It was 4:53 am and I was awake. Just 2 days prior I had plopped down my car-nest egg to get the registration and now on this overcast but warm Sunday morning I would be heading up to take delivery of my new-to-me Hudson. My friend Tim was to be my travelling companion and overall buffer zone when I got back and the Better Half saw the rusted remains of a drained bank account. She can’t get too pissed in front of company right?
Tim was to arrive at 6am. I’m always early so I took the time to just sit back and enjoy the quiet of a calm, warm Spring morning in New England. We live on one of the most trafficked streets in town, a street that serves as a gateway between 3 towns all within a 4 mile stretch. Two major interstates are within a 5 minute drive in opposite directions and the locals know they can bypass a ton of the rush hour rat-race by weaving their way through. It’s not a quaint little New England farm town. Instead it’s a middle class suburbia, albeit a very nice one. It took me a long time to reconcile wanderlust with settling down in Anytown USA but I think I finally have. Most importantly it’s an amazing place to raise our children. A dozen or so kids all within 5-years of one another live along the sides of our busy dead end road – ensuring playmates, scuffed knees and noses and probably some dating in the next coming years. The families are all friendly and have come to view my pet projects as sources of comical conversation and the occasional head-shaking. I’m sure many of them think I’m nuts for giving the jalopies a home, and I’d wager all wonder how the Better Half has put up with the parade of scrap metal that has been literally dragged onto the driveway, the yard, into the garage and behind it. Sometimes all of the above all at once. They will slow down to take a look, ask questions, discuss the plans. And in my own little way I’d like to think that these little connections help tether the past to the present and give us some sort of bond to make the street a neighborhood. If nothing else the neighbors can get together and look and point and admonish my habit.
So I sat there on the stoop for about 10 minutes watching the serenity as no cars passed by, eventually moving to one of the swivel chairs from the $299 outdoor living set we got a few years back. Tim texted to say he’d be about 15 minutes late and I did mental gymnastics to not let my eagerness create an issue when there wasn’t one. A common theme of mine – besides unwavering stupdity regarding old metal – is that time is the most precious thing we have (after our Families of course). No money will buy it back, and as far as I know no one has yet been able to defeat it. So I glom onto my time with both hands clenched. I despise wasting time – though I do way too much of that which is ironic and hypocritical. In prior days I would have been bristled by a mere 15 minutes. This day was to be a good day so I counted my internal sheep, and remembered the help that Tim would be providing (little did he know how MUCH help he’d be doing!) and was able to learn myself a new way to look at things. My neighbor strolled by and we chatted for a few before Tim rolled up. Just as we were to leave, the back door of the house opened up and my 4 year old son Lucas was standing there in his Spider man PJs, holding his beloved, mangled teddy bear known simply as Teddy. (When someone or something is that important a single name is all that is needed.)
“Where are you going Daddy?” To get a hot rod I said. “OK” and with a big Lucas-hug goodbye, Tim and I set off.
We stopped to get some coffee and gas and Tim’s workday began. I suck at driving with a trailer. And I mean S-U-C-K suck. My neighbor has watched as afternoon turns to dusk while I attempt to wedge a 12 foot trailer into a 60 foot driveway. So not 5 minutes in I managed to hook the left side of the trailer onto a metal partition (designed ostensibly to prevent people like me from ripping the pumps down with terrible trailering techniques) and nothing I could do would free it up. I tossed Tim the keys and went it to buy coffee and breakfast. By the time I came out he had the trailer unbound and settled next to the pump. Too bad that wouldn’t be the extent of his work day lol.
The trip up was unenventful other than the sight of numerous deer carcasses along the highway. We pulled into the yard around 7:40 am and there was the Hudson – still semi-covered in her tattered night-gown. Said Hi to Bruce and gathered the rest of the parts haul – new water pump, recored radiator, generator rewired for 12 volts, and a few things here and there. Realized the front driver’s tire was dead as a doornail. With no stores close by and no compressor or fix a flat we simply had to drag it. As we weighed our options I must have been bit 20 times by some of the nastiest tiny horse-fly type things I’ve ever seen. Later – MUCH later – when we were finally loaded up, Tim looked at me quizzically and pointed out the constellation of bite marks that lined my bald five-head. We pulled the Hudson out with Bruce’s Bronco and my gut started to twist – this was the first time I’d seen the Hudson in true daylight out of it’s cocoon. It’s not that the car wasn’t as represented – far from that actually. Bruce was quite upfront about everything. My own past car failures started to rise up and I thought – Holy Shit what the hell am I going to do now? I own this. Or it owns me. All my cash is gone. It needs more than just brakes and gas. Can I really do this?? I mean really do it? Eventually I calmed down – I DID own it in fact so it was coming home regardless.
We lined the trailer up with the front wheels, gave her a good push – and got stuck on the frame rail where the airless tire was. 20 minutes of trying this, that and the other thing got us nowhere. My anxiety was creeping back up, knowing that I had taken on a literal mountain of a car that would already be a tough sell to the Better Half. Spending the day trying just to load it wasn’t on the menu. We lowered the jack stand to increase the trailer angle. Nope. We tried prying the car up with 2x4s while pulling. Nope. Attached a couple come-alongs and pulled. Still nope. Finally with a bit of luck Bruce gave it one last push and somehow she popped up enough to get over the hump and settle onto the U-Haul trailer. We strapped the wheels down and fastened the safety chains, shook hands with Bruce and said our goodbyes. Bruce grabbed a couple parting pictures and we were back off on our way home. I hope he knows I will do him and the car proud. I know she means a lot to him.
We stopped at a Scrub-a-Dub and hosed out all the cobwebs and leaves from the engine bay. The original gray color even came back to life a bit. The car took on an almost walnut stain once she was washed – I hoped that would go a ways to showing the Better Half the potential. After Tim backed the trailer up to the industrial vacuum, $4 in quarters took care of most of the mice crap and the 200 pounds of acorns that had been stowed away by zealous chipmunks and squirrels. I had to keep jamming the hose from the vacuum with a flat blade screwdriver because the acorns were getting stuck.
Back on the road to the house. 15 minutes would pit the car against the Better Half. She’d seen pictures but her love of rust buckets goes about as far as getting a root canal without anesthesia. I called her to give her a warning – hoping she would take the kids out for a half hour while Tim and I snugged the car into the garage. She had things to do at home so it was going to happen one way or another. Might as well rip the band aid off.
Unloading the car was about as much fun as loading it. At least we were able to use Tim’s small compressor to inflate the tire. 20 minutes later all 4 tires had enough air to let her roll down the ramps. But in adding the air it tightened the 2 safety chains so much that we couldn’t loosen them. So, let the air OUT again. Now the car had shifted just slightly backwards – pulling the front chain even tighter. Grabbed a ratchet strap and pulled the car forward enough to get the chain loose. Undid the ratchet strap and now IT was caught around the safety chain. 20 more minutes to add air – inflate for 5, let compressor catch up. Repeat. Now onto next tire. FINALLY the car was ready to roll. Got it down, moved the truck, and started to push. All was well until we hit the hump in the driveway. Pushed. Pulled. Dragged. I started to wrap the tow strap around the beam that holds up the garage. This was not met with enthusiasm but did give Tim a chuckle. Tim wrapped the tow strap around his waist and walked while I pushed from the back of the car. Nothing. Eventually he came up with the idea to take an old motorcycle tire and place it between his bumper and the Hudson’s and we used his truck to push the car – to literally get over the hump. Finally had it straightened out when the FRONT wheels hit the hump. My neighbor must have heard the commotion and came over to give us a hand. 15 more minutes of pushing, pulling, over-steering and a little luck and she’s in the garage.
I owe these guys big time. The Better Half didn’t hate it. My daughter said it’s rusty. Lucas loved it and gave it a name: Ziggy.