steve’s funny column
July 13th, 2017 under West Texas Talk Highlight
Places to go and methods to get there
By STEVE LANG
“When I was young and the urge to be someplace else was upon me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch….I don’t improve…once a bum, always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable.” – John Steinbeck, “Travels with Charley”
“You can go on stilts. You can go by fish. You can go in a Crunk-Car if you wish.” – Dr. Seuss, “Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!”
Someone noted, definitely pre-theme park era, that although methods of travel have evolved and changed, the places to go remain about the same.
In 1960-61, Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck traversed 34 states and nearly 10,000 miles in his three-quarter-ton pickup laden with a custom-made camper, accompanied by his dog. He wished to re-discover the America he had seen a quarter-century earlier prior to writing “The Grapes of Wrath.”
His more recent venture produced “Travels with Charley,” the sole guidebook to any terrestrial location that I re-read, usually annually. Steinbeck repeatedly reminds me, “we find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
Since my first non-car excursion, a train trip to Chicago 50 years ago, I have visited many of the places millions of others have seen, by various vehicular accommodations. In the 70s, I journeyed to a neighboring state pheasant hunting in a custom-made cabin reminiscent of Steinbeck’s Rosinante, also in the company of dogs, who frequently smelled better than their human companions did.
James Thurber wrote, “In America, there are two classes of travel; first class and with children.”
Tenting family-style across America via mini-van and SUV in the 80s and 90s validated Thurber.
Travel has also included an international voyage across the Rio Grande in a rowboat, followed by a burro ride into a village not much larger than my hometown, but stocked with ample cerveza and Mexican food; a cruise down Russia’s Volga River; and traversing West Australia’s outback alternately in a Jaguar and a ute (utility vehicle).
I have ridden in vehicles named Winnie, Lemon, Bob, and most recently, I enjoyed an eight-state, 1,887-mile jaunt ending in Minnesota in Darrell Passer’s 1948 Bubba Buick, re-armed with Corvette engine, Cadillac frame, AC, cruise and GPS.
A second trip to Minnesota by alternate route remains, but not with Bubba.
“(We) can go by bike (or)…on a Zike-Bike if (we) like,” according to Dr. Seuss, and “If (we) like (we) can go in an old blue shoe,” if the proper size was available.
Instead, we will venture via a four-door Chevy pickup to be named later.
According to a Spanish proverb, “two great talkers will not travel far together,” but Darrell and I have had no difficulty. Since he enjoys driving and I love napping, many miles elapsed in pleasant silence.
My writing depends largely on listening well and talking little, and I am always open to tales of wandering, dipping/staying under the radar, or even slipping through cracks in the cosmos. Darrell is a gifted storyteller, and when I texted him recently to ask, “Where in the world are you today?” he responded that he was still in Minnesota, but without his Buick.
Emile Ganest noted, “A tourist is a fellow who drives thousands of miles so he can be photographed standing in front of his car.” While I tend to avoid tourism’s trappings, I also argue that Bubba Buick stands as a work of art, not merely transportation, and thus justifying the accompanying photo.
While attending a central Minnesota car show, Darrell met an 86-year-old man willing to haggle price, but would not accept refusal:
“Chuck was the ultimate Buick fanatic,” Darrell said. “Starting with his father, they have owned the mark all their lives. He took me on a tour of his collection that started with a 1910 Buick that was restored and is driven in local parades. He also had a 1940, several from the ‘70s, a couple from the early ‘90s and ending with a 2016 model.
“We talked for two hours. He wanted to buy (Bubba) at the show, but I explained to him that I wanted to finish my trip before selling it,” Darrell said. “He took my phone number and said he would be calling me.
“He called me early Monday (the next) morning and asked if I would take him for a ride, so I went to his farm, took a tour and gave him a ride. He offered to buy it, but I again said I wanted to finish that trip and that I would be back in Minnesota the last week in July.”
A second call, a lower offer and another refusal followed, but the following day, Chuck was back on the line.
“He…asked if I would meet him in (town) and I agreed. We met at his doctor’s office where he had an appointment in a couple of hours,” Darrell said. “He asked if I would take him around the corner to one of the places he banked, offered me a little more and I again turned him down.
“He then told me he would give me my asking price and (asked) if we could go into the bank to pay me….SOLD!”
The man drove his new toy home the next day.
“He told me that the car would never be sold again and would be going to one of his family when he passes,” Darrell said, “so now the old southern Bubba will become a leisure Yankee.”
Thanks to Darrell’s recent pickup purchase, we will not need to choose between Seuss options of going by “lion’s tail” nor “stamp(ing ourselves) and going by mail.”
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Steve Lang, like Steinbeck, “was born lost and take(s) no pleasure in being found.” The travlin’ Steve is the Sul Ross State University news and publications director in Alpine.