When I was a boy, my Dad would receive the J. C. Whitney Automotive catalog in the mail. My brother and I would go through it page by page, ogling the shifters, carbs, and other parts with which one could "soup up" a car. If one actually OWNED a car, that is. It will come as no surprise to the reader that my favorite part of the catalog was the portion offering windbreaker jackets with sports car logos embroidered on the left chest. The one I dreamed of was the black jacket bearing the crossed racing flags of the Chevrolet Corvette. I had never seen a Corvette. But, those crossed flags. My brother and I would sit and talk of what cars we would have and the places [other than the middle of the North Woods] where we would drive them. And, wherever we drove, we would wear manufacturer's logo Whitney jackets. If we could ever save up the twelve dollars to buy one. We never did. Years passed by. In the usual fashion.
But, once in a while, what appears to be a travel fiasco morphs into an Epic break. Take last week. A bit late arriving in Orlando. The rental company fouled up my reservation. So there was no nondescript microsedan wating pour moi. Which is a bit of a problem when you have to travel three hours round trip for a meeting out in a rural area. The rental clerk made me promise to return the car in one day, not a moment later. And handed me the keys to this car...
My first Corvette. Actually, the car given to me was a little different than this 2009 model. My car was a convertible. With 1000 miles on it. And the color is "Velocity Yellow". Fancy that. My road trip the next day had turned into a Road Trip.
As I have admitted, my previous experience with Corvettes was limited. That means I had none. So to say that I was delighted to have the chance to spend a few hours on the road in this iconic American sports car was an understatement. The fun began immediately. When I left the restaurant after dinner and discovered that they had parked my car right up front. Right next to the cars the sports stars and other celebrities were driving. Had there been any in town. The young man handling the valet desk that night said "That is one great car". Taking a line from James Bond referring to a Thunderbird in the book "The Spy Who Loved Me", I replied drolly "It's a rental".
The next morning, I found myself roaring down the Interstate until it connected with State Highway 27 bearing south-southeast past Cypress Gardens toward Miami. The Old Route. Perfect for trying out a car of this sort. I say "roaring" because the engine in the Corvette fairly begs to be turned loose and then snarls at you when you do not accede to its demands. I found the 'Vette (all of us Corvette men say "Vette", it's what we do) more quiet than I had expected (especially for a convertible) but it was not quiet. It rode more smoothly than I had expected, but it was not a smooth ride. All as it should be. The seats were very comfortable. The trunk just enough for a short business trip. Or a long non-business trip with that one small leather case you save for such occasions.
The weather was gloriously sunny and hot. I found myself driving through a large orange grove. The scent of the fruit trees was lovely. Even at speed. Because, you see, when John Mellencamp's version of "I Fight Authority" came on the stereo there was only one thing to do. As they say where I live, it was time to "let 'er eat". So I did. Now, I have no basis for comparison among sports cars, but this car was MORE than fast enough for me. It felt like it was flying. At very low altitude. The stereo was superb. They put the bass speakers down in the leg wells, and when one cranks the volume WAY up (as I did), the slight bit of slack in a well tailored pair of trousers down by your calves moves from the bass vibration. Not a little movement. A LOT of movement. In short, the stereo ROCKS.
The only thing I did not care for about this car is, I suppose, typical of the fifty year old driver. Getting in and out of it is a drag. I know, play the violin a little louder please. You have to sort of make a controlled fall into the driver's seat. This takes considerable effort BEFORE cocktail hour and dinner, but afterwards it is a personal dignity challenge of high order. Trust me. When exiting the 'Vette (all of us Corvette men....oh I mentioned that) you find, happy hour or no, that you are a living demonstrative of the principles of inertia. When you get yourself at rest in a Corvette driver seat, you tend to remain at rest. Overcoming inertia to get yourself up and out of the car to a (hopefully) standing position, while wearing a suit, requires a considerable amount of force. Supplied, of course, by only your left arm. One finds oneself making (in the words of Bill Cosby) "your father's noise" when he would get up from his arm chair for dinner. Consequently, the careful, fiftyish 'Vette driver must watch carefully once parked to make sure there is NOBODY who can see, or hear, you trying to get out of it. Or all is lost.
Actually, I loved my time with this car. In fact, when I left my appointment, I checked the map and saw that I was only 168 miles from Miami. I REALLY wanted to drive the rest of the way down that highway. Take it to the Atlantic. Park it there. Gaze out. See what happened next. But, no. Duty called me back to Orlando and then to Chicago. The end of one Epic Road Trip. The beginning of another...
I did not rush out and buy a Corvette windbreaker upon my return. But now, at least, I am qualified to wear it.