  She's excited that I've sort of kidnapped her in order to share with her my passion for high performance cars and to spend time with her.  I explain that while I want the Daytona that the chance to spend time with her is just as important (maybe more so) than the Dodge itself.

Cindy is still concerned that the Daytona may give us problems on the way home.  I tell her that I have no such fear, that I trust John and that he's given me no reason to believe that the Dodge isn't what he claims it is.  Given that, I fully believe that the Dodge will make the trip from Corpus Christi, TX to Columbia, MS without any problems at all.

Fifteen minutes later we've left Mississippi behind and entered Louisiana.  We find a Cracker Barrel  in Hammond, LA.  Cindy is still excited about the trip and the chance to spend time together.  We have a leisurely breakfast then get back on the road.

The rest of the trip is pretty uneventful ... it is even boring to a large degree.  I've been to Texas before, it was almost thirty years earlier and I don't remember it being so ... flat ... and boring.  Once you get out of Louisiana two things cease to exist ... the color green and hills / curves.  You don't realize how much you miss the color green or how much you miss hills and curves until you get into Texas where everything is this kind of tannish orange and flat.


Twenty-two years ago a good friend of mine left Hattiesburg headed back to Corpus Christi.  We didn't keep in touch after that, back in the days before the Internet, before Email and Google and Facebook let you keep in touch almost effortlessly ...  Now I'm traveling the same roads he did.  I'm following in his footsteps ... twenty-two years later.  It feels strange, like I'm following a ghost.  Things change so much so quickly that I wonder if what I'm seeing while I'm driving is what he once saw.

Probably not.

There is a very long bridge in LA near the Texas state line.  It is like 14 miles long, built above swamp and wetlands.  It is a boring bridge, a marvel of engineering, but a boring bridge nonetheless.  Traffic is stacked up almost at a dead standstill on the inbound lane.  I hope it won't be that way tomorrow on the return trip.

We make Texas.

I fill up the Lincoln at a small town and we decide to get lunch.  There's a Whataburger and Cindy wants to try that.  I eat at Whataburger a lot in Gulfport when I'm on the road for my job.  Cindy has never been to Whataburger.  The place is packed, people are even standing outside in line.  We go to a Jack's instead, just down the street.  I haven't eaten at Jack's since it used to be called "Jack in the Box" and that was probably 1976 when I lived in Jackson and there was still a chain called "Burger Chef" as well.

I haven't seen a "Burger Chef" in decades ... not even sure if it still exists as a chain.

Cindy has never eaten at a Jack's either.

We're on an adventure.

After a quick lunch we got back on the road and made pretty good time.  Some areas of Texas are speed rated at 75mph.  They need to be because a lot of these areas look pretty much like this ... all the way to the horizon.  Once you reach the horizon, the road might ... might ... bend one way or the other gently and then it's another straight shot to the horizon.

That's the road to Corpus Christi.

Flat.  Boring ... and it's like that most of the way.  Once you leave Louisiana, this is what Texas looks like if you hug the panhandle and head southwest.
Getting close ... late in the afternoon, sometime about 4:30pm.  There may be 30 minutes left in the trip now, if we don't make any more stops.

My plan for the evening was to find John's apartment, purchase the Shelby, find a good steakhouse, get a good meal, find the hotel that I'd reserved, get some much deserved sleep and head back first thing in the morning.

High speed, low drag.

It went pretty much according to plan ... pretty much.

John's apartment wasn't that hard to find though his exact apartment eluded me.  I stood in the apartment complex parking lot and called him again on the cell phone, letting him know that we were there and asking where his apartment was in the unit.  I was within fifty feet of his front door and the garage was connected to his apartment.  Basically all I had to do was turn around a little and I was facing his apartment.  He told me to walk around to the garage, it was open, and the '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby was parked there.

Garage kept.

It was the moment of truth.

I held Cindy's hand, walking with her.  We rounded the corner of the garage and ... there the Daytona was.  The Flash Red 1989 Dodge Daytona Shelby in all of her 25 year old glory.  


2.2 liter SOHC Turbo II intercooled, turbocharged, port fuel injected four cylinder.

Heavy duty 5 speed manual transmission with overdrive and Getrag gear set.

Heavy duty suspension.

Heavy duty competition ready four wheel disc brakes.

15 inch aluminum "pumper" wheels.

A quick look at the car told me that John had not lied about the condition of the car and I began to feel a lot better about the deal.  Cindy was impressed with the condition of the Daytona as well.

John and his wife joined us in the garage, we introduced ourselves, shook hands, made pleasantries and started to talk about the Daytona.  After a few minutes, John handed me the keys to the car and I opened her up, hood, trunk, doors, giving her a good looking over.  Everything seemed to be just as John had told me and just as I had seen in the pictures that he sent me.

John asked me if I wanted to take the Daytona for a test drive.

I did.

If this Dodge drove anything like she looked then I was going to be very happy with all that I'd been through so far to get to this very moment in time.

Cindy and John's wife went back into their apartment while John and I got in the Daytona.  I pushed in the clutch and fired up the Turbo II engine.  It started easy and idled like it was factory brand new.  I took a minute or two to familiarize myself with the interior of the '89 Daytona which was both very familiar to me and very different as well.  It wasn't just the quarter century gap in my memory, this Daytona had options that my '86 Turbo-Z hadn't so I had to get used to buttons being in slightly different places than I remembered them being 25 years ago.

My eyes and fingers glided over the driver's door controls, the gauges, the center console, radio, CD player ... it all came rushing back ... 25 years ago I had a turbo Dodge and now I was about to have one again.

Satisfied that everything was good for a test drive, I pushed the clutch pedal in, lifted on the reverse lockout ring on the shifter, shifted the 5 speed manual all the way to the right and down, felt the transmission engage gears, then let slowly off the clutch.  The Daytona backed out of the garage effortlessly and without even a hint of drama.  I shifted from reverse to first gear, gave the 25 year old turbo Dodge a little gas and John and I were on our way to my first test drive.

I'd been wanting to be in the driver's seat of this particular Daytona for nine days now and here I was, following John's directions on when to turn, what roads to take and me just rowing through the gears and being 25 years younger.

I remember when this car ... when these cars ... were brand new ... sitting on the show room floor of the local Dodge dealership in Hattiesburg, MS and now here I was driving something that I'd wished I could have driven brand new way back then.  I've always loved the turbo Dodges ... the Daytonas and especially the Turbo-Zs and the Shelbys in particular.

This Daytona does not disappoint.  In fact, it inspires confidence in everything ... steering, braking, shifting, acceleration.  Everything on the Daytona works with the exception of the air conditioning but I'll survive.  I've got T-tops, an option my '86 Turbo-Z did not have.  As long as the car is as mechanically sound as it looks I should make it back to Columbia with no problem.  The transmission shifts smoothly.  The engine revs effortlessly.  There is the hint of whine from the turbo as it spools up ... oh, how I've missed that particular noise.

John and I talked as I drove.  We probably went ten miles around that part of Corpus Christi and a few times I gave the Daytona a good blowing out.  Everything on the Daytona worked and worked smoothly, except the air conditioning.  Texas has a lot of heat but it's a dry heat, not the humid heat like in Mississippi, heat that will have you soaking wet within ten minutes of being out in it.  

Texas heat is just ... hot.  

You're uncomfortable to a certain degree but you're not really uncomfortable.  Mississippi heat, with its high humidity index, is pretty much as unforgiving as it is rude and if you're not used to it then Mississippi heat is oppressive.

After a really good shake down test drive and having checked everything that John said was wrong with the Daytona I decide to buy it.  John and I return to his apartment, we go inside where our wives have been chatting for the last twenty minutes and John and I do business.  

The original note from the old bank arrived today in the mail and John gives it to me.  I give him two documents my bank wants him to sign and get notarized.  He says that he will mail them to me as soon as he can.

Papers are signed, cash is traded and John gives me the keys to the Daytona.  I put the paperwork all together and the four of us go back out into the parking lot for some photos.  I can tell John is sad about selling the Daytona ... after all, he bought it brand new, he's taken care of it for the last 25 years and now he's selling it to its second owner.  I feel honored and privileged to be taking possession of this Daytona.  It's going to make a change of owners, a seven hundred mile return trip to Columbia, MS and then it's going to live in my garage right next to my black and silver 2004 Honda CBR600RR sportbike and my black and gold 1986 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.

This Daytona will NOT sit outside in the elements.

As Cindy got in the Lincoln and I backed the Daytona out John remembered that he had one more part for me to take with me ... the original factory louvers for the Daytona.  This presented a problem ... the louvers were huge and wouldn't fit in the trunk of either the Daytona or the Lincoln.  I told John to just mail me the louvers along with the paperwork I needed and for an instant there he had the look of a man who believed me.  Laughing and assuring him I was joking, I had a tough decision ahead of me ... take the louvers, if I could, and possibly never put them on the car ever again (thus not really needing them in the first place) or leave them here and let John just dispose of them.  Being what I am when it comes to cars, I figured that I had to take the louvers with me because if and when I did want to put them on the Daytona I'd probably find that a set of factory louvers would probably cost me the GNP of a small third world country if I had to get them off of Ebay or somewhere else so I told John that I'd take the louvers.

We tried the trunk of the Lincoln ... there was no room at all.

Then I had an idea ... put the louvers in the back seat of the Lincoln.  John had doubts but he helped me walk the louvers over to the Lincoln.  I opened the rear driver's side door, shoved the louvers in, put them flat to an angle and shut the door.  Cindy could see out the back window fine, the louvers took up most of the back seat but since it was only the two of us (and only her driving the Lincoln back) ... no problem.  John looked at how easy the louvers fit into the back seat of the Lincoln.

"I didn't see that coming." he mused.

Yeah, thank God for big cars like the Lincoln with deep trunks and big back seats.

Here's a picture of John, me and the '89 Daytona changing hands.

After shaking hands with John and thanking him again for letting me add this particular Daytona to my garage Cindy and I said our goodbyes and left, headed for Niko's Steakhouse a few miles away.  The food was pretty good and after dinner is when the fun began ...

It was late, we were in separate cars, we were tired ... and we couldn't find our hotel!

There it was, about 9pm, and Garmin couldn't tell me where my motel was.  I put in the street address and Garmin went nuts.  Ditto for Android and Google.  We drove around for an hour on the outskirts of Corpus Christi looking for what seemed to be a non-existent motel (even though I had reservations and a printout of the reservations).  We stopped and asked for directions.

Three times.

Each time it seemed that we were in the wrong part of town or that we had passed it.  We eventually found the motel, located on a service road beside the highway, a service road that was blocked off and hard to get to.  It was aggravation with little reward.

All in all, it took us nearly two hours to find our hotel.  That's right, nearly two hours.  I'd have just cancelled the reservation and checked in somewhere else if I hadn't been about to lose $100 for doing that.

We checked in around 11pm that night, unloaded our bags, got showers and fell into bed.  Cindy warned me not to wake her early like I had this morning.  When I told her that we needed to get an early start back to Columbia her only response was to repeat her warning to me not to wake her early.  

Her look said that she was serious.

Thinking how lucky I was to still be alive given all I'd done behind her back I thought that was a pretty good bit of advice so I kissed her goodnight, turned out the light and fell asleep with my alarm set for 7am.  All in all, it was a pretty good end of a day that had seen us start out early this morning on a 700 plus mile trip to pick up a Dodge Daytona that I'd only seen pictures of on the Internet and now owned.

It had been a long day but a day that had also gone by pretty quick in hindsight.

Tomorrow would be the real adventure ... getting the Daytona back home.

It's said that God protects fools and children.  I'd like to think that I'm somewhere in that group, more of one than the other.  Even so I said a special prayer that night to let me get the Daytona home before anything went wrong with it.  Just give me about 700 miles more range, let me get the Daytona back to Columbia, to familiar territory, to people I know who can help me work on it ... just give me this and I'll deal with anything that comes after that.

I snuggled up next to Cindy and held her.  Sleep found me thinking of the Daytona, of my wife and of just how lucky a guy I really was to have someone like her to share my life, my passions and my adventures with.

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