Friday, January 09, 2009
Runnin' With the Devil
The bottom pic is one of my second set of wheels. It was a 1977 Chevrolet Monza with the Mirage package. The top pic is a better look at what one looked like. They were supposed to kinda sorta look like this:
This was an IMSA race car - the fender flares and spoilers were less dramatic on the factory Mirage, but the resemblance was intentional.
At any rate, you could see this car coming a mile away. There weren't many of them, so meeting one on the road was fairly rare. Of course, back in 1977, most cars were more about show than go - and this was no exception. A two barrel carb on a 305 V8 didn't make this much of a drag racer. It had a single exhaust that was siamesed flat under the body tub. If headers were installed to let it breath a bit better, the driveability was right out the window - they easily bottomed out. But this particular car had a hell of a top end. The speedometer went to all of 85mph, but it did keep winding past. It just wasn't marked. I caught a friend's big block Vette one day - it was only running on seven cylinders and could only manage 120mph. Like I said, I caught him - easily. So, no telling how fast this thing really was.
I had just had some sixty series tires (on 13" rims - hoo boy!) mounted on the rear (70's on front) - according to Hot Rod magazine, this would cut down on top speed because of the extra drag. I was on my way to Oklahoma City to see my mother and sister, and it was really really late. I was on Oklahoma State Highway 33 between Watonga and Kingfisher - eastbound. I hadn't met anything in quite a while, so I opened 'er up.
The speedometer ran out at the same spot it always did, so Hot Rod was wrong as far as this car went. I just kept my foot in it - I was really making time. As I flashed into Kingfisher County, a car suddenly appeared in my rear view. I thought, but I wasn't sure, that it was a Ford sedan. The headlights looked right. Plus, I wasn't real sure, but I swore I saw a tiny red light flashing.
But, I wasn't sure, so I just kept my foot in it. The highway goes through some fairly gentle curves before emptying out into a tree lined memorial lane on the west side of Kingfisher. Fairly gentle curves at 55 aren't so much at 120+, so I backed off and rode into the memorial lane running 55mph. As soon as I hit the city limits, I met a deputy sheriff who flipped and ran right up behind me - right on my ass. The jig had to be up, but all he did was ride my butt - through town and all the way to the county line on the other side of town. I still wasn't sure about the first car, but the behavior of the deputy seemed pretty strange. Later, it occurred to me that he thought I might nail it and try to outrun him, too.
Fast forward a few months. Much earlier in the evening, but still completely dark. I was on my way back to OKC, and there was traffic. I had been running 65 - and remember, this was in the 55mph days. I'd get one car passed, catch another, and so on. After I hit Kingfisher county, I noticed a car gradually working it's way through the traffic I'd passed until it caught me and got right behind me. It was a Ford sedan.Suddenly, a tiny red light started turning on the dash. It was an unmarked car. I pulled over at an elevator's lot, and the sheriff, for that is who it was, told me to get my paperwork and come to his car. I sat in the passenger seat, and there was a guy sitting directly behind me - not saying a word but he sure looked unhappy with me. The sheriff wasn't very happy with me, either.
"When you're in my county, you slow this go&#@$#n car down!" It was either pay the fine on the spot in cash, which of course I didn't have, or surrender my license until my check cleared. The ticket would serve as a temporary driver's license. Of course, we both knew what he meant - he obviously remembered me but wasn't going to say anything about it directly. This was his first look at that car. Which is what saved my ass - had he a good description - the deputy in town would have nailed me.
I've never figured out why they didn't search my car. They'd have found a few things, too. Things that would have me getting a striped tan from the bars shading my skin. I know I looked the part - long hair, beard, and I'd been toking up as well. I had to reek of the ganga. I just don't think law enforcement back then was very knowledgeable about such things and really didn't know what to look for. Now that they can make some serious dough by confiscating anything remotely associated with the drugs, they have an incentive to pay attention.
So, picture this: I come ripping through there probably at around 130mph. Since it's one or two in the morning, all the sheriff sees is a streak go by. If his car ran 150mph - it's gonna take him at least a mile to get wound up, while I'm still cruising along at 130. I'd still have a several mile head start, and I'd get to town before he'd catch me. Of course, his car didn't run that fast, and he had no description of my wheels. It was pretty obvious who it was when I hit town, but there was no proof that would stand up in court. They had to let me go, but they damn sure remembered me, and not in a good way.
The sheriff had told me as soon as my check cleared, they'd send me my license. So, about a week after I had the canceled check in my hot little hands with no license appearing, I called the county clerk to see what was up. I was informed that they had to keep my license until the court appearance date. If I wanted it right then, I'd have to be there to pick it up. I informed the "nice" lady that was not what the sheriff had said, but she rather haughtily informed me that was policy. I informed her that the ticket expired as a temporary license on the time of the court appearance, so one minute after made it useless. Her county was putting me in legal jeopardy by holding my license, particularly since they had their money. Didn't matter, was policy. I informed her if I got into any trouble because of this, they would hear from my lawyer. Of course, I was blowing smoke from my butt - I couldn't afford one on a good day. They were just taking that extra little step to screw with me for outrunning them.
And, for years after that, I'd slow down hitting the county line. The county cops liked to sit on the side road and set up speed traps. I haven't seen one there in some time, not even today when I drove through (which reminded me of this story).
Would I do something like that again? Are you kidding? I'll probably never win a lottery or contest because I used up all the luck in that little deal. When I see Christmas lights go on behind me - it's pull over immediately if not before, what would you like to see first, officer? "They" say "you can't outrun radio waves" and that is true - I'm for thinking the deputy was off somewhere else and I got to town a tad bit quicker than they had anticipated. I just had a lot of factors going for me that night. Plus, driving that fast at night scares me these days. I know I'm not immortal. Back then, not so much.