I've known Ron too long. We can read each other way too well and both have a rather large arsenal of things the other will never live down. Thank goodness I was able to add another arrow to his quiver of commentary.
It was a 1968 Cadillac Eldorado, an exquisitely designed American icon of power and function. It was black, with all the chrome pieces right where they belonged. The engine compartment alone was big enough to protect a medium-sized family picnic, complete with potato salad and ants, from a spring shower. And it was long--both ends could have their own zip code. To look down the side of the car is to see all the lines converging and departing with elegance. Today's cars have pretty much hit the snooze bar on styling and are designed for getting from point A to point B with little attention to luxury for the time between. Cars have been downsized, and some use technology to upsize what was lost with the shucking of a couple tons of iron.You can have your airbags (Your vote counts!). I'd rather have an old-fashioned three-point seat belt and a couple of yards of American steel between oncoming traffic and me.
But, I digress.
Ron collects cars and has a farm building where the livestock have been displaced by cars made decades ago in Detroit. The lean-tos around the farm are laden with carcasses of extinct vehicles content to be picked apart to lend life to their cousins of the road. There is an unexpected order to all this, even if it might be a result of panicked preservation of automotive history before taken by rust, the crusher, and apathy. This is not a place you will find a singlewide with grass growing through the lawn furniture.
He also has motor homes. Not as collectables--more of a mobile comfortable place to stay when he lurks about car flea markets for days at a time. Why he needs three is a moving target.
Whenever I visit his farm--usually a few times a month--we seem to have to play vehicular Tetris. RVs, cars, trucks, and trailers have to be moved to make room for the latest acquisition--in this case, the Eldorado. "I just put in a low-ball bid on it on eBay. I won the damn thing! I beat out a classic car dealer by one dollar." A week later it arrived at the door of his shop on a trailer from Florida.
Moving around the RVs is the most challenging of this dance. They will often sit for years before tickled and teased back to life. This involves finding the right keys on a ring heavier than most of his Lincolns, using jump-starting boxes, swapping out batteries, opening up clogged fuel lines, and spewing liberal amounts of blasphemy--all the necessary ingredients to get these old V-8 engines to sing again.
It was the smallest RV and it was running roughly. The old Quadrajet was busting loose from years of stale gas and insect habitation. I did a lap around the farm to wake up the sticky transmission parts. Though this was the most diminutive of these land barges, for me it was like piloting the Queen Mary. When I finally let her cool down, Ron walked over and leaned against the side of the motor home. Now, knowing him so well, I could tell by subtle nuances of his voice he was leading up to something that he would consider funny.
"These things are a lot bigger than most people think, and driving them takes a lot of forethought-gotta be sure where everything is." He patted the monolithic side of the beast.
Thus directing my attention to the five-foot long, six-inch wide gash through the aluminum siding. Then he slowly pointed to the corner of a post and the bent bracket protruding from it. The bracket wasn't bent before I took the RV for a spin.
My blood turned to something colder than ice water. "I don't suppose you have an insurance company anxious to cover this."
"No, not even a chance."
Now, I have been known to poke fun at RVs hogging the road with their lumbering hulkiness. Well, today I paid for that.
It struck me that I will now be spending a little more time out at the car farm learning the fine craft of aluminum repair. The aluminum gap I ripped open to expose insulation laughs at me like a maniacal grin.
"Well, we better do something with it. The rain is coming," Ron said.
By the time we were done it looked like something from a Steinbeck novel. Knowing I tend to embrace the poetic rather than the practical, he made damn sure I didn't think this was a permanent repair--no matter how much it intoned one of North America's most celebrated authors.
He also made sure I knew this was not the end of the world, though I will not be living it down anytime soon. I was going to try to defend myself by intoning one of his more spectacular faux pas, but it was useless. Though this was not the most epic of mistakes we have shared (there was that 18 mile night-hike to a phone through the sleet when he dug a 1963 Chevy truck with a positraction rear end up to its axles in mud), this one was serious and will need to be fixed-properly. So, I will pop out there a couple more times before the end of the month. Somehow I suspect I will be relieved of the duty of moving the RVs.